Regions: Amn, Calimshan, Cormyr, Dragon Coast, the North, Tethyr, Western Heartlands, Waterdeep.
Racial Feats: Caravanner, Oral History, Shadow Shield, Shadow Song, Spire Walking.
The Sword Coast has long been home to native human tribes who intermingled with wave upon wave of immigrants, whether they arrived as conquerors or refugees. In recent centuries, these disparate groups have gradually coalesced into a relatively new ethnic group known as Tethyrians, occupying a vast territory stretching from Calimshan to Silverymoon and from the Sea of Swords to the Sea of Fallen Stars. After centuries of enslavement and oppression by one group or another, Tethyrians are fiercely independent, protective of their freedoms and suspicious of threats posed by powerful kingdoms and empires. Given their disparate ancestry, Tethyrians have never developed a unique language of their own, instead adopting the language of the latest wave of conquerors or refugees. Today most Tethyrians speak Chondathan.
As Tethyrian culture is a melting pot of Calishite, Chondathan, Illuskan, and Low Netherese, Tethyrians are tolerant of and comfortable with members of other ethnic groups, with the notable exceptions of upper class Calishites and, to a lesser extent, Mulan of Thayan descent. In Calimshan, Tethyrians compose the bulk of the lower classes and have long been discriminated against by the largely Calishite upper classes. Outside Calimshan, many Tethyrians are craftsmen or caravanners, while others find employment as mercenaries in the employ of other realms. Tethyrians make skilled fighters and rogues, reflecting the struggle to survive successive waves of conquest and generations of warfare. Tethyrian culture has a long tradition of bardcraft, reflecting the absence of a Tethyrian empire at any point in history and the corresponding reliance on itinerant bards to preserve and spread Tethyrian oral history. Tethyrians are of medium build and height, although taller and broader in build than most Calishites. Their skin tends to have a dusky hue, although on average they are increasingly fairer in complexion the farther north one travels along the Sword Coast, reflecting a decreasing fraction of Calishite heritage and an increasing fraction of Illuskan and Low Netherese ancestry. Tethyrian hair and eye color varies widely, with brown hair and blue eyes being most common.
Most Tethyrians are proud of their multi-ethnic heritage, seeing their society as having defeated all would-be conquerors through assimilation rather than empire. Tethyrians are suspicious of remote rulers and large realms, a cultural bias reflected in the predominance of city-states over kingdoms and empires in Tethyrian-dominated regions. If Tethyrians have a common weakness, it is their reluctance to come together in common cause with those who are not their immediate neighbors.
The history of humanity along the western coast of Faerûn is largely one of assimilation, conquest, and slavery, but it begins with primitive tribes dwelling in relative isolation, their presence tolerated by the great empires of other races. Fragments of elven lore dating back to the height of Shantel Othreier and Keltormir speak of small tribes of humans dwelling beneath the boughs of the great forests that once stretched from the Spine of the World to the Shining Sea. Likewise, fragments of dwarven lore dating back to the height of High Shanatar also indicate that scattered human tribes dwelling in what is now Tethyr and Amn swore fealty to the rulers of House Axemarch as well.
The first great migration into the western tribal lands began with the establishment of the Calim Empire in –7800 DR. The djinn brought with them human slaves, the progenitors of today’s Calishites. In –6100 DR, these Calishite forebears established the human-ruled nation of Coramshan, absorbing the native human tribes that dwelt south of the Marching Mountains into the lower class of Coramshan.
The establishment of the First Kingdom of Mir in –5330 DR marked the beginning of High Shanatar’s decline and the northward-spreading influence of humanity. By the fall of High Shanatar in –2600 DR, Calimshan had become one of the great centers of human civilization in Faerûn, and the human tribes that once dwelt peacefully under dwarven rule in what is now western Tethyr had been enslaved by their new Calishite rulers. By the end of the Third Age of Calimshan in –900 DR, Calishite hegemony extended into the Calishar Emirates, lands that would become eastern Tethyr and Amn.
The first stirrings of rebellion among the human tribes that would in time become known as Tethyrians began during the Night Wars, a series of incursions by the drow that weakened Calishite control over the local dwarven and human populations. By –650 DR, these regions were largely free of Calishite control, although surrounded by Calishite territories. Inspired by this rebellion, revolts among enslaved humans became common in
other Calishite territories between –670 DR and –370 DR. The clans were forced to defend their independence on numerous occasions, culminating in the crowning of Tethyr’s first king in –212 DR.
