The World of Sword of Jade
A Feature by Fenrir-Lunaris
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[PREFACE]

Sword of Jade was an epic, fantasy masterpiece by Fyrewulff and Charbile released for the OHRRPGCE.  Most people who are familiar with the engine are familiar with the game.  Most people who have played the game are either inspired from it, or have nothing but praise for it (with few exceptions).  This is partly because of the surprisingly challenging and intuitive gameplay, and the well-written storyline.  But this article isn't about either of those.  This article is about the WORLD the game's characters find themselves in.  Its history, its peoples, geographical details and lesser known facts and tidbits of information that lend themselves together to build a convincing stage upon which the narrative and action can then play upon.  Let us begin first with the actual geographical details of the planet itself, and develop from there in increacing orders of complexity.

[GEOGRAPHY]



The unnamed planet Jade takes place on seems to be rather Earth-like, with blue skies, varied cloud formations, and a complete, working hydological cycle to feed its landmasses with sufficient water to quench the thirst of its many plantforms.  No exact dimensions are given for it, though considering the size and abilities of its inhabitants, we must assume that it is at least as massive as Earth, or perhaps even slightly smaller given how high many species can jump, or even fly despite their apparent mass. 

The planet has one moon, which seems to go through its phases rather quickly, given that it always appears full at nighttime, although stylistically this may be a given for the game's apparent artistic direction.  The moon also appears to be synchonously locked with the planet's rotation, always appearing in exactly the same place in the sky.  When viewed from the planet's northern hemisphere, it also seems to be either the same size as Earth's moon or again smaller but closer.  This is evidenced by the presence of several huge craters on its eastern hemisphere, which would have certainly shattered it if they were much larger.  The moon's western hemisphere has a jagged, irregular shaped mountain range, grayish in appearance and is the moon's second largest feature only to an extensive bluish maria.  The maria's bluish coloration may suggest its primary constituent is water-ice.

The planet itself has one known continent where most of the game's action takes place, and some other landmass far away from it where another sapient race has evolved - which we will consider later.  Surrounding the primary continent is a vast ocean, which the world's primary inhabitants have not yet fully explored.  This may be either because of their limited lifespans, or some unique weather phenomena preventing their sailing vessels from exploring too far out.  The unnamed continent is situated somewhere in the planet's northern hemisphere, within the temperate zone, but bordering the arctic circle given its range of climates.  We will start in the southeast, and work our way westward and north, describing the various locales, climates, and notable landforms.

At the extreme southern portion of the known continent is a desert known as the Desert of Despair.  This vast, mostly unexplored region is more or less featureless, except for two settlements on the eastern rim, and a large snake skeleton several hundred feet long.  The furthest settlement of Keltan was a bustling metropolis, often called the "jewel of the desert", a city renowned for its markets and forges.  It was also apparently a sea-port, as sea travel between it and Cyport was mentioned several times.  Largely destroyed by raiders and Gahn's followers, its inhabitants largely scattered into the wastelands.  Some founded a new settlement called "New Keltan" by an oasis, approximately halfway between the east and wet ends of the desert.

Continuing west is another settlement called Aldez, renowned for its mines, situated due south of a large forest.  The inhabitants are largely segregated into two sections, the original inhabitants in the west, and immigrants and poorer refugees from Keltran following its destruction on the east side.  The village was also apparently the home of the famous Gitleh, one of the five Valorians who defeated the legendary Grinlow, as well as the Adventurer Johan.  Below the village's mines is Gitleh's Tomb, with no real explaination given for its location.  We could probably assume that Gitleh in life was a miner, given his stature and the importance of the industry to Aldez's economy.

