THE NORTH CONTINENT
The North Continent is where our game will begin. The North Continent is the largest of the four great continents, as well as the coldest. From the mountainous Great Winter Waste to the north, the home of dwarves, high elves and the warlike humans of the Vaesyr to the rolling hills, plains and moors of central Glorwyn to the great Westwood where the wood elves rule to the hilly lands of Meditar on the southern and western edge of the continent, the North Continent considers itself the center of culture.
The humans of the North Continent tend to be hale and hearty, particularly the Vaesyr. Even female Vaesyr tend toward stocky builds, considered a sign of fertility in Vaesyr culture, and most have pale or blonde hair and pale-colored eyes. The rare Vaesyr that are born with red hair are considered good omens, and are called the Thortouched, after the popular god of the Vaesyr, Thor. Glorwynians tend towards slighter frames than the Vaesyr, and overall darker hair but, since the Glorwynians and Vaesyr come from similar stock, many Glorwynians have blonde or light hair, but darker complexions than the Vaesyr. Humans of Meditar generally have dark hair and olive skin tones, possibly due to mixing of Glorwynian and Sun Children explorers in ancient times.
There are many demihumans on the North Continent. The wood elves inhabit the forests, and the dwarves inhabit the mountains, concentrated mainly in the Great Winter Waste. In Glorwyn and Meditar, halflings often live alongside their human neighbors in an integrated socieity. Especially in Glorwyn and the lands of the Vaesyr, half-elves are quite common. High elves that live among the Vaesyr refer to themselves as Alfar, and speak of a great betrayal in ancient times that split their race into two. They claim that Odin cursed the so-called Spider Clan to live forever underground and, to mark them, turned their skin pitch black. These elves are known as the Sveltar. The Alfar and dwarves share an animosity with each other; during the schism that created the Sveltar, the dwarves sided with the Spider Clan, leading to a centuries old argument between the Alfar and the dwarven clans.
Like many other places where wood elves gather, worship of the Great Spirits is common among these sylvan creatures. Many halflings, likewise, worship the Great Spirits, and for the most part the Great Spirits get along with both the Vanyr (worshiped by dwarves and the Vaesyr) and the Tuath (worshiped by Glorwynian humans). The Meditar worship the Pantheon, and rarely interact with the other faiths of the land.
Located west of the human land of Vaesyr, Alfheim is a land of thick pine forests, ringed by mountains. Great cities made of magically-shaped ice sparkle in the sun. To the east lies Vaesyr and to the northeast the dwarven nation of Dvergr. Southeast of Alfheim is the human land of Glorwyn.
The northeastern regions of Alfheim are part of the Great Winter Waste, and share part of the Jotun Mountains with the Dvergr. Located at the border of Alfheim and Dverger stands the cursed Palace of the Betrayer. In the ancient past, an Alfheim ruler named Inga Drowsdottir attempted to seize control of Alfheim from the High King in the name of her goddes, a forbidden deity known as Lolth. During the uprising, the dwarves of Dverger supplied the so-called Drow Rebellion with supplies and mercenaries. In the end, the Drow Rebellion was defeated, and the High King delivered a curse from Odin himself, marking the Alfheim that supported the Drow Rebellion by turning their skin pitch black and making it so that the sunlight hurt their eyes. These elves took the name of Sveltar and disappeared underground, somewhere in the Jotun mountains. To this day, the Alfar and Dverger do not get along, each blaming the other for atrocities during the Drow Uprising.
Alfar are a long-lived people, and some say that their High King is immortal and can only be killed if he chooses to be. The Alfar hold grudges and never forget slights, and still hold the humans of Vaesyr in contempt for their friendship with the dwarves of Dvergr. Alfar hate Sveltar, and will attack them whenever they raise their heads out of their subterranean kingdom.
Alfar respect skill, whether it be martially, politically or magically. There are four great magic colleges in Alfheim, and these colleges will accept students regardless of their race or national allegiance. Each college is located in one of the four great cities of Alfheim. Alfheim warriors prefer blades over slower, more damaging weapons. Thus longswords, daggers and other swords are common weapons for Alfheim fighters.
