“There is a great power in this world. Ancient and forgotten. It transformed fields of bare stone into wonders of life and magic. It carved mountains, drained oceans, and burned skies. It never faded, it only grew stronger. Hidden away, waiting to be found. The stronger it grows, the louder it calls.”Ryze, the Rune Mage
Fitting to its name, Runeterra is a world where powerful magical artifacts known as ‘World Runes’ can be found scattered across it. Shortly after civilizations discovered them they tried to use them to shape the world around them with varying degrees of success. However such powerful magic at the hands of men inevitably led to war being fought, both over and with these World Runes. Known as the Rune War, nations used these potent World Runes to devastate one another. Entire civilizations were wiped out, landmasses were destroyed and distorted, and an unrecordable amount of lives were lost. Since then, these world runes have been found and sealed away by a man named Ryze, and his efforts have allowed the world to prosper.
The world of Runeterra is now a place full of complex cultures, clashing ideologies, strange creatures, perilous places and intricate political conflicts. Ultimately what makes it such a fascinating world are its regions; how diverse they feel, how they interact with one another, the grayness of morality they have, and how dynamic the positives and negatives of each feel. Each region’s culture makes complete sense in the context of both its physical and political environment and it’s quite easy to understand the overall goals and motivations of them. It’s quite telling when you can create a hypothetical world event and you’d know exactly how each region would react and respond to it. Through the process of learning about some of the various cultures of this fictional world I hope you too will begin to appreciate just how much love and care went into the world building of the world of League of Legends/Arcane.
“I sought power on Targon’s peak, only to find it within.”Pantheon, Aspect of War
Targon– To overcome challenges, to climb the mountains life throws our way, is how we grow and become better. No region exemplifies this better than Targon. Centered around a massive mountain whose peak goes so high that it pierces the clouds and acts as a window to the celestial realm, climbing Mount Targon is the most demanding of challenges in the world of Runeterra. Legends say that those who climb to its peak will be gifted with powers and purpose beyond human understanding. A legend which has drawn people to attempt the climb from across the lands. Whether seeking adventure, glory, power or a challenge, thousands have attempted to climb to its peak. Few survive the journey. If it were simply a massive mountain it would be one thing, but climbing Mount Targon involves overcoming treacherous obstacles that test both body and spirit. Climbers are haunted by ghosts of their past, horrific visions of terrible possible futures and tragic historical events, undergo trials by strange and powerful celestial beings, and are assailed by powerful beasts.
The legends hold true; those who reach its peak are met by powerful celestial beings known as Aspects who bestow their powers and tasks to those they deem worthy. The Aspect of War, The Protector, The Sun, The Moon, and Twilight are the currently known Aspects that have bestowed their powers to ‘champions’, each giving their vessels a new purpose to use their powers to fulfill. However their blessing could also be considered a curse by many. Any chance at a normal life is shattered after becoming an Aspect and your purpose is much greater a task than any you had in life. This greater purpose can lead to a disconnect with the rest of humanity as your new purpose to keep the world safe and carry out the will of these Aspects makes normal human trifles seem trite in comparison. Worse still is that at the end of the day you are ultimately still a pawn for these godly beings. They need a human host to be able to enact their will on the world, and while most give full control of their powers to their hosts, they are also capable of taking over their bodies indefinitely should they see the need. However most of the new Aspects view these as non-factors, they are happy to serve the needs of humanity and protect its people better than they ever could have hoped to in their normal life, and these ‘strings’ attached to their powers are not to be feared but to be accepted.
“Fear is the first of many foes.”Garen, the Might of Demacia
Demacia- Order. Justice. Duty. Hope. These are the principles Demacia embodies. It is a place governed by law but motivated by tradition and pride. Pride in bettering oneself, pride in serving one’s country and in overcoming the evils of the world. Yet not all is picturesque for Demacia. All these traits cover the surface, but beneath it lies evil that many would consider worse than that which they so proactively seek to vanquish. For there is another principle Demacia embodies with its actions, one that chokes its citizens and shakes its foundations. Fear. Demacia was initially founded to be a refuge from sorcery, built atop a massive storage of magic-dampening metal known as Petricite. It was founded at the end of ‘The Rune Wars’, and Demacia’s creation was well warranted. For centuries it kept its people safe from the threat of magic. Unfortunately, magic is prominent throughout the world of Runeterra; peoples are often born throughout its regions with the ability to use magic. Demacia created a group of mageseekers in order to combat the threat of magic inside its region.
Mageseekers register any who show traces of magical capabilities. Those registered would then have to adhere to even stricter laws or be forced to join the mage seekers to prove their loyalty. A notable example of this was a child named Sylas, who could use his magic to track down other mages. He was recruited into the mageseekers and began to feel pity for the mages he helped capture. Eventually his ‘work’ led him to the countryside, where a young girl was hiding in an attempt to live a peaceful life. He stepped in to protect her, but when his skin contacted hers, he fired her lightning magic uncontrollably, killing both her and his mageseeker allies. This led to his imprisonment for life. However he broke free of his bonds and freed his fellow mages and began a revolution. Mageseekers enacted a zero tolerance policy after this, and began to capture any who exhibited traces of magical abilities and imprison them. Young and old, dangerous or benign, it mattered not who you were; magic was to be locked away. It became an inquisition of jumping at shadows, and even innocents who had no magical powers were still terrified of rumors or accusations that could lead to their unjust imprisonment.
It is no coincidence that Fiddlesticks, a demon that feeds off of fear, stalks its countryside. The fear and uncertainty its citizens feel on a day to day basis is what drew Fiddlesticks like a moth to a flame, and its feasting has yet to slow down.
