In this section you can find out more about our setting and some information about nearby lands that might influence the situation on Vidal. While none of them will be directly involved in the course of our adventure, they might prove a good background for Player Character's arrival on the island.
Nelanther Isles lie to the west of Amn, on vast expanses of Trackless Sea. The entire archipelago consists of hundreds of isles, most of them uninhabitable - and those that create settlement opportunities are usually swarmed by monstrous inhabitants. There is no central government, no faction that controls the whole Nelanther. In the past various entities attempted colonisation, such as Amn, Shoon Empire and Ffolk or Northlanders, but all such attempts were ultimately futile. The isles have proven to be too wild to be tamed.
Somebody coming from Nelanther Isles must be certainly used to pirate raids, monstrous groupings and looting parties, scallywagery of local thugs and hostility of flora and fauna. The only law on the archipelago is the rule of the strongest - and while pockets of civilisation might exist, they are fragile and vulnerable. It’s hard to live here being a local, it’s even harder to do so coming from faraway places.
Dreaded Isle of Skaug is home to a settlement of a rather similar name, Port of Skaug, founded by the icon of piracy centuries ago. It’s definitely the biggest on Nelanther Isles, and a true den of degeneracy and warehouse for stolen goods. Its inhabitants live off raiding merchants from Amn and ships coming from northern Sword Coast, being the true cousins of those living on Pirate Isles far away. The isle itself is a home to almost two thousand inhabitants, a density unseen elsewhere on the archipelago.
Among the more moderate island settlements of Nelanther one can find Black Skull Cove on the island of Nemessor, a surprisingly organised group of sailors, runaway slaves from Calimshan and Tethyr and various shipwrecked survivors roughly fourth of whom are pirates. They are said to be excellent navigators, and likely the only ones who could realistically offer transport around the archipelago without certainty of betrayal. The outlaw Black Skull Clan is at least able to bring a modicum of control around Nemessor and a few smaller isles, albeit calling that law would be too far-fetched. Nemessor is inhabited by around six hundred souls.
There are, of course, other settlements, such as Ioma Town - a mining settlement said to be under the protection of Amn because of rare minerals it excavates, or Thordentor where Tethyrians keep their small garrison; but with more… illicit-inclined business endeavours sprouting around, it’s less likely for their denizens to pry around others’ interests.
Perhaps the most feared organisation to have appeared on barely inhabitable Nelanther Isles is Twisted Rune, a cabal of undead spellcasters with ulterior motives - who deemed the remote archipelago a perfect hiding place, and an excellent laboratory for their dark spells. While the organisation’s presence is an open secret, actually running into its members would be miraculously bad luck, as they prefer secrecy over any other tactic. They are said to frequently move between Nelanther and Toril through their gateways, locations of which are kept a well-guarded mystery.
The island of Vidal lies somewhere to the east of both Isle of Skaug and Ioma, being a bit of a disappointment to local piratery - with its unapproachable coasts and hostile fauna, being more of a place of banishment rather than a haven. It’s lush, its geography is diverse and natural resources undiscovered; but it’s gods-forsaken and riddled by monstrosities of all kinds.
Locals of Nelanther Isles often worship: Umberlee, Gruumsh, Semuanya, Vaprak, deities of Faerunian Pantheon.
Amn (and Muranndin!)
Amn, known also as Merchant’s Domain, is a very densely populated merchant state located between Tethyrian Peninsula in the south and The Cloud Peaks in the north. It is a tremendously rich country filled with walled cities and towns serving as trade centres for half of the continent, with connections allowing free goods-flow from Calimshan and Tethyr to places like Sembia or Cormyr. Amn takes pride in its trade lanes, with its roads extending in every direction, its coasts littered with lighthouses and its navy strong as ever, ready to protect the coasts. Mild climate makes it a splendid place to grow grapes and cultivate demanding plants, turning Merchant’s Domain into land of wine, milk and honey.
The nation is ruled by the Council of Five, head of which is the Meisarch, usually coming from the extraordinarily rich Selemchant family. Effectively, Amn is an oligarchy: and it’s highly visible in the controlling nature of internal policies. Religion, magic and matters of the military are subjected to very high scrutiny, with Cowled Wizards of Amn basically monopolising usage of the Weave in the entire state, serving as executors of the Council and often as spy or assassins.
