Borderlands Campaign Setting
Table Of Contents
- 1 Map of the Known World
- 2 Part 1 - Character Origins
- 2.1 Racial Origins
- 2.2 Class Origins
- 2.3 Languages
- 2.4 Background Origins
- 3 Part 2 - Common Knowledge
Map of the Known World
Part 1 - Character Origins
The most common intelligent begins on the continent, humans are divided into a number of ethnic, tribal, and cultural groups. The largest groups are presented below in order of population size on the continent.
Found in the middle of the continent, mostly in the large kingdom of Gaelle. Of moderate stature and slight build, likely due to a long tradition of intermarriage with the elves of Valeorn forest, their ancient allies. Generally fair-skinned and dark-haired, though lighter hair shades, especially among half-elves and their descendants, are not uncommon. Gaelleans are known for their passion, pageantry, and sense of fair play.
The people of the south-eastern mountains and hills. A hardy people that have long contended with the orcs for resources. Of tall stature, fair to tan complexion, with almond-shaped eyes often of striking blue or green. They can be found in the high country of Huran or on the coast of Thrake. Occasionally, a particularily brave tribe is found across the borders in the Khanlands. Known for their practicality and gruff demeanors.
Once the most prosperous human group, the ancient civilization of the Andwynyons came to an end almost 500 years ago. The remnants of that once continent-spanning nation tend to live in the north, in the secluded valley of Old Andwyn or on the coast of Corwyn. The one surviving jewel of the ancient civilization is the Spire of Kyros, which is still counted among the Three Great Cities. Andwynyons tend to be olive-skinned with curly brown hair. Andwynyons are known to be serious and introspective.
Beyond the Sea of Storms lie the lands of the Sartari. At some point, Sartari traders and pirates began to colonize the southern coast of this continent, and today, those pirate havens are the city-states of the Urus League, and their human inhabitants the Urustari. Pure Sartari ("Storm") folk are medium to dark skinned with curly black or brown hair, though mingling with Huthark fisherfolk or Gaellean corsairs lead to a variety of appearances. Urustari are known for being clever, good bargainers, and very competitive. The city-states of Urus are largely lawless, but the closest thing to authorities are the feared Pirate Queens ("les Reinhas Piragas").
The plains of Rhoth are home to two kinds of storms: the rains that blow in from the Sunlit Sea, and also the thundering herds of the Rhothanaui. Masters of the horse, the Rhoth-folk live a life on the move, pitying those who are trapped in cities of stone. Their appearance is similar to the Hutharks, leading some to believe that the Rhothanaui are their descendants, or vice versa.
The "Green Folk" of the Sainar Jungle live secluded lives, only rarely interacting with the outside world. They are renowned for their knowledge of natural medicines and poisons. The Sainaru people are generally of short stature and medium complexion.
The people of Nakawat and the swamps of the southern coast live in scattered familial bands, dwelling in stilt houses above the waters. They generally live simple lives as hunters and trappers. The local people and languages are a mix of both Hutharik immigrants and southern forest tribes.
Elves and Half-Elves
Valeorn's closest neighbor and stanch ally is the human kingdom of Gaelle, and a number of elves make their home in this neigboring realm. In addition, Gaelle is home to a large population of half-elves, due to constant contact between the two peoples.
North, in the forests of Yynwoed, the elves live simpler lives that are much closer to nature, and have less contact with the rest of the world. These "wild elves" give the Yynwoed a dangerous reputation, as they are very suspicious of outsiders.
Small populations of elves from both Valeorn and Yynwoed can be found in Andwyn, as well as half-elves.
One of the great achievements of elvish culture is the city of Tehr Cirith, one of the Three Great Cities, called "the City of Art." Artists of all people can be found there, though the architecture and local culture is distinctly elven.
Finally, the dark stain on elven history is the existance of the Drow Dominion, also called "the Slaver's Domain." The drow, or dark elves, are a subterranean branch of the elvish family that controls a vast underground empire. To support it, the drow employ legions of slaves on their above-ground holdings to grow food to feed their empire. Humans, dwarves, halflings, and orcs are all used as slaves, though non-drow elves are usually killed.
If dwarves on the continent have a homeland, the mountain realm of Daelthaen would be it. Roughly translating to "Fortress of the Ancestors," Daelthaen is the religious and cultural heart of dwarf-kind. Miles and miles of winding tunnels house a hundred or more generations of dwarven ancestors interred into Daelthaen's crypts, and many dwarves make pilgrimage there to pay homage to their ancestral heroes and learn the history of their family, clan, and people. In addition to its role in dwarf religion and culture, the city is remarkable for its detailed records, making it the best source for accurate historical information on the continent.
