This is a grim land. Summers are short. Winters are long. The towns are overcrowded. Food is expensive. Guilds control trade. Nobility control the taxes. Priests pray for our damned souls.
Out there, beyond those walls, are things: creatures, spirits, and monsters. They inhabit the forests, live under the fields, dwell in the ruins of burned out fortresses. They kidnap the lone wanderer, harry our caravans, and when they are bold, they attack our towns. This land is wild, untamable, and in it we struggle to survive.
Most of us crowd into our walled towns and make do with what’s been given to us. Some hardy folk brave the long nights and, far behind our defenses, work the soil at dawn. A few of us—those with nothing left—take up the torch and sword and stride forth into the wastelands.
For underneath the roots are the ruins of those who came before us. A once grand empire now sits crumbling like a pile of corpses. The people of Asloth thought they could bend Mana to their will. They failed.
But in failure, they left us hope. They left us gold, artifacts, secrets, knowledge. Those brave or foolish enough to bring back these treasures are richly rewarded. Those successful enough can even can rise above their station.
We can become heroes.
…if we survive.
“For how many years have I stood on this wall, looking to the west. Each morning I climb the rickety steps and stand here while the wind blows my beard and I stare. I look into the desolation, into the endless wasteland. I look to see the faces of friends returning, but they never do.
“The wastes are not empty… In dark crevices and the shadows of gnarled trees, there are eyes. They stare back at me. They think I do not see them, but I do. I know what horrid creatures crouch in hidden places. I know what depraved acts of lunacy take place out there.
“I was there, when I was young and foolish. I went with a brave band; we thought we were invincible… we were not.”
—- Excerpt from the journal of Tol Brandt commander of the Karthik guard
“Once Asloth was a shining empire… now it is a ruin, an endless wasteland of overgrown nature twisted by madness and magic.”
—- Emul Thul, the Blind Sage
“Welcome to Karthik,” the grizzled soldier growls at you. “The trade way is closed for a few weeks. Either turn back or get a room and wait.” His eyes narrow dangerously, “you’re not here to take the trade way are you? You’ve come her ‘cus some charlatan told you a story of riches, ancient ruins, and nymphs easy for the taking… Well there is all of that, but nothing in the wastelands is easy or just for ‘the taking.’” He spits on the ground and points to a crumbling tower above the canopy. “Last month a group of sods like yourselves headed for that tower, thinking it was easy pickings. Two never returned, another came back as a corpse, and the last one… well you’ll see’em soon enough. He’s just a raving lunatic now.”
Adventurer is a dirty word. You’re a scoundrel, a villain, a wastrel, a vagabond, a criminal, a sword-for-hire, a cutthroat.
Respectable people belong to guilds, the church or are born into nobility. Or barring all that, they’re salt of the earth and till the land for the rest of us.
Your problem is that you’re none of that. You’re a third child or worse. You can’t get into a guild—too many apprentices already. You’re sure as hell not nobility—even if you are, your older brothers and sisters have soaked up the inheritance. The temples—they’ll take you, but they have so many acolytes, they hand you kit and a holy sign and send you right out the door again: Get out there and preach the word and find something nice for the Immortals.
And if you ever entertained romantic notions of farming, think again. You’d end up little more than a slave to a wealthy noble.
So there’s naught for us but to make our own way. There’s a certain freedom to it, but it’s a hard life. Cash flows out of your hands as easily as the blood from your wounds.
But at least it’s your life.
And if you’re lucky, smart and stubborn, you might come out on top. There’s a lot of lost loot out there for the finding. And salvage law is mercifully generous. You find it, it’s yours to spend, sell or keep.
“Once the world was different, humans had a great empire, it spanned thousands of leagues. They had feared the elves and slaughtered them. They needed the skills of the dwarves and enslaved them. Then Asloth fell, the humans scattered, the elves rose up. Now we all bow to an elven king; our dear and benevolent overlord.”
—- Rugnant Cur; human ranger.
“The elves are scary and dangerous.”
“Elves live by a ridged caste system. The top echelons are the rulers and bureaucrats. Those on the bottom, well there just like the rest of us sorry lot.”
“It’s good to have a dwarf around. They built it all generations ago, they know how it works and they know how to fix it. Dwarves are gruff but can work with anyone to get a job done.”
“We were once great, now we’re shite… we’re not even shite, we’re shite that got conquered by shite!” The humans once had a great empire built on the backs of slaves. They worshiped magic and they thought they could control it, they were wrong.
“For hundreds of years they raped our mothers, we are proof of that legacy. Half victim, half assailant.” Half-elves live in the shadows of society, there is no place for them in the heart of civilization, but they can find a life on the fringe.
Nobody wants a half-orc around. If they can find honest work, its doing something disgusting that no one else will do or it’s guarding the borders of civilization. Their barbarism keeps the wastelands at bay and the people safe within.
Creation - Bards
Destruction - Barbarians
Time - Monks
Balance - Druids
Energy - Sorcerers
Faith - Clerics
Strength - Fighters
Fury - Rangers
Cunning - Rogues
Intelligence - Wizards
Magic is different in the wastelands. It can drain you in odd ways, give you peculiar boots or sometimes kill you. You can’t survive the wasteland without magic… but use it cautiously.
The gods of Asloth are long forgotten. They do not seem to hear our prayers and certainly do not respond. The devout have traded gods for ideals.
It’s dangerous… no it’s deadly! Filled with unnatural things and sickening things. But there is beauty there too. The magic permeated and warped all things, most for the worst, but a few for the better.