The Continent of Githas
Far to the west there lies a great and ancient continent, inhabited by humans since time immemorial - some say even that it is the birthplace of mankind. In the new world, most just call it the “old continent”, but to those who live there it is called Githas.
Githas is a place of harsh extremes - towering jungles, desolate steppes and a desert of undulating dunes so vast that it has earned the moniker of “the Endless Desert”. Despite its harshness, though, the Karui Desert was once home to the most powerful and advanced empire of its time - an empire that has since crumbled into the sand. No one knows how they performed the incredible feats of architecture that the ancient Karui are renowned for, or how they survived in a desert that has repelled all attempts at colonisation since.
For a long time, the younger lands of the world have spared few thoughts for the fate of Githas. Is it truly the place from which all humans came, or are its origins even more mysterious? Few cared until recent times, for most preferred gentler and more survivable climes to the harshness of the desert. Recent years have been marked by renewed interest in the so-called “old world”, however.
Some are drawn to Githas by nostalgia for its storied history, by scholarly interest, or a desire for the knowledge of the ancients. Others are drawn by avarice: what secrets and forgotten lore fell with the Karui Empire? Who knows what power is waiting in a buried tomb or sealed necropolis, waiting to be taken and used to forge a new era by the one bold enough to seize the reins of power? Suffice to say that Githas, which has been allowed to sleep peacefully for so long, may soon be roused from its slumber…
As a campaign setting, Githas is a version of ancient Egypt in which the Upper and Lower Kingdoms maintain a close relationship, but were never united. Some other things are different as well; the character of their neighbours and the relative importance of their gods, for example. Despite this, most of ancient Egypt’s most renowned accomplishments are present in Githas. They remain as the relics of an ancient and advanced civilisation that inhabited the desert in the earliest of days, and the modern inhabitants of Githas understand little of their ancestors and the wondrous works they achieved.
The Free Cities of Akkad are known throughout the world for their greatest invention: Akkadian Fire, which can burn through solid stone and even underwater. Yet in the shadows of the Assyr Mountains is a cosmopolitan nation that acts as a lifeline between Githas and Kyujitai. Akkad has existed in one form or another for thousands of years, but it is only in the last two centuries that the ancient crumbling cities of Akkad have been reclaimed. Life in the desert is harsh and the mountain bandits are a constant menace, but this coastal region has nonetheless become a place of power and wealth. In Akkad travellers from Kyujitai, Githas and even Leng mingle and trade. Poised on the edge of such an inhospitable region, the Free Cities have a reputation for being a place where anything goes.
Isidonia is the “Truehome” of the diminutive lizard-folk known as Oghmas. Some believe that Isidonia is central, somehow, to the legendary reputation of the oghmas of purveyors of strange and rare items. Some simply say that they know secret routes and places in the jungle, whereby they can safely plunder great profit from the forbidding jungles. Others say they have cut deals with the yuan-ti, and receive the jungle’s bounty in exchange for assistance - smuggling the serpent people into human lands. Some even say that the lizard-like oghma and the yuan-ti are of the same ilk. Such accusations do little to allay the mistrust that many oghma face, but only the oghma themselves know the truth.
The Karima Jungle lies to the south of the Twin Kingdoms, an ancient and mysterious rainforest that is shielded from the desert by the mountains known as the Cradles of Life. The jungle is vast and old, and littered with the remnants of ancient civilisations. They are remembered by ominous ziggurats and crumbling ritual circles, overgrown with moss and vines, that still stand to this day. Yuan-Ti is the name given to those who still inhabit the ancient ruins of the Karima: a name that all sensible people know to fear.
Karima is also home to Khartum, a river-kingdom that crouches on the jungle’s edge in the east - the “kingdom at the edge of the world”. In the arts of alchemy, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy none can match the people of Khartum. The inhabitants of Khartum are at constant war with the yuan-ti of the jungle, and the threat of “those who walk among us” is never far from their minds.
The Karui Desert is an extension of the same desert that Teoth and Khemet are able to inhabit due to the presence of the River Nuit. The sands grow only hotter and drier as one travels further west; the oases grow rarer, and the price of their locations more dear. The human inhabitants of the Karui are desert nomads, wanderers who have chosen to eschew the evils and indignities of civilisation and dwell amongst the wilderness. They survive by understanding the desert better than any other: where to find water, which secret caves provide blessed shade, where secret flocks can be kept safely. They trade in the secrets of the desert, and they make those who wish to cross it pay dearly for the privilege.
Yet the Karui Desert was not always home only to nomads and monsters. At one time, a powerful and ancient civilisation inhabited it. They thrived in the desert due to an extensive knowledge of oasis and some means of producing water; most likely, the source of both qualities was magical in nature. They are the ancestors of Teoth, Khemet and the Karui Nomads and the origin of their religion, but their great empire is no more. Their ruins, pyramids and tombs still stand in some places, however - and are attractive for grave robbers and scholars alike.
Molochim is a tortured land, sometimes referred to as “the wretched steppe”. Though there is nothing wrong with the land itself - compared to the desert, it is quite pleasant - it is a land where the cycles of nature have been permanently thrown into chaos. There are areas that are covered by constant, permanent thunderstorms. Lashing gales appear from nowhere and cause flash floods, and blizzards replace dry heat with howling snowfall in an instant. Even tornadoes that can scour the land to bedrock are common occurrences in this cursed region. Though few can be sure exactly what transpired, the common wisdom is that in their desperation to rule the land, the kings of the Moloch angered the elementals and the gods. Now all that remains are barbarian nomads, who put their faith in shamans to keep the ire of the elementals at bay.
Stolingonol is the only place in Githas where the dwarves have ever chosen to come to the surface and establish a mountainhome. The dwarves dwell beneath the earth, where it is said that gold is found in an abundance unlike anywhere else in the world - and desert centaurs dwell above. Dwarves and centaurs alike will tolerate each others’ existence, and occasionally even fight side-by-side, because they have a common enemy: the fire giants that still dwell in the deeper desert. Rich though they may be, the dwarves of Stolingonol are poor in the usual fare of dwarven kingdoms - in iron and other metals of weapons and warfare. This compels the dwarves to go abroad, in greate trade caravans that come - armed to the teeth - to Akkad and the Twin Kingdoms.
The Twin Kingdoms of Teoth and Khemet are the greatest powers of Githas, each ruled by a Pharaoh who is considered to be of divine status. Khemet, the Upper Kingdom, follows the River Nuit as it winds ponderously through the Karui Desert. It is a vast and mighty kingdom, but a narrow one. Teoth, the Lower Kingdom, inhabits the river’s broad delta as it empties into the Ocean of Antiquity - and is a land of swamps, marshland and greenery. Though independent from each other, they share a close sisterhood and rivalry; their people and customs are as one, and their borders are often very blurred. Either kingdom has tried to conquer and subsume the other at various points in history, and no doubt will try again in times yet to come.