A strange campaign
Human sub-races in Varisia
he Shoanti live harsh lives guided by pride and tradition. Once the Shoanti considered all of Varisia their territory, but after years of war with encroaching Chelaxians, the tribes found themselves pushed into the northern reaches of the country. Now the Shoanti roam the Storval Plateau and surrounding areas, divided into seven quahs (“clans”). It is not an easy life, but the Shoanti take pride in having the tenacity and skill to live amid such harsh lands as the Cinderlands, where many other races would falter and die.
Most Shoanti are humans, but occasionally a tribe adopts a member of another race. The Shoanti despise ethnic Chelaxians, half-orcs, and orcs; such individuals have never been seen in any of the tribes. Their difficult way of life requires the Shoanti to be hardy, physically powerful people, and they excel at survival and combat. Shoanti tribes possess many traditions handed down from their ancestors, and their lives are guided by countless rituals and superstitions. The Shoanti sometimes find it difficult to preserve their cultural beliefs in the face of the wars and hardships they constantly face, but they consider the loss of their traditions a more devastating fate than the extinction of their race.
assionate and fiercely independent, Varisians lend their name to their homeland, Varisia. While these clannish wanderers can be found throughout the world, nowhere are larger populations found than in the land of their ancestors.
Insular and adhering to an ancient, nomadic way of life, extended families of Varisians form wandering communities, traveling wherever fate directs them. Varisians don’t believe in claiming land and thus see no hardship in their nomadism. While nature provides for most of their needs, these wanderers often visit the cities and towns of settled people to trade art and curios from their travels, earn coin by entertaining and performing small jobs, and sometimes to con and steal from the unwary. Varisians are also known for their unique mysticism. Some believe their traditional dances provide insights into the future and their family elders can hear the voices of the long dead.
The typical Varisian possesses deep olive skin and hair that ranges from black to auburn, often worn long by both men and women. Customary tattooing leads most to exhibit complex patterns and symbols significantly different from those worn by the Shoanti who share their homeland. As wanderers and—often—entertainers, Varisian dress tends toward extremes, from functional garb fit for traveling to wildly impractical dress meant to accentuate their dancing, exotic tattoos, and naturally fit forms.
eyond the Mindspin Mountains and far to the south lies the cosmopolitan heresy of Cheliax. Once an empire of unquestioned might, the death of the empire’s god Aroden allowed the rise of a diabolical aristocracy who treat with the denizens of Hell to afford their endless decadence and eternal rule. Although unquestionably depraved and diminished by the loss of its deity, Cheliax remains a beacon of culture, art, and magic that dominates much of the southern part of the continent.
While expansionist Cheliax once coveted the riches of Varisia, its decline has freed its colonies to their own fates. Now, the most powerful of Cheliax’s city-states, monument-haunted Magnimar and imperial-minded Korvosa, vie for control of its abandoned Varisian holdings.
In these cities and the numerous vassal settlements of each, the majority of the populace can trace their ancestry to the sharpfeatured people of Cheliax. Chelaxians possess dark hair and eyes contrasted by pale skin—along with a taste for artistic fineries and high art—and the far-reaching and polyethnic holdings of Cheliax allow humans of varied heritages to claim Chelish descent. So numerous and varied are these immigrants that the natives of Varisia now simply refer to all humans not of Varisian or Shoanti blood as Chelaxians.