The Age of Shoon began in 27 DR, when Qysar Amahl Shoon III inherited the crowns of Tethyr and Calimshan, thanks in large part to the scheming of his great-great-grandfather. In the centuries that followed, the Imperium’s reach extended around the Shining Sea, deep into the Shaar, and north into Amn. The armies of Qysar Shoon VII pushed north beyond the Cloud Peaks in 361 DR, where they were in turn met by the armies of Cormyr, which marched west and then south into the heart of Tethyr. Although neither the Shoon Imperium nor the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr formally claimed the region north of the Cloud Peaks and west of the Sunset Mountains, their activities led large waves of settlers into the region.
Since the fall of the Shoon Imperium, Tethyrians have slowly spread throughout the Western Heartlands and north along the Sea of Swords, settling new lands and establishing powerful city-states. One major group of Tethyrians migrated west to the Moonshae Isles in 467 DR, where they intermarried with the native human tribes, known as the Ffolk. Another major wave of Tethyrian migration helped found the kingdom of Phalorm in 523 DR after the fall of the older Illuskan-ruled realms of the Sword Coast North to the ever-worsening orc hordes. The Realm of Three Crowns collapsed in 615 DR in the face of unrelenting attacks by orcs and the withdrawal of elves and dwarves from the alliance. In the aftermath the largely Tethyrian population established Delimbiyran, the Kingdom of Man, in 616 DR. Delimbiyran collapsed in 697 DR after the royal house died out, but lesser successor states continued to occupy the lower Delimibiyr river valley for centuries thereafter. Meanwhile, Tethyrian settlers pushed north along the Dessarin river valley, eventually reaching the cities that now make up the Silver Marches.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Tethyrian history since the collapse of the Shoon Imperium is the utter absence of any large empires in its annals. Even Waterdeep, perhaps the most powerful Tethyrian-dominated city-state, has never attempted to forge a Tethyrian empire.
Tethyrians view life as a struggle to be survived through ties to family, clan, and tribe. To a Tethyrian, freedom is the most precious gift, and the enslavement of another is the greatest sin. Although an individual may guard his or her freedom through skill at arms or the accumulation of wealth and status, these are merely different means to a far more precious end. Loyalty to one’s kin and neighbor and generosity to those in need are considered far more lasting than the fleeting favor of Lady Luck. Although it has been many generations since the majority of Tethyrians dwelt in tribes, the cultural tradition of loyalty to those held dear is as strong today as it ever was. Where a Tethyrian lacks kin or clan, his loyalty is transferred to settlement, guild, company, band, or other organization from a young age.
Tethyrians usually take up a life of adventure in hopes of redressing a wrong to family, clan, or tribe, or in search of the freedom to chart their own course in life. Many would-be
adventurers are inspired by tale of the legendary Tethyrian heroes of yore, whose exploits have been recounted for generations by traveling bards. A Tethyrian adventurer would rather wield a blade carried by his ancestors than have a new one forged, and would rather spend his last coin on a bard’s tale than a pint of ale.
Bards occupy an honored role in Tethyrian culture, and many aspire to the rank of master bard. Fighters and rogues are common in civilized regions, while rangers flourish among outlaw communities. Clerics and, to a lesser extent, druids are quite common as well, as the intermingling of cultures has produced a great deal of theological strife in centuries past. Wizards and sorcerers are also commonplace, although they rarely work in concert together. Monks and paladins are rare among Tethyrians, as adherence to a code of conduct rarely stands the test of family, clan, and tribal loyalties.
Prestige Classes: From their dim origins many centuries ago, the Tethyrians have a dark legacy of shadow magic, so more than a few Tethyrian rogues become shadowdancers. Tethyrian rogues also dominate lands such as Amn and the Western Heartlands, so the guild thief is common as well. The paths of the loremaster and archmage are both attractive to Tethyrian wizards. Good-aligned Tethyrian heroes often become Harper
scouts, while those native to Cormyr frequently serve as Purple Dragon knights.
Although the cultures of most major human ethnic groups exhibit regional variations, Tethyrian culture exhibits much greater regional variation than most. Tethyrians dwelling in Calimshan, Tethyr, and Amn share much in common with their Calishite neighbors. Similarly, Tethyrians dwelling in the North hold much in common with Illuskan culture, and Tethyrians of the Western Heartlands exhibit many cultural traits shared with the Chondathans who dwell to the east.
Nevertheless, Tethyrian culture does exhibit certain unique characteristics. Tethyrians place a high value on personal freedom, and regard kingdoms and empires with a great deal of suspicion. Noble-minded rebels are much admired in Tethyrian folklore, ensuring that many common bandits of Tethyrian ancestry refer to themselves as “freedom fighters.” Tethyrians despise class divisions based on heritage, as they have long been
subject to prejudice by their Calishite neighbors to the south. However, class divisions based on wealth and personal accomplishment play a strong role in many Tethyrian societies.
