The world of Iomandra is named after Io, the creator of dragons. The word “Iomandra” is Draconic; it means “Io’s trove” or “world of Io.”
According to legend, Io consorted with primordial beings to create Iomandra as a playground for dragons. Other gods flattered Io with praise for his design even as they were crafting worlds of their own, improving on his work. Io studied with envy the works of his divine peers, took note of the various humanoid races they’d created, and decided that his world needed such creatures to serve and amuse his dragons. Io negotiated with his fellow gods to bring humans, eladrin, elves, dwarves, halflings, and other races to the world—but none of them felt quite right to him. With the help of his children, Io crafted a humanoid race modeled after dragonkind and called them the dragonborn. The dragonborn were given every advantage, and with the help of the dragons they conquered and enslaved Iomandra’s other sentient humanoid races. The humans of Iomandra proved the most difficult to enslave; one kingdom in particular forged infernal pacts with devils in return for great power, thus birthing the tiefling race. However, even such desperate measures could not protect them from the awesome might of the dragonborn and their dragon masters. Their empires stretched across the vast continents of the world.
The covetous dragonborn empires eventually turned on one another. Petty rivalries and territorial disputes led to wars and horrible bloodshed. At the same time, slave revolts threatened to break the dynasties’ hold over the “lesser” races of Iomandra. To maintain order and restore paradise, Io sent his godling children to rule the great continents on his behalf, but they too became corrupt and tried to usurp each other’s power. Three of Io’s children perished in this world-shaking feud. Furious, Io recalled to the heavens his two surviving children—Bahamut and Tiamat—and unleashed a maelstrom that would sink the continents of Iomandra beneath the sea. Not everything was destroyed, however. In defiance of their father, Bahamut and Tiamat intervened and prevented the lands from sinking completely. Their intervention created islands around the globe where the world’s remaining inhabitants could survive and prosper. Moved by his children’s demonstration of unity, Io left the world in their custody. However, Bahamut and Tiamat would never again see eye to eye, and to this day, each seeks to break the other’s influence.
Iomandra of the “modern day” is a watery world peppered with islands of every size and ecosystem. Some of these islands are hundreds of miles across; others are barely large enough to support a single structure. Trade links many of the “civilized” islands, but countless more have yet to be explored. Beneath the waves lie the remnants of ancient, sunken empires and the treasures of the ages.
In this, the modern day, scores of vessels ply the Dragon Sea. They include heavily laden merchant ships, well-armed warships, swift privateer vessels, and fleets of marauding pirates. An intricate net of trade routes link the civilized islands, and ships that stray from these routes do so at their own risk. The only surviving nation of consequence is Arkhosia, ruled by a decadent and corrupt dragonborn dynasty that reveres Bahamut and Tiamat, fears Io’s wrath, and regards true dragons as divine exarchs.
The humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, tieflings, and other “civilized races” that inhabit Iomandra are no longer bound by draconic law. Having long since freed themselves from the bonds of slavery, they have charted their own destinies and spread across the world. These descendants of the ancient slave races bear no animosity to modern-day dragonborn, most of whom regard slavery as abhorrent under the teachings of Bahamut. Ever since Emperor Azunkhan III of the Dragovar openly professed his belief in “other gods,” these civilized races have expanded the pantheon of true gods to include such reverent figures as Erathis (goddess of civilization) and Melora (goddess of the sea).
THE DRACONIC ISLES
The Draconic Isles is the singular name given to the thousands of islands that dot the surface of Iomandra. And they are called the Draconic Isles for good reason.
By ancient law, all land belongs to the scions of Io—the true dragons. This was true when Iomandra had vast continents; it is still true now. When a dragon reaches adult age, it is expected to leave its nest and claim an island of its own. A weak dragon might find a small, uncontested island to rule. An elder dragon or ancient wyrm will seek to rule the largest island it can find, preferably one with abundant food supplies. Not every island of Iomandra has a dragon overlord. Some islands are simply too small or wretched. Others are hotly contested. Others still haven’t been claimed because no dragon has found them yet.
