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“Bar your door, and do not open it before sunrise.”

Varushka is a land of dark magics and dark tales. Monsters lurk in the sunless spaces of the forests that lie across the broken hills like a blanket woven from shadows. Those who keep to the roads and keep to the rules can travel safely. Those who choose their own path find that the rulers of Varushka do not tolerate a challenge to their authority. Power comes in many forms in Varushka, sometimes brutal and uncompromising, sometimes subtle and unnoticed. Boyars guard their dominions; their Schlacta, their iron fist, enforce their will. Wise ones instruct their people, keep them safe by ensuring they know how to follow the rules. Itinerant wizards, the Volhov, keep dangerous company and make everyone’s business their own.

The people of Varushka make hard decisions and compromises to prosper in this difficult land. Their toil has seen them grow rich from the wealth to be had here, and their caution has seen them grow wise to the dangers that lie in wait. Dour by day, they celebrate by night - but only the foolish unbar their doors before dawn.

They are the iron in the Empire’s laws; unyielding, uncompromising, they do what must be done to keep the Empire strong. They are the Empire’s bones, who endure all and still prosper.

Five things about Varushka

  • Do not let your eyes fool you. Appearances are deceptive, take nothing for granted.
  • Respect your elders. The old possess wisdom that you will need to survive here.
  • Do not leave the road. Only the human habitants of this place wish you well. Breaking the rules can have terrible consequences.
  • Prepare for difficult choices. Often the only choice is the lesser of two evils.
  • Do not tolerate fools or wastrels. Tolerance builds complacency and invites disaster.

What the Varushkans are not

  • Evil. The Varushkans can be authoritarian, uncompromising and intolerant but they are law-abiding, not sadistic, bloodthirsty or cruel. Their rule is hard but the real monsters lie outside their walls.
  • Cossacks. Varushka draws on Eastern Europe and Russia but it is also inspired by Germany, dark fantasy and the Brothers Grimm. The Cossacks and the stereotypes that accompany them are not part of the setting.

The nation

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Core brief

Further reading


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