Major Land Masses – Northern Hemisphere
The Frozen Lands
•The North Pole is covered with a frigid polar continent. It stretches vaguely circularly grom the pole to about 86 degrees North.
•Located in the northern hemisphere, it stretches from 79 degrees North to the equator and from 150 degrees East to 130 degrees West. It does not line up with any of the southern land masses (there is water to the south). It is vaguely diamond-shaped, and longer than it is wide.
Norlath (early history)
•Stretches from roughly 70 degrees North to roughly 20 degrees North. And from 78 degrees West to 24 degrees West. It is slightly wider than it is long, and is a rough trapezoid – longer north/south in the east than in the west.
•At the cataclysm, the continent was destroyed. The remaining island fragments became known as The Shattered Lands.
The Shattered Lands (later history)
•A large grouping of islands that was once Norlath. In the center is a *very* deep bit of ocean. The many channels, under the action of the two moons, have turbulent and unpredictable currents. The central ocean is known as the “Sea of Storms” due to the confluence of the many currents.
•There is one very large island or small continent, some 2000 miles northeast from the sea of storms. It is the remnants of the largest mountain chain on the continent. It is oblong, approximately 800 miles long and 300 miles wide at the widest point. It is tilted northeast / southwest with respect to the sea of storms.
•Stretches from about 30 degrees East to 90 degrees East, and from 70 degrees North to 35 degrees North.
•It has very rugged southern and eastern coasts, and is extremely mountainous. There is a large central valley running northwest-southeast with a very deep lake. Streams run into the lake from the surrounding mountains, and a single large river exits the northwest end of the valley and falls from a high waterfall into the sea. The northern and western coasts are gentler, although still quite intimidating. The mountains extend into the sea, leaving many dangerous rocky shoals and islands of varying sizes.
Major Land Masses – Southern Hemisphere
•This area is in the Southern hemisphere and stretches from 86 degrees South to the equator. It is south of the Shattered Lands, and does not line up with Balnaroth. 0 longitude is measured through the capital of Krisa at about 65 degrees south on a diagonal coast running vaguely east-northeast/west-southwest. It stretches from about 40 degrees east to about 50 degrees west.
•This area is around the equator, reaching 18 degrees to the north and 6 degrees to the south of the line and from 50 degrees east to 130 degrees east. It does not substantially overlap with Ka-niel or Yarissa. It is very long east/west, but relatively narrow north/south.
•Located south of (but not aligned with) Ka-niel, off-center towards Yarissa, it stretches from about 30 degrees south of the equator to 10 degrees north of the South Pole and from 70 degrees west to 125 degrees west.
•Located south of Balnaroth, at the far end from Yarissa. It stretches from about 100 degrees east to 130 degrees east, and 45 degrees south to 65 degrees south. It is roughly rectangular, and very isolated.
•Extremely mountainous. The mountains are tough, old granite with the associated igneous formations. Generally mineral-rich, although getting to the minerals is tough work. Huge glaciers cover the interior highlands, and spill through gaps forced through the peaks. There are some coastal lowlands protected by mountains, although the seas are cold and full of icebergs. Very short, cool summer. Very long, cold winter. Standard arctic / permafrost conditions in general.
•North is cold and very mountainous. It is essentially identical to the Frozen Lands here, with huge glaciers in the highlands. A mountain chain runs from the North down the western side of the continent, falling off into the sea a few degrees north of reaching the southern edge. The mountains are highest in the north and fall off toward the south.
•A branch of lower mountains splits off nearly horizontally along a severe fault line about one-third of the way south down the continent. This area is very unstable with earthquakes and volcanoes. The mountains reach the eastern coast with only minor passes to interrupt the chain. They extend into the sea as a line of rough and frequently volcanic islands before finally disappearing. The area immediately to the north is a highly inhospitable desert with a few remarkable belts of fertile land where glacial melt-water rivers provide much needed irrigation.