Due north of Aldez is a vast forest cut into patches by a network of rivers.  Formerly the site of the city of Fralin, the majority of the community has since diminished, largely on account of Grinlow's attacks and the presence of so many monsters roaming the countryside.  Many ruins scattered around the forest are a testement to the former size and greatness of the settlement.  It's southern border is home to Anon's tomb, seemingly a place of worship in the days before the destruction of much of Fralin.  Due east (north of the desert) is unexplored wilderness, though a few tiny settlements have made their presence known.  Somewhere in the vast maze of trees and rivers is Dogero and Mi'la's hometown, a refuge for children whose parents were killed by Grinlow. 

West of the Fralin Forest is a mountain called Grinlow's spire, created by the beast when he was birthed by the planet itself, and pushed up by the sentient monster before he went on his spree of destruction.  Near the west coast of the continent, Grinlow's spire is a barren wasteland devoid of most life forms aside from imps and jelly monsters.  It is also the final home of Gahn, and his base of operations before his defeat at the hands of Dogero.

North of Fralin and its forest is a mountain range called Rorc, covered with snow and unscalable from its southern end.  It forms an elongated "<" with its point facing the west, where the continent's sole remaining metropolis of Cyport is located.  Largely spared from the ravages of Grinlow by its impenetrable walls and fortified castle, Cyport was also the gathering place of the Valorians before they slew the fabled monster.  Below the castle is a series of caves which hide the unknown tomb of the fifth Valorian, the black wolf Nix. Deep underground, a cult formed around her personage and worshiped her as a goddess, until her vengeful spirit killed everyone in her tomb and then froze the temple solid.  This occurred some time after Grinlow's defeat.

The peak of Rorc at the northernmost point on the continent is the location of the fourth Valorian's tomb, Shoda.  We know next to nothing about Rorc itself, except that monsters are presumably generated from a series of cave and subterranean chambers deep inside the mountain.  Tucked neatly in the "<" of the mountain range is a lost city and ruin, the final resting place of Grinlow, and the site of the Valorian's final battle.  Largely destroyed, and virtually unknown to the outside world, the city's history has been lost to the ages.  The few statues present and columns suggest it was a bustling metropolis at some point, perhaps even the site of some temple.  Alas, the game does not lend any further clues aside from these, but curiously seems almost entirely devoid of animal life.

Having completed our tour of the continent, there is another previously mentioned territory, altogether unexplored by the anthropomorphic people of the Cyport/Fralin/Keltran continent.  Somewhere else across the unexplored ocean is another landmass entirely populated by humans.  We know virtually nothing of this other civilization, aside from some key points; its civilization had reached its technological and cultural apex, that Gahn had attempted and nearly succeeded in bringing it under his control, and that he was exhiled after a long bloody war.

[PEOPLE]



So now we turn to the actual inhabitants of Jade's world, and give a brief description of them, largely based on the game's text and various visual clues.  The majority of the people we see are more or less anthrophomorphic animals (that is, animals with human characteristics).  Based on their comparisons to the only two human characters in the game, Gahn and his unnamed lackey, most of these characters seem to stand no more than about 4 feet at the head, and have body masses largely consistent with children or fully grown animals of their respective natures.  That is to say that Dogero seems to be approximately 4'0" tall and weigh no more than a mere 80-90 pounds, given his build, lifting and jumping capabilities, and comparisons to other characters.  Mi'La, being a female of Dogero's apparent breed is slightly shorter, and much lighter since she has been observed jumping nearly 4 times Dogero's height.

The rest of the game's cast is composed mostly of various mammals, birds, and a few token reptiles, very few of which are distinct in their apparent species.  The majority appear to be mixed-breed dogs at any rate, though there do not appear to be mixed-species characters.  There aren't any cat-dog hybrids running around, as most of the game's couples seem to stick with their own breed.  Eugenics!  Whether this is out of habit, preference, or for the simple fact that hybrid children when born are probably sterile or don't live long, there just aren't any.  The game provides no explaination, although it's also likely that we just don't see any hybrid children, simply because the game just doesn't show any hybrid kids.  I've never seen a baby pigeon before, but I'm pretty sure they exist.

