From PathfinderWiki
Varisia's symbol.

Unaffiliated city-states
Taldane (as Common), Shoanti, Varisian
Source: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends, pg(s). 1ff. (1E)
World Guide, pg(s). 116–117 (2E)

While the other territories within the Saga Lands might possess lengthier histories as established nations, the events of recent years have propelled the untamed regions of Varisia12 (pronounced vah-RHIS-ee-ah)3 into contemporary prominence. A significant portion of Varisia's ancient history, particularly its role as the heart of the Thassilonian empire, has only recently been unveiled by contemporary historians and scholars.4


Thassilonian Empire

Over 10,000 years ago, much of modern-day Varisia was ruled by one of the earliest human civilizations on the Avistani mainland, the Thassilonian Empire. Formed by Azlanti exiles, and ruled by the runelords, wizards of tremendous power who practised sin magic, this nation built enormous stone monuments to its own vanity using giant slave labor.5 The Thassilonians were also served by the indigenous humans, whom they divided into two castes: the militia and the providers. The militia were trained in martial techniques to serve in the nation's armies, while the providers worked as farmers, craftspeople, miners, and mystics.6

Already weakened by corruption and warfare, Thassilon crumbled during the destruction and chaos brought on by Earthfall. The runelords, having foreseen this apocalypse, hid in numerous protected sanctuaries to escape death, entering a deep sleep in which they lay for millennia.5

The elven city of Celwynvian in western Varisia's Mierani Forest was also abandoned just before the impact of the Starstone. Its inhabitants, along with all the other elves of the Inner Sea region, left Golarion for their realm of Sovyrian.7

Age of Darkness

Residents of Celwynvian witness the aftermath of a meteor strike.

With the runelords powerless and slumbering, the surviving people of Varisia were left to create their own destiny. The human militia caste broke into clans and eventually developed into the Shoanti people, who began settling all over modern-day Varisia. The provider caste transformed into what are known today as Varisians, from whom the land takes its current name, and took on a more nomadic lifestyle.6

It was also during this time that the dwarves emerged on the surface at the completion of their Quest for Sky. They established the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff in the western Mindspin Mountains.8

Chelaxian expansion

Thousands of years passed, and the land and peoples became more stable; the Shoanti battled giants and orcs, while native Varisians roamed across the region and spread out across Avistan. Varisia itself was largely ignored by the empires of the south because it was simply too far away, while the Jarls of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings preferred to raid further south, as Varisia lacked any major coastal settlements.5

This came to an end during the period of rapid Chelish expansion known as the Everwar. Chelish exploration of the largely wilderness region began in 4405 AR, when colonists entered the land through Bloodsworn Vale. This sparked a war between the settlers and Shoanti that lasted nearly a century before the Shoanti were pushed back onto the Storval Plateau and other less desirable regions.9 With the settled native inhabitants removed from the most fertile land near the coast, Chelish colonists began to arrive in much greater numbers, under the pretense of bringing "civilization and culture" to Varisia.5

Trouble in Korvosa

Korvosa faced a significant challenge to its traditions when Queen Ileosa Arabasti assumed power following her husband, King Eodred II's sudden demise in 4708 AR.10 Initially, the citizens were concerned about her ability to rule, but they soon discovered a different truth: Ileosa possessed unparalleled ambition matched only by her cruelty, establishing herself as a ruthless tyrant. Although her rule was relatively brief and met a violent end, her time in power left an indelible mark on Korvosa. Thousands perished during her regime, with many falling victim to the deadly bloodveil disease, which Ileosa played a role in spreading. Furthermore, her former guards, the Gray Maidens, splintered into competing mercenary factions following her defeat.4

Runelords awaken

Varisia encountered its gravest peril in recent years when events set into motion a decade ago, triggered by the awakening of Runelord Karzoug, culminated in the rise of several other runelords vying for supremacy. Among them, Runelord Alaznist, one of the most formidable, seized control of an ancient artifact granting her mastery over time itself. Had it not been for the intervention of yet another assembly of heroes with deep connections to Varisia, Alaznist would have reshaped the Saga Lands into her own ruinous, runic empire.4 In the aftermath of her defeat, the two surviving runelords, Belimarius and Sorshen founded the nation of New Thassilon by carving out much of northern Varisia's territory.11


A map of Varisia.

