Boyd, Eric L., James Jacobs, Matt Forbeck, Sean K Reynolds, and Jason Carl. Races of Faerun. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.

Illuskans, also known as Northlanders, are the seagoing, warlike people of the Sword Coast North, the Trackless Sea, and the Dessarin River Valley. Although there ancestors founded Illusk, one of the earliest human civilizations in Faerun, as well as the great city of Waterdeep, Illuskans have long been seen as a barbaric people, having barely risen above the status of orcs in the eyes of many southerners. Illuskans are more than just barbarians, however, as their culture has given rise to powerful rune-casters, fearless sailors, and legendary skalds. They also farm, fish, and mine their rugged lands, trading their goods with southern merchants. However, long-fallen elven empires, barriers of geography, and a cultural emphasis on raiding over trade have conspired to ensure that Illuskan culture and bloodlines have not take root in other lands.

Illuskans are tall, fair-skinned folk with eyes of blue or steely grey. Those who dwell among the islands of the Trackless Sea and in Icewind Dale are largely fair-haired, with blond hair predominating over red and light brown. Those who dwell on the mainland south of the Spine of the World are more prone to have raven-black hair, an indication of significant Netherese heritage.

Illuskans regard themselves as a strong, proud people forged by the harsh environment in which they dwell. They feel they have earned, through strength in battle, the right to claim the lands they have settled. Illuskans regard most southerners as weak and decadent, two much-despised traits. However, they are fair-minded and always willing to make exceptions for those who have proven otherwise. Illuskans themselves are bold and impetuous, given to proud boasts, the consumption of prodigious amounts of mead of and ale, and quick tempers.

Naming Traditions

Feminine names

Amafrey, Betha, Cefrey, Kethra, Mara, Olga, Silifrey

Masculine names

Ander, Blath, Bran, Frath, Geth, Lander, Luth, Malcer, Stor, Taman, Urth

Family names

Brightwood, Helder, Hornraven, Lackman, Stonar, Stormwind, Windrivver


Major language groups and dialects

Most Illuskans speak Illuskan, a language derived largely from Old Illuskan (spoken by the folk of Old Illusk) mixed with a smattering of Netherese. They usually speak Common as well, but few are literate. Along the northern coast of the mainland, particularly in the city of Waterdeep, many Illuskans speak Chondathan, the language of their Tethyrian neighbors.

Culture and cultural heritage

Illuskans have little concept of class divisions, considering such artifices as an example of the weakness inherent in southern cultures. Honor and prestige in Illuskan society are earned through displays of strength and martial fortitude. Both magic and commerce are regarded with suspicion, both seen as upsetting the natural order.

Illuskans are expected to be self-sufficient from a young age. Those who must rely on others are treated well but not respected, although the elderly are accorded the respect they earned before the debilitating effects of age set in. Those who hire strangers to do a task rather than do it themselves are considered suspect. Book learning is admired but not expected.

Average technological level

Illuskans favor heavy hides and warm wool cloaks appropriate for cold climes. Metal armor is rare, as few Illuskans can afford to make or purchase it, and because heavy armor is ill-suited for battles at sea.

Arms and Armor

Hide armor is common as is spiked shields (large or small, wooden or steel). Most chieftains and well-off warriors prefer chain shirts for personal protection during a raid. The Illuskans favor axes of all sorts, a legacy of their long-standing association with the dwarves of the North, who often armed Illuskan heroes.

Common Items: Hide armor, chain shirt, large wooden shield, battleaxe, greataxe, handaxe.

Unique Item: The horned helmet is a symbol of the Illuskan sea-reaver.

Animals and Pets

Illuskans are not inclined to keep animals as pets, companions, or familiars, as relatively few species are native to Ruathym or nearby islands. Goats, sheep, and geese do better in the cold Illuskan lands than do cattle, swine, or chickens. Illuskan lords of the northen Moonshaes have adopted Moray moorhounds, originally bred by Ffolk, in increasing numbers of late. The Illuskans are not riders and rarely employ horses, although ponies are sometimes seen on the islands of the Trackless Sea.

Funerary and Memorial customs

Those who die an honorable death are burned on funeral pyres, preferably aboard a small ship pushed out to sea. Such ceremonies are believed to free the soul from its mortal tether.

Major organizations

High Forest, Moonshae Isles, Nelanther Isles, the North, Silverymoon, Waterdeep

Illuskan Magic and Lore

Wizards are rare in Illuskan society. They are widely feared and assumed to be in some way affiliated with the Arcane Brotherhood. Of those who do study wizardry, perhaps the most common specialization is the school of Evocation. Sorcerers and bards are more common among Illuskans, as many Illuskans have a trace of draconic ancestry in their heritage. Unlike other arcane spellcasters, bards (generally known as "skalds") are widely respected for their role as lorekeepers and poets. Among divine spellcasters, clerics are common. Druids and rangers are rare, and paladins almost unknown.

Spells and Spellcasting

Illuskans favor spells that enhance their martial prowess, give rise to great emotions, or summon the fury of nature.

Spellcasting Tradition: Much of Illuskan divine spellcasting tradition was adopted in the form of rune magic from dwarves and giants. Many of the most powerful spellcasters among the Illuskans are runecasters.

Illuskan Magic Items

Illuskans favor magic items that provide morale bonuses in combat and that aid sailors and their ships. Weapons with special abilities related to ice or speed are most common. Armor is most commonly used with special abilities related to warmth, fortifcation, or arrow deflection.

Common magical items: Illuskan runecasters produce a large number of such items as boots of the winterlands, gauntlets of ogre power, horns of Valhalla, potions of heroism, and wind fans.

Related Organizations

Relations with other Races

Illuskans judge members of other races and ethnic groups by the same standards by which they judge themselves. In other words, they respect strength, martial prowess, and strength of one's word.

Illuskans get along well with dwarves, although the two groups have been known to war over disputed territory. Gnomes and halflings are seen as weak and given to trickery, inspiring scorn in most Illuskans. Similarly, elves and half-elves are seen as weak and overly reliant on magic, although dangerous nonetheless.

Illuskans of the mainland harbor a deep and abiding hatred of orcs, and few are willing to view half-orcs as any better than their porcine kin. Illuskans have nothing but scorn for humans from the South, particularly Calishites. Tethyrians, particularly those born in the North, are regarded with cautious respect, for the two groups have lived alonside each other and fought with each other for generations. Chondathan are viewed similarly to Tethyrians in the Silver Marches region, although their "southern" ties are considered more suspect. Planetouched are regarded with suspicion, for like elves, they seem to be creatures of magic. In particular, tieflings are seen as little better than fiends, though earth genasi are respected for their strength. Other humans are regarded with suspicion, for few Illuskans have ventured beyond the cold climes of northwestern Faerun except to raid and plunder, fewer still have any knowledge of other cultures.


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