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The Demography of Karameikosby Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 1
In this article we provide an overview of the population of Karameikos– how many people inhabit the Grand Duchy, which races, how the population is spread among the country, population density, and so on. First, we will see how Karameikos is described in official supplements, then we will suggest a different approach to the issue of Karameikan population, based on population figures inspired by a comparison with real-world demographic data in the Middle Ages. The goal is to present figures which are more in line with those of European Middle Age countries, while preserving the low-magic, mostly-wilderness character that identifies the Karameikan region.
KARAMEIKAN POPULATION IN OFFICIAL SUPPLEMENTS
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is perhaps the oldest defined setting of what would have later become the world of Mystara. As such, its description in the official sources has undergone a series of changes, at least one of which was quite thorough.
In early D&D supplements – like the 1981’s Expert Rulebook, 1983’s Expert Set, adventure modules B6 – The Veiled Society, B10 – Night’s Dark Terror, and X10 – Red Arrow, Black Shield – the Grand Duchy was described as a nearly-unsettled land, mostly wilderness, without proper urban settlements. At this stage, the only town of the country was Specularum (which was said to be inhabited by about5000 people). Other settlements were village-sized: for example, Threshold and Luln had500 people each, Rifllian 170, the whole gnome population in the Highforge area was620, and so on.
Later supplements, starting with GAZ1 – The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, increased the urban population of the country tenfold: Specularum became a large city of50,000 people, Threshold and Luln towns of5,000, Highforge a gnomish town of 7,500, and so on. Unfortunately, GAZ1 gave no figures for the country’s total population. Subsequent supplements, namely the three books belonging to the Poor Wizard’s Almanac series, at last gave their own estimates about Karameikos’ population, setting it at about 300,000 not counting humanoids- 250,000 humans, 40,000 elves, and10,000 other demihumans. TM2 – The Eastern Countries Trail Map also gave a total population figure of280,000, without explaining if this number actually included demi-humans or not.
Now, while this 300,000 figure is quite acceptable for a mostly-wilderness country like the Karameikos shown in earlier supplements, it is quite difficult to use it with the tenfold-increased urban population of GAZ1. In fact, even considering only settlements with 10,000 people or more (namely Specularum, Kelvin, and Fort Doom), we end up having an urban population which amounts to about 30% of total population– which is not at all in line with real-world Middle Age known population densities.
Normally, tracing a comparison between high-fantasy, high-magic settings and the real world would be tricky, because things like clerical magic (with create food and water spells and the like) and other supernatural ways to feed a large number of people could alter the population figures and the urban-rural population ratio quite a lot. However, Karameikos is quite a low-magic setting - a Medieval-style feudal country where magic does not seem to be a feature of everyday life; thus, real-world demography can indeed be used as inspiration and reference to solve some of the issues to which Karameikan population figures shown in official supplements give birth.
A LOOK AT MEDIEVAL DEMOGRAPHY
While not an exact science, real-world Medieval demography has brought to light some estimates which help us understand the population levels of Europe during the Middle Ages. Without going into too much detail, and just for the sake of some comparisons, let us consider some data. In the 15th century, France, a country for which many historical sources are available, had an overall density of80 people per square mile, ranging from150 in the area surrounding Paris, to100 in the most settled areas (Normandy, Picardy, Savoy, and Burgundy), to 60 in most of the average-populated country (central France, Provence, Champagne), to less than40 in scarcely populated areas (like the Pyrenees and Gascony). Tuscany, in the same years, had an average density of about100, while Florence’s countryside even reached 240 inhabitants per square mile (without counting cities). The eastern and northern regions of Europe were much less populous: the Balkans had about23 inhabitants per square mile, while Scandinavia had 5.5 and Russia 7.3. Urbanization (cities with10,000 people or more) was very low: it went from 18% in Italy and the Low Countries, to12% of Spain, to 5% of France and the Balkans to 0% of places like Scandinavia and Scotland. The urban-rural population ratio of 1:20 was thus exceeded only in very rare cases and even then only in countries (like the Italian peninsula) with a stable and old urban tradition, and/or where cities had become centers of trade and politics.
POSSIBLE TAKES ON KARAMEIKAN DEMOGRAPHY
Back to our Grand Duchy; a frontier land like Karameikos, with 300,000 people and an overall density of 7.6 inhabitants per square mile, can hardly justify an urban population of30% in a Medieval-style setting. This holds true even if the impact of magic in your campaign is considered; to actually justify the above number, the magic theme needs to be pushed well over the limits of the low-magic description of Karameikos given in GAZ1– incurring the risk of altering too greatly the classic manner of depicting the Grand Duchy. Of course, a high magic variant is possible, but the goal of this article is to provide two additional, different paths to solve these supposed inconsistencies.
A first solution would be altering the country’s urban population; better said, bringing it back to the levels at which earlier supplements had put them – with no cities, Specularum set at 5,000 people, Threshold at500, and so on. This would solve all the problems posed by the urban-rural population ratio, and will allow you to use the canonical population figures of 300,000. However, towns and cities as described in GAZ1 would need to be shrunk (perhaps creating some inconsistencies with GAZ1’s town and city maps).
A second solution, which this article advocates, is changing the population figures. This will leave intact most of the material featured in GAZ1, but you will end up having a Grand Duchy with a population increased by about 100% in regard to canonical figures. This is not much of a problem as long as you like GAZ1’s version of Karameikos – the Grand Duchy continues to be your favorite monster-filled, mostly-wilderness land. Nevertheless, it will now be more in touch with real-world, 15th century Europe from which the Known World is inspired.
Anyway, in case you prefer to keep official population figures, the last section of this article deals with this issue, suggesting ways to tweak the material presented here toward canonical population figures.
AN OVERALL LOOK AT THE GRAND DUCHY
AREA AND POPULATION
With a surface area of 39,592 square miles, Karameikos is comparable in size to real-world countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, and South Korea, or to US states like Kentucky or Indiana. Most of the country (about 35%) is uninhabited by intelligent creatures like humans, demi-humans, or humanoids, while the rest is- at various degrees of control – held by those races. The human government effectively controls about 39% of Karameikos’ land area, the demi-human clans about12%, and the humanoid tribes another 14%.
Overall population of the Grand Duchy is about621,400 people, including537,800 humans, 41,900 demi-humans, 36,050 humanoids, and 5,650 other creatures (taking into account only the races who are represented by not less than 100 members in the country). Average population density for the whole country is about15.7 people per square mile.
The following table shows data about the land each population group controls directly, their total population, and the average population in the lands they control. Note that, while racial population includes all the members of one group who dwell in Karameikos, average density takes into account only members of that group who live in lands directly controlled by their group. For example, average human population density shown in the table doesn’t take into account the humans living in the wilderness, which are in fact uncontrolled by the government of the Grand Duchy. The same is true for demi-humans, whose population density in the table doesn’t take into account the dwarven and halfling population, who controls no land of their own but lives scattered among the lands of other humans and demi-humans.
Table 1: Land area controlled by each Racial Group
# of 8-mile hexes controlled
% of total country mileage controlled
Total racial population
Average racial density (people per sq. mile)
Demography of Karameikos: Map of Karameikos in AC 1000: showing human population spread and density, and areas under non-human control
LAND CONTROL AND GOVERNMENT
Karameikos is a typical feudal monarchy, where the Grand Duke’s absolute rule is effectively balanced by a number of local powers which hold sway over one part or another of the country’s population or resources. These powers are: the Thyatian aristocracy (ranging from great feudal nobility like the Kelvins or the von Hendrikses, to the lesser nobility of lords and knights, to important titled landowners); the Traladaran families and clans (among which are the most powerful mercantile patrician families like the Torenescu and the Radu, but also old Traladaran landowning nobility like the Marilenev or the Dromilov, as well a number of lesser noble clans like the Sulescu); the trade guilds (Traladaran- or Thyatian-controlled and based mostly in Specularum, but whose influence stretches far beyond the city walls); and the churches (foremost among which are the Church of Traladara and the Church of Karameikos, each with its own clerical and military orders, like the Order of the Griffon).
