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 Halruaa. Please click for a larger version.
  • Ruler: Netyarch Zalathorm Kirkson
  • Capital: Halarahh (pop. 8000)
  • Settlements: Achelar, Alathil, Alu, Aluarim, Assundath, Bathmé, Borah, Edouura, Elchul, Eru, Galdel, Githim, Halabar, Halagard (7500), Halazé, Hamphal, Khaerbaal (7000), Kithyym, Lath, Letharr, Lhaddas, Lhair, Maerass, Maeruhal, Maerzalar, Maezoun, Mairb, Martass, Mithel, Mithtar, Nishtul, Nuulatha, Orbedal, Rulasuu, Rwamphaler, Salhantar, Ssorsil, Sulaziir, Talathgard (200), Thilzoun, Thom, Yaulazna (400), Zalazuu (5000), Zhal, Zoundar, Zzuntal
  • Population: 1,676,160 (90% human, 5% dwarf, 2% halfling, 1% elf, 1% half-elf, 1% misc.)
  • Population Density: 2.65 people per mile², 1.02 people per km²
  • Area: 631,615 miles² (1,635,875.34 km²)
  • Military: Magical defences, small standing militia and fleet, skyships
  • Languages: Common, Halruaan, Dambrathan (border regions only)
  • Religion: Azuth, Mystra, Savras, Shar, Velsharoon
  • Exports: Electrum, gold, Haerlu wine
  • Imports: Exotic magic items, jewellery, precious metals, musical instruments, silk
  • Sources: The Shining South (Tom Prusa, 1993), Shining South (Todd Gamble, 2004)


Halruaa is the southernmost mainland nation of Faerûn, located on the Great Sea west of Dambrath, east of the Mhair Jungle and south of the Bandit Wastes. It is the famed Land of Magic, where (it is said) the meanest commoner knows a cantrip or two and whose most powerful mages command sorcery that could reshape the continent if they wished. Unlike Thay, Halruaa is a lawful-aligned nation where magic is used in the service of good. However, the Halruaans are often wary of outsiders and guard their nation carefully from those who would do it harm or try to steal their secrets.

Halruaa has the most formidable natural borders on the continent, with three mountain ranges intersecting in a way that almost completely walls off the nation from its surroundings. These mountain ranges are known as the Lhairghal (the West Wall) in the west, the Nathaghal (the North Wall) in the north and the Muaraghal (the East Wall) in the east. The mountains reach almost 20,000 feet in height. The mountains have the pleasing side-effect of acting as a windtrap, keeping the interior of Halruaa notably cooler and breezier than neighbouring lands.

There are few passes through the mountains. The best-known one is the Talath Pass between the Lhairghal and Nathaghal in the north-west, which acts as the main entrance to Halruaa for traffic; an isolated pass leading from the High Alaur towards the Bandit Wastes; the Nath Pass between the Nathaghal and the Muaraghal in the east; and the Azhal Pass in the south-east, leading from Halruaa to the Great Swamp of Rethild on the western border of Dambrath. All the passes are kept under both magical and mundane observation to protect Halruaa’s security.

The bulk of Halruaa lies on a large plain extending between the mountains and down to the sea, well-watered by several major rivers: the Aluar, the Halar, the Ghalagar and the Maeru. The Swamp of Akhlaur lies in the south-west along the Ghalagar River, whilst the Kilmaruu Swamp lies in the south-east. The Swamp of Akhlaur is not natural, instead being formed as the result of a battle between the archmage Akhlaur and a laraken some two centuries ago. Following Akhlaur’s disappearance and presumed death, a permanent portal was opened to the Elemental Plane of Water, resulting in a torrent of water gushing forth and flooding the surrounding lands. Attempts to close the portal have so far failed, to the quiet alarm of some on the Council of Elders. Attempts continue.

Halruaa is quite fertile, especially the rolling countryside north of Lake Halruaa and extending to the Nathaghal, which is covered in thousands of small farmsteads and smallholdings. In the north-east, in the high-lying valley known as the Nath, herds of aurochs and wild rothe are bred for food. Vineyards dot the landscape, producing various vintages including the famed Haerlu, which is much in demand across the whole continent.

Taken purely by area (including the massive mountain ranges), Halruaa is the largest nation in Faerûn, but it is relatively sparsely populated. The most surprising thing to visitors is how small the cities are. The capital, Halarahh, is home to barely 8,000 people and the second and third cities, Halagard and Khaerbaal, are only slightly smaller. Towns in Halruaa barely scrape a thousand people, and villages may be smaller than hamlets in some other lands. The small size of the settlements is made up for by their beauty and their unique natures: most Halruaan cities and towns are constructed partially or mostly through magic, resulting in floating mansions, inverted clocktowers, taverns whose interiors are larger than their exteriors (with a back door leading to a completely different plane) and shops only accessible to those who can fly or teleport. They also make up for their small size with their sheer quantity: Halruaa’s central plain and south coast are dotted with hundreds of villages and thousands of homesteads and hamlets.

