The vast Sellen River System is a low road through rugged forest country claimed by bandits, outlaws and thieves. These so-called River Kingdoms swear fealty to no one but themselves, extending their power only so far as their mercenary armies or bands of roving bully-boys can defend. Few accurate maps of the region exist because its borders change so frequently. The fluid nature of the River Kingdoms and the individualistic, at times xenophobic nature of its untrusting people make the region an ideal destination for those seeking anonymity or escape, drawing criminals, freed slaves, political radicals, and exiled prices from throughout Avistan.
Though the River Kingdoms are politically fractured, they maintain a semblance of unity in two ways. One is the annual Outlaw Council in Daggermark, to which rulers from all kingdoms are invited to negotiate treaties, borders, personal conflicts etc. The other is the six River Freedoms, a common ideology which the people of the River Kingdoms assert vigorously, often to the detriment of their rulers. In order from least to most important, these are:
- Say what you will, I live free!—freedom of speech, which is not the same as freedom from the consequences of speech.
- Oathbreakers die—the flip side of free speech, which ironically makes it hard to get a Riverfolk trader to commit fully to anything.
- Walk any road, float any river—freedom of movement, including freedom from blockades and tolls. It does not imply safety while travelling. Thanks especially to this freedom and the Sixth, conventional feudalism is unworkable, since an overbearing ruler will soon find his people deserting him for his neighbours or forcibly driving off bailiffs.
- Courts are for kings—a ruler’s word is law, whether you’re a visiting king or a local peasant. River Kingdoms rulers rarely visit each other in person for this reason, except at the Outlaw Council, the venue of which is considered neutral territory.
- Slavery is an abomination—nothing is so secure in the River Kingdoms as freedom for escaped slaves. Some estimates say that one third of the Riverfolk alive today are escaped slaves or descendants of slaves. Note that indentured servitude is not always considered slavery, so the Second River Freedom can be a way around the Fifth.
- You have what you hold—that is, what you can keep hold of is yours to keep. Armed robbery is almost praiseworthy in the River Kingdoms, a major contributor to the region’s bandit problems, but burglary—denying the victim a chance to resist—is viewed as cowardly.