Motto: "As High as Honor"
Land: Vale of Arryn and Mountains of the Moon
Seat: The Eyrie
Colors: Blue and white
The House Arryn line contains the most pure Andal blood of any noble house. When the Andals first invaded Westeros, many intermarried with the First Men, and adopted their customs – so much so, that most noble houses trace their lineage back a specific hero of the First Men. The Arryn line has strived to remain pure. Arryns tend to marry nobles of Andal descent, and keep very precise genealogical records.
During the Andal conquest, Ser Artys Arryn, also known as the Winged Knight, led the force which landed near the Vale. According to legend, he flew to the very top of the mountain on a giant falcon and single-handedly slew the Griffin King. When the First Men heard of this, they fled into the mountains, leaving the land to the Andals. Ser Artys Arryn became the first king of the Vale of Arryn.
The most famous Arryn legend is of Alyssa, an Arryn who lived some six thousand years ago. She lived to see all of her siblings, her children, and her husband die. Despite her heartbreak, she vowed never to shed a tear, so to be strong for her people. The gods cursed her then, that she should know no peace until the glaciers on the mountains of Giant’s Lance watered the earth below. In the many years since her death, the waterfall created by the glacier melt came to be known as Alyssa’s Tears. Even today, her curse continues - the water of the falls freezes in the winter, and evaporates in the summer before reaching the ground.
The Arryns are known for having lofty standards that they hold themselves and others to. Some would call them superior, or haughty, but they place great stock in honor, truth, and justice. They are also known for individual martial prowess. The Vale still has wild men who live in the mountains and sometimes threaten the roads, so the Arryns have more practice than most at real combat.
Motto: "Ours Is The Fury"
Land: The Stormlands
Seat: Storm's End
Colors: Black and gold
House Baratheon is the youngest of the great houses. Its founder, Orys Baratheon, was Aegon the Conqueror’s finest general. When Orys slew Argilac the Arrogant, the last of the ancient Storm Kings, Aegon granted him the Stormlands. He took Argilac’s young daughter to be his bride, and adopted the customs, banner, and words of the Storm Kings as his own. Orys Baratheon was rumored to be Aegon’s bastard brother.
The Stormlands are a peninsula, isolated from the rest of Westeros by the Red Mountains to the southwest, the Kingswood to the northwest, and the sea itself to the north, south, and east. The seat of House Baratheon is at Storm’s End. Storm’s End was built by King Durran, the legendary first Storm King. According to the legend, King Durran fell in love with and married Elenei, the daughter of the sea god and wind goddess. By marrying her, Durran doomed Elenei to a mortal life. Her divine parents in revenge sought to destroy King Durran’s fortress. Six times he built his castle walls, each time stronger than the last, and six times the gods in their rage struck the walls down. The seventh time, he built the walls one hundred feet high, completely smooth, with no cracks or openings at all, and forty feet thick at their thinnest. This time the gods could not strike it down, and thus still does Storm’s End stand today.
House Baratheon is known for its pride and its stubbornness. Many strong knights have trained under the shadow of Storm’s End, and the tales of them persevering under long odds are abundant. It is also said Baratheons tend to show their emotions strongly, whether it be with an unwavering joyful disposition, or a quick and vicious temper.
Motto: "We do not sow"
Land: The Iron Islands
Colors: Black and gold
The men of the Iron Islands are known as ironmen to outsiders, and the ironborn among themselves. The legend is that when the First Men arrived on the Iron Islands, an oily black throne carved with great kraken lay empty and waiting on Pyke. The rulers of the ironborn still sit on this throne today.
Alone among the people of Westeros, the ironborn have never worshipped the ‘old gods’ of the Children of the Forest, nor does the Faith of the Seven hold any sway over them. Ironborn worship the Drowned God, and have since time immemorial. It is said that when the first Andal king slew the old king and gained the throne, he immediately accepted the Drowned God as his own. A constant struggle is waged between the god of storms and the Drowned God, but by remaining true, the ironborn can avoid the wrath of the sea.
The ironborn live and die by their ships, and are unrivaled in their seamanship. They have long held the premier fleet in the land. Their land is bleak, and does not grow crops nor is it full of game. The ironborn survive by raiding and pillaging from weaker folk. At the time of the Targaryen invasion, they controlled the riverlands, hard won in battle with the storm lords. They agreed to bend the knee to King Aegon only when he granted them the choice of house to rule over their lands. The council picked House Greyjoy.
House Greyjoy is known to be full of fiercely independent men and women. They are a cunning and hard people. Their possessions are few and their homes are sparse. They tend to be intrepid, brave, and ruthless to those who oppose them. The Greyjoys have nothing, so they take what they need.
Motto: "Hear me roar!"
Land: The Westerlands
Seat: Casterly Rock
Colors: Red and gold
House Lannister rules the Westerlands, which include Lannisport and Casterly Rock. According to legend, they descend from Lann the Clever, a trickster from the Age of Heroes. Lann the Clever’s most famous exploit is tricking the Casterlys into giving him Casterly Rock. He is also said to have stolen gold from the sun itself to brighten his hair. The Lannisters today are known for the fair hair.
