I’ve been pondering the cultural situation for the World of Frosden, which is where I’m planning on setting up my larger D&D campaign, for a while. I had the general ideas set in my head, but hadn’t had the time to sit and write out my thoughts. Today I decided to sit down and get these ideas out from my head and out in writing. This is also the world in which Howlmark takes place.
I enjoy world-building, so here’s part of the story of the World of Frosden, and the Continent of Elbren.
Centuries ago the Continent of Elbren was much warmer than it is now. The northern reaches of the land mass formed the middle of a large temperate zone, and the climate warmed steadily the further south one traveled. In those days the great Elbren Empire, for which the continent is named, ruled. It was a commercial powerhouse, mining the deep wealth of the mountains through their Dwarvish clients and trading far and wide across the planet. Even to places the generation now living thinks of as little more than legends.
The empire was ruled from Frosden, their capital city. This port, which enjoyed favorable currents coming from the Crynoth sea, was a bit warmer than the surrounding lands. Comfortable in the summer, and enduring only mild winters, Frosden was a city known far and wide for it’s art, leisure, wealth, and depravity. For four hundred years the citizens of Frosden oversaw its empire. They pushed tribes of goblins and orcs into the wastes east of the mountains, which made travel safer. They built roads and bridges which made mobility faster. They guarded mountain passes from giants and allowed a growing middle class to enjoy comfort and prosperity.
And then the climate changed.
It was signaled by several harsh winters, which left the ground frozen long past the normal season for planting. Summers became shorter, and the temperatures began to drop to near freezing at night even in the height of the warmest months of the year. Until one summer the snow never melted. In less than a decade, the empire north of Frosden was abandoned. Towns, places of learning, even entire cities were abandoned to the encroaching permanent winter. Only Frosden, protected by its unique climate and it’s status as the capital, remained as a major population center north of the Irill Gap. What had once been thriving temperate zone had become the frozen wastes.
The entire continent cooled over these years, but points to the south were protected from the brunt of the change. Still, growing seasons shortened, the types of crops which thrived in the southern reaches of the empire changed with the climate, and the massive shift in population triggered more and more tension between native southerners and northern refugees. As the situation grew more and more volatile, the southern reaches began to break away from the empire. Weakened by the climate change, bankrupted by the loss in trade, and unable to work a solution which allowed both southern natives and refugees to live to live together peaceably–the Elbren Empire disintegrated into dozens of smaller independent states. Frosden remained a bustling port in the north, and the ruler of the city still claimed to be “Emperor,” but its power was forever broken.
In time the smaller kingdoms began to coalesce into larger political structures, leading to the formation of the kingdoms in place today.
A kingdom west of the Irill Mountains, the Kingdom of Salador is populated by the descendants of refugees from the frozen wastes. After a long and bloody struggle they displaced the remaining southern natives in order to establish their new home–naming it after their ancestral home far to the north.
Salador attempts to be ruled by a benevolent monarchy, headed by the King and advised by a council of regents. It is not as cohesive as some of the other current nations, however, and is dotted by semi-autonomous shires and baronies throughout it’s territory. This lack of a strong central government has allowed hostile creatures to pass back through the mountains from the east, making travel and commerce difficult. Still, the kingdom tends to be stable
Formed in the aftermath of Salador’s solidification as refugee kingdom, Irneth marked the point where the remnants of the southern imperial legions prevented the refugees from migrating further south. The conflict brought imperial legions from both north and south into a bloody struggle, and much of northern Irnerth was burned out of spite during the conflict. As such, the republic retains a strong resentment toward their neighbors to the north.
Irneth is broken up into 27 cantons, and ruled by a unicameral parliment which consists of four cantoners from each region. The judges for its judicial system are appointed by the cantonal governors and, as such, often act as a check on parliamentary power.
Irneth is growing it’s trading power, but retains a strong mistrust of outsiders.
The Guard of Hinzoth
As the empire disintegrated, and the remnants of the imperial legions were split fighting each other the conflict between refugees and southerners, creatures who had been exiled to the desert wastes east of the mountains took the opportunity to stage an invasion of the west.
Fearful of the Dwarves who guarded the Irill Gap, this horde of goblins, orcs, and ogres struck south. They cut their way through the sparsely populated region of Erilan and made their way to the Gap of Hinzoth, where a single depleted legion was left in defense. Had the horde made it’s way through the gap, everything south of Irneth would have fallen to its control, and this old and battered legion knew it.
