The Witcher 3‘s release has hit with a storm of positive reviews. We’ve got a recap on the story and lore of The Witcher universe.
If you’re interested reading more about this, we recommend taking a look at the Witcher book series.
If you have not played the first two Witcher games but plan on getting The Witcher 3, you may want to read this. If you have played the first two games but don’t remember much about what went on, this will hopefully jog your memory.
We’re only covering what is in the games, mentioned in the games or mentioned in books in the games.
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO WITCHER GAMES.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
What Are Witchers?
The Witchers are professional monster slayers. What makes them so good at what they do are their mutagens, potions that enhance the reflexes and prolong their lifespan. Witchers are essentially mutants.
Though there is plenty of work to be done and they do their jobs well, The Witchers are treated very poorly by humans. Humans in The Witcher universe are quite racist and filled with hatred toward anyone who isn’t like them, elves, gnomes, dwarves, you name it.
The Witcher Schools
There are 4 known Witcher schools where youngsters are sent for Witcher training, each one has their own special medallion that symbolizes their school. These medallions are useful in the way that they shake whenever danger or magic is near.
The school of the Wolf, Cat, Griffin and Viper.
Each school trains its pupils differently but all in all they all produce the same quality Witcher.
Notable characters from each school:
Wolf: -Geralt of Rivia -Vesemir -Eskel -Lambert -Leo -Ciri (though she never completed the Trial of Grasses)
Cat: No known members
Griffin: No known members
Viper: Letho Serrit Auckes
Witcher Magic ‘Signs’
Through training, Witchers have access to 5 magical signs that give them an edge in combat against both monsters and humans.
- Aard – A powerful wind attack that pushes the enemy back, can also stun them.
- Quen (pronounced kwin) – Forms a protective shield around the Witcher that absorbs incoming damage.
- Igni (pronounced ig-knee) – A powerful fire blast. Pretty straight forward.
- Axii (pronounced acks-e) – A hex spell, allows the Witcher to turn an enemy into an ally for a short period of time.
- Yrden (pronounced ear-den) – A trap spell, any enemy foolish enough to walk into its radius is damaged.
Meditation, Potions, Toxicity and the Trial of Grasses
Meditation is important to Witchers. It lets them reflect on their skills and what they’ve learned and also utilize their potions.
Potions are made from bases of alcohol, the stronger the booze the stronger the potion. Witchers use the alcohol along with several ingredients, usually found on the monsters they kill, to create useful potions from their witcher’s secrets.
These potions come at a cost however, whenever they are consumed the toxicity level of the Witcher increases, normally the toxicity would just outright kill a person but because of their special training witchers can withstand it. However, they must be careful not to let their toxicity get too high.
The Trial of Grasses is a test all witchers must pass in order to move forward in their training. They are given a special mix of herbs called “the grasses”, if the subject survives the effects of the mix they are granted with increased reflexes, increased strength and stamina, and immunity to both poison and diseases but it also makes them sterile.
Only 4 out of 10 students survive the process.
The last known Witcher stronghold is Kaer Morhen. It is also home to the school of the Wolf. It is located in the northern part of the kingdom of Kaedwen.
Although it is said that the school of the Viper may be still standing, no one knows though as it is said to be located in the southern region of Nilfgaard.
The Northern Kingdoms
The major kingdoms:
- Aedirn (Ed-urn) – Ruler: Prince Stennis due to his father, King Demavend’s assassination.
- This kingdom is known for its hold on the Pontar Valley and its Mahakam mines, a rich and prosperous kingdom.
- Kaedwen – Ruler: King Henselt
- This is the largest kingdom in the northern realms, Henselt is a greedy and selfish man who is consistently at war with Aedirn for the Pontar Valley.
- Redania – Ruler: King Radovid the Stern
- The sister kingdom to Temeria, the alliance held between the two due to the marriage between Radovid and King Foltest’s daughter, Adda. Not much else is known about the kingdom other than that it is a force to be reckoned with.
- Temeria – Ruler: None (formerly King Foltest before his assassination)
- The kingdom of Temeria is the set piece for almost all of The Witcher 1 and part of The Witcher 2.It was once a prosperous and strong kingdom, but now it is in shambles due to the La Vallette civil war and the absence of a ruler.