“Peace requires two participants.”Irelia, the Blade Dancer
Ionia- A land of unspoiled beauty and potent natural magic. Those who live there seek to live in harmony and balance with the natural world. Its people are deeply spiritual and pacifistic in nature, focusing on inward perfection and understanding their place in the world. Magic suffuses everything in Ionia; it’s people, it’s history, it’s wildlife and most notably the land itself. The lands of Ionia are full of powerful spirits and wildlife. It is a place with history more ancient than any other region. While much of its past is unknown to those that live there, remnants of massive conflicts from ages long past give hints to its origins. Rather than clean up these ruins, Ionians leave it untouched out of respect for what was. Treating it as a monument with insights into the past, these old war fields are studied and have shown Ionia an important truth. War is a terrible thing capable of destroying history just as easily as people. Isolationists with a focus on self sufficiency, Ionia has taken a neutral stance on the wars that ravage the world around it. Avoiding conflict at all cost, having no standing army. Its people instead take a civilized focus on the studying of battle and martial arts, seeking spiritual and personal growth from their studies. The powerful magic that flows through the lands of Ionia have kept invaders at bay for centuries. Invaders would find their armies scattered as they traverse through soul-altering forests, supply lines would be swept away by winds and waters, and sudden storms would decimate forces.
The balance Ionians keep with the natural, magical and spiritual world affects the everyday lives of its inhabitants in ways utterly foreign to others. As just one of numerous examples, imagine you wanted to build a home. In any other region you’d cut down some trees and use the wood from them to craft your shelter. In Ionia doing so would upset the tree and the land’s spirit, which could have costly repercussions for you and your family for generations. Instead, you would contact a wood weaver who can speak with the spirit of the trees and convince it to grow in a shape that allows you to live inside of it. This lets the tree live whist giving you a place to live.
Everything for Ionia changed when Noxus invaded. We’ll go into more details about the invasion in Noxus’ section, but their assault on Ionia led to Ionians realizing that the world around them is changing. They believed that if they lived in harmony with nature that everything would always be okay. With that illusion shattered, they can’t simply stand by while the world advances anymore. And that is the current great conflict Ionia faces; what do we do now? Do they adapt tradition to fit the evolving world or radically change the way they live their lives?
“To redraw the map, the blood of soldiers must be the ink.”Jericho Swain, the Noxian Grand General
Noxus- Many would consider Noxus to be a brutal warmongering nation obsessed with expansion. While these claims are accurate, it is so much more than that. It is the most inclusive society on Runeterra; you will find peoples of all kinds of races, creeds, sexes and social status thriving. At its core it is a meritocracy built around cultivating the strengths and talents of its people. It matters not who or what you are, if you are strong you matter. It asks its people to pull themselves out of the gutter rather than rely on others to save them. Initially starting off as a clan of Reavers, their successful take over of an ancient city, which now remains the heart of Noxus, proved to them they could be more. Under constant threat of enemies on all sides, they’ve chosen to aggressively take the fight to their enemies, expanding their border with every victory. As one could imagine, this has led them to be a nation proud of its strength and who acknowledges that it can manifest in many forms. Nations they conquer are brought into their dominion and given the same opportunity to prove themselves and rise amongst their ranks. The only discrimination in Noxus is between the weak and the strong.
At their core however they are still Reavers, they won’t be satisfied until the entire world is under one banner. It matters not how peaceful their neighbors are, none will be spared from Noxian war. There is no better proof of this than their war with Ionia. Ionia was an entirely peaceful nation that they aggressively traded with in order to get a lay of their land and the best points to attack. They struck suddenly and brutally, using chemicals to destroy the nature that kept Ionia safe as they pushed inland. Eventually they captured a place of spiritual significance known as ‘The Placidium’ and gathered the civilians together as bait to lure more Ionians into a trap. They did not account for the strength of a 14 year old girl named Irelia that they had ‘captured’. She was a Mage Dancer and used her dance to cause the magic of the Ionia itself to lash out at the troops. She nearly wiped out all of the commanding forces there and cut off the hand of the Noxian General Swain. For three years Ionia was united in resistance and repelled, but Noxus continued redoubling its war efforts. Noxus started throwing child soldiers at Ionians in order to prey on their mercy, and began using their chemical warfare on the people in addition to the land. It was only when internal conflict forced Noxus to focus on internal affairs that they pulled out of Ionia. However as they stabilize their internal conflicts, plans for a second invasion into Ionia are being prepared. Just how far they’ll go to win this time remains to be seen, but with Noxus the sky is the limit…
Many of the regions of this setting fit into ‘tropes’, but each of them puts such a unique spin on the established formula that is both refreshing and authentic. Things are not as simple as ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and the reasons behind the actions nations take are shaped by the circumstances of their surroundings and the world they live in. There are still tons of regions we haven’t discussed today too, all brimming with the same love and care as the ones I highlighted. From the cutthroat land of scoundrels and pirates known as Bilgewater, to the once blessed and now hopelessly hollowed Shadow Isles, there is still so much rich lore to uncover in the lands of Runeterra. I hope this sparked your curiosity, and if you wish to find out more about Runeterra there are a plethora of pages and videos that can help you learn the lore better, and Riot Games has made numerous comics and visualized stories that can take you through important events and journeys of some of the numerous characters that fill the world. Additionally the series Arcane does a fantastic job showing you the region of Piltover and Zaun in a fantastic way, as well as flesh out some story rich characters. I cannot recommend Arcane enough if you haven’t seen it yet, even if you don’t like animated shows, it has enough care and character that everyone can enjoy it.