At present, thirty years since the present Grand Duke’s rise to the throne, integration between the two main human ethnic groups– Traladarans and Thyatians – still goes on slowly. Resentment and hatred against the Thyatian nobility for events like the Thyatian conquest of one century ago or the crushing of the Marilenev Rebellion thirty years ago still runs high among the Traladaran clans who were defeated. This – fear of another Traladaran uprising shall the government weaken itself- is one of the reasons that mostly keeps the Thyatian aristocracy quite tightly allied with the Grand Duke, and which doesn’t allow the formation of a united aristocratic front– regardless of ethnic group– to keep the central power in check, like what happens in most feudal countries of the Known World, like the Empire of Thyatis. On the other hand, the Grand Duke needs the support of the Thyatian aristocracy: Karameikos is still a new land in many aspects, mostly wilderness, a place difficult to control from the capital because of the lack of proper communication routes and of a structured bureaucracy, a country which still needs to be settled and where in the borderlands the civilization still struggles daily against nonhuman creatures and a hostile nature.
In fact, one of the limiting factors of the Grand Duke’s power is indeed his lack of control over most of the Grand Duchy’s lands. Large regions of Karameikos are under the control of powerful demi-human clans: the central forests (from the Radlebb Woods, to the westernmost part of the Dymrak Forest, to the half of the same east of Rugalov River) are the hold of the ancient elven Callarii and Vyalia clans; the hill country between Windrush and Hillfollow Rivers, with its rich mineral deposits, is instead the hold of the gnome clans. Demi-human clans are at worst neutral toward the human government of the Grand Duchy, but there is also a large part of the country which is controlled by hostile humanoid tribes: goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, and their kin hold sway over much of the central Dymrak Forest, the south-western woods, the Cruth Lowlands, the central Black Peaks range, part of the Wufwolde Hills and the Altan Tepes range. Beside the areas under humanoid control, there are those which are the hold of other dangerous creatures, like the frost giants of the northern Altan Tepes range, the stone giants of the Wufwolde Hills, and the dragons– a number of these fierce beasts haunts some of the forests, hills and mountains of Karameikos, where even a number of local draconic kingdoms are found.
LAND OCCUPATION AND SOCIAL CLASSES
Most of the Karameikan human population belong to the commoner social class (98%). Among the commoners, however, various degrees of wealth are represented: from the wretched conditions of the lower classes (mostly peasants, but also unskilled agricultural and city labourers, and beggars), to the middle class (city craftsmen, comfortable landowning peasants, traders, professionals in some field – usually law and accountancy, but also culture, military, and clergy), to the high middle class (wealthy non-noble landowners, and rich merchants, mostly). About2% of the human population belong to the aristocracy: wealthy landowning families who have been granted large tracts of lands and authority to rule over them; human aristocracy is mostly of Thyatian ethnicity, even if some Traladaran families had their titles somewhat confirmed by the new government of the Grand Duke (like the Marilenev, the Dromilov, and so on).
Among demi-humans, social classes are much more blurred– demi-human societies are characterized by a lesser level of inequality and by a greater application of solidarity between family groups- and tend to keep only the distinction among ruling and non-ruling clans. Humanoids have no proper social classes: existing inequalities are based on the use of force – stronger hordes or clans prevail over the weaker ones, and make decisions.
The human population of Karameikos, contrary to the neighboring Thyatian Empire, enjoys a quite high amount of small land ownership, which is mostly spread in the borderlands and in scarcely-populated areas. More fertile and safer areas tend to be the property of rich landowning families, whose wealth comes from land rented to peasant families, because Grand Duke Stefan has abolished both the practices of slavery and of serfdom; this has led to an improvement of peasant conditions, because they have more freedom to move and thus more bargaining power against the landowners.
Foremost among the rich landowners are the members of the aristocracy who have been granted a fief by the government. Many small- and average-sized fiefdoms are found in the more settled areas and in the borderlands they have the duty to defend, while a number of the largest ones are located around important cities or trading towns. Here is a list of the most important domains of the Grand Duchy, with average area, human population, and density.
Table 2: Human Population and Density of Major Domains
(people per sq. mile)
Note that the population figures shown above don’t take into account the small percentage of demi-human population who may be found within those domains. For example, Threshold has a not-negligible population of halflings, gnomes and dwarves, while the Black Eagle Barony hosts some humanoids.
Many other minor noble estates dot the Grand Duchy’s lands: among these are Highdell (north of Threshold), Ourosco, Darinov, and Strolojca (on the coast between the Black Eagle Barony and Sulescu), Brezovo (on the coast between Sulescu and Marilenev), Bergoi and Veseya (on the Castellan River south of Castellan Keep), Glucynthos and Locrida (on the coast south of the Dymrak Forest). These minor estates usually range from 50 to 100 square miles of land, often including a small keep, castle or manor, and at least a medium-sized village, alongside some additional thorps or hamlets; their population varies according to the type of terrain and region in which they are found, ranging roughly from500 to 5,000 people.
Overall, the Grand Duchy has an urban population of 14.5% - “urban population” here meaning only those living in cities with at least10,000 people (that is the capital, Kelvin, and Fort Doom). If we also consider smaller towns down to 1,000 people, this percentage rises to20.4%. These percentages should be taken carefully however, because most of the population of smaller towns is still at least partially employed in agricultural activities which are carried out around the community; this is sometimes also true for larger settlements, like the capital, whose South End is mostly inhabited by agricultural labourers who work in the lands around the city.
Karameikos’ urban population is quite high if we consider that a vast part of the country is barely or sparsely settled. Nevertheless, the southern area of the Grand Duchy around Specularum and other towns like Vorloi and Dmitrov is very densely settled: there a combination of fertile lands, coupled with the vicinity of a huge trade center whose population is always in need for food has favored this level of settlement. This has in turn allowed formation of a big metropolis like Specularum. Quite large cities are also found in other areas of the interior, like the confluence of the Windrush, Highreach and Hillfollow Rivers at Kelvin, and the coast of the Gulf of Halag – both regions have been historical settlement areas during the ages. Elsewhere only small towns are found, often at the edges of border areas, born to protect trade routes or to exploit some natural resources.
Here follows a list of known settlements found in the Grand Duchy, along with their population, if it is known.
Cities and large towns: Fort Doom (pop. 10,000), Kelvin (pop. 20,000), Specularum (pop. 59,800, including about 2,500 demi-humans– the last city census was made in AC985 according to GAZ1, and gave a result of 50,000 city dwellers, but the same supplement confirms that population as of AC 1000 is certainly greater; the given figure of59,800 is a realistic estimate which takes into account a stable increase toward the official population of70,000 reached by Specularum by AC 1013 according to the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs and Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure supplements).
Small towns: Dmitrov (pop. 6,500), Highforge (pop. 7,500, all gnomes and dwarves), Luln (pop. 5,000, including about200 demihumans), Penhaligon (pop. 3,750), Rifllian (pop. 1,700, nearly all Callarii wood elves), Threshold (pop. 5,000, including about500 demihumans), Vorloi (pop. 7,500).
Villages: Callanya (a Callarii village south-east of the Barony of Kelvin), Eltan’s Spring (a small village on the mountain ridge north-east of Threshold), Guido’s Fort (a village on the Shrill River, which flows from the southern spur of Altan Tepes into the Highreach River), Highdell (a mining community north of Threshold), Irenke (a village west of Penhaligon, past the other side of the Hillfollow River), Knosht (in the hill country east of Threshold), Kota-Hutan (a Callarii village in the Hantu Valley, south of the Temple of the Gray Mountain), Marilenev (pop. 900, the village around the old“Castle Marilenev”), Rugalov (pop. 650), Ryania (on the Rugalov River, north of Rugalov), Seragrad (fortified settlement at the confluence of the Castellan and Highreach Rivers), Sisak (pop. 100, a small village on the Westron Road, halfway between Radlebb Keep and Specularum), Stallanford (on the Hillfollow River, north of Penhaligon), Sulescu (pop. 950), Vandevicisny (pop. 100), Verge (pop. 500).
The following entries list in order of their number – from the most numerous to the least numerous – the main races who dwell within Karameikos’ borders. Each entry gives a brief description of that race’s composition (ethnic subgroups, and the like), its holdings in the Grand Duchy, relationships with other races, and some additional information. Note that only races who number at least100 members within Karameikan territory are described here. Other, less-represented races – alongside unintelligent creatures– are found in the following chapter, Fauna and Minor Races.
