Regions of the Vale
The Stonemarch Mountains
The mountains of the Stonemarch are populated with numerous orc tribes. These savage, pig-faced creatures often squabble among themselves, and send down occasional raiding parties into the Vale proper; the folk of Winterhaven are vigilant against such raids. Once every generation or so, a charismatic warlord will unite the tribes and lead a war of conquest into the Vale. On such occasions, they are met by a force of elves from the Winterbole, the tall, elegant warriors meeting orcish savagery with elven grace. Far less numerous, but considerably more dangerous, are the ogres of the mountains: orcish mutants, they can grow to ten or twelve feet in height, and are even more savage than regular orcs.
The Cairngorm Peaks are particularly rich with gemstones, but are also home to dangerous wildlife such as perytons, and unpredictable fey.
The Winterbole Forest
The Winterbole Forest is an enormous, sprawling woodland that covers the entire northern border of the Vale. The trees are oaks, ashes and elms, changing to conifers as one travels north. It is the domain of the elves: tall, slender, graceful folk, descendants of the fey, or perhaps fey themselves. They keep to themselves, rarely leaving their secluded communities deep in the Winterbole; when they travel through the Vale, they are enigmatic and aloof, and can be patronizing to their smaller, shorter-lived neighbors. They are good neighbors for all of that, and when the savage orcs of the Stonemarch invade, the elves prove their worth and their courage.
The southern edge of the Winterbole is thinly populated with small villages and thorps, primarily woodwalker goblins and forest gnomes. Some of these are under the protection of the local elves; others are secretive, transient places. Owlbears are perhaps the most dangerous denizens of the Winterbole Forest, as fierce as any bear and with an owl’s keen senses. The wood is also home to a variety of fey, including dryads, nymphs, and other, stranger beings.
The Gray Downs
A broad stretch of land between the Winter River to the west and the larger Nentir River, the Downs are rocky, hilly, and make for terrible farmland. A few stubborn communities may be found here, but for the most part it is a desolate country, home to wildlife and outlaws. Places of note include The Sword Barrow, an ancient graveyard said to hold the tombs of kings. Unquiet spirits, such as wraiths and spectres, haunt the place when the moon is dark.
The Old Hills
Blink dogs are known to roam the Old Hills. These good-natured canines have come to the aid of many a traveler, but refuse to be domesticated; they are well-regarded in halfling lore. Their mortal enemies, the displacer beasts, skulk through the Harken Forest and are rarely seen north of the Trade Road. To the north lies Lake Nen, a deep, cold lake that offers good fishing and is home to mischievous aquatic fey, such as nixies. It is also, according to legend, inhabited by a great serpent that devours wanderers on moonlit nights.
The Dawnforge Mountains
Taller and sharper than the Stonemarches, this mountain range is inhabited by a group of horned humanoids known collectively as the Min, as well as griffins, and various animals. The Min are organized in scattered tribes, some hostile, some less so, but all potentially dangerous. The Dragon is also known to dwell there, a dangerous but cunning creature that mostly avoids the Vale, but mercilessly destroys thieves and would-be dragonslayers.
A vast and sprawling wood to the south, Harken Forest is the source of most of the Vale’s timber (the elves frown on lumber operations in the Winterbole). It is home to many strange creatures, notably including displacer beasts. The occasional wyvern is also seen here. The further south one goes, the denser Harken Forest becomes, and the taller the trees; there are said to be ancient ruins deep within, left by some unknown race of beings. Treants are said to guard the forest: not aggressive, but no friends of two-legged axe-wielders.
The Moon Hills
The Moon Hills and the region around are claimed by the ghostwise halflings, and though they tolerate travelers, they fiercely resist intrusions.
The Witchlight Fens
Home to the swamp rat goblins, the Fens are a broad, swampy area in the south of the Vale. They are also home to stirges, giant insects, and various forms of animate plants.
The Ogrefist Hills
The Ogrefist Hills are a hotly-contested territory claimed by both the orcs of the southern Stonemarch and the wolfblood goblins. Nestled in their foothills is the ancient Temple of Yellow Skulls, a holy site to the wolfblood goblins, where new priests are initiated and the most sacred of rituals are performed. It is considered every goblin’s duty to travel there at least once every seven years and make an offering to Wogar.
The Gardbury Downs
The Gardbury Downs are a broad, sprawling range of hills, home to the wolfblood goblins and the great wolves they ride. On the northern edge of the Downs lies the Gardmore Abbey, home chapter of the Veiled, a cadre of wandering lawkeepers. The abbey welcomes members of all races who wish to hone their bodies and discipline their minds.
Draconis kobolds and rock gnomes dwell here, primarily in and around the city of Winterhaven. The kobolds dominate the many mines in the region, producing iron and coal that is traded all over the Vale. Nestled in the Cloak Wood, home to spiders of all sizes as well as ettercaps and spiderhawk wasps, Kobold hall is a famous place of learning, a school, library, and mages’ guild run by the draconis kobolds. The school and library are open to any who can pay, but the kobolds guard their arcane secrets jealously; few are the non-kobolds who enter there.
Located on the shore of Lake Nen and within sight of the Winterbole Forest, Nenlast is dominated by woodwalker goblins and forest gnomes, with a substantial whisper gnome minority. The city has a handful of semi-permanent elven residents, and it is by far the best place in the Vale to be if you want to meet a real elf. Fish from Lake Nen and lumber from the Winterbole are the primary products, and it acts as an important trading hub between Hammerfast and the elves.
In the shadow of the Dawnforge Mountains lies Hammerfast, a city of rock gnomes and stout halflings. Canidas kobolds are common here as well. It is the site of the famous Fiveleague House, a large and historic inn where the original Fivefold League was signed. The primary trade of Hammerfast is in mineral wealth: stone and iron from the mountains, as well as gold and silver. The horned Min are a constant presence, though they mostly leave the city alone; the legendary Dragon is more worrisome.
Surrounded on three sides by the Harken Forest, Harkenwold is a town of goblins and halflings, with a few odd gnome and kobold residents. The people of Harkenwold are more warlike than most Valefolk, ready to deal with marauding displacer beasts, hostile fey, and Min bandits. Lumber and hunting are the primary trades; at times, scientific expeditions set out for the depths of the Harken Forest to study the mysterious ruins found therein. Some even return.
At the heart of the entire Vale, Fallcrest is the largest community and - some say - the most important. An overgrown farming town, it acts as a trade hub for those traveling down the ancient King's Road, and is dominated by wealthy merchants. All the races can be found here, but halflings comprise the majority, and the presence of nearby Kobold Hall leads to a fair few draconis kobolds in town.
In the foothills of the Cairngorm Peaks, Winterhaven serves two purposes: it services the many gemstone mines that are found in the area, and it also feeds the Keep on the Shadowfell, the Vale's first line of defense against the orcs of the Stonemarches. Rock gnomes and kobolds are common here, as are wolfblood goblins from the Gardbury Downs. The city sees the occasional elf traveling south from Lake Wintermist on business of their own.