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A Guide to the Free City of Essen

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Cattle die
Walls crumble
Crops wither
same as with Men
but I know of something that is eternal
and that is the glory of the Raven City


Raise the Raven Banner - A Guide to the Free City of Essen

The Free City of Essen - the Raven City, the Black City and home of the Ever-Oak - is nested in the upper bend of the mighty river Karn, at the foot of the Iron Hills. Once a powerful and high-standing duchy, it lost most of its might and territory during the Dance of Dukes: a dynastic dispute with its rival Aden that saw the death of all of Essen’s von Helborg rulers and thus their claim to the Carnite throne.

Despite its historical misfortunes, Essen still remains one of the strongest city-states of Carno, backed by a powerful economy that thrives on metalworking, forging and arms manufacturing, which have earned the city the title of Carno’s Armory.

Essen has several monikers, but the most common ones are the Raven City or Carno’s Armory.

Predominantly black, accompanied by shades of dark grey and odd traces of white.


The historic flag of Essen was yellow and black (figure I). However this flag is rarely used nowadays and is known as die Fahne der Grossmachtzeit, or the Flag of Great Power (Times). It was the flag flown during the heyday of the city, when its was still ruled by its duke and before it was defeated during the Dance of Dukes.

As a sign of the great wealth they lost, the Essians since decided to discard the yellow-gold from their flag and now fly a stark solemn black and white banner instead (figure II).


Der Rabe, or the Raven (figure III) - the Raven is the symbol of Wotan, chief god of the Essian pantheon. Legend says Hraban the Founder settled his people after following a raven to the location of what was to be Essen. Essen's riches are said to have been a gift from the gods themselves.

Der Totenkopf, or the Skull (figure IV) - the Skull was added to Essian uniforms and general iconography after the Dance of Dukes. It is the symbol of the nation's perpetual mourning for the loss of their dukes and the city's prestige and stands as a reminder of what once was and should be re-won. It was also chosen as a means to strike fear in the hearts of opponents.

Die Eiche, or the Oak Tree (figure V) - while not as often used as the Raven and Skull, Oak iconography still forms a major part of Essian symbolism. The oak is the tree to which Wotan speared himself in search of greater understanding of the world. As such a great oak tree was planted at the city's founding in his honor. The tree was later burned down with the rest of the city in the aftermath of the civil war, but has since slowly started to regrow. Many Essians see this as the symbol for things to come and believe one day, they will be the ruling city-state of Carno once more. Oaks and oak leaves also form an integral part of Essian religion and places for contemplation are often centered around ancient oaks. Laurels made of oak leaves are bestowed upon those who have performed great features or deeds for the city.




Stadtrat or City Council
The Free City is governed by the City Council: a body of thirteen members total comprising mostly of wealthy merchants and guild seniors, representatives of Essen’s dependencies and ranking figures of the military.

The Council is presided by the Stadtholder, the official head of Essen appointed by the King in Aden.

Stadtholder or Steward
In the aftermath of the civil war, Essen was stripped of its authority and its nobility and ruling lineage was eradicated. Over time, the City regained some of its privileges and rights, except the right to appoint its own leadership. For decades now, the city has been ruled by a Stadtholder, a royal Steward sent from outside of Essen and chosen by officials in Aden.

While the City Council has the right to govern and makes most day-to-day decisions, the Stadtholder has the power to veto and turn back any of the decisions made by the Council.


The Free City of Essen and its surrounding territories are located in the upper bend of the river Karn. Upstream to the west of its rival - and the nation’s capital - of Aden. In the past, its great power and western location gave rise to the nickname 'Grand Duchy of the West', with the von Helborg dukes referred to as 'Grand Dukes of the West'.



Black: current territory of Essen. To the east - at the mouth of the Karn - lies the exclave of Karnemünde. The lands surrounding Karnemünde were given over to Aden as result of the treaty following the civil war.
Dark red: the Grand Principality of Wisimar, ally of Essen. You can read more here.
Red: territory of the ruling royal city-state of Aden. Lighter shaded territory is personal Crown territory of the king. As such, since the king is also the ruler of Aden, it can somewhat be viewed as Adener territory.