House Lannister is the wealthiest noble house in the Six Kingdoms, both because of the gold in Casterly Rock and the Golden Tooth, and because of the thriving trade out of Lannisport. Lannisport is the second largest city in Westeros, second only to the capital, and is an important port. It is ideally placed for ships carrying food and wine from the south, and furs from the north. The harbor is well protected by its natural shape, as the land juts out to the west and forms a calm inlet. It is also near to Casterly Rock and the fleet of the Lannisters. This has historically kept the Greyjoy raiders away.
Lannisters are known to be clever and devious. It is said that they will do anything for wealth and power. However, it is also well known that their loyalty to their family is paramount. A Lannister would never cause another Lannister to come to harm, and they take slights to kin very personally. More famous than their official words is the phrase “A Lannister always pays his debts”. It is said that if you cross a Lannister, you can be sure that it will be returned to you, possibly with interest. And likely as not, it will come at a time and in a way that you least expect.
Motto: "Winter is coming"
Land: The North
Colors: Grey and white
House Stark rules the cold north lands of Westeros. The lineage of Stark traces back thousands of years, to the legendary Bran the Builder, who built the Wall. Once they ruled as kings in the North, but since Aegon the Conqueror united the land almost two hundred years ago, they have acknowledged the rule of the Targaryens. Being so far from King’s Landing, the Starks are often left to deal with their own problems without royal help, which suits them just as well.
The north poses a unique set of problems for its rulers. It encompasses a vast amount of sparsely populated land, so communication takes time and can be difficult. The weather is cold – there is snow in the summer, and in the winter it is sometimes not possible to travel for weeks. Most of the land is not fit for crops. The houses of the north all pride themselves on their gamesmanship skills, and are well acquainted with the necessity of food storage and rationing for the long cold winters.
At the far northern border of the Stark’s territory lies the Wall. Beyond it lie all manner of dangerous people and beasts – wildlings, direwolves, and it is even rumored, giants. The Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch is tasked with guarding it and keeping the land safe, but it is not unheard of for an occasional far-northern village to be raided by Wildlings.
The men and women of House Stark are known throughout the land for their honor. It is said that a Stark never breaks his word. It is also told that the Starks are like the land they rule — sometimes seeming harsh and emotionless, but also uncomplaining of hardship, full of inner strength, and possessing of a beauty of character which shines through.
Motto: "Fire and Blood"
Land: The Six Kingdoms of Westeros
Seat: King's Landing
Colors: Red and Black
House Targaryen is the sole house in Westeros not to claim descent from the Andals or the First Men. The Targaryens hail from Valyria, on the eastern continent. They relocated to Dragonstone, an island on the far eastern coast of Westeros. When the Doom of Valyria came and destroyed their homeland, the Targaryens were safely in Dragonstone. House Targaryen is the sole family to ever possess dragons.
Aegon I, known also as Aegon the Conqueror, united all Westeros (except Dorne) with the help of his dragons. The Targaryens did not have many men. But no one had fought dragons before, and castles which could hold so well against arrows and trebuchets were no match for creatures that could fly above and rain down dragonfire on all who refused to yield.
In appearance, the Targaryens are very striking. They are legendary for their exceptional beauty, said to come from their Valeryian blood. They have fine silver hair, and eyes of deep violet. No other people in the land exhibit either of these remarkable traits. Many a heart has fallen in vain for an alluring young Targaryen man or women.
House Targaryen has a tradition of marrying brother to sister, like the old Valeryian rulers in the east. This preserves the purity of their blood. In Westeros, it is frowned upon for any but Targaryens to marry in this fashion – it is their right as kings, but is taboo for others.
It is said that when a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. He will either be great, or mad. Westeros has had its share of both. Aemon the Dragonknight is known throughout the land to be the most valiant knight that ever lived, sacrificing himself at the prime of his life for his brother. Maegor the Cruel was an especially brutal king. He put bounties on the heads of the faithful, and executed all of the builders of his keep so that only he would know their secrets. Good Queen Alysanne is remembered for her great charity, and taking a personal interest in the protection of the land. Of the current living Targaryens, it isn’t yet clear what side of the coin any of them were born on. But surely among them, one of them would make a great king – and one a mad one.
Motto: "Family, Duty, Honor"
Land: The Riverlands
Colors: Blue and red
House Tully is an ancient line, dating back to the Age of Heroes. They have long held Riverrun, and the fertile land surrounding it. However, they have never ruled as kings, because the riverlands were not an independent kingdom at the time of the Targaryen conquest. The old river kings were all slain some four hundred years ago, when Arrec the Storm King conquered the entire area. The storm kings were harsh, and around two hundred years later, King Harwyn Hardhand of the ironmen laid siege to the riverlands and won. The riverlands passed control from the storm kings to the iron kings. This turned out to be not a step up at all, as the iron kings were even more brutal.