People of Amn are folks who value material wealth over anything else. Displays of lavishness are a common sight in local culture, with expensive parties being thrown left and right, luxurious goods treated like commodities. Countless painters, sculptors and creators of culture create their workshops in even the most impoverished towns, which… must still be quite impressive compared to other places along the Sword Coast! In Amn, if you are rich enough, you can even buy yourself a noble status – not surprising at all that it becomes a retirement destination for many adventurers in their autumn days.
The capital of Amn, the famous city of Athkatla, City of Coin, is the oldest and the wealthiest settlement in the entire oligarchy. It is the centre of the Council of Five’s influence, with jealous merchants of other nations gossiping that its streets are paved with gold. It is a headquarters of Order of the Radiant Heart, an organisation of good-aligned paladins and clerics who plan their crusades against those who threaten the good people of Amn. Cowled Wizards kept the streets free from the usage of magic, which has been explicitly banned since long centuries. The city itself has a large and prospering harbour on the mouth of Alandor river. Being located in a straight line from the infamous Nelanther Isles, it has excellent harbour defences, with its fleet always ready to react upon the signs of corsair incursions.
Amn, however rich it is, has its enemies to fight off. A hundred years ago, its second-largest city - Murann - was conquered during the Sothillisian War by the ogre conquerors leading large groups of monsters. Since then, great Sailors’ City experienced its downfall, with Great Mur - the ogre leader of Muranndin kingdom - holding often only nominal power within the city. Amnians there were subdued by the invaders, becoming second-class citizens in their own city. Nevertheless, Murann remains an important city lying just by Tarseth Bay, being perhaps the main sea-access of monstrous entities into the Trackless Sea and beyond.
Locals of Amn often worship: Waukeen, Sune, Llira, Chauntea, Selune, Cyric and Bane.
Moonshae Isles constitute an archipelago to the north-west of Amn and north of Nelanther. The islands surrounded by tall, granite cliffs were especially ravaged by the tides - periodically revealing large swaths of sand or flooded to such an extent that small ships would be able to dock anywhere by the tall stone walls. Isles of Moonshae are filled with terrain rather inhospitable: saltwater marshes, moorlands, hills and mountains, turning locals into rather rough people, often striving for self-sufficiency.
The isles are mostly inhabited by two large groups of people: Ffolk and Northlanders. Ffolk, the natives, are used to hard work and are surprisingly good farmers, hunters and stubborn traders, well-used to the environment they got to live in. Northlanders came to the Moonshae during long centuries of pillaging, mostly from Luskan and neighbouring lands, with a much more warlike culture. Often at each other’s throats, the groups attained, more or less, a cultural unification as a result of the policy of once-ruling Kendrick dynasty; that has since lost most of their authority. It is easy to come across little ethnic wars fought on Moonshae with groups of different descent, though.
After the Spellplague, most of the isles are independent entities, holding their own loyalties - some attaining self-sufficiency, some working together with foreign entities to ensure their safety from the neighbours. Among these little states are tribal lands of Firbolgs and Fomorians, and even an island inhabited by rare Llewyrr elves, as well as trading posts and territories controlled by other nations and groups of interests. Moonshae Isles are far from being united, but are nonetheless able to trade with each other and coexist most of the time.
The largest town of Moonshae Isles is Caer Callidyrr, built on Alaron isle and being home to the tallest constructions on the entire archipelago. While the settlement has a castle and a large harbour, its influence over others is only nominal, with many other towns such as Caer Corwell, Rogarsheim or Hammerstaad claiming their own right to rule. This lack of centralisation has proven problematic for the isles - facing numerous problems in last decades, with piratery, monstrous invasions and diminishing economy ruining many a state.
Despite closeness to Nelanther Isles, not many denizens of Moonshae get a chance to visit the archipelagos. For Northlanders it might be true because of the lack of good targets to pillage and climate they aren’t used to, for Ffolk - lack of fishing or whaling opportunities, with dangerous cliffs sprouting up and threatening their boats. They have a rather good understanding of the geography of the Trackless Sea, but valiant people of the archipelago prefer to keep to themselves.