Humans (pop. 537,800)
Humans constitute the vast majority of the Karameikan population. However, about 90% of Karameikos’ human population lives in less than one-fifth of Karameikos’ total land. In fact, most of the country is still an almost-unsettled wilderness, and even elven and gnomish holdings are devoid of human population. Human settlement areas can be summed up following the table below:
Table 3: Human population density
Numberof 8-mile hexes
% of total mileage
Population density range (people/sq. mile)
Average population density (people/sq. mile)
Total Population per settlement area (averaged)
% of total population (averaged)
34,700 (+ 57,300)*
133,950 (+ 42,800)*
127,400 (+ 13,050)*
* Numbers in parentheses indicate human urban population to be added to population densities.
** Population densities in the country can range from zero (wilderness areas uninhabited by humans) to several thousands (even 20-30,000 in Specularum) people per square mile.
Suburban areas with a very high population density (over 130 people per square mile) are found only in the immediate countryside around the city of Specularum. Being the third or fourth largest seaport in the Known World, the capital of the Grand Duchy is surrounded by a heavily-farmed area where innumerable villages and hamlets of all sizes are found; most of them work to bring to the city its daily sustenance of food.
High population density areas (85-130 people per square mile) are found in the larger region around Specularum, encompassing the country where the old ruins of Krakatos and the village of Marilenev are located; the southernmost coastal areas of the Vorloi and Dmitrov peninsula are classified as having a high population density, as well as the river plains around Kelvin, and the area immediately around Fort Doom, up to the coast. The larger portion of the country’s population lives here, where agriculture is still the main activity, together with herding.
Average-population density areas (41-84 people per square mile) include an even-wider area around the lower flow of the Hillfollow River, both banks of the river up to Kelvin, the Hillfollow’s left bank north of the Barony of Kelvin’s border, the northern part of Vorloi and Dmitrov’s peninsulas, and the northern half of the Black Eagle Barony, and Threshold’s and Luln’s vicinity. Most people in this area live as farmers, but herding, fishing, and logging are common.
Areas with low population density (10-40 people per square mile) are found around the southern more populated lands, where the farming fields leave room to the woods, around the medium course of Hillfollow River, and in the northernmost woods of the Vorloi and Dmitrov peninsula. This level of settlement is found in a tiny strip all around Karameikos’ coasts, from Rugalov to the beginning of the Dmitrov and Vorloi peninsula, and from the border of the Estate of Marilenev westward, toward Sulescu, Vandevicisny, and the Black Eagle Barony. Lands between Luln, Radlebb Keep, and Fort Doom belong to this level of settlement, as do the vicinity of Riverfork Keep, the farmlands south of Threshold, the right bank of the Windrush River from Kelvin to Verge, and the left banks of the Hillfollow River from the borders of the Estate of Penhaligon up to Stallanford. A number of activities are found in those areas, from agriculture, fishing, and logging to herding, boating, trapping, hunting, and a little mining.
Borderlands, which constitute the vast majority- in terms of surface areas – of the lands where humanity is spread, are actually almost uninhabited (1.3-9 people per square mile). Tiny villages, hamlets, and huts are separated by miles, with distances becoming longer in areas further away from the settled lands. Most of the woodlands of southern Karameikos are borderlands: the woods south and north of the Westron Road, those between the Highreach River and the Dymrak Forest, and the woods immediately north of the Eastron Road. Borderlands include also the border areas of the Black Eagle Barony, the southern Cruth Lowlands around the local rivers, the plains south of Verge, vales around Threshold and the lands east of the town, up to the Hillfollow River. The eastern half of the Barony of Kelvin, consisting of moors and forests, belongs to the borderlands as well, as do the outlying areas of the Estate of Penhaligon and the banks of the Hillfollow River past Stallanford, of the Highreach and Castellan rivers. Very few people (less than10%) live in the borderlands, which are dotted with independent settlements and outposts as well as with keeps of nobles– old Traladaran clans or people entitled by the Grand Duke to control far away areas. In the borderlands, agriculture is supplemented by herding, trapping, hunting, logging, boating, fishing, and mining. In fact, what little mining is carried on by the humans in Karameikos takes mostly place in the borderlands.
And then there is the rest of the country, about60% of total land area– which is wilderness (less than 1.3 people per square mile in population density). Civilization has not taken hold there, and most of the wilderness is uninhabited by humans. The sparse population which is found in these areas consists of isolated houses of pioneers, bandit hideouts, exiles’ or fugitives’ shelters, lonely wizard towers, and the like. The government of the Grand Duke only controls this vast part of the country by name – actually most of it is controlled by humanoid tribes, monsters of various types, demihuman clans, and so on.
Karameikos’ humans are split into two main ethnic groups – the Thyatians (15% of total human population) and the Traladarans (65%) - alongside which in the last thirty years has appeared a large percentage of half-bloods descended from intermarriages between the two ethnic groups (18%). Moreover, there is a number of foreign immigrants who populate the larger towns and cities (2%, coming especially from Ylaruam and Darokin). The Thyatians, most recent immigrants, tend to be more numerous in larger population centers and constitute a vast percentage of the noble class; the Traladarans are spread equally in all civilized areas, as well as in border areas of the country.
Elves (pop. 18,800)
A number of elves live in Karameikos, divided into two major alliances of clans of different cultures and traditions; both groupings are essentially independent from the government of the Grand Duchy.
The first grouping is that of the wood elves of the Callarii clan (58% of total elven population), who inhabit the Radlebb Woods (from the woods east of the cursed lands of Koriszegy to the Windrush River, on whose banks the market town of Rifllian is found), the western areas of the Dymrak Forest (as far as possible from the warlike Dymrak goblins), and the wooded hills south of Highforge. A lonely clan also lives in the forested hills north-east of Threshold, while another in the Hantu Valley, in the forested hills north-east of Penhaligon (near the famous Temple of the Gray Mountain). The wood elves live in small woodland communities of about100-200 inhabitants each.
The Callarii are in good standing with Karameikos’ humans and with the country’s government. The clanmasters signed a treaty with the Grand Duke some thirty years ago, in which they agreed to send a number of their warriors to Specularum to serve as the elite Elvenguard of the Grand Duke, while receiving full acknowledgment of their autonomy by Stefan Karameikos. Since then, about two hundred Callarii elves and their immediate relatives now live in Specularum. A number of other Callarii elves also live scattered among human settlements, and elven rangers, adventurers, and sometimes bandits can be found wandering the borderlands of the Grand Duchy.
Of the 10,900 or so Callarii who live in Karameikos, about 7,800 live in the Radlebb Woods, where many of their tree-villages are found. In the eastern half of the woods, elven densities reach an average7 people per square mile, while in the western half the average lowers from 4 people to 1 people per square mile. The elves avoid entirely the forest near the cursed lands of Koriszegy. About900 wood elves are found in the westernmost part of the Dymrak Forest, nearer to the Barony of Kelvin; population density there averages2.5 people per square mile. Elven holdings in the forested hills south of Highforge, where about 650 wood elves live, average 4 people per square mile. Another about 750 wood elves live scattered in small settlements outside the main elven lands – like the Hantu Valley east of the Duke’s Road, which houses around500 of them– or wandering in the wilderness. The remaining 800 or so wood elves live in the human settlements (mainly Threshold, Luln, and Specularum).
A second group is that of the Vyalia clans (40% of the total elven population), who belong to the fair elf stock. They inhabit the eastern parts of the Dymrak Forest, beyond the Rugalov River and to the south-east of the Lake of Lost Dreams. There are about 7,500 of them, with an average population density of 3.7 people per square mile – lower in western areas nearer to the Rugalov River, higher in the forest near the Thyatian border. The Karameikans tend to consider the Vyalia a more reserved and mysterious lot than the Callarii, even if it is known that they are in good standing with the Thyatian Empire. All the Vyalia clans pledge fealty to the Greenheight clanmaster, who rules from Greenheight town (in the County of Vyalia, Thyatis) and holds the rank of Count in the imperial hierarchy. The Thyatian County of Vyalia includes only the small eastern part of the forest inhabited by the Vyalia, around the Kerenda River; the rest, up to the Rugalov River, while nominally under the control of Karameikos, is effectively uncontrolled by the Grand Duke. The Vyalia clans consider the whole lands from Rugalov River to Kerenda River theirs, and they roam it freely. The percentage of Vyalia elves shown here only takes into account the clans who inhabit the areas of the Dymrak Forest which are found within the nominal borders of Karameikos– the whole Vyalia population, including the elves who dwell within Thyatian borders, amounts to nearly 20,000 elves.
