|Art by Arthur Rackham.|
This is the necessary evil of writing a session. But if it is done well it can be mined for adventure hooks, character backstory ideas, and themes.
It also gives context for how the classes will play their role in the world.
Here is my first write-up:
How the World was Drowned
The Drowned World, Imaril, has seen any cataclysms: wars between gods have brought low dozens of eras and a hundred glittering civilizations. It is a world where Apocalyptic devastation has buried layer after layer of culture, and its people have developed a gift for rising up from the Ashes.
After the burning of the Technocracy of Ell, the gods feared that the next Apocalypse would be their last, The Lawgiver, Iori, proposed the Protocols of Abstention a set of rules for the conduct of deities, gods, and demon Lords, forcing them to obey constraints on their intervention on Imaril. Only in the direst of emergencies could a deity manifest. No avatars were to be sent to Imaril, and no messiah born. The gods were to speak through dreams, visions, and inspiration. They would speak to their faithful and perform miracles only through powers given to initiated mystics and priests. Angels and Demons were to be sent to Imaril alone on missions only to aid mortal agents, or in response to Ritual summonings; never to do a task directly.
The penalty for violating the Protocols would be the imprisonment of the God in Abzu for eternity.
In this environment the Grand Unity arose; a hungry empire that managed to conquer almost every people on the globe. They worshiped no gods, for the gods were absent. Many did not trust priests whose miracles were hardly more impressive than the work of the Magitechnicians that built up their mystical-industrial complex. In time, the Grand Unity put the State before Gods; Faith was an obstacle, as it led to individuals and small communities whose moral compass could not be dictated to turn to the needs of the State.
The war against the gods was soft and subtle: a war of propaganda and bribery. Many gods found the religions and cultures that had once sustained them turned away in a generation, and absent prayers and honors, those gods fell into a deep slumber, and crystallized in the great Limbo of Nineveh.
The High Cynics - the anticlerics of the Unity - starved god after god of faith, turning people to the ease of a State that would tell them what to do, what to think, and what to feel, and reward them with comfort and safety for their compliance. Some, however, like the worshippers of Iori, refused to change. The “holdouts” - those who refused to accept the idea that morality could be dictated by an all-encompassing state and that “the common good” could be the highest good - became the last great roadblock to “progress.”
In time, it became easier to simply purge the Faithful. Iori, however, was not willing to allow his own Protocols to sign his death warrant. He started with powerful Prophets gifted with holy magics miracles performed by holy men in the street. And when that was not enough, he sent choirs of his Ophanim to snite the offices of the High Cynics with lightning and hallowed flame. The more his scattered followers resisted, the more the propaganda of the Cynics fell apart, and the more the People withdrew their consent to be ruled by the State.
In desperation and terrible hubris, the High Cynics sought out and found the Weapon of Unmaking… a thing so horrible the gods have forbidden any from even describing what it is. All that is permitted is to know what it does: which is to utterly annihilate any bring, even a God. And they slew Iori. Law itself faltered and the Union fell into rioting and chaos overnight.
Iori's wife, the goddess of learning and lore, Runa, the Wise One, was driven utterly mad with grief over Iori's unmaking. That she wept for years, flooding the world in her sorrow, Drowning the Unity. The other gods, with few worshippers, and in many cases unwilling to let the Protocols fail, stood by. It was only when her own angels rebelled against her seemingly genocidal intent that she relented. Leaving much of the world sunken and forgotten.
Surulak, the warper, a minor god of Chaos, was one of the few who took pity on mortals, and blessed the, with a period where they could mutate and adapt rapidly to their circumstances, creating new peoples to fill the new world left behind in the ruins.
Warning: Stream of consciousness ahead.
Honestly, I am not sure how much of my sources come through here. Or maybe the problem is that they are such a jumble. It accidentally feels topical to the current discourse on the Death of Religion in the West, Maybe it is, somewhat? The setting has no Clerics, but their role is partially filled by witches and fallen angels. Yeah... I can see the potential to map either contemporary right- or left-wing narratives in this setting. Which might be a good thing, or a terrible one.
(For the record, it's a stupid bird, and I favor neither wing.)
It needs more of a tinge of the wild comic book-ish vibes I want, which means the locations have some heavy lifting to do to set the tone. I suspect something like fiction vignettes as part of my format going forward will be critical.
I might need to create some art just to set the tone right, too.
Really, how you got there is not as important as where the PCs are, not where the disastercame from. What about starting over?
Alternate Gazetteer Intro?
The Gods war. It is part of who and what they are. The mortals who survive are always changed. They always forget the past, make new things, find ways to live on the scraps of older worlds.
The last time the gods warred was different. At least, that is what we like to tell ourselves. Iori, The Lawgiver broke his own rules against divine intervention when the Grand Union started to purge his followers. His choirs of Ophanim shattered the citadel of that empire. In retaliation, the High Cynics, anticlerics of the Union found and used the forbidden Weapon of Unmaking and slew the Lawgiver.
Runa the Wise, his wife and the Inventor of writing went mad in her grief and flooded the world in storms and torrents of tears. The Union, like many civilizations before it, was washed away. But she did not relent; in her madness she sought to drown all mankind I'm bitter tears. It was only her own angels, not the impotent gods who stopped her.
Perhaps the only god who truly helped us was Surulat, the Warper, who I fused everyone with his Chaos... warping each people to fit into the lands that the floodwaters forced them to flee to. Many strange races, such as the Wobun, Windlass, and Sulitak were once Men touched by his Chaos.
That was 213 years ago. With forms fixed and storms abated, new peoples finally have the numbers to begin reaching out - to sail, to explore, to dig, even to fly. To discover other cultures that still thrive on the islands left by the deluge. To pick up pieces of the past, and repurpose them. To raise up new gods, and hope they will learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.
This enterprise is assisted by the Waygates, ancient doorways left over from a dead empire - the Technocracy Ull - which allows those who activate them with an alchemical catalyst to instantly step through one gate and arrive at its sister gate. Many of these are buried or underwater, but where pairs have been unearthed, they provide instant (but expensive) transit between settlements hundreds of miles apart.
With the network growing and the first new cities forming, can we build a society better than the ones before it? Can we respect the gods, and keep the good they give, but neither trust absolutely, nor war with them? And can we have so many differences, and not wind up at each others' throats?
Can we tame new wilderness, or bring treasures up from the past, without being swallowed up by the things that still fester from the world before?
Okay, that offers the same information, but with the noblebright vibe I was looking for. Avoid call for action, and fewer details where they are not needed. But I welcome suggestions.
Sometimes, when it comes to D&D, less is more,