“Cadwallon. The name itself embodies the majesty of the free city state. Outside there is only a world thrown off-balance by the Rag’narok, slowly slipping towards total war.
A shelter for some, a prosperous haven for others, the Jewel of Lanever draws the envy of every nation as the war refugees coming in add to its ever increasing population and workforce.
Yet Cadwallon, while being a beacon of hope, is also a snare. For life in the City of Thieves is first and foremost a never ending struggle to earn and secure one’s position.
Cadwallon, the two-faced city. Most of its denizens know only the hideous features of the lower city. The choice between hard labour or extreme poverty, a life devoted to the guilds service or the unpredictability of day to day struggle.
Its other face is the upper city. A walled city within the city, its great towers reaching for the sky, its gigantic crossbeams shadowing the streets. Being the heart of the city, it drains all the riches without any consideration for its underprivileged counterpart.
Hope is a delusion, freedom a fantasy. The town where you were born shall be the town where you will die. We have decided to reject that fatalism. We have chosen prosperity and freedom. We are the free leaguers.”
- Vladar the Arrogant.
Aarklash, a world at war
It was an age where time did not exist ... The age of the gods. The gods travelled the Creation unrivalled. Their empires knew no limit and extended over entire worlds born from the magic energies of the Creation. Discord came and the gods waged war among themselves for supremacy. The crumbling of the dying worlds almost led to the collapse of the Creation and the death of everything. The Creation fought back. The gods were brutally thrown off their thrones and sent into exile beyond the borders of the elemental worlds, Realms. Time appeared, imposing its curse to the vain immortals: if they dared to reappear, they would suffer the punishment and would be forever forgotten. Thus, the age of the gods ended.
However, one does not get rid of these terrible forces so easily. After thousands of years in exile, the gods continue to wage war through their champions - Incarnates - and their most faithful allies. The balance is once again under threat. The curse of Time is fading. Darkness seizes the heart of the brave and the gods get ready to lead their armies. The ultimate age has come : the Rag'Narok
A continent lost in darkness
Not far from the heart of the Creation is a sought after Kingdom: Aarklash. Magic thresholds can be opened there to travel to all the Realms, including those where the gods are imprisoned. The future of the Creation is linked to the fate of this singular world. The history of the continent of Aarklash was written by the victors of the great wars of the past. The glory and the prestige of the conquerors of long gone eras hide fratricide wars and dreadful lies. The nations of Aarklash were built on pain, blood and treachery. Some nations did not resist the erosion of Time. From their ashes, larger and stronger empires arose, yet also younger and drawn towards the warlike temptations of power.
The war Lords of Aarklash cured the wounds inherited from their fathers and gathered armies for the end of the world. All are getting ready for the Rag’narok, a merciless war announced by ancient prophecies, but of which the mortals still ignore the real stakes..
In these hours of darkness, Cadwallon is a cosmopolitan city outside the conflicts of the Rag’narok. The center of all the attentions. The powerful and the most ancient races of Aarklash contemplate it with a mixture of envy and hope, but also fear and aversion.
The Cadwës know little about these legends. Only the most erudite and most forthcoming Daïkinee elves tell of an ancient people whose territory stretched over here, a powerful yet bloodthirsty people allied to the most evil dragons of the whole Creation. Concerning these matters, and especially concerning the alliance with the venerated reptiles, the Cynwälls have always refused to express themselves, so there is nothing to confirm the Daïkinees’ claims.
A Cynwäll settlement
When Elhan and his followers embarked on the path of exile to found the Cynwäll nation* they settled the land now known as Lanever. Lying at the mouth of the Ynkarô and Leâk Shear, they built a stronghold that quickly became an important trading post between the peoples of Aarklash. Th e only place where the nations were allowed to walk the ground of Lanever without attracting the Cynwälls’ isolationist wrath, the city grew quickly. No one can agree on this city’s original name. Once again the Cynwälls stick to their usual discretion and only speak of Cadwallon.
