Vasselheim is the capital of human civilization on the continent of Issylra. It is predominantly a religious city with several districts, each dedicated to a patron deity. Vasselheim is sometimes called the Dawn City, the Cradle of Faith, or the Cradle of Creation, as it is considered the origin of civilization and various religions.
The people of Vasselheim are generally rugged and stern. Many wear patchwork furs and have unkempt hair. The pious lifestyles and brutal environment of the Northwest make for hard living. Vasselheim has many guards, collectively called "the Bastion", that consist of volunteers from the various religions. The Bastions primarily operate within their respective districts but also serve as the militia if the city were to be attacked.
Arcane Magic is largely frowned upon in Vasselheim. Mages aren't trusted, due to the fallout after the Age of Arcanum, so any public display of semi-powerful magic that isn't divine in nature will draw attention and require an explanation by the keepers of order. Small fines and minor jail time may ensue.
The city's government is a theocracy. Each district of the city (and more importantly, the gods they represent) have equal status. As one Bastion put it, "Vasselheim is a divided and united city, as one." Each district is self-governed by the highest lord of its priesthood: the "Dawn Marshal". In matters concerning the city as a whole, the Dawn Marshals meet in council to debate and decide on the matter (i.e. when the representatives of the various priesthoods met in the Platinum Sanctuary when Vecna threatened Vasselheim).
Dawn Marshals of Vasselheim
|Vord the Silver-Touched||NPC||Highbearer of the Scalebearers (Bahamut)|
|Groon||NPC||Earthbreaker of the Dawn Fist (Kord)|
|Curtis Uleas||NPC||Holy Curator of the Paramours (Erathis)|
|Pike Trickfoot||PC||Chosen of Sarenrae (Sarenrae)|
|The Maidens of the Raven Queen||NPC||Two nameless twins, that speak on behalf of the goddess. Thus, they are considered to jointly be the de facto Dawn Marshal.|
Located in the region of Othanzia, the city itself is built around a massive mountain called the Heaven's Stair approximately 20–30 miles inland from the Ozmit Sea. Vasselheim has many walls, varying in age and composition, armed with dragon-headed ballistae. The streets are unpaved and made mostly of packed mud. The only conventional way to enter the city is by foot, as the journey to Vasselheim is considered a religious pilgrimage. In the case of an emergency, a haphazard airship platform has been constructed on top of a mill.
Vasselheim has a large mining operation for cobalt in the mountain. Many of the stores tend to sell supplies for miners and workers that operate in the mountain.
Silver Talon's Reach
The Silver Talon's Reach is a district dedicated to the worship of Bahamut, the god of life and order. It placed at the very northern part of the town attached to the Heaven's Stair. The priesthood for this district are the Scalebearers.
- Heaven's Stair: A giant mountain that bisects the northern portion of Vasselheim . It looks over the entirety of the city.
- The Platinum Sanctuary: The oldest known temple to Bahamut in the world. The Horn of Orcus that Vox Machina recovered from K'Varn is interred here.
The Braving Grounds
The Braving Grounds District is dedicated to the deity of war Kord. The district is the west part of the city, which greets weary travelers incoming from Glasswalk Road. It runs northward from the city through the Vasper Timberland and toward the Zenwick Mountains. The Braving ground's priesthood is the warriors of the Dawn Fist.
- The Crucible: An arena fighting pit where Grog challenged the previously reigning champion, known as Kern "the Hammer".
- Statue of Kord: Atop the Trial Forge, a gargantuan statue of Kord loomed over the entire district. The statue depicted a musclebound titan of a figure standing heroically with a giant beard, bracers on his arms, and one knee raised.
- The Trial Forge: The local sacred temple to the patron god, Kord. It also served as a meditation and physical training center.
- The Temple of Renewal: A recently discovered ancient temple of Sarenrae within the Braving Grounds. It had been buried under the fallen tower of Syrac. Pike led this temple's restoration efforts after arriving at Vasselheim and before returning to Emon. Though Sarenrae's following and priesthood in the city are much smaller than those of other districts, Pike is still afforded the same respect as any other Dawn Marshal.
The Quadroads District venerates the law and civilization associated with the god Erathis. The district is named for the four roads, incoming from every other disctrict of Vasselheim. They form two main routes and meet up together in the middle of the city into a large bazaar. Its priesthood is known as the Holy Paramours.
- The Crown of Erathis: The temple to Erathis in the Quadroads, overseen by a priesthood known as the "Holy Paramours"
- The Slayer's Take: A local hunting guild which Vox Machina were coerced into joining.
- Forscythia's Shop: The home of the hag Forscythia.
- Bazaar: Accommodates mostly foreign, traders selling exported goods. Former location of Cidrick Gillsman.
The Abundant Terrace
- → Main article: The Abundant Terrace.
The Abundant Terrace is the district of Vasselheim devoted to the worship of Melora, goddess of the wilderness and the sea. Located in the western part of the city, it consists mostly of wooded areas and farmland and provides most of the food for Vasselheim. Various enchantments in the district keep the weather mild, allowing for year-long harvests from its orchards.
- The Birthheart: The main temple to Melora, which is an ascending series of tiered and irrigated gardens.
- Midnight Breath Tavern: A tavern co-owned by Dagon.
The Duskmeadow District is dedicated to the worship of the goddess of fate and death, the Raven Queen. The district celebrates death as a part of life and appears lively in contrast to the other parts of town. The buildings are dark, but the morbid celebration is constant here. Its priesthood is the leaderless order of dark-veiled maidens of the Raven Queen known as the Trust of Winter.
