The setting of Arrows of Indra, the Bharata Kingdoms, is probably one of the most awesome features of the game. And of course, it comes directly out of the "Epic India" mythology found in the Mahabharata. As I said before, I considered at one point making a less-direct "Indian-esque" setting, but then quickly realized that no setting I concocted myself would be able to be as cool as the setting of the actual epics.
In the book, you get a 15-page chapter on the lands of the setting, and that's not counting the underworld, encounter tables, or various other details you find in other sections. Even so, this leaves a lot of room for a GM to maneuver, since the areas covered are quite large. Perhaps someday, I'll do more detailed regional setting books or something like that, but at the same time, the book as written provides you with a wealth of overall background info without stifling your own space for creativity, letting you put in the details you want in terms of cultural flavor.
Being fairly large, the civilized areas of the Bharata Kingdoms can be divided into western, central, eastern, and southern kingdoms (the north is pure mountains). So in today's entry, I'm going to give you a very quick rundown of the western area of the civilized region, with the idea that at some point I'll give you details on the other areas.
The western Bharata Kingdoms are both the oldest and also the most 'rustic' of the civilized lands. They were the first area of settlement of the Bharata people, but because of that they maintain a somewhat more backward attitude and do not have all the complex formalities that you see in some of the other lands. This makes them great adventuring territory; they're pretty much the original "wild west".
Here's some quick notes on the Kingdoms found there:
The Bahlika kingdom:
-only nominally a kingdom, really a collection of tribes and city-states that run like a very loose 'republic'. The various chiefs meet periodically in great gatherings called 'loya jirga', where they vote on matters that concern them all.
-this region is particularly prized for two products: Saffron and Horses. Both are considered the finest of their kind in the known world, and merchants who manage to get through the sometimes challenging region (banditry is quite common) and return to the more central kingdoms with either stand to make a fortune.
-Although men are the rulers of the kingdom (like everywhere else in the Bharata lands), the Bahlika kingdom culture is matrilineal; your family name and inheritance is determined by who your mother is, not who your father is. Polygamy is common here like everywhere else in the setting, but here it is not only men who can have many wives; women of influence can have many husbands also.
-Bahlika women are considered by people of other lands to be of 'loose morals'; they have much more freedom than women in other kingdoms do. Bahlika women could even be a good source for female PCs.
-the Bahlika people frequently engage in banditry against each other, and especially against foreigners.
-the Bahlika kingdom is a vassal region to the Madra kingdom, but are generally left alone to determine their own business.
-the Vanga Parvat mountain range is found here, and there are rumours of lost cities in the mountains, and myriad entrances to the Patala Underworld.
The Madra Kingdom:
-in the foothills of the Himayant mountains, the climate here is generally cold, and the natives tend to wear more clothes than people in any other civilized land. It's so cold that there's no elephants.
-This kingdom is currently ruled by Shalya, a formidable warrior and archer.
-everyone here drinks alcohol, and even eats beef, which seems outrageous to foreigners.
-Madra women are stunningly beautiful, so much so that instead of paying a dowry, fathers get to demand a bride-price when a suitor seeks to marry their daughters.
-there's no taboo here against pre-marital sex either, and a herb can be found here which aborts unwanted pregnancies. It's the sort of thing that, if smuggled back to some other kingdom, could be worth a lot of money to the right family in a serious bind.
-the capital, Sakala, has massive fortifications. Wisely so, since in the mountains that border the kingdom there's a nation of hostile nagas, and another of blood-drinking demons. The naga kingdom city is said to be built on top of a massive treasure hoard that the avatara Shiva collected on his adventures.
The Gandara Kingdom:
-the farthest western edge of the Bharata Kingdoms, it has the earliest Bharata cities. The natives claim to be half-gandharvas but no one else believes them.
-only the oldest gods are worshiped here.
-the Gandarans bury their dead in necropolises instead of cremating them.
-in and around the mountainous kingdom there's an entire Naga city, demons, giants, and vicious tribes of barbarian horsemen.
-the King of Gandara is Shakuni, who's entire family was murdered by the Kuru King Dhirtarashtra (except for his sister who was forced to marry him) when he was but a boy. Shakuni has been plotting revenge ever since, by fomenting the rivalry between the two lines that claim the Kuru throne.
In the Mahabharata, it is Shakuni's scheming that eventually causes the apocalyptic war between these two lines of princes.
Anyways, that's it for today; just a little glimpse of the sort of places you can adventure in and the flavor of the world of Arrows of Indra.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H Beverwyck