The Endless Wilds
- 1 The Great Bloom
- 2 The Post-Bloom World
- 2.1 Capitals
- 2.2 Settlements
- 2.3 Cores
- 2.4 Other Places
- 3 Civilization
- 4 People of the Post-Bloom World
- 5 Forces of the Wilds
- 6 Adventuring in the Endless Wilds
- 7 Game Mechanics
The Great Bloom
So, where did it all go wrong? In the days before the Great Bloom, Civilization had come a very, very long way. From the age of Kings and Castles, Adventurers going on quests to slay Dragons, and wise mysterious old Wizards to Capital cities, bustling with people of every race, banded together against the ever present threat of the encroaching Wilds. It started with Magic.
Centuries ago, Magic was a mystic art divined through arcane means and ancient texts from a time too old for anyone to remember. The first Mages were a secretive lot, gifted with the ability to channel the energies from other planes to perform acts of great power and might. However, they were bad at what they did in a way they could not foresee. The Mages of old were criminally inefficient with their use of Mana, the fundamental energy in which Magic was derived. They'd draw in as much as they could get, regardless of the complexity of the spell, and throw it all out there at once. Over time, their carelessness caused more to be born with the gift to draw in and use the Mana, but their teachers were the same men who so recklessly abused this gift.
The silver lining to this mess was that more and more were being born with the gift and this led to a Golden Age of Magic. With so many would-be Mages about, folks finally started caring about the way they were using Magic and sought to understand it better. So, they sought to better refine their understanding of the art, learning and exploring all the possibilities it truly held. The fruits of a more cautious study of Magic were plentiful, leading to many new inventions and innovations, which were further perfected through Magical augmentation. Over time the Mages helped civilization outgrow its Castles and Kings and enter a time of prosperity and industry.
For a time, things were magnificent. Magic was used freely and to great benefit of all civilizations. New cities were erected at speeds once thought impossible with the refined production techniques created by this new breed of Mage scholars and quality of life was at an all time high. However, this glorious era only came after several centuries of frivolous Magic and the effects were only now beginning to be noticed. At first, The effects were only a fascinating anomaly; magically enhanced patches of forest that were producing new and interesting specimens. Naturally augmented plant life that grew quicker than any other which gave way to naturally augmented wildlife. Traveling Mages sought these spots out, seeing them as spots where a caster might reinvigorate and empower their Magic, which led to more unchecked casting.
For all their advancements, civilization could not be ready have prepared for the Great Bloom. Even to this day, the specific details of the Great Bloom are a mystery. Some tales recall a bright, burning flash in the furthest distances at different places all across the planet, followed by a surge of plant life tearing it's way across the country side, consuming all things in its path. There are no reports of what happened at those burning sites. Within a single day, the little patches of enchanted forest had grown and become the Wilds that now engulf the planet. Countless lives were lost and cities fell before they were even aware they were under attack. Only a few places had any luck surviving the incident. Newly invented Mana-Siphons, devices that were being used to capture and study the phenomenon of ambient Mana, were being tested in several cities and they happened to create an infertile area where the Wilds failed to grow. At the time, they were the only thing that saved Civilization from being wiped out. Soon after realizing this, they frantically began building and erecting as many of the Siphons as they could while the warriors of the city fought to their last breath to push back the tide of monstrosities that emerges from the newly formed forest. It's been fifty-four years since that day and Civilization is just now in a position to start pushing back properly. New settlements are being prepared every day and the Mages who inadvertently caused the catastrophe and saved hundreds of thousands of lives from being claimed by it have worked tireless to find a solution, only now realizing that their careless drawing of Mana into their world was the problem. Though, they still do not fully understand the depth of their mistake.
Current efforts to solve the problem have started by a fundamental change in the way Magic is used, now relying on withdrawing ambient Mana from the area, rather than from extraplanar sources as the Mages of old did. Those casters who still seek to use Magic in a more active capacity have redoubled their efforts to understand Magic, approaching the study with intense self-discipline and rigor. This new breed of Mages seeks to use Magic with the utmost efficiency or simply not at all while others have turned towards the study of Magical engineering, instead relying on Manatech - Mana-powered technology - to help alleviate the problem.
The Post-Bloom World
Ever since the Great Bloom, the very idea of geography and everything that stems from it - cartography, navigation, natural sciences, and the like - have been changed forever. In the fifty-four years since the even, it has become nigh impossible to define the world in the ways it has been before. Instead, the world has been defined in relation to two things: the relative Mana-dead zones of the Capitals and the smaller settlements; and the Mana-rich zones of the Cores. Capitals tend to stay still, despite the changing features of the world around them, while the Cores drift across the world causing the changes in the first place. Some people have gone into the field of predicting the movement and behavior of the Cores, lending a very useful service to Hunters and travelers alike. As for the Capitals themselves, there are a couple important ones which are known to most of the civilized world.
