In this series I will be looking at each of the individual nations of Faerûn in turn, in alphabetical order. This series is based around the status of each nation as of 1371-72 Dalereckoning (at the end of D&D 2nd Edition and the start of 3rd Edition). The maps are drawn from The Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas CD-ROM and their respective 1st and 2nd Edition sources. They are not necessarily current for the 5th Edition of the setting (which is set c. 1496 DR).

A map of the Shining Lands, please click for a larger version.


  • Ruler: Grand Nawab Kara Jeratma of the High Council of Durpar
  • Capital: Heldapan (pop. 50,000)
  • Settlements: Assur (5000), Bralizzar (500), Flyndagol, Huorm, Lastarr (10,000), Morvar (20,000), Ormpé (4500), Orpher, Pharsul, Protain, Sandsrun, Seldazar, Sezilinta (17,000), Ssundyl, Turelve (30,000), Vaelan (45,000), Vurpar
  • Population: Unknown
  • Area: 247,574 miles² (641,213.72 kilometres²)
  • Military: Mercenary companies, private militias
  • Languages: Durpari, Untheric, Common
  • Religion: The Adama, Curna (Oghma), Lucha (Selûne), Torm, Zionil (Gond), Waukeen
  • Exports: Fine cloths, coffee, field glass, grain, soap, spices
  • Imports:
  • Sources: The Shining South (Tom Prusa, 1993), Shining South (Todd Gamble, 2004)


  • Ruler: Rajah Ekripet Seltarir
  • Capital: Chavyondat (pop. 67,489)
  • Settlements: Kolapur, Ulara, Zabbasz
  • Population: Unknown, but believed to be split 81% human, 7% halfling, 4% half-elf, 3% dwarf, 2% gnome, 2% half-orc, 1% misc.
  • Area: 90,807 miles² (235,189 kilometres²)
  • Military: The Maquar
  • Languages: Durpari, Common
  • Religion: The Adama, Curna (Oghma), Lucha (Selûne), Torm, Zionil (Gond), Waukeen
  • Exports:
  • Imports:
  • Sources: The Shining South (Tom Prusa, 1993), Shining South (Todd Gamble, 2004)

Var the Golden

  • Ruler: Supreme Potentate Anwir Duprestiskava
  • Capital: Pyratar (pop. 45,000)
  • Settlements: Des, Durgach, Gust, Myrmyr, Tannath, Zelpir
  • Population: Unknown
  • Area: 108,730 miles² (281,609.4 kilometres²)
  • Military: Private militias, priestly warrior orders, mercenaries
  • Languages: Durpari, Common
  • Religion: The Adama, Curna (Oghma), Lucha (Selûne), Mask, Torm, Waukeen, Zionil (Gond)
  • Exports: Grain, wheat, foodstuffs
  • Imports:
  • Sources: The Shining South (Tom Prusa, 1993), Shining South (Todd Gamble, 2004)


The three nations of Durpar, Estagund and Var the Golden are located towards the south-eastern corner of Faerûn, on the Great Sea and surrounding the immense gulf known as the Golden Water. These three nations are often mentioned together as “The Shining Lands,” for their fortunate climate and the shining seas that surround them (and, according to them, anyway, their enlightened philosophical and religious viewpoints).

The three nations are deeply entwined, sharing a common history, language, religion and culture. However, they are nominally three independent nations (albeit dominated by Durpar as the largest, most populous and most powerful of the three), with their individual rulers and their own concerns.

Of the three nations, Estagund is the smallest. It is located on a narrow coastal plain bordered by the River Gundar to the east, the Toadsquat and Thrulaliel mountain ranges to the north, the Lluirwood and the border with Luiren to the west, and the Great Sea to the south. At one point, Estagund claimed lands further north, extending to the Curna Mountains and the city of Lastarr, but these areas eventually fell under the sway of Durpar instead (although Lastarr’s status seems to swing between semi-independence and being a Durpari vassal). Estagund’s capital and largest city is Chavyondat (formerly known as Klionna), on the Bay of Kings.

Var, often called “The Golden” for its immense fields of wheat, fills the immense headland to the south of the Golden Water. Var’s borders stretch from the Curna Mountains to the Great Sea and the River Gundar, and also along the coast of the Golden Water from Gust in the west to the Isle of Ships and the port of Tannath in the east. Var’s capital city is Pyratar, which commands a fine harbour on the inlet known as the Throat. The bulk of Var’s territory is taken up by farmsteads, hamlets and fields of immense size, stretching for almost 300 miles from the Gundar to the straits separating the mainland from the Isle of Ships. Var is the breadbasket for much of south-eastern Faerûn, and its food supplies are the source of its wealth.