When a dragon takes ownership of an island, it expects all of the island’s other inhabitants to pay it tribute. Those who do not comply are devoured or driven off. Most sensible creatures acknowledge the dragon’s status and may even stand to benefit from the dragon’s protection (depending on its disposition). An island always adopts the name of the dragon that lives there; when a dragon overlord changes, so too does the island’s name . . . much to the chagrin of the world’s foremost cartographers.
Nothing is more precious to a dragon than its island dominion. A dragon that cannot find an island to rule will do anything to wrest control of one. Dragons who rule islands must therefore be wary of rivals. Their lairs are often trapped or guarded, and they are smart enough to use minions or adventurers to eliminate likely challengers.
It’s worth noting that over the course of history, many influential dragonborn warlords and emperors have claimed to be scions of Io, but the true dragons of the world have never acknowledged such claims. In one notable case, an ancient gold dragon named Mazuzura openly refuted such a bold claim made by Emperor Azunkhan V of the Dragovar by attacking his palace in broad daylight and devouring him. Today, the Dragovar Dynasty spans dozens of major islands, all with powerful dragon overlords. These mighty dragons horribly tax the coffers of the Dragovar, but they also provide the greatest protection that gold can buy.
Arkhosia was once the name of Iomandra’s largest continent. All that remains of Arkhosia today is a vast chain of mostly populated islands under the control of the Dragovar dynasty. There aren’t enough Dragovar soldiers or warships to protect all of the nation’s islands, and many of the outlying islands are left to fend for themselves.
The surviving nation of Arkhosia is home to many races, not just the dragonborn. These races strive to coexist peacefully under difficult circumstances. Arkhosian settlements are often crowded and cramped because of the limited land. As a point of fact, all Arkhosian land belongs to the Dragovar royal family, and the standard punishment for anyone who breaks the law or defies a royal decree is torture, branding, and exile. Exiled citizens are forbidden to set foot on Arkhosian soil, on penalty of death.
The royal family appoints magistrates to govern their islands—one magistrate per island. Magistrates serve for life, and magistrates who perform their duties poorly often meet a terrible end. A magistrate is responsible for enforcing imperial law, keeping an accurate census, paying off the island’s dragon overlord, taxing the locals, and ensuring that tax money is delivered safely to the royal coffers in the Dragovar capital of Io’calioth. Because Dragovar soldiers are spread so thin, magistrates often resort to using mercenaries and cutthroats to fulfill their obligations to the imperial throne.
A dragonborn citizen of Arkhosia is born into one of six castes: noble, divine, martial, arcane, expert, or commoner. A seventh caste—the slave caste—was officially abolished in 345 DY. A dragonborn can petition to join another caste, but it’s expensive (5,000 gp) and requires the written approval of an imperial vizier or magistrate. Each caste is described below:
Noble Caste: Dragonborn of the noble caste enjoy great privilege and prestige, and they are allowed to stay with their families and retain their family names. Dragonborn nobles live in luxury, leaving the day-to-day chores and business to others. A few ambitious nobles become politicians, magistrates, or viziers.
Divine Caste: Dragonborn of the divine caste are taken from their homes at age 3, raised by priests in a temple chosen by their parents, and forbidden to keep their family names. The temples of Bahamut and Tiamat are strongly favored, although the churches of Bane, Erathis, Pelor, and Melora are growing in favor and popularity. Before becoming a cleric, a dragonborn must pass a test of devotion, as determined by the high priest of the temple. Ambitious embers of the divine caste gifted with a flair for politics and diplomacy often seek to become imperial viziers and grand viziers—the keepers of doctrine in the Dragovar empire.
Martial Caste: Initiates of the martial caste are taken from their homes at age 3, stripped of their family names, and subjected to twelve years of basic martial training followed by three years of gladiator training. Many dragonborn do not survive the training, let alone the gladiatorial trials-by-combat. Those who survive become soldiers of the empire. With the martial caste are elite sects that serve specific military functions, including the Vost Miraj (a sect of rogues that specializes in espionage) and Khygar’s Brood (a much-feared military police force within the capital, named after its leader, Colonel Khygar).
