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Adventurers of Varisia
Adventurous spirits from every walk of life seek their fortunes in Varisia. Here are some of the most likely in these dangerous lands.
Numerous barbaric peoples inhabit the lands of northern Varisia, most notably the proud Shoanti, the feral-born of the Mierani Forest, and foreign raiders from both the orc-ruled Hold of Belkzen and the brutal Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Upon the Storval Plateau, the raging warriors of the Shoanti prove the most numerous, with the barbarians of the Lyrune-Quah, Shadde-Quah, and Sklar-Quah being especially renowned for their abandon in battle. Many of the Shoanti’s greatest warriors exhibit ties to their tribal totems and draw upon those spirits for aid in battle.
Beyond the Shoanti, the sea-raiders of the Linnorm Kings and orc marauders of Belkzen sometimes wander Varisia, either questing to prove their prowess or to escape the brutality of their people. Some elves of the Mierani Forest also embrace the feral ways of beasts, living like animals to better understand their land and drive out the taint that festers within.
Performers of all types travel to Varisia in hopes of making names for themselves and studying the unique performances of the land’s native people. Among these populations, entrancing Varisian dancers spin to the boisterous pace of their peoples’ traditional songs, while Shoanti thunder callers sing down the heroics of the departed. Among the nonhuman races, the elves weave rich traditions of dance, music, and song into hypnotically beautiful displays, dwarven forge ringers craft wondrous works of art with the songs of their hammers, and gnome storytellers fascinate any who listen with their elaborate tales. The puzzle masters of Riddleport and performers at the Echohall of Magnimar and Her Imperial Majestrix’s Melodeum also travel widely to demonstrate their talents.
Aside from performers, well-traveled bards learn much of Varisia and its history. The tales of countless monuments, natural wonders, and bygone mysteries prove invaluable in a land so haunted by its own past. Those who cultivate these skills—especially Arcana, History, and Nature—gain great insight into the land’s seemingly endless secrets.
Worldly hunters of Erastil, mindful priests of Irori, seductive followers of Calistria, and marauding fanatics of Rovagug: the faithful of nearly every religion known to Golarion are found in Varisia. While the rare temple might appear in the villages and cities of the southern lands, religion most often comes to the people informally, either in the hearts of devoted worshipers or in the words of wandering ministers. Pious towns too small to host multiple temples often build communal places of worship dedicated to deities of local importance.
Beyond the typically good- and neutral-aligned temples of the south, the region’s Varisian wanderers possess a strong traditional belief in Desna, while the Shoanti revere abstract powers of nature, their ancestors, and tribal totems. Many of the monstrous races of Varisia perform blood sacrifices in the names of Lamashtu and Rovagug.
The civilized peoples of Varisia most commonly worship one of six deities: Abadar, Desna, Erastil, Gozreh, Sarenrae, and Shelyn.
Defenders of nature wage a subtle war in Varisia. For decades, outsiders have come to plunder the land of her wild treasures and take advantage of the native races. The druids of Varisia have ever fought to confound such efforts. Among the Shoanti—already fierce protectors of the land—some follow the path of the druid, using their magic to aid their people and live at peace with nature. Within the Mierani Forest, the region’s eldest druidic circle works to overcome the malady that afflicts the heart of that wilderness. Small communities and individuals guard many other natural holdfasts, with the druids of the Churlwood, Sanos Forest, Mushfens, and Stony Mountains being the most active. Beyond these groups, many of Varisia’s druids are, in fact, strangers themselves, natives of other lands or agents of larger druidic circles who view Varisia as unspoiled and deserving of protection.
Varisia’s druids are keenly sympathetic to the moods and whims of the land. To assist them, most local druids befriend creatures native to the region, typically beasts of the vast forests and hills, dire animals of the mountains and plateau, or the numerous indigenous creatures unknown beyond Varisia’s border mountains.