A lonely clan of fair elves, the Lindenelm, lives in the eastern half of the Achelos Woods (1% of total elven population). Lindenelm elves are the last remnants of the mercenary clans that sided with a Taymoran necromancer-king after civil war erupted in that realm thousands of years ago. The upper ranks of those mercenaries, who had earlier helped the Taymorans in their wars against the giants, had mixed fully with the decadent Taymor society, adopting the worship of Nyx and committing heinous crimes during the Taymoran age. When the Taymoran civilization collapsed, this elven ruling class was overthrown. The Lindenelm ancestors, while not involved in the worst excesses of their kin, were still ostracized by the Vyalia, and forced to flee the eastern forests. They settled in the Achelos Woods, but their population never grew to a significant extent- the clan nowadays has about 100 members.
Lastly, there is a small number of elven immigrants (1% of the total elven population) who came to Karameikos to trade or travel; these foreigners are mostly Minrothad water elves who live in the Grand Duchy’s coastal cities and towns, but some Darokinian, Alfheimer, Glantrian, Ierendian, and Thyatian elves may also be encountered.
Goblins (pop. 16,350)
Common goblins (Goblinus goblinus) are a numerous race in Karameikos. Their presence in the region can be traced back to the humanoid invasions that befell Traladara after the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC 492). The goblins dominate most of the central Dymrak Forest west of the Rugalov River, where more than eight thousand of them are found. Dymrak goblins are split among the larger tribes of Karameikos– like the Dread Horde (which also includes a number of hobgoblins), the Red Blade, and the Vipers – some of which are in league with local powers such as the green dragons or the Witches of Dymrak. Many goblins also live in the Altan Tepes mountains and in the forested hill country east of the Hillfollow River, their clans often under the control of hobgoblin or orc tribes – with the notable exception of the Yellow Fang tribe. A number of other dangerous goblin tribes are found in the Wufwolde region between the Windrush and Hillfollow Rivers; foremost among them is the Nightstalkers tribe, followed by the mountain clans who live north of Threshold and Verge, in the Black Peaks Mountains. Lastly, some smaller goblin clans live in the southern area of the Black Eagle Barony, where they lend their services as mercenaries to the Black Eagle Baron.
Gnomes (pop. 16,100)
All Karameikan gnomes belong to the earth gnome stock. Their presence in this region can be traced back to BC100, with a group of gnome clans that survived the onslaught of their kin at the hands of the kobolds under the Hardanger Mountains. After a long exodus they arrived in the lands between the Windrush and the Highfollow Rivers and settled there.
Most (around90%) of the gnome population lives in the Kingdom of Highforge; population density here averages 37 people per square mile. About 6,500 gnomes call Highforge town their home; several smaller gnome settlements (population up to 2,500) dot the region around the town. The Kingdom of Highforge– which encompasses the town and the hill country several miles around it– is ruled by King Dorfus Hilltopper, advised in turn by a Council of Elders with representatives from all the clans; it is an effectively autonomous kingdom within the Grand Duchy. Highforge gnomes preserve their customs and laws independently from those of the human population. They are very good wood and metal craftsmen, but are quite reserved and prefer to be left alone and not deal with the affairs of the outer world. Trade between the Grand Duchy and Highforge is strictly regulated by the traditional gnome caravan which annually leaves the gnome town for Specularum, where it trades the gnomes’ goods for a few days. Highforge’s gnomes are often involved in skirmishes with the goblins that live to the north-east of the town.
Some gnomish families are also found in other parts of the Grand Duchy. This is due to a local gnomish custom, according to which a clan who cannot peacefully agree with a decision of the Council of Elders must leave the kingdom and settle elsewhere. Though this happens rarely, during the course of the centuries some small gnome clans have indeed left Highforge to resettle in the larger cities of the Grand Duchy or to found mining or crafting settlements in the borderlands or wilderness areas.
Orcs (pop. 10,000)
Orcs are the second most numerous race of humanoids in Karameikos, and their presence in this land is quite old.
About half of the orcs living in Karameikos are found in the western part of the country. They were the first orcs who came to Karameikos; tribes of red orcs and common orcs driven out of the hin lands to the west by the halflings’ uprising (BC 744-610). These orcs settled the Cruth Lowlands region between the Cruth and Achelos Rivers. Modern local orc tribes, like the Jagged Claw and the Blackstone, claim to be descendants of those hordes. Later defeats at the hands of the hin in the following centuries (like those of AC700 and AC944) have pushed a stable flow of orcs into the Cruth Lowlands region. These orcs are often in league with groups of ogres and control much of the lands north of Riverfork Keep, representing a real hindrance to the penetration of human presence in that area. Other smaller orc hordes are part of mixed (goblin or gnoll) tribes who are stationed within or around the lands of the Black Eagle Barony (with which they are allied), while several hundred orcs directly serve the Black Eagle Baron as mercenaries in his elite division, the Banner of the Black Eagle. The tribes living in western Karameikos are mostly of common orc (Orcus porcus) stock, but a relevant part of them (about 30%) belongs to the red orc (Orcus rubeus vulgaris) stock.
Other large orc tribes, who belong entirely to the common orc (Orcus porcus) stock, are found in eastern Karameikos, mostly along the Altan Tepes range; among those are orc-only tribes (like the Hairless Dog or the Black Web of the southern Altan Tepes) or mixed tribes (like the Jagged Rocks of the northern range). A couple of smaller tribes are also found around the medium flow of Castellan River, between the Duke’s Road and the upper Highreach River flow. All the orcs of eastern Karameikos arrived in this region during the humanoid invasions of the early5th century BC, after the humanoid defeat at the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC492).
Besides these larger tribes, smaller bands of orc raiders, often in the service of human villains, can be occasionally found also in other parts of northern Karameikos.
Hobgoblins (pop. 4,750)
Hobgoblins of Karameikos belong to the eastern hobgoblin stock (Goblinus grandis) and came to this region together with other humanoid hordes after the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC492). Hobgoblin-only tribes are quite rare, and their hordes tend to gather together with other humanoids to lead them and to form larger tribes. Hobgoblins are most numerous in the Altan Tepes range, where their most fearsome tribe, the Steelwarriors (which also includes a number of bugbears), is found. Other mixed tribes of the Altan Tepes who include large numbers of hobgoblins are the Chaos Horde, the Bloody Head, and the Jagged Rocks. A hobgoblin-only tribe, the Killer Sands, lives on the side of the Altan Tepes which looks upon Ylaruam. Hobgoblin minorities are also found within some mixed tribes of eastern Karameikos or within some Dymrak goblin tribes (like the Dread Horde). Hobgoblins are not numerous in western Karameikos; a hobgoblin-only tribe, the Roaring Fiends, is found between Luln and the Black Eagle Barony, while a mixed bugbear-hobgoblin tribe, the Bloodbears, threatens the Westron Road from the southern woods.
Dwarves (pop. 4,000)
Only a small number of dwarves lives in Karameikos, most of them belonging to the Stronghollow clan. The Stronghollows came to Karameikos around AC 300 from Rockhome, and mosty settled within the borders of the Kingdom of Highforge, where the gnomes welcomed them. Other smaller groups of dwarven immigrants belonging to other clans arrived in the Grand Duchy in the course of the following seven centuries, the larger number consisting of those dwarves who fled persecution in the Highlands during the Year of Infamy (AC 828). A thousand dwarves live alongside the gnomes in the town of Highforge, another500 in other gnomish settlements of the Kingdom of Highforge (these are mostly Stronghollow ones), while the rest (dwarves from other clans, mostly) is spread among the humans’ main towns and settlements (more than a thousand live in Specularum). Some of the dwarves live as mining pioneers (sometimes alongside gnomes) in the dangerous borderlands of the Altan Tepes and western Black Peaks mountains.