One day, I will finish this map :tongue:

Fiefs and dependencies
The dominion of Essen not only controls the Free City itself, but also holds sway over vast farmlands and smaller villages and hamlets outside of the city’s walls. Although Essen’s territory has greatly diminished since its heyday, it is still large enough to make Essen one of Carno’s powerhouse city-states.

Points of interest:

  • In the Old World:
    • Drachenfels - A small mining village in the Iron Hills, mostly known as the place of origin of the Karsten family.
    • Karlsbad - A spa town founded on natural springs in the Iron Hills. A luxurious place where many of Essen's elite come to relax and spend their weekends.
    • Kärnitz - A rural village located on the fertile plains around Essen. A farming and husbandry community, Kärnitz supplies Essen army with a unit of Kärnitzer Ulanen.
    • Wiesenburg
    • Karnemünde - An exclave of the Free City situated at the mouth of the river Karn, on the Carnite coast. It was acquired by Essen via marriage politics and was once the capital of a larger strip of land along the coast. After the war Aden gifted most of Karnemünde's territory to its own allies, leaving only the city in Essen's control.
  • In the New World:
    • Treesborg - The Carnite name for 'Fort Arltrees'. It is not truly a proper colony, but rather a joint settlement with Oléon on El Oleonda. It has grown out of a regiment of soldiers stationed there in the aftermath of the Lotti conflict.


To be updated, currently a copy-paste from Flickr.

Essen was founded a long time ago by Hraban the Founder, who had followed a couple of ravens into a bend of the mighty river Karn. There they nested upon a black rock, which Hraban took as a sign of Wotan, the All-Father. Thus he settled his people - descendants of Garveyan stock - there. In honor of the gods, Hraban planted a mighty oak, a holy tree that would become a symbol for Essen.

The black rock turned out to be coal and coupled with an abundance of metal ore in the surroundings hills propelled Essen's economy forward in unprecedented ways, transforming it into the metalworking and arms forging capital of Carno.

The power of Essen grew and the Duchy came to dominate the southern banks of the Karn, rivaling and perhaps even outshining Aden.

Under the guidance of the von Helborg dukes, first Wilhelm and then his son Karl, Essen clashed with Aden over control of the Kingdom of Carno through a dynastic dispute. It was a bitter-fought civil war that saw both dukes killed and Essen on the losing side. Aden would remain the prime city state of Carno. As a punishment for their uprising, Essen and its mighty oak were burned to the ground and stripped of their ducal titles.

However, Essen and its people are resilient and just like the oak started to regrow over time, so did the city and its people spring back up with an iron resolve. Not looking for another war, Aden compromised and restored some of Essen's privileges making it a Free City in the Kingdom, ruled by a Stadtholder appointed by the King.

Essen begrudgingly accepted the terms. In an act of defiance, however, they decided to change their uniforms to black in honor of their late rebellious dukes and added the skull and crossbones to their caps, so their deaths would never be forgotten. The Esseners still refer to their beloved fallen duke as Carolus Dux Perpetuum: Karl, the Eternal Duke.


Society and Culture

A Mercantile Nature
The Essians are very mercantile in nature and belief that hard work pays off eventually. Unlike most other great cities and city-states in Carno, Essen does not have a strong base of nobles. This is because many of its nobles families lost their lives either during the civil war or were put to death afterwards as a reprisal measure to ensure no other claimant could rise up to defy Aden.

As such, the divide between commoners and upper class is less rigid in Essen and a strong mercantile middle class has sprung up. Indeed, the city’s wealth has come from its merchants and artisans for ages. Thus, it is no surprise they hold much of the city’s power. Many powerful merchant families have worked their way up into highest echelons of Essian power over time and large conglomerates control much of Essen’s economic and political life. The most well-know and mightiest of families is that of Karsten. Originally a miner from Drachenfels, their ancestor moved to Essen some generations ago and through mad luck and entrepreneurial endeavor managed to acquire a smelting oven. The combination of mining and metalworking provided a great nucleus to amass wealth and over time the family rose over all others, managing to acquire more land and businesses during its ascendency.