The dwarven city of Marzanbul is considered one of the Three Great Cities and is the dwarven state most likely to be visited by non-dwarves. "The City of Craft," as it is called, is the commercial hub of the continent's trade by land-route, due to the city's treaty with Valeorn that allows their traders unfettered access to roads through the forest realm.
Dwarves from Daelthaen and Marzanbul are renowned and respected for their skill as craftspeople, scholars, and soldiers, and often find employment and acceptance among other nations. Andwyn and Huran both have sizeable dwarf minorities. In addition, among the races of the continent, dwarves are the mostly likely to be considered "Gnome-friends," and thus several small communities of dwarves are found in Gnomeheim.
The dwarven colony of Zweigard began as an attempt to settle the southern mountains and open routes for exploration into the eastern wastelands, but today it is known for a far different reason. The twin cities of Zweigard, one above and one below ground, stand as a bulwark against the empire of the drow. Dwarves from across the continent, and many non-dwarves as well, hear the call to serve in the "great crusade" against the subterranean threat.
Dwarves are far less common in the south of the continent, but scattered populations do exist in Nakawat, Thrake, Shah-Calim, and Urus, and wherever sea ports can be found. These "salt-beards," as they are called, prefer the ocean to the mountains, but maintain the same dwarven devotion to family and clan (hence the salt-beard motto, "Blood and Crew").
The majority of halflings live in their ancestral homelands of the Moot. An idyllic countryside of rolling hills and vertile valleys, it was perfect for the peaceful lives of farming and hunting that most halflings wanted. However, since the expansion of the goblin empire of Ix, halflings have had to endure several decades of occupation. While the goblins have been driven from the Moot, the halflings' sense of peace will take much longer to recover.
In addition to the Moot, halflings are found in a few other regions. Some halfling families, even small villages, can be found in both Corwyn and Old Andwyn, whose human residents live similar, rustic lives to the halflings. A few braver halflings have taken up residence in the shadow of Yynwoed forest, and for now at least, the wild elves have let them coexist peaceful.
Some explorers of the Sainar Jungle report contact with tribes of "Green Folk" that fit the description of halflings, but so far these stories have been unsubstantiated.
The gnomish homeland is Gnomeheim, and the cautious gnome-folk are careful to share the location of its cities and people to outsiders. A traveler could wander through the hills of Gnomeheim without ever encountering a gnomish settlement, as most are hidden underground and protected by clever illusions. Only a few non-gnomes are given the prestigious title of "Gnome-friend" and allowed to visit.
Despite this, gnomes are not an isolationist people, and gnomish merchants, crafters, entertainers, and ambassadors can be found across the continent. The organization known as the Consortium, a massive gnomish bank and merchant's guild, oversees a massive trade network. Almost any business on the continent, in one way or another, deals with the Consortium, and many governments, too, require loans or goods that only the Consortium can provide.
Gnomes are well known also as diplomats, and their good judgement, sharp analytical minds, and neutral demeanor lead many people to rely on them as arbiters of disputes. The Three Great Cities (Kyros, Marzanbul, and Tehr Cirith) all maintain large, permanent gnomish embassies, which often find themselves serving as a de-facto legal system, trusted above the cities' official courts.
Similar to the Urustari humans, dragonborn on the continent are immigrants from the lands across the Sea of Storms. While a sizeable population of dragonborn can be found along the coast of Urus, it is the shining city of the southern desert, the draconic kingdom of Shah-Calim, that is considered the center of dragonborn civilization on the continent.
The city-state of Shah-Calim is ruled by a Triumvirate of powers. The Sultan, an ancient gold dragon, represents the kingdom itself. The Hierophant represents the wisest minds in the city. And the Tribune, elected by the people, represents the popular will.
Below the Triumvirate are an complex beauracracy of priests, scholars, and magistrates, known collectively as Archons. These officials must pass rigous tests on religious and legal knowledge before being allowed to exercise power as civil servants.
Dragonborn in general are considered honorable (to a fault), boastful, and single-minded, answering every slight to their honor and reducing issues to black and white.