Halflings (pop. 3,000)
A number of halflings live among the humans in a variety of villages and towns. The hin are all immigrants from the Five Shires, who came there over the course of history. They form a strong presence in the Foreign Quarter of Specularum.
Centaurs (pop. 2,000)
Centaurs live in the deepest woods and forests of the Grand Duchy, from the Radlebb Woods in the west to the Dymrak Forest – except the areas controlled by the goblins– in the east.
The Radlebb Woods centaurs do not particularly like humans, but are good friends of the woodland races and of the elves, and fearsome enemies of the humanoids. They don’t have large tribes, but live scattered in small family groups.
The centaurs living in eastern Karameikos are instead grouped into three major tribes. The Firemane tribe lives in the wooded lands between The Moor and the Lake of the Lost Dreams. They are a warlike tribe who is hostile to human presence in the area. The Shurak tribe lives in the woodlands around the Lake of the Lost Dreams, bordering the Vyalia and goblin lands. They are a peaceful tribe who mostly wants to be left alone. Lastly, there is the Stormwind tribe, who controls the north-eastern part of The Moor, outside the borders of the Barony of Kelvin. The Stormwind centaurs dislike outsiders and prefer to stay away from civilization, but have been known to help humans in distress and even accept some of them as members of their tribe.
Another group of individual centaurs (with some chevalls within their ranks) is the Clanless, who consist entirely of bards and druids roaming the wilds of Karameikos and acting as judges, sages, storytellers and healers for all the centaur tribes.
Bugbears (pop. 1,650)
All the bugbears of Karameikos belong to the common bugbear stock (Ursus bipedis vulgaris) and arrived in this region during the aftermath of the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC492). The bugbear presence in eastern Karameikos is limited to small bands which are part of larger, mixed humanoid tribes (like the Steelwarriors hobgoblins of the Altan Tepes). Bugbears are, however, quite numerous in western Karameikos, where the Vileraiders (a bugbear-only tribe) and the Bloodbears (a mixed bugbear-hobgoblin tribe) are in control of large stretches of the woods south of the Westron Road; another bugbear-only tribe, called Bargle’s Bugbears, lives within the border of the Black Eagle Barony and serves the Baron’s infamous court magician.
Gnolls (pop. 1,400)
Karameikan gnolls all belong to the laughing gnoll stock (Canis erectus hilaris). Today’s gnolls are only a pale reflection of the savage gnoll hordes of the ancient age. Their presence in Karameikos dates back to the Great Beastmen Invasion of BC1000, when their ancestors ravaged the Traldar civilization and ultimately contributed to its decline. In the following centuries, gnoll numbers have occasionally been on the rise, but they never managed to overcome the Traladarans again and have been slowly reduced to mere bands and small tribes scattered in Karameikos’ northern wilderness, forced to ally with other humanoids (orcs, usually) in order to survive. Gnoll bands, for example, are found in the Horned Heads orc tribe (in the northern Altan Tepes) and in the Rashak’s Reavers orc tribe (another orc tribe stationed between Fort Doom and Luln). Exceptions to this rule are the Faceslashers tribe (who serve“Queen” Ilyeana Penhaligon at Haradraith’s Keep) and the powerful Death’s Head tribe, the last powerful gnoll tribe who controls the upper Foamfire valley and regularly threatens Verge and its surroundings. Individual gnoll mercenaries can also be found in the service of some human (like the Black Eagle Baron) or humanoid villains.
Ogres (pop. 1,400)
Bands of common ogres (Homo monstrum brutalis) came to Karameikos in the aftermath of the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC492). There are no known ogre tribes, as most of the ogres live in family groups scattered in the Cruth Lowlands region. Some of these groups have allied with local dominant orc tribes (like the Blackstone or the Greyslayers). Elsewhere the ogre presence is scarcer. They are mostly found as mercenaries among other humanoid tribes of the Black Peaks range (like the Death’s Head gnolls) and of eastern Karameikos.
Wood Imps (pop. 1,000)
These pesky evil creatures of the forests gradually migrated to Karameikos from Alfheim in the past centuries, spreading in the land’s thick forests like the Dymrak Forest and the Radlebb Woods. The wood imp tribes are held at bay by the Vyalia and Callarii elven clans that inhabit the forests and are seldom dangerous, but from time to time the imps manage to forge alliances with the enemies of elves, like the goblin tribes or other monsters– and then they can become a problem.
Lupins (pop. 550)
Small groups of lupins are scattered among Karameikos’ southern towns. They are mostly immigrants from other countries (Thyatis in particular, from where most recent immigrants in the Grand Duchy come), who live at the edges of human society. In inland villages lupins often have to face the hatred of local Traladaran peasants, to whom they recall memories of the beastmen of ancient legends or the werewolves. That is why those lupins who live in Karameikos’ interior tend to stay alone in the wilderness, away from human presence. However, most lupins in Karameikos prefer to stick to more cosmopolitan settlements, like the cities and towns. Karameikan lupins are mostly mongrels (30%), while represented breeds include the wolvenfolk (20%), who wander the woods and the wilderness, away from curious eyes, and a clan of Cimarron hairless (30%) who lives together with the Hairless Dog orc tribe of the southern Altan Tepes. Minor breeds encountered in Karameikos are the great beagles (10%) and the shag-heads (10%).
Giants (pop. 500)
Giants are not a numerous race in Karameikos, but their presence is well-rooted in this land. The hill giants of Karameikos are the last descendants of the ancient giantish Kingdom of Grondheim, while frost and stone giants represent legacies of even more ancient ages.
The most prominent giant population is that of the frost giants (50%) who live around the highest peaks of the Altan Tepes range, in the north-easternmost area of the Grand Duchy, a wild land from whose dwellers Castellan Keep protects the borderlands to the southwest. The frost giants live in clans of20-30 members each, who often wage war one upon another but who from time to time unite under a charismatic warleader, becoming a serious threat for the civilized lands. They keep a large number (some hundreds) of the snow apes who live in this area of the mountains as servants, and they skirmish against the local humanoid tribes and white dragons as often as with the humans.
While less numerous (25%), the stone giants of the Wufwolde Hills have better relationships with humans. They live peacefully in small family clans scattered between Threshold and the Castellan River, trading occasionally with the local human population and sometimes even paying visits to their settlements.
The giants’ presence in western Karameikos is limited to a number of primitive hill giant clans (25%) who live in the Cruth Lowlands area, with one foremost settlement on the upper flow of Achelos River. The hill giants are warlike and in good standing with the Cruth ogres and some of the local orc tribes.
Kobolds (pop. 500)
There are only two known relevant kobold tribes, both small and consisting entirely of mountain kobolds (Canis minor militaris). The first is the Brokenshields tribe, descendants of kobolds that migrated from the Darokinian side of the Cruth mountains. The Brokenshields lurk within the ruins of Castle Mistamere, north of Threshold, and have struck a deal with a flock of harpies for mutual defense and harassment of local trade. The second is the Grey Rats, last descendants of the kobolds who arrived in Karameikos after the defeat of Queen Ubdala at the Battle of Sardal Pass (BC492). They live in the Caves of Chaos, trying to survive among the fiercer and stronger humanoid races.
Lycanthropes (pop. 500)
A relatively high number of lycanthropes hides in the moors and wilderness of Karameikos, in particular the western half of the region, from the vast area of the Cruth Lowlands to the Black Eagle Barony and to the woods of south-western Karameikos. Lycanthropy here is as old as the land itself. The first lycanthropic bloodlines were created during the Taymoran age; together with a second serious epidemic that happened at the beginning of 5th century AC, this curse has never been lifted from the country.
The Karameikan lycanthropes are mostly werewolves (60%), with a smaller presence of wereboars (24%) and werebears (4%). Some of those werecreatures live in close proximity to human settlements, which they sometimes use as hunting grounds. Rumors hold true that the Black Eagle Baron is in league with the lycanthropic groups hidden to the north of his domain.
Other groups of werecreatures, mostly wererats (12%) and devil swines (2%), tend instead to dwell in the very middle of human settlements. Individuals or small groups of these lycanthropes can be found hiding within the population of the larger or more isolated human settlements.