As is common amongst the Madrice Peninsula, Essen too knows the Faith. However, only a minority of its subjects follow the Faith in its traditional sense. Carno in general, just as Garvey, mostly has its own unique versions of the Faith, its gods and its customs and Essen is no exception.

Slightly deviating from standard Carnite practice, most people of Essen practice a very naturalistic and spritual approach to the Faith called Wotanism. Wotanism focuses on the purity of the mind, body and the surrounding world through contemplation and finding solace in work and understand one’s surroundings.

Wotanism has no real rigid structure and is more of a collection of customs and beliefs than an actual religion as such.

Like the Faith, it knows many deities and spirits, but as its name implies Wotan is the chief god. The One-Eyed Allfather who speared himself to the World Tree in search of understanding of the world. It is known some radical Rune priests follow his example and take their eye, hoping to unlock the secrets of the world, just like the All-Father.

Fondness of Science
Perhaps a combination of the Essian mercantile instincts and an influence of its naturalistic Wotanist ways of finding enlightenment have led to a great scientific interest. Essians are thoroughly intrigued by all things technological and have amassed vast knowledge in the field of metallurgy and ballistics over time. Many rich families send their children to famed Corrish universities so they can learn from the best there.

Values and Traditions
After their defeat at the hands of Aden and its allies, Essen lost most of its power base and prestige and was stripped of virtually all privileges it had obtained over time. Its people were at a loss, the city had lost its leadership and income. However, diligent as any Carnite, the Essians doubled down on their values and traditions and somewhat secluded themselves from the outside world, working on rebuilding their city and recovering its former glory.

While most Carnites are know to be disciplined and industrious, the Essians are double so, making them seem detached, overtly serious and distant to many outsiders. The society of Essen became geared towards one purpose: showing their adversaries that despite their defeat during the Dance of Dukes, Essen was and still is the beacon of Carno.

Essians are known for their austerity, determination, discipline and extreme industriousness and punctuality. A strong sense of loyalty, obedience and respect is instilled from an early age on and one is heavily frowned upon when neglecting these values.


The Military

The army is the pride of Essen and the reflection of its might. Like all Carnite city-states, Essen controls several of its own units, next to the tithe of men they are obliged to send the crown for the nation’s unified royal army.

Essen’s soldiers are famous for they black uniforms and aggressive tactics, whereas many other Carnites prefer to be cautious and tactically defensive. While the infantry forms the largest part of Essen’s army, there are also small yet effective cavalry units, drawn from the surrounding rural villages.

Have an in-depth look at the army here.



Characteristics of the Free City of Essen

Overall when part of the Carnite nation proper, Essen will follow Carno's general values. However, in terms of Essen's specific background or for actions concerning Essen specifically, some values differ from those of Carno.

50844073193_914e8430d8_o.png   Naval Power • • • • • • • • • • As a largely landlocked state, Essen holds very little naval power. It upholds a minor trade fleet that plies the Karn river and some military vessels to protect its trade posts. The Essian exclave of Karnemünde stations Essen's little ocean-going fleet.

50844886852_3a5f158602_o.png   Military Power • • • • • • • • • • Essen is renowned for its disciplined infantry and agile combat doctrines. In the military field, Essians tend to be less conservative than other Carnite states and more easily adopt new strategies and armaments. Essen's combat stratagems emphasize speed, surprise and psychological warfare.

50844804541_9880a2f267_o.png   Science • • • • • • • • • • Like most Carnites, Essians are quick to accept tried-and-tested advances. However, unlike most other Carnites, Essians themselves also search themselves for scientific insights, especially in the fields of metallurgy and engineering.

50844804626_6c99a23270_o.png   Diplomacy • • • • • • • • • • Essen lost most of its diplomatic autonomy after the civil war and as such holds little official diplomatic influence outside of Carno. Behind the scenes, it still has considerable sway over lesser city-states it once dominated.

50844886787_ed222827b8_o.png   Inner Stability • • • • • • • • • • The society of Essen runs like a clockwork and is geared towards one purpose: the greater good of the city and restoring the honor and power it lost.

