D&D 5e: ROTGQ - Setting Elements
The Dwarven Empire
The Dwarven Empire represents the largest government on the Shattered Coast and occupies the entirety of the Hartshorn (a vast mountain range and forestland to the west) as well as the arable land between the mountains and the coast north of the Great Sands and south of the Clanlands of the northern barbarian tribes.
The Empire includes Dwarves, Gnomes, Elves, and Humans among its protected peoples.
The Wolf Gate and the Raven Gate
Five ancient stone gateways older than recorded time are interspersed throughout the Shattered Coast. Though the use of them is lost, the ancient standing stones are still considered powerful totemic monuments, and two of them stand within the borders of the Empire.
Named for the knotwork animal carvings on their faces, the Wolf Gate stands in the center of the great Hartshorn range, and the Raven Gate stands in the south of the range, marking the entrance to the Hall of the Mountain King.
There are countless settlements throughout the Empire, but only three major cities.
Bar Kesh: City of Swords
Bar Kesh is the Capitol of the Empire. A great trade city on the coast at the mouth of the Blood River, the City of Swords is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city north of the Tiefling Confederacy, with races from all over the Empire, the Confederacy, and the Reach represented.
In Bar Kesh, the Labyrinth is the largest quarter in the city and is an ever shifting maze of streets and buildings. A road that might be open one day, might be a new towering townhouse the next.
The Labyrinth is the poorest district and the bulk of Bar Kesh's criminal element may be found here or in Rattown. The Warrens (not shown on the map) are a second labyrinth beneath the whole city and the primary way criminals traverse the city.
Rattown is the wharf district and it gets slummier and more treacherous to the south and west and more upscale to the north and east.
The Iron Quarter is almost exclusively dwarven and houses the smiths and soldiers of the empire in the city.
The Hammerwall, on the wharf side, serves as a defense against rising tides, but the entire inland side is dotted with smithies, over two thirds of which are sword smiths.
The Bazaar is the trade district, with shops along the walls and a great open market at its center.
The Gold Quarter is where you will find the domains of the Five High Houses and their representatives, while the Keep serves as both fortress and formal negotiating space with foreign dignitaries.
No one really knows what is in the Jade Tower, but it is said to be the palace for the King of the Dwarves when she visits the City of Swords.
The Menhir is the ruins of the Old City and is mostly an ancient graveyard at this point.
Ruvyntarn began as a fortress in the days of the Dwarven Barbarian wars, and grew from there. Spartan and hard, Ruvyntarn is primarily inhabited by dwarves and humans and even in these times of peace still mostly serves as a bulwark against the barbarians of the clanlands to the north.
The bulk of the stoneships of the dwarven navy are harbored in Ruvyntarn Sound.
Hall of the Mountain King
The Hall of the Mountain King is at once a religious and historic destination and the seat of dwarven industry. The mines of the dwarves, the ores and gems of the earth's heart, flow through the Hall as does the lumber of the vast forest west of the mountains.
And while the bladesmiths of Bar Kesh are rivaled by none in their trade, the majority of dwarven metallurgy and manufacture takes place beneath the mountains.
The Empire is governed from the City of Swords, but the matriarchs of the Five High Houses live in the hallowed Hall as does the Mountain King herself.
Beginning in the forges deep within the Hall of the Mountain King, a great crack in the earth runs through the mountain bedrock east to the sea, a wound in the earth from the peaks to the depths of Treacher's Deep.
Though the Chasm disappears underground about a half mile outside the city, ti connects the Hall with Bar Kesh, ending in a great cavern under the Iron Quarter.
The Blood River
Named for it's red color from the runoff of raw iron ore, the Blood River runs from the depths of the dwarven forges below the mountains to the capitol on the coast, traversing the depths of the chasm. Due to the high walls of the Chasm's banks and the violence of the river itself, the only craft that traverse its waters are barges guided on massive rope leads sunk into the sides of the chasm with deep iron rings.
The Hartshorn is a vast region that encompasses the central mountain range of the Shattered Coast and extends west and north through the massive forestland beyond the range.
The Pass of Jade
The northernmost pass through the Hartshorn range connects the frozen flatland of the Sundered Steppes and the northern forest. This pass used to be hotly disputed between the Dwarves and the Barbarian tribes to the north, but now only sees the occasional skirmish.
The broadest and most widely traveled pass between the eastern grasslands and the forest within the Empire is the Hartshorn Pass, the northern edge of which is fortified with several box towers.
Pass of Shale
To the south of the range the Pass of Shale is a barren pass just north of the Great Sands of the southron desert, and it is used peacefully by both the Empire and the Confederacy. There is a box tower on either end of the pass and a bizarre tent village stretched between them in the fashion of the bazaars of the southlanders.
The Pass of Shale is the shortest of the major passes and is agreed by one and all to be a fine and managable road from nowhere to nowhere.
Kir Ja is the northernmost of three ancient stone towers stretching high above the mountain peaks. Though it stands within the bounds of the Empire, the shamans of the steppe barbarians control it now.
Kir Lan, the middlemost of the towers and situated between the Wolf Gate and the Raven Gate, serves as the remote hub of advanced arcane learning within the empire.
Kir Ijon, equidistant between Bar Kesh and Ruvyentarn, is a towering ruin, infested with the tattered spirits of whatever cataclysm laid it bare.
Remote and hidden in the deep folds of the mountains, Grimdane Vale was once a Plague town, a place of exile during the black times of Dwarven history. After that it was used for nearly a century as a penal colony until the inmates rose up against their wardens, took the town, and held it against three attempts to reclaim it.
Now it is the haven of the Blackhand, guildmaster of the Dwarven assassin's guild. Any outsider found in the Vale after dark is either murdered in the night or survives until morning and takes the brand of the hand.
