This is part of a series on the lore of my homebrew world, Ahneria. As I outlined here, much of this information will be pulled from existing D&D lore and tropes. At the end, I'll be including a section on how to use this sort of thing in your own games.
About a thousand years before the War of Fools between Garlancia and Norstone, the country of Garlancia did not yet exist. The valley of this area was populated by Yuan-Ti descended from the Reptile Empires, and Dragonborn, who had begun exploring the world beyond their island. The humans and dwarves living in the Fractured Mountains saw no reason to conquer the treacherous territory. The elves of distant Jeonju, having long ago explored the world, saw little value in the land.
During this time, a nomadic tribe of humans known as the People of Kam sought to blaze a new and safer trading route from the dwarven city of Chortenhall to the now-growing economy of the Isle of Dragonborn. This route cut along the central river of the valley, and remained a lone trail watched over by nomads for about a century. The nomads along the long distance of the trail (nearly 900 miles from end to end) quickly developed a council to organize patrols and communicate along far distances, centered in the village of Eastcliff. Like many humans, they worshipped Pelor, though Fharlanghn was a popular God among the nomads.
The nomadic council grew quickly in influence, and Eastcliff expanded into a town of some prosperity. Though the council was the true basis of power, they recognized the power of having a figurehead in a position to negotiate with the King of Chortenhall. With pressure from the nearby dwarven community, the leader of the council was given the title of King, with the understanding that the King was no more than a single member of the council.
After several decades of prosperity, Garton of Kam, a long-time member of the council, was appointed King. Though the King had no more power than the rest of the council, Garton used his position to sway the tribes of Kam to his way of thinking, giving him incredible leverage over the rest of the council. At first, his decisions were relatively benign, and included the forging of a trail north of the valley, to the ancient barbarian citadel of Oldstone.
The town, then known as Riverside, began to grow into a prominent waypoint for trade and exploration. Meanwhile, Garton was facing unease among his fellow council members. They worried he was becoming too powerful and threatened to remove his title. Garton, in a bold move, suggested that the council had become obsolete, and a new capital of the valley should be established, with defined borders and a new system of leadership.
The People of Kam were divided. The romantic notion of building a country had gripped tightly to them, but the idea of handing the power to a sole person worried the populace. Eventually, Garton relented: the council could stay, but the town of Riverside would be renamed in honor of his rule, as would the borders of the country. The city of Garton, and the county of Garlancia, were born.
This legacy of politics, compromise, trade, and fighting back at the wilderness would form the backbone of Garlancia and its people for the millennium to come.
The Sins of Sandhu-Kam
Hundreds of humans, drawn to the idea of life in a lush and well-protected valley, flooded to Garton over the next two centuries. The tribe of Kam became a royal line, the last true remains of those who had founded the country. Meanwhile, immigrants expanded and eventually overtook the council, turning it into a formal parliament. Garton exploded in both commerce and size, as the city walls were built, destroyed, expanded, and built again.
Teams of explorers were tasked with delving deep into the Great Forest, mapping and conquering the southern half of the valley. The Yuan-Ti were driven out, their largest temples becoming the sites of numerous cities. A holy site of Boccob was claimed as a town that would eventually become the city of Auraglow. Dozens of other sites were found and staked out, based on nearby mines, rare types of trees, or ease of access.
King Garton had since passed on the crown to his son, and so forth. However, from this succession of Kings came a royal man named Sandhu-Kam, younger brother to a previous King and bitter at his spot on the throne being denied.
Abyss. Fearful of death and unconcerned with the lives of his countrymen, he put a plan into motion. It all began with him claiming the title of Charter Financier, responsible for ensuring trade and supplies reached the many outposts around Garlancia.
Sandhu used his position to ensure that certain towns prospered, while others struggled. These towns were not chosen randomly - they were laid out in a very specific pattern, one which matched a sigil of great evil. These towns grew into cities, and Sandhu placed his loyal lieutenants in positions of power within their government. With that came great influence, and the names of these cities evolved to reflect such.