Fairies (pop. 350)
The members of the Good People are found in the less-populated areas of the Grand Duchy, whose territory includes a handful of hidden gateways to a number of fairy courts (a couple of those are rumored to exist in the woods between Sulescu and Vandevicisny, and in the eastern Achelos Woods). Small groups of sprites live in the narrower vales between the wooded hills of the Cruth Lowlands. They mostly reside within Karameikan territory, but sometimes they foray into the hin Highshire. Pixie clans, on the other hand, live in the most hidden and uninhabited depths of Karameikos’ south-eastern forests. In the eastern half of the Dymrak Forest, the domain of the Vyalia elves, occasional encounters with sidhe and other fairies coming from nearby Haven are always a possibility. Lastly, a number Traladaran villages scattered in the Grand Duchy have plenty of folklore regarding brownies and leprechauns.
Thouls (pop. 250)
Small clans of these creatures (about a hundred of them in total) serve a couple of hobgoblin-led tribes in the Altan Tepes range-- the Bloody Head and the Steelwarriors tribes. Other thouls are scattered among the Grand Duchy’s wilderness, usually serving as mercenaries or bodyguard for more powerful villains.
Brutemen (pop. 250)
In the remote eastern reaches of the Grand Duchy also dwell the very last remnants of the almost extinct bruteman race, who struggle to survive against the nearby humanoid tribes.
Faenares (pop. 150)
Small groups of these graceful creatures lead insular lives on the highest peaks of the Cruth mountains, in the desolate and uninhabited region of western Karameikos.
Harpies (pop. 150)
These fearsome creatures are scattered over the whole Karameikan territory, from the rocky peaks in the Cruth and Black Peaks mountains, to the coastal cliffs, to the darker and most tangled depths of the forests. Sometimes a group of harpies forges a league with weak humanoid tribes, like what happened with the Brokenshields kobold tribe, north of Threshold.
FAUNA AND MINOR RACES
The following paragraphs describe which creatures can be found in the lands of Karameikos, including intelligent races whose number don’t exceed a hundred individuals in the region. Creatures are grouped according to their monster type (for a definition of monster types, see the Rules Cyclopedia or DMR2 – Creature Catalogue).
The Grand Duchy is the home of many unusual, giant, and dangerous animal species. Giant rats are very common; they are found in the countryside and are often attracted by the dirt toward large cities and towns. Giant bats dwell in the Blight Swamp and near undead lairs- like their much more dangerous relatives, the giant vampire bats– but sometimes are also found elsewhere.
Giant ferrets are found in forests and woods; often those animals are trained as warding or fighting beasts by the humanoid tribes. Dire wolves are found in the Altan Tepes mountains and in the region immediately south of them; they are good neighbors of the goblin tribes, and are often trained as mounts by them.
Giant lizards are quite common. The dangerous horned chameleon dwells in the forests, while geckos are found in any rocky terrain; the solitary and aggressive tuatara is found in the Black Peaks mountain range. Among giant amphibians, the rock toad is sometimes found in areas dotted with caves or in the mountains.
The Grand Duchy hosts many common farm animals, like cattle, sheep, pigs, and mules, but also various wild species: in the hilly and mountainous country live the sturdy mountain goats, while boars favors southern forests, where game of any kind abounds. Herds of wild horses are found in the central regions of the realm, and a valuable breed of white horses is raised by the Callarii elves.
Among flying animals, ravens are spread everywhere, while bats are mostly found in the Wufwolde region and in the vicinities of Luln.
There are also many predators: black bears dwell in every wooded area of the Grand Duchy; wolves are common everywhere and often represent a real danger for lone travelers; mountain lions are found in the northern regions of Karameikos.
Snakes of medium and large size are quite common in Karameikos.
The Grand Duchy is the home of two different species of aggressive and savage primates. The first are the rock baboons, which dwell in the Wufwolde region and are often trained as pets and fighting beasts by the humanoid tribes (like the Yellow Fang goblin tribe); the second are the larger snow apes, which live in the Altan Tepes mountains, where many of them serve the frost giant clans.
The Dymrak Forest hosts a species of constrictor snake similar to the rock python, while giant racers and pit vipers can be found anywhere in the central and northern areas of the Grand Duchy. The spitting cobra is quite rare but very dangerous and may be encountered anywhere. Giant rattlers are thankfully much rarer, while a species of small rattlesnake called rock rattler is commonly found in the Black Peaks.
Regarding fish life, it must be noted that some of the Grand Duchy’s ponds are haunted by a very dangerous fish species, the cold water piranha.
Even if it is not a properly prehistoric animal, a unique species of great bears similar to the ancient cave bears dwells in the Wufwolde hills.
Though Karameikos is no powerful wizards’ land, many constructs are still found in the Grand Duchy as a legacy of past civilizations which have succeeded one another in the dominion over this land. Gargoyles are found all over the country. Living statues made of unusual materials (like silver, steel, or jade) were a specialty of hutaakan wizards, and many of these constructs still lay in the ruins left by the Hutaakan civilization; very dangerous is the hutaakan variety of rock living statue (so called rock/ooze), filled with gray ooze instead of lava and able to spray it over its opponents. Hutaakans, as well as the wizards who ruled the city of Tuma, also created the varieties of living statues more commonly encountered (crystal, iron, and rock). The Tuman wizards also invented a variety of crystal living statue called winged warrior, able to fly. Today, Karameikan magic-users skilled enough to create constructs are few; among them the most commonly built constructs are, besides gargoyles, wood and bone golems. Some fanciful magic-user is also known to have embarked in the creation of even more unusual constructs (like caldron magens and phase stingers).
A number of dragons have dwelled in Karameikos for a long time. Black dragons live in the Blight Swamp, white dragons dwell on the peaks of the Altan Tepes, and green dragons hide in the depths of the forests. A large area of the Dymrak Forest, a traditional home of green dragons, is today part of Argosyl, a draconic realm ruled by Argos, a cunning green dragon who also controls several goblin tribes. A very old red dragon lives in the northern Wufwolde hills– some of his offspring may be found elsewhere in the Grand Duchy. Lastly, a gold dragon hides in Threshold posing as a beggar, but his real intentions are unknown at the moment.
Some specimens of wyverns are known to dwell in the most rugged and wild regions.
Besides the more numerous humanoid races described in the main section of this article, Karameikos still hosts some reptilian folks. These are very small families of lizard men and troglodytes, who perhaps migrated here from the Malpheggi Swamp or represent the last degenerate remnants of their lost civilizations. They can be rarely encountered in the middle of the Dymrak Forest or in other areas far away from human settlements (some even in the small mountain swamps which are found near Castellan Keep, in the Altan Tepes range). Quite inexplicably, two small groups of reptilian humanoids native to a very distant region, the westernmost edge of the Savage Coast, are also found in Karameikos: they are a clan of cay-men, who dwell in the Blight Swamp, and a tribe of chameleon men, who live in a mountain forest north-east of Threshold. Perhaps both groups were transplanted to Karameikos as result of a magical event or mishap, but the real reasons for their presence in this land are unknown.
Among the humanoids must also be counted some woodland or fairy races. Dryads have been spotted in the eastern forests which are the home of the Vyalia, but they are extremely rare. Legends tell of a mountain lake in the Black Peaks where nixies dwell.
Very rare as well, but much more dangerous and evil, black hags and crones of chaos lurk in the wilderness, alluring travelers to devour them or weaving some of the most diabolic plots.
Lastly, very small clans of primitive rock men live scattered among the Cruth and Black Peaks mountains.
Besides the giants mentioned in the main section above, trolls are not unknown to the inhabitants of the Grand Duchy, even if they have been encountered only very rarely so far (they are individual creatures, not families or clans), probably brought here from elsewhere by their underground wanderings.
Many varieties of insect swarms and giant insects dwell in the Grand Duchy’s wildlands: giant bees, giant centipedes, giant fire and oil beetles, giant ants and robber flies. Among monstrous varieties, both the rhagodessa and the common carrion crawler are found in the Grand Duchy. Hot underground caves host a strange species of fiery insects known as steam weevils.
