A nation that immediately caught my eye and filled me within inspiration was the Arman Protectorate. Proof of which: a number of adventures are set in the Protectorate OR deal with them. The Protectorate has a long history of bloody conflict. From the days when Abaddon – the lands now occupied by the Protectorate – was ruled by the First Ones to the days to the Sorcerer-Kings to the Arman to the Twilight War and onto today, Abaddon has been shaped by war.
The current Tsarina is the descendant of a family that has ruled the Protectorate for five centuries, the Kryszkas. Under the Kryszkas dynasty, the Protectorate underwent massive changes. From a land ruled by barbarians, they have forged a nation that share a common faith (the Sanguine Covenant), they have fought and repelled many Dominion attacks, and they ruled over the transition of the Protectorate military from a raider-based force to a well-organized machine backed by the power of the ironforged.
Not as powerful magically as their neighbor and usual opponent, the Dominion to the west, the Protectorate instead chose to create massive constructs and a technology unique to Exodus: firearms. This gives the Armans an advantage their opponents do not have.
It is a secret that is closely guarded by the Forgers’ Guild. One they keep a number of assassins on the payroll to make sure the secrets stay within the Protectorate. Anyone who is not from the Protectorate who learns to use those weapons is targeted for elimination. The Forgers’ Guild and the crown both offer substantial rewards (in the 1,000s of silver pieces) for any such information and even more money (in the 10s of thousands of silver) as bounties for the heads of those guilty. The Arman have been extremely forthcoming with their money and few ignore that real information leads to real money. In short unless you are an Arman or working for the Tsarina, do not touch firearms.
The beautiful Tsarina Anayanka Kryszkas has ruled the Protectorate for five years now. She is loved by her subjects as a shrewd diplomat, a liberal sovereign who holds the Arman traditions in high regard. Her policy leads towards expansion of the Protectorate, and Arman senators lobby strongly for the Imperial Alliance to allow her the right to send a massive force through the Ice Crags to conquer the primitive tribes that live beyond.
Currently unmarried, who the Tsarina will take as her husband is subject to a lot of speculation. Rumor has it that the Tsarina is involved in a secret love affair with Nasser ibn al’Aadim, brother of the Dominion’s Khagan. If such a wedding happen, the political dynamic of southern Exodus would be forever changed.
The flavor of the Protectorate is an interesting mixture of medieval Eastern Europe (Russian, Poland, Hungary, Kievan Rus) with elements of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries (firearms). This mix really creates an interesting flavor. The guns and more technologically advanced elements mix in with a traditionally barbaric origins. Oh I would love to know how to draw!
The nation itself is built around a central, autocratic ruler. However, the many provinces of the nation are controlled by powerful dynastic families who control vast tracts of land. This separation is not feudal in nature as each prince owns and controls his own lands. Thus although the Tsars have the power of life and death over all, family dynasties and power plays are not to be underestimated. Neither can they remove land from a family's control as it is possible in a feudal society.
Again... unique and interesting clash of classic elements
The Protectorate army may be the one army that includes the fewest number of spell casters. However, its military boasts some of the most unique and colorful specialists of every army. The Protectorate's army is mostly "conventional" in its composition: its main forces are composed of infantry with cavalry used for support.
However, it also includes a number of powerful specialists that augments the fighting power of its armed forces. These includes the Peacekeepers (a unit of fanatically devoted warrior raised from childhood to serve the Arman crown), the Artillerists (masters of artillery and able to control constructs) and the ironforged the hulking arcane constructs. The combination makes the Protectorate army quick, numerous and hard to defeat in a single battle.
This creates a very unique mixture of miniatures to use for the modeler (and the artist, but I paint minis...) I see their basic outfits being similar to that of ancient Rus (the viking that established themselves between the Baltic and Constantinople).
Next: The Caneus Empire!