Hullo, Gentle Readers. If you’ve been reading these articles, then you know we’re building a history for Beyond the Borderlands, a D&D Next campaign. We’ve outlined the various historical events and put them in an orderly list, and we’ve told our creation story (in our last article). Now, let’s continue the history lesson.
Empires Rise and Fall
After the power of Chaos was forced to retreat back into the darkness, the various peoples were left to lick their wounds and try to move forward. At this time, the mighty dragons stepped forward and began to try and rule. This was difficult, as people tended to fear them and had a tendency to fight them. Still, in some areas of the world, great dragonkings and queens rose up. But the dragons found that rule bored them, so they created special children to act as rulers and simply ruled from behind the throne. These children, the dragonborn, ruled mighty kingdoms, until the dragons simply grew bored of this game and stopped ruling, even from behind the scenes.
Into the void left by the dragon kingdoms came the goblin armies. Hobgoblin taskmasters stepped forward, carving kingdoms on the land, subjugating men, elves, dwarves, and others to their rule in the name of Chaos. But they underestimated those they sought to control, and the thinking peoples rose up to fight. At these times, many small kingdoms declared themselves, and they fought viciously, until the goblins retreated in rout.
One such kingdom was ruled by a human named Angkar Thast. His kingdom, Vor Thast, was a strong one, built in forests shadowed by tall mountains. As he aged, however, none of his children seemed like worthy successors to him, and he feared his kingdom would not soon outlast him. He appealed to the gods to aid him in making sure Vor Thast would never be forgotten, but the gods would not answer his ambitions.
Finally, however, an angelic exarch of the God of Chivlary came to him. This exarch, Asmodeus, pledged to mark him and all his people so that no one would ever forget the glory of Vor Thast. Angkar agreed, and the two made a terrible pact together. This infuriated the gods, for they had already declined this human’s petition. Thus Asmodeus and Angkar Thast fell together. As punishment, Asmodeus was sent to a new realm, away from the gods, along with any who would follow him, to punish mortals who had transgressed against the gods. Thast’s people and descendants were marked ever after as the tiefling race.
The Rise of Dwarvenhome
Whether it was punishment for the arrogance of Angkar Thast, an attack by Chaos, or some unrelated incident, a terrible cataclysm rocked the world and split the land. Many small islands were created when the land broke, and the sea rushed in, and, in other places, great mountains were heaved up, while other mountains tumbled and fell. The land was changed. ((As an author’s note, my intention is that this is somehow tied to the three large craters on my map, although I haven’t decided how yet. Perhaps the cataclysm was a trio of huge meteors striking…))
Out of this terrible event came a long age of stability. In these new mountains, dwarves began to delve, and they carved a great kingdom, sustained by the riches they found. This kingdom was called Khalladkoroth by the dwarves: Dwarvenhome. For centuries, the dwarves forged Dwarvenhome into a realm of wonders, and the emissaries of many other kingdoms came to do homage and to trade for dwarven craftsmanship.
During this time, the dwarves drew up maps, and they drew a border to their east. In the lands to the east, those who fought in the name of chaos were massing, and the dwarves wanted to forestall another incursion by hobgoblins, orcs, or worse. They began building mighty keeps on the border. When the keeps were far from Dwarvenhome, they offered control to valued allies. And so, a strong series of Borderlands now separated Dwarvenhome and the peaceful western lands from the anarchy and barbarism of the east. To supplement the warriors in the keeps, special golem-soldiers called Warforged were made, and they served tirelessly to protect the lands.
The idyllic peace that followed allowed arts and culture to flourish. The bardic colleges of Wit and War were established, as were the Way of the Four Elements and the Esoteric Order of Illuminated Sages. Perhaps drawn by the pleasant lands, gnomes began to appear, coming from the strange lands of the Fey. Halflings, who had always been a wild and unruly people, began to settle in pleasant shires and valleys.
When Chaos crept back in, it did so in a way no one expected, and amongst the last people anyone would’ve expected. Among the elves, who’d always been free and joyous people, a new group began to rise called the Weavers. The Weavers could be a bit more destructive in their frolics…a bit more violent than most elves. At first, elven authorities simply felt they should be allowed to live as they saw fit, but when people who spoke against the Weavers began to disappear, a group of elven druids began to investigate.
What they found was horror. A demon of chaos called Lolth had stolen in among the elves and corrupted a faction to her side, creating the Weavers. These Chaos-worshippers reveled in death, destruction, and perversion. The elves forced the Weavers from their ranks, naming them Drow, which means Accursed. They hunted the Drow until, finding no refuge anywhere, the Drow fled down through dwarven tunnels into the depths of the Underdark.
A similar infection affected the dwarves, as some dwarves had fallen to the worship of the devil, Asmodeus. This worship, called the Gray Plague by dwarven sages, caused the schism between dwarves that led to dwarven families belonging to three factions: the mountain dwarves, the hill dwarves, and the gray dwarves or Duergar. This schism began the breaking of Dwarvenhome, and attacks by the Drow pushed it further. When an earthquake opened a fissure in the great capital of Dwarvenhome, terrible chaos-spawned evils bubbled up from the depths, and the last Dwarven Emperor was slain. The dwarves slowly fragmented, and the greatest empire the world has seen fell to pieces.
In the Wake
With Dwarvenhome gone, the various keeps along the Borderlands stopped doing what they were meant to be doing. Instead of acting as a series of protections and early warnings to the lands of the west, many of those who ruled the keeps declared themselves lords of their own independent lands. Over time, many of those keeps that had been ruled by good and true protectors became the homes of robber knights, who exacted tolls from those who travel their lands and taxes from those who toiled. Many of these robber knights forbade those not of “noble” blood to carry weapons, which made it that much easier for them to exploit people.
To help protect those who were traveling, a group of wandering mendicant monks called the Way of the Open Hand began. These monks learned the ways to harness their own inner selves, such that, even with no weapon in hand, they could fight and prevail.
During these troubled times, two brothers were born within a year of one another. Ioun, the older of the two, was kind and gentle and well-loved. But his slightly younger brother, Vecna, was taciturn and secretive and difficult to love. It’s said that both brothers loved the same woman, and both became mighty wizards, seeking to impress her and win her love. In the end, however, Vecna sacrificed love for immortality, and the young woman was killed to help him proceed with his experiments. Ioun was devastated, and he swore vengeance on his brother. Gathering others to help him defeat his more powerful brother, he forged special stones to enhance their own considerable abilities. In the end, however, Vecna sacrificed everything, even his own hand and eye, to become immortal, and Ioun was defeated. To this day, Vecna walks the lands as a terrible lich.
Today, the Borderlands stand nearly undefended, with only a handful of Keeps still staying to their original purpose. The Warforged who once tirelessly walked their walls have begun to wake up, slowly, becoming sentient, seeming to have developed souls. No one is sure how this is happened, but not all of them willingly guard the lands of the west. Only time will tell if the Borderlands will stand, or if Chaos will sweep in from the east to conquer.
And there we have it. We now have a campaign setting, all poised and ready to roll. Next time, we’ll look at some of the bastions of civilizations that may still be standing. We want players to have somewhere to come from, after all.