Durpar is the largest of the three nations. It consists of the entire northern coast of the Golden Water, extending as far inland as the mountains ringing the Great Dust Desert of Raurin, before wrapping around the western end of the Golden Water to incorporate the city of Vaelan. Its reach also nominally extends along the Great Trader’s Way to the city of Lastarr, although its control that far out is tenuous and Lastarr sometimes reverts to self-governance. Durpar’s control of the Ajmer Forest, the so-called Scarlet Jungle, is somewhat tenuous, but it strives to maintain governance of the city of Flyndagol in the far north-east of the nation. Beyond Flyndagol rises the small mountain range known as the Ice Mountains, but beyond are the towering peaks of the Katakoro Mountains, an arm of the Yehimal, the greatest mountain range on Toril. Flyndagol lies close to the banks of the River Xon, which further upriver is known as the Jumpa, a significant waterway that extends all the way to the borders of Khazari and Taan, on the very edge of the continent of Kara-Tur. The Jumpa is joined by hundreds of rivers, streams and brooks extending down the immense western faces of the Katakoro Mountains, making it one of the great rivers of the world; however, its immense and destructive rapids make it almost impossible to use for river travel for transport and cargo.

Also accounted as part of the Shining Lands are several neighbouring regions. Veldorn, known as the Beastlands, extends along the area’s western flank, along the banks of the Liontongue and Madras rivers and extending to the Aerilpar Forest, as well as westwards in the immense plains of the Eastern Shaar, as far as the Bloodlake. The territory is often expanded to include the independent rakshasa city-state of Tirumala in the western foothills of the Curna Mountains.

The Great Dust Desert of Raurin is sometimes also accounted part this region. The ruins of the great empire of Imaskar, Raurin is an immense desert stretching from Durpar’s northern borders to the nations of Semphar and Murghôm in the far north and, via the Plains of Purple Dust, Mulhorand far to the north-west. For most its existence, Raurin has been too inhospitable to cross easily, but in 1356 Dalereckoning adventurers striking out from the town of Bralizzar successfully restored the springs under the ancient, ruined city of Terbakar, the source of the long dried-up River Athis. The Athis River Valley, of old, provided a safe passage through the desert to the far northern side. Although the re-flooding of the Athis is taking an immense amount of time, when complete it is hoped it will allow for the construction of a cross-desert trade route to link up with Semphar, Murghôm and Mulhorand, to the enrichment of the Shining Lands.

The nation of Ulgarth forms the entire eastern shore of the Golden Water and has a remote border with Durpar along the Xon/Jumpa, and is a strong trade partner of the Shining Lands. However, Ulgarth is more properly the northern-most nation of the Utter East, the region that wraps itself around the far eastern end of the Great Sea and extends as far as the intercontinental borders with both Kara-Tur to the east and Zakhara to the south.


In ancient times, the territory today controlled by the Shining Lands lay at the eastern end of the great dark elven empire of Ilythiir. With the destruction of Ilythiir in the event known as the Descent of the Drow c. 10,000 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), the area became largely uninhabited for almost two millennia. An early offshoot of humans known as the Durpari migrated to the area and lived in isolated tribes along the coast.

Cira 8350 BDR, a splinter-tribe of the Durpari led by Warlord Nemrut travelled north over the Mountains of War and settled the fertile Raurin Plateau. In this area they mastered agriculture, settling down in permanent dwellings. They also started to master magic, with their greatest magic-users becoming known as Artificers. By 8130 BDR these had become the first cities of the region, with the largest and most grand, Inupras, founded in 7975 BDR. Lord Artificer Umyatin declared himself the first Emperor of Imaskar.

Imaskar spread rapidly across eastern Faerûn. By 6422 BDR the Empire’s borders stretched from the Great Ice Sea in the far north almost to the Golden Water and Great Sea in the south, from the Katakoro Plateau of western Kara-Tur to the Dragonsword Mountains. The Empire built Bukhara Spires, great portals to facilitate travel across the empire and even to other planes and worlds. In that year, rampaging krakentua razed Inupras, splintering the Empire into the territories of the Upper Kingdom (comprising the provinces of Taanga, Khati, Katakoro) and the Lower Kingdom (comprising Nemrut, Semphar, Raurin and Limia). The Durpari tribes along the Golden Water and Great Sea became a vassal state, never fully annexed into the Empire but also not permitted their freedom.

