The World is Ancient
The world is changed. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.
Empires rise and empires crumble, leaving few places that have not been touched by their grandeur. Ruin, time, and natural forces eventually claim all, leaving the world rich with places of darkness and mystery. Ancient civilizations and their knowledge survive in legends, magical items, and the ruins they left behind, but chaos and obscurity inevitably follow an empire’s collapse. Each new realm must carve its own place out of the world rather than build on the efforts of past civilizations.
The World is Mysterious
Wild, uncontrolled regions abound and cover most of the world. City-states of various races dot the darkness, bastions in the wilderness and amid the ruin past. Some of these settlements are the new foundations on which hope springs forth and one can expect peaceful relations, but many more are dangerous. No one race lords over the world, and vast kingdoms are rare. People know the area they live in well, and have heard stories of other places from merchants, bards, and reckless adventurers. Few really understand what’s beyond the horizon; maps are non-existent or so ancient as to be near worthless to the common citizen. Wilderness guides, hunters, and trappers known only the hinterlands of their expertise, but can be trusted in their knowledge of those surroundings. Messengers and heralds ply the trade lanes between locales trusting to their luck to speed through areas of great danger for an equally great payment.
The World is for Adventurers
Adventurers are the pioneers, explorers, trailblazers, thrill-seekers, and heroes of legend. Although their families, for their recklessness abandonment of habitual duties, disown many adventurers, they gain quickly gain acceptance as their renown grows carving a new niche for themselves. Most citizens do not possess the powers and abilities that adventurers acquire. Many societies have thieves, warriors, hedge-wizards and village priest, but these pale in comparison to the aptitude of adventurers.
Monstrous races are common, many of them having or have had empires and kingdoms of their own. These races are evil, seeking to enslave or destroy any civilization that impedes the will of their dark masters. Many of them, like adventurers are more formidable then their common brethren and are nearly inexorable by common means.
The World is Mystical
Magic is not everyday, but it is natural. No one is irrational about the use of magical power, but its not used inconsequentially either. No one will burn a mage at a stake just because he can call forth arcane energies, but powerful and experience practitioners are far from everyday. Items of power are just as rare, with many powerful items of legend being buried in the night dark vaults of past empires or in the hands of the creatures that dwell in them.
Gods are largely distant and detached from the world. They are not omniscient or omnipotent, but do grant spells to clerics and hear the prayers of the faithful. While they do not take an active part in worldly affairs, they do have those who act on their behalf.
The World is Natural
One sun, one moon travel the sky on their appointed paths, the seasons come and go. Time passes and these are tools used to mark them. There are no clocks to guide the populace rather the ordinary people wake up with the sun and begin their day, many are asleep by nightfall as the expense of candles and oil are not worth the price of extended hours. Taverns and inns are generally open later, but most are closed after the guest have gone home or retired.
Magi and clerics have discovered the secret of time and have developed simple tools to measure its passage. Yet for most it is told by the measure of the sun’s arc or by a familiar star’s passage across the night sky, and on cloudy days its left to their best guess.
The World is Preternatural
Some creatures are as natural as bears and horses, or as fantastic as griffons or dragons. But the planes touch the world and in many places crossings are common. Where natural energy gather or shadows are darkening slips occur between the Feywild and the Shadowfell. Dark creatures from the Elemental Chaos take advantage of tears in the fabric of the universe to enter the world, while the gods sent their emissaries from the Astral Sea. Where death can touch so too can undeath, and undead are feared. Creatures that can only exist in the most fevered nightmares find life here as well.