Giant arachnids are encountered everywhere in Karameikos. Besides more common varieties, the giant crab spider, the giant black widow, and the giant tarantella, the land hosts two additional native species: the giant sand spider, which lives in the most barren and rocky spots of the Black Peaks range, and the giant hunting spider, which is found in eastern Karameikos and which is sometimes trained by the humanoid tribes that use it as warding animal. Also, the dangerous intelligent arachnid known as the giant shroud spider makes its lair on the southern slopes of the Altan Tepes mountains and at the edges of the Dymrak Forest.
Worms are uncommon in this country, though caeciliae and the occasional, very rare purple worm have been known to appear in farming lands from below the ground and wreak havoc all around. Red worms (the fyrsnaca’s immature larvae) have been spotted in some underground volcanic caves– a fact that has led some to speculate that even fyrsnacas may lurk there. Additionally, giant leeches are known to periodically infest some of the sweetwater bodies of the interior.
Unintelligent oozes and slimes, like the ochre jelly and the green slime, can be encountered in many abandoned dungeons, as well as gray oozes, many of which are found in ancient hutaakan ruins (the hutaakans used them to fill their particular variety of rock living statues).
Monstrous plants and fungi thrive here as well. Nasty specimens like shriekers, sirenflowers, and yellow molds plague most underground complexes, while the dangerous aquatic plant known as the giant serpentweed is found in the Blight Swamp.
A large variety of monsters of all types live in Karameikos. A number of doppelgangers hide in the more isolated settlements. Often these shapechangers work as a team, killing whole families and taking the identities of their members. A similar behavior is followed by the much rarer mujinas. Solitary nagpas, forced to wander by the curse affecting their race, are sometimes encountered in Karameikos; also tabi and gremlins are rarely encountered, often arrived in the Grand Duchy following a nagpa or disembarked from the flying city of Serraine. A handful of solitary minotaurs is scattered in Karameikos, most often in service to some villainous power as bodyguards or mercenaries.
Dangerous beasts, like griffons, hippogriffs, and manticores, are quite rare and only dwell in the Black Peaks and the eastern part of the Cruth range. A very large and fierce species of giant wolf, the ice wolf, lives in the Altan Tepes mountains, in the areas where snow and ice last longer. Some of these creatures are trained as pets or mounts by some humanoid tribes or by the frost giant clans. Owlbears are found in all wooded areas, from the central forests to the wooded heights of the mountain ranges. Hellhounds are found in the Black Peaks, but sometimes foray into southern areas.
A solitary sphinx is known to dwell on a rocky reef in the Gulf of Halag; she roars warnings to sailors venturing too close to the hazardous coastlines. Among other intelligent monsters are the friends of the woodland races. Individual actaeons and chevalls, sent to Karameikos by the Immortal Zirchev himself, watch over the Grand Duchy’s fauna and nature; they often cooperate with other woodland lovers, like the elves, the centaurs, and the druids. The same is true for treants, which are mostly subject of legends, even if a rumor holds that one of them is asleep in Threshold’s city park.
The Black Peaks are the home of a giant lizard species not found elsewhere: the unusual foot-pad lizard, able to easily climb the region’s rocky slopes and which is trained as mount and beast of burden by the degenerate Traldar of the Lost Valley of Hutaaka. Another very rare lizard, the lava lizard, dwells near underground magma flows. As of today it has been seen only in the eastern area of the Grand Duchy. A hydra has recently been spotted in the Blight Swamp.
Two species of dangerous blood-sucking fliers live in Karameikos: the numerous stirges, spread everywhere, and the rarer piranha-birds, which favor northern forests.
Amorphous monsters like the black pudding and the gelatinous cube may be found in old abandoned dungeons (the latter in particular in those of hutaakan origin).
Far more worrisome are persistent rumors of a hivebrood that has established its lair in the southern Dymrak Forest, not too far from the village of Rugalov.
While almost unknown, individual beholders hide in certain underground tunnels which run in the north-eastern part of the Grand Duchy, linking with caves which extend under Rockhome.
Lastly, two strange varieties of incorporeal and seemingly (but not actually) undead monsters are found in Karameikos. The first are shadows, which lurk in deep forests, ruins, and dungeons. The other is the ghostly horde, which very rarely manifests in places where great battlefield tragedies have happened.
Beings of the Elemental Plane of Water, such as water weirds, are sometimes encountered within ruins and dungeons which were the home of a wizard in the past. Native Medusae can be very rarely encountered in the wilderness as well. Rumors also hold that a djinni and a water elemental live somewhere in the town of Threshold.
Given Karameikos’ ancient history, it should be no surprise that here the creatures of darkness thrive. Undead like skeletons and zombies can be found everywhere – near graves, in particular - as the result of dark magics, as well as ghouls. Karameikos also hosts a variety of elder ghouls, who are detectable by a green eerie glow around their head, able to sap their victims’ strength. Wights and spectres may be found in isolated areas, moors especially; wraiths haunt ancient ruins, where old hutaakan mummies are sometimes encountered as well. The dread wyrd, elven undead spirits, are mainly found in central and eastern Karameikos. The numerous burial mounds and tombs built in the most varied ages and scattered throughout the Grand Duchy are sometimes infested by apparitions (a type of phantom) and haunts– banshees, who are found mostly in barren hills and moors, ghosts, and poltergeists. A variety of nightshade, the nightwing, has been spotted in the Blight Swamp, near the border with the Five Shires. The true princes of the undead, the vampires and the nosferatu, represent one of the reasons that make Karameikos stand out in the Known World; although they are not so numerous, they are spread all across the land, often holding unsuspecting and influential positions in human settlements (like Lord Zemiros Sulescu), or terrorizing isolated communities (like the mad Count of Koriszegy). Lastly, even some very rare liches dwell in Karameikos, weaving their dark plots from their hidden lairs (one of those is Oirtulev, whose lair is found in the Altan Tepes region bordering Thyatis).
SIDEBAR (HALF-ORCS AND HALF-OGRES)
The history of Karameikos is one of invasions, conquests, pillages, and wars. As you can read in the section of this article regarding the country’s history, the humanoid races– gnolls, goblins, orcs, and the like– were often protagonists of those events; from the Great Beastmen Invasion of two thousands years ago to the more recent skirmishes against the orcs in the Cruth Lowlands. In some areas of the country the human population had to submit to humanoid rule at one time or another, and many humans had to live as their slaves. Still today, sometimes humanoids take prisoners during their raids and keep them as slaves for their own purposes or to sell them later.
All those cases of involuntary interaction between humanoids and human men and women opened the way to innumerable rapes and forced matings. Interfertility is not always possible between humanoid races and humans, but at least between orcs or ogres and humans it is known to be. If a woman becomes pregnant during her captivity with a humanoid tribe, sometimes she is killed outright; if the woman is particularly valuable to the tribe, the baby is killed or abandoned as soon as he or she is born. Otherwise, if the woman is allowed to give birth to the baby and to assist him or her, the child is most often raised to be a slave like his or her mother, unless the child demonstrates some quality or skill much appreciated by the tribe, in which very rare case he or she is tolerated as a near-equal member of the horde.
On the other hand, when a woman becomes pregnant with a humanoid child but not in captivity (most often as the result of a rape during a raid or pillage), the child is doomed to be an outcast in the Karameikan society. Many victims of this misfortune abandon their child, bringing their infants to charitable religious institutions (mostly manned by priests of Valerias, either independently or on the behalf of the Churches of Karameikos or Thyatis) where the priests take care of the baby. This practice is not supported with its own institutions by the Church of Traladara, and is mostly shunned by Traladarans, in particular in the rural or borderland areas; there, a mother pregnant with a humanoid baby usually abandons the child in the wilds (where some lucky babies are picked up by the druids or by other benign beings) or commits suicide before giving birth.
Prejudice and suspicion runs high in rural and borderland areas against anyone looking like an orc or a humanoid (as half-ogres and half-orcs do). Such individuals are not likely to find any acceptance in those places, unless they perform exceptional deeds or services in favor of the community. Most often they are shunned, persecuted, cast out, or hunted down, not much differently than what happens with normal humanoids. Those feelings tend to be weaker near and in larger and more cosmopolitan towns and cities, and where Thyatian presence is stronger. There, even if the half-humanoids are not easily accepted as well, their presence is tolerated and they can earn a living as bodyguards, laborers, mercenaries and, in the worst cases, as thugs and beggars.