The characters also seem to possess a very limited lifespan, which although contradicted by a conversation with Johan, seems to largely fit the theme of the game - that is to make every day count.  Firstly, the game's characters refer to the passing of time in seasons.  Instead of years, people's age is given roughly in seasons, or quarters of years.  Grinlow was defeated "only" 100 seasons prior to the game's events, as told to us in the prologue.  Since the game treats this event as some quasi-historic, indeed biblical event, it is ludicrous to assume that a people with a human lifespan would create an entire planet-wide religion about the event in a mere 25 years.  Moreover, the game seems to show Dogero's entire childhood pass by in approximately 4-5 seasons, through flashbacks.  Assuming the animals only live as long as normal animals do, it's not unreasonable to assume that Dogero & Co. have a lifespan of approximately 60 seasons or 15 years.  Dogero lives no longer than any dog.  The lone notable exception seems to be an instance where Johan says he's 80 seasons old, but this seems to be sarcasm on his part.

A short lifespan of only ~15 years doesn't seem to lend itself to cultural or technological advancement very well, but then again, go read up the Ocampa from Star Trek Voyager.  If you're unlucky enough to be one of them, then life is over in seven years, so you better get cracking.

[ANIMA + SOULS]



Jade's storyline seems to indicate that there are two competing religious beliefs, one of which was born out of the incident with Grinlow 100 seasons in the past, and the other based largely around the man called Gahn.  Comparing the two first requires an analysis of the presented facts about life and death in Jade's world, and how "anima" is integral to both.

Anima is the lifeforce that sustains all living things in the world of Jade.  Without Anima, there is no life.  It's similar to the alchemical quintessence in that it can be refined, collected, and used to make things.  Anima is also a creature's soul, containing fragments of memories, personality, even attributes of the entity it once came from.  At the moment of death, a creature's Anima somehow travels to the planet's core, where a tremendous amount of energy is stored.  In the core and heart of the planet, Anima of different types recombine and are regenerated to provide the spark of life in newborn lifeforms.  This process is more or less cyclical, however it can be tampered with in two ways.

Anima can be captured and utilized when it is released from a living thing, and made into "Icons", essentially artifacts and items possessing the traits and attributes of different people, animals, even philosophical concepts such as righteousness, might, or even power.  Prolonged use and over-exposure to Icons however creates a dependancy on them both physically and psychologically, and can cause long-term damage to living creatures.  Pyrus's mutated form was largely the result of being forced to use an icon made from the legendary monster Grinlow.  Icons can occasionally be refined one step further, and made into peerless weapons - such as the Black Blade "Vonnegut", and the Sword of Jade.  Weapons made in this fashion require a tremendous amount of time, resources, and Anima to produce. 

Anima's last transformation, aside from icon creation and the generation of new Anima, is the creation of monsters.  When a person dies without settling their affairs, or living an otherwise empty life, the resulting Anima is jaded and defective.  Indeed, the remaining fragments of a person's personality can linger on after death, seeking a purpose (as in the case of the Valorians) or by attaching themselves to icons, other Anima, and living beings, eventually corrupting them.  Traumatic death also tends to create especially malicious, and increacingly dangerous Anima - and monsters.  If an exceptionally large number of jaded and malicious Anima somehow make it to the planet's core, they are reborn as powerful monsters.  One such instance of this occuring is Grinlow himself.

Some event created Grinlow, and caused his conception and emergence from the planet's core over 100 seasons before the game's events.
That the game doesn't give us an estimate of how long Grinlow was running around before his death is an unfortunate loophole, but it must have been for a very, very long time.  Grinlow was born/created at the core of the planet and pushed his way through the planet's crust, forming the mountain called Grinlow's Spire. To create a monster of his magnitude would have required the combined "Anima" of thousands, if not millions, of lives, so we must assume that some devastating worldwide disaster must have occurred to create so many jaded "Anima", which would then create Grinlow himself.