Aside from bards, Tethyrians have not traditionally had access to book learning, although those who do are much esteemed by their peers. Childhood is short, with even the youngest children expected to contribute to their family’s way of life. Adults earn their keep practicing the same trade as their parents, and many have the same surname as their profession. Familial, clan, and tribal bonds require that adults look out for one another, so the elderly and those who cannot earn their keep turn to relatives and friends for support. In death, the body is buried quickly and simply. The person is celebrated through stories and songs, their memory preserved and maintained through bardcraft. Outside Tethyrian-dominated lands, Tethyrians usually form an insular underclass, welcoming of others yet holding themselves apart. Tethyrians have little resistance to adopting local deities, languages, and dialects, but their traditional ties to other Tethyrians serve to isolate them from their non-Tethyrian neighbors. Tethyrians usually organize themselves into extended clans and guilds, dominating one or two trades in the surrounding culture.
Language and Literacy
Most Tethyrians speak Common as their primary language, usually a singsong dialect known as Calant that is heavily influenced by Alzhedo and popular along the Sword Coast. They employ the Thorass alphabet. As Talfir and other languages of the original western tribes vanished long ago, there is no ancestral “Tethyrian” tongue. Instead, Tethyrians have always adopted the languages of the latest wave of immigration. Today, most Tethyrians speak Chondathan, a legacy of the mercantile invasion from the east in recent centuries, although a few speak Illuskan or Alzhedo instead.
All Tethyrian characters are literate except for barbarians, commoners, and warriors.
Tethyrian Magic and Lore
Tethyrians have strong arcane and divine spellcasting traditions. Bardcraft is revered, and many master bards are of Tethyrian stock. The varied nature of Tethyrian heritage has produced many sorcerers as well. Likewise, the strong influence of Calishite and Netherese cultural traditions has echoes in the large numbers of Tethyrian wizards, although most learn their craft through a traditional master-apprentice relationship, not by attending a formal school.
SPELLS AND SPELLCASTING
While their numbers are small in total, both incantatrixes and shadow adepts form a proportionately larger fraction of the Tethyrian spellcaster population than in any other human ethnic group. The clash of competing cultures and faiths has given rise to a large number of clerics among the Tethyrian population, and the absence of large kingdoms has permitted both druids and rangers to flourish.
Spellcasting Tradition: Tethyrians favor spells that shield them against mind-affecting spells, enable one to escape imprisonment, and facilitate travel, including find the path, freedom of movement, Leomund’s tiny hut, nondetection, and whispering wind. The burgeoning reliance on the Shadow Weave across Faerûn is reminiscent of a Tethyrian tradition called Talfirian magic, dating back to the reign of Verraketh Talember the Shadowking. Talfirian songs are still known to Tethyrian bards.
Unique Spells: Many commonly employed arcane and divine spells were created by Tethyrians, although such achievements are often attributed to other cultures. One spell still little known outside the Tethyrian population is Verraketh’s shadow crown.
TETHYRIAN MAGIC ITEMS
Tethyrians favor magic items that facilitate survival when traveling, allow discreet movement, shield against divinations and enchantments, and enable one to escape from captors. Edged weapons are commonly crafted with flaming, keen, and throwing special abilities, while bludgeoning weapons are often given disruption, ghost touch, and holy special abilities, reflecting the ever-present dangers of trolls and the undead hordes that issue forth from countless battlefields in Tethyrian-held lands. Armor is typically crafted with ghost touch, shadow, and silent moves special abilities, again reflecting the omnipresent threat of undead as well as the long history of Tethyrians employing guerrilla
tactics against invading armies.
Common Magic Items: Hats of disguise, horseshoes of speed, Murlynd’s spoons, rings of mind shielding, and vests of escape. These items are prevalent in Tethyrian lands and can be purchased at a 10% discount in any large city in Tethyr, Amn, or the Western Heartlands.
Iconic Magic Items: As Tethyrians have tended to co-opt the magical devices of other cultures rather than invent their own, there are few magic items unique to Tethyrian culture that are not of Calishite, Chondathan, Illuskan, or Netherese origin. Those that do exist tend to be variations in form of well-known items such as those listed above. Perhaps the most uniquely Tethyrian magic item is the figurine of wondrous power (blue quartz eagle), much favored by Tethyrian caravanners and Tethyrian bandits alike.
