World of Versura
Versura is made up of the five elements fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Most parts of the world are dominated by one of them, but towards the center of the world, they become more and more balanced. The Heartland is idyllic - compared to the rest of the world. Beyond them lie the Five Quarters, the original homes of the five races associated to the elements. Between the quarters and further outward from the center are the Wildlands, home to savage people and monsters that few ever traversed. The lands beyond are shrouded in mystery. Stories tell of the domains of ancient dragons, the citadels of the gods, and the strange land on the border between Versura and the sky, but what truth they hold remains unknown.
- 1 Heartland
- 2 Five Quarters
- 3 Wildlands
- 4 Beyond the Wildlands
The elements are in balance and interact to create a fertile soil with temperate climate in the Heartland. The Empire rules over most of the Heartland. The Holy City Tencra, the dwarven nation of Notthegor, the elves in the Southwood, and the Gnomelands are the exceptions.
It is said that the titanic obelisk towering over the Holy City was erected at the end of the War of Creation and that it marks the exact center of the world. The High Temple was constructed around it, surrounded by the monasteries, schools, and libraries of the Temple District where the priests, sages, and mystics meditate on the gods, the elements, and life.
This all lies in the middle of a bustling and sprawling city, the largest in the Heartland (and probably in all of Versura). Its streets are a confusing maze, interrupted only by market squares and great bazaars. The city lives of the countless pilgrims and of the trade conducted through its port.
Politically, Tencra is an independent city-state, controlling its peninsula as well. The Council of the Twenty-five, consisting of priests of the highest rank and the city's guildmasters, is the highest political authority. Tencra has a small army that doubles as city guard. It is mostly concerned with keeping the streets as safe as they can. For defense from external foes the city relies on the Empire with which it is closely allied.
After the end of the Fey Invasion, the allied people and races united under their leader Shimiper, but tieflings, goliaths, and most dwarves soon withdrew themselves from the Empire. For the following centuries, it was confined to the five duchies and only during the Age of Reconstruction settlement of unclaimed lands beyond its borders began.
The Emperor is elected by the five dukes. For a century, the Dukes of Rajnam have held onto the throne, but the next succession might become an open race. The ducal titles have been held by the same families for as long as people really remember. The dukes are the real rulers of the land, raising their own armies and reigning almost freely within their own lands. The Emperor rules over the Northern Cities and the Eastern Marches, represented by various margraves on site.
The Duchy of Rajnam is the northernmost of the five central provinces of the Empire. Thanks to its long coastline, fishery is one of the main sources of income of Rajnam. The duchy also controls the trade with the Northern Cities, the Gnomelands, and the newly discovered coasts further north and Crownport is the unrivaled center of this trade. Inland, Rajnam is a land of rolling hills that are home to countless herds of sheep, giving rise to the proverbial "ship and sheep" that make up the duchy.
Rajnamis from the coast are open and hospitable, but also have a reputation for always expecting something in return for their generosity. The population of the hinterland is regarded as a moody, melancholic bunch, as depressing and unpredictable as the often rainy or stormy weather; however, this melancholic spirit has created some of the finest elegies and other poetry.
The duchy is ruled by the eponymous House Rajnam. The current Duke Methelsam is also Emperor. Ruling both his duchy and the Empire from castle Highwater near the city of Akwam, he has a reputation as a passive ruler who rarely interferes with the day-to-day business of his inferiors. He also has yet to name on of his children as successor, leaving doubts over the continuation of the Rajnams' hold over the Imperial Throne.
Known as the "Iron Heart of the Empire", the mines of Monsal have always been the Empire's primary source of metals. The cities in the lower lands near the coast are renowned for their smelters and smithies. With close ties to the neighboring Nutthosho, the influence of the dwarves can be felt throughout the duchy. Many families even have dwarven blood in their veins.
The Monsalis are known as a stubborn, headstrong people, but also driven to achieve the goals they set once. They excel at crafts and are renowned as steadfast fighters.
The House of Arrowness, named for its home castle, rules over the duchy. Young Duke Enwar has yet to leave a mark on history, but if he follows in his predecessors' footsteps, he will keep a low profile, preferring that things just continue the way they are. The Arrowness have rarely made moves for the Imperial Throne themselves, but most of the time, they (and their army) have backed the successful bid in the elections.
If Monsal is the Empire's Iron Heart, Derra is its Amber Belly. Vast grain fields dominate the countryside and give an instant visual of the duchy's economy. Feeding the Empire is the source of pride for the Derrans and source of income for their lords.