For several years, Sandhu drew on the life force of those living in the cities and traveling the trade routes between them. They formed living conduits for this massive set of portals he planned to open. People noticed things were wrong, that they got sick more easily, that they ran into more bad luck, but didn't understand why. Orcs and Dwarves, hardy enough to brave the mountains, retreated from the valley. Elvish emissaries, aware of the dark magic brewing, packed up and left, not to return for nearly 700 years. Eventually, only humans and halflings, along with some minor populations, were left.
Finally, the plan was ready. Sandhu and his lieutenants, standing in their cities, activated the sigil. Across Garlancia, gateways to the abyss opened, and the Demon Lords of the Abyss poured out.
In Garton, the capital, Jubilex rose from the deepest tunnels of the ancient mine, which had been repurposed into a sewer system for the city. His slimes and oozes poured into the city, mercifully held at bay by the royal guard.
In the City of Eastcliff, the Succubi and Lamias of Graz'zt tore at the city gates, corrupting the hearts of those within the city even as they devoured their flesh.
The city of Judgeton, named for Sandhu's trusted advisor Elimund William Judge, had its doors blasted open to allow Yeenoghu and his gnolls entrance, where they slaughtered the citizenry.
The halfling outpost of Arrington, a fine city of farming and fishing, was overtaken by Orcus, Lord of Undeath. Ghouls and Wights covered the city, slaying its guards and bringing them back under the power of the undead.
Sarria, a former Yuan-Ti holy site now named for the leader of the royal assassins Sarria Szumilak, was opened up to the underdark and besieged by the Drow, lead by an aspect of the Spider Queen herself.
The City of Naidu, another Yuan-Ti site now devoted to uncovering the secrets of that lost civilization, was supposed to be granted to Demogorgon by Sandhu's ritual. However, the capricious Demon Lord failed to appear, and instead simply obliterated every speck of matter from existence for a distance of 10 miles. A perfectly round crater was all that remained.
And finally, the city of Sandhu, named in honor of the man who had allowed their prosperity, was now condemend by the same. The Minotaur Lord Baphomet was granted the city, and his legions of minotaurs and hoards of bulettes reduced the city's walls to rubble.
It was here, at Baphomet's alter, that Sandhu himself waited. The Lord of Minotaurs would not so easily accept a gift from a human, and for days the siege continued. Finally, the Lord of Minotaurs himself made an appearance.
Sandhu was ready. He had carefully laid out a powerful Magic Circle, trapping the Demon Lord in order to channel his power and take his place. He was nearly finished with his vile plan, when finally, a miracle occurred.
Lefeld McConnell, Paladin of the King, leader of the Champions of Light, rode forth to the city to kill Sandhu. Having already driven back the aspects of Jubilex (with great success) and Orcus (with great casualties), he was desperate to end the ritual and save his country.
The country was devastated. Naidu was obliterated, and Arrington was now populated only by the undead. The other major cities had fared better, but still suffered great losses. Only Garton had been spared great destruction.
It was at this time that Sandhu's grand-nephew, the current King Hilan-Kam, decided to forsake the name of Kam. The leaders of the country needed to distance themselves from this royal traitor. A new tradition was started: Those who were of royal blood, or those elected to positions of power, would forsake their surnames. They did not belong to a family, but rather, they belonged to the country. King Hilan was the first, and politicians across Garlancia followed in his wake.
At the same time, a spy organization was formed known as the Cobblestones, named such because they were meant to pass undetected in the public eye but still have a presence everywhere. Their first task was erasing the name Kam from books, ledgers, and even history itself. This began a new era in Garlancia, an era of secrecy and hidden dealings, which would remain for centuries.
As people often do, the country slowly recovered. Auraglow became the new center for magical trade and study, since the destruction of Naidu. Stronger defenses were built to deal with demonic creatures that had remained after the ritual, such as gnolls and drow. Naidu filled with water, becoming a lake. Arrington was sealed with Hallowed ground by clerics of Pelor. The nearby dwarves began reluctantly resuming trade with the humans.
