Temperate to sub-tropical. Mountains and forests dominate the cooler north-west regions. There are several active volcanoes in the mountains, and many spring fed lakes dot the highlands. The main feature of the central region is the huge Tana river, which rivals the Amazon. South and west the land is drier and flatter, grassy plains, rolling hills, scattered woods and mountains.
Eastward the Tana empties into a shallow finger-shaped gulf that curves south-east, eventually opening into a broader sea. Many small islands line the shore and dot the gulf, some inhabited, some not. The shores of the gulf feature many rocky hills and somewhat barren slopes, but even here there are pockets of rich land. The lands east of the gulf are little known and wild, dotted with ancient stonework and ruins left by long forgotten civilizations.
The Kingdom of Light
Stretching along the banks and flood plains of the mighty Tana river, Daruna, the Kingdom of the Sun, is one of the most powerful civilizations in the land. Ruled by King Ash-tep, the living avatar of the sun god Daru, the Kingdom is relatively young, built upon the ruins and remnants of a far older civilization. Daruna is a human-centric culture with a strong agricultural base built upon the rich flood plains of the Tana. The Darunites are also builders, having a mastered brick-making and quarrying as well as the engineering required to raise great stone temples dedicated to mighty Daru and dig deep tombs where the revered dead are buried.
Darunites are united in their worship of Daru the sun god. The scholarly priesthood provides both spiritual and mundane leadership, advising King Ash-tep and carrying out his will. Ash-tep has ruled the Kingdom from the beginning, falling into a deathlike slumber every 17 years and rising again in reborn form each flood season the following year. Only the highest priests of the order know the secrets of his eternal youth and vigor.
The Dwarf Lords
Scattered throughout the north-western mountains, various Dwarf Lords maintain their rugged strongholds among the high peaks. The Dwarves are masters of stone and metal. The Darunites might match their skill with brick and stone, but the Dwarves are the true masters of metalwork.
The Dwarves are divided into many clannish halls, each ruled by a clan head advised by his eldest family members. Dwarves worship Daru in their own way, paying lip service to the Ash-tep's claim to be the avatar of the sun god. They also revere the Bashra, 11 demigods given life by Daru, each ruling a different aspect of the mundane world.
The Rahk Tribes
The southern plains are home to the Rahk, a race of cat-like beings with a fierce tribal nature. The Rahk have lion-like features and a warrior nature. Though they cannot rival the consolidated military forces of the Darunites, those that attempt to invade their territory face a constant battle of attrition. The Rahk tribes unite only under the threat of outside invasion, but once united they pose a considerable threat and show no mercy in battle.
The Rahk follow their own shamanistic path, viewing the worshipers of Daru with some suspicion. Their beliefs center on the primordial spirits of earth, water, stone and fire, powers that existed before the sun god rose over the plains of the Rahk.
So named by the Darunites, the Outsiders are not a cohesive group, rather they are scattered villages, clans and tribes of humans, living on the fringes of the Kingdom of the Sun, primarily in the hill country along the gulf, where they share the land with various halfling enclaves and wandering clans of elves.
The Outsiders are a mix of life-styles and beliefs. Some of the human villages have fallen under the sway of the Darunites, while others have resisted, retaining the old beliefs in an uncaring sun god and more potent Bashra. Others follow the shamanistic beliefs of the Rahk and their elven friends, paying homage to earth, water and fire along with the life-cycle dominating seasons.
The halflings are a hill-dwelling people, organized much like the Dwarves, in clannish halls living in burrows beneath stony cliffs and slopes. They are herders, gatherers and hunters, living a rather pastoral life, the warm gulf and protecting hills providing a relatively stable climate supporting this lifestyle.
The elves are roamers, traveling in loose companies that move from wood to forest to thicket, never remaining long in one place. They are friends of the Rahk and share their spiritual beliefs in the primordial spirits of the land. There are many elven companies roaming the land and few know their real numbers.
Inhabiting the depths of the gulf beyond the outflow of the Tana river, the Aquaa are a strange folk, friendly to a point, but distant and secretive about their own underwater world. Though they regularly travel into the Kingdom, wearing their curious rubbery suits to keep their delicate skins moist. Some scholars of the ancient ruins that dot the valleys and hills around the Tana theorize that the Aquaa were once a surface dwelling race, driven beneath the waves by some great cataclysm that destroyed their civilization and wiped out most of the living creatures of the world above the sea.
Little is known about the Aquaa beliefs, but they do not appear to worship Daru or his Bashra demigods. Some Aquaa wear curious badges and sigils shaped like a seven-armed starfish, which seems to be an emblem of some significance to them.
Various people live on the islands of the narrow gulf and the open sea beyond. They are masters of wind and wave, sailing to and fro between the various villages and towns that dot the island coasts. Their habits and beliefs are as varied as the islands they inhabit. Some are honorable traders, others are untrustworthy pirates. Few dispute the fact that they are masters of the shipping lanes that lead beyond the know realms.
Just to the west of Daruna, in the hills along the banks of the Tara stands the town of Shalish. It serves as a meeting ground of sorts, neutral territory for Darunites, Outsiders, Rahk and Aquaa. Shalish will serve as a starting point for any campaign, and provide a neutral base of operations for even a diverse group.
Potential player races:
- Human - Darunite or Outsider.
- Halfling - A slimmer tougher halfling than traditional.
- Dwarf - Still the masters of steel. Clannish and swift to conflict.
- Elf - Woodwise and down to earth, less haughty than traditional elves.
- Rahk - Barbaric warriors or primal shaman.
- Aquaa - (questionable) Mysterious strangers with serious weaknesses on land.
Exploration and exploitation of the eastern wilds. Few venture into the wilds beyond the gulf, but there are many stories of rich tombs and ruins waiting for the hand bold enough to take what they hold.
River / ocean travel, pirates, yarrr! The Tara is a rich trade route, and after the floods recede trade begins. There are many options for mercenary or mercantile action along the waters of the Tara, the gulf or the sea beyond.
War, open or subtle, Ash-tep rises this spring, renewed after a winter's sleep. Will conflict follow? There are many isolated groups on the fringes of Daruna, who will be assimilated next?