The Sword Coast, a portion of what is often called “The North” by those living in the more well settled portions of Faerun, is a harsh and untamed wilderness dotted with fortified settlements and the lairs of terrible monsters. In hundreds of bloodcurdling tales of danger and hardship, the North is portrayed as a vast, cold, and lawless domain that defies all attempts to civilize it. Grim dwarfholds, tribes of fierce barbarians, and half-legendary elf realms might stand for a short time, but none have yet to last as long as the kingdoms, fiefdoms and republics found elsewhere in Faerun. All too often an orc horde or a flight of dragons sweeps them away, leaving nothing but mile upon unmapped mile of wilderness in their wake.

The Sword Coast sits in the most Northwest portion of the continent known as Faerun. This super continent, though not alone on the Material Plane, is the nerve center of mortal life there. Faerun itself is a massive landmass with a long and storied history. Situated underneath the continent is a vast series of caves, pits, crevasses and caverns nearly as large as Faerun itself. This place is known colloquially as The Underdark. The denizens of the Underdark, in most locales in Faerun, are treated as the stuff of horror stories. The kind of things one may threaten their child with to keep them in line. “Do your chores, or the Drow may come to gobble up your toes!” Little do most folk know of the true depravity that runs rampant in the secluded places of the Underdark.

Besides the Underdark, there are other places in Faerun where typical mortals rarely set foot. One of these places is the mountain range that separates the rest of Faerun from the Endless Ice Sea and the Sea of Moving Ice. This range as a whole is called The Spine Of The World. Only a few passageways exist through this treacherous landscape; and even fewer safe ones. Travelers through the mountain passes are often beset upon by all manner of monsters that call this part of Faerun their home. From Giants to Griffins, Dragons to Orcs; there is no telling what dangers exist in this almost entirely unexplored mountain range.

The Savage Frontier, as it is called by most denizens on Faerun, is another of the regions that comprises The North. This region lies between the Sword Coast and the desert of Anauroch, extending as far north as Icewind Dale and as far south as the city of Waterdeep. The denizens of this region, and the The North in general, are accustomed to cool, mild summers and fierce, bitter winters. Beacons of civilization hug the edges of the safer Sword Coast and dot the fertile river valleys, yet despite the abundant natural resources and scenic beauty, survival is a day-to-day concern for the people who live here. Oftentimes the term Sword Coast is used to describe both the Sword Coast proper and the Savage Frontier.

Just to the East of the Sword Coast, situated in The Savage Frontier are a series of river valleys. These fertile valleys enjoy comparatively lush harvests and serve as the bread basket of the region. Life here is no easier though, and often its sparse population means entire settlements vanish without anyone even knowing for years. Some of the major rivers running through this region are the Delimbyr, the Rauvin, the Dessarin, the Redrun, and the Surbrin. These rivers run southward, fed by the icy mountains to the North.

The North is a land of great mineral wealth and seemingly limitless stands of timber. Here one can also find the wealth of history; the plunder of lost civilizations such as Illefarn and Eaerlann, the ancient kingdoms of the gold elves; Delzoun, a long-buried nation of dungeon-dwelling dwarves; and Netheril, a fallen empire of human and elven spellcasters. Throughout the Savage Frontier lie the ruins and dungeons of these and other “forgotten realms.” Cities such as Waterdeep, Mirabar, and Neverwinter would like to claim this wealth and knowledge for themselves, but enforcing such claims is next to impossible. The cities have a hard enough time protecting their farmlands and roads from brigands and monsters. Even powerful alliances such as The Lord’s Alliance or the alliance in the Silver Marches have trouble doing much more than maintaining their footholds.

The area known as The North or sometimes referred to entirely as The Sword Coast ends in the vast desert to the West known as Anauroch. This wasteland is cold and desolate. Orcs, Barbarians and others who have been slowly driven Westward by expansion in the Sword Coast have taken to living in these lands and raiding for resources. Only a single road exists to traverse the wasteland. This road is aptly named “The Black Road” for the danger associated with crossing the desert. Most traders and diplomats prefer to take another route; either detouring far South to go around, or traveling by ship to reach their destination. Only the most desperate of soul dares take on the Black Road; and only a few have ever returned.

It is here, in the dangerous North, that you have found a life of adventure and danger.

Next: The Alliances of The North