The Derrans are hard-working people that are proud of the results of their labor. Even when faced with hardship, they remain calm and resolute. They also have a knack for getting the most comfort out of the simplest huts.
The Dukes from the House of Earich are influential well beyond the borders of Derra. Their control over a considerable amount of the Empire's food production gives them a lot of negotiating power. The Earich house is well-connected to many influential noble families throughout the Empire, both through economic ties and through marriage. There is a lot of speculation about Duke Terens who is considered a likely candidate to the Imperial Throne if Emperor Methelsam doesn't sort out the succession before his death.
The smallest of the five duchies, Ingas is wedged between Tencra, the Southwood, and the coast. Despite this, the land is considerably less fertile than the surrounding regions. It is the poorest of the duchies with little in terms of exports. Only the Coastal Road passing through it and the fact that the Pilgrims' Road forks off it on Ingan territory gives the dukes a reasonable income through tolls and levies. The lords are often poor with little income of their own. Some turn into "robber barons" and try to exort tolls of their own from travelers along the Coastal Road.
The Ingans are used to scrape together everything to make a living, yet they are fiercely proud. Any insult to and Ingan's is enough to start a fight; if it's between nobles, even a large-scale vendetta.
Duke Warwin is the last member of the old House of Ingamid, but even after three marriages, he still hasn't been able to produce an heir. This fact has made the duke's already tenuous control over the land even weaker as many nobles prepare to claim the ducal crown for themselves should Warwin die without a clear successor.
Stretching from the river Elfwater to the Horishen Pass, Lignam is the eastermost duchy. It is dominated by woodland with farmland cleared out to make room for settlements. Its economic and political center is Woodsford in the west. Here the Coastal road crosses the Elfwater and continues as the Eastern Road all the way over Horishen Pass into the Eastern Marches. The city also controls the trade with the elves of Southwood which is conducted mostly via the big river.
The Lignamis live a reclusive life in often rather isolated settlements. They fear the beasts lurking in the woods surrounding them and revere the elves with a mixture of respect and superstition. Due to their isolation, Lignamis are often unaware of the latest developments, although - thanks to Methelsam's long reign - they usually know at least the name of the current emperor.
The House of Forberg has a reputation for being detached from worldly matters. They maintain close ties to the clergy and indulge in many superstitions like their subjects. They maintain close ties to the elves of Southwood and a considerable amount of elven blood flows through their veins. Like many dukes before her, Duchess Mariella has spent her youth at Woodford's temple and has even become a priestess before she was thrust onto the throne by the unexpected death of her older brother Bertel.
The halflings, the Wood people, had originally lived in the Eternal Forest, but have been displaced during the Fey Invasion. After it ended, they did not seek to return to their homeland, but stayed in the Heartland for reasons long forgotten. While many integrated into Imperial Society, others still yearned for their traditional lifestyle. They settled in the western reaches of Monsal and Derra. Eventually, this land was proclaimed an Imperial province of its own. While the Emperor is officially the ruler of this land, the halflings are allowed to solve their problems among themselves. The elected High Judge is the highest authority in the Halfshire and as such the closest thing to a ruler.
During the Age of Reconstruction, the Empire started founding outposts along the coast of the unclaimed wilderness north of the Dwarvpeaks. Some of them grew into bigger cities, exploiting the resources of their hinterland while others remained small fortified ports in a hostile environment inhabited by many wild beasts and monsters and subject to raids from the denizens of the Wildlands to the west.
Politically, each city or outpost is a direct subject to the Emperor. In practice, he is locally represented by a governor. In the bigger cities, he only has direct control of the land outside while the city itself is governed by a mayor. Some of the cities have a distinct sense of independence and try to restrain their governors even more; some even chased out governors who were too ambitious or hands-on for their tastes. A group of four of the bigger cities have recently announced an alliance, a move that caused great concern at the Imperial Court as it could be the prelude to an open independence movement.
Northerners are a diverse bunch since they come from all duchies of the Empire and often kept their traits in their new home. Some cities are founded by settlers from only one duchy, reinforcing this heritage even more and often keeping close ties to that duchy. Aside from a pride of their heritage, Northerners are fiercely loyal to their own city and proud of their accomplishments in this wild land.