•Within the western and fault-line mountains are many pocket valleys, some of which are quite large. These vary in fertility depending on how close to the “wet” side of the range they are on. The fault-line valleys are dangerous places due to the geologic instability of the region.
•The western side of the mountains is rainy and damp. It ranges from a climate similar to the Pacific Northwest US in the north, to a near rainforest by the southern edge. The declining altitude of the mountains in the south prevents a harsh divide at the far end.
•The eastern side of the main mountain chain is dry – cold and dry in the north, hot and dry in the south.
◦North of the fault line is a desert until about 800 miles in from the eastern coast, where coastal rain finally makes an incursion. Cool weather grasslands begin at that point and stretch eastward, becoming lusher as you approach the coast. Within 200 miles of the coast, enough rain and snow collect on the mountains to create rivers and lakes – that area is cool and heavily forested.
◦South of the fault line, the climate is less hostile except for the extreme corner where the two mountain ranges meet. That corner is arid and barren. Otherwise, large plains cover a vaguely triangular area between the mountain chains. Small runoff-rivers flow south from the fault-line mountains that catch the rain. Both in the south and east, the plains give way to lowland forests as you approach the coasts.
•A small outcropping of very old mountains appears in the southeastern corner of the continent. They cut across at an angle, and are not high enough to dramatically impact the weather north and west. They do restrict the rainfall enough to extend the grassland, however. The eastern and southern sides are very lush and tropical, with a rainforest/swamp appearing at the base of the hills.
•Norlath has a very old geography, with gentle weathered hills and slow meandering rivers. There are the remains of a significant mountain chain at a diagonal across the northeast of the continent, some 1200 miles in from the “corner” of the continent, and it reaches both north and east coasts (although it is little more than low hills by then). The foothills have weathered down, but the mountains proper are still impressive. Gentle valleys provide easy access up into the area around the peaks. This is the only major geological feature remaining.
•The central area of the continent is dry, but not arid: weather systems have little difficulty crossing the relatively flat, rolling plains. A large natural basin collects rainfall and runoff from the mountains to create a very large lake. Due to the hills, the lake is a very odd shape and has many islands and shallows, as well as astounding depths. The lake is quite large enough to affect local weather.
The Shattered Lands
•The sea of storms is centered on a point where the southwestern shore of the great lake would have been.
•With one exception, the islands in the shattered lands are rough, random shapes caused by natural formations that resisted the destructive forces of the cataclysm. Islands near the sea of storms are small, and even unstable, with unpredictable earthquakes and upon occasion even crumbling into the sea. As you get further away, the islands get larger, and some are even inhabitable. In all cases, these islands are never over a few dozen square miles.
•The one exception is the mountain chain northeast of the sea of storms. The extreme ends of the chain were destroyed, but the main bulk of the mountains sheltered the land beyond it from the fiercest of the destruction. The western and southwestern sides of the mountains are now sheer cliffs. The land beyond, however, is essentially unchanged from before the cataclysm.
•This is an oblong land mass thrust out of an undersea mountain chain. The sea at the southeast corner is astoundingly deep and the cliffs are high an impenetrable. As you move northwest, the mountains get less severe. Glaciers stand at the heads of fijords and make for an impressive sight. The northwest corner has many islands and some sheltered harbors, providing the only access to the island from the sea.
•The center of the continent is a huge valley in the mountains. It begins 300 miles in from the southeast corner, is just over 1000 miles long, and is about 400 miles wide at its widest point. This remarkable valley is still high above sea level at the floor. In the center, running along the valley is a very deep, icy cold lake of fresh water, fed by meltwater from the glaciers in the surrounding mountains. A swiftly flowing river exits the northwest end of the lake and cuts through a narrow, turbulent pass in the mountains, finally dropping nearly 200 feet in a spectacular waterfall into the sea.
•Outside of the valley are huge rugged mountains. There are many small, ice-covered valleys, but the constantly moving glaciers prevent anything resembling permanence there.