Several notable islands lie off Halruaa’s south coast. Rulasuu is claimed by Halruaa and home to part of its fleet. The Shipgrave Islands are mostly uninhabited and notable with the wrecked ships around their shores, most of them undisturbed. The reason for this is clear: the sea elven kingdom of Mlossae surrounds the islands and the sea elves are responsible for most of the wrecks and also keeping interlopers away. Halruaa has no formal contact with the sea elves, but finds their presence useful in dissuading unwanted visitors away from the coast. Other nearby islands include the Stormtails, the Red Giant and Ward’s Islands, none of which are claimed by Halruaa.

Particularly notable is Yaulazna, the name given to a south-eastern bay on Halruaa’s coast (also called the Bay of Pirates), a large island in that bay and a settlement on that island. Yaulazna is a pirate base whose existence in Haluraan waters is tolerated through a very simple arrangement: the pirates direct their depredations towards nearby Dambrath and do not even think of touching Halruaan shipping. The pirates consist primarily of lizardfolk from the Rethild Swamp and various allied humans.


In the most ancient times, Halruaa’s territory lay close to that of the jungle elven nation of Ilythiir. Whether Halruaa was colonised or settled by Ilythiir remains unknown; the lack of ancient elven ruins suggests not.

For many millennia, the area was left mostly uninhabited, whilst the yuan-ti of the neighbouring Mhair Jungles expanded their own power across the Chultan Peninsula to the west, enslaving the then-primitive human tribes of the jungles. In 2809 BDR (Before Dalereckoning), the Eshowe, Tabaxi and Thinguth tribes arrived from the continent of Katashaka far to the south-east. These tribes were unintimidated by the yuan-ti and in several wars threw back their influence from Chult to the Black and Mhair jungles. The yuan-ti’s slaves took advantage of the situation to escape. After a huge rebellion in 1732 BDR, they fled north and east along the Chultan Peninsula into the Shaar, but also south into what is now Halruaa. These tribes became known as the Lapal. They settled the Halruaa basin.

Some fourteen centuries later, in 339 BDR, the great northern empire of Netheril was destroyed. Although many Netherese were killed, many more survived, fleeing to all corners of Faerûn in an attempt to escape the spreading desert and also the evil of the phaerimm. One group of Netherese led by the arcanist Raumark fled all the way to the Halruaa basin, more than 2,000 miles to the south, and sought refuge there. The Netherese refugees, mindful of the arrogance and hubris of their forebears, peacefully allied with the native Lapal tribes and Arkaiun settlers from neighbouring Dambrath and established a new nation built around magic, but, unlike Netheril, rejected the notions of slavery and imperialism.

Early Halruaa suffered several schisms. In 125 BDR the archmage Hetel Hastalhorn attempted to secure backing to ransack the Mhair Jungles for hidden treasure. After meeting lukewarm enthusiasm from his fellows, he struck out on his own, founding the settlement of Mhairhetel as a base for his investigations. Although Hastalhorn vanished a year later, his settlement proved viable and became a free port on the coast, still extant today. In 147 DR, there was a schism between worshippers of Mystra and Azuth, leading to the founding of the House of the High One Ascendant in the mountains overlooking Lhair. Finally, in 173 DR, a large number of followers of Leira, annoyed with the dominance of Azuth and Mystra-worshippers over the Council of Elders, departed Halruaa for the island of Nimbral to the south-west, establishing a mighty kingdom there.

Halruaa was slow to build up its magical might. In 553 DR, King Reinhar I of Dambrath invaded Halruaa and occupied the south-eastern part of the country. He was finally defeated by the archmage Mycontil in 585 DR. Over the next few centuries, the magical arts were advanced significantly in Halruaa. When the King of Lapaliiya launched an invasion of Halruaa in 1260, allied with bandits from the wastes just to the north. The invasion was easily defeated by Halruaa’s magic and skyships.

In 827, the Halruaan wizard Omm Hlandrar engaged the Red Wizard Velsharoon in a mighty spell battle in the skies over the Shaar. Due to the formidable power of both archmages, the contest ended in a draw.

In 1263, the capital was moved from the port of Halagard to the new city of Halarahh on Lake Halruaa. The new city is larger, more impressive and more secure, being located more towards the centre of the nation rather than on the very edge.

