Larassans generally are fair skinned with dark hair and dark eyes. Those that can afford it dress ostentatiously, with as much bright colors as possible, with reds and yellows being considered lucky and indicative of wealth. Even the poor try and keep some kind of colored cloth, usually a head wrap or a ribbon secured around an arm or leg.
Larassans are a passionate, ambitious people. They work hard, and play hard, embracing tenacity and courage as amongst the highest virtues. It was this attitude that helped them to establish their mighty empire, and it was their similar tendency towards decadence and pride that led to the decay of that empire. By nature, Larassans prefer showy to subtle, aggression to defense, and passion over rationality.
The dominant faith in Larassa is the Temple of the Child-Gods. The faith worships a group of twelve, seemingly immortal children who each correspond with a particular aspect of the world. Little is known about the Child-Gods, who wear masks at all time and only leave their temple-palace in the company of many guards. The church generally preaches obedience to one’s betters, loyalty to Larassa, and a number of other tenets that secure the Child-Gods’ alliance with the Larassan nobility. The few Larassans who do not worship the Child-Gods tend to the nature-venerating Ancient Faith, or the worship of Caporith, the Weeping God.
If there is anything that all Larassans agree on, it’s the importance of art. The Larassan people claim to be the most artistically sophisticated people in the world, and they do work to try and live up to the belief. The fact that Larassa is home to more bardic college than any other known nation, and their talent for fusing magic with artistic expression does lend them some credit. Poor or rich, all Larassan’s try to indulge in some form of art. The Larassans believe in seven “true” forms of art, which all others must fall into or be ignored.
Larassans are both a very spiritual and curious people, and since the Temple of the Child-Gods doesn’t have an official taboo against arcane magic (though it does discourage those of lesser station learning), Larassa enjoy as position as probably the most magically sophisticated nation on the continent. It this more than anything that has helped keep the nation going through its slow decline. For Larassans magic and art are considered to be intertwined. Each of the seven (eight counting criticism) Arts are associated with a school of magic; because of this Larassan wizards are taught to be just as proficient in the art of their school of magic as they are in the magic itself (in game terms, a lot of Larassan wizards have levels in Bard, and are almost always proficient in the art form associated with their school.) This tradition has led to the phenomenon of Larassan wizards using the art itself as a focus for magic. Evokers are trained to dance fireballs and lightning bolts into existence, illusionists are more often seen using paintbrushes over staves, and diviners often get confused with clerics. This trend also works in the reverse, with many artists learning to use a few cantrips so as to enhance their work, though as stated above, this is rarely tolerated except amongst the ranks of the aristocracy.
Generally go with a Roman or Italian-esque naming style.
Vassalorians are a people of dark skin, dark eyes, and hair that tends to be black or dark red. There is a strong tendency towards tall, thin builds, often with long fingers. Vassalorians have a fondness for jewelry, especially facial piercings as they make their faces harder for a Changing God to impersonate. In general the Vassalorians favor a certain distinctiveness in appearance, especially voluminous, flowing robes, or billowing shirts and loose pants.
Vassalorians are a cunning, devious people of a singularly secular bent. For a Vassalorian, a person’s value is something that can be calculated, measured. A Vassalorian is valued based on what he can do, what he owns, what he owes, and most importantly, how he keeps to his word. Vassalorians are tricky, but incessantly honest. If one gives his word he keeps it; this of course means that a Vassalorian’s word is something that he rarely gives. Generally cheerful, witty, and personable, Vassalorians are a culture that is good at making friends.
Vassalor is a strange nation; it has no government as most nations would understand it. There is the authority of the Merchant-Princes, but they only have as much power as they can buy. Laws are settled upon and enforced by contract, with mercenaries acting as enforcement, and hired judges determining the, usually draconian, punishments. It is a country where the only law is that once you give your word, sign a contract, you hold to it. Social law enforces this yes, but what really makes sure everyone keeps their promises are the Changing Gods (known to D&D players as Dopplegangers). The Changing Gods use their unparalleled talent for infiltration and assassination makes them the consequence all in Vassalor fear. If you break your word, the Changing Gods will come for you, and your death will only the culmination of your doom. They will undermine and dismantle your businesses, murder and replace your family, and eventually drive you to the point where you hand them the knife and beg for death. If you’re lucky, they might give it to you. It is because of the Changing Gods, or rather the fear of them that keeps Vassalor running. No one breaks their word, for fear of the Gods anger.
