The chaos of the Shattering was worse in some parts of the realm than others, and the peninsula known as the Bleak Reach was one of the less fortunate regions. Once the home of a sophisticated sister-culture to the modern Bright Republic, its cities were thrown down by tremors and its people slaughtered by waves of celestial miasmas and lethal karmic imbalances. For centuries afterwards the land was thought cursed, certain to be the death of any foolish enough to dare its rough hills and brooding forests.
As such, it was a perfect destination for exiles and malcontents of every description. Communities and cabals driven from their old lives would seek out new homes in the only land that would have them, the empty fields of the Bleak Reach. The soil was rich enough to sustain them, but the terrible beasts of the hills and the aftereffects of the dire celestial imbalances in the region still make it a more dangerous land than any common settler would wish to colonize. Most towns are little more than ramshackle hamlets on the coast, where rare trade visits from Kasirutan or Vissian merchants can barter necessities for their dried fish and salvaged ruin-scraps.
The isolation and seclusion of the land has made it a favorite refuge for groups unacceptable in other nations. Among the families who lost at local politics and the religious enthusiasts cast out of their old societies are circles of darker intent, experimenters and sorcerers who seek undisturbed privacy. Parasite gods form particularly easily in this disordered land, and the back country is dotted with dark temples in which dwell these desperate divine addicts and their fearful minions. The ancient ruins promise treasures as well, and there are always a number of reckless adventuring bands eager to plumb the fallen cities for lost valuables and functioning relics.
A few determined souls mean to found their own petty kingdoms in the Bleak Reach. These aspiring kings and queens rarely end up ruling over anything more impressive than a small coastal village of uneasy refugees and exiles, but a few have had the charisma and contacts to launch serious colonization efforts in the interior. Such efforts usually prosper for a time, sometimes building into substantial statelets before the pressure of monstrous foes, demented parasite gods, or sheer inexplicable bad luck finally drags them down. Their repeated ultimate failures have done much to discourage other nations from seeking new territory on the peninsula.
Those few souls who call the Bleak Reach home are a tough and canny lot, with a hard eye for survival and a predictable enthusiasm for luck rituals and talismans of every kind. Most locals lead hard lives wresting crops from the fields or fish from the sea, and many communities are more than willing to cut deals with parasite gods or other sinister powers to ease their burdens. Some are convinced that their special protectors are all that stand between them and the bad luck of the peninsula. This conviction leads some communities to terrible sacrifices and bleak rites, ones usually concealed from outsiders.
The local communities are ruthlessly pragmatic in their customs and laws. Locals care very little about what strangers do with their own affairs or with outsiders, so long as they can be relied upon to support the community and aid their neighbors. Even the most vicious or sinister sorts can find a home in a Reacher village so long as they reserve their malice for useless strangers or the inhabitants of rival villages. Some towns quietly cultivate such men and women, using them as weapons against the myriad dangers of the Reach.