When Aegon the Conquerer arrived in Westeros, the riverlands were being ruled by King Harren the Black, Harwyn's grandson. He was a bloody and vain tyrant. He had a castle built for himself, what was to be the largest and most complex castle ever constructed. The work had scarcely been completed on it when Aegon arrived with his dragons. The thick stone walls were no match for dragonfire, and Lord Harren was burned alive in his great castle.
Lord Edmyn Tully and his men were the first to join Aegon the Conquerer’s host. Lord Harren was little loved by his people, and many of the river lords followed Edmyn Tully’s lead. For this, Aegon rewarded House Tully by giving him dominion over the riverlands and requiring the other lords to swear him fealty.
Because the Tullys have only been rulers of the riverlands for a hundred and eighty three years, some of the older Great Houses consider them up-jumped (much like the Tyrells). However, they are well-loved by their own bannermen, so this sort of idle chatter has little effect on their reputation.
The Tullys are regarded as being a very sensible house. It is sometimes said that Tullys have the most pleasant dispositions of all the houses. They aren’t known for being prone to excess, or greed, or callousness. They are generally thought of as being well-mannered and accommodating. For this reason, it is considered fortunate to have a Tully bride. They are also said to make excellent diplomats.
Motto: "Growing strong"
Land: The Reach
Colors: Green and yellow
House Tyrell is as ancient in lineage as other noble houses, but their influence is recent. House Tyrell members can trace descent to the legendary Garth Greenhand, one of the First Men. He was said to wear a crown only of vines and flowers, and to make the land bloom wherever he walked. He was the first king of the Reach, known as the Gardener King. However, House Tyrell claims this descent on the female side, and so were not themselves kings. Instead, they were stewards to House Gardener, who ruled the lands of the Reach for thousands of years.
When Aegon the Conqueror united the Six Kingdoms, House Gardener fought against him. They were slain to a man, and Lord Harlen Tyrell surrendered their castle, Highgarden, to the Targaryens. For this service, Aegon the Conqueror raised up House Tyrell and granted them the titles of Lords of the Reach and Wardens of the South. The bannermen which had sworn fealty to House Gardener now swore to House Tyrell. At the time, this created some strife between House Tyrell and the lesser houses, but almost two hundred years have passed, and with them the quarrels. However, to members of other Great Houses, the Tyrells, like the Tullys, are sometimes impolitely referred to as being up-jumped.
House Tyrell controls a beautiful a fertile land. The Reach extends from the mountains and the Blackwater in the north, to the Red Mountains in the south which separate it from Dorne. They also control the Arbor, a southern island with famously good wine. The land is temperate, mild even in the winter. Crops flourish, flowers bloom year-round, and the fruit is the best in the land.
House Tyrell is known for its beauty, both men and women. Not an otherworldly beauty, like that of the Targaryens, but instead a beauty like that of the land, natural and sweet. They are thought of to favor pretty things, enjoying bright tapestries, delicate needlework, and fine jewelry. It is said that they inherited a gift with nature from Garth Greenhand, and that a Tyrell women can make flowers bloom even in rocks. Minstrels are popular, good food is abundant, and it is said that life is enjoyed more fully in the lands of House Tyrell.
The founding legend of Dorne is that Nymeria, queen of the Royne, sailed across the summer sea with ten thousand ships. When she landed in Dorne, she declared this would be her new home, and so married the current ruler, Lord Mors Martell. To this day, Dorne keeps many Rhonish customs, such as naming their ruler prince, instead of king.
Women have a much stronger place in Dorne than in the Six Kingdoms. In the Six Kingdoms, the eldest son is the heir of the family; in Dorne, it is the eldest child, whether they be male or female. Thus Dorne has had many famous ruling queens, as well as princes. Since women are able to be lords, they are also able to hold land, to have armies, and to choose who they marry. It is also acceptable for unmarried women to take lovers, a practice unheard of in the rest of Westeros.
Bastards also have more political influence Dorne than they do in the Six Kingdoms. It isn’t disgraceful to have children out of wedlock, or to have children by several different men or women. Therefore, it is common in Dorne to claim one’s bastards. The Dornish do not discriminate between ‘highborn’ and ‘lowborn’ bastards of a lord. A bastard rarely would be considered for the throne, but by being recognized, they are able to exert some political influence. Some acquire popular followings.
The lands of Dorne are hot and dry. A sandy desert lies at the heart of the land, the only one in Westeros. Much of Dorne is good for growing crops, and some of it is quite lush, but in the summer the heat is said to be oppressive.
The Dornish are legendary for being hot-blooded and hot-headed. They are often described as exuberant, or even hedonistic. It is said that the weather in Dorne is hot, the food is hotter, and the women … !
Lands: The Kingdom of Dorne
Colors: Red and orange
House Martell is the ruling house of Dorne. They have been the rulers of the land since it was first united by Queen Nymeria, a little less than a thousand years ago.
Lands: Central Dorne
Colors: Orange and gold
House Yronwood is the largest house in Dorne. They are powerful bannerman to House Martell. Their lord is titled Warden of the Boneway and The Bloodroyal.