The Nilfgaardian Empire
Ruled by Emperor Emhyr (ehm-ear) var Emreis this is the largest threat to the northern kingdoms. It is an ancient and vast empire that started out small, but through strength and numbers assimilated the southern kingdoms in to one vast and expansive empire.
In the time of the first Witcher game the war between Nilfgaard and the northern kingdom ended 5 years prior, however Nilfgaard never gave up its claim to the northern realms. The native tongue of Nilfgaardians is a variant of the Elder Language spoken by the ancient elves that used to inhabit the land.
Elven blood runs through the veins of its citizens moreso than any other kingdom. Nilfgaard is a universally hated empire by practically anyone who lives in the northern realms.
Nilfgaard once had an alliance with the Scoia’tael during their war with the northern kingdoms, the elves were used as puppets to aid their cause and nothing more. This is touched upon in conversation between Iorveth and Geralt.
Nilfgaard has made an enemy of everyone but they can afford that given the empire’s strength and size.
The Conjunction of the Spheres
A phenomenon that happened over 1,000 years ago. Beasts and monsters from different plains and dimensions were trapped in the world of The Witcher, these included spectral beasts, vampires and necrophages.
At the time only elves inhabited the continent, humans started settling a few centuries later.
A genetic mutation created by elven sages to give the wielder supernatural and awesome power. This was meant to be passed down from elf to elf, but one carrier, Lara Dorren, mated with a human and thus passed the genetic mutation on the humans and half-elves (half elves half humans).
The only known host of Elder Blood is Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, whom The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is centered around.
The Wild Hunt
A band of spectral elves from a sadistic dimension. They travel to different planes of existence spreading terror and leaving death and destruction wherever they go.
If you’re unlucky, instead of killing you they’ll kidnap you, only 2 people have escaped their clutches. Yennefer of Vengerberg and Geralt of Rivia.
Witcher’s Steel Sword
A basic sword made from steel. Ideal for killing humans and creatures unaffected by the Conjuction of Spheres (ie wolves and bears etc).
Witcher’s Silver Sword
A special blade. A steel base that is then covered by silver. This sword is most effective on creatures that came to the world via the Conjuction of Spheres.
A so called revolutionary band of elves. Ever since humans settled onto the continent there has been nothing but bad blood between the races. Humans proved stronger and greater and number, though died quickly.
Elves are fewer in number but can live for centuries. The kingdoms established by humans all oppress non-humans in sickening. Well, all except Aedirn. The Scoia’tael (skoi-a-tell) are nicknamed squirrels because they like to hide in the woods and forests, waiting to ambush and kill any human unlucky enough to cross their path.
Watch for the signs! What signs these shall be, I say unto you: first the earth will flow with the blood of Aen Seidhe, the Blood of Elves…
The Scoia’tael used to be comprised of what are called Aen (in) Seidhe (shade), or the “Old Ones”. These elves have long since given up fighting, some even help humans or drown themselves in drink.
Bestiary Pt 1
Necrophages: Eaters of the dead, wherever there is war they are not far behind.
- Drowned dead
- Rotfiend -Bullvore
Ornithosaurs are dragon-like creatures, you may be familiar with them as they are popular fantasy monsters.
Ghosts are pretty straight forward.
- Wild Hunt
Plants, Don’t underestimate the plants.
Special creatures are rare encounters found in The Witcher universe.
Bestiary Pt 2
Lesser vampires on the other hand are beasts, and they’re ugly too. They need to feed to survive.
Insectoids are pretty straight forward.
- Giant Centipede
Humanoids are human in shape but not human in anatomy.
- The Operator
Geralt’s Friends and Allies
- Triss Merigold of Maribor – Lover to Geralt, friend to Yennefer and caretaker of Ciri.
- Triss has long been a friend of the witcher and has assisted him in many ways. She is a powerful mage and even served as King Foltest’s royal advisor.
- Yennefer of Vengerberg – Geralt’s lover before he lost his memory, she is a powerful sorceress.
- She is 1/4 elven blood and was once blinded (though she is healed now). She is in possession of a unicorn, a magical creature which can travel between different dimensions and plains of existence. She was captured by the Wild Hunt, Geralt traded himself to save her.
- Dandelion – A poet, bard, minstrel and Temerian spy.
- He is Geralt’s closest friend and a real ladies’ man. The Witcher 2’s story is told from his perspective.