Then Cadwallon the Prosperous rapidly vanished, smothered by the voracious vegetation of a bewitched jungle. The Cynwälls were then attacked by a horde of undead warriors led by a powerful necromancer, Sinlis Mantis. Though the threat was eventually thwarted, the lake became infested with rotting bodies that contaminated the city’s water supply. Within a few days Cadwallon was deserted by its inhabitants. Even today, the Cynwäll resent the city as they feel it to be cursed.
The Dogs of War
Many decades went by before a group of rogue warriors settled in this accursed place. Surely on the hunt for riches, these men were the founders of Cadwallon as we know it today. These men went by the unflattering terms of mercenaries, outlaws, bloodthirsty warriors and rejects. Having dubbed themselves “Dogs of War,” they blindly followed their leader, Vanius. They discovered the ruins of an ancient Cynwäll city and decided to settle there, hoping to unearth timeless artefacts left behind by the elves. The 200 Dogs of War were organized into 21 free companies, each one led by one of Vanius’s lieutenants who began to clear away the rubbles
The Battle of the Wall of Earth
The secrets buried in Cadwallon also caught the attention of others. The forces of the Meanders of Darkness, which had already been the cause of the fall of the Cynwäll city, tried to push out the new comers. The Necromancer Sophet Drahas was leading an army of walking dead to claim the city for his master, Feyd Mantis, the most powerful lord of Acheron.
The assault was bitter and the battle dreadful, but Vanius’s companions managed to drive back the attack. The sudden appearance before the battle of a deck of 22 tarot cards endowed with magical powers was surely linked to this miraculous victory. Before the offensive, Vanius handed out a card to each of his lieutenants and kept one for himself: the Emperor’s card. At the end of the battle the Alliance of Light’s troops arrived to provide support. The city’s ruins were thus taken back from the enemy.
In spite of their exemplary bravery, the Dogs of War remained nothing more than outlaws in their allies’ eyes. Thanks to his charisma, Vanius nevertheless managed to preserve the independence of his Cadwallon. According to the tale, while Alahan’s emissaries were mocking his wish to build a kingdom on this field of ruins, Vanius pulled out an old battered gold coin and threw it at the Barhan’s feet, replying: “Sir, these remains please you so little that I make them my kingdom for a ducat!”. Thus, aware that he couldn’t give himself the title of king without upsetting his allies, yet refusing to recognize Alahan’s authority by becoming a baron, Vanius took the title of duke, an old Barhan military rank.
Birth of a duchy
Vanius’s tour de force gave birth to the free city of Cadwallon in 832. The officers who remained with their leader founded the city’s first noble lineages and were able to mine unexpected riches from the ground. Three years after it was founded, Vanius carved out a domain for each house, thus establishing the first fiefdoms. At the same time he gave the city a militia. No one knows what happened to Vanius, as he is said to have gone underground, never to return again. As for Sophet Drahas the necromancer, he never surfaced again, though it is rumoured that he still lives, somewhere under Cadwallon, plotting his return...
Today, more than a hundred and fifty years after the legendary battle of the Wall of Earth which saw these adventurers battle against the Meanders of Darkness, the free leagues, the heiresses of the Dogs of war, are the guardians of the independence of Cadwallon. Their members are the free leaguers. Thanks to them, the Jewel of Lanever is spared by the Rag’narok. Nevertheless in its heart, somewhere along the border that separates shadow from light, lies the secret, which will seal the destiny of Aarklash, therefore the destiny of the Creation.
Cadwallon is the City of Thieves.
Fortunes are made and lost there along its winding alleys. Silk and rags mingle when night comes. The powerful and the miserable mix in a ballet of merciless and murderous intrigues. Far from the wars that set the continent ablaze, emissaries coming from all over Aarklash meet to negotiate in the corridors of the prestigious embassies and the backrooms of the most infamous inns.
Cadwallon is a Venomous Rose.
The noble towers of the upper city, which challenge the heavens each day, take root in the back alleys of the low city, choking in poverty and despair. The balance of the precarious alliances allows the arrogant aristocrats of Cadwallon to sit with the most powerful sovereigns of Aarklash. They have numerous enemies, but allow themselves to impose their rule when one dares to challenge them.
Cadwallon is the Jewel of Lanever.
