The Geography of Istralar

An old soldier will wear his scars with pride and sorrow. His memories flow through each mark on his body, from past tattoos to recent wounds, ever reminding him of what he has become. A world is no different. Istralar, as a planet, has lived through many millennia, and no single being, from mortal to god, has failed to leave their mark upon it.
— Mans Kartovy, President of the Kartovian Exploration Society
  This article does not seek to give the specifics of each continent's geography - it will not detail every island, mountain, river or sea. This task is far too arduous for one work alone. Significant elements of geography will be expanded upon in their own articles, or detailed in that of their encompassing location or country. Instead, this will detail the climates and general aspects of each of the four known continents of Istralar, and how those climates have shaped its inhabitants - for instance, many dwarves favour cool climates, and as such feel most at home in Iskaldhal.   If more information is sought, the Kartovian Explorer Society headquarters is currently located in Frystheim, Iskaldhal. Our archives are open to all who seek to travel or learn. Further information can also be located in each article's designated category of this encyclopedia, as found at the beginning of the book.


Through the will of nature and the fire of war, Istralar's once-perfect landmass has been torn into five main continents - Iskaldhal, Valathe, Xin Jiyu, Takawaoku, and Kudara. Only Valathe and Xin Jiyu remain connected to one another; the Talmian Mountain Range marks the distinction between them, having been created during their collision in the distant past.  

The Western Continent of Valathe

By far the most temperate in climate, rainy summers and cool winters allow Valathe to be characterised by its deciduous and coniferous forests. Whilst areas of taiga and tundra are not uncommon, particularly towards the northern reaches of the continent, the mountain rivers running through each country have created a plentiful amount of arable farmland and thus encouraged a perfect environment for many animal and fey habitats. The naturally-prosperous environment has allowed humans, halflings, orcs and other younger races to flourish - but as with all desirable resources, its lands have long been fought over. Currently, the two largest empires in existence are both located upon Valathe - the Aletheian Empire has claimed a large peninsula and its mountain regions, and the Medimian Empire has claimed the northern tundra.   Throughout history, a large amount of the world's population has been concentrated in Valathe. It has thus suffered the most during the Great Wars of the Divine, and has been the battleground for countless mortal conflicts. Parts of the landscape have been permanently cursed or charred, and Abyss-touched races such as the duergar and drow have spread their taint throughout the Underdark - a series of enormous caves beneath the land. No true catalogue of the tainted areas exists, despite the heavy presence of mortals with the power to do so, due to a combination of fear and politics.  

The Northern Continent of Iskaldhal

Life upon Iskaldhal is extremely challenging for its inhabitants. The continent has been a site of titan, giant and dragon activity for millennia, and is the location of the Heartforge of Iskaldhal - a colossal volcanic crater that seems to consume most of the continent's heat. In between the mountain ranges that litter its surface, Iskaldhal is home to taiga and tundra biomes, with dense alpine forests covering the continent's southern reaches. The few mortal races that choose to live upon Iskaldhal either eke out harsh hunter-gatherer lifestyles, rely on the few crops that can be grown in the icy landscape, or adapt to living beneath the earth.   Human settlements can be found on the southern edges of the continent, with some managing to survive in impenetrable mountain fortresses like their dwarven neighbours. Occasionally, settlements such as Fjarsjodan will be formed by powerful entities (such as dragons or warlord titans) to protect their vassals. Small elven tribes, adapted to the harsh environs, can be found in the icy wastes, as can the legendary Witch-Clans of Iskaldhal - though neither group generally wishes to be found.  

The Eastern Continent of Xin Jiyu

Whilst Valathe and Iskaldhal are mostly consistent with their climate, Xin Jiyu has to contend with the domineering Talmian Range to its west. Even before disaster threw it off balance, Xin Jiyu's centre was dry desert and grassland. Expansive steppes and temperate mixed forests still stretch over the upper half of the continent, before levelling off into taiga and tundra biomes and alpine forest as the northern edge is reached. The southern side of Xin Jiyu once flowed from desert into savanna and rainforest depending on how far south one was. Mountainous regions marked areas of cooler weather and deciduous forest, and humans flourished. This wild variety was destroyed in the aftermath of the Worldrend - all that remains in the south is the Sunari Wilderness, a near-uninhabitable and seemingly endless desert warped by chaotic magics left behind in the war.   Many elves and gnomes make their homes in the northern forests of Xin Jiyu, and their presence has attracted many fey to the area. Humans are also dominant across the entire continent, living in well-structured cities in the eastern mountains, in nomadic tribes across the steppes, and just about anywhere they can find sources of food and water. Orcs adapt well to the steppe environment, and human-orc wars are not uncommon. The only inhabitants of the Sunari Wilderness are those strong enough to adapt to it and survive its challenges - notably, half-orcs and half-elves find it easy to adapt to its environment, and small communities of their kin have sprung up at the Sunari's outer reaches.  