The Empire was rebuilt, but circa 4370 BDR a terrible plague more than decimated Imaskar, killing around 15-20% of the population and plunging the Empire into an economic crisis that seemed unsolvable. Lord Artificer Khotan resolved the crisis by building two immense portals leading to an unknown world with no knowledge of sorcery. Imaskari warriors and wizards journeyed through these portals, enslaving hundreds of thousands of humans and bringing them back to Toril as slaves. These people, the Mulan, soon became a slave underclass in Imaskar. They prayed to their gods for salvation, resulting in the eventual arrival of the Mulhorandi and Untheric pantheons on Toril in 2489 BDR. The gods encouraged a great rebellion, which lasted over a year and saw the slaying of the Emperor Yuvaraj by the Mulhorandi chief god, Horus. Inupras was destroyed and the magical backlash saw the formation of the Raurin Desert. The Mulan people then travelled north and west to found the kingdoms of Mulhorand and Unther, and their various vassal states (Chessenta, Threskel, Murghôm, Semphar and Thay).

The Durpari, for their part, had not been enslaved or subjugated, mainly thanks to the construction of the immense Gate of Iron in 2700 BDR, which significantly barred both mundane and magical travel from the Imaskari heartlands into the territories of Durpar, but had been forced into vassaldom. The collapse of the Imaskari Empire unleashed a significant period of chaos and rebellion in this corner of Faerûn, not helped by occasional Mulhorandi forays from the north. However, the distances and the resulting strains on supply lines prevented the Mulhorandi from ever really annexing the area.

Finally, in 623 BDR the Durpari tribes were united under the leadership of Maharajah Udandwi. Udandwi took advantage of formidable natural borders to fortify Durpar and strengthen it. He also formed alliances with the small kingdom of Veldorn that formed to the west, with its capital at Old Vaelen, and the kingdom of Gundavar to the south, below the Golden Water. Durpar ensured it became more profitable for Mulhorand to trade with the region rather than try to conquer it.

By 256 BDR the region had fallen under sway of the philosophy of “The One,” also known as “The Adama,” that postulated the interconnectedness of all things, including the gods. Many of the religions of Faerûn rejected the idea, but the Churches of Selûne, Oghma and Gond were surprisingly accepting of the philosophy, and their worship in Durpar boomed (albeit under local names, Lucha, Curna and Zionil). In 236 BDR Gundavar’s disparate tribes and settlements were unified under Rajah B’heshti I. In 162 BDR Gundavar was split along the line of the River Gundar, with the lands to the south-west becoming known as Estagund. Several attempts were made by Gundavar to retake Estagund, most notably between 119 and 112 BDR, until Gundavar relinquished its claims to the region and renamed itself Var.

Starting in 142 DR, monstrous creatures began overwhelming Veldorn. A beholder hive took the city of Assur before seizing Vaelantar and Ormpé in 147. In 245, monsters from the Eastern Shaar them invaded western Veldorn. Despite help from Durpar, Veldorn was overwhelmed and destroyed, its capital city of Old Vaelen falling into ruin.

In 428 DR Maharajah Waileen V of Durpar died without issue. Governance of the nation was transferred to a High Council, consisting of the eleven wealthiest merchant-lords of the kingdom.

In 551 DR Estagund was conquered by the younger nation of Dambrath, which invaded by sea and land. Three years later the nation was liberated after the Dambrathan king was slain in battle in Halruaa.

In 554, the defeat of the Dambrathan invaders led to a realignment in the Shining Lands. Var and Estagund moved to gain greater independence from Durpar, with Var selecting a new Supreme Potentate to rule over the nation and Estagund declaring a new King, Bonrial. The so-called Golden Wars raged for several years across the golden wheat plains of Var until the succession shook itself out and a new power structure took hold with the appointment of Supreme Potentate Muwadeen.

In 1023 DR Estagund launched an ill-advised retaliatory invasion of Dambrath, which was easily defeated. Estagund suffered massive military, civilian and economic losses in the gambit, leading the nation into penury. Durpar purchased the government of Estagund for 24 gems, agreeing to help rebuild and protect Estagund in return for it becoming a vassal of Durpar. This led to the appointment of Numambi Seltarir as the Rajah of Estagund in 1026. Numambi quickly reorganised Estagund’s economy and military, founding the Maquar as the nation’s military the following year. He also renamed the capital, Klionna, as Chavyondat, after his eldest daughter.