Like a ring of darkness set with a glistening diamond, the Free City draws the banished, the dispossessed and all those who refuse to die in the name of the glory of the commanders of the Rag’narok. A lost people from diverse horizons live there, united by the laws of the dukes of Cadwallon.
Cadwallon is a Free City
Once cursed and deserted, lost in the jungle of Lanever, Cadwallon was conquered by a handful of adventurers seeking glory and wealth: the Dogs of war. The latter, led by Vanius, had to face a thousand hazards to reach their goal, but they were met with fortune. Since the exploits of the Dogs of war, Cadwallon is a free city.
Surrounded on all sides
Cadwallon sits at the far north of the peninsula of Lanever between two gulfs. The city faces the strait of Larônn, up north, in which the Immobilis archipelago can be found. Further north is the goblin kingdom of No-Dan-Kar. South of Cadwallon starts the mountains of the Lanever Republic (Dragon), home to the Cynwäll Elves. Though Cadwallon is situated on their territory, there is no clear frontier with the elves which leads to an odd relationship between the two nations. Across the western river lie the twin forests : Quithayran (Scarab), the Emerald forest home to the Daïkinee elves and Ashinân (Spider), the Web forest of the Akkyshan elves. South East are the kingdom of Alahan (Lion) while North-East are the arid steppes of Avaggdu, home to the Sessair Kelts (Minotaur). The free city is at the crossroads of several nations, and therefore is a major trade centre of Aarklash. Such wealth also attracts the attention of all nations and home to a ferocious political war to influence the city....
Inside the Jewel of Lanever
The City of Thieves sits atop of a slope that slowly goes down to the north, where the Kraken bay lies. The Easter border of Cadwallon is the famous Wall of the Earth, a great cliff which dives into the Syrlinh gulf. Because it is built on top of the ruins of a Cynwäll city, the upper city is in an enclosed citadel. The lower city, on the other hand, has developed outside of the great walls lying at the feet of the legendary Dyrsin Tower, which tip can not be seen from the ground, and which pillars overlook the upper city. The works planned by the various dukes haven’t always been very successful. Even though the city has prospered in all parts, many of its districts are especially crowded, making circulation in the higher city as bad as in the lower city.
The Cadwës, at the urging of the more advanced communities (dwarves and goblins), have developed several ways of getting around in their city. The Jewel of Lanever has thus known an unrivalled technological, scientific and industrial revolution on the continent. This metamorphosis was accompanied by economic and social advances that also came from No-Dan-Kar and Tir-Nâ-Bor. This is so true that many immigrants think that the city’s motto is “In Cadwallon, everything can be bought” instead of “My kingdom for a ducat!”. No matter where one might be in the city, visiting Cadwallon demands either unfailing courage and health or enough wealth to be able to pay for effi cient yet extremely expensive means of transportation.
Cadwallon lies across a vast peninsula. For strategic reasons the city occupies the whole stretch of land to allow for better surveillance of the waters lying on either side of it. Th us the Free City protects the lands of Light from potential invasions. As for the upper city, it engulfs the northern part of a lake that Cadwës call the “little sea.”
By way of the sea
In the north of the peninsula the Kraken harbor is the continent’s biggest merchant port. It harbors vessels of the open seas as well as a squadron of goblin pirates that ensures their “protection.” Once on land, the visitor has a choice of several means of locomotion: the bravest can walk, others can take a carriage, and the wealthiest can use the Tractor. One can also reach Cadwallon by Shipwreck Bay, to the east.
The naval forces of the Ways of Light often choose to drop anchor in these waters, for they are defended by an Akkylannian fort built on a small island. Whoever wishes to use this route must get clearance and strictly follow the instructions given by the fort’s garrison. A cutter is then used to reach the upper city. This journey requires a generous donation to be made.
History of Rackham
Rackham entertainment was a French company created in 1997 that gave birth to the skirmish wargame "Confrontation" set in the fantasy world of Aarklash.