50844804471_27a053cf34_o.png   Treasury / Coffers • • • • • • • • • • Essen's role as prime metallurgical and arms manufacturing center of Carno have given it considerable wealth. This, coupled with its strategic location perfect for trade with Carnite interior and other Madrician nations, has made the city one of the most wealthy and powerful in Carno, rivaling Aden itself.

50844804586_b0780a3365_o.png   Exploration • • • • • • • • • • While Essians have always been intrigued by the world surrounding them and try to learn and understand as much about it as possible, state-sponsored exploration and colonization has never been a prime objective. Most explorative enterprises are undertaken by private individuals.

50844073273_1eddbe845c_o.png   Culture • • • • • • • • • • Essians are considered dour by most and their cultural exploits are often put away as "archaic" and "passé". It is true that the pragmatic Essians are rather conservative in terms of art, but they still love artistic fields such as architecture, painting, theatre and poetry. They are romanticists at heart somewhat stuck in an idealized past.


Known Essians

51865167458_a0e9739f90_o.png   Maximilian Coehoorn, Chief of Essen's military on El Oleonda

51865167468_c5e1a6cc46_o.png   Helmut Von Braun, Knights Treasurer Chapter Master in Terraversa [OL - @Ross Fisher]



A collection of links and posts containing RP'ed information pertaining to Essen and its background:

You can also check out the post below to find more MOCs with their own topics.



The Free City of Essen draws inspiration from many sources, both fantasy and real-world.

Main real-world influences are:

  • Northern Germany in general
  • Hanseatic city-states such as Hamburg, Lübeck, Duisberg, etc.
  • Kingdom of Prussia
  • A small dose of Sweden and a dash of Dutch Republic

You can view an architectural mood board I put together here.

Essians are down-to-earth, pragmaticmilitaristic and conservative which is reflected in their sparsely decorated (neo) Gothic brick buildings, the likes of which you would see along the Baltic Sea among various Hanseatic cities.


Note: I made this guide to centralize all of the currently available information about the Free City of Essen, its people and history. I intend to further update this with more pictures and work on the lay-out, but the general idea is there already. None of this stuff is really new, but it was all over the place. I thought it might be easier if the background information could be found in one place.


Edited by Khorne
Completed some missing info, added mood board, etc.

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Role: Light infantry
Description: The Jäger, or 'hunters' have only recently been officially added to the army of Essen. Originally hailing from the Iron Hills, drawn from brigands, adventurers and mountain men, the Jäger have served Essen mostly as ad hoc Freikorps in times of need, the relation dating back even to the time of the civil war. They are hardy, free-spirited soldiers known for their excellent marksmanship and tracking skills.

Click the picture to read more.



Totenköpfe line infantry

Role: Line infantry
Description: The line infantry is the face of the Essian army: a black-clad, skull-and-crossbones-adorned disciplined mass. Drilled to a tee, they are the pride of the Eternal City. As is Essen's way in war, the line infantry is employed in an aggressive manner and aim to quickly close the gap with the enemy, marching until they the whites in their opponents' eyes before opening their deadly volleys.



Hilftruppen line infantry

Role: Auxiliary line infantry / ancillary units
Description: All members of Essian society are mandated to perform regular drills now and then and can be called upon in times of war and are organized into Hilftruppen This is a measure not taken lightly as it puts severe strain on the City's industrious economy if all the workers are off to war. In war, these units are usually deployed in calmer areas or perform ancillary tasks for the army. On the battlefield they mostly serve to protect the more important professional regiments.

Click the picture to read more.





Kärnitzer Ulanen

Role: Lance-armed light shock cavalry
Description: The Kärnitzer Ulanen or 'Uhlans of Kärnitz' are Essen's fast shock cavalry. Hailing from the rural village of Kärnitz, situated on the plains outside the Free City, they are characterized by their signature caps and simple double-breasted short jackets which are adorned with black epaulettes - a rare item in Carnite armies and which is probably derived of the uniforms of the Great Powers of Madrice.

Click the picture to read more.




