Recently, I've been painting the map of Cormyr in my own style and because of that I’ve been thinking about the region of Cormyr, it’s people, and what conflicts and adventures a party might encounter there.
To begin, hi – my name is Zabrynn! I run DnD Alley and my own campaign at home. I’ve been playing DnD since I was a kid. I’m also a fantasy author, conlanger, and worldbuilder. Because of my background, I love delving deep into the world of Faerun and fleshing out locations therein.
This blog is all about giving you ideas for running your own games and adventurers. As a game master and storyteller, I love to create vibrant tales of intrigue, personal and political conflicts, and generally tell a very human(oid) story.
Many adventures out in the world will walk your players through slaying dragons or facing off great monsters of the realms – and that’s super fun. But sometimes a game intrigue can be just as exciting!
And there is a region in Cormyr that I think could potentially bring these two elements together into a really cool adventure. Interested? Read on!
The Map of Cormyr
Cormyr drew me in while I was recreating the wider map of the Sword Coast. Despite being a populous and powerful region, the map has little in the way of markers.
There was, however, a map from a previous edition of DnD. This older map was set in 1479 DR. Adventures in 5e edition are generally set in to 1480s or 1490s DR (each adventure is different!) and for that reason, I think there’s opportunity to make changes to what we know about Cormyr.
I envision the Cormyr of the 1490s to be in a state of flux – mostly inspired by how little information we get regarding Cormyr in the updated 5e map.
The Terrain of Cormyr
As I was creating the sketch, I noticed some really interesting elements to Cormyr's landscape and decided to do some digging.
The country of Cormyr has a long history. It has a strong military tradition and uses it's access to the Dragonmere (also known as the Lake of Dragons) to trade with the rest of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Control of the neck, a narrow section of waters near the eastern border, allows Cormyr to defend its coasts from most pirates and raiders. The Dragonmere is theirs - or is it?
Looking over the terrain of Cormyr, I had lots of questions, specifically about the two regions known as the Stonelands and the Tunlands.
To the north are the Stonelands,
As I expected, Cormyr tends to hold very little sway over the region. They claim it as their own, but much of the northern, rocky region is dominated by either monsters or enemies.
The Stonelands are home to hill giants, orcs, trolls and goblins. Thus for Cormyr, the Stornhorns to their north act as a natural barrier. Though monsters and raiders still come through mountain passes, these are relatively easy to defend.
What's more interesting is the Tunlands.
There isn't much information about the Tunland which is unfortunate, so instead, I've expanded on what the information available on the map.
Firstly, around between 1300-1480 DR, Cormyr was focusing a lot of its military ventures on the Stonelands but I suspect this is due to a tighter grip they had on the Tunlands. Outside the occasional rebellion from the Tuns, Cormyr controlled the Plains of Tun enough to fulfil their needs. Meanwhile, the Stonelands have little in the way of footholds.
In its history, the Plains of Tun has seen elves, dwarves, and humans and it’s likely many are still around. The swamps of the region have bullywugs and lizardfolk.
A marker towards the long-term subjugation of the Tunlands by Cormyr is the fact the High Road cuts through the Stormhorns in the north. Between High Horn and Eagle Peak is a substantial mountain path, one facilitated by expensive infostructure. Such a road wouldn’t be profitable from a trade perspective since there are easier ways to enter Cormyr. However, if Cormyr was determined to dominate the region, it would enable the movement of troops into the North (I’ll talk about why this important later!)
Why Do The Tunlands Matter?
As mentioned, there is a mountain range between the two regions. This would be a natural barrier of defence for the country. The Cormytes could have easily set up a few forts and called it a day.
Why? Well, I think it's a twofold reason, but one that can really be summoned up with a single word: food.
One of the distinct things about Cormyr is just how rocky and wooded it is. Huge swaths of the kingdom are still covered in forest (though much of it has been cleared away). And the Stornhorns, of which Cormyr sits at the base of, is notorious for its hard rock. This all implies that growing grains could be especially difficult.
Now, there are certainly regions within Cormyr's heart that would make for great farmland, especially around the Wyvernwater. But Cormyr is so populous that region is probably insufficient.
Feeding the kingdom has now become a vital issue.
There are historical examples of this. Ancient Rome, for example, struggled to feed it's ravenous capital for centuries, turning to various provinces for its food, especially Egypt. And before that, the Ancient Greeks often imported grain from elsewhere, particularly from regions around the Black Sea.
Conveniently, there is a similar steppe (or prairie) region just south of Cormyr. This expansive plain is perfect for grain growing and Cormyr has recently taken the region for itself (since 1428 DR).
However, the Tunlands would almost certainly have been a region flush with food, especially along the Tun River, easily imported into the city of Suzail and Marsember.
The Dragon Coast is almost certainly a new breadbasket for the kingdom. But geographically, it is not so easy to hold.
It's clear from the method of expansion that Cormyr's sea access was not enough to take the cities of Teziir and Elversult. It was only after they controlled the entirety of the Tunlands they could move into Proskur - which gave them to the land access they needed to control the Dragon Coast. The Gritstone Moorland, while a great natural defence, stands in the way of Cormyr simply marching south. If they want the Dragon Coast, they must go through the Tunlands.