Arcane Caste: Dragonborn of the arcane caste are separated from their families at age 3, stripped of their family names, and assigned to Arkhosian mages as pupils. After several years of study and magical testing, they become apprentices. The exact number of years depends on the ability of the individual, but the average period of study is twelve years. Apprentices are pitted against one another in arcane duels; those who prevail become wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers in the service of the empire. Within the arcane caste are elite sects that specialize in particular fields of magical study (for example, the Shan Qabal and the Jhal Shard), but very few members of the caste actually belong to them.
Expert Caste: Members of the expert caste are taken from their homes at age 3 and assigned to master artisans as resident apprentices. During their apprenticeship, they are not denied access to their families or stripped of their family names. After twelve years of study and service, if they receive their master’s blessing, they are entitled to pursue their skill independently and take on apprentices of their own. A dragonborn of the expert caste who fails her master may pursue another profession, but the investment of time is the same.
Commoner Caste: Commoners are not entitled to special training and cannot become soldiers, spellcasters, or artisans. Their options are usually limited to family-run businesses and menial labor.
THE EYE OF IO
Despite its vastness, the Dragon Sea is surprisingly calm. Storms happen rarely, ensuring safe travel from island to island even across great distances. However, that is not true for all parts of the world. Swirling about the southern pole is a roiling storm held in check by the Thunder Lords (see Power Groups). The storm is called the Eye of Io, and it measures nearly one thousand miles in diameter. Some say the Eye of Io is a vestige of the ancient storm that sank the continents of Iomandra tens of thousands of years ago. Whatever the truth, only magically warded ships can enter the Eye safely, and even then, the Thunder Lords are just as likely to smash a ship to smithereens as brook intrusion into their tempestuous domain. It is also believed that the Eye of Io is a gateway to a distant plane called the Elemental Chaos, but any captain wishing to cross over must pay a king’s ransom in tribute to the Thunder Lords.
The north pole of Iomandra is covered by a glacial mass that one might mistake for a true continent. This great icy wasteland is called the Frostfell. Rocky islands protrude from the thick sheets of ice here and there, but the land is frigid and inhospitable. White dragons and other cold-dwelling creatures lair in caves carved out of the rock and ice, and many ships have been lost exploring the Frostfell for secrets of the ancient dragon dynasties. Seafaring explorers are also drawn to the Frostfell by ageless rumors of a great caldera hiding an obsidian palace-fortress with the spoils of a thousand dragons locked in its vaults.
THE BLACK CURTAIN
A ship that travels west or east eventually comes to the Black Curtain, a miles-high barrier of dark mist that stretches across the horizon and envelops the world like a death shroud. Ships can’t sail around the Black Curtain without coming into contact with the Frostfell to the north or the Eye of Io to the south.
Within the Black Curtain, vision (including darkvision) is limited to a few feet. This alone is enough to discourage timid seafarers, but some believe that the Black Curtain isn’t boundless—that it hides idyllic lands untouched by the wrath of Io. Many hopeful explorers have passed through the Black Curtain, hoping to come out the other side and see a vast, unclaimed paradise. None of them have ever returned.
The Black Curtain hasn’t always existed; it came into being some years after Io sank the continents, but its origin is unknown. It had already grown quite immense by the time the Arkhosian dynasties recovered from the worldwide devastation. Perhaps the most troubling thing about the Black Curtain is that it seems to be closing in. Islands on the edge of the black mist are gradually being swallowed up. It may take years, but the Black Curtain will eventually engulf the entire world. Consequently, many learned scholars have dedicated their lives to solving the mystery of this sinister phenomenon.