As a result, if you allow them in your campaign, a number of half-orcs and half-ogres should be taken into account when examining the Karameikan population as a whole. In the article they have been included in the population figures given for humans. Half-ogres should not exceed one hundred, while half-orcs may be about one thousand, many of whom may be part of those “orcs” serving in the Banner of the Black Eagle elite unit or living in the Black Eagle Barony.
If you want to have other half-breeds in your Karameikan campaign, use this rule of thumb to determine their whole number in the country: on average, the number of half-breeds is equal to 5% of the population figure given for the relative humanoid race in Karameikos. As with half-orcs and half-ogres, the half-breeds should be subtracted from the total human population.
APPENDIX: THE LOST VALLEY OF HUTAAKA
The Lost Valley of Hutaaka is a hidden vale surrounded by the highest mountains of the Black Peaks range, including Mount Pavel. The Valley is inaccessible by means of paths and trails, and its existence is a secret known only to the Immortals. The only way to access the Valley is through the upper Foamfire River valley (the territory of the Death’s Head gnolls), where a hidden and very ancient road leads to the Lost Valley’s doors. The road can only be detected by means of ancient magical tapestries and needles created by the hutaakans, which now are lost.
The Valley was the power seat of the High Priest of Pflarr during the height of the Hutaakan civilization; here most hutaakans withdrew in secrecy on the eve of the Great Beastmen Invasion (BC1000), abandoning the Traldar humans to their doom save a handful they brought with them as slaves. In fact, the hutaakans kept to themselves and severed any ties with the outside world. Though this decision saved the hutaakan civilization from the ravages of the Beastmen Invasion, it also triggered its decline. In BC 500, when the Nithian Empire met its doom, the Immortal Pflarr, creator and patron of the hutaakan race, displeased by the isolation of the hutaakan culture, transplanted a random number of hutaakans to the Hollow World, losing interest in the fate of the outer world ones. The hutaakan rule in the Lost Valley was overturned in BC 100, when the descendants of the Traldar slaves rose against their masters, starting a genocide war that lasted for centuries and nearly caused the extinction of both cultures.
Today the Lost Valley is inhabited by the last remnants of the outer world hutaakans, and by the degenerate descendants of the rebellious Traldar slaves. The war between the two groups, which over centuries has declined to the level to band skirmishes, continues to this day. Meanwhile, darker beings, born out of dark magics or awakened from an even more ancient age, have taken control of the ruins of the Great Temple of Pflarr and now wander freely in the Valley.
There are about five hundred of Hutaakans and degenerate Traldars, evenly split among the two groups. However, their number has not been included in the population figures given in this article, because the Lost Valley is a place apart, without any contact with the outside world.
The spur of the Altan Tepes range which stretches southward up to the Dymrak Forest, located between the Highreach River and the Lake of Lost Dreams, is called the Thunder Mountains (in Thyatian) or Zagrash Mountains (in Traladaran). In a secluded valley beyond the southern slopes of these mountains lay the enchanted realm of Haven, a place created, through the patronage of the the Immortal Ordana, by the Immortal Zirchev around BC875, with the help of his two mortal-life companions – the Immortals Halav and Petra-, as a sort of vacation spot for the most worthy members of the human and demihuman races, where they could live together in harmony and happiness.
Haven actually lies in the Fairy Realm, and it only occasionally appears in this location on the Prime Material Plane, from where it then becomes accessible. Haven’s appearance in Karameikos depends on a mysterious series of star alignments which are predictable only by the most learned among Vyalian sages. When Haven is in the Fairy Realm, the area it would otherwise occupy on Mystara becomes an empty land of forests and hills, bathed in mists and fogs. The Immortal patrons of Haven can lead their chosen in and out of Haven when they wish.
Haven hosts about five thousand inhabitants, mostly Vyalia fair elves (56%), together with minorities of humans (20%), gnomes (6%), dwarves (10%), and halflings (8%) - all of them mostly of Karameikan or Thyatian origin. All of these people are descendants of individuals who were led to Haven by the Immortals over the course of centuries, or discovered it by themselves. An unknown number of members of the Good People also live in the enchanted valley.
Legends abound about the enchanted valley, telling of a marvelous castle made of shining white marble, of a breathtakingly beautiful princess who rules the land, of plentiful harvests and great festivals. A mysterious race of fairy“Protectors”, devoted to Haven’s Immortal patrons, watches over the valley, shielding it from dangers.
As Haven represents a very special place and it is not part of Karameikos proper, its inhabitants have been left out of the population figures given in this article.
APPENDIX: PORTRAYING YOUR GRAND DUCHY
As you have seen while reading this article, population figures nearer to their real-world historical counterparts generate a number of inhabitants for the Grand Duchy which is more or less double that indicated in official supplements. As you may have realized, this in no way alters the description and flavor of the Grand Duchy as found in GAZ1. Nevertheless, you may find those higher figures uncomfortable, so this last paragraph addresses this issue, suggesting some ways to use the material presented here with official population figures.
First of all let’s make a comparison between the population figures given in the Poor Wizard’s Almanac series supplements and the ones presented in this article.
Table 4: Comparison Population Figures in PWAs and this article
* Divided among 30,000 Callarii and 10,000 Vyalia. According to GAZ1 instead the Callarii were only about 7,500 (even if this figure was considered only a rough estimate from the humans’ point of view).
Overall population density
* Excluding humanoids and other races, whose number is unknown.
** Only considering cities with at least 10,000 inhabitants.
As you see, the main purpose of this article’s approach to Karameikan demography is to preserve the official population figures for Karameikos’ cities, lowering the percentage of urban population on the total. On the other hand, the elves’ and gnomes’ figures of the Poor Wizard’s Almanacs are quite inconsistent, regarding the former, with the population of other Known World’s elven clans– the Callarii alone would have nearly half the population of whole Alfheim! – and, regarding the latter, with GAZ1 itself, according to which6,500 gnomes live in Highforge alone. So, the whole Poor Wizard’s Almanacs’ figures seem at least to have been written a little too hastily, without proper consideration of other sources and supplements.
Anyway, how can those figures be preserved? My suggestion is to avoid touching the location and spread of the various levels of settlement, in order to leave unaltered which areas are borderlands, which are wilderness, and so forth, and to work instead on the population densities of each level. In particular, decreasing human population densities of each level of about40% would generate the following figures:
Table 5: Decreased Human Population Levels
Average population density (people/sq. mile)
Total Population per settlement area (averaged)
% on total population (averaged)
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, there seems to be no problem… until you take into account the125,750 people that represent Karameikos’ urban population. As you see, for example, Specularum’s huge human population of57,300 is more than double than the whole number of people who live in the city’s suburban countryside. In fact, the figures above can only be kept if you bring back the urban population to pre-GAZ1 level (one-tenth of the official figures, more or less). Thus, two solutions are possible at this point.
First solution: Add the urban population to the figure indicated above. This would generate a total human population of 363,200, which is halfway between the official figures and those presented in this article. Should you adopt this solution, I suggest halving the humanoid population also, bringing it to 18,000. Overall, the Grand Duchy would thus have a population (considering also all other races, and leaving their figures identical to those presented in this article) of 428,750. Note however that in this way the urban population of the Grand Duchy will reach the high pinnacle of 21% (29.6% counting all settlements with 1,000 inhabitants or more), which would call for a stable supply of food from overseas and/or the employment of clerical magic to feed part of the population.
Second solution: Lower the urban population to about half the official figures. This way, you will have Specularum at about 30,000 people, Kelvin at10,000, Fort Doom at 5,000, Threshold and Luln at 2,500, and so on. Specularum will still be a problem (the city would have more people than those of the whole area in which it is found): you could lower by 50% the humanoid and demihuman population (in the proportion you deem fit), and add the numbers obtained to the population of very high population density areas (in which Specularum is found). This way, the total population of the Grand Duchy would be313,900 people, with an urban population which will sit at a quite high, but tolerable, rate of about 20% (and to even12.7% if you consider only cities with10,000 inhabitants of more, which in this version would be only Specularum and Kelvin).