According to Halruaan tradition, a group of wizards rebelled against the rulers of Halruaa circa 800 DR after trying to seize control of the nation and were defeated and exiled. They made their way to the Delhumide province of the Mulhorandi Empire and formed the sect known as the Red Wizards, eventually leading to their conquest of Delhumide and the founding of the nation of Thay in 922 DR. However, a Halruaan connection to Thay has notably gone unmentioned in any other sources (aside from Omm Hlandrar and Velsharoon’s enmity), and the story may be apocryphal, although there is certainly little love lost between Halruaa and Thay, who hold diametrically opposed views on the use and morality of magic. The 2,000 miles between the two nations has, fortunately for the rest of the Realms, precluded open conflict between them.


Halruaa is ruled by the Council of Elders, which is made-up of senior mages and wizards from all over the nation. Thanks to magic, almost every council member can attend a meeting within minutes despite their location. Only arcane spellcasters are permitted on the council, after proving their mettle in displays of spellcraft. There are more than 400 wizards on the Council and the overwhelming majority view their membership of the Council as a formality and honour that can otherwise be ignored in favour of magical research or travelling elsewhere on Toril, or in the planes. Council meetings only require 39 mages to be present to be held, less than 10% of the total number.

The Council of Elders is led by the Netyarch, which roughly translates as “Wizard-King,” although the role is perhaps more analogous to that of a chairperson rather than an absolute ruler. The Netyarch chairs meets of the Council, but in times of emergency can make decisions for the good of the nation alone. As mages live a long time due to their magic, Netyarchs may spend several centuries in their position before dying. When this happens, a new Netyarch is voted on by the Council, with usually the most experienced mage in the country elected to the role. The current Netyarch is Zalathorm Kirkson, one of the most powerful archmages on all Toril, a peer of the likes of Khelben Arunsun, Elminster and the Simbul of Aglarond. He has served in the role since 1262.

The Council meets in the Ilysium, a vast pink marble building in Halarahh that also serves as the centre of Halruaa’s civil service and bureaucracy.

Two notable orders are responsible for the smooth operation of the nation. The Jordain Viziers are taught immense amounts of arcane lore but are not permitted to use magic themselves, and indeed those with no ability with magic at all (rare in Halruaa) are encouraged to take up this role. This gives the mages advisors with no way of challenging them but who can serve them faithfully.

More formidable are the secretive Magehounds. These are specially-trained individuals with one responsibility only: to eliminate Halruaan mages who go rogue. Utterly loyal to Halruaa, they answer only to the Netyarch and the Council of Elders, but even council members and Netyarchs are not immune to their investigations. Magehounds are very rarely seen in public and their identities are not widely known.

Halruaa’s military forces are small but elite and formidable, and can usually, easily be backed up by large numbers of wizards in a matter of moments. Talathgard, on the northern border, is Halruaa’s most significant fortress and guards the main entrance to the nation. Halruaa maintains a powerful naval fleet and, its fleet of skyships and spelljammers is the most formidable in the known Realms bar only that of Evermeet.

Halruaa is secretive and self-supporting, but does engage in trade across the Bandit Wastes with Lapaliiya and points further north, and limited trade with Dambrath to the east. Both Dambrath and Lapaliiya have invaded Halruaa in the past and Halruaa treats both with suspicion, despite its now formidable sorcerous might rendering both threats remote. Halruaa also engages in magical trade and limited seaborne trade along the Great Sea.

In terms of diplomacy, Halruaa regards both its neighbours with suspicion, but enjoys friendlier relations with the island kingdom of Nimbral to the south-west, which was founded by Halruaan colonists, and with the halfling land of Luiren further east, with which Halruaa engages in trade for its foodstuffs. Halruaa’s remoteness from the rest of Faerûn leaves it uninterested in the goings on of most other nations, but it observes the activities of Thay from afar with wary concern.


As a nation of spellcasters and mages, Halruaa is unsurprisingly dedicated to the worship of Mystra, the Goddess of Magic. Worship of Azuth, Mystra’s subordinate, is also extremely popular and their worship drowns out almost all others in the nation. Very small numbers of worshippers of Savras, God of Diviners, exist. Shar and Velsharoon also have followers among Halruaa’s more unsavoury wizards, though they keep their religion to themselves. The most impressive house of worship in Halruaa is the High Temple of Mystra, built around the peak of Mouth Talath and extending inside and below the mountain as well. The centre of Azuth’s faith is the House of the High One Ascendant, located in the mountains of the East Wall, near Lhair.

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