THE BARONIES OF BAEL NERATH
The human empire of Bael Nerath crumbled when the continents of Iomandra sank into the Dragon Sea. The survivors lingered on the few remaining bits of land until the dragonborn dynasties swept in, “rescued” them, and took them as slaves. The descendants of Bael Nerath, freed from slavery, made a half-hearted attempt to rebuild their empire. They raised colonies on nine islands, which necessitated a pooling of resources. To ensure a fair exchange of goods, the islands formed the Trade Council, with one representative from each island. Unfortunately, human greed reared its ugly head, and the Trade Council became mired in corruption as its members took to calling themselves barons and formed secret alliances. Accusations of foul play and favoritism shattered all attempts to unite Bael Nerath, and today the islands are ruled by nine selfish barons who simultaneously oppose and rely on one another.
Two of the baronies—Ravan and Vhessek—have dragon overlords and are thus named after them. Baron Mystrum welcomed the iron dragon Ravan with open arms, and the two have struck an accord. Vhessek the black dragon is a savage tyrant, and many of the human inhabitants of Vhessek’s island have been devoured or driven off, while Baron von Ezengart remains as a puppet leader to discourage others from leaving. Dragons periodically accost the other seven islands of Bael Nerath, but to date the baronies have managed to drive them off or slay them (often with the help of adventurers).
Baron: Elidyr Xandros VI
Capital: Nerathor (pop. 12,200)
Baron: Steven Blacksword
Symbol: Black blade
Capital: Rockshoal (pop. 4,900)
Baron: Mariekus Corynnar
Capital: Shallowreef (pop. 7,500)
Baron: Elythea von Aress
Capital: Nerath’s Hope (pop. 4,000)
Baron: Yorgen Krell
Capital: Dragonfall (pop. 6,100)
Baron: Kharl Mystrum III
Symbol: Iron spike
Capital: Scalabar (pop. 4,500)
Baron: Tagon Archwind
Capital: Highpoint (pop. 6,400)
Baron: Jerek von Ezengart
Capital: Brightshore (pop. 500)
Baron: Sathima Shadowgray
Symbol: White stag
Capital: E’erwatch (pop. 9,500)
To save itself from the tyranny of the dragonborn dynasties, the human empire of Bael Turath forged dark pacts with infernal powers, giving rise to tieflings. Flush with newfound might, Bael Turath openly defied the dragonborn and their dragon overlords, calling down hellfire, curses, and eldritch power to scour their enemies. Although it wiped out entire dragonborn dynasties and slew countless dragons, Bael Turath eventually fell to the sheer might of Arkhosia. Bael Turath’s cities fell into ruin, its few surviving noble houses bound, weeping and cursing, into slavery.
When the continents sank into the Dragon Sea, nearly all of Bael Turath was submerged. A few ruins remain above sea level, tempting explorers. Even though centuries have passed and most of Bael Turath has been lost, the Deeplantern Guild and many others are drawn to the sunken empire by rumors of precious relics lost in the depths. Some seek a greater—and far more dangerous—prize within the sunken capital: a temple wherein lie the original pacts that transformed the devil-conspiring humans into tieflings and gave rise to the dark empire of Bael Turath. Mad prophets claim that a new emperor will arise among the tieflings, claim this ancient magic, and build a new empire to rival Bael Turath’s glory and splendor.
The ancient dragonborn dynasties apparently had no interest in exploring and conquering other planes of existence. Consequently, when the beautiful eladrin kingdom of Cendriane was threatened with annihilation by dragonborn armies, its leaders evoked powerful rituals in a desperate attempt to shift the entire kingdom into a twilight reflection of Iomandra called the Feywild. Although the eladrin mastery of arcane magic was unrivaled, their rituals failed. Cendriane’s transposition into the Feywild shook the kingdom to its foundations. All of the magic in the world couldn’t keep its towers and walls from crumbling into ruin, and few eladrin survived the calamity. The survivors remained in the Feywild and began the long process of rebuilding Cendriane’s capital of Amethystra. These eladrin cloaked the crystalline city using the magic of the Feywild, hoping that intruders from Iomandra would have a difficult time locating it.
Roughly two centuries ago, eladrin spies returned to Iomandra to observe the changes there. They were shocked to discover that most of its lands had sunk beneath the sea and that the dragonborn dynasties of old were no longer a threat. A few families of eladrin have since rejoined the people of Iomandra, but they guard well the secrets of their new homeland for fear that knowledge of the Feywild’s abundant land might spur others to invade it.