Over the next 800 years, humans fought, traded, explored, built new settlements, saw them destroyed, and gained power. The council became a full-fledged parliament, Garton became an epicenter for nobility and politics, causing a large wealth distribution and massive commerce which benefited many. Even the elves began to trickle back, albeit in disguises and secrecy. The cobblestones faded from the memory of the people, and so did the legacy of Kam, thanks to their efforts.
The War of Fools
About a thousand years after the country had been founded, a wizard named Prindle living in the mountainous country of Norstone made a deal with a devil. The creature, a Rakshasa which called itself Sebastian, agreed to grant Prindle fantastic power, in exchange for the opportunity to consume an unlimited supply of royal flesh. A plan was formed: kidnap the young Prince Faustus of Garlancia and replace him with another Rakshasa, then force him to make children for Sebastian to consume.
trio of heroes from the small town of Wayford. They had joined forces with the Cobblestones, who had begun to level suspicions at the "King".
Prindle, now enjoying a comfortable position as Royal Magic Advisor to the Queen of Norstone, came through with another brilliant plan: use their positions to influence the two countries to go to war, deflecting suspicion while giving Sebastian a wonderful excuse to send his political opponents to their deaths.
Preparations were made, the Garton Parliament was slaughtered in a night, and the "King" pinned the blame on Norstone. Invoking his power as the last living member (albeit honorarily) of parliament, war was declared. Sebastian also tapped into the Mage's Guild, using their resources to create a counter-intelligence agency known as the League of Royal Eyes. A spy war was waged, which resulted in the death of the Cobblestone's leader, Commander Bain.
The city of Garton was drained of its defenses, and the City Watch Captain Barker was forced to hire mercenaries to cover the gaps. This included the famed adventuring group C.H.A.O.S., which gained much notoriety in Garton during this time. At the same time, a cult of demon worshippers known as the Cult of Kam were gaining traction. They hoped to recreate Sandhu's ritual from long ago, drawing forth their ancient master who had grown powerful during his time in the Abyss. The lack of city guards gave them a golden opportunity.
In Norstone, the Garlancian army finally breached the mountains that formed the border between the two countries. Sebastian lead the army himself, ensuring that those who stood against him would fall in the conflict. However, the Cobblestones and their trio of heroes arrived just in time, and slew Sebastian on the battlefield. It was revealed to the armies that Sebastian had already been slain by the heroes - this was Prindle in disguise.
As his final act, he summoned the powers of the Hells to open a portal to Avernus, the first layer of Hell. The two armies immediately found themselves face-to-face with an even greater foe: the legions of Hell. Foregoing their differences, they fought alongside each other. Many were lost, including the heroes who had changed the tide of the war.
However, a few weeks later, two of the heroes reappeared in the ruined battlefield. One, Orianna, would go on to become the new leader of the Cobblestones and bring them back into the public eye. The other, Leigh, would found the Hilde School of Bardic Magic and Home for Wayward Orphans, named for their mentor who had fallen in battle.
Just days after the war was declared over, however, the Cult of Kam struck Garton. Demons once again poured out from the city, fortunately, there were enough mercenaries, adventurers, and city watchmen to stop them. The Demons who had lead the cult were slain, and the last members of the cult were destroyed.
Since then, the City has focused on rebuilding. Prince Faustus was rescued and returned to the throne, the new City Watch Captain, Floris, began to expand the guard with whoever he could find, and a ban was instituted on those who worked with demons and devils, namely, Warlocks.
The city and country had returned to peace. However, with war brewing to the west and a newly-corrupted chaos sorcerer on the loose, it is proving to be anything but quiet...
Using This Material in Your Setting
- Find Geographical justification for your country. Why this particular spot?
- Give the country history. What happened that helped define the country?
- How is power distributed? Are there traditions and social classes?
- What is the culture based on? Trade? Religion? Magic?
- What are the paths the players can travel? What are the cities and towns they can visit?
- What is currently happening in the world? What might change that?
- Who are the villains of your world? What are their goals? Can the PCs stop them?
- How have the PCs affected your world? Have there been lasting changes based on their actions?
Thanks for reading!