- Raven's Crest: The Gothic cathedral dedicated to the worship of the Raven Queen.
- The Amaranthine Oubliette: The prison of Vasselheim.
- The Catacombs: An underground structure in which the dead of Vasselheim are interred.
- The Velvet Cabaret: A place of leisure for wealthy guests.
The Cobalt Vault: This archive of the Cobalt Soul is one of Exandria's leading libraries, ranking with that in Rexxentrum on the continent of Wildemount. The High Curator of Vasselheim shares dual and equal leadership over the entire structure of the Cobalt Soul with the High Curator of Rexxentrum (Yudala Fon.)
Vasselheim is the oldest known bastion of civilization in the world. Most human (and perhaps pre-elf and pre-dwarf) civilization stemmed from this city, which is believed to be tens of thousands of years old. The oldest temples to the main deities of good and neutrality have been uncovered within the city, and as such it is considered the holiest place in the modern world. It has therefore been through many wars and conflicts. Those that live within it do so because they feel that they can fight against this, and they call it a privilege to exist in this harsh landscape as devotion to their respective deities. Because it is such a holy place, the arcane is considered profane in public and very carefully controlled otherwise.
The city of Vasselheim is the only city to have survived every catastrophe that has destroyed Exandria: from the elemental chaos of its Founding to the wars between gods during the Calamity. As the oldest civilization and center of religion in the world, Vasselheim is functionally the spiritual center of the world.
Following the Dawn War, in which Bahamut helped defend Vasselheim, the platinum dragon shed a tear for the sacrifices his devoted followers had made in the war. From that tear was born a crystal, the Star of Exaltation, which was preserved for millennia, until shortly after 510 PD, when the city came under a terrible siege. The crystal was used as a focus in a ritual to bring Bahamut's intervention to defend Vasselheim, and this expended the last of the crystal's power and destroyed it on the Material Plane.
Defending against Vecna
When Vecna ascended to godhood, he made Vasselheim his primary target. His "miracle" to prove his divinity and recruit more worshipers would be to destroy the spiritual center of the Prime Deities and literally place his own city (Thar Amphala) on top of the rubble. The council of Vasselheim sent word across Exandria, requesting aid. J'mon Sa Ord eagerly offered aid from Ank'Harel (bringing all the Hands of Ord to Vasselheim), and Tal'Dorei pledged their support as well. However, King Bertrand Dwendal refused to mobilize against Vecna until the threat was confirmed to have reached Wildemount and the borders of the Dwendalian Empire.
Vecna had reanimated a deceased Earth Titan and placed Thar Amphala atop it. While Vox Machina stealthily made their way up through the Crypts of Thomara (inside the titan), the allied forces fought against Vecna's forces. An arcane barrier guarded Thar Amphala from exterior assault, so Vox Machina's mission to banish Vecna with the Tome of Isolation became imperative.
As Vox Machina battled the Whispered One atop the ruined Tower of Entropis, the Earth Titan had reached the outskirts of Vasselheim and had begun smashing the Braving Grounds district. When Vecna was banished beyond the Divine Gate, the Earth Titan ceased to be reanimated. It fell to its knees and remained motionless where it had been standing: at the base of the Heaven's Stair.
With the defeat of Vecna, the city rejoiced and Vox Machina were hailed as the saviors of Vasselheim, if not all of Exandria.
Behind the scenes
Matthew Mercer noted that Vasselheim has "somewhat Norse" influences, and the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting sourcebook more specifically says Issylra's cities are inspired by 12th-century Norway, centered around religious sites and relics reminiscent of ancient Mesopotamian and Sumerian temples.
- See "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16) at 0:40:38.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 0:05:59.
- See "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16) at 0:40:38.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 0:05:59.
- See See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 12.
- Matt Mercer explained in a Reddit post.
- See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) at 48:38.
- See "The Ominous March" (1x109) from 1:23:42 through 1:24:30.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 2:00:42. The Heaven's Stair was mentioned again at 2:02:05.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 2:02:46.
- See "Dangerous Dealings" (1x42) at 3:25:22.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 2:00:43.
- See "Return to Vasselheim" (1x43) at 2:02:05.
- See "The Rematch" (1x23) at 2:19:36.
- See "The Rematch" (1x23) from 2:19:24 through 2:24:02.
- See "Dangerous Dealings" (1x42) at 3:25:01. The part about four roads is mostly made up but kind of makes sense. Matt explicitly hasn't said, "four roads meet up in the Quadroads district" however, it is surrounded by four districts, flowing into center one (Quadroads)
- See "Trial of the Take: Part 3" (1x20) at 0:51:29.
- See "Aramente to Pyrah" (1x22) at 0:48:34.
- See "Loose Ends" (1x84) at 2:44:31.
- See "Trial of the Take: Part 1" (1x18) at 49:05.
- See "Loose Ends" (1x84) at 2:48:58.
- See "Trial of the Take: Part 1" (1x18) at 0:51:25.
- See "The Search For Grog" (Sx42) at 0:32:41.
- See "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16) at 45:12.
- See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 159.
- See "Enter Vasselheim" (1x16) from 1:06:53 through 1:12:28.
- See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 98.
- Official art of Vasselheim, by Kent Davis from "Exandria: An Intimate History" (Sx61) at 2:46. Used with permission.
- Fan art of the city of Vasselheim, by Brandon Chang (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Vasselheim's Dragonhead Ballistas, by Brandon Chang (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Birthheart, by Kent Davis (source). Used with permission.
- Fan art of Vasselheim celebrating Vecna's defeat, by Kent Davis (source). Used with permission.