Last week I introduced you to my Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign world, Helden Welt. Today I would like to zoom in a bit and explore the area where my players began their campaign, a region known as The Federation of Vales.
Consisting of a loose confederation of towns and villages, The Vales are an oligarchy ruled by territorial clan holds in the far Northwest of the continent of Heimat. To the South lies the Great Barrens, a savage Steppe filled with the barbaric Orc raiding hordes of the Schicksals. To the North lie vast pine forests which eventually give way to the Eiswüste, a frost-seared tundra like arctic wasteland. The Daggers—a vast mountain range—so called because of its sharp rocky peaks lies on the Eastern border, bringing Orc, goblin and Hobgoblin raids driving icy fear into the hearts of the Vale folk, and to the West the great Sea of Shadows.
Clan Chiefs, or Barons, have ruled The Vales since before the reckoning. They gain their titles through glory, by defeating all rivals for their posts and claiming the right to rule. Every year, at mid-summer, they meet in assemblies to discuss matters of politic and import. These Barons speak for their people and are entrusted by all landholders of their clan to petition or fight in their interests. Landless men and women have no voice in matters of politics but may appeal to their Barons to settle disputes with others of their status.
Of the six clan holds within The Vales, two are situated along the Western coastlands of the Sea of Shadows, while the other four are spread across the forested central region. The clans along the coast live off the sea, relying on fishing and the plunder of raiding parties to survive, while the clans of the central regions are primarily hunters, loggers, miners, and fur-traders who make their homes amongst the rolling hills and thick forests of Spruce, Oak, Ash, Alder, Yew, Elm, and Pine. While they cultivate what crops they can to supplement their meager existence, hunger is a constant and provisions a luxury.
The Vale Folk have adapted to survive in this inhospitable region. Tall and powerfully built, with strong angular faces, pale, weathered skin, and eyes of blue, gray or gold. The Vale folk tend to have straight to wavy blonde or red hair and their men often wear long, braided beards and hair. The women of The Vale, while known for their beauty are also known to be just as handy—if not more so—with a short sword as their men.
Vale Folk value strength, power, and valor above all. Animals such as ravens, salmon, boars, bears, eagles, wolves, and rams are viewed as manifestations of these traits and are represented in their totems, jewelry, and religious icons. Spirits of nature, particularly those responsible for storms, the swell of the waves, and the bounty of the hunt, are often petitioned through blood sacrifices.
The major, organized religions of The Vales are the Church of the Defiant (those opposed to the Dweller’s influence) and the Children of the Enlightened (followers of the Dweller and his death cult). Other than these organized religions there are various totemic religions throughout The Vales. All Vale Folk revere and pray to their ancestors, recounting the deeds of their forefathers with great fervor and deifying the greatest of their heroes, poets, and rulers before The Great Reckoning. In fact, the clan names are derived from these great heroes of yore, and one’s lineage must be traced back to one of the six savage heroes of The Vales before being accepted into a clan and bearing the crest.
Wielders of the Thread within The Vales are looked upon with a mixture of suspicion, fear, and mistrust. Gifted with the knowledge of magic and runes, they are said to be the descendants of the Elves, and not to be trusted.
Weapons and armor are prized possessions within The Vales. They mean the difference between life and death. It is quite common for axes, spears, long swords, short swords, and war hammers to be handed down for generations, it is even rumored that some weapons can be traced all the way back to the savage six.
Coins are a rarity within The Vales, as most commerce is negotiated via barter. However, some coins do find their way into The Vales, primarily through plunder from the coastal clans. So, Coppers (copper coin), Laurels (silver coin), and Half Shields (electrum coins) can occasionally be found and used within The Vales. While more common in the towns and villages clustered along the coastlands, this isn’t unheard of in the central region either. However, most residents of The Vales will spend their entire life without seeing a Shield (gold coin) or a Sovereign (platinum coin).
The sparse population of The Vales stands at approximately 250,000 souls, comprised primarily of humans. However, it isn’t unheard of to come across a Dwarf or two wandering through a town or village looking for smithy work, or the occasional Halfling looking to trade goods. Elves though, Elves are far rarer in The Vales. This is partially due to their retreat since the Reckoning, but also due in large part to the fear and mistrust held by Vale folk of Wielders of the Thread in general. For the most part, The Vales are inhabited by human hunters, fur traders, fishermen, and farmers. Adventurers are rare, but clan raiders and militia can be found throughout The Vales, including:
Barbarians: Barbarians are commonly found throughout the clans of The Vales. They make valuable, soldiers and retainers to those Barons who reward them—as best they can—and heap great honors upon them.
Bards: Bards, called skalds by Vale folk, function as poets, keepers of lore and storytellers. Bards often have noble patrons and some have the additional task of recording the daily transactions of their liege in ledgers. To have your deeds recounted by a great bard is to have them immortalized.
Clerics: The people of The Vales call priests Godsmen. They are often clan elders and are valued as judges, advisors, diviners, and soothsayers. Godsmen are expected to pray for good luck at sailing, before the hunt, in battle, and so on. They also act as the healers and protectors of their people, bringing curses upon the enemies of their clan. The title of Godsmen is usually passed down through the bloodline.
Druids: Priests of nature Gods are common in these lands, for druids are best able to understand and appease the spirits of nature and balance. Druids are also called Godsmen in their communities and little distinction is made between clerics and druids.
Fighters: Fighters are the most common warrior class in The Vales. Most are levy soldiers, obligated to fight for their Barons, or professional warriors, known as vale wardens, in the employ of a Paragon. Elite warriors often serve on longships, as elite raiders or patrolmen.
Monks: Monks are not generally found in the lands of The Vales.
Paladins: Paladins are rare in these lands of grim and barbarous warriors.
Rangers: Rangers are often leaders, hunters who aid in the survival of their people, or slayers of the fallen peoples and other enemies to the Vale folk.
Rogues: Rogues are rare in The Vales. They have limited access to mechanical locks and traps. In a society where prowess at arms and honor are held in highest esteem, assassins are exceedingly rare, though rogue scouts are often found with raiding parties, as skirmishers, and as bandits.
Sorcerers: Sorcerers are rarely found amongst Vale folk. Those with sorcerous abilities are viewed with suspicion and mistrust.
Warlocks: Warlocks are viewed with great mistrust and fear in these lands and are rarely encountered.
Wizards: Wizards are rarely found amongst Vale folk. Wielders of the thread are viewed with suspicion and mistrust.
Proper Name: The Federation of Vales
Political Bodies: The Barons’ Assembly
- Central Clans: Beornwald, Grimhelm, Helmstad, Waeldread
- Coastal Clans: Lagwulf, Thrym
State Religion: None, though the bloodlines of The Vale’s Barons are traced back to the region’s great heroes. Religion is a, largely, informal affair in which Godsmen are accorded respect but not given positions of true power.
Resources: Spruce, oak, ash, alder, yew, and elm. Deposits of iron, copper, and silver. Mead, cheese, livestock, and ale. Animal pelts and furs, wool, livestock (cattle, sheep, and lamb), whale oil, and both walrus and whale ivory.
Artisan handiwork: ship builders, tapestries, manuscripts, and textiles.
Racial Demographics: Humans of mixed Vale stock (82%), dwarves (9%), Halflings (7%), Half-Elves (1%), Wood-Elves (1%)
If you are interested, you can download PDF copies of the handouts I give to my players below:
- Click here to download the Helden Welt introductory player handout
- Click here to download the Federation of Vales introductory player handout
- Click here to download The Vales player map handout
So? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Helden Welt and The Vales, or (even better yet) the backstory for your campaign world! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below!