The Southern Continent of Takawaoku

Supposedly the second-deadliest continent, Takawaoku is extremely humid and warm at most times of the year. Most of its landmass is covered with dense rainforest and rugged mountains, and volcanic activity is exceptionally common on its surrounding islands as well as the mainland itself. The continent's eastern edge is far drier than the west, as a result of the Worldrend's influence, and much of the rainforest has given way to chaparral and savanna biomes instead. Towards the southern edge of the continent, the landscape turns rocky and deciduous due to the proximity with Istralar's southern pole - however, despite this, snow is a rarity outside of the mountains themselves. Many inhabitants of Takawaoku are used to the permanently tropical temperatures present at its northern edge, instead.   Many nature-loving races have travelled to the Southern Continent over the years. Tribal culture and shamanism is embraced, particularly within the native grippli species, but 'traditional' ideals of law and order, mostly from Valathe and northern Xin Jiyu, have begun to arise as a result of cross-continental trade. Interestingly, the drow and elves of Takawaoku manage some level of coexistence with far less hostility than their races normally bear towards each other - instead, they seem focused on eradicating the orcish presence. In general, however, most fauna of Takawaoku is extremely violent towards all other life, driving the continent's inhabitants to a lifestyle of guerrilla warfare within the jungle's depths.  

The Lost Continent of Kudara

Very little is known of Kudara's people or geography - the continent has been shrouded in a mystical barrier since the first War of the Divine. It can be assumed, however, from its location, that the continent is largely tropical in nature. As Iskaldhal is particularly active geologically, it is very likely that Kudara is as well, especially due to the alleged instabilities the land experiences. Rumours of what lies beyond Kudara's barrier whisper of jagged mountains, lush rainforests, inner seas, and - perhaps most incredibly - floating islands. Only the gods - and the native Kudarans - could know for certain.
Continents Valathe, Iskaldhal, Xin Jiyu, Takawaoku, Kudara


Author's Notes

Please note that the map seen in the header image is not complete. This article was written for Day 2 of the WorldAnvil summer camp, and I did not have time to fully finish the map. However, the climates should be somewhat accurate.

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2 Jul, 2018 17:20

Han, apart from the fact that the map looks gorgeous. I love the way you structured the article. Do you have an article for Kudara already? Also is there an actual map of ISTRALAR I can zoom to see clearly?

2 Jul, 2018 17:26

The map isn't done yet, so I've not uploaded one yet! x] The one in the header has been unfinished for moooonths because... er... I keep getting sidetracked :D I actually had to go add some rushed terrain shading to properly demonstrate the climates. I'll get around to it one day, hopefully - I'm currently running into size issues as the PSD is so ridiculous that it lags my PC.   Kudara is currently a massive unknown - I'm not sure it's even been mentioned in my campaign yet. Whilst I do know what's going on there, I'm currently focusing my development on Xin Jiyu, as my players have just arrived in the Eastern Continent. When they learn a touch more about it in-game, either through necessity or by invading libraries, I'll be able to put together an article on Kudara - but for now, it's going to remain shrouded in uncertainty. Aside from the summer camp, my next series of articles will likely be on various characters and countries in the East :D

2 Jul, 2018 17:33

Your quote is amazing and interestingly is similar to my thought proccess of Variels design!   Otherwise, this is an impressively written article to have written so fast! So much detail!

2 Jul, 2018 18:01

I love your article! I got an excellent feel for the differences between the continents where my interest is piqued enough to want to know more, but I'm also not bogged down by information.

2 Jul, 2018 18:28

That short little section for Kudara is perfect for it, it's piqued my interest immediately (and I'm half dead while writing this). Great work, Han!

2 Jul, 2018 18:30

What a great overview of the continents! It's a perfect starting point to jump into the world. The Worldrend sounds interesting - love the name. The quote at the beginning really sets the tone, too. Great article all around :D