The Lastlands is the name given to the group of city-states and small towns and villages that have been settled by the “Common races” (as they have taken to calling themselves) from the Players Handbook – humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc, as well as orcs and some hobgoblins and bugbears. How the area got this name is unclear. Some say the previous inhabitants, small populations of dragonborn, called it that name. Others say it was called that because it is the last piece of land before the Endless Sea stretches away forever to the south. Yet others claim that the members of the Common Races (often a member of the teller’s own race) named it Lastlands for a variety of obscure reasons. The truth is not known, but the name has stuck.
According to the extant histories, the Lastlands were settled between five and six hundred years ago by a mixture of the Common Races. The histories of that time, however, have begun to metamorphosize into myth and legend. Only the oldest elves were alive at the time of the settlement and they say remarkably little on the matter. Where the First Settlers came from, why they left wherever it was they had lived before, and how they found and travelled to the Lastlands, are all matters of fierce debate. There are many different versions of the story – some say the Gods led them to this land, which is their birthright; others said they were fleeing persecution in their previous homes; others said they had been eternal wanderers until they found the Lastlands and settled down; yet others claimed that the Lastlands is a prison of some type to which they were exiled from their previous, glorious home; additional claims have been put forth that the Lastlands are a refuge from an eternity of wandering in the lower planes. There are dozens of factions, both contemporary and historical, which have a pet theory or theories that they espouse, based on ancient records, oracles, questioning of outer-planar entities, or some other secret information they claim to be privy to. These groups often spawn Philospher Cults that work to further the aims they believe they are meant to achieve. No deities have ever been proven to give information on the matter.
What is known with relative certainty is that the area now called Lastlands was originally sparsely inhabited by small villages of Dragonborn who have been absorbed into Lastland society. Expansion into the current territory was fairly rapid over the two hundred years of the settlement and since then, expansion into new territory has halted and land has become more densely populated.
The Lastlands itself is a stretch of land between a range of mountains to the north – the Barrier Range – and an ocean to the south – the Endless Sea. At the far western edge, it borders on a large fen inhabited by lizard folk and bullywugs called (strangely enough) the Lizard Fen. At the far eastern end, it ends at a sharp rise to an high desert plateau called Vallat. All in all, it stretches along the coast for roughly two hundred miles east-to-west and goes inland for around seventy-five miles. In addition, the Backward Isles, a scattering of volcanic islands a day’s sail south-southeast of Firsport, support a handful of small communities.
The thing which has allowed the Common Races to do so well in the Lastlands is that it is bursting with resources. The hills and mountains had never been mined, few of the forests had ever been logged to any extent, the land had only been very lightly tilled before the coming of the Common Races. Over the last five or six hundred years, the resources have dwindled significantly as cities and towns were built and farms carved out of the wilderness, but most believe that if the Common Races push on past the current boundaries of the Lastlands, which they inevitably will, more unbelievable natural bounty will be discovered.
Little is known about the world beyond this area, which is often called “the Outremer”. There have never been reliable accounts of anyone from the Lastlands travelling beyond its borders and returning (althrough the occasional Halfling would have you believe otherwise). The only knowledge of what lies in the Outremer is what is gleaned from the known groups of natives – the Lizard Folk and Bullywugs of the Lizard Fens, the Merfolk and other various undersea-dwelling peoples, and the Yuan Ti, who claim to have a vast, powerful kingdom on the other side of the Barrier Range, along with a few tribes of Aarakocra, scattered giants and the occasional dragon. How reliable any information gotten from any of these parties is is vigorously debated by the sages.
In this area are a large number of small agricultural settlements have arisen along with a few larger cities. The overall population is somewhere around 750,000 people, though it is very decentralized and scattered throughout the area. The largest city, Firsport, has around 250,000 people and can boast of being the most advanced center of trade in all the Lastlands (which, of course, means it is the most wealthy). The Autokrateira of Firsport, the Dragonborn Manin, is the most wealthy and powerful person in the Lastlands. The next most populous city, the dwarven-ruled enclave of Keln, holds less than 75,000.
Politically, the Lastlands is not a kingdom, nor does it have any area-spanning king or nobility. Settlements, or groups of settlements, are ruled by local leadership of various types – councils, theocracies, warlords, chieftans, kings, communist collectives, anarchist communes, etc. Political leadership changes frequently in most communities and membership in a militia is common. However, nearly all communities, if push came to shove, would likely bow to the leadership of the Autokrator (currently Autokrateira) of Firsport in most matters (of course, Firsport has by far the largest standing military and the greatest military resources in the Lastlands, which doesn’t hurt).
The climate of the Lastlands is pleasant and temperate, with mild, wet winters that rarely bring snow to the lowlands and warm, dry summers that only occasionally see excessive heat. This general climate varies with terrain type and the landscape tends to be colder and drier in the east and wetter and warmer in the west. The wildlife is also significantly different than in most worlds.
Finally, the other thing which sets the Lastlands apart is how connected it is (or isn’t) to the rest of the planes. Most Magic works fine, but any magic dealing with planar travel can be problematic and often impossible.