It had an original take on dark fantasy and featured metal miniatures of outstanding quality, even by today's standard, as well as splendid illustrations from Edouard Guiton and the legendary Paul Bonner. Satellite games were born afterwards like Hybrid, Arcana, Guilds of Cadwallon and, of course, the RPG Cadwallon in 2006.
The downfall of Rackham came with the 4th edition of Confrontation : Rag'Narok. Switching from skirmish to army battles, the company released new pre-painted plastic miniatures and a completely different rule set. Even if the miniatures were of decent quality, they were pale in comparison to their older versions. Both of these changes were too much for the community and Rackham was liquidated in 2010. Many projects were therefore dead before completion, like the third expansion of Cadwallon.
After the fall
The story of Confrontation does not stop there, however. Many tried to resurrect the game and its world. However, Confrontation never managed to find it's glory of old.
Some video games were released : Confrontation the video game, Aarklash legacy and the stillborn Dogs of War. All 3 were made by Cyanide studio, a French company known for the video games Blood Bowl and Space Hulk Deathwing. None of these games had much success, failing to catch the interest of the veterans and of Confrontation, and the general public.
In 2017, the company "Edition sans détours", a French company (again) known for translating the 6th and 7th edition of the RPG "Call of Cthulhu". They made a kick-starter campaign for "Confrontation resurrection", featuring re-casted versions of the best miniatures made by Rackham and a new set of rules. However, the company was under trial for infringement of intellectual property, since they did not have rights to work on Call of Cthulhu. The Confrontation project died before release, leaving hundreds of backers without any miniatures and refunding. The company has been liquidated in august 2020.
Some tried to recast the old models of Rackham, while being assailed by the money-hungry Editions sans Détours. Signum games won their battle, releasing their game "Legends of Signum", featuring miniatures and a setting closely resembling those of Confrontation and Cadwallon. They even made a witcher wolfen miniature.
The community isn't (completely) dead. The Federation of the Red Dragon (FRD) is still active in France with a few thousand players. They organise tournaments, continuously adapt and patch the rules while searching for miniatures and books like artefacts and tomes of a forgotten time. However, this community never really tried to attract new people, becoming quite elitist and reclusive.
Me and my work here.
A bit of personal history.
I am Raphaël, a young wargamer who was playing the ultra popular warhammer 40k while Rackham was slowly sinking without me ever knowing about it. However, I like old miniature games. I am a fan of Mordheim, HeroQuest, Space Hulk, Blood Bowl and even Space Crusade. Thanks to my passion for this hobby, I met one of my best friends today, Antoine. He had a marvellous collection of miniatures from Rackham and was an absolute fan of the world of Confrontation.
Having been introduced to this world, I happened to find the PHB of Cadwallon in a flea market and later received a copy of the expansion "Secrets Tome 1" from the hands of the president of the FRD himself. I was enamoured with this setting but not with the system and was sad to see such a good RPG setting being forgotten. Early 2020 my first true RPG campaign began in Cadwallon using the Fate Core system. I felt the need early to put this world online and discovered Kanka only in fall 2020. And now here we are :)
What killed Confrontation and Cadwallon, in my opinion.
Cadwallon was presented as a "tactical tabletop roleplay game". It released in 2006, 2 years before D&D's infamous 4th edition. MOBA and diablo-like games were quite popular and wargames rule set were not trying to get streamlined yet. Therefore Cadwallon rules were not roleplay friendly and more focused around convoluted combat mechanics. A waste in a setting filled with so much intrigue and so many role-play possibilities. The game played like a board game, not an RPG.
Confrontation was victim of poor company management, dishonesty and greed. It also suffers from its own rule set and its own community. They are the type of old school players who like complicated rules and who prefer playing among themselves rather than opening to new players by playing casually. The rules are indeed complex for a skirmish game compared to other games of the genre. It is not the "easy to learn, hard to master" type of game, and those who know how to play prefer to teach it the hard way.
What I am trying to do here.
I have two goals with this work on Kanka. The first is to structure the content of the RPG Cadwallon to help me in my RPG campaign. The Second is to share this setting to the RPG community, hoping it could spark interest. Although I would be happy to see a D&D supplement with this content, I'd like to maybe publish a rule-free guide to Cadwallon one day.