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Tell me of Nentir Vale

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
I am aware that "Nentir Vale" is sort of the "default setting" for the 4th edition of D&D - but I know very little about it. I am aware that there is no real "setting book" for Nentir Vale, but all sorts of references in assorted products.

So I am curious - what do we actually know about Nentir Vale? What is its geography, its settlements, its monsters and factions? What supplements have the most information on it?

Educate me, please!
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
The actual Nentir Vale was a sizable swath of territory covered as a "default starting town" in the back of the 4e DMG, as EvilSchemer pointed out.

The bestiary "Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale" also fleshes out indigenous dangers, ranging from local monsters to local evil organizations, such as the Bloodspear Orcs, the Iron Legion, and so forth.

Two "mini-gazetteers" cover notable locations in the Nentir Vale world; the tiefling ruins of Vor Rukoth, and the dwarven outpost of Hammerfast, which is home to an uneasy truce between dwarves and orcs due to being built over a necropolis sacred to both races.

Dragon Magazine is home to most of the lore we have on the Nentir Vale world itself. In addition a large array of one-off articles that examine notable locations, there was also two article series; Guilds & Groups was aimed specifically at fleshing out various organizations that exist within the Nentir Vale world, whilst Nerathi Legends, a tie-in to the boardgame "Conquest of Nerath" (?), examines various kingdoms from across the wider Nentir Vale world map.

I've got a GoogleDoc index of all 4e Dragon & Dungeon articles by issue, with a basic summary of each article's contents, if that would be of any help?

I've also been considering starting a Let's Read of the Nentir Vale "worldbuilding articles", and maybe even adding Vor Rukoth and Hammerfast to the bundle. Should I do that?
 

ezekiel

Follower of the Way
Validated User
Ooh, I get to talk about dragonborn because people *asked* about it! Maybe not directly, mind, but it is actually relevant.

So, Nentir Vale is a largeish segment of the former human-run kingdom of Nerath, which was the most recent major civic power in the "Points of Light" setting (hereafter PoLand, though you may also see it called 'the world of Nentir Vale' or 'Eustace.') Nerath may have originally been a province or house within a previous human (later tiefling) empire, Bael Turath--I don't think an explicit link was ever articulated, but the similarity of names makes a connection at least plausible. We know that Nerath was around for a couple centuries, but the capital was destroyed by...goblin or hobgoblin armies, can't remember which, and has remained destroyed and mostly if not entirely uninhabited (by PC races, anyway) for a long enough time that it doesn't really seem like Nerath is going to make a comeback, unless the PCs do something. Enough of the infrastructure that Nerath built continues to exist, much like Roman roads and aqueducts, so several of the non-capital cities of Nerath continue to exist, but they're on the decline. That's a large part of the "Points of Light" concept: the setting has a few, small, flickering lights of peace and civilization in a world otherwise largely falling into banditry, destruction, and loss of knowledge and history. It might be salvageable if people of ambition and scruple intervene, but it might also be just the early part of a loss of most everything until an entirely new civilization rises. (Sorta like how Rome's collapse didn't completely erase European culture, but Mycenaean Greece's collapse pretty much erased their culture, down to even the knowledge of writing, and the Hellenic Greeks who replaced them had to rebuild most of their physical and intellectual infrastructure from scratch/importation.)

But that's just "recent" history--like I said, perhaps the past 500-800 years. Before that, you had the great, ruinous war between Bael Turath and Arkhosia, the war that exhausted two superpowers until their societies collapsed completely, never to fully rise again.

Arkhosia was a Dragonborn nation, and despite typical assumptions that they revered Bahamut above all, their main objects of worship were Erathis, Ioun, and Kord, emphasizing that their rule was less about honor and justice per se and more about law, knowledge, and strength in and of themselves--though it may have been that different factions within Arkhosia treated either Bahamut or Tiamat as representations of all three (the sage lawgiver and implacable guardian vs. the cunning conqueror and unstoppable avenger). Their society is at least implied to be somewhat Roman, as the empire originally formed around a collection of seven city-states (e.g. the seven hills of Rome) that came under the rule of an ancient Gold dragon only called the "Golden One." Arkhosia is implied to have had something of a spartan outlook on life, relatively austere in part because their homeland was a relatively arid place already and thus couldn't support much in the way of decadence. However, in keeping with the Roman theme, the dragonborn of Arkhosia were not exactly nice people: their society might have been the more "noble" of the two, but they freely engaged in slavery and extracting resources from conquered territories, which is why Bael Turath did whatever it could to avoid being conquered.