The horde crashed through the mountains in early fall, hoping to establish a siege and preventing defenders from resupplying. But the legion didn’t cooperate. Instead of locking themselves in the city of Hinzoth, the legion marched out under General Navon Tellren and won a striking victory. The horde was broken and flew to Erilan, which then waged its own war against the remnants of monstrous power.
For showing valor, General Tellren was declared “First Guard,” and made de facto ruler of the Hinzoth Gap. He renamed the region the Guard of Hinzoth, transforming it into a center for martial training and military strategy. Every citizen of the Guard is expected to pass military training and serve in the legion, there are no exceptions. Residents who wish to become citizens can join the legion and be awarded citizenship after ten years of service. Remembering the events which formed it, everything about the Guard is bent to serve its military–art, education, trade, and even marriage are angled to make the guard stronger. Remembering ancient friendships, the guard remains on good terms with Erilan to its east and Veradin to the south. It sees Irneth as unmanagable and Salador as weak, but holds no great animosity toward either nation. Interestingly, the First Guard of Hinzoth continues to swear allegiance to the current emperor in Frosden, though the city has little practical influence over the Guard.
Formerly hot and swampy, the kingdom of Veradin has become a semi-tropical paradise in the new world. Soil from reclaimed from the swamps, which dried up during the change, is rich and productive. The forests of cypress and live oak have thrived, and Verdin wood is sought after by woodworkers and shipwrights all over the continent. Its pleasant climate and abundant resources have allowed this formerly sparse area to enjoy a population boom.
The Kingdom is an absolute monarchy, who is trained from birth to see themselves as the embodiment of the state and servant of the people. It boasts the busiest ports on the continent, and there are even rumors that some of their ships have managed to reach the lands which had been lost during the change. Citizens of Veradin are curious, open, and welcoming of strangers.
The Erilan Empire
The only major region of the Elbren Empire to exist east of the mountains, Erilan suffered much during the horde’s invasion as the empire disintegrated. The residents of Erilan, encouraged by legionnaires from The Guard, managed to rise up and remove the horde from their lands. After securing the region, the last Imperial Governor denounced the empire declared himself “Emperor of Erilan.”
Like Veradin to the west, Erilan benefitted from the climate change. Cooler temperatures and dryer air allowed wetlands to drain, cut down tropical diseases, and increased the number of crops which could grow within its boundaries. As such, after repelling the hoard, Erilan has boomed–become a center for learning, culture, and industry. People come from all over the continent to study with Erilan’s scholars and purchase Erilan goods. But, while the young empire allows travelers within it’s borders its is not overly fond of them either. The people Erilan felt betrayed by westerners during the invasion, and to this day are generally hostile to both Salador and Irneth.
Thrain of Si’El
The dwarves of the Irill Mountains served the the Elbren Empire for centuries, but not without resentment. They grumbled in the dark as the empire took their wealth away from them, and left only work, toil, and poverty in its wake.
When the empire began its collapse, a mine leader named Si’El saw the chance for the children of the mountains to remove their overseers and struck. He roused his workers and collapsed the entrance to their mine, after which they slaughtered every imperial representative trapped within. The rebellion moved north, and in less than two years Elbren had lost all control of the wealth of the mountains, accelerating the empire’s collapse.
The Thrain tends toward xenophobia, remembering past oppression and seeing reminders of their stolen wealth in the metal used by the “openers.” Yet the Dwarves of the Thrain are practical. Even as the hated Empire collapsed they recognized the need to prevent the lands to the west from falling to hordes and guarded the Irill gap–perhaps saving remnants of the very civilization against which they had rebelled. Trade, with a great markup, was eventually restored, and some dwarves decided to go out and live among the openers to seek wealth under the open sky.
I love love LOVE all this exploration. You have me thinking about my own worldbuilding for Middler’s Pride and some of the alternate history I want to build for FAllen Princeborn. Building histories such as this allows us to forge present characters influenced by unique cultures. It’s fun to pluck characters out of the ether, but without threads sewing them to their worlds they will simply float away.
It really is a LOT of fun. And in a time when so much is a mess it’s a nice escape.
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