Varisia is a vast, sparsely populated region in the northwest of Avistan. It stretches from the Steaming Sea in the west to the Mindspin Mountains in the east and from the Kodar Mountains in the north to Conqueror's Bay in the south.4 The western coastline north of Magnimar is also known as the Lost Coast, so named for its fog-laden vastness and isolation.12

Geographically, Varisia is split into two regions: the southern and southwestern region are generally lowlands with a few forested mountains along with rich grasslands, forests, and swamps; the northeastern section is dominated by the harsh and drier Storval Plateau and Cinderlands.4

Varisia is bordered to the north by the recently founded nation of New Thassilon, to the south by shadowy Nidal, to the southeast by Nirmathas and the hobgoblin nation of Oprak, and to the east by the orcs of Belkzen.13

Thassilonian ruins

Desgard's Thousand Columns, a Thassilonian ruin in eastern Varisia.

Countless gigantic monuments and buildings left over from ancient Thassilon can be found across Varisia. They have survived for over ten millennia due to the skills of their stone giant crafters and the magic infused in them by the runelords. The most well-known of these ruins include the Cyphergate of Riddleport,5 the Irespan of Magnimar,14 the Grand Mastaba of Korvosa,15 and the Lady's Light in the Mushfens.16

In the past few centuries, the magic protecting these structures has finally begun to fail, and have slowly been suffering from the normal effects of erosion. This has also made them more vulnerable to explorers and treasure seekers, who search for the lost treasures of their ancient owners.5

Major caravan routes

Many of Varisia's roads have developed from ancient routes traveled by the region's Varisian wanderers. They crisscross the region and connect most of its major cities.17


The Bridgefront district of Korvosa.
The skyline of Magnimar, with the Irespan nearby.
The city of Riddleport, seen from above, with the Cyphergate arching over the harbor.
The city of Kaer Maga.

Varisia has no central government. Its independent city-states each hold sway over a small collection of towns and villages, while the wilds on the edges of their territory (including most of the area on top of the Storval Plateau) is claimed by the Shoanti.5 Varisian politics is dominated by the competing aims of criminal Riddleport, ambitious Magnimar, and traditionalist Korvosa. The neutral Kaer Maga is often discounted altogether, and its inhabitants prefer it that way.18

Korvosa and Magnimar

Korvosa is the largest of Varisia's city-states, founded as a Chelish colony in 4407 AR and is the only one to have established a hereditary monarchy. Thousands of dissatisfied Korvosans fled to Magnimar in 4608 AR, disagreeing with the overt Chelish control over the Korvosan monarchy. Although Magnimar had existed before, the mass influx of new citizens made it a true rival to Korvosa's economic dominance of the region.51910


Far to the northwest of Magnimar and Korvosa is the pirate-haven of Riddleport. It is governed by a powerful Overlord who runs with a harsh, but decidedly laissez-faire attitude.20

Kaer Maga

The smallest of Varisia's major cities is the unusual city of Kaer Maga, found on one of the highest parts of the Storval Rise. It exists in basically an anarchic state, with numerous smaller power groups looking after their own interests.21


Ilsurian, a fishing town in southeastern Varisia.

Even though Varisia is sparsely settled, humans remain Varisia's majority population, although significant pockets of other peoples also live here. The humans are primarily of Shoanti, Varisian, and Taldan heritage, with a fair number of Ulfen and even Tien as well.2223 (See also Tribes of the Shoanti.)