The Sartari people often made pacts with otherworldly beings, and as a result have many children born as tieflings among their numbers. Similarily, their descendents in Urus have a sizeable tiefling population. Tiefling children are as likely to be human as tiefling, and in turn, a seemingly human family might have a tiefling crop up after many generations.
Beyond Urus, tieflings are relatively rare on the continent. The only exception is Corwyn, though why this would be is unclear, and the corwynyons themselves are silent on the matter.
Orcs and Half-Orcs
Spilling over the mountains from the eastern wastelands, the hordes of orc-kind have long troubled the Hutharks of the south-east hills and forests. In recent years, the orc tribes have been unified under the great orc Khan. Now, the orcs of the Khanlands have ceased their raidings and tried a new way of life, coexisting with their human and elven neighbors. However, the Khan grows old, and many wonder if his kingdom will serve long without him.
In the lands of Huran, where humans and orcs are most often to meet, occasionally half-orcs are born. Perhaps one in eight of the Huran-folk have some measure of orc ancestry.
Goblins, in their several forms, are found everywhere across the continent. They seem to spring up in any unlit, unguarded place, quickly establishing nests and hideouts before setting out to make mischief.
Three distinct forms of goblins are known. Common or lesser goblins are the smallest and most abundant form. The size of children, they have an abundant sense of cruelty and an uncanny strength for their stature. They are found in chaotic gangs without clear leaders, unless a particularily ruthless goblin is able to establish themselves as "boss," though such a position is quite precarious.
Larger hobgoblins are both more aggressive and more intelligent. They usually form small warbands, either raiding as bandits or employed by petty warlords as mercenaries. Their focus and capacity for military discipline means that, unlike their lesser cousins, they often master difficult subjects, such as martial arts or wizardry.
The third and largest category are bugbears, named both for their fur and for their role as "boogeymen" in many children's stories. Bugbears are larger than most humans and much stronger, but with a talent for stealth and cunning that belies their bulk. Unlike goblins and hobgoblins, bugbears rarely work in large groups, preferring to fend for themselves or in pairs.
All goblin-kind have some ability to tame and train animals. Goblins prefer "vermin," such as rats, wolves, and giant spiders, even working with much larger beasts such as dire wolves or worgs. Goblins have a strong dislike for most domesticated creatures, and go out of their way to kill dogs and horses, who they consider human allies, and to liberate pigs, who they consider human captives. Hobgoblins often train war hounds, even exotic beasts such as hell hounds. Bugbears occasionally have animal companions, such as bears or panthers.
While goblins are a constant trouble to people across the continent, until recently they were never an organized threat. That changed with the appearance of the goblins of Ix. At first, humans, elves, and dwarves found the notion unbelievable; a goblin empire seemed an oxymoron. But the halflings of the Moot were the first to discover how real the danger was when goblin troops occupied their homelands for over twenty years. Recent wars with Gaelle and Valeorn drove the goblins back into the mountains of the northwest, but the unsettling questions remain: who or what is Ix, and when will the goblins return?
- Huran: The rough frontier lands of Huran breed warriors with the mettle to take on the threat of wild beasts and orc raiders.
- Thrake: The longships of Thrake are a feared sight due in large part to their savage reavers.
- Nakawat: The insular swamp dwellers of the Nakawati often must rely on brute savagery to defend their homes.
- Khanlands: Orcish berserkers are amongst the most infamous warriors on the continent and for good reason. For centuries, the threat of a horde of orcish raiders was the pinnacle of terror.
- Rhoth: Many of the Rhothanaui Thunder-Riders follow the totem of the Horse, admiring the beasts seemingly endless endurance.
- Yynwoed: Those foolish enough to tresspass in the wild elves' forest might come face to face with a woad-painted slayer, mindless with fury.
- Zweigard: The dwarf crusaders occasionally unleash barbarians as shock troops to soften and demoralize their hated enemies.
- Shah-Calim: While most dragonborn prefer more honorable fighting styles, some desert clans teach a form of religious trance that confers great fighting strength to its adherents.
- Gaelle: The Gaellean courts are rife with music, pageantry, and intrigue, a perfect place for a bard.
- Huran: Hutharik skalds are valuable both for their ability to inspire warriors and for keeping the ancient lore of their people.
- Thrake: A Thrakish longship is not compete without a sea shanty to row by.
- Urus: Many secret dealings are done in the shadowy corners of Urus, and an unscrupulous bard would be right at home.
- Valeorn: Elvish war-singers are honored members of many Valeornish knightly orders.