- Zoltan – A dwarf and a war veteran.
- He forged Geralt’s steel sword and they have been friends ever since.
- Shani – Though she is never seen after the first game she plays an important role.
- She is a long time friend of Geralt, and you guessed it, in love with him. She has a soft spot for non-humans and has a knack for healing.
The Witcher 1:
Assault on Kaer Morhen, Memory Loss and the Barghest problem
The Witcher 1 starts out with a backstory of Geralt. He was contracted by King Foltest himself to lift a curse off of his daughter, Adda. She was a Striga, made that way by a curse placed on her.
There were only two ways to lift the curse, kill her or spend the night with her in her coffin. Geralt succeeded in freeing her from the curse but suffered a gash across his eye.
Geralt is taken to Kaer Morhen by Eskel, Lambert and Vesemir after he is found unconscious in the woods. He has lost his memory.
Before he can come to grips with what’s happened Kaer Morhen is beseiged by a group called Salamandra led by Azar Javed and The Professor aided by a Frightener. In short they steal the witchers’ secrets and kill Leo, a witcher in training, in the process.
Geralt is sent to the outskirts of Vizima, the Temerian capital, to look for clues of Salamandra. There he meets Zoltan and Shani and they try to help jog his memory. He also informally adopts a child named Alvin who is plagued by Ithlinne’s prophecy.
The village on the outskirts of Vizima is plagued by a hellhound and Geralt offers to get rid of the problem in exchange for info on Salamandra. After a few menial tasks Geralt is told by a priest of The Order of The Flaming Rose about a small base of Salamandra.
After clearing it out he is confronted by the towns people who blame their hellhound problem on a local witch named Abigail, after dealing with the mob he defeats the Hellhound and is taken to jail in the city of Vizima.
Vizima, The Swamp and The Professor
Geralt is set free after he agrees to kill a cockatrice in the sewers of Vizima. He also obtains a steel sword left behind by another witcher named Berengar. He then meets with a private investigator who agrees to help him locate Salamandra.
After much questioning and sleuthing Geralt realizes that the private investigator has been killed when he finds his corpse in the Vizima catacombs. He figures out Javed’s scheme and plays along.
Geralt is referred to a gnome named Kalkstein who asks for assistance in opening and ancient mage’s tower. After a long search for stones , a fight with a golem and the decision of whether to participate in the fights between The Order and The Scoia’tael, Geralt finally opens the door to the wizard’s tower. Javed is not able to take Geralt by surprise and is sent running with his tail between his legs.
Inside the tower is a book of protective magic. After the ordeal in the swamp Geralt has access to the market district in Vizima where he catches up with Dandelion and reminisces with Princess Adda. Meanwhile he chooses whether to leave Alvin in the care of Shani or Triss who gives him a dimeritium pendant to surpress his visions.
Eventually he finds a portal to the Salamandra base with the help of The Order/Scoia’tael and avenges Leo’s death by killing The Professor. After the confrontation, Adda tries to have Geralt killed so she can usurp the throne. He is teleported away to Murky Waters along with Alvin.
A somewhat peaceful place, Geralt arrives at murky waters where the major conflict is between the villagers and the vodyanoi (ancient fish people). There’s also a big wedding going to go on soon.
Using the Lady of Lake’s advice, Geralt is able to peacefully resolve the problems between the settlers and the vodyanoi by killing the evil god Dagon. While at Murky Waters Geralt runs into Berengar who confesses to have worked with Salamandra. He was the one who got them into Kaer Morhen and let them steal the witchers’ secrets.
He also learns about the legendary Raven’s armor from Berengar. Geralt chooses either to kill or forgive him. Geralt finds Alvin and protects him from danger and gives him advice he’ll never forget.
After a time Geralt learns that the bride to be, Alina, was murdered by her sister Celina and Alina’s admirer kills Celina because of this. Alina and Celina become noon and nightwraiths as a result.
In order to free them from their torment Geralt finds the broken pieces of Alina’s magic mirror and a poem from Dandelion to put their spirits to rest. After all of this Geralt returns to the village to find it a battlefield between the order and scoia’tael, amidst the chaos Alvin unconsciously uses magic powers to teleport through time and space.
Geralt then heads back to Vizima.
