This campaign will use the Known World map in X1 the Isle of Dread as the basis for character backgrounds. Included are the country synopsis from that module. The module begins on the borders of the Republic of Darokin.
Principalities of Glantri: Glantri is a magocracy; that is, the princes and princesses who rule the state are all high level magic-users. They live in Glantri City most of the time, though each ruler also has a castle hidden in some remote wilderness area. Actually, the rulers are more concerned with magical research than with ruling. Most decisions are left to the various local councils of elders and the princely stewards. The princes and princesses do not trust each other and live in a state of uneasy truce. In the face of invasion or rebellion, however, they are quick to unite. In extreme emergencies, they will select one of their number as "dictator", to serve for one year.
Ethengar Khanate: The Ethengar are nomadic herders of horses, cattle, and goats. They are divided into small family clans. Usually the clans raid and quarrel with each other, but occasionally a strong leader (khan) emerges to unite the entire Ethengar people into a strong "nation". However, with the eventual death of the khan, there is rarely an heir strong enough to hold the Ethengar together. They then break apart, and the family clans begin warring with each other once more. Their culture is similar to that of the horsemen of the central Asian steppes (Huns, Mongols, Magyars, Turks, and so on).
Heldann Freeholds: The Heldann are a barbaric, fair-haired people who hunt, fish, and raise crops on isolated farms. They are related to the people in the northeastern kingdoms but acknowledge no ruler among themselves higher than the individual household leader. Their culture is very similar to that of medieval Iceland.
Kingdom of Vestland, Kingdom of Ostland, and the Soderfjord Jarls: Each of these northeastern states is composed of many petty "kingdoms" that are loosely united under one ruler. In Vestland and Ostland the underchiefs are called "kings"; in Soderfjord they are known as "jarls" (pronounced "yarl"). Their culture resembles that of the vikings.
The people of these kingdoms highly value individualism, physical strength and prowess in combat. They live mainly by fishing and by occasional raids on nearby coastal villages. Besides being fierce warriors, these people are explorers without equal, ranging far and wide in their wooden longships.
The Broken Lands: The "broken lands" are an area of rocky badlands and old volcanic lava beds. The land is extremely wild and inhabited mainly by outcasts and monsters.
Rockhome: Rockhome is the homeland of the dwarves. It stretches throughout the northern Altan Tepe mountain range. The dwarves have built and maintain a road through the mountains for caravans. They charge toll from all who pass.
Atruaghin Clans: These grassy plateau, forest, and hilly regions next to the sea are inhabited by herders, hunters, and fishermen who live in small villages. All the villagers claim to be descended from the ancient hero Atruaghin. If threatened by war they will unite under a temporarily elected leader.
Republic of Darokin: This republic is centered around the capital, Darokin. Its wealth is based on trade from Lake Amsorak (the large inland lake), the Streel river, the eastern caravan route, and sea trade filtering in through the Malpheggi Swamp. Darokin is a plutocracy; that is, the government is run by the wealthiest merchant families. The culture resembles that of Venice or Genoa in medieval Italy.
Alfheim: As the name implies, Alfheim is the homeland of the elves. The elven king rules the great forest of Canolbarth. Because Canolbarth is tended by the elves, it is far larger than a natural forest in this area would be. Darokin pays the elves to protect the caravan route through the forest to Selenica.
Emirate of Ylaruam: Ylaruam is built in the midst of the largest oasis in the Alasiyan Desert. It is the center of caravan routes crossing from north to south and from east to west, and is controlled by the Emir of Ylaruam and his royal family. The culture is similar to that of the Arabic desert states or the Central Asian city-states of Palmyra, Damascus, or Samarkand.
The Five Shires: The five shires are the homeland of the halflings. The area is ruled by a council of five sheriffs who each control a shire. Four times a year the sheriffs meet at a great feast and there decide shirewide policy by vote.
Grand Duchy of Karameikos: This part of the continent is a wild and unsettled land claimed by Duke Stephan Karameikos. In reality, little of the land is under the duke's control. Large areas are overrun with monsters and hostile humanoids. For a more detailed description of the Duchy of Karameikos, see the D&D Expert rulebook.
Kingdom of Ierendi: The trading ships of Ierendi rival those of Thyatis, and the kingdom sports a magnificent royal palace carved from pure white coral. The king and queen of the land are usually popular adventurer-heroes; however, they are without true power and serve only as figureheads. Actual rule is held by certain aristocratic families (making Ierendi an oligarchy).
Minrothad Guilds: The Minrothad island cluster is a syndicracy: the government is run by the heads of the various trading guilds. Minrothad is closely allied to Thyatis.
Empire of Thyatis: The empire of Thyatis is an autocracy. The emperor holds absolute power, but his decisions must allow for the desires of powerful nobles and for the threat of mob riots over unfavorable laws. The city of Thyatis is built beside a large canal that separates the southern peninsula from the mainland, so the city is a major trade center. The Thyatic culture is similar to the medieval Byzantine empire.
Concepts of Good and Evil mean nothing in the Known World. All that matters is that it is us (lawful) vs. them (chaotic). With this in mind all characters are Lawful, defenders of society, even the thief who might make his living between adventures cutting a purse string here or there knows that the horrors that lurk outside the gates of the civilized lands have but one intention, to destroy civilization and all that live there.
All lawful aligned beings belong to the lawful faith, which worships a divinity referred to as the Hierarchy. Each country has its own church, which is organized to fit each culture. The different lawful churches interpret the Hierarchy slightly differently but the fact that all lawfully aligned beings speak the same tongue, Light Speak, keeps the churches unified as one faith through out the known world.
Neutral aligned beings fall into three different groups.
The first group is the Followers of Nature. All things in the natural world are holy to the Followers of Nature. Followers of Nature are not concerned with Law and Chaos. Though they often use one against the other to accomplish their goals, as such they are trusted by neither. Followers of Nature speak the Wild Speak as their alignment tongue. Every being communes with nature in his own way, there is no church or priesthood for this group.
The second group is the unintelligent creatures who are incapable of determining right or wrong. These creatures worship no divinity and speak no alignment tongue.
The third group is by far the largest; It is the unaligned masses that make up most cultures. Though many profess to be members of one church or another they lack devotion to actually be aligned. They speak no alignment tongue and have no moral moorings. Most lack interest in anything beyond themselves and their daily life, none have the dedication to become adventurers.
Chaotic aligned creatures worship the Lords of Darkness. The actual names of these three entities differs from place to place but their malignant nature doesn't. These entities are the enemies of civilization and all those who live in it. Churches vary in sizes and doctrines to the point of being unrecognizable as one faith. The only unifying factor is that all members of this alignment speak the Dark Tongue.