Peoples of the Northern Frontier
Peoples of Gene D.’s D&D5e “Vanished Lands: Northern Frontier” fantasy campaign:
- Dragonborn: Kapak (white Draconians)
Dwarves: Khaz (Mountain; Slavic)
Description: Dwarves are demi-humans about 4 feet tall and weighing about 160 lb. Mountain Dwarves have pale complexions, blue eyes, and light brown, blond, or red hair but go gray early. They reach adulthood around 40 and can live up to 400 years.
Geography: The Zeda kingdom of the Dwarves and Gnomes is a patriarchal society in the Ivory Mountains in the northwestern corner of the “Vanished Lands.” Doru is its capital city, built into a high mountainside.
To the east is occasional ally, the Waletku kingdom of the Elves, in the Wisalef Forest. To the south are entrances to the Underdark and the nefarious kingdom of Zuromm, which is ruled by the cruel Drow and Orcs. Zeda and Zuromm have been at war on and off for centuries.
Farther south and east are the human kingdoms of Saganim and Hifalendor, which are indirect trading partners. The “Northern Frontier” campaign will mostly take place north of the Zeda kingdom, on the wide steppes of Bronze Age Central Asia.
Culture: As in Tolkien and Jackson’s Middle Earth, the proud Dwarven clans are concerned with mining, craft, trade, and battle. However, Dwarf women do not have beards (a common Elven slander). Dwarves may be smaller in stature and number than other peoples (not counting Gnomes and Halflings), but most are stout of heart and stubbornly honorable.
Dverge, or Hill Dwarves, are the most common, and their culture resembles that of medieval Germany or Scotland. Khaz, or Mountain and Deep Dwarves, are rarer and fiercer, more like Slavs or Klingons from Star Trek: the Next Generation. The River Dwarves are lowland traders.
The Duergar or Gray Dwarves of Zuromm are dangerous outcasts, and the Korobokuru are the rustic Dwarves of the Far East. There are tales of Vanaka, Ptahmenu/Sons of Geb, or Dune Dwarves in massive sand ships in the Halmed Desert….
Dwarves get along well with Gnomes and Halflings, but less so with Elves and humanoids. They find some humans curious and respect their appreciation for Dwarven steel, but they find them to be unpredictable. Dwarves are not fond of giants or dragons.
Zorch Bertrand I, or King Bert, is the current ruler. He’s a Cleric of Vulkan and is said to be fond of strong drink and other substances…. Bert has faced occasional challengers to the throne, while his daughter “Princess Bellanora” [Dexter V.H.] went missing on a mission southeast to the barbaric Gusorin Confederation….
- Elves: Avariel (winged), Ulvi (Frost), Quelanthi (High, Grey; Scandinavian)
Ulvi (Frost Elves)
- Abilities: +2 Dex, +2 Con (-1 Cha optional)
- Appearance: Frost Elves range between 5.5 and 6.5 feet tall, with slender builds (about 150 lb.; medium). They have pale bluish skin with white hair and blue eyes.
- Fey: Advantage on saving throws against Charm spells and immune to Sleep. Ulvi need only 4 hours of sleep per night.
- Slow aging: Frost Elves reach maturity at about 75 and can live to 300 years old. They tend to have relatively few children.
Vision: Unlike other Elves, who have low-light vision, the epicanthic folds of Ulvi eyes enable them to see clearly in snow or bright conditions.
- Alignment: Frost Elves value freedom, and most range from True Neutral to Chaotic Good.
- Cantrip: Choose Chill Touch or Ray of Frost (Int)
- Languages: Quelithan (High Elven; resembles Finnish), common (Hifalendorin)
- Movement: Frost Elves can move at their normal speed (30 ft./round) on snow or ice (but not uneven or other hazardous terrain)
Proficiencies: Long bow, long sword, Perception, spear, Survival (cold)
History/Society: Ulvi, like the other “sundered” tribes, split off from the Quelanthi (High Elves) about 2,000 years ago (in “game time”). Like the Avariel (winged Elves), Drow and Nannuattan (Dark Elves), Bamboo and River Spirit Folk (eastern Elves), and Thalassaquendi and Dimernesti (Sea Elves), they do not answer to High King Ereval in Alfhileno, capital of the Waletku kingdom.
Frost Elves do maintain some ties with their cousins, the reclusive Valley Elves, Avariel, and Grey (Faerie) Elves. They consider their Sylvan (Wood Elf) and Grugach (Wild Elf) kin to be rustic and unsophisticated, with easy lives in the Wisalef Forest. Ulvi share some of the bitterness that Dark Elves and Sea Elves have toward the aristocratic Quelanthi.
In addition, Frost Elves trade with Karsuk (Slavic) and Skaevingol (Scandinavian) humans and the occasional Svirfneblin (Deep Gnome), but they are less trusting of other groups such as Mountain Dwarves. Ulvi are historical enemies of Orcs, Trolls, and dragons.
Of the Fey pantheon, Frost Elves commonly invoke Arawn, Bahamut, or Corellan as their patron. A few have been known to worship Barbari deities Feiah or Shif. Favored occupational classes include Rangers, Rogues, and Wizards.
Sometimes called Blue Elves or Snow Elves, Ulvi wear furs and often rely on magic for resistance to extreme cold. They are proud hunters, scouts, and craftspeople. Ulvi are known for working with Borzoi or Samoyyed dogs.
Organized into clans, Frost Elves treat males and females equally. The largest settlement of Ulvi in the northern Ivory Mountains is Kristalli Linna, or the Crystal Castle.
