Being the whole of the civilized world, and stretching in her might from the westerly reaches of sunset-dappled Pennhoa to the jagged eastern costs of Boradov, Astarta counts in her posession nearly every clime and circumstance that nature has to offer. Her southern shorelines form a great triple crescent, capturing blue glittering seas plied by the overfull boats of hardy fishermen, while her northern expanses are punctuated by ice-covered peaks piercing chilled night skies so full of stars that to gaze upward is to risk going blind.
The Spirit of the Age
In ages long past, Astarta gave birth to the wild things, the strange and fey, creatures who fed from her blood and breath and made their kingdoms in the primeval forests of the world. In the east, great dragons carved tunnels into the mountainsides, and under the canopies of the western forests the unruly goblin hordes devoured and spread like a foul green wildfire. As the world aged, the forests retreated, and gave way to fields. Fields grew wheat, which in turn grew men – men possessed of an industrious heart and indomitable will to thrive and master the chaos of the primal world. Trees were turned to logs, which the early men fashioned into homesteads. Homesteads became villages, and villages became towns. Towns, in turn, blossomed into cities, which traced roads between each other and pushed the feral darkness of night ever further into story and song.
In the current day, the ingenuity of man has displaced the wiles of its older, wilder siblings the elves and the stubborn rigor of its sturdy ancient cousins the dwarves, and industry strides ever more boldly into the places that had once been the demesne of superstition and legend. Steel is manufactured in great bloom furnaces and fashioned into reliable blades and capable tools. In the east, alchemists and magicians mix minerals and ash to create thunder and fire from handfuls of dry powder. To the south, the mercantile tradesman of the islands push the art of engineering ever further, shaping brass and bronze into machines that multiply the work of laborers, or kill from unimaginable distance with the power of fire and chemistry.
The Nations of the Land
While centuries of aristocratic greed have played havoc with the maps of man, in the present day Astarta finds herself divided by her mortal children into sixteen sovereign nations, each home to a proud and distinct culture. The western realms enjoy a steady, productive peace fueled by sprawling arable land and thousands of miles of navigable, productive coastline. In the east, the soil is stonier, as are the hearts of the people. Uneasy tensions are kept from precipitating into outright hostility by the immense burden of survival; the land provides for those who live upon it, but only just and only with great effort and perseverance.
The northernmost nation in all of Astarta, Nortreische is a land of bitter cold and rugged terrain.
A sprawling northern nation of broad, wind-swept plains and crystal clear icy rivers, with the populace concentrated in several large cities ringed by vast rolling pastures and tenant farms.
A modest-sized kingdom defined by its mountainous terrain which has limited expansion but also provides impenetrable natural defenses. Forsk is notable for its cities carved into the roots of the mountains, where humans and dwarves live in integrated society, carving tunnels into the rock to uncover vast mineral riches.
An isolated kingdom benefiting from a most unlikely confluence of beneficial anomalies, the Alabaster Isles jut out from an abnormally warm current flowing through the northern sea. The unusual maritime climate is matched by an atypical (and consistent) warm moist breeze that seems to constantly blow from the west, shrouding the island in fog and rain and making for abundant farmland and productive mossy forests.
Located at the heart of western Astarta, Amstreiche is a sovereign duchy, having negotiated its independence centuries ago from Loesse, to whom it was once a vassal state. Known as a nation of deep forests and dense lumber, Amstreiche provides the continent with quality woodworks and building materials, as well as forest furs and medicinal liquors and preserved herbs. Deep within the canopies of the Wulfsylphanse, the last of the great elven cities continue to thrive – though they dare not draw close to the darkest heart of the forest, known to men as the Schadenwaldt. There, dark spirits and foul magics are said to hold sway from ancient days.
A wealthy kingdom of rolling, fertile hills and productive coastlines, Avalieux is famed for its cuisine and viniculture. Most of the country’s formal settlements are relatively young, owing to a state-funded reconstruction era aimed at providing adequate housing for tenant farmers to keep the fields in full production. The nation’s capital is world-famous for its extravagant architecture and luxurious amenities. Avalieux controls all overland trade traffic to and from Boradov, and guards the border with an immense wall dotted by castle fortresses.
An enormous, unforgiving land made up of steppes, jagged mountains, and taiga, Boradov is reliant upon the more arable western nations for the import of grain to feed its people.
The southernmost nation in continental western Astarta, Corvona is a land of dry, warm climate and sandy soil perfectly suited to the growing of herbs, fruit, and nuts.
An arid eastern nation of sandy coastlines and mysterious history, Ebregos is home to some of the oldest human settlements in Astarta. Scholars believe, in fact, that mankind may have originated in Ebregos before succumbing to a wanderlust that would see the race spread throughout the known world.
Known as “no man’s land”, Helheime is a subcontinental island nation off the northern coast of mainland Astarta. Frozen solid, with piercing cold winds that make surface life difficult, Helheime is primarily inhabited by races living in underground cities – dwarves and dark elves, most notably. The dark elves are notorious slavers, and launch longships full of raiders from fjordland grottoes, each one charged with returning full of slaves or plunder. The dwarven settlements operate at higher elevations, carved into the sides of the mountains. The two races maintain an uneasy peace, though occasional border skirmishes have been known to erupt.
Blessed with the most fertile black soil in all of Astarta, Loesse is a nation of productive fields, lush pastures, and gentle climate. While mountain ranges flank her eastern and western borders, the majority of the land is made up of gently rolling hills painted with a patchwork of crop fields and livestock pens.
Oraleon is a land of castles and courtesans, whose traditionalist, ecclesiastical culture has impeded the development of the nation’s access to technological advances seeping northward from the southern age of invention.
Boasting the longest coastline in all of western Astarta, Pennhoa is a maritime nation of fishermen and seagoing merchants, ferrying goods and passengers along the western and northern shores of the continent. Steep golden cliffs and powerful rocky seastacks characterize the coasts, with harbors carved into sheer rock walls. Inland, the soil is dry and sandy, and offers excellent growing conditions for herbs and grapes.
A small nation of humans, halflings and gnomes perched on a craggy clutch of ridges and peaks stabbing out from rolling seas, Sarnovi is famous throughout the world for their abundant gold mines and their skilled fine metalworkers. Sarnovi gold holds a special mystique among the ruling class, and every royal family has at least one piece locked away in their treasury.
Soramia is a nation of grey misty skies and cold rains; the geography captures the moisture blowing in from the roiling southern coast and traps it against chill mountains in the north, keeping everything between blanketed in a damp haze. Marshlands and moors make up the majority of the countryside, and are kept as productive as possible either as agricultural paddies, timber operations or clay pits. The nation thrives as a mercantile hub, ruled by a conglomerate of trade princes who command fleets of merchant ships from harbor cities that dot the coastline. Piracy is not uncommon, and most pirate crews are assumed to be on the payroll of one or several trade princes.
Tolia is a balmy nation of gentle hills that roll down from the more severe mountainous landscape of the neighboring Sarnovi. Hardier grains are grown in the dry, sandy soil, as are olives, fruits and nuts. Inland lakes are fed from Sarnovi mountain snowmelt, and play host to several moderately large, wealthy cities, peopled primarily with humans, halflings and gnomes. Toilan society is known for its pursuit of academic concerns, with modern fascinations focused largely on engineering; invention and mechanical craftsmanship are held in high status in Tolian culture.