Ussura is a vast nation in the north, cold and filled with tradition (some say rather superstition). Looking east as much as west, people here follow the First Prophet claiming that they need no more... except perhaps their own deity, Matushka, whose faith they meld with the teachings of the Prophet. It's untamed steppes, vast forests, places where monsters still lurk and superstitions can come true. Yet it is by no means as backward as the rest of Théah would have you believe.
First Ussura covers the history and geography of the land, covering the story of Matushka herself and the sweep of history from the earliest times up to the present day. It also explains the local style of magic, Pyeryem, which is a gift of Matushka and unlike most magics is not found exclusively in those of noble birth. Formed out of a fusion of five fiefdoms, Ussura is ruled by a 'Gaius' chosen personally, it is believed, by Matushka who signifies her choice by turning the individual's hair snow-white... but more remarkably, the chosen one is almost always a peasant despite the noble class, the boyars, being otherwise a significant part of the country's government, with the heads of the five kingdoms providing a ruling council.
Discussions follow on the governance of the land, its social composition and more. It's a stratified society with each layer secure in its positions and responsibilities. The discourse moves on to the land itself - and this time there's actually a map showing where the places discussed are to be found! This is a great help as the five kingdoms are discribed. Read here about the ruling families, about the towns and other notable features. And then of course there's religion. Ussuran Orthodoxy recognises but one Prophet, the first one. Culture is also covered, much of it being either religious or practical. Ussurans have great respect for the law and a fondness for giving gifts. Outsiders forget this at their peril.
Next, Hero introduces a gallery of prominent NPCs (stats and secrets about them are found later on in the GM's section). This is followed by Drama, home of new rules. There are new Pyeryem knacks and boons to acquire, new backgrounds and skills, and new swordsman schools... er, sort of, one teaches fighting not with swords but with hand axes, whilst schools dedicated to archery and wrestling are also available. There are also rules for busking, in case you can perform but are short of cash!
The final section is Lifeblood, which is divided into Player and GM sections. The Player section has a discussion of the nature of Pyeryem, a sorcery in which the practitioner literally becomes another animal, and more about the Usurran 'style' of life, useful when playing one. Meanwhile the GM gets the lowdown on who Matushka really is, NPC secrets and a few new monsters.
Again, a rich background exploring part of the fascinating world that is Théah - some may say 'too much' but if, like me, the joy of role-playing is creating an alternate reality, this is a mature and well-developed one you can imagine visiting.
Return to Nations of Théah VII: Ussura page.
Reviewed: 5 December 2016