The Squirrels’ attack and Azar Javed’s downfall
Geralt returns to Vizima to see that all hell has broken loose. Squirrels and The Order fighting in the streets and the new threat of Javed’s mutants created from the stolen witchers’ secrets.
Geralt’s first stop is an audience with King Foltest, Adda has been cursed again and must be cured. He must go to the cemetery swamps where he finds all the pieces for Raven’s armor and has it smithed back in Vizima.
He cures Adda’s curse once again and finds out that it was her personal body guard, De Witt, that cursed her. After dealing with him Geralt goes after Javed. After going through ever obstacle that is thrown at him Geralt finally reaches Azar Javed and ends his life for good.
In a communication mirror it is revealed that the Grandmanster of The Order, Jacques de Aldersberg, is the leader of Salamandra and is trying to overthrow Foltest with an army of mutants.
Jacques de Aldersberg
Geralt travels back to Vizima once more to confront de Aldersberg. The Grandmaster teleports Geralt to a vision of the future. The earth covered in snow and engulfed in freezing weather, the human race devolved into savages.
On his journey to the final confrontation with the Grandmaster Geralt recalls the choices he has made along the way and comes to terms with them. Geralt then defeats de Aldersberg and is confronted by the king of The Wild Hunt.
Geralt then decides whether to kill de Aldersberg himself or let the Hunt take him. If he chooses to let the hunt take him then he is told that he knew de Aldersberg by another. All signs point to the Grandmaster being Alvin.
Through his verbal exchanges with Geralt he drops hints, recalling what Geralt told him when he was a young boy and also the old Dimeritium amulet that wears. It is clear the amulet failed him as time went on as the visions of Ithlinne’s prophecy were not being suppressed.
When this altercation is finished Geralt collects the witchers’ secrets and goes to receive his reward from King Foltest. In the ending cinematic Geralt saves King Foltest from an assassination attempt.
Close inspection of the assassin’s now lifeless body reveals that he was a witcher, from the viper school. This sets the tone for The Witcher 2.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The game starts off with the a cutscene of the assassination of King Demavend, the ruler of Aedirn.
Geralt is seen restrained in prison and interrogated by Vernon Roche, commander of the Blue strips (Foltest’s most advanced and hardened military unit) trying to learn all he knows.
Geralt is accused of the murder of King Foltest and is to hang by tomorrow. He must recall the events of what happened.
Temerian Civil War and the death of Foltest
Our hero’s adventure starts with the Temerian civil war. The Temerian army against the dissenting La Vallettes.
Aryan La Vallette has declared war on Foltest for the way he treats his mother and under the guise that Foltest is a tyrant. The events show Geralt and Foltest making their way to La Vallette castle, on their way there they are attack by a dragon but they make it none the less.
Geralt has the decision to either kill or spare Aryan. When Foltest and Geralt make it to the chapel Foltest meets his two bastard children, it is then that he is assassinated by Letho, a very large witcher from the school of the viper.
After Geralt relays this information to Roche he has a decision to make: help find the Kingslayer or hang in the morning. He chooses to track down Letho. Roche gives him the key to escape and he leaves at night.
With their ship they travel to Flotsam along with Triss Merigold who was recently Foltest’s advisor.
Flotsam, the Kayran, Elves and the Kingslayer
Using their ship the group makes their way to the small port town of Flotsam. On their way to the town they are ambushed by a group of Scoia’tael led by Iorveth, an elf who takes particular enjoyment in killing special forces units and using their clothes as trophies.
When they finally make it to Flotsam Geralt learns of a huge beast called the Kayran, a sort of overgrown venomous Octopus. He meets a sorceress name Sheala (sh-eel-ah) de Tancarville (Tans-are-ville). She does not particularly get along with Geeralt and she definitely doesn’t get along with Triss.
While in Flotsam Geralt regains some of his memory, particular the one of his death. He was stabbed in the chest by a pitchfork while trying to stop a mob of humans from attacking non-humans. Eventually Triss suggests making a potion from a powerful plant called the rose of remembrance which, you guessed it, will help Geralt remember his past.
While in Flotsam he meets up with Zoltan and Dandelion and tells them his predicament. After killing the Kayran with Sheala’s help Geralt finds out that the scoia’tael in the woods are helping the Kingslayer. He uses Zoltan’s help in order to meet with Iorveth who is told of Letho’s treachery and dishonesty.
