Lands of the Dead
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"The ghoul the children had discovered in the moor must have been stuck in its hole for a long time, judging by its emancipated appearance. Only the thinnest layer of skin stretched over its bones. And yet, it was still able to move and stretch its arms and claws towards us in its undying hunger for human flesh. But it was no danger to us - its lower body was stuck in a swamp hole that even its undead strength could not free it.
The men of the village surrounded it and calmly bashed its skull in with their shovels. From their dispassionate bevaviour and the routine of their movements I could see that this was not the first time such an event had occurred…"

- Edmund Durnsten in: The Known Lands: The Lands of the Dead, Avane Street Publishing (1421)

Capital:
Population: 11,372,740 (humans 65%, hobgoblins 21%, dwarves 8%, halflings 2%, gnomes 2%, free willed undead 1%)
Government: Varies by city-state, but rarely by normal humans
Imports:
Exports:

This rugged and uninviting region has a dark reputation, and for good reason: Many of its realms are ruled by free willed undead like vampires and lichs, and much of the rest is dominated by lycanthropes and similar monsters, and the occasional mad wizard or two. Evil has a firm grasp on these lands.

Despite the name of the region, most inhabitants are very much alive, but the merciless tyranny of their rulers makes many wish they weren't. The peasants are worked to near death in the fields, and those who cannot keep up are as often as not drained of their remaining life force by nexus towers. Strangers are distrusted, even - or perhaps especially - if they come with good intentions, for the punishments for those who aid would-be liberators are harsh. The only way to get ahead in life is either fleeing to friendlier regions, or suppressing one's fellow humans until you too become a monster in the eyes of the people.

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Industries

Life and Society

Government and Politics

Groups and Organizations

Religion

Important NPCs

Major Geographical Features

Important Towns and Cities

Important Sites

Regional History

For a long time, only fierce nomads - most of them orcs - made this region their home. Then human settlements started to spring up around Kurova Bay. Life was often harsh and orc raids were a constant danger, but eventually, most grew into stable and reasonably prosperous communities that were capable of defending themselves. For a short time, the region was claimed by the Atalan Empire, but in practice it was too inhospitable and too distant from the capital to support a formal garrison, and only the occasional trader came in from the south. When the empire collapsed, the locals barely noticed it.

However, then a plague of ghouls began to spread, infecting more and more people. What's more, those ghouls were more organized than it was typical for such creatures - they managed to restrain their appetites for long enough to treat the living as livestock. Groups of ghouls began to rule small regions openly. They visited each town in turn during the winter, and forced all newly adult men to fight each other to the death. The corpses of the losers were taken as food by the ghouls. The winner was magically branded and permitted to live to sire the next generation - though if the local group of ghouls had lost a member recently, they would transform him into a ghoul instead. All adult women who hadn't given birth to a child within the last three years were also killed, thus making sure that there were plenty of newborn that would eventually feed the hunger of the ghouls.

This dark perversion of feudal systems eventually spread across the region. However, the ghouls eventually came into conflict with the hobgoblins of the nascent Dominions to the south, who saw this as the threat that it was, and who then began a war of extermination against the ghouls. After a long, hard struggle, the superior tactics and coordination of the hobgoblins prevailed, but they were too exhausted to make good of their territorial gains, thus leaving the humans of the Bay to rebuild their shattered society.

A century later, King Vaclav united this scattered realm, and for a short time peace and prosperity reigned. One of the reasons for this was that a circle of druids had performed a powerful blessing at his coronation, tying his fate to that of the land. Unfortunately, this had an unforeseen side effect - when Vaclaw fell victim to a cruel and slow-acting poison hardly a decade into his reign, the land itself reflected his agony as fruits and grains began to rot in their fields, the rivers turning dirty and foul, and the heat of summer being displaced by thunder and hailstorms. After his death, the land became nearly barren and the resulting famine once more made the region known as the Lands of the Dead.

But the druid's ritual has left a legacy lasting even to this day, for while no one has managed to unite the realm ever since, the local barons, counts, mayors and other leaders have found that the land they rule reflects their nature. The rare kind and wise leaders will find their lands blessed with plenty - but unfortunately, this commonly only serves to attract the jealousy of their black-hearted neighbors who tend rule over less blessed lands. A greedy ruler will find himself lord over a domain where every fruit of the land has to be extracted with back-breaking labor, while a werewolf's domain will have a tense atmosphere that may explode into passion and savagery at the slightest provocation. And the domain of the vampire, the ghoul, or the lich swarms with undead abominations at night.

See Also

Adventure Ideas

Designer's Notes & Resources

The Lands of the Dead are the place to run all your Gothic stories in Urbis. Furthermore, the idea that the land is tied to the nature of the ruler was inspired by the trope of the Fisher King.

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