- Gnomes: Rock, Svirfneblin (Deep; Germanic)
- Goliaths: Giant-kin (Germanic)
- Halflings: Woldan (close to Dwarves)
Hifalendorin/Zuromm: These dark-haired humans are from some of the most populous and technologically advanced kingdoms in the “Vanished Lands.” Their dress, armor, and weapons resemble that of later Imperial Rome or Norman France and England (or Gondor in Middle Earth), and their language (common) is similar to Sanskrit.
Hifalendor, which is on the wide Plains of Sathendo to the south, also includes Halflings and Centaurs, and it is friendly to Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes. In the Underdark, Zuromm’s hordes include Orcs, Goblinoids, and Drow. People from both kingdoms occasionally venture far beyond their homelands for trade, exploration, or to make a name for themselves. Unlike the others below, Hifalendorin and Zuromm humans are more likely to be knights or Wizards than Barbarians or Druids.
Karsuk: These people have pale complexions, reddish hair, and muscular builds. These western tribes are similar to later Slavs and are distantly related to the Vistani of the Gusorin Confederation and the Skaevingol (see below).
The Karsuk are proud warriors, have a fatalistic sense of humor, and are patient craftspeople. They brew vodka and bury their leaders in mounds. They are wary of the spellcasters and beasts lurking at the edge of dark, snowy forests. The Karsuk trade with Wolven and Dwarves and consider other tribes as rivals.
Namzagan: Like the later Persians, Huns, and Turks, these seminomadic riders range across the southwestern edge of the steppes. They are shorter and darker than other humans in the region, their clothing is the most colorful, and their music is the fastest. They are distantly related to the Suthern people of the Halmed Desert.
The Namzagan are clan-oriented and tend to be devout. Their curved swords, stirrups, and short bows are widely copied. The Namzagan will barter with Draconians/Dragonborn, Dwarves, and Gnomes, and they view other peoples with curiosity.
Skaevingol: These tall, blonde people are most similar to later Scandinavians and Vikings. They are restless wanderers on horse or in ships, and the Skaevingol and their gods are among the best-known outside the northern lands or the Gusorin Confederation, thanks to their skalds (Bards), who recite many epic tales. Their clans, distantly related to the Saganim in the south, are constantly vying for the crown of head jarl or chieftain.
The Skaevingol trade with Dwarves, Elves, and Wolven and view Giant-kin and Goblinoids as their enemies. They glory in battle, and many have learned to fear the sight of their axes and large, round shields. The Skaevingol are the most likely to have women among their warriors. They do not wear horned helmets, however.
Tazbagyab: These tribes are similar to Northeast Asiatic peoples, including Inuit and Yupik, but they are still hundreds of miles from open ocean. The Tazbagyab survive the tundra with a mix of resourcefulness, toughness, and trade with whomever they might meet.
Relying on their sled dogs, the dark-haired Tazbagyab wear many furs and hunt with spears. Their art is abstract and stylized, and their shamans are said to be very powerful.
Tsucharim: While the Tsucharim share language and gods with the people of Tong Sheng, itself an outlying province of Shang China, they are more like the later Mongols. They spend much of their lives in the saddle atop small, fast horses.
The stocky but nimble Tsucharim often raid settlements of other peoples across the seas of grass, moving themselves and their yurts. They have occasionally worked with Namzagan, Wolven, and Minotaurs and fought the more agricultural Shengtese or settled Karsuk.
Wolven: Canine humanoids
- Abilities: +2 Str, +1 Con (-1 Cha optional)
- Age: Wolven reach maturity at 14 and can live to about 70 years old.
- Appearance: Wolven are canine humanoids ranging from 6 to 7 feet tall, with muscular builds (medium; about 250 to 300 lb.). Their fur gets lighter with age, starting out black or brown and becoming gray and white. They have brown, gray, or blue eyes, plus tails.
- Claws: These humanoids can inflict 1d4+Str modifier damage with unarmed strikes.
- Keen Nose: Wolven get advantage on Survival: Tracking checks involving scent.
- Movement: Wolven move at 40 ft./round and can walk up to 30 miles per day on even terrain without difficulty, so they don’t ride horses, which are skittish around them anyway.
Vision: Wolven have low-light vision, so they can see in dim light as if it were bright light, to 60 ft. They are often color-blind.
- Alignment: Wolven tend from Lawful Neutral to Chaotic Good.
- Languages: Barbari, Kestollan (Dwarven), common (Hifalendorin human)
Proficiencies: Athletics, broad sword, Perception, spear, Stealth, Survival (plains/steppes)
History/Society: Wolven (singular Wolfen) are canine humanoids who arrived in the “Vanished Lands” from the “Land of Lost Souls” over a century ago. They can be found in the barbaric Gusorin Confederation on the central Plains of Sathendo or on the northern steppes.
The wolf-like humanoids are proud to recall that they once ruled a mighty empire, and some packs still hold to its harsh code of honor. Most Wolven have become semi-nomadic tribes, similar to those of later Native Americans of the Northern Plains.
Wolven generally do not like their southern, hyena-like cousins, the Gnolls and Flinds, but they are still technically the same species as them, the eastern Kitsune (fox folk), and the desert Anpur (jackal folk). Wolven berserkers are particularly dangerous, and they do not like being mistaken for lycanthropes.
Packs and tribes of Wolven are patriarchal, well-organized, and cautiously aggressive. They respect Dwarves, Minotaurs, and Skaevingol (Scandinavian-style) humans, but they consider other Barbari as rivals and often look down on other societies.
These canids (also related to Vargr) do not wear much clothing, but they fashion hides and feathers into braided harnesses or packs. They are also known for their steak tartare. Wolven trackers are much sought after in the Ivory and Bamor Mountains.