- Tehr Cirith: The City of Art has a number of bardic colleges, and hosts the annual Bardic Games.
- The Moot: During the goblin invasion, bards often served with distinction in the resistance, carrying messages and leading troops.
- Shah-Calim: The splendid courts of the shining city always welcome bards, as entertainer, courtier, or scholar.
- Gaelle: Clerics of Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, Dionysus, and Tyche are among these celebrated in the courts of Gaelle.
- Huran: Hutharik gods of battle, strength, and the wilderness have a few clerics in Huran, including Odin, Heimdall, Sif, Skadi, Tyr, and Uller.
- Thrake: The Thrakish people, when they do require the aid of clerics, often turn to those that serve gods of weather and good fortune, such as Aegir, Hermod, Njord, and Thor.
- Andwyn: The people of Andwyn prefer neutral and lawful deities of agriculture, craft, and nature, as befits their simple lifestyles, such as Daghdha, Belenus, Brigantia, and Silvanus.
- Corwyn: The dour and suspicious people of Corwyn prefer clerics that emphasize order and virtue, such as devotees of Diancecht, Goibhniu, Manannan mac Lir and Oghma.
- Kyros: A variety of deities of knowledge and magic have temples in the City of Learning, including Odin, Hecate, Math Mathonwy, and Thoth.
- Urus: Several Sartari deities are worshipped in Urus, but the Reinhas Piragas especially favor temples to goddesses, such as Bast, Hathor, Isis, and Nephthys.
- Valeorn: Clerics of war and healing, known as "hospitaler knights," are a vital part of the Valeornish military.
- Daelthaen: The dwarven city of ancestors has several large clerical orders dedicated to preserving and honoring the dead.
- Marzanbul: Clerics of creation and the forge are popular in the City of Craft.
- Zweigard: The crusaders of Zweigard are supported by a large medical corps of clerics, and many clerics of battle can be found on the front lines, bringing down divine wrath onto their foes.
- The Moot: During the Ixian occupation, the halflings of the Moot relied on their clerics as a source of stability and continuity with their culture and heritage. Gods of healing and nature are the most popular, though the war taught them the value of gods of battle and trickery.
- Shah-Calim: Clerics of Shah-Calim are less likely to be warriors on the battlefield; instead, priests are respected as judges, scholars, and healers, ensuring peace, order, and justice prevails.
- Huran: Though less common than clerics, the mountain druids of Huran represent a tie to the ancient Hutharik way of life, and ensure that life on the frontier stays in balance.
- Khanlands: Orcs rarely have use for gods; their shamans turn directly to the nameless spirits of the world, not to worship, but to bind to their will with blood and iron.
- Rhoth: Many tribes of the Rhothanaui are guided by the wisdom of a druid of the vast savannah. Their knowledge of weather, water, and beasts can be the difference between life and death for a herd of Thunder-Riders.
- Sainar: The Green Folk have an unncanny relationship with the jungle, moving through its vines and roots like water, commanding its seductive scents and poisonous barbs.
- Nakawat: The seclusive clans of Nakawat occasionally turn to the druids of the swamps when their dire need overcomes their prideful self-reliance.
- Valeorn: The cities of Valeorn avoid the conflicts with nature that plague many human cities; in return, many war-druids serve in the Valeorn military.
- Yynwoed: The wild elves prefer druids over the power of abstract and distant gods. The druids of Yynwoed are rarely peaceful, embracing the brutal and unsentimental side of nature.
- The Moot: The Moot is unique in being one of the few places where clerics and druids are likely to serve side by side and in equal number. As the people of the Moot rebuild, many druids are returning to help restore the balance of the land.
- Gaelle: Known for its resplendent knights, Gaelle produces a great many freelancers, hedge knights, and country squires hoping for a chance at heroism.
- Urus: The will of the Reinhas Piragas are enforced by deadly marines, shipboard warriors with a razor-honed battle instinct. Urus is also home to teachers from several Sartari fencing academies.
- Rhoth: Although the so-called "civilized" nations often dismiss the Rhothanaui as disorganized barbarians, their elite calvary have defeated the best of Gaelle and Valeorn multiple times.
- Valeorn: The ancient military academies of Valeorn produce some of the greatest soldiers on the continent.
- Tehr Cirith: The City of Beauty has elevated swordplay to a fine art, and produces some of the continent's most skilled duellists.
