Once upon a time, the 7 kingdoms were united in a diverse and glorious Empire. Together, the kingdom-states built their wonders to the sky and opened holes across Time and Space. That Empire has been completely devastated. What remains are overgrown ruins – wasted by the wroth of the monsters bent to serve the Nameless Ones. The apocalypse brought about by the escape of the Old Gods has come and gone leaving a swath of destruction in their path. The populace of the player character races as a whole has shrunk to fewer than 1 million individuals. Some of the races number fewer than 10,000. Those that remained were forced into the 7 strongholds protected by the magic of the Cassian Trees against the war, plague, and famine that consumed those unlucky enough to be left outside the walls. The cities that remain are filthy, disease ridden, and full of an under-fed and exhausted populations. The wealthy, powerful, or magically endowed fared better than most, but, with few exceptions, never deigned to share. It didn’t take much for the old structures to come crumbling down. While the political systems survive in some part, most of the cities are ruled by bandit thugs, guilds of thieves, and black marketeers. People have lost faith in their institutions and instead have looked to individuals for guidance. The worship of the One-God Cassimus is maintained only in whispers – most have grown to hoarse for prayer. Now, in the time of awakening, the earlier explorers have looked up at the wonders of the ancient world and marvel – at the kind of people that could have built THAT. The races that survived might as well be a different species from their forebears. Their culture, their history, their pride all but forgotten beneath the layers of filth that remain. Who could hope to survive? What’s the point of going on?
And yet, the monsters have stopped their ceaseless bashings at the gates. Exactly why, no one knows. But, it seems that Cassandra daughter of Cassimus was ultimately successful in her doomed crusade against the Nameless One. Others simply believe that that the Old Gods have simply slaked their endless thirst for blood upon the free peoples of Halcyon. Whatever the reason – people have begun to stick their heads beyond their gates. Babies are once again being born who will never know the oppression of the cities. The wilderness has encroached upon the ruined structures of the Old World – but green things are growing once again. Small communities have begun to spring up outside the shelter of the city walls. The monsters, once so coordinated and powerful have retreated. However, they continue to harass the new settlements. The decline of the old world has set the stage for the new. Heroes and villains of all stripes have stepped out of the strongholds that they’ve called home for the last 1,000 years and set out once again to rediscover what was lost. All around are scholars looking to rediscover some ancient piece of lore, sheriffs trying to fend off monster attacks on their new settlements, and thieves organizing some delve or other into a long forgotten tower. The world is dangerous, deadly, and unkind – but ripe for those with the courage to set out beyond the walls.
Motief: JRR Tolkien Meets Fallout
Make no mistake the world is a traditional, almost stereotypical “high fantasy” world. But, gone is the gleaming plate-mail of avenging knights and opulent towers of noble lords. In the days of the awakening a knight is lucky to put together a suit of armor that isn’t rusted all the way through. What little magic power exists was kept within the upper crust that managed to survive the reckoning. The wild places of the world are overgrown and fraught with danger. Maps are useless. Chivalry is a precious commodity practiced only by those few with the courage not to give into their baser selves. The streets of the remaining cities are covered with grime. Castles are crumbling and overgrown with thorny vines. Wizards in their towers are long since converted to rag-and-bone men – puppets of the forces they once controlled. It is a world of beautiful contradictions pulling in both directions.