These are from Anthony who currently plays an extradimensional FLAILSNAILS character in the Dark Country.
Sorry there are some weird issues with the spacing. Formatting in blogger has been a nightmare recently for some reason I'm not fully aware of.
1) What language do folks speak hereabouts? Common? Is that Zenopoli-common or Backward-pagan-common? Are there liturgical languages? Any others I might bump into?
The "Common" language of the West is a heavily debased imperial mixed with grammatical constructions and words borrowed from the barbarians that moved into that area when the Empire fell. This is the language spoken by all the lawful settlers, and it is also widely used among the pagans since their many different languages aren't always mutually intelligible and the arrival of Westerners has increased the need to organize.
Zenopolitan is a separate spin-off of Imperial that is as close to the common tongue as Romanian is to French. Froglings speak Croakish, which is notoriously difficult - but not impossible - for humans to pronounce. Novgovite is a bizarre mixture of Zenopolitan and one of the more common barbarian languages. Others exist, but I adopted the LotFP rule about languages specifically because I wouldn't have to detail them all at the beginning.
2) How do locals view sorcery? Is it all devilry or are there other opinions? Are wizards organized?
Magic that isn't obviously clerical or druidic in origin is usually looked upon as being devilish, at least by the Church and the peasantry. However, the fear it instills is the sort of fear that makes people leave you alone rather than the sort that gets you tied to a stake. That does occasionally happen though, the whole "tied to a stake" bit.
Wizards are not particularly organized in the World of Nightwick. They are an untrustworthy and paranoid bunch. The practice of magic is taught by a master to an apprentice, but larger organizations tend to quickly dissolve due to infighting.
Nobles, who are fare less frightened of wizards than peasants and tend to think of them as useful tools. Especially rich nobles will have court wizards - a position many would kill to have, and it is that sort of bloodshed that makes wizards distrust each other too much to form guilds.
3) What is medical practice like? If I were to, say, hack someone up or steal their blood while claiming to “heal” them – would that be grounds for a lynching or business as usual?
Most "medical" practitioners in the Dark Country are so-called wise women who utilize either herbs or magic. Some court magicians are trained in medical arts that would be more familiar to a surgeon from a fine institution such as yourself - leeches, humors, using hot irons to cure colds. Since such practices are most commonly done by wizards, the relevant stigmas are attached.
Zenopolitans are much more likely to be familiar with secular medical practice, and theirs is quite advanced - for humor theory anyway. There you'd just be accepted as a doctor.
4) How do citizens view dungeon exploration? Are we covered by some horrible Abbey-taint such that peasants shun us? What social class are we in, as adventurers?
Typically adventurers are treated somewhere between perfectly normal and insane. The whole colonization enterprise in the Dark Country is essentially an adventure.
However, Nightwick Abbey is a place of such ill repute that all those who enter it are assumed to be insane or in league with the Pit. Those who bring dogs with them are especially suspect, because the peasants are convinced that the satanists squatting in the abbey use dogs in their black masses.
5) Who are the most prominent local pagan gods? Do they live in a place or object? How common is their worship in Nightwick? What about in Lichegate? Is it public or private?
Few of the Old Gods are "prominent" in Nightwick because their worship is proscribed. If asked, the local peasants will only look furtively at the local Woodsman's Lodge and say they know nothing. The lodge is decorated with a large set of elk antlers.
The Brotherhood of Thieves and Assassins is rumored to worship and Old God/Saint/Demon named Saint Death. She appears much like a depiction of the Lady - the first Cleric to hear the call of the God of Law - but skeletal and undead looking. The Brotherhood supposedly has a big presence in Lychgate.
Old Gods live in places and objects - like trees and stuff. This is taken to be proof of their corruptible nature by followers of the Law.
Rumors say that most of the villagers in Nightwick and the other smaller settlements of the Dark Country are secretly pagans. You'll have to find out the truth of that for yourself.
A lot of the Old Gods haven't been fleshed out yet, and they're almost all localized. There's nothing like a Zeus at the head of a pantheon.
6) Where is the nearest pagan village? What’s it’s relationship to Nightwick like? Do their answers differ for any of the above questions? Would I get access to a whole new batch of woodsy hirelings if I tried recruiting over there?
The nearest pagan village is somewhere at the foot of the Nameless Mountains or in the Fog-Bound Forest. If the authorities in Lychgate new where it was they'd have burned it by now.
Nightwick and all Western settlements in the Dark Country are supposedly in a permanent state of war with pagans.
Due to the aforementioned facts you'll have to find out the answers to those other questions through play.
7) Are the Satanists organized? Where’s their secret clubhouse? Are they accepting new members? Do they kidnap children for sacrifice or are they more low-key?
Satanists are supposedly organized into a great Anti-Church that diabolically mirrors the Church of Law in both hierarchy and ritual. However, it is a bit more factional as the various demon lords don't like each other.
They're always looking for members, but it might be hard to find them.
They totally do human sacrifice all the time. That's what they're about.
8) How does a local Churchgoer protect their private space from sorcerous/demonic/elfin intrusion? How about a Pagan? A Satanist?
Churchgoers rely on clerics to provide them with the magic charms needed. Pagans usually sacrifice something - a pumpkin, a lamb, an infant - to an Old God in the hopes that it will protect them. Satanists think they are immune to the actions of demons. They are usually wrong.
There are also a number of superstitions about things like strings of garlic, horseshoes, lines of salt, etc. These are usually shared by all three groups, though Churchgoers will usually add something to make it appear more holy like an icon or some holy water. Satanists do the same but with more Satan.
9) Where all the dwarves at?
The last known dwarf kingdom lies somewhere in the Bald Mountains in the western part of the Dark Country. They are a furtive and secretive folk who rarely venture out of their mountain holds.
10) What are the big money sinks for adventurers? Random potions? Random luxuries? Property? Indulgences?
I'm working on some custom carousing tables for the Dark Country that will allow for characters who don't want to get besotted to give alms, train, or do magical experiments. They're still in the early stages though.
Property is also a good one, and I'm also working on a price list for various sorts.
Indulgences are not sold, but other boons from the God of Law might be. Sin is usually washed away through humiliating penances.