Dwarves reside in great halls, mines, and vast cities that they carved beneath the Barrier Mountains. Over the years the Dwarves have created a vast network of tunnels and chambers the entire length of the mountain range, from the frozen north to the southern sea. Once the dwarves claimed all the mountains as their realm, today the dwarven clans still hold much of the range, with the remainder under the control of the goblins. The dwarves maintain strong ties and alliances with the hill giants, who dwell mostly in villages nestled in the valleys and along high roads through the few mountain passes. All roads, above and below the surface, run North/South. The Eastern reaches of the Barrier Mountains give the mountains their name, as the peaks rise too sharp to allow passage over the mountains. Under the mountains, the eastern mines are devoid of precious stones and metals, the surrounding rock is soft, and often slimey. Every attempt to make new paths further east has met with collapse, leading the dwarven miners to conclude that the eastern ridges are too soft to support any interior tunnels.
The dwarven realm is ruled by the clans. There are 5 clans, each is ruled by a council of Elders, typically the oldest and wisest of the clan. Once clan membership was stricting familial, that is no longer the case. While membership can be inherited, it can easily be taken away as punishment, or given away as reward. About half of all dwarves are members of a clan, the rest are called Loose Dwarves. Loose Dwarves are free to serve any clan they wish, they are paid for their services but gain none of the protections or assistance a clan provides. The clans often act in concert with each other, particularly when dealing with outsiders. Feuds between clans are common, but bloodshed is rare. The whole of the dwarven realms is governed by the Chief Elder. Humans often refer to the Chief Elder as the King of the Mountains, or King of the Dwarves, neither is considered accurate to the dwarves. The Chief Elder is chosen by the clan leadership, and serves for 25 years. His chief duties are to lead the dwarves in war, and to mediate feuds and disagreements between clans.
The gnomes live in small communities, scattered across the southern forests of the Elven Realm. These gnomish communities stretch all the way south to coastal mountains and there are even some villages in the deserts beyond. The gnome villages have little in terms of a government, each village tending to its own needs. There is a Gnome King, he is elected by the villages and serves a term of indeterminate length. The Gnome King serves under the Elf-King, and the gnomes, in theory, are vassals to the elves.
West of the Human Lands, lies a vast and dense forest. This forest land is the land of the elves. The forest runs, uninterrupted from the coastal mountain range in the south, all the way north to the Badlands. Despite this vast area, the elven population is small, compared to humans or dwarves. Because of this, most of the Elven Realm is unsettled, overgrown, and wild. Most elves prefer that the woodlands be wild and overgrown, as that is the forest's natural state. The elves have a noble class, similar to humans (or the humans have a noble class similar to elves), which aids the Elf-King in govern. Elven culture is one built on the ideals of freedom and equality, and so both the nobility and the Elf-King excercise little real power. Their primary task is to safeguard their people and the forest realm. Unlike human nobles, elves tend to eschew badges, ranks, and titles. For most elves, power is a burden. It is a necessary burden but still an unwelcome one. The Elf-King is an inherited title, passed down to the first born child of the monarch.
Elven history has been tumultuous at times. Elven society has been prone to social upheavals and revolutions. Most often these are small issues, usually resolved in a generation or two. In recorded history, two such social revolutions shook elven society so deeply that most elves consider themselves to be a different race than their forebears. The first was precipitated by the discovery of magic, the destruction of the Elven Empire, and the Reign of Elf-King Anduimun. The second was precipitated by the Elven Schism. The Schism split the elves into 3 groups. The fast majority of elves formed the society elves have today. A small minority formed the Fallen Elves, and were exiled from forested realm. Smaller still, was a small group of elves following the Elf-King Zephimir. Zephimir abdicated his throne following the schism, and went into self-imposed exile to a small village on Lake Salmar. He and his followers became known as Eladrin. They live as they did before the Schism, except that they are extremely reclusive.