Role: Light cavalry/hussar
Description: They say Death rides a pale horse, but nothing is less true when it comes to the feared hussars of Essen. While skulls and grim iconography in general are ubiquitous throughout Essen's imagery, the hussars have wholly taken up the image of Death and have made it their own.

Click the picture to read more.



Hakkapeliitta or 'Hackpistolen'

Role: Medium cavalry
Description: The Hackpistolen are medium cavalrymen armed with a cleaving sword and multiple braces of pistols. Based on the Garveyan hakkapeliitta sent to aid Essen during the civil war in what is now referred to as the short-lived 'Garveyan Intervention', these hardy cavaliers come with a breastplate and often a steel helmet and are thus able to withstand a prolonged encounter with the enemy troops. They crash unto the lines to wreak havoc, then retreat and repeat. Their aggressive tactics were influential in the redevelopment of Essian cavalry into a more mobile force, less dependent solely on heavy cavalry charges.

Click the picture to read more.



Leibgarde Kürassiere

Role: Heavy cavalry
Description: The pinnacle of true Essian values, the Kürassiere are unflinching in combat and loyal to the end. Despite not fully fitting in with Essen's military doctrines of fast moving light units, these heavy cavalrymen are nevertheless the cream of the army. The Leibgarde is mostly deployed to carry the day in dire situations and their coming is mostly seen as a great morale boost as they thunder into enemy lines like true angels of death, regardless of their own wellbeing.

Click the picture to read more.






Edited by Khorne
Added in more units

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Interesting and detailed description of the city.

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I have always found Prussia fascinating, this is terrific. It is also incredibly helpful for the information to be consolidated. I really appreciate that you have taken the time to fill in the details "at the edge of the map" to add this depth and dimension to the greater brick seas. Thanks, keep it up.

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On 1/17/2021 at 6:38 PM, Count Vroskri said:

Awesome idea! 

On 1/17/2021 at 8:24 PM, Spud The Viking said:

Stunning work :pir-love:

15 hours ago, NOD said:

Interesting and detailed description of the city.

Thanks guys! There's not much new in there. It's mostly an extended centralization of everything that's been out there for now. I just thought it'd be easier to put it into one topic, kind of like how other players group their MOCs and stories (like @Ross Fisher did for the Padre).

I will try and update/complete the graphics and information from time to time and add some pictures to make everything more visually interesting. I'll add in my MOCs as well.

10 hours ago, CapOnBOBS said:

I have always found Prussia fascinating, this is terrific. It is also incredibly helpful for the information to be consolidated. I really appreciate that you have taken the time to fill in the details "at the edge of the map" to add this depth and dimension to the greater brick seas. Thanks, keep it up.

Thanks! It's always fun to know some people read and enjoy this stuff :sweet:.

4 minutes ago, Brickwolf said:

Great start, can´t wait to see more!

I don't know how fast there'll be updates. Essen is only a city in an NPC minor nation, after all :tongue:. I have no idea have it will evolve. Like I said, I'll definitely try to add some scene-setting pictures to give the topic a bit more visual flair.

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Thanks for including Helmut in this post. I use him as a character in a lot of different places, and this is one of the best fits for him. His heraldry is usually a black falcon on a yellow field, so everything falls into place here. 

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Heads up to those interested: I updated some parts of the main post and added in some military units and a summary of MOCs in the second post.

Topics updated:

  • Iconography information has now been completed
  • Characteristics/national stats have now also been filled in
  • A chapter 'Sources' has been added, where you can find the official RP'ed background information and sources
  • A link to an architectural mood board I made awhile ago as visual guidance for myself has been added to the 'Inspiration' chapter
  • The map has been updated, showing the proper location and territory of Essen and fiefdoms (sadly, I haven't continued finishing the drawing and general lay-out graphically, though)

On my to-do list:

  • I will add more units to the army overview. Mostly this is just separating soldiers that are now in group shots (e.g. the Death Head's infantry in the main post, together with the cavalry need to be split apart). Most units can already be found in Flickr.
  • I will further update the main post over time with more shots of characters or just some MOC scenes to visually enhance the post, like the topics of the main nations have.