•Yarissa is HUGE. Tropical in the north, antarctic in the south. Overall, it is over eleven thousand miles wide and over twelve thousand miles long.
•It is vaguely trapeziodal with a bulge on the southern side. The “long” ends run pproximately northeast-southwest and the “short” ends run north-south. The buldge on the south begins just west of zero longitude and changes that diagonal into a vaguely east-west line.
•The same mountain ridge that produced the continent of Grun’zilbar rises from the sea in the north, a bit west of the eastern side. This defines the northern edge the continent and runs all the way along the northern coast before plunging briefly into the sea again. After a brief and shallow submergence, it again surfaces in southeastern Telhorme.
•A smaller mountain ridge splits off around 30 degrees west and heads east-southeast to the corner of the continent at 30 degrees east and 55 degrees south. It is highest in the northwest and decreases gradually in height, with the foothills ending shortly before the coast.
•The angle on the eastern side between the two mountain chains is a desert. It is driest right up among the mountains, and gradually gives way to steppes, then grassland, and finally forests as you head further east.
•South of the mountains is dry steppe, watered by rivers. It gets cooler and more temperate as you move south, finally becoming sub-arctic at the extreme southern tip of the continent.
•This long, narrow continent has a peculiar double mountain range running about 100 miles in from each of the northern and southern coasts. The mountain ranges taper off toward the eastern and western ends of the continent, stopping entirely about 200 miles from either end. There is a gap into the interior where the plains go up quickly in altitude. The climate within the gap is milder than either the higher plains further inland or the tropical coast. Interior to the mountains is a high-altitude, extremely arid desert. The land on the sea-side of the mountains is pleasantly tropical except for the very eastern end. Due to a warm, damp current washing the eastern end of the continent, a thick rainforest coats the eastern end of the mountain range. Many streams dump vast quantities of water into the lowlands, creating a huge, dreary, hot, evil swamp.
•Similar to Ka-niel, this continent is vaguely diamond shaped. A chain of very high mountains occupies the southeast cost – this is the same chain that runs under the sea, up through Yarissa, all the way to Grun’zilbar. The forces that produced these mountains have wrinkled and furrowed the remainder of the land as well. Telhorme is a rugged land, filled with deep valleys, forboding forests, winding turbulent streams, and wrinkled hills. Only near the northwest coast does the land finally level out. The climate there is warm and friendly and the land is fertile.
•The smallest continent is low, basically flat, and vaguely rectangular. There is no significant geography to prevent it from being swept treeless by powerful storms. There are some small shallow rainwater pools (which are usually brackish near the coast), but no real lakes or rivers. The soil is thin, rocky, and heavily alkaline, and near the coast it is salty and completely infertile. Many areas are covered in shifting sand dunes. It is cool in the summer and bitterly cold in winter. In general, it is a favorite haunt of migrating and nesting seabirds and raucous herds of seals, sea-lions, and walruses but little else.
Cultural and Species Distribution
The Frozen Lands
•The oldest dwarven settlement in the world. Also the oldest existing kingdom of any race and actually the most powerful group on the planet, although their preoccupation with mining and crafts along with a general disdain for the surface keeps that from being much of a factor.
•No known history predates the dwarven kingdom here. General religious belief is that they were created there along with the world itself.
•The culture has elements of the old Scottish clans. The dwarven clans, however, are generally very cooperative (at least, within the same “kingdom”). There is a king who has nominally higher authority than the clan chieftans. Their main concerns are mining, quarrying, building, sculpture, and metalwork of all kinds. They also train themselves relentlessly for battle – their chief enemies being goblins and ogres. They also have to defend their underground halls against other, darker forces.
•Small villages of fisher-people and a few small trading colonies dot the surface. No dwarves live on the surface, and the dwellers on the surface are nominally under the rule of the dwarves.