Locals of Moonshae Isles often worship: Earthmother (Chauntea), Tempus, Auril, Umberlee.
The gnome island-kingdom of Lantan returned only a few years ago as a secretive land after its disappearance during Spellplague. Consisting of the Lantan isle and two disconnected halves of the old isle of Suj, they’ve taken a rather aggressive approach in protecting their lands: making sure that no hostile ship approaches their coasts and sending out sea monsters to destroy approaching stray pirate vessels from Nelanther. Foreign visitors were accepted into certain harbours, but Rock Gnomes of Lantan and their human neighbours were rather wary of them, preferring to conduct trade in the lands of the outsiders.
Lantan is a united land ruled by Ayrorch – Council of Twelve – which makes law and determines the rules of trade, as well as any limitations in perusement of technology… Although, these are especially rare as Rock Gnomes of Lantan are known as splendid inventors, bringing state-of-the-art technology into all the rest of the continent. Ayrorch is served by a religious organisation known as the Hands of Gond, specialising mostly in protecting nation’s secrets and making sure they don’t fall into wrong hands - as well as punishing the wrongdoers locally.
Cult of Gond has, unsurprisingly, a special place in the lives of Rock Gnomes of Lantan. The god of Inventiveness ended up washed up on the shore of Lantan, his avatar recognised and revered by locals; bringing them the gift of smokepowder, and through it: the firearms. That technology revolutionised much of gnomish warfare, making Lantanna military unarguably the most innovative on Toril. Gond often sends his disciples and tools to guide Rock Gnomes, whom he is fond of, to technological advancement.
Whole Sword Coast gains on trading with Lantan; with gnomish manufacture held in highest regard, their firearms, bombards and mechanical devices used frequently in warfare and mining. Rock Gnomes are seen as skilled specialists, thus their praise of any piece of equipment or technology can easily be seen as evidence for its true worth.
Locals of Lantan often worship: Gond.
Chult is a part of larger Chultan peninsula – is a wild land located to the south-west of Calimshan. The tropical forest is by many considered the most dangerous place in the entirety of Faerun, with both flora and fauna doing its best to make lives of locals and adventures a living hell. Known for its tropical diseases, parasites, terrible insects, dinosaurs and a wide range of wild peoples, it isn’t a very popular travelling destination for travellers.
Life in the jungles of Chult is especially hard, with most denizens surviving as tribals or hunters-gatherers. Natural resources are, exactly, natural resources - with wood, bones and rocks being the most common goods, leaves and mud soon following. The dense tropical forest growing over any and all sources or rarer metals simply makes it impossible to dig them from the ground. That has likely saved Chult from larger foreign incursions, with most of the locals living their wild lives - only occasionally encountering traders from Amn’s coastline merchant settlements or people from Thindol - Tashalans or dreaded Yuan-ti.
No country rules Chult, none could spring up in its wildernesses riddled by monstrosities - but there are numerous Chultan, human tribes living in the swaths of untamed wilderness, groups of Batiri goblins skulking through the darkness and attacking the defenceless, Lizardfolk defending their tribal dwellings and even Wild Dwarves, descendants of fallen dwarvish kingdoms from ages lost. Naturally, none of them live in peace with others - and food raids are a frequent happening, as well as rather barbaric ways to treat fallen enemies. Primal nature doesn’t have mercy, and Chult is particularly close to it.
Two permanent settlements shine among all this untamed wilderness. Port Nyanzaru is the largest Amnian colony, a rather large fortress impenetrable to locals; it brings ivory and tropical wood out of the jungles and to the rest of the world. Fort Beluarian on the other hand is Baldur’s Gate’s Flaming Fists’ mercenary company endeavour, who attempt to civilise the jungle, trade with it and help good-aligned adventurers; although it’s being regularly burned by the locals and has a permanent rivalry with Nyanzaru.
The holy city of Mezro, where Ubtao - patron of the entire Chult - was once venerated, has been tragically lowered into the ground during Spellplague, only adding to local desolation. Where once chosen of the Father of Dinosaurs walked - and his clergy thrived, now necromantic cults and goblinoid tribes make their homes. At times Flaming Fists organise incursions into the large, ancient ruin in hopes to train their fighters and loot ancient treasures.