[VALORIANS]

The Jade civilization 100 seasons prior to the events of the game seems to have created a religion based around a group of people who fought and defeated Grinlow.  While the belief system that Gahn set up has mostly eliminated much of this original faith, bits and peices of it still remain.  Mostly, these peices are about the Valorians - the so called heroes who defeated Grinlow.

Over 100 seasons ago, some event triggered the creation of Grinlow deep within the planet's core.  Possessed by rage and instict, he went about terrorizing the continent's people, destroying settlements and killing whatever he came across.  Five people, known as protectors of their people banded together to try and stop Grinlow.

The first was Anon from Fralin.  Anon had an interest in supporting others, almost selflessly.  We know she was some sort of priestess and healer, who had a temple by a lakeside in Fralin's ancient southern districts.  From this temple, Anon trained other warriors, indeed the first few true protectors to stop Grinlow and rebuild civilization.  Even after her death, her Anima continued to inhabit her temple, passing on wisdom and support to other protectors.  Anon was the lover of the second Valorian, Gitleh.

Gitleh's strength and stature, combined with what is known of the economy of Aldez seem to support the belief that he was a laborer or miner in life.  By his own words he seems a realist, valuing truth and practicality over frivolity.  His temple, perhaps even the remains of an anchient mining facility, are found deep beneath Aldez.  He was also the only male Valorian.

Fedora the Fox is an oddball, as quoted by the Jade cast.  She referred to Anon and Gitleh as unskilled, and seems to only be interested in combat.  Fedora also seems to like fire, and made the volcanic chambers beneath the Desert of Despair her home.  Not much else is known about her, aside from that she's vengeful, and doesn't really care about what she's drug into, so long as its interesting.

We know surprisingly little about Shoda, although she seems to speak for the other Valorians in the confrontation with Gahn at the end of the game.  Given this one fact, and that the other Valorians seem to almost insist on the importance of finding her, it is possible that she was the "leader". 

Ironically, we learn more about the final Valorian than any other, considering that as far as we know only Pyrus knows of her existance.  Nix, the black wolf of Night, was reputely betrayed and abandoned by her comrades the other Valorians.  Left to destroy Grinlow and complete the battle with him, Nix herself seems to indicate that she herself was the legendary "savior" of the world who used a glowing sword of jade and killed Grin.  If this is accurate, this means that Nix was the original owner of Jade.  It as also likely the very same weapon that ultimately killed her.

The event in the lost city, and the final confrontation with Grinlow likely unfolded this way - The five Valorians had massive reinforcements built around the city of Cyport to lure Grinlow close to the city.  From there, they fought and were chased by him to the ancient city, where they laid a trap for him.  Shoda, Anon, Gitleh, and Fedora seemed to be unable to defeat the monster, one by one escaping and fleeing for their lives.  Witnessing this betrayal, Nix channeled all her rage and hatred into the Sword of Jade, and with one blow was able to slay Grinlow himself.  The Sword of Jade however seems to drain its user's emotions and lifeforce to properly function, something like a soul-destroying weapon.  The event left Nix jaded and an emotional wreck, unable to distinguish friends from enemies.  Nix died from her wounds just inside the city gates of Cyport and she was buried underneath the castle, where she was revered by former supporters.  The remaining four Valorians seemed to be unable to let go of their guilt over having abandoned Nix, and it was this secret guilt that allowed their Anima to continue to manifest for several generations until the present day. 

All this is largely dependant on a number of small, mostly unnoticable facts given by characters of dubious honesty.  Is Nix correct in saying that she was betrayed by the other Valorians, or is it simply what she believed?  Is she even to be trusted, given her insanity?  Are the other Valorians lying when they claim to have killed Grinlow?  If they did, then why do they all suspect and fear that Grinlow has returned?  These are not the reactions we would expect from legendary invincible warriors.  If their boasts and claims of greatness were backed up by facts, then when the party finally assembles them together, they would have made short work of Gahn.  Which brings us full-circle, to the face of evil itself in Sword of Jade - Gahn, or to the common folk, GOD.