- Marzanbul: A good crafter should know how to use their wares, and many of the smiths of Marzanbul are current or retired fighters. In addition, Marzanbul caravans are protected by some of the best equipped guards on the continent.
- Zweigard: Many of the crusaders of Zweigard are fighters, trusting in nothing but their mettle and strength of arms to overcome their foes.
- The Moot: Although halflings are sometimes dismissed as warriors by the larger races, during the goblin occupation, squads of elite halfling slingers were among the most feared members of the resistance.
- Gnomeheim: The naturally intelligent and magical-inclined gnomes have a long tradition of mixing military training and spellcasting, the better to be prepared for any possibility.
- Shah-Calim: The Shining City competes with both Urus and Tehr Cirith as the place that teaches the best duellists. The streets of Shah-Calim are rife with arrogant bravos and dashing swashbucklers.
- Andwyn: For the simple people of Andwyn, the ascetic life of a monastary can be quite appealing. Trouble-makers in Andwyn soon find that what they took to be unassuming shepherds or scribes are as dangerous as any armed knight.
- Corwyn: Monks in Corwyn often subscribe to purification by mortification of the flesh, hardening their skin and wills with hours of painful exercise each day.
- Urus: Despite their names, few monks in Urus attend formal monastaries. Indeed, at first glance, such monks might appear simply as brawlers or street toughs. But the Sartari fighting style is passed down individually, from teacher to student, and clashes in the streets between rival schools are a common sight in the freeports.
- Rhoth: Formalized by the Grass Elves, the "walking monks" of Rhoth seek enlightment in nature, walking many miles each day to harden body and spirit.
- Sainar: Encounters between outsiders and the "Green Folk" are unpredictable; even an unarmed Sainaru can be dangerous. Where or how they train is unknown, but it seems that complement their fighting style with focus-enhancing herbs, coat their bodies in slippery oils, and even use poisonous thorns to augment their strikes.
- Valeorn: Valeorn's martial prowess is measured more in heavy knights and powerful calvary; nonetheless, a handful of martial arts academies do exist, emphasizing either grappling (to complement swordplay) or a complex spear-based fighting style.
- Tehr Cirith: A number of acrobatic performing troupes in the City of Artists are actually monks dedicated to the gods of beauty and perfection.
- Daelthaen: In many of the sacred spaces of Daelthaen, weapons are forbidden. Nonetheless, guards trained in the heavy, ground-based dwarven fighting style are posted to ensure good order.
- The Moot: While the religious practices of the Moot were generally peaceful, after the goblin invasion, many turned to martial arts for self-defense, to get around restrictions on personal weapons, or to strike with an element of surprise.
- Gaelle: The knights of Gaelle count many paladins among their ranks.
- Corwyn: Paladins in Corwyn serve as inquisitors, rooting out sin wherever it might take root.
- Urus: Paladins of freedom and liberation are often celebrated heroes in Urus, tolerated by the Reinhas Piragas, but they can run into opposition with the many criminal syndicates that make their headquarters in the League.
- Valeorn: Elvish paladins are natural leaders of the many knightly orders found in Valeorn.
- Tehr Cirith: Several temples to gods of love and art host paladins dedicated to preserving beauty and creativity.
- Daelthaen: The sacred halls of Daelthaen have many paladins, who combine the two dwarven virtues of ceaseless duty and fearless justice.
- Zweigard: Paladins from across the continent come to serve as crusaders, either out of a sense of duty or simply to bring glory to their god and order.
- The Moot: Halflings do not fit the standard mold for a paladin, but for many goblin invaders, the last thing they ever saw was a Moot sheriff astride a halfling riding hound, bearing down on them.
- Shah-Calim: Dragonborn of Shah-Calim, with their sense of personal honor, often swear the paladin's oath.
- Huran: The wilderness frontier of Huran has many dangers, and few are as suited to face them as a ranger. With their skill at arms and mastery of the terrain, Hutharik rangers soon make their forest or mountain a place where raiders and bandits fear to tread.
- Thrake: Thrakish longships often rely on the skill of a ranger to see them safely from port to port as they ply the Sea of Storms.
- Khanlands: The rough hills and grasslands of the Khans are home to many hunters, some of beasts and some of ... smarter prey.
- Andwyn: The people of Andwyn are mostly farmers, but surrounded as they are by forest, occasionally hunters, trappers, and guides are needed.