The main framework is largely there though and I think it already gives quite a good summary of Essen's background, state-of-mind and visual style.

I've intentionally left most of the Carno map blank and only added in "my" stuff and that which was already on the map (lcoation of Aden). As such, there's is still plenty of room for others if they want. I certainly wouldn't want to claim everything as "mine" :blush:.

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The map is gorgeous, and the added details really help flesh out the nation. Nice work!

Has it been discussed previously whether the 4 existing factions will always be the only 4 player factions (i.e., might a fleshed out nation like this band together with other ones to form some confederation, etc)?

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1 hour ago, evancelt said:

The map is gorgeous, and the added details really help flesh out the nation. Nice work!

Thanks! I really need to get around to actually finishing the surrounding artwork, with the figures and all. Still to need to draw these either in Illustrator or perhaps on the iPad or Photoshop if I want a more painterly feeling to them. I just can't find the time to actually do it. I'm looking for a gothic-y vibe for the map, befitting of the city.


Has it been discussed previously whether the 4 existing factions will always be the only 4 player factions (i.e., might a fleshed out nation like this band together with other ones to form some confederation, etc)?

It don't know the details of what has been discussed, but I do believe the 4 current player factions will remain the player factions. Player activity isn't super high and the Sea Rats barely have active members, so adding more player factions wouldn't be beneficial I think. The Star Wars Factions RPG also works with about 3/4 factions, I think. Most likely for similar reasons.

Again, I don't know the specifics, but confederations might be obtained through player activity (MOCs) or AMCRA. But even then, the 4 main factions will always be the main focus. There has been an excellent AMCRA to explore Mokolei and perhaps secure an alliance. When we were working on the background for the Grand Alliance State, it was initially also @Ross Fisher's and mine idea to do an AMCRA there, to perhaps secure an alliance for Oléon. In the end that didn't happen (mostly because I couldn't find the time to do it properly), but Ross did make an excellent series about the history.

So in summary I guess you could say: if you build it and the Court agrees with it, you might establish background for or relations with an NPC nation. Perhaps @Bregir or @Ayrlego could chime in here, to make sure I have it right?

EDIT: Just for completeness' sake, here's a link roughly outlining some of the as of yet very blank NPC nations. Nothing is set in stone for those, though, I think.

Edited by Khorne

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1 hour ago, Khorne said:

The Star Wars Factions RPG also works with about 3/4 factions

I think we have 10 official factions now, but at least 3 of those have effectively retired, and the 2 newer ones only have 1 member each. So, yeah, only 5 factions really. 

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5 hours ago, evancelt said:

Has it been discussed previously whether the 4 existing factions will always be the only 4 player factions (i.e., might a fleshed out nation like this band together with other ones to form some confederation, etc)?

I was told once that the 4 main factions were very set in stone, but that was ages ago. I'd be surprised if that changed. 

4 hours ago, Khorne said:

EDIT: Just for completeness' sake, here's a link roughly outlining some of the as of yet very blank NPC nations. Nothing is set in stone for those, though, I think.

A few details I will add:

Back in ye old times, when I was far more arrogant, I drew up some rough outlines for a lot of the Lore to the Southern nations. Very little of it was used, but I think these details kind of remain: 

  • I remember a decent amount of us agreeing that the The Southern Peninsula can be called the 'Kawashita' peninsula, as a reference to Andromeda's Gates, but it was never finalized. 
  • Dranmonto is the Japan analog, mostly due to how the islands look, and there was decent agreement on it being the Japan analog. (I remember this being like one of the only things we all agreed upon in that committee lol)
  • Kemblarsi used to be a part of Kemblar, mostly because of my AMCRA there. I think it has it's leaders defined in the AMCRA, but that's about it, and It doesn't go into much detail over culture, aesthetics, so I'd say it's like 5% defined.

I also have a mostly complete Jameis Farstrider's entry for Namere, but it needs some tweaks and updates, and approval. I'm a little attached to Namere, and the basic gist of it is, Italian City States, Nordic Culture. 

Edited by Mesabi

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