Although grey and high elves make up the greatest number of citizens of Alfheim, all races of Ma'rakan can be found in the nation, especially in the four great cities holding the magic colleges. The pine forests of the region, however, are quite thick and house many wood elf tribes. The few dwarves that life in Alfheim find that they are discriminated against by the Alfar more often than not, and half-elves are looked down upon as lessers.
The Alfheim political scene is complicated, with an intricate series of titles bestowed upon various nobles. In Vaesyr, it is joked that everyone in Alfheim has a noble title, even beggars. The most important noble titles, however, are the Hara'qin who are given rulership over large swaths of land, generally containing two or three towns and at least one major city. The Hara'qin, in turn, answer to one of three Kings; Tasha Lokisdottir, Bjord Ala'a or Jens Morwdr. King in the Alfheim political scene is a gender-neutral title, as evidenced by the female King Lokisdottir. The three Kings answer to the High King, the Immortal. The Immortal's real name is unkown, as none have called him by it since he began ruling Alfheim some 4,000 years ago.
Large Cities: Frostheim (Capital), Dragonsreach, Jotunrelm, Norgat
Frostheim is the capital of Alfheim, and the center of alfar knowledge and culture. Frostheim is also known as the World Tree City, as it is built among the branches of a massive oak tree that stands some 500 feet tall. The tree is named Yggdrasil and is thought to be the first tree to grow on Ma'rakan.
The main portion of Frostheim is built among the lower branches of Yggdrasil. The Shining Palace, home of the High King, is built upon the upper branches. Unless approaching by air, reaching the Shining Palace requires traversing the 10,000 steps that wind around Yggdrasil's trunk. Additionally, magics woven into the steps will teleport those that stop to rest for more than a minute while traversing the steps, depositing them at the bottom of the 10,000 steps. This ensures that any invaders that might assault the castle from the ground arrive fatigued. Shining Palace guards wear special rings that negate the teleportation effect, allowing them to place guard posts at key points along the 10,000 steps.
Religion: Most Alfar worship the Vanyr, especially the female deities of the religion. Sveltar worship their dark goddess Lolth. The second most common religion is the worship of the Great Spirits, mainly by the wood elves. In the southeastern corner of Alfheim, worship of the Tuath is relatively common.
Common Classes: Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Wizard
- Fighter: Beast-Rider, Cavalier, Myrmidion, Noble Warrior, Peasant Hero, Swashbuckler, Wilderness Warrior
- Priest: Berserker Priest, Nobleman Priest, Peasant Priest, Prophecy Priest, Scholar Priest
- Thief: Acrobat, Adventurer, Bouty Hunter, Fence, Investigator, Scout, Swashbuckler, Troubleshooter
- Wizard: Academian, Militant Wizard, Mystic, Patrician, Peasant Wizard
Dvergr is the Kingdom of Dwarves and is far larger than either the nation of Vaesyr or Alfheim realize. It's halls run the length of the Jotun Mountains, ancient and massive tunnels that often lead deep into the earth. Dvergr also claims the area of the Great Winter Waste that is north of the Jotun Mountains, but very few dwarves or other humanoids live there; it is a land of frost giants (who claim it as their own kingdom), white dragons, howling winds and abandoned ancient dwarven ruins and burial grounds.
In ancient times, the dwarves were the greatest magicians on Ma'rakan, with spells and dweomers that rival even the most powerful Alfheimian archmages. In those days, the dwarves worshipped an ancient pantheon known as the Aenyr, who gave birth to the Vanyr. The dwarven empire was mighty, the jewl of Ma'rakan. At that time, the dwarves lived on the surface. When the Vanyr rose up against their Aenyr forefathers, a dwarven blacksmith named Moradin was tricked by Loki into forging the Godblade. The Godblade was an artifact of such power that it could slay a god with a touch. After the blade was finished, frost giants attacked Moradin's forge and stole the blade. Unknown to even the Vanyr, these frost giants were kin to Loki, who had planned to use the blade to kill Odin and take his place. Loki's plot was uncovered, but not before Loki plunged the sword into the heart of Grundir, the Aesyr goddess of magic.
As Grundir lay dying, she uttered a curse; whichever race had created this cursed blade would be forever cut off from the arcane arts. Because magic was so important to the dwarven way of life, this severance from the arcane arts was catastrophic. Wards protecting against the frost giants and their minions failed. Entire cities were swallowed by the snows of the Great Winter Waste. White dragons razed villages that they previously couldn't touch.