•The dwarves use the traditional harsh, Eastern-European sounding language with too many consonants and a strong predilection toward “k”, “z”, and Hindi-esque aspirants. This is all J. R. R. Tolkein’s fault of course, but everyone expects it to be that way these days.
•The northern mountains have a large colony of dwarves. These are not always happy with the attempts at domination by the dwarves of the Frozen Lands, and often rebel. This settlement is also very, very old, although not as old as the Frozen Lands.
•The culture of this dwarven settlement is essentially identical to that in the Frozen Lands.
•The surface in northern Ka-niel is essentially uninhabited. Ships and heavily armed merchant caravans carry goods south into the more hospitable climates.
◦This is a rough and ready mixture – names should be twisted humor.
•There are significant outposts of goblins and ogres in the highlands. These are primitive groups rather than organized “kingdoms”, although the chiefs of some of the larger goblin settlements style themselves to be kings.
◦Goblin language should be like dwarven language, only less refined.
North of the Fault Line
•Northern west coast
◦The cool, wet highlands support a dense mixed forest. This is the favorite haunt of woodland elves in the world. These elves tend to have tan skin, blond hair, and green eyes. They are secretive and live in small, mobile family groups.
◾Native American style, but on the refined end (Iroquois)
◦The mild, damp coastline is too boggy for significant settlement. Trolls form by far the largest population in the area. There are a few independent fishing and trading villages in drier areas. These are mostly self-sufficient but do carry on some trade with the elves.
◾Give these a Danish feel. Too many “a”-s and lots of “v”-s.
◦The mountain chain itself is too mineral poor to be of any interest to the dwarves. Goblins and ogres, however, find it ideal. The goblin clans here are especially large and well organized. This makes life in the valleys particularly dangerous and challenging – not that that stops anyone. Small, fiercely independent settlements, outlaw bands, and misguided prospectors keep the population up if sparse.
•Deep northern desert
◦A number of nomadic tribes of elves with pure white skin and jet-black hair and eyes dwell here. They travel with their herds from oasis to oasis. There is essentially no rain there, ever. The weather is cool during the day and bitterly cold at night. Icy cold melt-water rivers also flow through their territory. They are fierce and unforgiving, and have little contact with outsiders.
◾These should get Arabian sounding names and the language should resemble Arabic.
•Northern dry grasslands
◦Several tribes of semi-nomadic humans raise horses and sheep on the rich grass. They move from place to place, following the annual cycles of the rivers and the rain. Their horses are renowned across the world. They trade and occasionally battle with each other, the elves to the east, and the vulpans further west.
◾Think Mongolian, but then back off a bit. The hordes are further south.
•Northern east highlands and coast
◦This is the main haunt of the vulpans. They are a quiet intellectual group who are adept at magic of many forms. They live in towns and keeps of fine stonework built by the dwarves in payment for magical assistance. They live in extended family units with no central authority, which suits them and they resist any attempt to impose such authority on them. They also carry on a fair deal of trade with the humans and dwarves in the area.
◾These are a snooty lot. Give them French sounding names and language.
South of the Fault Line
•Southern west coast
◦Hot, dark, dense, and wet: this is the least pleasant spot on the continent. Trolls, outlaws, and other people who would rather not be bothered lurk here. This is akin to (and not that far away from) the haunted jungle swamps of eastern Balnaroth.
◦Several more nomadic tribes of the same desert-loving elves as north of the mountains live here as well. Narrow, uncharted mountain passes connect the two groups, and allow them to trade (and occasionally fight) with each other.
◾Same group, same style – Arabian/Arabic
◦Just as north of the mountains, the drier areas support clans of semi-nomadic humans who raise large flocks. These clans are larger, more organized, and much more warlike. Their horses have somewhat less renown than those from further north, but they are somewhat easier to come by.
◾Think traditional Mongolian. These are the hordes.