In 1102-03, the Shining Lands launched a surprise attack on Veldorn, the so-called Realm of Monsters. Over the past nine centuries, the rule of beholders, wererats and other creatures over several cities of the Golden Water had come to be accepted as a bizarre quirk of the region, and in some cases other realms had opened trade with these cities and found it possible, if hazardous, to deal with them. Durpar, Var and Estagund had never been happy with the situation, though, and in a lightning, campaign retook Vaelantar (New Vaelan), Assur and Ormpé. Durpar extended is borders down the western side of the Golden Water and the territories of Veldorn, now called the Beastlands, were pushed considerably further back westwards.

In 1184 Anwir Dupretiskava rose to the rank of Supreme Potentate of Var, a position he holds to this day, 187 years later. Anwir has put his longevity down to “healthy eating” and only minor magical assistant. He has proven an able and effective ruler, despite an odd affinity for lightning storms and occasionally disappearing from the tallest tower in his palace and returning mysteriously later on.

The Shining Lands’ recent history is unremarkable: the Time of Troubles had little impact on the region, the Tuigan invasion even less so. Durpar did boldly send several merchant ships to Maztica after the Golden Company discovered that continent in 1361 and opened trade routes. Given Durpar’s distance from Maztica (the distance from Helmsport to Heldapan approaches 5,500 miles), the expedition was ambitious but successful, with several trade ships returning from the True World laden with wealth. The main current area of political discussion in Durpar is a proposal to move the capital from Heldapan on the north coast of the Golden Water to Vaelan on the south coast. The Durpari believe this would allow them to better effectively communicate with their “vassals,” Var and Estagund, although some believe it would also expose them to greater risk from the Beastlands to the west. The matter remains under debate.


The three Shining Lands are united by shared cultural and historical ideals, but they each have their own forms of governance.

Durpar is ruled by the Nawab Council, sometimes called the High Council of Durpar. The Council is made up of the eleven wealthiest mercantile houses, known as chakas. Chakas are social-economic “units,” consisting of a single family with extended connections but sometimes incorporated unrelated familial units of similar interests. The Grand Nawab, the richest of the merchant lords, is the head and chairman of the Council. This system appears vulnerable to corruption, but most Durpari believe in good business practices as laid out in the code of the Adama. Nawabs who give in to corruption and bribery and are exposed bring tremendous shame to their entire chaka, and may forfeit business interests and contracts, losing their seat on the Council and perhaps many of their holdings altogether.

Durpar’s economic wealth is built on the skill and reach of its merchants, and its markets are fabulously attractive because of that reach. Goods from Zakhara, Kara-Tur and Maztica can be found on its market stalls, attracting seekers and collectors of riches and esoterica from across the known Realms. Durpar has no standing army, with instead individual nobles and chakas maintaining militias and hiring mercenary groups depending on need (which, along the Beastlands border, is pretty much constant). However, Durpar’s fabulous wealth is such that it could hire and assemble an army very quickly if required.

Var is ruled by its Supreme Potentate, currently Anwir Dupretiskava, who rules as an absolute ruler. In practice, Anwir seems often bored or disinterested by the day-to-day ruling of what is effectively a massive farming nation, and delegates decisions to various officials, only intervening in very high-end discussions about the fate of the nation. Day-to-day rule of the Golden Nation is divided between the hajwas (nobles), nawabs (merchants) and janas (priests). The hajwas used to dominate the three groups, since their power was rooted in landholdings, and control of the land in resource-rich Var is vital. However, as Var’s mercantile class has risen in power, so the balance of power has shifted to something more equal. Intriguingly, Anwir seems to prefer a system of balance between the three groups and himself, rather any one faction dominating. Var’s military is again mostly dominated by militias and mercenaries, but the Adama priests also maintain priestly warrior orders ready to take the field with both the sword and magic.

Estagund is ruled by a hereditary ruler, formerly a king and now the Rajah of Estagund. Estagund focuses on defensive measures against the Beastlands to the north and Dambrath to the south-west, but also has several rich markets, trading goods from Durpar and Var to the east with Luiren to the west. Rajah Ekripet Seltarir is a young and vigorous ruler keen to expand Estagund’s power, influence and economy in a peaceful, sustainable way. However, Estagund maintains the stick as well as the carrot via its dedicated, standing army, the Maquar.


The three Shining Lands are united by their belief in the philosophy of the One, that all things are connected to one another by a shared lifeforce, even the gods. The three Faerûnian gods most at home with this ideal – Curna (Oghma), Lucha (Selûne) and Zionil (Gond) – are venerated in the Shining Lands as a holy triumvirate, the Adama. Although less happy with this philosophy, the Church of Torm also enjoys moderate popularity through the region. The darker gods are notable from their absence – bar shrines to Umberlee along the coast, as in most coastal regions – although Mask, God of Thieves, has attracted a small following in Var.

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