The dwarves of Old Dvergr fled into the Jotun mountains. Hounded by their enemies, they went underground and there they have stayed ever since, carving out a new kingdom beneath the Jotun Mountains and a new Clanhead was crowned. When humans began to explore the Jotun Mountains, the dwarves saw kindred souls and soon formed a friendship with the humans. Likewise, relations with the Alfar were similarly warm.
The relationship between the Alfar and the dwarves were not to last. Desperately seeking a way to return to their former glory, the Clanhead at the time of the Drow Rebellion struck a deal with Inga Drowsdottir to provide the rebellion with arms and armor, as the dwarves had become the greatest blacksmiths on the North Continent. When the Alfar defeated the Drow Rebellion, a short but brutal war between Alfheim and Dvergr took place. In an attempt to appease Alfheim, the dwarves removed Clanhead Stonehilt from power and replaced him. This ended the war itself, but the Alfar kept their grudge, and refused to never forgive the dwarven race for their betrayal.
Meanwhile the Svelfar had been cursed to leave behind the sunlight. The so-called Spider Clan descended into the depths of the Jotun mountains and another great war was fought. Dvergr managed to fight back the Spider Clan, but lost much of the lower levels of their realm to the Svelfar in the treaty that ended the war. Ravaged by the war with the Alfar, Dvergr could little afford to also fight the Svelfar and were forced to give in to their demands in the interest of survival.
When Grundir removed the dwarves' ability to perform arcane magic, this was the final victory needed by the Vanyr to usurp their parents. Loki was hailed as a hero among the Vanyr, and the dwarves began to worship the Vanyr. Denied the ability to cast arcane magic, the dwarves were able to dedicate much time to religious pursuits and, as such, became the most devout clerics and priests of the Vanyr and helped to convert the humans of Vaesyr from their ancient worship of the Great Spirits to the worship of the Vanyr.
Dwarves are a proud people. They tend to share a lot, culturally, with the Vaesyr. They love strong drink, strong women and a good fight. However, the dwarves are much more religious than the humans of Vaesyr. Dwarves organize themselves into large extended families called clans, lead by the eldest of the clan, the Greybeard. The Clanhead is the leader of all dwarves, and passes down his rules through the various Greybeards, who are often the leaders of dwarven communities. The current Clanhead is the female dwarf Jazia Ironbelt. Each clan has a patron god of the Vaesyr, and family homes have shrines to their clan's patron god. Dwarves create the best heavy armor and weapons, particularly hammers that their warriors use, on Ma'rakan.
Dwarven women have thick head and body hair, but do not grow beards as the men do. Dwarven men grow their beards long, most never have shaved. They braid these beards in intricate designs. If a dwarf performs a crime against his Clan or all of Dvergr and wishes to atone he will become one of the Pentinent, shaving all body hair and going out into the world to seek a glorious death so that he may return honor to his Clan.
There are almost no non-dwarves living in dvergr, and the few that do live there are either Svelfar that have forsaken the Spider Clan or humans, sometimes refugees from Vaenyr justice.
Worship of the Aesyr still exists among dwarven heretics, but when discovered they are quickly squashed. The dwarves have no tolerance of worship in Dvergr aside from that of the Venyr, and even visitors to the kingdom must refrain from worshipping their outsider gods while in the kingdom.
Large Cities: Mordhelm (Capital), Moria, Deepmine, Beholdrem
Common Classes: Fighter, Cleric
- Fighter: Berserker, Myrmidion, Noble Warrior, Peasant Hero
- Cleric: Peasant Priest, Prophecy Priest, Scholar Priest
- Wizard (among non-dwarves only):Mystic, Peasant Wizard
- Thief: Adventurer, Bounty Hunter, Investigator, Smuggler, Thug
A land of rolling hills, gentle pastures, foggy moors and deep forests, Glorwyn occupies the central area of the North Continent. It is bordered to the north by Vaenyr, to the northwest by a small portion of Alfheim and to the south by Meditar. The central location of Glorwyn allows the nation to serve as a trading hub for the various kingdoms of the continent and thus Glowyn is perhaps the most cosmopolitan of nations on the North Continent.