End of Mezro and the consequences of the Spellplague caused Ubtao’s disinterest with his Chultan worshippers, allowing other gods’ missionaries to find fertile ground for preaching. Albeit it’s hard to find souls willing to convert in all this wilderness, it doesn’t stop brave missionaries from attempts to convert the tribals to gods such as Eshowdow (Shar in disguise), nine reawakened trickster deities of Chult and other gods of wilderness.
Locals of Chult often worship: Ubtao, Eshowdow (Shar), Thard Harr and Chultian trickster deities.
Calimshan lies to the south of Tethyr, hugged by the waters of the Shining Sea. It is a land dominated by dunes of Calim Desert that is said to come to be after the dreaded epoch of Skyfire, when elemental entities fought each other for control over the land. Its northern boundary lies in the Marching Mountains, although to say they’re natural defence would be too much, as various monstrous creatures frequently wander off their peaks and cause locals much trouble. To the east its natural boundaries are the Alamir Mountains and forest of Mir.
It is a rich land full of intrigue, albeit of desolate geography and tragically divided society. If not for its rivers - Calim, Ice and Agis - agriculture would be completely impossible on Calishite wastelands. Calim Desert particularly is known for its harsh climate, with only the most able nomads traversing it and saving the lives of tragically lost travellers or, in the past, runaway slaves.
Memnon and Calimport are two largest cities of the desert state. First called City of Brass thanks to its impressive brass roofs adorning the large public buildings and residences of nobility. Second, called City of Glory, although: its greatest glory is long gone, is a huge city with one of the largest harbours in Calimshan - and streets riddled with dagger-bearers ready to strike unsuspecting targets.
Until the last year, Calimshan was an elemental domain, with Genasi and their planar ancestors ruling over the lands and only the citadel of Almraiven staying the free human haven - until the Ilmaterite Revolt came, when simple denizens and slaves rose up rejecting the yoke of slavery, first: protesting peacefully led by the Chosen of Ilmater, then: rising in open civil war, fast to destroy the structures of the state based on slavery. Now, the state is in chaotic disarray, with various old noble families locked in rivalry for power. Most simple citizens wish for the Chosen of Ilmater to return and finish the job, fearing what the future would bring.
With the trade routes waking up from inactivity caused by the civil war, Calimshan returns to the world scene: offering spices, products of desert agriculture and ores, and letting out waves upon waves of banished Genasi denizens searching for some better place to live, or at least a way to leave Toril behind, keen to rejoin their people on Elemental Planes.
Locals of Calimshan often worship: Ilmater, Azuth, Ibrandul, Shar, Sharess and other gods of Faerunian Pantheon.
A state resurging after a civil war and countless monstrous incursions, Tethyr claims lands between Amn and Calimshan: between River Ith and northern Wealdath, large forest inhabited by elves, fey creatures and various monstrous entities. People of Tethyr have strong cultural connections with Calimshan, in fact: most of Tethyrian towns started as Calimshite settlements. Despite that, they strive to create an independent society: rich in local culture and trying to best its neighbours in matters of trade. Many are sceptical towards Tethyr’s ambition to become a regional power, but last decades have shown that it is taking a good direction.
Tethyr is land mostly flat, hilly in few places; Starspire Mountains being a notable exception to this, towering above flatlands and forested areas around. Naturally, as mountains, they must be inhabited by dwarves and svirfneblin; with some goblinoids roaming around and occasionally pillaging nearby settlements. Wealdath is oftentimes a territory disputed between people and wild elves, who go as far as to take lives of the intruders and those who dared to fell a tree. It obviously goes against law’s interest, and is the reason why humans and elves are at each other's throats.
Darromar is the capital of Tethyr, though under earlier Tethyrian rule it was known as Ithmong - to commemorate a hero who defeated Calimshite garrison and took the fortress for the northern tribes. It is a small, yet relatively orderly city which serves as the seat of ruling Rhindaun dynasty and main headquarters of the nation's army. Its position as the seat of power is relatively new, as the largest Tethyrian city is the distinctive Zazesspur; the largest harbour of the nation and once-capital, lying on the western coast. The reasons for the capital's change were numerous, but none were popular among the locals, sparking a division between them and the new seat of power.