The Eastern Marches are a wild, steppe-like land, stretching from Horishen Pass in the west to the Eternal Forest in the East. Settlers from the Empire live in small towns, living of what little the land provides. The main source of income are the cattle herds that are guided from one patch of grass to the next. Life in the Eastern Marches is not only hard, but dangerous. Many monsters still roam the countryside and there are a great number of orcs threatening the settlers, regularly supplemented by more coming from the Wildlands.
The land is divided into several marches, controlling more or less land (the first were granted extensive claims, marches that were founded later got less and less land). Each march is overseen by a margrave who is tasked with keeping peace in his lands. This is no easy task and most marches rely on the help of volunteer fighting forces and mercenaries to help them keeping the monsters and orcs at bay. The motives of these forces are not always pure and often they decide there's more to gain from seizing control of a town than from just protecting it.
The Easterners are burdened by the hardship and dangers of their land, the hopes and expectations built up by the recruiters back in the Empire slashed by the harsh reality of the Marches. Some dream of returning to Empire proper, but most have either resigned or try to make the best of the situation. Few even rise up as champions of their town against its enemies.
Ever since the Fey Invasion, the dwarves of the Kingdom of Nutthosho have been a staunch ally of the Empire. They already had great trade relationships with the humans before that and those continue to this day. The dwarves have established a large network of traders in the cities of the Empire and the bigger ones have blossomed into dwarven communities of their own. These relations have lead to Nutthosho being not as reclusive and inaccessible to outsiders as other dwarven communities. Their openness and relative lax handling of the traditions and laws of the dwarves have lead to the other dwarves to look down on them. Yet Nutthosho has become the richest and most influential of the dwarven kingdoms after the fall of Nutthegor during the Time of Temptation due to its function as a hub of trade and connection between Dwarvhome and the Heartlands.
The gnomes came to Versura as slaves of the jedanae during the Fey Invasion. When their houses splintered, the gnomes went into hiding or joined the alliance against them. After the end of the invasion, they stuck together, wandering the land in search of a home for themselves. After centuries of search in the East, they finally settled in the unoccupied coastal strip north of Lignam. Happy with their new homeland, the gnomes rarely travel beyond its borders, but their skills as tinkers, craftsmen, spies, thieves and magicians lead many traders to their coasts in search of their goods and services.
The large expanse of forest south of Ingas and Lignam is home to elves and eladrin. Originally, it was the hideout of those that deserted the cause of the invading Fey. While most of the Fey have later settled elsewhere, a number of them remained in the untouched and primeval heart of the Southwood. They are divided into several houses, most of them elves, each claiming a part of the forest of their own. Two of them are eladrin who built cities on the banks of river Elfwater through which the Empire conducts trade and diplomacy with the elves.
The elves see themselves as defenders of the forest's natural state, regulary leading to conflicts with the eladrin over the expansion of their citites and the Empire over the usage of the forest for timber. Lignam has only recently renegotiated a new contract with the elven houses living on the edge of the woods, reining in the duchy's lumberjacks, replacing an older pact and continuing the good relations between the elves and the duchy. No such agreement binds the lords of Ingas, though, leading to conflicts that often lead to open fights between elves and lumberjacks or the people living near the forest.
The Five Quarters and the Wildlands constitute a ring of lands beyond the Heartlands where one of the elements starts to become more dominant than the others. The Five Quarters are the home of the five races associated with each element by the mystics. The halflings and tieflings have been driven from their respective homelands while the dwarves and goliaths still live there. The race associated with water has never been known to have contact with other races, so their status is unknown, although most scholar believe they live on the bottom of the Pirate Sea, unable or unwilling to make contact with the outside world.
West of Nutthosho, the Dwarvpeaks meet the many mountain ranges that make up the region known as Dwarvhome. Many dwarven kingdoms lie here, once united by the authority of Notthegor until its fall during the Time of Temptation. Today, the kingdoms are divided among many lines and fleeting alliances are made to wage feuds over minor slights. Strangers are not exactly welcome, but if they come to trade, they are accepted.
A big valley leads from the western end of the Dwarvpeaks to the northwest along several mountain ranges and dwarven kingdoms. It is called the Road of Ancestors, the main lifeline of Dwarvhome. It is flanked by many mausoleums of famous dwarves that their clans erected to conserve their memories. The warforged were created to patrol the road and protect the graves from robbery or destruction and the pilgrims travelling towards the Platinum Mountain, the sacred peak at the end of the road.