The humans of Glorwyn are descended from both Vaenyr and Meditar stock and thus share a bit of both cultures. Glorwynians are famous for their ability to drink, but also are much more laid back and peaceful than their rough Vaenyr cousins. As a result, the Glorwynians are respected more by Meditar and Alfheim than Vaenyr. There is some conflict between Glorwyn and Vaenyr, as the Vaenyr often conduct raids into northern Glorwyn.
Glorwynians find Alfar (and elves in general) attractive and so, as a result, near the border of Alfheim there is a large concentration of half elves. There are few dwarves in Glorwyn, though there are halflings, called Smallfolk, scattered throughout the rolling plains and more than a few gnomes in the northern hills or forests of Glorwyn.
Glorwyn boasts 2 great mage colleges, the College of Light and the College of Shadow. Dark whispers speak of a Necromancer's College located deep in the area known as the Wightmoor. The Wightmoor contains many ancient burial mounds, and not more than a few ruins..reminders of a now long-dead civilization of humans that thrived here.
Because of the large amount of trade routes, theives are something of a problem in Glorwyn as they ply the roads and prey on traders and lone travelers. Sometimes, these theives wander too far into the woods, where they encounter wood elves that do not care for humans trespassing on their sacred ground.
The Glorwynians as a whole worship the Tuath and, due to the Tuath's relationship with the land, there are probably more druids than there are clerics in Glorwyn. Worship of the Tuath takes place in great stone circles called menhir, the most powerful of which is Leywellin, which reportedly sits atop an ancient node of power that connects to every other menhir in Glorwyn via lines of power that run through the ground. On the nights when the moon is full, these lines occasionally emit a blue glow just faintly visible to the human eye, but completely invisible to infravision.
Glorwynians follow a type of feudal structure, with land owned by Lords or Ladies who pay fealty to Marques. Marques, in turn, answer to regional rulers known as Fides. Fides answer only to the Crown and Lady Crown. The current Crown is Reginald Orglyn and the current Lady Crown is his wife, Elysa Orglyn. Those above others in station can call upon them for troops, taxes and support. Consequentially, one can look to one's superior in times of need for protection and help with running one's land. Law is upheld by regionally appointed sherrifs, who oversee local deputies and constables.
Glorwynian society as a whole leans towards the matriarchal. The line of succession for the Crown is traced through the mother, eliminating questions of parentage from the succession. Many business owners are women, though there is nothing keeping the men from becoming such. The majority of priests and druids are female as well.
Religion: The majority of Glorwynians worship the Tuath, though some still cling to the old ways and worship the Great Spirits. Like elsewhere, wood elves revere the Great Spirits above all else. Some in northern Glorwyn practice worship of the Vanyr.
Large Cities: Al'aywin (Capital), Nottingwood, Voreyn (near the Vaenyr border), Balaia (near the Meditar border)
Common Classes: Fighter, Ranger, Druid, Wizard, Thief
- Fighter: Cavalier, Myrmidion, Noble Warrior, Peasant Hero, Outlaw, Swashbuckler
- Priest: Prophecy Priest, Savage Priest, Scholar Priest
- Wizard: Academian, Mystic, Patrician, Peasant Wizard, Witch
- Thief: Acrobat, Adventurer, Bandit, Bounty Hunter, Cutpurse, Fence, Scout, Swashbuckler, Swindler
Much of Meditar is rocky coastland, with gently sloping hills and forests closer to the border with Glorwyn. The greatest ports on the North Continent belong to Meditar, and the Meditarians are considered the best boatwrights and sailors on Ma'rakan. Of course, where there is legal sea trade, there are also pirates and Meditar has a reputation for piracy, particularly the further away from Portsreach you get.
The Meditarians are a gregarious people who love life, laugh freely and love with gusto. Because the warm sea winds keep the weather regulated to a nice wamrth year round, Meditarian fashion tends to show a lot of skin, and is made out of light materials. Whatever a Meditarian decides to do, he throws himself into it.
Meditarian architecture is a mixture of Glorwynian and that of the South Continent. Many Meditarians can trace their ancestry back to inlcude members of the Travellers on the Wind from across the Calm Sea and a few trace their lineage back to Children of the Sun as well.
