Overview of the Vale
Land of Small Folk
The dominant inhabitants of the Vale are small folk - halflings, gnomes, goblins and kobolds. Theirs is a world where the average person is three feet tall, which has a number of consequences. Ponies are the standard means of transportation; full-size horses are powerful and somewhat feared, used for the heaviest of labor. Sheep, goats and pigs are common farm animals, while cattle are rather more rare. Buildings, and by extension communities, have a smaller footprint. Orcs are huge and terrifying, standing twice the height of a full-grown halfling, while ogres are legendary in their size.
The Vale is a land of small towns, with only four true cities. Most centers of civilization are villages or small towns with a few hundred inhabitants, but while each town is a semi-independent community, towns will usually aid each other in times of trouble. There is no central authority these days, though the land may be divided into shires or boroughs, often along the lines of old baronies; all the old kings and barons are long dead, leaving only ruined castles and family legends.
Folktales and Folk Magic
Like the places that inspired it, the Vale is a land of homespun wisdom and folk magic, with stories and spells handed down from generation to generation. Many of the creatures and circumstances are drawn from such folktales, with simple, down-to-earth magic rather than floating crystal spires, where monsters can be outwitted or even bargained with rather than slaughtered, and where few creatures of any species are entirely good or entirely evil.
Languages of the Vale
|The Old Tongue||Scholars||Halfling||5|
- The Common Tongue of the Vale is the halfling language; it has become so widespread that the other races use it as a matter of convenience.
- Draconic is traditionally the language of magic, and most arcane tomes and scrolls use this language. Wizards and sorcerers usually speak it.
- Druidic is a secret tongue known only to those who follow the druidic religion and a very few others.
- Min is the language of the Horned Ones who dwell in the Dawnforge Mountains.
- The Old Tongue is the ancestral halfling language, and is very formal and stilted compared to the modern Common tongue. It is primarily a language of scholars and is used in certain formal documents.
- Orcish is a very primitive language spoken by the orcs. It has no true alphabet, but a collection of pictographs are used by the orcs to convey basic concepts, such as “shelter” and “danger.”
- The Trade Tongue is less a true language and more a sort of jargon, primarily Common but incorporating words from Gnomish and Goblin as well. It is spoken by traders and merchants, and is popularly used by thieves as well.
Government: The League of Five
There is no unified central government in the Vale; each community is left to govern itself as best it sees fit. Most towns are semi-independent, though some form loose alliances; the larger towns are effectively small city-states. The Vale as a whole falls under the aegis of the League of Five.
Several centuries ago, the orcs of the Stonemarch Mountains had become extremely numerous and dangerous. Orcish raids were a regular occurence, and each raid brought the invaders deeper into the Vale, bringing with them burned-out homesteads, slaughtered livestock, scorched fields and dead defenders. The various races of the Vale were scattered and divided, none willing to take the forefront against the orcs, none willing to trust their neighbors.
Finally, the leaders of the four largest communities of the Vale came together to form an alliance. Korgan Rockhammer of the gnomes, Sandria Goodchild of the halflings, Meepo Fireborn of the kobolds, and Malbrok Seven-Claws of the goblins agreed to a mutual defense pact, working together to fight off the orcs supporting and defending one another in the face of the greater threat.
The fifth signatory to this Fivefold League is the elves of the Winterbole Forest, in the person of Ellyria Silverstar, an elven sorceress. The elves pledged friendship with the other races, and aid in times of war, but maintained that they have no interest in the actual governing of the Vale. Rather, they wished to ensure the security of their homeland: no elf can legally own land in the Vale, but elves are immune to all tolls and borders and can travel freely wherever they wish.
The current government is headquartered at Fiveleague House, and consists of a representative chosen from each of the four smallfolk races, plus an elf. The elven member is not always present, leaving the others to govern the affairs of the Vale. By and large, the League concerns themselves with economic matters, public works, and the occasional large-scale disagreement; in times of crisis, they are also responsible for raising an army (the Vale normally has only town guards and a few small militias).