When the continents of Iomandra sank into the Dragon Sea, more than three-quarters of the dwarven kingdom of Gar Morra suddenly found itself underwater. The great mountains of Gar Morra now form rocky islands riddled with caves.
Freed from the tyranny of the dragonborn dynasties, the dwarves of Gar Morra returned to their ancestral kingdom to rebuild their strongholds, only to discover their islands overrun with orcs. For centuries now, the dwarves have been warring with these orcs, pushing them deeper down into the mountains. In the process, they’ve discovered large air pockets — vast cavern labyrinths filled with monsters far worse than orcs. The dwarves refer to this sprawling network of caverns as the Hollowdark (see below), and they would like nothing more than to rebuild their great kingdom in its protective depths.
In addition to rebuilding Gar Morra, the dwarves want to recuperate their lost wealth. Beneath the Dragon Sea lie the ruins of dwarf kingdoms and warded vaults filled with gold and other treasure that the dwarves aren’t willing to abandon. Consequently, the dwarves of Gar Morra are anxiously launching expeditions to these ancient sites to recover what they can.
Known as the Kingdom of Blood, the goblin nation of Sanghor has been destroyed and reborn countless times. Today Sanghor is little more than a scattering of rocky islands hewn into hideous fortresses. The goblins that infest these evil bastions worship Tiamat, and each tribe is ruled by a wyrmlord (usually either a hobgoblin or bugbear warlord). From time to time, a particularly powerful wyrmlord rises to unite the goblin tribes under a single banner with one purpose in mind: to slay the Dark Queen’s enemies and harvest their blood.
The goblins of Sanghor frequently ride dragons into battle. Tribal warpriests tend to the dragon hatcheries and raise the newly hatched wyrmlings so that they’re willing and eager to serve as mounts. These goblin warpriests feed the dragons a steady diet of meat and blood so that they remain devoted to the tribe and their Dark Queen.
Sanghor is also home to evil dragonborn who follow the teachings of Tiamat. Most of these dragonborn are Dragovar agents who seek to rekindle the glory of the ancient dynasties by enslaving all non-dragonborn races and seizing their lands.
THE DEMONMAW SARGASSO
Due west of ancient Bael Nerath and the islands of Arkhosia lies a vast stretch of the Dragon Sea called the Demonmaw Sargasso. The perimeter of the sargasso is so shallow that sailors can see the black coral that covers the sea floor. After a few miles, these shallows give way as the sea floor plunges into an inky abyss, where the waters are eerily calm. A lucky ship can use oars to cross the sargasso without incident. An unlucky ship finds itself inexorably drawn to a location where the watery horizon dips menacingly into a briny vortex. By the time one sees the vortex, it’s already too late: The hungry Demonmaw pulls the vessel down into its black depths, never to be seen again.
The Hollowdark is the name given to the subterranean realms of Iomandra, many of which flooded or collapsed when the continents sank thousands of years ago. What’s left of the Hollowdark can be reached via remote caves scattered on islands all across the Dragon Sea. Few surface dwellers have any clue what Hollowdark denizens may have survived the ancient calamity, and most don’t wish to find out. Consequently, known entrances to the Hollowdark are generally avoided.
The following empires and organizations figure prominently in the world.
The old Arkhosian and Myrthok calendars were abandoned when the Dragovar dynasty formed. It is now the fourteen hundred and seventy-fourth Year of the Dragovar (1474 DY). Across Iomandra, it is widely held that there are 7 days in a week, 4 weeks in a month, and 12 months in a year. The days and months of the calendar year are as follows:
Days of the WeekSunday Moonday Earthday Waterday Thunderday Fireday Starday
Months of the YearHlal (midwinter) Garyx (winter) Lendys (spring) Zarenshar (mid-spring) Varuuc (spring) Io’lor (summer) Tamara (midsummer) Chronepsis (summer) Erynian (autumn) Shivrah (mid-autumn) Ashardalon (autumn) Falazure (winter)