Among the problems that plague Tethyr are separatism and monstrous incursions. To the north of Wealdath and just by the mountain range called the Small Teeth, an ogre kingdom of Muranndin sprouted up: taking over old Amn’s possession. Since its establishment, the Tethyrian army has been doing its best to keep the border safe, but the raids are happening nonetheless. Additionally, an important trade-town of Velen decided to break away from the Tethyrian monarchy and announced its independence, claiming western part of Tethyrian Peninsula. While the relations are rather cold, they aren’t outright hostile, and some point out that the Duchy of Velen still acts as a Tethyrian ally in the region.
Locals of Tethyr often worship: Chauntea, Helm, Ilmater, Torm, Tyr, and other Faerunian deities.
Duchy of Cape Velen
The breakaway state on the western side of Tethyrian Peninsula, also called Dragon’s Neck Peninsula, the Duchy of Cape Velen, is perhaps the most important for Nelanther Isles political entity by the Trackless Sea. Not because of its size - its capital being a moderately big town at most, surrounded by few smaller ones and a number of villages - and not because of its land capabilities, but because of its attitude towards fighting off the piracy, strong naval fleet and city guard composed of competent and non-corrupt individuals. The city of Velen remained a stalwart defender against pirate raids and interests in the region, opposing corsairs for centuries.
People of Cape Velen are ethnically Tethyrian, though it isn’t rare to see Calimshite, folks of Amn and even Ffolk doing interests with the locals. The Duchy's economy is based on its maritime activities: fishing, whaling, extracting oils, gathering pearls and amber; its products important enough for inland economies to ensure a healthy market. To an extent lumber industry also thrives in the Duchy of Cape Velen to support the boatbuilders; to ensure a strong fleet of both military and fishing ships. This is in a way tempered by positive attitudes of locals towards protection of Wealdath; making folks of Velen and its towns, such as Greenshores, friends of the elves - wary of destroying the natural wealth.
In truth though, Velen is a proud and honourable but… full of powerless patriots. Locked from the north and east by pirates and Muranndin, with overly rich Amnian merchants monopolising some trade within the Duchy and some… paranormal issues plaguing the Cape. In response to the hard geopolitical situation, the Duke of Velen - Duke Calchais - decided to harshen the law within the state. Murderers are executed, thieves have all their possessions confiscated and are bound to work for their victims, public lying is punishable by whipping. While some question Duke’s actions, people are generally on the nobleman's side. They take pride in their honour, and for Velen to stay independent and strong is everybody’s priority.
About these… paranormal issues. Well, the entire Cape Velen is rather haunted, for whatever reason - be it because of some ancient curse or maybe some unusual closeness to the Fudge Plane. The ghostly apparitions aren’t hostile and don’t usually scare people, but they interact with them, often having some kind of wisdom or secret to share. Oftentimes they are just burdened souls, and locals have grown used to them, practically ignoring the dead in their daily routines.
Whether it is the reason why Twisted Rune took interest with Cape of Velen or not - isn’t sure. It was reported that the cult was operating in more remote areas of the duchy.
Locals of Velen often worship: Valkur, Helm, rarely: Umberlee. Other gods of the Faerunian pantheon are often revered.
Northern Sword Coast
While Sword Coast is a very vague term to describe all lands that lie along the Sea of Swords, under this name hide all sorts of cities, nations, ethnic groups and organisations that are too numerous to be all introduced. But, there are places so large and influential - that it would be a great shame for an adventurer not to know them. The north of Faerun is called the Empty Lands at times, because of large swaths of wilderness between smaller or larger settlements. These are usually riddled by all kinds of beasts and dangers, creating a rather unique environment for all sorts of ambitious adventurers who wish to perfect their craft. That also means that it’s part of the continent very prone to activities of numerous cults or shady organisations. It has actually experienced it many too many times in the last decades or even centuries!
Going from south to north, the journey along the Sword Coast begins with the famous fortress-library of Candlekeep, where Avowed kept watch over all sorts of knowledge of the lands, serving the great mission of Oghma: to gather, to learn and to share enlightenment with others. The fortress itself was well-guarded, mostly by wizards and other magic practitioners, who made sure to defend the Castle of Tomes, as it is also called, from dangers. Few years ago, in 1486 DR, it was tragically sacked with the Mythal, protective artefact kept in Candlekeep, lost to the lich Larloch. Nonetheless, the mission of the Avowed continued, perhaps even more important after what happened there.