On the way to meet Letho a fight breaks out between the Blue Stripes and the Scoia’tael. After a quick fight with the Kingslayer, Letho runs of towards Flotsam. When Geralt returns he sees Flotsam set ablaze and learns Triss has been kidnapped by Letho and has been taken to the Pontar Valley via teleportation.
After wrapping things up and possibly killing Loredo, Flotsam’s corrupt leader, Geralt takes a ship to the Pontar Valley with either Roche or Iorveth.
The Aedirn/Kaedwen Dispute and the Blood Curse
Here is where paths branch. Depending on whether Geralt chose to go with Roche or Iorveth he ends up in a different place. However the end result is the same.
Before Geralt can get to the Pontar Valley a dispute between King Henselt and Prince Stennis is shown. A fight breaks out and Henselt busts the face of priest on an ancient stone and activates a blood curse brought about from Henselt former court sorceress Sabrina.
Her curse tainted the battlefield of the last Kaedweni-Aedirnian war. All the dead have become wraiths and theland is not fit for travel. People only escape due to the help of a mage or sorceress.
If Geralt chooses Roche he will travel to Kaedwen and help Henselt escape the cursed battlefield. He learns more about the Kingslayers on this path and is aided by a sorcerer named Dethmold.
If Geralt chooses to go with Iorveth he ends up in Aedirn, the most accepting and welcoming Kingdom to non-humans. Many of Zoltan’s friends live here.
If Geralt helps Iorveth he will aid Saskia the Dragonslayer and Prince Stennis escape the cursed battlefield with the aid of another sorceress, Philippa Eilhart (I’ll-heart).
Either way the end is the same. In order to break the curse Geralt must find certain objects from the battle that happened there so that the curse recognizes Geralt as a soldier who was slain there.
When that happens he kills a very powerful wraith called a Draug to break the curse. After this all hell breaks loose. Geralt goes to Aedirn in search of Philippa Eilhart so that he can learn Triss’ location. However he must first go through the Aedirnian and Kaedweni troops that are fighting there.
If Geralt chose to follow Iorveth he learns that Saskia is actually a polymorphic dragon called Saesenthessis (say-synthesis).
In the end Geralt finds a letter in Philippa’s house showing that Triss is being held in Loc Muinne and Letho is not far away.
Geralt travels to Loc Muinne with either Iorveth or Roche. Here in Loc Muinne there is set to be a council on what to do with the realms.
Representatives from Temeria, Redania and even Nilfgaard are present.
Here Geralt has 3 choices: he can save Anais La Vallette (heir to the throne of Temeria), he can save Triss from the Nilfgaardians or he confront Philippa Eilhart so that he can breaks the spell she put on Saskia (controlling her and her dragon abilities).
Once Geralt has chosen the council at Loc Muinne will begin where it is revealed that the Lodge of Sorceresses is planning to take over the Northern Kingdoms from within. This starts a witch-hunt and once again all hell breaks loose.
Sheala is present at the council and uses Saskia as a means to protect her long enough to escape. Geralt goes to Sheala’s tower to find her ready to teleport, however Letho (who was in the employ of the Lodge of Sorceresses to kill off the Kings of the Northern Kingdoms) replaced one of her teleporter crystals with a flawed one, thus making the teleport unstable.
Geralt can choose to let her die or save her by removing the stone. If he saves her then Sheala will tell him the location of Yennefer of Vengerberg. After dealing with Sheala Geralt battles with Saskia in her dragon form.
Eventually the battle ends with Saskia landing in the woods and taking a huge tree through her chest. Geralt can choose to kill her, spare her or release her from her curse if he spoke to Philippa Eilhart. Afterwards Geralt returns to Loc Muinne to have a final confrontation with Letho.
This is where Geralt’s memories return to him. His death, saving Letho from a Slyzard, Yennefer being taken by the Hunt, him trading himself and Letho taking care of Yennefer, all of it. This is where he decides whether to kill Letho or let him walk away.
The outro cutscene shows the beginning of the Nilfgaardian invasion which sets the tone for The Witcher 3.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
So now you know the basics of what you need to know about The Witcher universe in order to understand and enjoy the third and final installment of Geralt’s story.
The Wicher 3 begins with Geralt’s search for Yennefer. Thanks for reading and happy hunting!