[GAHN]

Gahn appeared to the Jade folk only a few seasons before the game's story takes place, and has already established his teachings throughout the entire world - by force, mostly.  His cult following seems to depend on the unwilling sacrifices of others, charity without end, and what amounts to intellectual slavery.  Gahn provides all, Gahn is the master. 

The evil Gahn has a number of abilities at his disposal, seemingly all beyond the capabilities of mortals.  Matter and energy manipulation are simple for him - he seems to be the one who teaches the natives how to mass produce Icons, the refined form of Anima, and even popularizes their usage, despite the risks in doing so.  He also seems to have a nearly unlimited lifespan, given that in all the time he's seen, Gahn never ages.  To the animal-people of Jade, he's functionally immortal, virtually omnipotent, and has one final trick.  Gahn can communicate telepathically with other people, and to some extent control their minds.  So important is this ability, that it even allows him to control monsters as though they were extentions of himself.  It is this ability which sets the entire game, indeed the entire world's events in motion.

As has been mentioned previously, there's a second civilization somewhere out on the other side of the planet.  While apparently at the very height of their technological and cultural abilities, this civilization is dying.  For whatever reason, be it as mundane as a lack of resources, or some more pressing cultural issue, the unnamed civilization is "like a prison" (so says Gahn).  Gahn used his abilities to gain control of this society, alleviating their pains and solving many problems as he rose to power.  Right as he was about to achieve his goal however, the planet's people rejected him.  He was banished.  To do so against a man already possessing God-like powers would have required the efforts of thousands, or possibly millions of people to overthrow him. It is almost a certainty that there would have been a tremendous loss of life involved in doing so.  A tremendous amount of suffering and hardship would have tainted potentially millions of Anima as they were released into the planet.  This massive world war to overthrow Gahn would have provided the nessecery conditions to create Grinlow.

Based on these facts and logical conclusions, it can be assumed that:
(A) Gahn's telepathic abilities started a war with a united world and led to his banishment once he was defeated.
(B) The accumulated souls of the war's dead combined into the monster known as Grin. So Gahn "created" Grin.
(C) Gahn possesses every ability needed to control and direct monsters as extensions of himself, as though he could simply project his mind into a monster's body.
(D) If we take the previous statements to be true, then we can logically assume that GAHN IS GRIN.

He has set in motion his own rise to power, and by using his own superior skills, made himself as a protector and living god.  So why does he fall?  Why does a virtual demigod die from a mundane sword of jade?

[THE SWORD OF JADE]

So now we finally come full-circle to the artifact at the center of the entire game - the legendary Sword of Jade.  This weapon seems to function by drawing on the emotions and mental state of its wielder, amplifying them many times to attack.  Since it requires an emotional state of mind to function however, the nature of its attack is also influenced by its bearer.  When Dogero first uses the Sword, he's full of doubt and fear, emotions which overpower him and render him unable to use the sword - in fact it nearly kills him.  Later when he confronts Gahn again, he has matured emotionally, and his hope is what powers the weapon when Gahn is finally struck down.

Since it requires emotion to power it, the sword itself by association "jades" its owner slightly each time it is used.  Dogero lost the will to live when he failed to defeat Gahn with it the first time.  Nix suffered severe neurological damage as well after slaying Grinlow, perhaps moreso due to her state of mind (feeling alone and betrayed) when she accomplished the deed.  Whatever the reasons, this is most likely the reason the sword is called "Jade", if for little other reason than it leaves people emotionally and physically drained.  The sword also appears to be more effective when its wielder's and opponent's mindsets are in direct opposition, amplying its strength against opposite emotions.  Dogero filled with Hope was able to defeat a Hopeless, empty Gahn. 

So this is the background for Sword of Jade, and concludes with a simple but meaningful message.  Hope endures.