Many live and die by the blade in Varisia, and numerous breeds of warrior do battle upon its soil. The warrior tribes of the Shoanti teach their children the basics of the hammer and sling, giving them the knowledge to hunt for and defend their tribe. Savage raiders from the Hold of Belkzen prove their prowess through their scars, raiding and fighting in the Warpits of Urglin for the love of bloodshed. The Mierani elves cultivate their people’s ancient skill with bows and long blades to defend their forest homes. In Janderhoff, wall wardens heft the axes of their fathers and wear rune-carved ancestral armor to guard their mines and forges. The pirates of Riddleport clash their rapiers against the axes of raiders from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Lone sheriffs and constables keep the peace in numerous southern communities, while the soldiers of Magnimar and Korvosa ever seek to spread the colors of their city-states. And wherever there is such need, mercenaries and adventurers sell their swords to anyone with the coin to pay.
While found elsewhere in Golarion, no martial monastic tradition holds strong ties to Varisia. The closest Varisia has to native martial arts are the brawlers of the Shoanti, warriors who see weapons as a weakness and seek to forge their bodies into instruments of war. Practiced most commonly by members of the Sklah-Quah and Skoan-Quah, these battle regimens callous the warrior’s body and teach him where to punch and grab to do the greatest harm.
Despite Varisia’s lack of monasteries and organized fighting schools, there are still some who call themselves monks and practice techniques of battle from foreign lands. Traveling alongside clerics of Irori, monks devoted to self-perfection and the lethality of the body guard their brethren in the faith. Travelers from the far south, the lands of Tian Xia, and other exotic locales sometimes appear in southern ports, bringing with them the occult battle arts of their people.
Although Varisia lacks much of the social structure that typically gives rise to knightly orders, this lawlessness makes the need for paladins and honorable warriors all the more great. When barbarians and monsters menace those who would live and toil in peace, few stand to come to such peoples’ aid. To protect their faithful and spread their teachings among the faithless, several religions have sent their champions to Varisia. The churches of Abadar and Erastil hold particular interest in the land. Abadar’s champions travel between the communities of the land, acting as wandering judges and law-bringers in their goal of forging a unified, law-abiding society from this land of savages and thieves. Those who follow Erastil know the dangers and hardships faced by those alone on the fringes of civilization, and they go where they are needed, aiding in what ways they can. Although the militaristic arms of these churches appear most active, the faithful of all the deities of Golarion can be found at work throughout the land.
Beyond the servants of individual gods, members of a divergent, grim order of paladins (and ex-paladins) might also be found. Korvosa—in its traditional ties to Cheliax— enthusiastically supplies Citadel Vraid, bastion of the Hellknight Order of the Nail. The Chelaxian Hellknights pay homage to no deity, but rather bend the rigid law and infernal traditions of Hell to their will. Made up primarily of grave humans and dwarves, along with the occasional half-orc or centaur, these fiercely devoted servants of Cheliax seek to further their empire’s interests in the region, preparing southern Varisia for its inevitable return to Chelish rule and subjugating the land’s rebellious barbarians and demihumans.
A wild land of untamed wildernesses and incredible beasts, Varisia is an explorer’s paradise. Those with skill at hunting, tracking, and surviving in uncivilized places find their talents in great demand. In the south, rangers serve as some of the most active providers and protectors of numerous small communities, while some organized bands in the employ of Magnimar and Korvosa guard whole regions for the city-states. Both the nomadic Varisians and Shoanti survive off the land, making skilled hunters and wayfinders honored members of their communities. The rangers of the [Mierani Forest|Mierani]] and Sanos forests also stealthfully protect the leaf-shrouded homes of their people.
Hunters in Varisia face wildly different creatures depending on where they wander, with those trained to hunt such beasts finding no end of prey. Along the coastal and southern lands, deadly animals, vermin, goblinoids, and the occasional undead harass Varisia’s civilized peoples. The forests, hills, and plateaus beyond play home to deadlier animals, savage humanoids, and fey, while within the land’s wildest realms dwell magical beasts, fierce dragons, and tribes of savage giants.
