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Setting

History

Many eons ago, a mysterious being known as the overgod wandered the empty cosmos. Dissatisfied with the blandness of nonexistence, the overgod created the planes, populated them with powerful beings, and departed the universe to watch it progress from a safe distance. Not a single being has any recollection of the overgod, and they likely never will.

These powerful beings, known in recent times as the gods, were each given a different aspect of the overgod's power and a domain of existence to rule over. In these early days, some merged together to gain strength, while others decided to prey on the weaker ones, consuming them outright or banishing them to the furthest reaches of the universe. Out of the countless ranks of divine beings, a mere handful currently exist, those that were strong enough to survive or flee when they had the chance. Some dedicate themselves to a particular plane, while others still lurk in forgotten corners of the universe, waiting for the right moment to return.

As time passed, the gods found in themselves the power to create lesser forms, just as the overgod had created them. These creations would provide a new source of power, their free will allowing them to act autonomously, outside the direct control of the gods. Within years, the planes were filled with an abundance of mortal beings, each pledging their allegiance to the god that created them. These ancient beings created the first cities, as well as gigantic temples and artifacts of great power, some of which still exist to modern times. Yet, as mortals found themselves entangled in the affairs of their respective creator gods, enormous wars of conquest and destruction broke out, completely destroying civilization and resulting in bloodshed on a scale never before seen. The gods, feeling repulsed at what they had done, decided to distance themselves from the planes and their inhabitants, leaving behind their representatives, the seraphim. Each seraph had some quantity of their god's power, and were instructed to assume a peacekeeping role.

During this so-called seraphic age, the surviving mortals returned from the safety of the wilderness, building new cities far from the ruins of old. While the gods continued their bitter conflicts from a distance, their seraphim guided civilization to a new greatness, encouraging the mortals to explore and recover their lost knowledge. With the gods playing a less direct role in worldly affairs, the inhabitants of the planes felt less connected to their creator gods, sometimes worshiping other gods, or deciding not to affiliate themselves at all. Large-scale war had effectively ceased to exist, although the gods continued to pit their dedicated champions against each other, trying to exert subtle amounts of influence.

Even this peace was not eternal. Inquil, the god of wisdom and prophecy, had decided to grant his seraph Sypre an unusual amount of power. As Sypre could see the future, a possible path made him decide to break free, draining Inquil of most of his power while gaining the strength to create his own mortals. He had only gotten as far as creating the cloud-riders before the other seraphim had detained him, imprisoning him on an unknown plane. With the attention of the seraphim split between keeping watch over this rebellious seraph-god and struggling to maintain order amongst the restless mortals, a new age of conflict and adventure has begun.

Geography

There are three continents, with two in the west, and one in the east. The eastern continent is by far the largest, and the one with the highest degree of civilization. To the west, a large northern continent and a smaller desert continent exist across a vast ocean separating the two halves of the world. Travel across this enormous ocean requires nearly a year by ship, with the result being only occasional contact between the east and the west. Despite this, there are still a few high-risk trade routes, and the rare exploratory expedition.

The enormous eastern continent is home to the most ancient and well-established kingdoms and empires, with sprawling cities surrounded by many miles of farmland. It is home to the largest populations of humans and the other, more civilized races, such as the dwarfs and owl-men. Most settlements are along the extensive shoreline, although there are kingdoms in the interior of the continent. The climate ranges from cold tundra and pine forests in the north, to windy grasslands in the central regions and humid, swampy woodlands to the south. To date, no ruler has claimed the majority of the continent.

In the west, the upper continent lies even further north than its eastern companion. The northernmost regions are extremely hostile, with endless blizzards and snowy mountain ranges complete with glaciers, though a few nomads manage to eke out an existence. Most of the continent's population lies in the southern regions, where a more habitable climate allows for temperate forests. The central regions are mostly home to farmland, with the occasional odd ruin dotting the landscape. Large populations of malra and sylvan elves live on this continent.

To the south, the third continent exists, one almost entirely covered in scorching deserts. A few cities exist on the coasts, while migratory groups set up temporary encampments near oases on trade routes. Few have ever explored the interiors of the continent, which are rumored to hold vast treasures from a time before the deserts. The largest population of doppelgangers and lizardmen live on this continent, with lizardmen making up the vast majority of the urban population.

There are four edges to the world, borders between it and the elemental planes surrounding it. An impassible wall of ice blocks travel to the north, while the south has a never-ending inferno of the hottest flames. From the west blows gale-force winds that block the travel of all ships, while the east has enormous, passage-less mountains. Those who have attempted to travel to other planes this way have not come back alive.

The Cosmic Cube

The material plane, discussed above, is not the only world. There are many others, with the material plane being only one side of a gigantic cube known as the cosmic cube. Each side of the cosmic cube is an entirely different plane of existence. On the top face is the material plane, surrounded, clockwise, by the elemental planes of ice, earth, fire, and lightning. On the side opposite to the material plane is the plane of mist, which balances out the vibrancy of material reality. Physical travel between the planes is impossible due to the elemental barriers surrounding each elemental plane. All planar travel is done via magical means.

It is rumored that in the interior of the cosmic cube, there are riches beyond imagination. Few have ever traveled into its great depths, and even fewer have returned alive. No one knows what lies in the very center of the cube, not even the gods themselves.

Outside of the cosmic cube, there are other, stranger planes. They do not firmly adhere to any of the rules of reality, and thus are extremely confusing to planar travelers, with the occasional wanderer being driven to insanity. Even further beyond these outer planes, there is a vast region of hostile realms known as the beyond. Those who travel to these planes never come back the same.

Magic

There is a supernatural force inherent to the universe, known as magic. Those trained in its usage come by many names, but the process is almost always the same. Some quantity of mental energy is exchanged for an effect that occurs in physical reality, with the type and extent of powers depending on how skilled the user is. Regardless of talent, usage of magic is always a highly draining process.

One path to magic is drawing power from the other planes. As the four elemental planes surrounding the material world are the closest, they are the easiest to draw power from, and thus do not require as much effort. There are other planes even further beyond the cosmic cube in the outer planes that also provide sources of magical power, but at higher risk and at greater stress to the user. It is unknown just what sort of magic lurks in the beyond, but those that can resist the mind-shattering effects of these realms would find themselves the most powerful wielders of magic ever known.

Others seek magic through scholarly means, training their mental prowess in such a way that they can determine appropriate magical formulas that have a direct effect on the material world. The path of the lore wizard is not an easy one, but distancing oneself from the single-minded nature of elemental magic allows for a greater diversity of powers.

There are still other sources of magic, the methods of which are often found in forgotten tomes at great depths. It is unknown just what powers these books provide, but they were likely abandoned for a very good reason.

Religion 

There is a pantheon of gods worshiped on the cosmic cube, each of which embodies a different aspect of the universe. Each god is the patron of a different race, but this is more due to the race generally associating itself with the aspect that the god represents than any sort of required worship. Individuals may associate themselves with the religion of a god outside their race, and a few choose not to associate themselves with any gods at all. The gods rarely decide to intervene in mortal affairs, except for when an event would be far too chaotic or destructive to the material plane itself.

In return for their worship, followers of a god slowly gain the power to call on them for assistance. The type of assistance varies from god to god, but it always reflects the nature and personality of the god itself. Truly pious individuals receive the most power, while those that transgress may be punished for their actions. It is generally wise not to openly defy a god or get into divine affairs.
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