The Meditar are mostly separated from demihumans as a whole, as their entire northern border is with their allies in Glorwyn. As a result, there are few non-humans among the cities of the Meditar, though monsters do lurk at the edges of civilization. Whereas the Glorwynians must contend with orcs and goblins, the Meditarians often find themselves at odds with medusae and minotaurs.
Religion: Like the Meditarians themselves, the Pantheon is full of over-the-top characters and gods. Zeus Pantheonfather, the head of the Pantheon, is well known for his carnal lusts and has spawned a number of children. Likewise the murderous rage of Ares is well known, and known can get her vengeance like Hera. A few around the Glorwynian border worship the Tuath, but those are in the vast minority.
Large Cities: The City of Temples (capital), Portsreach, Maralia
Common Classes: Paladin, Cleric, Wizard, Bard
- Fighter: Gladiator, Noble Warrior, Pirate, Swashbuckler
- Priest: Prophecy Priest, Scholar Priest
- Wizard: Patrician, Peasant Wizard
- Thief: Acrobat, Assassin, Cutpurse, Investigator, Smuggler, Swashbuckler, Swindler
Vaesyr is a cold, unforgiving land. Much of the nation lies in the Great Winter Waste, a frozen land of steppes and mountains, teeming with frost giants, white dragons and other such creatures. Vaesyrian humans tend to get along quite well with the dwarven nation of Dvergr. Because of their association with the dwarves, and the longstanding feud between the dwarves and the alfar, relations with the elven nation of Alfheim are considerably less friendly and, though border wars break out relatively often, outright war is rare.
Vaesyr is located mainly south of the Jotun Mountains, and to the east of Alfheim. Most Vaesyr live in small villages and often raid or pillage other villages, frost giant encampments and towns along the Alfheim and Glorwyn borders. Though the Vaesyrian villages will defend themselves, unless the raiders are unusually cruel, they rarely hold animosity towards the raiders; such is the way of life in the Great Winter Waste.
Each Vaesyrian village is lead by a Council of Elders, made up of the three oldest and wisest villagers of the settlement. The Council of Elders, in turn, answer to a local Jarl who is always located in a town or city. Jarls, in turn, are expected to answer to the Grand Jarl, who rules from Bifrostheim, and always claims descent from one of the Veasyrian gods. Ruling over villages is considered to be mens' work, so the Jarls and Grand Jarls are always males, though Council of Elders members can be women. The current Grand Jarl is Olaf Odinson.
Vaesyrian tend to love good drink, a good fight and bold and brash tales of heroism, most often told around a firepit at the local pub. Both men and women are excellent warriors and can generally outdrink members of any other nations except perhaps the dwarves of Dvergr. Vaesyrian-forged weapons tend to be of higher quality than those of other nations, and axes are the favored weapons of Vaesyrians, due in part to their ability to also be used as tools for cutting down trees or even climbing mountains in a pinch.
Mages in Vaesyr are generally mistrusted, and there are few that practice the arcane arts save for bards, known as skalds, who are afforded great respect. There is one mage college of note in Vaesyr, the Winter College, located deep in the Great Winter Waste. The journey to the Winter College is fraught with peril including roving bands of frost giants and Vaesyrian bandits that ply the only known route into and out of the college.
Most Vaesyrians are human, though dwarves are common and Alfar are not unknown (especially if they are refugees from Alfheim). Half-elves, known locally as helfalfar, are also fairly common especially along the Alfar/Vaesyr border. A few wood elves make their homes in the scattered pine forests of the nation.
Large Cities: Bifrostheim (Capital, located in the Jotun Mountains), Waldyr (near the Vaesyr/Alfheim border), Myurgensdottir (near the Vasyr/Glorwyn border; trade city)
Religion: Most Vaesyr worship the gods of the Vanyr, though the old ways of worshipping the Great Spirits can still be found in a few places and among the wood elves.
Common Classes; Fighter, Cleric, Bard, Ranger
- Fighter: Barbarian, Beast-Rider, Berserker, Peasant Hero, Outlaw, Savage, Wilderness Warrior
- Priest: Barbarian/Berskerker Priest, Outlaw Priest, Peasant Priest, Savage Priest
- Wizard: Anagkok, Militant Wizard, Mystic, Savage Wizard, Witch
- Thief: Adventurer, Bandit, Beggar, Scout, Thug