◦Further south and east, mixed groups of humans, elves, gnomes, and vulpans live in a loose, agrarian, feudal society consisting of a large number of baronies, duchies, and small kingdoms. They have a great many complicated treaties and loyalties and the end result is nothing resembling a cohesive whole. The form of serfdom practiced is less onerous than medieval Europe, but is still far from free. There are freeholders and a fair number of large villages and even towns. This area produces a great deal of grain and other foodstuff, and carries on a quite profitable trade. They frequently battle with the nomads, marauding goblins and ogres, and each other.
◾Sounds like the idealized concept of England, treat as such. Might even want to work some regionalizations into the mix (Welsh, Irish, Scottish…)
◦This is a favorite haunt of gnomes. The low hills are more comfortable to them than the great mountains, while still providing a dry place to tunnel in. They love to tinker, and the forests on the eastern and southern faces of the hills provide them with plenty of wood. The gnomes live in a tightly hierarchical merchant society.
◾This is an eccentric lot of tinkers and engineers. Give them German sounding names and language.
◦A moderate city has grown up on the northwestern side of the mountains. Here, an essentially random group of people pursues their business. Free farmers, craftsmen, merchants, and gnomes who don’t mind living above ground mingle together. The city is ruled by the trade guilds.
◾Still very German in feel
•Southeastern jungle to the coast
◦The hot, wet highlands support a dense tropical forest. Woodland elves live here, too. These elves tend to have tan skin, blond hair, and green eyes. Unlike their more northerly relatives, these elves live in a large and complex society in dramatic stone towns.
◾This is more along the lines of old South American civilizations – A little less bloodthirsty and without the Spanish having messed things up.
•Eastern forest and coast
◦All along the forested coast, north of the jungle and south of the fault-line, is the most heavily populated area of the continent. The society here is more renaissance era European: wealthy, sophisticated, and educated. The social structure is still definitely class based with hereditary nobility, gentry, and commoners. Serfdom has given way to tenants and sharecroppers. The social structure is also much better defined, with two kingdoms of roughly equal size firmly in control – one further north, and one further south. Most of the population lives in large cities and towns, frequently on rivers. Castles still dominate the landscape, but they are considered relics of an earlier time. The two kingdoms still fight: but it is odd, formalized warfare on predetermined battlegrounds.
◾Give the northern kingdom more French sounding names, and the southern more English sounding names.
In the Mountains
•This area is absolutely stiff with goblins, dragons, giants, trolls, kobolds, and everything else unpleasant that you could hope to avoid while going through mountains. There are no human settlements of any variety. Many of these creatures were originally introduced to the area by the Drow, who use the creatures as a defensive perimeter.
In the Valley
•This is the home of the Drow, and a fiercely evil place.
•At the southeastern end of the lake sits a huge black castle surrounded by a sprawling black city, which extends into tunnels into the heart of the mountains to the south. The tunnels, some of which stretch all the way to Yarissa and include millitary barracks, training facilities, storage areas, large guard posts, and staging sites are what causes the impression the the Drow are subterranean, but this is a misconception.
•All around the lake are vast slave-worked fields providing food for the black cities, most of which are perched on the shores of the lake, although there are a few imposing fortresses in the hills near the mountains.
Norlath (early history)
•South and west of the mountains, Norlath is quite simply a colony of Yarissa.
o A Japanese flavored colony, that is.
•Within, north, and east of the mountains there is a large kingdom of the third branch of elves with silver hair, grey eyes, and very pale skin. This is perhaps the most sophisticated of the elvish kingdoms, and is definitely the largest and most open. This is the traditional fantasy high-elvish kingdom. Magic is used quite simply everywhere, you are never entirely sure how anyone is making a living, and it seems a bit happier than is perhaps healthy.
◦I refuse standard fantasy elvish names and language (which is never anything more than a quick knock-off of Tolkein anyway) – I am only going to bow once to that pressure. These guys get to speak something that sounds vaguely Latin and have Latin sounding names.
