The Asura of the Tarnished Coast are a brilliant, if diminutive, people who dwelled, until recently, within the Depths of Tyria, where they regularly dealt with Dwarves, Dredge, and other underground races. However, a dangerous race from even deeper within the world--the Destroyers--overran their subterranean homes, forcing them to the surface. Now, the Asura must learn to survive in a hostile, strange, and all-too-brightly-lit world. Still, the surviving population is of two minds--half of them long for a return to their underground empires, while the other half believe their former lands are lost forever, that their future lies among the strange races of the surface world.
The Asura fled from the encroaching Destroyer hordes through magical gates that link the caverns of the Depths throughout Tyria. While these refugees reached the surface in a variety of locations, the bulk of the exodus came up along the Tarnished Coast, across the Sea of Sorrows from the sunken remnants of Orr. Here they found abandoned ruins high in inherent magical energy--the perfect location for a race of magical researchers to settle and continue practicing their craft. Rata Sum, the largest of these settlements, sits at the western end of the massive canyon known as Riven Earth. Many Asura meet in these magical ruins to exchange ideas and plan for the future.
The Asura brought their culture, heritage, and architectural styles with them to the surface, renovating the ruins by magical means to more closely resemble their subterranean homes. In addition to pyramids and great gates, the Asura erected geomystic generators to focus the magical energies brimming in the Tarnished Coast to further aid in their research. They also built large forges and kilns to produce prototypes and finished magical devices. This is no collection of lore-gathering scholars--the Asura are inventors and builders. And their creations tend to work more often than not.
In addition to architecture and magical devices, the Asura brought another important piece of their culture with them to Rata Sum: the game of Polymock, which they have begun spreading among the other races of the surface world with varying degrees of success. The Polymock master, an Asura named Hoff who lives in Rata Sum, is willing to instruct interested individuals in the basics of the game.
Rata Sum is also home to Mamp, the closest thing to a leader among the Asura. Mamp is a genius, like many Asura, but his genius lies in an innate ability to get other Asura to work together, putting aside rivalries and personal conflicts for the common good. Mamp's gestalt outlook allows him to pull together diverse individuals, make critical connections, and find combinations that are truly greater than the sum of their individual parts. He is less a leader than a herder of cats, which is the way most Asura like it.
The Asura are nothing if not adaptable, however, and take pride in their ability to conquer new challenges through the strength of their prodigious intellect; a pride they display exuberantly to all around them. Faced with the impending destruction of their race at the hands of the Destroyers, they have instead found new lands to tame, new races to ally with and/or manipulate, and new opportunities to seize and profit from. The Asura are, of course, confident of their inevitable success.