The melting pot nature of Tethyrian culture has ensured that most deities of the Faerûnian pantheon are venerated in Tethyrian-occupied lands. Tempus is believed to have been a Talfirian deity who defeated the Netherese god Targus (Garagos). Netherese refugees brought with them the faith of Amaunator (reborn as Lathander), Chauntea, Talos, Mystryl (reborn as Mystra), Selûne, and Shar. Illuskan invaders introduced worship of Auril, Mielikki, and Oghma. Calishite armies introduced the faiths of Ilmater and Tyr. Chondathan merchants carried with them the teachings of Deneir, Helm, and Waukeen. Newer deities have arisen and been adopted as well, including Cyric, Kelemvor, and Siamorphe. Other deities that enjoy large Tethyrian followings include Eldath, Milil, Shaundakul, and Torm. Six of the most prominent churches in Tethyrian-occupied lands
include the faiths of Cyric, Helm, Ilmater, Kelemvor, Oghma, and Siamorphe.
Siamorphe is originally a Tethyrian goddess, worshiped primarily in Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate, and Tethyr. Her church has waxed and waned in centuries past as waves of idealism and cynicism have swept the nobility, but Siamorphe is currently ascendant. The church of the Divine Right is most popular among the nobility, although Siamorphe is also seen as a guarantor of just rule by many commoners.
Relations with Other Races
Tethyrians hold the Proud Peoples (elves and dwarves) in high esteem, bordering on reverence, for Tethyrian folklore contains stories harkening back to the age when their ancestors dwelt in the shadow of the great dwarven and elven empires. In Tethyr, however, where elves and Tethyrians still come into regular contact, the Fair Folk are regarded with a fair degree of suspicion and hostility. Tethyrians get along well with halflings, reflecting the large number of Small Folk who dwell in Tethyrian-occupied lands and their shared history of migrating northwards along the Sword Coast to escape the grasping reach of Calimshan.
Tethyrians are indifferent with respect to gnomes, paying the Forgotten Folk little heed, even though they dwell in Tethyrian-held lands in relatively large numbers. Tethyrian reactions to tieflings and half-orcs are sharply split. Those Tethyrians who dwell north of the Cloud Peaks and have had to battle innumerable hordes and the devilspawn of Dragonspear Castle despise those with monstrous blood running in their veins, while southernTethyrians view them in sympathy with the Calishite perspective as simply members of the lower class. Genasai are regarded with suspicion, seen as little better than the genie-worshiping Calishites, but aasimar are often mistaken for elves or half-elves.
Among human cultures, Tethyrians view Illuskans as overly warlike and Chondathans as overly greedy, but they usually get along well with members of both ethnic groups if they live in close proximity. The Mulan are despised as slavers, although that sobriquet is more properly reserved for Thayans. True hatred is reserved for Calishites, an enmity bred from familiarity and the product of centuries of discrimination against and enslavement of the various Tethyrian tribes. Other cultures are largely unknown in Tethyrian-held lands, but human immigrants, no matter how exotic, are usually welcomed and then assimilated within a generation or two.
Through centuries of assimilation, Tethyrians have adopted the best arms, armor, and other equipment of other cultures. As such, the equipment lists found in the Player’s Handbook can be seen as reflecting the Tethyrian
norm. Regional variations do exist, with Tethyrians of the South favoring Calishite arms, armor,and equipment, Tethyrians of the North being partial to Illuskan equipment, and Tethyrians dwelling along the western shores of the Sea of Fallen Stars following the lead of Chondathan culture.
ARMS AND ARMOR
Despite adapting to local conditions, Tethyrians do share some preferences. Favored weapons include blades of any sort (the bigger, the better— that’s why they call it “the Sword Coast”), lances, maces, and shortbows (adopted from the Calishites, who adopted them from the elves). Tethyrians wear the
heaviest armor practical for a task, which can range from chain shirts and bucklers to spiked full plate and a large steel shield. Moreso than most human cultures, Tethyrians have a strong knightly tradition, and the typical Tethyrian soldier is a mounted one.
ANIMALS AND PETS
Tethyrians are partial to canines, particularly those bred for herding, hunting, or working. Falcons (treat as hawks) and swamp ferrets (treat as weasels) are commonly employed in hunting and often serve as familiars. Ravens are also favored as pets or familiars, particularly in the vicinity of the
Horses are especially prized by Tethyrians as steeds and draft animals; when they go to war, the mounts are as heavily armored as the soldiers. Flying steeds, particularly griffons, hippogriffs, and pegasi, are highly prized as well and are often available for sale in Irieabor.