- Rhoth: The open plains of Rhoth can be difficult to navigate; thus, every tribe has its Wayfinder, who chart the path of the herds and ensure that the tribe returns to its hunting grounds every season.
- Sainar: The folk of the jungle move swiftly and silently though the green overgrowth, the interlopers completely unaware until the poison arrows find them.
- Valeorn: Sometimes, a single scout or commando can do more good than an entire company of soldiers. The forests of Valeorn are patrolled by an elite ranger cadre, who ensure that orcs or any other intruders are swiftly.
- Yynwoed: Wild elves know Yynwoed forest like the back of their hands, and few things are more dangerous that an a wild elf hunting party.
- Zweigard: Forays from the fortress-city into the underdark require scouts and guides familiar with the area. The rangers of Zweigard are often among the most dangerous, experience, and self-reliant of the crusaders.
- The Moot: Halfling rangers, known as "bounders," patrol the wilderness to keep an eye on any possible goblin activity beyond their borders.
- Thrake: Thrakish cutthroats are a danger to any who sail on the Sunlit Sea.
- Kyros: While one might expect that a place like "the City of Learning" might be above petty crime, this is not the case. Rival scholars hire thieves to steal research in the dead of night. Newcomers soon learn that in Kyros, even the philosophers have clubs.
- Urus: The pirates, sea dogs, and scallywags of Urus make up the largest hive of scum and villainy on the continent. In Urus, any vice can be found, if one knows the right price.
- Nakawat: The southern swamps are rife with exiles and outcasts. Scum of all sorts flock to Nakawat to escape the reach of the law.
- Tehr Cirith: In the "City of Beauty," there is ample temptation for those with flexible ethics and an eye for opportunity. More disturbingly, there are those who claim that a guild of assassins makes it home in Tehr Cirith, one that has perfected "the art of dealing death."
- Marzanbul: Like any large city, Marzanbul has its share of thieves and criminals, and often the various guilds and trade unions of Marzanbul are no better.
- The Moot: The guerilla halfling resistance employed many underhanded tactics to demoralize, defeat, and drive out the goblin occupation.
- Gnomeheim: Gnomeheim itself is a picture of harmony and order. But in the wider world, where the long arms of the Consortium seem to reach everywhere, a vast network of detectives, spies, and bounty hunters ensure that no one profits at a gnome's expense.
- Andwyn: For a people mostly known for their farming, Andwynyons have a surprising number of sorcerers. Most attribute it to the ancient Andwynyons, who performed amazing feats of engineering that likely required the use the use of magic, and over time bred the gift into their descendents.
- Urus: The Urustari people are more likely to have a natural magical ability, a wellspring of magic that flows perhaps from their close connection to storms and the sea.
- Tehr Cirith: The natural abilities of sorcerers require intuition more than scholarship, so many with the natural gift of magic shun Kyros to seek out the City of Beauty to practice their magical art.
- Shah-Calim: In the lands of the Sultan, the blood of the dragon flows thick, and many sorcerers can be found among the dragonborn inhabitants of the Shining City.
- Corwyn: When disaster strikes, the pious Corwynyons fear the work of a warlock. The elders of each Corwych village watch careful for unholy practices and rave about cleansing fire from their pulpits.
- Kyros: Pact magic can be dangerous to the practitioner, but (almost) no avenue of study is forbidden in the City of Learning.
- Urus: As the Urustari say, "any port in a storm," and when the gods fail you, there are always other powers to which one can turn.
- Nakawat: The clans of Nakawat each have their own reasons for braving the swamps to eke out a living; away from prying eyes and sanctimonious judgement, secret paths to power can be walked without fear of reprisal.
- Yynwoed: The wild elves known that ancient powers haunt the secret places of their forest, and are not above petitioning them to destroy their enemies.
- The Moot: During the time of the goblin occupation, some halflings turned to supernatural patrons in order to fight the invaders.
- Shah-Calim: The search for knowledge, especially knowledge of the future, is a respected one in the Shining City, and where that search combines with a lust for power, some will turn to unconventional sources to gain either.
- Gaelle: In Gaelle, a noble's retinue is not complete without the sage advice of a court wizard.
- Kyros: The greatest, or at least most populous and influencial, schools of wizardry can be found in Kyros, each competing for access to the Grant Library in Kyro's ancient landmark, the Spire.
- Valeorn: Companies of Valeornish knights are accompanied by war-wizards, among the deadliest practictioners of their magical craft.
