When Falls the Hammer of Night
This campaign takes place on the continent of Nysilia, a vast landmass in the northern hemisphere of the world of Ileris. Nations on the Nysilian continent include Albast, Cerisand, Kharzstad, Kormoran, and Valna. Additionally, a number of autonomous regions exist—lands which no nation currently lays claim to. These regions include the Northern Wastes, the Schwarzwald, and the Slough.
The Northern Wastes
The northernmost region of the continent, the Northern Wastes are a vast expanse of resource-poor ice fields. Tribes of halflings (largely semi-nomadic) are the primary inhabitants, dwelling mostly in the southern and western regions of the Wastes, where they survive by hunting, fishing, and gathering the few plants that grow in the forbidding environment, all while fending off the native ice bears and any stray horrors or undead that drift north from Kharzstad. While the halflings do occasionally trade with outsiders, for the most part they seem content to remain isolated from the rest of the continent. The Northern Wastes beyond the lands the halfling tribes claim are poorly mapped; there are occasional rumors of a group of some sort that dwells in the extreme north, but to date these rumors remain unsubstantiated.
Between the Northern Waste and the forests to the south lies the mountainous land of Kharzstad, where dwarves, humans, and the living dead all strive together to survive. While not as forbidding as the Northern Wastes, the climate in Kharzstad is nevertheless not a forgiving one—winter is long and cold, spring and summer are short and warmer only by comparison, and arable land is in short supply. Due to the unforgiving climate, harsh terrain, and the undead horrors that tend to haunt the night, Kharzstad’s population tends to be concentrated in small areas—walled hamlets atop mountains or in sheltered valleys, dwarven citadels beneath mountains. Uniquely in Kharzstad, intelligent undead coexist with humans. Much of this owes to the influence of the powerful vampire lord who rules Kharzstad, preserving stability and protecting the people of his nation with an iron fist; his military, the Iron Guard, tirelessly patrol the roads and passes of the nation, keeping order and ensuring that the citizens of the nation can live their lives in peace. Kharzstad is a harsh place to live, but the vast abundance of resources ensures that those who can survive will have ample opportunity for wealth.
Where the mountains of Kharzstad give way to forests, there begins the Schwarzwald—a vast and ominous ‘black forest’; the Schwarzwald is a dark and forboding place, and it does not suffer intruders gladly. In truth the Schwarzwald is one of the least explored places on the continent, and not without reason—stories tell of horrors dwelling within, and even magic fails within the depths of the forest’s shadows. The only safe path through the Schwarzwald is the so-called Gemstone Road, a path carved through the darkness and malice of the forest at a great cost in spells and prayers and steel and blood. Settlement within this region is understandably limited; the elves of Cerisand maintain outposts along the border between their forests and the Schwarzwald, and a number of human trading settlements exist along the Gemstone Road that connects Albast and Kharzstad. The Schwarzwald’s status as an autonomous region tends to draw those who have things to hide—many of the inhabitants of the trading villages along the Gemstone Road have dark pasts they wish to hide in the endless shadows of the forest, and bandits and other unsavory sorts frequently try to set up bases in the Schwarzwald, with varying degrees of success.
To the west of the Schwarzwald lies a different forest—the emerald forests of Cerisand, where the elven people dwell. Only twenty-five years ago did the elves begin allowing outsiders to enter their lands; much is still unknown, though scholars from the other nations have begun studying their traditions with some enthusiasm.
Where the northern forests give way to the gently rolling plains of the continent’s heartland, there lies the nation of Albast. Albast is a rich and temperate land, and one that contriubes. Known as the ‘breadbasket of the continent’, Albast has leveraged its expansive harvests, central location, and control of the Gemstone Road into an ongoing tide of economic prosperity over the last thirty years. This, in turn, has given rise to a middle class of wealthy merchants in Albast, though the trappings of feudalism still remain, particularly in more rural areas.
Beyond the mountains of Albast’s eastern border are the vast deserts of Kormoran. Kormoran is a huge nation, but, like Kharzstad, is relatively sparsely populated essentially a confederation of smaller states held loosely together by a central government. Kormoran is rich in jade and trades with both Albast and Valna, but the nation’s greatest claim to fame lies in its martial tradition—that of the Untouchables, a class of powerful warriors dedicated to the pursuit of their own strength. The Untouchables for the most part remain removed from the affairs of lesser men, answerable only to their fellow Untouchables as they seek only to heighten their art and deepen their strength; they are considered all but above the law within Kormoran, and enjoy a great deal of latitude even beyond the nation’s borders. Untouchables have been known to take mercenary contracts, primarily to test their skills against challenges different from those in Kormoran.
Low mountains mark the southern border of Albast; beyond lies Valna, a small but industrious nation that has been through some hard times. Thirty years ago, they lost a war with Albast, pushing their border to its present location and resulting in the loss of most of Valna’s arable land to Albast; twenty-five years ago, a devastating famine wracked the nation, compounding Valna’s woes. In the years since, though, Valna has recovered. Trade by sea with Kormoran has resulted in a modest economic upturn, and Valna has invested that wealth wisely; they currently rival Albast in terms of arcane education and martial power, and have a significant edge on Albast in terms of technology, thanks in large part to the work of the gnomes who arrived there in the aftermath of the famine.
Southwest of Valna lies the Slough, a vast expanse of malarial swamps and steamy wetlands. The Slough once extended significantly further, but Valna has been steadily pressing into and draining areas of the Slough in the hopes of gaining more arable land; goblinoid resistance has been more or less a constant, but after a particularly crushing defeat at the hands of the Valnan military, actual attacks have been at an ebb for the last ten years. The deeper reaches of the Slough, like the other autonomous regions, have not been mapped.