Changelings, dhampirs, and planar scions are also uncommon, if unremarkable, inhabitants of Varisia, and sinspawn fleshwarps descended from Thassilonian experiments are well-enough known to be broadly feared and loathed.24


Aiuvarins of Varisia face prejudice from both parental heritages, and often prefer the harsh life in anarchic Riddleport or even the nomadic existence with the native Varisians or Shoanti to the life in the towns of southern Varisia.25 Life for them is especially hard in Korvosa where they tend to be the most pitied offspring of lustful Mierani ambassador Perishial Kalissreavil and a lot of bored young noble women from the Korvosan upper class.26


Many Shoanti tribes live near the Hold of Belkzen with constant skirmishes between orcs and humans that lead to dromaar children. Few survive into adulthood, and fewer decide to accept the difficult cohabitation with their human cousins in some of the Varisian cities.27


Janderhoff (in the Mindspin Mountains) is the largest dwarven settlement in Varisia. Its inhabitants mine and smelt the ores they dig out of the ground, but can also be found throughout Varisia as underground guides and mercenaries, merchants, and hunters. Dwarven ingenuity is well-known, and is evidenced by the exotic ore processing facility called the Gas Forges in Riddleport.28


Rasp goblins are more common in Varisia than nearly anywhere else in the Inner Sea region29—"Rasp" refers to the Rasp cliffs of the Lost Coast30—and the land holds an important place in goblin history as it is where they believe the hero-god Zogmugot first walked into the sea.31 Rasps predate human settlement in western Varisia, and human incursions into their lands spurred many of the conflicts that inspired stories and legends of goblin violence, raiding, murder, and worship of Lamashtu that became stereotypes of not only Rasps but all goblins. However, they are not inherently bound to these tales or traditions and have successfully integrated with other cultures.30


Halflings are a quite adaptable lot and can be found in the big cities as well as amidst the nomadic Varisians.25 Good sailors, halfling slaves often came with their Chelish masters to Korvosa and make the crew of nearly half the ships belonging to Korvosa's elite.32 They can also be seen in Magnimar as well as in Riddleport where they often follow more shadowy ways and find great opportunities in the city's underworld.33


Most kobolds in Varisia live in its eastern regions but have ventured to parts of western Varisia.24 The Embermaw clan lives beneath the Mindspin Mountains, above the Flume Warrens. Their alliance with the dragon Tsazgatherax has protected them from the nearby fire giants, who have resorted to pushing the salamander and azer clans of the Warrens into attacking the kobolds instead.34

Flora and fauna

A hunter attacks an ankhrav in the Cinderlands of Varisia.

Varisia is home to a wide variety of plant-life and creatures, given its extremes in environments and geography. It is also known as a "frontier" or "wild" region, with many dangerous monsters living in relatively close proximity to Varisia's settlements. These include such creatures as Black Magga, known to dwell in the waters of the Storval Deep north of the village of Turtleback Ferry, the seldom-seen Sandpoint devil, and such mythical creatures as the Oliphaunt of Jandelay.5


Although dragons have dwelt in Varisia since time immemorial, until recently they have had few clashes with the more civilized races. As the humanoid population centers grow and expand into the wilderness, so do the encounters with dragons.35


The runelords of Thassilon exploited the expertise and power of giants in order to build their Brobdingnagian monuments and buildings. Thousands of years later, countless giants still inhabit Varisia, although most have retreated to the less settled regions atop the Storval Plateau.36 These include the hill giants of the Gnashers and the Iron Peaks, and the stone giants of the Iron Peaks.37 The mountains of Varisia are still to this day the most common place to find cloud giants, even thousands of years after Thassilon's fall.38


The ogres of Varisia are among the most notorious in all of the Inner Sea region. Their destructive tribes serve as a type of buffer between the settled peoples of the lower plains and the giants of the Storval Plateau. As populations slowly expands in Varisia, it is only a matter of time before ogres are pushed into open warfare, but for now they are happy arguing and fighting amongst themselves.39