- Tehr Cirith: Although fewer wizards call Tehr Cirith home than Kyros, the City of Art has several colleges relating to the use of magic to delight, charm, and ensnare the senses.
- Gnomeheim: The sharp minds of the gnomes are among the greatest wizards on the continent. Many find work with the Consortium, practicing their magic for profit, while others are simply content to study, experiment, and discover.
|Giant||Runic||Giants, ogres, trolls|
|Avic||Primordial||Harpies, Aarakocra, etc.|
|Benthic||Primordial||Sahuagin, Tritons, etc.|
|Aklo||Aklo||Mind Flayers, etc.|
|Primordial||Primordial||Elementals, Genies, etc.|
|Nationality||Acolyte||Charlatan||Criminal||Entertainer||Folk Hero||Guild Artisan|
● Common background
○ Uncommon background
Part 2 - Common Knowledge
Cosmology and Religion
The Celestial River
The religion of the Sartari (and by extension the Urustari) revolves around the theological concept of the Celestial River. Each soul is cast into the river and seeks to reach the river's end and the City of Paradise, wherein dwell the gods. They are beset on all sides by temptations and dangers to their soul, braving the spiritual waters as best they can. Upon arrival at the City of the Gods at the mouth of the river, the now-purified soul is judged, and if found worthy, granted access to paradise. Those who fail wander the riverbanks and succumb to evil, become new demons to torment other souls.
The gods themselves float up and down the river at will, aiding or hindering mortals as they see fit. They push the Sun and Moon down the Celestial River, beyond the City into the Realm of Night, wherein dwell the powers of death and destruction. Each day, however, the gods rescue the sun and return it to the Celestial River, defeating death for another day.
For the most part, the Celestial River is not concieved of in a literal way. Most Sartari theologians consider it a metaphor for life. The band of stars and light in the sky are also called the Celestial River.
The Five Hidden Paths
The philosophy of the Five Hidden Paths began among elves, but has over time gained adherents across the continent. It is a philosophy of self-improvement and seeking the possibility of each moment, finding the "hidden paths" of any possible situation.
While the Five Hidden Paths does not recognize gods as such, there are enlightened masters and saints who are said to offer guidance and tutelage to those who seek their wisdom through meditation and study.
While possibly hundreds of variations of this philosophy exist, the general form is that the weak of spirit, driven only by desire, see only one possible path, and thus lack the free will to avoid the fate awaiting them. The enlightened, however, see the Five Hidden Paths in all things, choosing freely to remake themselves and reality. The five paths are: Fire, which emphasizes action; Wind, which emphasizes change; Water, which emphasizes transformation; Wood, which emphasizes flexibility; and Metal, which emphasizes stability.
The Houses of the Ancestors
While dwarves have a reputation as a highly religious people, they do not usually recognize what humans would call gods. Instead, they venerate the ancestors, try to live up to their example and emulate their wisdom and heroism. Over time, based on an ancestor's reputation, they become venerated as the best example of a certain dwarven virtue, achieving a legendary, even god-like status, and are believed to intervene in the mortal world by inspiring and strengthening those who honor them.
The Realms of the Gods
The Gaelleans general believe that each god is master of a seperate realm, and that these realms are either accessible or coexist with locations here on the mortal plane. For example, certain caves, mountains, forests, or bodies of water might serve as the gateway to the gods' realms.
Although each god rules its domain seperately and completely, the gods themselves are arranged into a complex hierarchy known as the Divine Kingdom, which mirrors the mortal concept of feudal government. Each god owes loyalty to the higher ranking gods, up to the King of the Gods, and in turn each god protects its subjects below.
Each Realm is a unique representation of the god that is serves, and is inhabitated by creatures loyal to that god, including the worthy souls chosen to be the god's companions in the afterlife.
Souls that do not rise to the attention of a particular god are instead sent to the Gray Waste, a flat, featureless, colorless wasteland where the souls of the dead may have respite from the responsibilities of life, visit the souls of family and friends, and generally exist in a state of perpetual half-sleep.
The Undying Lands
The Andwynyon people concieve of another world just beyond sight, sitting beside our own. This other world, the Lands of the Undying, are a place of stasis and permanence, compared to the dynamic, ever-changing mortal world. Some parts of the Undying Lands are eternal summer, an infinite wellspring of life, while other parts are a pallid winter, a land of death, silence, and stillness.