The Shattered Lands (late history)
•The bulk of the archipelago is only sparsely inhabited by fisher-folk, outlaws, hermits, and recluses.
•The elven kingdom, protected by the mountain range, survived the cataclysm and remains the heart of elvendom in the world. The elves have exerted their control over all of the islands, but since there is not really much of anything to control, all that really happens is that they collect a minor duty of fish from the otherwise impoverished inhabitants.
•This should be treated as a really big version of medieval Japan. It is huge, old, and very formalized. They not only consider themselves to be superior to everyone else, they really believe it. This transcends simple arrogance: it is a deeply ingrained facet of their world-view. And it is strongly reinforced by the fact that their magic is powerful, their warriors are greatly skilled, their craftsmen are renowned, and their art and culture are highly refined. Outside of coastal towns, Yarissa is essentially entirely human.
◦Japanese sounding names and language.
•This should be treated as the traditional concept of India at its height before Islamic invasions (whether that actually existed or not is irrelevant). This is the cradle of human civilization, and they know it. They consider themselves better than the easterners, and they only submit grudgingly to their control. They are nearly competent enough to resist them – except they recognize that they profit more than they lose by the situation. This area tends to have the most powerful psionicists in the world. Outside of coastal towns, Yarissa is essentially entirely human, and this is even more pronounced in the western provinces than in the east.
◦Sanskrit sounding names and language.
•The western just-over half of the continent (outside of the mountain chains, but including the western gap) is the ancestral home of the Felians. They are a matriarchial race of pirates and mercenaries, although the old, infirm, and some who simply are inclined that way do farm in the fertile areas around the western gap.
◦Cats. Lots of purr-ish noises. Too many “r”s and such. It’s a growly scratchy language.
•The eastern just-under half of the continent is a gradual dampening from soggy wetland to marsh to bogs and finally a dismal swamp. Lots of nasty creatures live all along the wet areas. Stirges, trolls, jungle cats, and so on. The swamp is outright haunted with many undead creatures. Some bands of outlaws have lairs there, as do a number of truly nasty necromancers. There is nothing even resembling a civilization there, and never has been.
•Within the mountains, in the high desert plateau, dwells a group of nomadic, eccentric, half-elven psioniscists. This unique community houses the most powerful psychic energy users in the entire world. They are reclusive, secretive, and not particularly friendly.
•This is in general a nordic style land of barbarian warriors. The settlements (some of which are substantial) are all built of giant logs and earth – very little stonework is to be found on the entire continent.
•Far to the southwest, the only stone cities (which were built by dwarven craftsmen) are held by a proud, fierce kingdom of sandy-haired, brown-eyed human shapeshifters. The ability to change form into an animal is latent in their race, with each person able to change into a particular form. There are numerous animal forms recorded, but bears, wolves, and eagles are the most common. They are known as the Therians.
•North and east from the Therian kingdom dwell scattered clans of Lupans. There is no political structure worth mentioning between the fiercely independent family groups. They share a common norweigan-style language with the Therians and the Telhormians further north. They live in the deep forests and severe hills only – as the land smooths out, they are replaced by humans again.
•There are two main tribes of Telhormian barbarians. One group has blond hair and blue eyes, and lives mostly on the eastern side of the continent. The other has black hair and dark eyes, and lives mostly on the western side of the continent. They are very large and muscular for humans, and their ferocity in battle is legendary. They are nearly constantly at war: with the Lupans, with the Therians, with each other, and with everyone on every coast that their long narrow boats can reach. They are organized into loosely-knit clans, with the heads of each family unit within a clan sitting on a council with the clan chief. Fighting within a clan is not common, but hardly unheard of – especially around the death of a clan chief.
•This is mostly a refuge for wildlife. There are a few poor, scattered fishing villages on the western coast which takes the smallest hit from the weather. Farming is essentially impossible, and fresh water is scarce.