Family Ties: Rise of the Runelords
Only recently settled by colonists from the Chelaxian Empire, the wild frontier of “Varisia” (pronounced vah-RHIS-ee-ah) is composed of rural communities, independent city-states, cyclopean ruins, and uncharted wilderness.
== History ==
= Thassilonian Empire =
Over 10,000 years ago, much of modern-day Varisia was ruled by one of the earliest human civilizations on the Avistani mainland, the Thassilonian Empire. Formed by Azlanti exiles, and ruled by the runelords, wizards of tremendous power who practised sin magic, this nation built enormous stone monuments to its own vanity using giant slave labor. The Thassilonians were also served by the indigenous humans, whom they divided into two castes: the militia and the providers. The militia were trained in martial techniques to serve in the nation’s armies, while the providers worked as farmers, craftspeople, miners, and mystics.
Already weakened by corruption and warfare, Thassilon quickly crumbled during the destruction and chaos brought on by Earthfall. The runelords, having foreseen this apocalypse, hid in numerous protected sanctuaries to escape death, entering a deep sleep in which most still lie.
The elven city of Celwynvian in western Varisia’s Mierani Forest was also abandoned just before the impact of the Starstone. Its inhabitants, along with all the other elves of the Inner Sea region, left Golarion for their realm of Sovyrian.
= Age of Darkness =
With the runelords powerless and slumbering, the surviving people of Varisia were left to create their own destiny. The human militia caste broke into clans and eventually developed into the Shoanti people, who began settling all over modern-day Varisia. The provider caste transformed into what are known today as Varisians, from whom the land takes its current name, and took on a more nomadic lifestyle.
= Chelish Expansion =
Thousands of years passed, and the land and peoples became more stable; the Shoanti battled giants and orcs, while native Varisians roamed across the region and spread out across Avistan. Varisia itself was largely ignored by the empires of the south because it was simply too far away, while the Jarls of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings preferred to raid further south, as Varisia lacked any major coastal settlements.
This came to an end during the period of rapid Chelish expansion, known as the Everwar. Southern exploration of the largely wilderness region began in 4405 AR, when Chelish colonists entered the land through Bloodsworn Vale. This sparked a war between the settlers and Shoanti that last nearly a century before the Shoanti were pushed back onto the Storval Plateau and other less desirable regions. With the native inhabitants removed from the most fertile land near the coast, Chelish colonists began to arrive in much greater numbers, under the pretense of bringing “civilization and culture” to Varisia.
= Death of Aroden =
Another upheaval occurred upon the death of Aroden and the civil war which tore apart Cheliax for decades. After the House Thrune took the throne, a large part of the population left Korvosa and founded Magnimar on the southwest corner of Varisia. These two city states have since been vying for resources, though not openly warring, while the Shoanti grow strong, and ready for war in the north.
== Geography ==
Varisia is a vast frontier region in the northwest of Avistan. It stretches from the Steaming Sea in the west to the Mindspin Mountains in the east and from the Kodar Mountains to Conqueror’s Bay in the south. The region possesses a variety of environments within its limits, from the swampy Mushfens of the south to the flame-scorched Cinderlands on the northern Storval Plateau.
= Thassilonian Ruins =
Countless gigantic monuments and buildings left over from ancient Thassilon can be found across Varisia. They have survived for over ten millennia due to the skills of their stone giant crafters and the power infused in them by the runelords. The most well-known of these include the Cyphergate of Riddleport, the Irespan of Magnimar,, the Grand Mastaba of Korvosa, and the Lady’s Light in the Mushfens.
In the past few hundred years, the magic protecting these structures has finally begun to fail, and have slowly been suffering from the normal effects of erosion. This has also made them more vulnerable to explorers and treasure seekers, who search for the lost treasures of their ancient owners.
== Government ==
Varisia has no central government. It is a collection of independent city-states that each holds sway over a small collection of towns and villages, while the wilds on the edges of their territory (including most of the area on top of the Storval Plateau) is claimed by the Shoanti. Varisian politics is dominated by the competing aims of criminal Riddleport, ambitious Magnimar, and traditionalist Korvosa. The neutral Kaer Maga is often discounted altogether, and its inhabitants prefer it that way.
= Korvosa & Magnimar =
Korvosa is the oldest and largest of these cities, founded as a Chelis] colony in the 45th century AR, and is the only one to have established a hereditary monarchy. Thousands of dissatisfied Korvosans fled to Magnimar less than a century ago, disagreeing with their mother city’s allying themselves with the new, infernally-backed Chelish government. Although Magnimar had existed before, the mass influx of new citizens made it a true rival to Korvosa’s economic dominance of the region.
= Riddleport =
Far to the northwest of Magnimar and Korvosa is the pirate-haven of Riddleport. It is governed by a powerful Overlord who runs with a harsh, but decidedly laissez-faire attitude.
= Kaer Maga =
The smallest of Varisia’s major cities is the unusual city of Kaer Maga, found on one of the highest parts of the Storval Rise. It exists in basically an anarchic state, with numerous smaller power groups looking after their own interests.
== Inhabitants ==
= Dwarves =
Janderhoff (in the Mindspin Mountains) is not only the largest dwarven settlement in Varisia, but also where the majority of local stout folk live. There they mine and smelt the ores they dig out of the ground, but can also be found throughout Varisia as underground guides and mercenaries, merchants, and hunters. Dwarven ingenuity is well-known, and is evidenced by the exotic ore processing facility called the the Gas Forges, located in Riddleport.
= Half-elves =
The Half-elves of Varisia face a lot of prejudices from both parental races, so they often prefer the harsh life in anarchic Riddleport or even an nomadic existence with the native Varisians and even the Shoanti to the life in the towns of southern Varisia. Life is especially depressive in Korvosa where they tend to be the most pitied offspring of lustful Mierani ambassador Perishial Kalissreavil and a lot of bored young noble women from the Korvosan upper class.
= Halflings =
Halflings are a quite adaptable lot and can be found in the big cities as well as under the nomadic Varisians. Good sailors, they often came with their Chelish masters to Korvosa and make the crew of nearly half the ships belonging to Korvosa’s elite. They can also be seen in Magnimar as well as in Riddleport where they often follow more shadowy ways and find great opportunities in the city’s underworld.
= Half-orcs =
Many Shoanti tribes live near the Hold of Belkzen with constant skirmishes between orcs and humans. Sometimes this leads to rapes which could eventually culminate with pregnancy. Few of these half-orc children survive into adulthood, and fewer decide to accept the difficult cohabitation with their human cousins in some of the Varisian cities.
== Flora & Fauna ==
Varisia is home to a wide variety of plant-life and creatures, given its extremes in environments and geography. It is also known as a “frontier” or “wild” region, with many dangerous monsters living in relatively close proximity to Varisia’s settlements. These include such creatures as Black Magga, known to dwell in the waters of the Storval Deep north of the village of Turtleback Ferry, the seldom-seen Sandpoint devil, and such mythical creatures as the Oliphaunt of Jandelay. In addition, Varisia is home to a number of larger non-human populations.