The massive Sellen River basin drains all the eastern lands, carrying waters from the Lake of Mists and Veils north of Brevoy, the massive Lake Encarthan, and lakes and rivers all over Galt, Numeria, and Ustalav down to the Inner Sea. As the tributaries pass through the hundred marshes and forests of the River Kingdoms, they seem to carry an especially heavy freight of sin, treachery, and thievery, for the River Kingdoms are where desperate men go to escape their pasts and carve out new lives. The lords of the nearly two dozen River Kingdoms constantly fight among themselves, and small mercenary companies battle for ownership of each hamlet and bridge. One result of the frequent infighting is that food in the River Kingdoms is quite valuable. Few souls dare to farm or raise livestock for fear of banditry. What little food is grown is kept secure in castle granaries or well-guarded cattle pens; food suppliers become local heroes, and mistreated farmers or cattle herders have been known to torch their lands and find new towns, where they receive a hero’s welcome.
Those who hide here and grow strong include hardened criminals, exiled nobles, firebrands, religious zealots, slavers, and necromancers, but even these treacherous folk tend to follow the strong code of River Freedoms. Those who rule are strong, wily, and willing to do anything to keep their hold on power. The governments of the River Kingdoms range from brutal despotism to pure anarchy, and represent every step in between.
The only thing that can briefly unite the River Kingdoms is a threat from Galt, Numeria, or Razmiran, and even then, each princeling vies with his fellows to lead the resistance. Larger realms find the River Kingdoms to be useful sources of mercenaries and a convenient place to exile undesirables. Attempts to seize and hold River Kingdoms territory prove expensive, thanks to the locals’ martial skills, honed by years of infighting.
The Six River Freedoms
Say What You Will, I Live Free: Talk is cheap, and everyone is entitled to speak their own words.
Oathbreakers Die: Those who swear oaths—particularly those of fealty to a River King—and break them can expect any number of painful and lethal fates.
Walk Any Road, Float Any River: Freedom to travel is fundamental. No River Kingdom is allowed to bar traffic on a river or a road, save in times of active warfare.
Courts Are for Kings: The law is always malleable. Who you know and who you can count as friends are more important than what the law says, and a lord can change laws in his territory at will.
Slavery Is an Abomination: Slavers may visit the River Kingdoms, but taking or holding slaves there upsets the many people who were once slaves themselves.
You Have What You Hold: Property laws are weak in the River Kingdoms. Taking something openly by force is different from stealing, and those who can’t protect their property don’t deserve to keep it.