The Tiefling Confederacy
The Tiefling Confederacy is mostly a moiety of Tieflings and Dragonborn. The Tieflings concern themselves with governance and law and commerce while the Dragonborn make up the army and craftsmen of the confederacy. Both races function within a caste system wherein the lower castes are farmers and builders and the like respectively.
The Tiefling Parliament is probably at once the most strait and convlouted governing body in the entirety of the shattered coast.
The Serpent Gate
At the southern end of the Great Sands, half buried in the dunes, the Serpent Gate stands mostly ignored, though it is said among the caravanserai to provide good shade in the middle morning and middle afternoon if a stop is warranted in the absence of water.
On the southron tip of the peninsula of the Ferrous Wastes stands the coastal city of Adamalasha. The city rises in layers to culminate in the peak of the great zigurat in the center of the city.
The Ferrous Wastes
Along either coast of the peninsula below the Great Sands, the Ferrous Wastes are an iron rich mesaland and the source of most of the Confederacy's wealth.
The Great Sands
North of the Wastes stretch the dunes of the Great Sands, a vast desert separating the Confederacy from the Empire.
The Water Homes
The Water Homes are a series of oases that can be found dotted about the meandering expanse of the desert.
The Wind Road
The Wind Road is the trade route between Adamalasha and the Empire and loosely connects the Water Homes along its route. No paved road marks the route and markers are unrelible in the vastness of the desert and the terrible winds that sweep through it.
The Wind Road may only be reilably traversed by sextant and star.
The Dragon Archipelago
Before the dragons returned, the archipellago was simply called the Near Isles. But the dragons have returned to the Reaches of the northern and southron edges of the Archipelago. Only the denizens of the Archipellago call it that. Mainlanders don't make the distinction between the main body of the islands and the reaches and refer to the whole as the Dragon's Reach.
Like the Confederacy, the Archipelago is a moiety - this time of Giants and Halflings. Giants are masters of elemental magics and crafters of stone beyond even the skill of dwarves. The halflinss of the isles are traders, and fishers, and herders, and farmers.
Both Giants and Halflings are jovial peoples who cherish hearth and kin above all.
The Dragon Gate
Standing on the isle of Ward, the Dragon gate is the only gate of the five known to be active - or partially active. The carved knotwork on its face glows a faint emerald an azure, and it is believed that the Giant loremasters who keep it use its powers to keep the dragons in the stony reaches to the far north and south of the isles.
The small islands in the northern and southern chain of islands are mostly rock and hardy scrub and wild goats.
And dragons. Serpents of sea and sky that cavort and fish the seas and sun themselves on the stones.
Rune is the largest of the isles of the Archipelago and the hub of trade between the islands.
Cref is a small harbor town, primarily peopled with halflings and folk of the Empire and the Confederacy.
Shi Jinn Monastery
A small tower on the north end of the isle houses the dragon monks of Shi Jinn.
The Bu Na Ka
While Kir Lan towwer is the center of arcane learning in the empire, the Giants maintain a modest school on Rune that is open to any with the skill to study.
South of Rune and the smallest of the majorly inahabited isles, Faer is almost exclusively a halfling settled isle of fishing villages and farms.
Ward is a big island, but low slung and wind whipped. It is inhabited mostly by those giants who keep the Dragon Gate.
The Steadfal is a humble community of giants who serve and house the Loremasters of the Gate.
The sourthernmost of the bigger isles is Torn, a rugged, mountainous little rock known for its aggressive greenery. Both giants and halflings dwell on the island and are universally considered a bit eccentric by more civivlized denizens of the Archipellago. The bamboo of Torn supplies the building material for most of the isles.
Torn is the only one of the inner isles that is home to a dragon.
North and east of the Dwarven Empire stretch the endless grasslands of the barbarian Clanlands. Between the White river and the Trade river are the clans of the Thundering Plains. These clans hold truce with the Empire and actively trade with it. Horse, Hart, Rabbit, Badger, Crab, and Gull Clans occupy this area.
North of the White river where the grasslands turn to steppes, the clans interact very little with the empire, never trading, and sometimes engaging in light raids when the opportunity presents. Wolf, Bear, Raven, Fox, and Orca clans occupy this area.
The Horse Gate
North of the Thundering Plains below the White river hard against the foothills of the northern Hartshorn stands the Horse Gate. It was long disputed whether the gate stood on Clanland or in the Empire, but the clansmen's tendency to launch arrows at outsiders approaching the gate made it not worth disputing once the truce was established.
The land between the rivers is known as the Thundering Plains, a refference to the thousands of both wild and kept horses who live beside the clans and call that land home.
The White River
Icy and fast, the White marks the boundary between the clans of the Plain and the clans of the Steppes. The river is very shallow and fast moving with white water conditions prevailing along most of its length.
The White river ends in a sprawling flatland and spreads for miles to finally empty from hundreds of channels into the sea. Rich black mud and towering black trees and thorny underbrush give the place its name.
The Trade River
The Trade River marks the boundary between the Clanlands and the Empire, and as its name suggests quite a bit of trade is seen along its banks between Ruvyntarn and Trader Down.
Trader Down is a sprawling town of mixed population; barbarians, imperials, and even traders from the Archipelago and the Confederacy call the place home. It is said that trade that cannot be legally had within the Empire, the Confederacy, or the Archipelago can be had in the Down.
In particular, the trade in Saltsand (ground dragonborn scale) sees a thriving business there, though any dragonborn catching a non-dragonborn with the stuff would kill or die to erase the offense.
The Sundered Steppes
North of the White River, the harder and more warlike of the clans make their home. Like their southern kinsmen, they are herders of horses, but the steppe horses are stouter and more enduring if not as fleet as the plains breeds.