In the Andwynyon perspectives, souls enter the mortal world from the Undying Lands in order to experience change; upon death, the soul returns to the Undying Lands to reflect on what it has learned and to prepare for another new life. Corwynyons go a step further, charging that each new soul is born perfect and innocent, but after living in the world, it is sent to reside forever in which ever part of the Undying Lands best suit it.
The World Tree
The Huthark people, as well as many orcs, giants, and other species, believe that this world is just one of many one the World Tree. Suspended in its branches or wrapped in its roots, many worlds (the exact number varies) are tended to by the gods and other powerful beings.
The theology of the World Tree emphasizes strength and finality. The gods are not concieved of as immortal or all powerful; they claimed their current position by defeating older beings, and will in time grow old and be defeated themselves. Worlds themselves can grow old and rot, and one day even the World Tree itself will be consumed by the World Serpent. Over and over, the old established order is destroyed and something new replaces it, and strength is not something to be feared, but the engine of this change that renews the universe.
The gnomish trade organization, the Consortium is a bank, a merchant's guild, and unofficially, the intelligence branch of the state of Gnomeheim.
Gnomes are not known for being great warriors, and despite their natural gift for wizardry, they produce few archmages that greatly shape the course of history. In order to defend themselves, they instead turn to their national talent for profit and their reputation for, if not fair, then at least detached, dealings.
The Consortium, in a roundabout way, is Gnomeheim's army. A gnomish merchant, with the full backing of the Consortium, is considered untouchable. Harm them in any way, and you will likely never get a loan again; merchants will close their doors; bill collectors will come calling. Some even claim that the Consortium hires mercenaries and assassins to make good on their claims, but representatives deny this.
Being part of the Consortium can be a great source of support; the company is very concerned with making sure that their representatives are respected wherever they go. But it is not a free ride; in exchange for their protection, the Consortium expects that its agents will be ambitious, cunning, and above all, profitable. Failure to meet expectations can mean a loss of support or harsher reprecussions.
The Black Bull
Often talked about only in whispers, the Black Bull is a human-supremacist organization dedicated to the rebuilding of the Andwynyon Empire and the expulsion or extermination of all non-human intelligent species. Its operations are notoriously cryptic, almost cult-like, with secret initations and foul rituals (mostly involving the murder of non-humans).
Both Gaelle and Valeorn have several prestigious orders of knights, recruiting from the greatest and most virtuous warriors to join their ranks.
The Wind Riders
An order of knights from Valeorn, but accepts humans and other races into their ranks. The Wind Riders are famous for their choice of mounts, all of them flying creatures such as griffons, hippogriffs, or giant eagles, and for conducting much of their business using the language Avic, which is spoken by many avian creatures. The order teaches its knights special aerial tactics and maneuvers, and confers the blessings of the sisters Athena and Artemis.
The Lady's Favored
A Valeornish, all-elven order of knights. Hidden deep within Valeorn forest is a sacred glade known only to the few members of this elite order. A prospective member is brought there and sat by the edge of the lake therein. An ancient water spirit, known as the Lady, either appears to grant the applicant its blessing, or rejects them by refusing to appear. Once a knight has recieved the Lady's favor, unicorns and other sacred beasts of the forest will find them acceptable and allow themselves to serve as mounts for the favored knight.
The Illuminated Eye
A religious society dedicated to the study and worship of light. Most members are adherents of deities of light or magical scholars, but any fellow-minded persons are welcome to join. There are rumors that higher-ranking members are initiated into some sort of mystery cult, but this is unconfirmed or denied to outsiders.
The Illuminated Eye are also well known for their services that they offer to the public, including illumination magic, healing, and selling fireworks.
Despite Corwyn's reputation as a conservative and pious region, there are often rumors of the proliferation of strange cults and dangerous heresies behind closed doors. The Inquisition is dedicated to rooting out and destroying any practices it deems heretical. Only the traditional worship of gods of order, peace, and virtue are tolerated.
In regions of Corwyn without a strong central government, the Inquisition also acts as a police force and judiciary for secular crimes.
An old secret society from Kyros, the Builders are dedicated to discovering the architectural and magical secrets of the ancient Andwynyons. They carefully study and preserve Andwynyon artifacts and protect ruins from unscrupulous tomb robbers.
This organization of scholars and wizards maintain the famous library of Kyros and guard access to the higher levels of the Spire "dungeon." While the library is open to the public, the Keepers fund themselves by maintaining a monopoly on certain secrets found by their explorers in the higher levels of the Spire.