In the world of Hudbyd, the major continent and the location of the vast majority of my RPG campaigns is “Agnara”. Here is a map of Agnara, at a high level (Click on the image for a larger view).
The continent is dominated by the country of Hanoria. Hanoria is a constitutional monarchy with a ruling family that has ruled for centuries, but the power in Hanoria is divided between the King and the Parliament. The power of Hanoria is derived from their great wealth which comes from dominating the land and sea trade routes, as well as having the most disciplined and well-equipped military on the continent. At one time Hanoria was an empire which covered most of the western half of the continent, but over time the ruling family and parliament have decided that empires are too expensive to maintain and they now mostly dominate through trade and diplomacy. Their military is frequently sent to help out in troubled areas to keep the overall peace, much like the US military is dispatched in the real world today. Hanorian troops typically wear gray and tend towards pikemen with shields accompanied by heavy cavalry and magical artillery.
The second most powerful country is the Elvish Domain. The main difference between Hanoria and the Elvish Domain is that the elves typically don’t care what is going on in the rest of the world, unless they have an interest in the activity for their own reasons. At the height of the Hanorian Empire the elves were the most difficult subjects to control, and it was primarily due to the difficulties of trying to keep control of the Elvish Domain that Hanoria finally decided to abandon their imperial goals. There is an elven “king” but elven high society is quite complex and it is not always known outside of Elvenholme itself who the actual “king” is at any one time. This doesn’t usually matter in terms of diplomacy since the elves are very consistent about their interactions with other races no matter who the current “king” or “queen” might be.
The Dwonland is a growing power on the continent. It is a republic and is by far the most “cosmopolitan” country on the continent. The Dwonland is populated by a wide variety of races and is currently ruled by a coalition of half-elves and humans. Cities in the Dwonland typically have human, elven, halfling, gnome and even orcish enclaves. The laws of the Dwonland are very much geared towards treating races fairly, which is not true in most other countries where laws tend to favor the dominant race of that country.
Ariador is the next most important political entity, although it isn’t really a “country” by any normal definition. Ariador is a collection of individual city-states which have banded together to provide protection, trade, and diplomatic leverage. However, those city-states tend to have much more friction than more organized countries, and conflict in Ariador is fairly common. Most of Hanoria’s troop commitments outside of their own borders are in Ariador to try to keep the peace. On occasion city-states themselves can flare into civil war when powerful families conflict over the control of that city-sate. That is the case at the “current time” in Ariador with the city-state of “Elania.”
The further east you go on the continent, the wilder the land gets. Many areas in the extreme east, south and north are essentially terra incognita. The exception is the Domishar which is a halfling kingdom.
Millenia ago a powerful coalition of demons and evil wizards went to war against the dwarves. The reasons for this war are lost in the depths of history, but the end result was the total eradication of dwarves from the continent, and perhaps from the world. The elves, humans and halflings eventually joined forces and defeated the demons and evil wizards, but the dwarven race was lost for generations in the event known to the world now as the “Dwarvenwyrd”.
Several hundred years before the “current time” a group of heroes discovered a great secret of the Dwarvenwyrd, and went on a quest to restore the race of dwarves. At great cost they eventually succeeded in their goal and discovered an ancient hidden tomb of the last dwarves. Using powerful magic they resurrected several hundred dwarves and restored the race.
At the current time in Agnara dwarves are still uncommon, but the race is hardy and has grown greatly in the past few hundred years. The main dwarven population lives in the underground city of “Gryggsdral”, which is located in the White mountains between the Dwonland and Ariador. Dwarven craftsmanship is highly prized by all races, and as such the restored dwarves have grown rich by providing armor, weapons, stonework, architecture and construction services to the rich nations. This has created a flood of wealth into the area around Gryggsdral, particularly in the city-state of Elania. The sudden surge of wealth in Elania led to a major power struggle between two families, which ended up with a generation long civil war which has just “ended” although not all combatants have laid down their arms. The victorious family in Elania has set about a huge civil reconstruction process and appear to be determined to challenge the capital city of Hanoria (“Amroth”) in wealth, art, culture and, some believe, power.