Lands of the Goliaths
A rather barren land of vast stretches of hills and plains alternating to the west of the Empire is home to the goliaths. Their clans and tribes live mostly from herding livestock and farming on the rare spots that are fertile enough to allow it. Therefore, most of them are living a nomadic lifestyle. Conflicts between the tribes break out regularly over the rights to certain feeding grounds or over violations of a clan's sacred taboo places.
The Great Desert
The desert is the dominion of fire. The northern part, named Suva Desert, was once the Tiefland, the tiefling empire, before it was destroyed during the Time of Temptation. The ruins of their cities remain, patrolled by fire dragonborn and watched over by the venerable dragon Salaman, protecting the secrets that lie buried in them. The fire dragonborn also live in the rest of the desert, either in the rare oases or as wandering bands. Unlike their brethren to the north, they are not under the command of Salaman and live their lives independently. Some, mostly on the northeastern edge of the Great Desert, are raiders that terrorize the neighboring lands, especially the settlements of the Eastern Marches.
Wedged between the The Spine, the Southwood and the Suva Desert lies a stretch of highlands that the surviving tieflings claimed as their new homeland. They have gone to great lengths to weed out the remaining demon worshipers and are fiercely devout to Higonis again. Their numbers have not risen significantly since the Time of Temptation, though, so only three cities are found in the Hochland while the rest of it is spotted with small hamlets and farmsteads. The tieflings still think the other races fear them and avoid contact. In recent decades, the Empire has made efforts to establish relations, although no real trade route that would allow for easy traffic has been found yet.
The Eternal Forests were once the home of the halflings, but they have been driven out as the Fey Invasion started here in full force. After the end of the invasion, the halflings chose not to return, allowing the elves to take up residence here. The elves roam the forests, protecting them from outsiders and wild beasts. The eladrin, on the other hand, live in hidden cities deep within the forest, trying to emulate their Feywild home, many of their brightest minds trying to find a way to break the curse that keeps them from returning there.
A vast ocean dotted with small islands and archipelagos that are mostly uninhabited. The Empire's colonial efforts have lead to the founding of settlements on some of the bigger isles. That and the discovery of the Vikland have lead to a considerable rise in ship traffic on the ocean and a rise of piracy went along with it. The Pirate Sea has gotten its name from the pirates that preyed on the ships travelling between the Empire and the Northern Cities, but over the past half century their numbers have risen considerably and present a constant threat to seafarers and settlers alike.
One would expect to find the race associated with water here, but it either hasn't been found yet or it has been driven off like the halflings or tieflings. A common theory is that they live on the bottom of the ocean, unable or unwilling to make contact with the surface.
While the Five Quarters lie adjacent to the Heartland, they do not form a closed ring around it. The land between the Quarters and beyond them is known as the Wildlands. They are unclaimed and inhabited by many wild beasts and savage tribes of orcs, goblins, minotaurs, lizardfolk and other races. These tribes live in constant war, battling against their own, other races, and the inhabitants of the surrounding lands.
South of the Empire, on the western side of The Spine lies a vast swampland inhabited by lizardfolk. Their origin is unclear, but their numbers seem to be ever increasing. They are feared as raiders into the goliath lands, Derra, and the otherwise peaceful Halfshire.
When the coast of a continent to the north of the Pirate Sea was discovered, it was already inhabited by humans, calling themselves Vikmen. Their settlements are divided into small realms controlled by thanes and their bands of warriors. Despite the cold and humid climate, their hot temper is one of the Vikmen's defining traits, along with their rampant superstitions. The Empire has managed to establish trade connections regardless, bringing the furs of the exotic animals that live in the tundra and taigas beyond the Vikland.
Beyond the Wildlands
Nobody in the Heartland really knows what lies beyond the Five Quarters and the Wildlands. Only second-hand reports from people living closer to the edge of the "known world" and a handful of travel reports that might as well be tall stories tell of these lands. The only sure thing is that the dominance of one element becomes more dominant further from the center, manifesting as the icy tundras north of the Vikland, or the increasingly vibrant, but unpassable eastern reaches of the Eternal Forest.
There seems to be a ring of mountain ranges around the Wildlands which is home to the various types of dragonborn and their dragon lords. It is usually interpreted as a line of defense against either the forces outside that try to destroy the civilizations inside or to prevent the people inside from going to the lands beyond.
What exactly lies beyond these mountains is unknown. Some think the realms of the gods themselves lie here, inhabited by the souls chosen to ascend to the divine courts which are protected by angels and genasi. Others think the lands beyond turn into empty, inhabitable pure manifestations of one element. Nobody has really traveled into these regions, though.