The Men of Zoob

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(If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you may note similarities to a couple of my previous Moribund Empires that I didn’t get to use.  This is about as much general expositional detail as I intend to provide for the Empire of Zoob.  Additional detail will be incidental to various gazetteer entries.  The most obvious influences on the Zoob aesthetic are Harry Clarke, Aubrey Beardsley, and Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts in general.)

The cities and temples of the Men of Zoob have dotted the wilder landscape for centuries, the fiefdoms of various barons, dukes, and potentates subject to a distant Empire which has gradually displaced the previous races of Men.  It is only recently, however, that the Zoobish have evinced an interest in the affairs of Dwarf-Land and have ceased to respect the ancient boundaries.  Skulking envoys appear at the gates of Dwarvish towns and fortresses; scouts, spies, and advance parties gather about the fairy holdings; dark sendings from Zoobish sorcerers slither and meep into the shadowed vales and caverns.

The Men of Zoob are not fops – that appellation is better applied to the tittering courtiers of Elf-Land – but they are decadent and overly enamored of artifice and ornament.  They drape themselves in rich dark layers of frock coats, robes, heavy cloaks, elaborate dresses, all brocaded and filigreed, and more often than not reeking of incense and opium and hashish.  In aspect, the Zoobish range from sallow to pallid, from slender to spindly, with ink-black hair, high cheekbones, and dark sunken eyes.  Pencil-thin mustaches, gilded shoulder plates, and heavy rings are the height of male fashion, while Zoobish ladies favor more delicate accoutrements and plunging decolletage.  Both sexes paint their nails with enamel and thickly line their eyes with kohl, producing a cadaverous effect in the less comely.

The Zoobish are notorious demon-worshippers, necromancers, and black magicians.  Their bloodlines are tainted by incest and otherworldly dalliances with abyssal patrons and the dead; centuries of such congress have produced a race of languid sybarites capable of any abomination or outrage, from ritual cannibalism to obscenities further beyond the pale.

The Zoobish shun honest labor, and menial or strenuous tasks are delegated to slaves, mindless undead, and the twisted progeny of sorcerous breeding projects.

In war, the Zoobish are formidable – in fact, thus far, unstoppable.  Their wizards are peerless and cruel; their warriors preternaturally skilled with their thin, deceptively wicked swords and main-gauche kris-knives; their knights awful to behold in their lacquered armor as they crash into enemy lines on tireless, wild-eyed chargers; their hordes of howling thralls driven before the main ranks in inexhaustible numbers.

The Men of Zoob are the doom of the Elder Races.  The Dwarves and their kin will sooner or later fall, their works pulled down and trampled in the dust.  Dwarf-Land campaign play occurs in the twilight before the inevitable darkness and ruin.

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25 Responses to The Men of Zoob

  1. Mike D. says:

    Inspired. Excellent stuff sir.

  2. Zak S says:

    Harry Clarke is the best RPG illustrator

  3. kent says:

    Is it plausible that these decadents could produce formidable warriors or a formidable war machine? I think you need to explain how, Im not buying it at the moment.

    • Scott says:

      I had in mind Tim Roth’s “campy cutthroat” character from Rob Roy, who’s an effete pansy but a killer fencer; the frippery in this case is just window dressing for murderous weirdos with nothing but leisure time to learn how to stab people. (Q.v. also the Val Kilmer version of Doc Holliday.)

      They’re better equipped, better fed, and more skilled than nearly any troops they face, but would obviously lack discipline. However, they also have large numbers of undead and weird shit to throw at enemies in waves, and heavy cavalry and war machines in a realm largely without either.

      Their wizards have acquired great power through various demonic pacts and aren’t subject to the level limits that apply to fairy creatures, which is potentially huge.

      But yes, it probably does strain credulity.

      • Scott says:

        After consideration, I think your criticism is legitimate. I’ll have to make it clear that the knights and bravos are a truculent minority of the Zoobish population, perhaps those at a lesser remove from demonic or ghoulish forebears, and that a major factor in the formidability of the Zoobish military is the primacy of its wizards and their otherworldly, undead, and automata cohorts along with the large supply of mercenary regulars and enslaved fodder.

        • Cole says:

          Perhaps most of the inventing and building is now done by a dedicated (and long restless) underclass, kept in line by the power of those ancient pacts. (A little Prospero & Ariel, a little Thrintun and Tnuctipun.)

      • kent says:

        The deadly fop always interests me as a character, Roth was good and Kevin Spacey can’t help playing Kaiser Soze that way. You made it clear that the men of Zoob use war-wizards and they have hordes of canon fodder. Those two groups might win the wars with the pompadour knights taking the credit, creating a class tension. Then to avoid the cliche (which is your idea) the knights are better than one would expect, skilled swordsmen but not battle brave or have some failing inherent in such a sensual selfish culture. As an army if they are better equipped and outnumber their foes they hardly need an outstanding warrior class (Xerxes).

        Here’s the question though. What hope does dwarfland have? You may have decided dwarfland’s fate, I don’t think you have stated definitively what that is, but introducing off-notes into the works of the Men of Zoob increases the uncertainty of the drama.

        • Scott says:

          In my mind, Dwarf-Land has no chance – like Lyonesse, Dunsanian Spain, Gormenghast, and Third Age Middle-Earth, it’s going tits-up and probably sooner rather than later. Magical realms aren’t meant to last in anything I’ve ever read worth reading. (With the exception of Eddison, who works in circles and cascading reflections, so it’s hard to say anything “lasts” in the traditional sense.) The various fairy races will inevitably be defeated, go into hiding, and dwindle away.

          Someone else might like it better if it didn’t end that way, though, or if there were at least some doubt, so I’ll probably tone down the official doomsaying.

          • Cole says:

            No need to tone it down; surely there’s still enough time for a few months of under-five-feet adventures and if it becomes a problem, it could always be changed in play. For Dwarf-land as an artifact unto itself, favor the doom, savor the gloom.

  4. Bombasticus says:

    This does it. Thx. Hey, the keyboard player of DNA seems to have popped a spring somewhere near this manuscript and I thought of your guys.

  5. Jonas says:

    I like them, they are sort of like Witchlanders or Melnibonéans, also they propably dodge pretty well if dwarf tries kick their envoy down a well 300 style.

    • Scott says:

      Melnibone was definitely in my mind, although I’m not the Moorcock fan I was as a twelve-year old and I swear Clarke and Beardsley et al had to be major influences on Elric’s appearance. I almost included Keith Henderson’s illo of Gorice XII, but he seemed a bit robust.

      • Scott says:

        (Oh, and a preliminary name for Zoob was Ghoul-Land.)

      • Jonas says:

        They don’t exactly strike me as the sort who would enter a wrestling match with their enemies. Thing that has attracted me here to read about Dwarf-Land has been feel of the setting, there is certain before Tolkien feel to the fantasy that reminds me of Worm Ouroboros and like.

        • Scott says:

          Eddison is my favorite fantasy author, and one of my favorite authors full stop. Dunsany is a close second, Peake a distant third, and then Tolkien, CAS, Hodgson, Vance et al.

        • Scott says:

          Oh, and I’ve become very fond of Cabell and William Morris, although I was very late to the party. And Gene Wolfe definitely reaches my top tier of fantasists as well.

  6. I’m picturing Zoobish knights looking something like these guys. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    http://gallery.kingdomdeath.com/Flower-Knight

  7. Hello my family member! I want to say that this article is awesome, nice written and come with approximately all significant infos.
    I’d like to see extra posts like this .

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