Thus - the rebellion doesn't just leave Cormyr without one of it's major food sources, it threatens to cut them off of the second, larger breadbasket. One that, in the seventy years they have held the region, Cormyr has come to relay on.
Who Are the Tuns?
With the Stornhorns between them, it's easy to imagine the Tuns don't consider themselves to be Cormytes. And don’t appreciate Cormyr ruling over them.
The Tuns themselves are actually many different, disparate tribes, that live in the region. This is a good thing for Cormyr. If the disparate tribes are fighting each other, they aren't fighting Cormyr. That being said, if they ever united, the Tunlands could have way rise a strong, independent nation – one built on the natural highway that is the Tun River. And when that happens, they will pose a substantial risk to Cormyr’s power. Not as invading force, but by cutting off the free flow of grain.
So how does Cormyr control the Tunlands in the first place?
I have mentioned earlier the mountain road between High Horn and Eagle Peak. This route would be only mildly effective in maintaining control. For one, armies move slowly through mountains. This is exasperated by the fact that the Stornhorns are covered in snow and ice in the winter. There are even some regions where it is only in summer the ice melts! Thus, for what's probably half the year, the Northern Tunlands around the Farsea Marshes would be next-to-impossible to control. Even with the High Road access.
Because of this, it is from the South that Cormyr is able to hold the Tunlands.
The Tun River exits into the Dragonmere between hills and the Gritstone Moorland. Upon a hill, overlooking this rivermouth, is Valkur's Roar: the key to the Tunlands.
Not far from the capital of Suzail, there is little information about Valkur's Roar that I could find.
But it’s the perfect staging ground for many adventures! By my reckoning, this port town is highly fortified with a large fortress. It relays all the trade from the Tun River into the Dragonmere as well as oversees the movement of Purple Dragons into the Tunlands and back. It almost defends Cormyr’s heartland from any attacks from the grasslands to the South.
From Valkur's Roar, ships and armies can travel deep into the Tunlands. The swamps of the North would make this more difficult. So while they can be navigated, movement of the Cormyr army is slow and sporadic. This is why the South is far more secure. Because of this level of control, the cultures of the Tunlands ripple out South to North, Lowlands to Highlands.
The South would feel the influence of Cormyr to a far greater degree. Additionally, due to the access to the Lightning Steppe, trade with nomads and caravans would bring in exotic goods from distant lands. The Southerners, especially those of the Lowlands, consider themselves very worldly compared to the rest of the Tuns.
Whereas the Northerners see the Southerns as soft – they bend the knee every day of the year! Not only that, but they’ve probably never had a run in with a lizardfolk or bullywug.On to the Adventure!
In rest decades, a dry spell has hit the Tunlands. Much of the swamps opened themselves up for farming and new settlement. But most importantly, the river systems became far easier to navigate. All this led to the easier movement of boats along the Tun River. At first, it was simply traders rowing back and forth. Then, many Tuns started to move around, taking on new lands or settling in places their ancestors would have scorned.
But the Tuns were not the only ones to notice this. After a war against Sembia in 1484-1486 DR, the Cormyr longboats used to patrol the Tunlands reached further and further north and remained for longer than ever before.
In the last decade, the region has slowly developed a new cultural understanding and - and a deeper than ever enmity for Cormyr.
Once upon a time, particularly after the Spellplague in the late 1300s DR, Cormyr was an occasional annoyance. They took grain and demanded taxes, but the system wasn't perfect and often times a smart Tun could avoid them entirely.
No longer was that the case.
And now – worse – the Tuns had started to see themselves as well... Tuns. One people rather than many.
The Tunlands have always been rebellious. But they usually fought alone. A group of humans here. A clan of dwarves there. This time, however, the Tunlands have been united in their rebellion under the sway of a charismatic leader.Game Hook
The party is a group of adventurers from all over the Tunlands who have answered this call of rebellion. It's their job to get into Valkur's Roar and pave the way for the rest of the rebellion to take the fortress.
This could be accomplished quickly - perhaps with a heist-style mission in a one-shot; or it could be the basis of a long campaign.
The party must build the support of the local nobility or underground (maybe both!). They might learn the movements of the Purple Dragons and potentially draw as many as possibly out of the city. The finale of this campaign comes when the rebel army takes the city and announces a new, independent "Kingdom of the Tunlands".
The great thing about the Valkur’s Roar setting is that the party can explore into the moorlands to the south, visit Suzail to the north, or climb the Stornhorns for a classic dungeon crawl.
Not only that, but as Tun rebels, the party has the choice of a variety of races and backgrounds while still giving them a cohesive feeling and shared mission.
- They might be from the wild North (they could even be a lizardfolk from the Farsea swamp)
- Or perhaps they are a dwarf from the hills, descendant of the ancient (and long fallen) dwarven kingdom of Oghrann
- They might be a fisherman human from one of the hamlets along the Tun River
- Or perhaps they are semi-nomadic herder; a half-elf, who’s family still tells stories of the devastation that was the Battle of the God’s Theatre where over 70,000 elves died
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