We don't really know what it was, we called it the Turning. When I was a child we grew up hearing the stories, the nostalgia for a place that no longer exists lingers on as each generation repeats the legends. The seas boiled, people lost their breath under the light of the sun, and the earth shook nations to dust. The world is not meant to be like this. There were wonders once, magnificent and terrible. We built towers with only our desire, every animal beckoned and pleaded to serve us, the land ached to be sculpted, and cities flew across the sky. After the Turning the cities in the sky remained, for they were once piloted like ships on the sea. Not by men, but men that were certainly like us. The men that were not like us died, or left, and they left behind their wonders and magics, though we barely understand them now. In the old days the cities on both the land and in the sky flourished together, the roads were always crowded, and the old gods still lived. I am the last of those that were taught the old ways, and I know now, after decades of lost hope, that the world will never return to the way it was.
low magic, dark fantasy
Humans are fractured into survivalist tribes, brutally twisted by magical radiation, hunted by necromancer dwarves, and rebuilding from the scavenged ruins of an ancient world.
note: I tried to make a world that was wholly unlike any published fantasy setting, and whenever I find myself following a recognizable trope I instantly change it. The old Talislanta game had a tagline that said "No elves!" and I adopted that as a motto for designing this world, along with "No dragons!"
Humanity is the dominant species, and culturally it comes in many flavors.
- the Athomians - scattered barbaric clans of cultish humans, they value artistic merit and strength. Athomians have an unhealthy fixation with secret knowledge, driven by their nameless goddess, they will cut ties with outsiders if it suits their cravings for power and strength.
- the Eldragoths - one of the human cultures, a collection of brutal nomadic hunters. They resolve their own inter-clan conflicts with fistfights to the death, and their ruthless violence can be terrifying to behold, but their silent impassive natures can be even more unsettling.
- the Junian - the most populous, fortunate and advanced of the human cultures, the Junian continue to worship their oldest god, they congregate in cities and excel as scholars and soldiers. Since the last Turning they have spread out along the coasts, even though they have also divided into contentious nations bickering over local resources.
- the Nymenians - the first humans to set up farming communities after the last Turning, the Nymenians have become dependable merchants and seek to rebuild the world into a new image but have suffered at the hands of Beastmen raids, as well as conflicts with Eldragoth and Athomain neighbors. Nymenians worship a goddess named Etzial, they say she led them to safety through the wilderness after the last Turning but then she disappeared after they settled into farmsteads.
- the Chiryō - the oldest and most advanced human culture, sailors and scientists who live most of their lives in the oceans and value honesty and compassion over gold or property. They fared the best out of the last Turning, though they didn't capitalize upon the power vacuums on the continents and instead turned their interests towards perfecting alchemy and medicine.
- Beastmen have been encountered everywhere in the world (jackel-headed, wolf-headed, bear-headed, tiger-headed, etc.). They work in packs, have no discernible language or culture, and are vicious killers that use primitive weaponry. They congregate around the ruins of another civilization, the destroyed and ruinous metal cities of the extinct Wuunrlan people.
- the Masadhi - an oddly private race of grotesquely misshapen mystics who feel compelled to constantly travel from one place to another. They are revered for their insights by most of the other cultures they come into contact with.
- the Aurymites - an all-female race of tall, brutal and powerful warriors who live by a strict code of honor, those that fall out of favor with their Queen become thieves or sellswords.
- the Dwarves are natural farmers and have a unique telepathic connection with the Wearg, tall and intelligent wolves that guard the Dwarven homeland; there are also strange Dwarves with no connection to the Wearg, the Svarth, hailing from the deep southern end of Kosranon. The Svarth worship a being they call the Sleeping Lord and practice a brutal kind of magic that draws power from pain, anguish, and spilled blood.
- the Oukek are a short, reptilian race with an impenetrable and aloof society, however their outcasts are friendly and deferential
- rune magic, practiced by the Dwarves, semi-permanent, requires time and prep
- healing, practiced by the Chiryō, requires water
- prophecy, endured and sometimes shared by the Masadhi
- blood magic, used by the Svarth, requires pain (usually somebody else's)
- made by the Svarth who do not share with others, nor do they sell them, if they see a non-Svarth person or creature using an item of Svarth construction they become murderous
- powerful items were left behind by the Wuunrlan, looting their ruined cities is a dangerous prospect since many of them are populated with Beastmen or worse
- there are powerful crystals, Kruo stones, in deep caverns that can be infused with life energy.
- Bellhaven, port city of the north, a vast metropolis spanning over an archipelago stretching north from a small mountain range, the Crowscout River pours into the continent from here and is the lifeblood of Bellhaven
- the Crown, a mountain range along the northern edge of the world
- Idelfyn's Folly, somewhere within the Crown
- the Grethar Peninsula, where the Svarth live, volcanic and barren, riddled with labyrinthine caves
- the Wuunrlan Expanse, miles of plains and hills where most of the ruined Wuunrlan cities lie abandoned and fallow
- the Turning is an apocalyptic event that occurred several hundred years ago, the world was wracked by earthquakes and tidal waves and meteor storms. It is debated that either one Turning happened only a hundred years before the last one or the two Turnings were actually one long event. Kosranon once had a moon, but in the last Turning it was also destroyed, now it appears in the sky as a glittering stream of rocks that gets a little longer and thinner every few years.
- Idelfyn was a prestigious and widely-traveled wizard who disappeared mysteriously fifty years ago. He was convinced the Turning was an artificial phenomenon that was likely to happen again.