Humans inhabit a vast territory. It is bordered in the north by the Badlands. An area with a harsh climate, little water and dangerous creatures. To the south is the great Southern Sea. In the west are the Great Barrier Mountains, home to the Dwarves and Goblins. In the east is the vast woodland realm of the elves. The lands of the Humans are divided up into 6 Kingdoms. Among these, Alainta is chief. After the fall of the Elven Empire a millenia ago, the human lands were united under the rule of Alain, an almost mythical man. He ruled for many years and before his death, he divided the human lands among his 6 sons, each would rule as a king, but would defer to the eldest to resolve disputes. In principle, the King of Alainta would be the first among equals. To this day, each of the human kings refer to each other as 'Brother'.
The Six Kingdoms of the humans are: Ishmaera, in the north guarding against the creatures of the badlands. Forlinde, it sits on the main border with the dwarves, and benefits greatly from trade. Ewina, in the west is populated by a rough people who hold to many ancient traditions. Ewina also has a large halfling population. Alitaan, reaches out across the Southern Sea, a great peninsula separating Palada Bay from the Sea. Linargion, the largest human kingdom and the breadbasket of human lands. Its produce is traded far and wide, across the human lands, the dwarven mines, even as far as Last Port in the far north. Alainta, Chief of the human kingdoms. It is smallest, but has a large urban population in Sofilholm, which is the market center for whole region.
Human society follows a strict hierarchy. Each nation is ruled by a king, who in turn is served by a vassals who are then served by sub vassals and sheriffs who keep the peace and administer justice to their local communities. Birth is of great importance to humans, moreso than any other race. A person station is largely determined by the station occupied by their parents, and each person is expected to advance their station in order to make a better life for their children.
The half-orcs have suffered a wretched existence. 600 years ago, the orc Warlord Grimmahkt found a means to cross the Barrier Mountains. He lead a massive and frightful host across the mountains, and into the humans lands. The war that followed was the most destructive and terrifying in recorded history. Sofilholm (throne city of Alainta) was burned, and every human kingdom was occupied, save Alitaan. A third of the Elven Forest was felled and burned. The first half-orcs were products of the harems kept by the Grimmahkt and his captains. Scorned along with their mothers, most were raised as slaves alongside the conquered races. Eventually, and with blood, sweat and tears (and a great deal of luck) the orcs were defeated and driven back beyond the Barrier Mountains. The mountain passes used were sealed with magic, and the orcs have never returned. A few small groups of orcs remained in the east, hunted. Some fled into the Badlands, other hid in deep words, far from the humans who wanted them dead. The half-orcs remained. Some are descended from the first half-orcs, others are descended from the stragglers, changed by years of separation into half-orcs. In either case, the half-orcs are seen by most as reminders of the horrors of the Orc War. Even years later, for many the wounds of that war seem fresh. As a consequence, the half-orcs live in small isolated communities, or in ghettos in the larger cities. Half-orcs are seldom welcomed with open arms. The nearest exception is Ishmaera. Ishmaera's need for soldiers to guard against centaur raids is so great, they are willing to accept half-orcs, at severely reduced wages.
Halflings can be found all over in this part of the world. In the distant past, the halflings lived in a massive wagon train. Tens of thousands of halflings wandering the world. As time wore on groups of families would leave the train and build a community. The highest concentration of these communities are in the human Kingdom of Ewina. The halfling there live a pastoral and agrarian life, rarely leaving their communities. Each community is lead by a Mayor, and while they are elected, they have many of the same powers and responsibilities of the human nobles. They are expected to provide soldiers and provisions to the King when asked, they are also expected to keep the peace and administer justice.
Within halfling society exists a dichotomy, between the Wanderers and the Farmers. The farmers live in the communities, though not necessarily as farmers. They tend to be more insular, only concerning themselves with the needs of their families and the community in general. They will fight to defend their homes from outsiders, but will rarely leave their communities. The Wanderers are a different story. The Wanderers live only for the open road. Most Wanderers never stay in one place for too long, usually just long enough to raise money to hit the road again. They will often remain fiercely loyal to their hometowns, but somewhat paradoxically many never return once they hit the open road.