On the fringes of civilization, all manner of outlaws and opportunists flourish. The land’s best known rogues are a subculture of its native people, the Varisians. While their reputation for thievery and deception is well known, even outside Varisia, not all of the region’s native wanderers are deceitful scoundrels—but enough are to make the reputation stick. These rogues belong to a loosely organized association of bandits, smugglers, and thieves called the Sczarni. The Sczarni rarely prey upon other natives of the land, the Shoanti being dangerous marks with little of value, and clan traditions make scamming other Varisians taboo. Thus, southerners and foreigners most often fall prey to Sczarni scams. Rarely malicious in their crimes, the Sczarni are skilled pickpockets, liars, and thieves of opportunity, taking what they need and what might aid their people. As such, food, horses, and unattended goods often make more attractive takes than raw coin.
Besides the Varisians, both Magnimar and Korvosa host active criminal communities. Two thieves’ guilds—the Gargoyles and the Night Scales— uncomfortably share rowdy Magnimar, the former with interests on the city’s wealthy and elite, while the latter seems content to bilk the poor and unwitting foreigners. In Korvosa, any whisper of a thieves’ guild is crushed by a mysterious crime syndicate tied to one of the city’s wealthier families. While few know which family monopolizes the city’s black market of drugs, slaves, and illegal magics, none dare oppose them. Yet, perhaps the best known den of thieves in Varisia is the pirate haven of Riddleport, with cultic Kaer Maga and savage Urglin close seconds.
Aside from criminals, those with quick wits and stealth might find all manner of work across Varisia. Deft sleuths, scouts, and explorers might serve the city-states or a wide variety of organizations interested in Varisia’s past.
Magic infuses the lands of Varisia, and great destinies beckon those who hear the calling of their blood. Carved into countless monuments and inked upon the skin of its native peoples, symbols of ancient might cover the land. The enigmatic Varisians know these runes best. The clans carefully watch their young for any signs of innate arcane ability and encourage even the faintest spark of the arcane. They view magic as part of their birthright, each knowing the elaborate symbols they inscribe upon their flesh to draw forth and enhance the power within their blood. While these markings give many of the wanderers an exotic, even fearful appearance, Varisians see the trepidation of the ignorant as a paltry price to pay for access to the immortal powers of their ancestors. Varisia’s other natives, the Shoanti, also feel the pulse of innate arcane prowess, but rarely indulge such talent. With the exception of the Lyrune-Quah and Skoan-Quah, magic is viewed as the trickery of cowards, useful only in the hands of a few shamans and medicine workers.
Aside from these seemingly magic-favored peoples, sorcerous skill arises haphazardly. The most affluent of Korvosa’s Chelish families claim to frequently sire scions with innate arcane skills as the result of diabolical favor (although luck and selective breeding often has more influence on these spurious claims). Sorcerers are also found in number among the Sanos gnomes, as is common for the fey-touched people.
Of all the native peoples of Varisia, warlocks are found only among the Chelaxians, and generally only among those residents of Korvosa who cling most closely to the old ways. Fey-bound warlocks, on the other hand, are not at all uncommon among the gnomes of the Sanos Forest, with their close ties to the First World.
Drawn to its arcane secrets and ancient sites of power, wizards the world over come to explore Varisia. Among the native peoples, wizards are relatively rare—the Varisians favor sorcerous magic while the Shoanti favor the ways of clerics and druids. Diverse other methods of magic have filled the gap left by the natives’ disinterest, however. In Janderhoff, dwarven mage smiths magically empower items of incredible craftsmanship. In Magnimar, the city’s countless monuments have given rise to an interest in constructs and their creations, a fad enhanced by the new city-funded golem-works. Chelish devil binders employ the dangerous magics of their homeland to enslave fiends to the will of Korvosa’s people. And, in the ruin-city of Kaer Maga, whole cults of depraved wizards plumb the ageless halls for secrets, unleashing forgotten things they can only hope to command.
Those who seek to learn magic or who require arcane advice can find hedge wizards, sages, and small shops of magical trinkets scattered throughout southern Varisia. More formally, a fledgling school of magic has recently been established in Galduria, and the dark mages of Kaer Maga might perform any magical task—no matter how depraved—for the proper price. The elves also have their own school of wizardry on the haunted fringes of Celwynvian, the magnificent Tower of Stars.