Bit to the north lies Baldur’s Gate, a very influential centre of commerce and one of the most prosperous settlements of the Sword Coast. It lies by River Chionthar which serves as an excellent waterway for many goods coming to the metropolis from the rest of the Heartlands. Many consider Baldur’s Gate a true hegemon of trade, in its stability and popularity outclassing all the competition up to hundreds of miles away. Quite uniquely, The Gate declared neutrality with many matters, refusing to take part in large conflicts; despite that, it remains one of the most important members of Lords’ Alliance, an union of cities of northern Sword Coast which came to be to protect independence and wellbeing of its peoples. It’s ruled by the plutocratic Council of Four, who make wise decisions about local policies and laws.
Before the next big step north, many island nations constituted on the islands of the Sea of Swords. Orlumber and Mintarn were known to at times enter into conflicts, but are nonetheless rather peaceful places closely cooperating with Waterdeep and providing safe havens for those persecuted. Mintarn especially is known for its open approach, allowing those fleeing from trouble to find peace there: asking no questions. Nearby, just to the north of Moonshae Isles, lies Korinn Archipelago settled by Northerners and various ethnic groups, including dwarves, gnomes and various monsters - riddled by pirates and corsairs, giving northern Sword Coast bit of the same medicine that Nelanther gives Tethyr, Amn and all these other places.
And yes, Daggerford, a rather small but very lively community of unending ambition and dreams of importance. Settled by a bit more than thousand men, the town is walled, has a moat and quite many enthusiastic folks willing to aid passing adventurers and travellers, or trade with merchants. It’s ruled by the noble dynasty of Dukes bearing the same surname who claim ancestry from one brave boy who had slain six lizardfolk by the Delimbyir river six centuries earlier with just a dagger - as they say. Waterdhavians sometimes use the saying ‘gone to Daggerford’ speaking about somebody who avoids the metropolis for some reason. In fact, Daggerford attempts to emulate the great northern metropolis, pushing the prices up while… not having that much to actually deal with.
And finally, the grand metropolis of Waterdeep. With two hundred thousand people living in the grand city and almost ten times within forty miles of it, numbers almost absurd so far north from Amn, the Crown of the North reigns supreme among northern trade, representing a culture friendly to most outsiders and lawful rule inviting visitors from all of the continent. It is considered the most religiously open city in the continent, allowing followers of all religions to pray within its large temples, with literally all faithful able to pray in its great temple of Plinth. Waterdeep thrived importing ores and furs from the north, being a large market for wheat and grains - and for all else, really.
North of Waterdeep the land doesn’t end yet. Sword Coast continues, with dreaded Mere of Dead Men just before the northern city of Neverwinter, world-famous for its openness and will to abandon superstitions. The town, presently ruled by Lord Protector Dagult Neverember - who claims ancestry from previous royalty, all dead - rebuilt the city after misfortunes of the previous century and proved that he cares for law and commerce. Neverwinter became one of not so many places where Tieflings, orcs and half-orcs could live alongside with half-elves, humans and dwarves, a marvel: in opinion of many also an act of naivety, as it is often troubled by the same orcs of Many-Arrows kingdom.
Further north only one more town remains that can truly be assessed as belonging to Sword Coast, before large glaciers of the Spine of the World and Icewind Dale; the town of Luskan. The City of Sails had better days, now: being more of a half-abandoned ruin than a frontier town it used to be, frequently raided by goblins and thugs. Northmen living there have to always be wary of the newcomers, never sure whether they’re troublemakers or opportunists. Many believe Luskan to be the last piece of civilisation before the glacier, but Fireshear tad more to the west, a primarily dwarven mining town, proves many wrong.
Sword Coast is as long as diverse. It’s very easy to meet people of diverse ethnicities and religions there, making it a rather unique settlement frontier. These few mentioned places are supplied by many more, deeper into the land, such as Beregost, Secomber or Triboar, up to such large towns as Everlund or even deep Silverymoon.
Locals of Sword Coast often worship whatever they only desire. The region is so large and gods are so many that it’s often a very individual decision.