Paizo published Varisia, Birthplace of Legends as a short introduction to the land.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. A large poster map of the country can be found in the Shattered Star Poster Map Folio
  2. F. Wesley Schneider stated at Gen Con 2013 that the name 'Varisia' had been coined as follows: The team needed a name for the modern country in which the first Adventure Path, Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path, was to be set. A debate regarding the sin to be associated with the key Runelord in the Adventure Path had settled upon greed and another word for greed is 'avarice'. Making that into a word that sounded like a country's name produced 'Avaricia', which then transformed into 'Varisia'.
  3. Erik Mona, et al. “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 247. Paizo Inc., 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Erik Mona, et al. Saga Lands” in World Guide, 116–117. Paizo Inc., 2019
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 194–195. Paizo Inc., 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 Wolfgang Baur. “The History of Thassilon” in Burnt Offerings, 74. Paizo Inc., 2007
  7. Greg A. Vaughan. “Shadow in the Sky” in Shadow in the Sky, 7. Paizo Inc., 2008
  8. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 24. Paizo Inc., 2011
  9. Mike McArtor. “Chapter 4: History” in Guide to Korvosa, 49. Paizo Inc., 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 Erik Mona, et al. Saga Lands” in World Guide, 110. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. Erik Mona, et al. Saga Lands” in World Guide, 111. Paizo Inc., 2019
  12. James Jacobs. Sandpoint” in Sandpoint, Light of the Lost Coast, 4. Paizo Inc., 2018
  13. Erik Mona, et al. “Overview” in World Guide, 11. Paizo Inc., 2019
  14. F. Wesley Schneider. Magnimar” in The Skinsaw Murders, 59. Paizo Inc., 2007
  15. Mike McArtor. “Chapter 2: Places” in Guide to Korvosa, 13. Paizo Inc., 2008
  16. James L. Sutter. Varisia” in The Hook Mountain Massacre, 65. Paizo Inc., 2007
  17. F. Wesley Schneider, et al. Varisia, Birthplace of Legends, back cover. Paizo Inc., 2012
  18. James L. Sutter. “The People” in City of Strangers, 36. Paizo Inc., 2010
  19. F. Wesley Schneider. Magnimar” in The Skinsaw Murders, 57. Paizo Inc., 2007
  20. Greg A. Vaughan. Riddleport: City of Cyphers” in Shadow in the Sky, 49. Paizo Inc., 2008
  21. James L. Sutter. “Introduction” in City of Strangers, 4. Paizo Inc., 2010
  22. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 13. Paizo Inc., 2011
  23. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 18–22. Paizo Inc., 2011
  24. 24.0 24.1 James Jacobs. Ancestries” in Seven Dooms for Sandpoint Player's Guide, 5. Paizo Inc., 2024
  25. 25.0 25.1 F. Wesley Schneider. Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide, 5. Paizo Inc., 2007
  26. James Jacobs & Mike McArtor. Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide, 8–9. Paizo Inc., 2008
  27. James Jacobs & Mike McArtor. Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide, 11. Paizo Inc., 2008
  28. F. Wesley Schneider, et al. “Welcome to Varisia” in Varisia, Birthplace of Legends, 5. Paizo Inc., 2012
  29. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 10–11. Paizo Inc., 2011
  30. 30.0 30.1 Paizo Inc., et al. Goblins” in Character Guide, 36–37. Paizo Inc., 2019
  31. Richard Pett. Goblins of Golarion” in Goblins of Golarion, 3. Paizo Inc., 2011
  32. James Jacobs & Mike McArtor. Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide, 9. Paizo Inc., 2008
  33. James Jacobs, et al. “Second Darkness Player's Guide” in Second Darkness, 5. Paizo Inc., 2008
  34. Mat Smith, et al. “Tribes” in Kobolds of Golarion, 10. Paizo Inc., 2013
  35. Jim Zubkavich & James Jacobs. Pathfinder 8, 26. Dynamite Entertainment, 2013
  36. Wolfgang Baur. “The History of Thassilon” in Burnt Offerings, 73. Paizo Inc., 2007
  37. James L. Sutter. Varisia” in The Hook Mountain Massacre, 63–64. Paizo Inc., 2007
  38. Russ Taylor. Cloud Giant” in Giants Revisited, 7. Paizo Inc., 2012
  39. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 305. Paizo Inc., 2011