In exchange for acting as the enforcers of the One Law, the Changing Gods receive worship. Like everything in Vassalor, it is a contract, as the Vassalorians are not by nature or custom a pious people. The Gods can do whatever they want, to whoever they want without repercussion, not that anyone would know for certain it was a Changing God that did something. Their priests are the Children of the Changing Gods, the Changelings. They act as intermediaries between the Gods and the rest of Vassalor, and are the only individuals permitted to see the Gods in their true form. In exchange for their servitude to their parents, the Changelings are protected for their entire lives, wanting for nothing. As long as they obey.
Like anything in Vassalor, magic is just another commodity. Nothing is forbidden as long as one is powerful (read; rich) enough to make sure no one stops them. As a result, there is nowhere in the world where magical research is an unimpeded. The only thing that prevents Vassalor from replacing Larassa as the greatest center of magical learning in the world is the fact that in Vassalor, no one, not even wizards get a break. While a Larassan wizard will receive patronage and support for his research, a Vassalorian will only receive aid if they provide incentive.
Vassalorians tend towards Spanish style names.
The Heildish are tan, solidly built people with hair that tends towards either dark and curly or pale and straight. They tend towards strong, faces with heavy brows and deep sunk eyes. Their clothing is usually simple, Spartan, and practical. In the summer they dress minimally, men going without shirts and women wearing only loose shirts or dresses. In winter, they bundle up beneath layers of wool and hides. Their faces are always kept open to the elements, so that any punishment tattoos cannot be hidden. A masked or covered face is an instant reason for distrust.
For the people of Heild, duty is life, and discipline is air, food and water. From childhood onward, they are raised to control themselves and their emotions, to think of the community before themselves. They strive constantly for excellence while avoiding pride. No Heild is above another, all are equal before the Laws.
Heild is a militant, orderly, expanionistic, meritocratic nation that has expanded over the past hundred years to control most of the continent. The ancestral lands of the Minotaurs, and the Dragonborn are now under Heildish control. The lands once ruled by the Larassan Empire are also now theirs. Heild is a strictly controlled society, ruled by a council of Primogens, each of whom controls one of the key systems of the Heildish nation. Despite being a stifling, humorless, and unforgiving society, Heild is also singularly dedicated to the ideals of Caporith the Executioner God. This fervent piety does much to keep Heild in check, preventing it from abusing its power or punishing its enemies too much.
Heildish society is designed to support its military. Heildish military tactics are not necessarily creative, but they are simple, effective, and built upon the unyielding, stubborn fatalism of Heildish soldiers. Heildish rarely surrender, and rarely retreat, generally preferring to fight to the death for their nation. Their military lacks the magical firepower of Larassa, but more than make up for it with the firearms and artillery their industry provides them.
The Heildish worship above all others Caporith, the Executioner, the Weeping God, and the Hound of Necessity. Caporith is a strange deity, focused entirely on Justice, and holding itself to the highest standard of all. Caporith weeps because of the things he must do for Justice, the murders he must commit to protect lives or punish the wicked. He is the Executioner because the world requires one. Caporith asks that his people hold themselves to righteousness at all times, that they never lie, that they do not harm others, and that they work for the betterment of all. But Caporith also understands that sometimes to tell the truth is to do harm, and that sometimes mercy goes against the betterment of all. Eventually sin becomes necessary, but that does not stop it from being sin. Caporith is a grim god, but also a compassionate one. It his example that the Heildish follow, which explains much about that stoic people.
The Heildish distrust arcane magic, and are generally prejudiced against those who use it, believing that wielding such power is a sign of immense and foolish hubris. Divine magic on the other hand is generally accepted, but really the Heildish consider Caporith the only decent god, and thus the only one whose clerics and paladins are beyond distrust.
In both genders emotional outbursts are seen as signs of weakness. As a result, the Heildish have developed a deep tradition of art, almost as powerful as that of their Larassan enemies to the west. They paint, write, and compose, producing work of incredible pathos. But the only thing the Heildish fear more than a lack of discipline is hubris. No Heildish is above another, and so all their work enters the public eye anonymously. The greatest Heildish poets, musicians and sculptors all die without recognition.
Celtic and Gaelic names work best here.