Bael Turath was, as noted, originally a human nation, but its interest in darker arts meant that it had a tendency to dabble in devil-summoning. Before long, many noble houses had dalliances with devils, and thus many among the nobility (and likely other classes as well) were born tieflings. Their society is implied to have been basically opposite the Arkhosian austerity, being rather more prone to excess of various sorts. They almost certainly also engaged in slavery, and possibly other dark things like blood magic, though that might be me misremembering. Either way, Turath wasn't exactly a great place to live unless you were wealthy or useful--Pathfinder's Cheliax is a plausibly similar nation, one where the infernal law of Hell is the law of the land.

Ironically, Erathis actually wanted Arkhosia and Bael Turath to fight--she didn't care which one of them won, as long as someone won, so that there would be one law over all the world. This...didn't work out the way she expected. Skirmishes became battles, battles became campaigns, campaigns became long, drawn-out wars that never really reached conclusive results. In the end, Arkhosia was probably the stronger of the two in terms of military might, but Bael Turath's infernal assistance gave them an edge in magic that even actual battlefield dragons couldn't quite match. Arkhosia conquered a lot of Turathi territory, but the Turathi countered with their own lethal blow: a curse on the Arkhosian heartland that turned merely dry land into actively inhospitable desert. With Arkhosia theoretically triumphant but dying from within, and (apparently) the death of the Golden One to cement the political and social destruction, neither nation survived. A diaspora of the citizens of Arkhosia followed, since their homeland became to inhospitable to remain in.

Curiously, most modern dragonborn and tieflings actually have a sort of wary respect for each other. For dragonborn in particular, they refuse to see modern tieflings as being defined by the actions of their ancestors. Rather, tieflings are a force to be reckoned with: if their collective might was enough to fight to mutual-destruction vs. the greatest dragonborn nation that has ever been, they must be worthy foes, or valuable allies. I can't recall if there's been specific statements about the Bael Turathi side but I'm sure there's something similar.
 

Snoof

Time-Travelling Layabout
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Here's a map of the Vale itself:



Fallcrest is the largest population centre, while Hammerfast and Winterhaven are smaller cities/towns. I'm currently running Reavers of Harkenwold, which puts that region as a handful of small farming villages.

We know that Nerath was around for a couple centuries, but the capital was destroyed by...goblin or hobgoblin armies, can't remember which.
Yeenoghu-worshiping gnolls, I think, although orcs, goblins and hobgoblins were also involved in the fall of Nerath. I'm pretty sure it was orcs who destroyed Gardmore Abbey.
 

Thane of Fife

Registered User
Validated User
Fallcrest is the largest population centre, while Hammerfast and Winterhaven are smaller cities/towns. I'm currently running Reavers of Harkenwold, which puts that region as a handful of small farming villages.
Hammerfast is actually much larger than Fallcrest - the Essentials DM Kit lists Fallcrest as something like 1300 people, and Hammerfast as something like 12,000.
 

Snoof

Time-Travelling Layabout
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Hammerfast is actually much larger than Fallcrest - the Essentials DM Kit lists Fallcrest as something like 1300, and Hammerfast as something like 12,000.
Oh, huh. I didn't know that.

Guess I need to rewrite my mental map of the region.
 

JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
The Nentir Vale is the most concentrated bit of fleshed out area in the 4E default setting, but there are a lot of details (individual cities and important locations) that are located outside of it. It's just that unlike the Nentir Vale itself there are no maps showing how these places relate to each other. And a lot of the iconic 4E locations, like the city of Mithrendain in the Feywild or Gloomwrought in the Shadowfell, are on other planes anyway.

Personally I always thought the Nentir Vale was crammed a little bit TOO full. It really bugs me that the whole Chaos Scar is part of it and not a new area off the edge of the map, and I don't like having Thunderspire right in the middle either - it feels too esoteric to be so central. I'd have put Thunderspire in one of the mountain ranges bordering the map, so that one way to travel out of the Vale is to find a way through the labyrinth under the mountain.

Hmm. I guess other than that it feels about right.
 
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