Aarn is the rarest of settlements; a frontier town that succeeded on an unprecedented scale. What began as one of the first Hunter’s outposts is now the largest centers for Hunter activity in the Wilds. The city, though it now is large enough to support a population of one million, is still firmly rooted in its pioneer origins. Most of the streets remain muddy and unpaved while very few buildings are not made of wood. The city’s population varies from month to month; while it can swell to nearly a million during the least dangerous seasons, when hunters are in high demand the city stands empty, reduced to nearly a quarter of that. There is an informal ruling council, made up of the most experienced hunters, although their rulings are often only enforced by the arms pledged to them rather than respect for authority. The city is largely ramshackle, with tents and hastily-constructed longhouses clustered around the edges of the city. Power is often difficult to come by, with only the more permanent residences at the center of the city receiving it with any regularity. Training grounds, forges, and stables make up a large portion of the city’s industrial core. Hunters wishing to gain official certification as such can become accredited here through the rigorous Sevenfold Provings, a combination of spiritual, physical, and mental tests that in theory provide the hunter with a better ability to withstand the Wilds.
The Aarn, an Elven hunter from before the Bloom is the city’s unofficial king. Moreso than the ruling council, his decrees are respected out of loyalty rather than fear. He survived the Bloom while outside of a city, enduring horrors unimaginable while fighting his way back to the nearest city. However he managed this, he pledged to spend the rest of his life beating back the Wilds. When the first mana-siphon caravans set out into the Wilds, he pledged his sword to their service, founding Aarn and the Hunter’s Guild. He “rules” from the center of Aarn in an ancient stone tower that was thrust up from the Dungeons. Unlike most outcroppings, the tower has never returned to the Dungeons. How and why this is is hotly debated, but the Aarn’s decision to live there is seen as proof of his courage in his advanced years. Some say that dark things travel to speak to him in the night from the Dungeons; others dismiss this as superstitious nonsense.
As Aarn grows, some seek to civilize the frontier town, while the sizeable criminal element seeks to keep it trapped in the past. Hunters who see the town as a sign of freedom from the oppressive laws of some cities vehemently refuse attempts to move the town forward, while the Aarn stays silent on the subject. Magineers stringing up power lines have been found dead in the mud, and every night the taverns see blood spilled. Hunters trying to relax in their off-duty moments drink to excess and fight to escape the fear of the Wilds, and numerous criminal factions, headed up by Dwarven “legitimate businessman” Mr. Smith are more than happy to help Hunters waste their hard-earned coin on brothels and gambling. Rumors abound that the ruling council is building a secret army to destroy the Aarn’s tower and take the town for themselves. Pundits say that within the year, Aarn will be either burned to the ground or headed for a new future. Mr Smith, the Aarn, and the ruling council seem unlikely to cooperate for much longer; how long the tenuous peace will last is anyone’s guess.
- Existence: 40 years
- Government: Self-described "Meritocracy"
- Economy: Mercenary work, manufacture
Formerly a province of Osenvar, Aes Kalon straddled the border between its mother city and Sulinad to the south. Upon the fall of its mother city during the Great Bloom, Aes Kalon knew that it was on its own as the throngs of fleeing Osenvarians went right past it, the beasts of the Wilds in hot pursuit. It seemed like nothing was going to stop the encroaching force. However, at least as the mythos suggests, a large artifact of unknown origin fell from the sky between the city and the approaching Wild sprawl. This object seemed to repel the growth headed their way, actually containing its advance and protecting the city from its wrath. This artifact soon became known as the Wildsbane, and its power seemed to be long-lasting throughout the years since.
After successfully defending itself from the legions of the Wilds, Aes Kalon has risen to its former glory. A vast city of luxury amidst a chaotic world. With its Wildsbane in place, space and concerns for defense are greatly lessened. As such, the citizens of the city were able to spend more time with leisurely pursuits than those of many of the other cities. This has led to an economy that relies on things such as luxury, entertainment, and manufactured goods. While this path has led to the financial well-being of the city, the reputation as a city of excess has hindered its leaders’ aspirations to become the home of a rumored United Front.
- Existence: 100 years
- Government: Oligarchy, aspiring to a federal system
- Economy: Manufacturing, luxury goods
To be fair, no-one really had expected Halliwell to survive. It is something of a shock to much of the other survivors that such a town as Halliwell managed to endure and, indeed, prosper. The river through the city made it perfect for trade and with the trade came smuggling. The smuggling attracted more of the less savory business ventures and soon enough after the founding Halliwell, for all its trade and capitalist ventures, became a drain on the economy, thanks to unsuccessful efforts to curb the rising crime. The solution was drastic: the city was almost entirely cut off, left to fend for itself except for token support.
When the Great Bloom arrived it would most likely have become as all the other settlements with limited infrastructure if not for the amazing forward planning of the local crime lords. They had, oddly enough, invested large sums into the understanding and assembling of the mana-siphons, allegedly for the construction of engines and weapons with a magic touch. Anything if not resourceful, the assorted scum of Halliwell erected the mana-siphons and quickly and purposefully secured the borders. The crime lords claimed ownership of the city and claimed it to be a “Freestate”, a city of freedom where the common man, woman, elf and dwarf could make his or her own fortune, without strong governmental control.
Attracting more of its kind, the Halliwell Freestate has become both a refuge for criminality and a forerunner in manatech. All the unsavory experiments that the more regulated - and sane - Capitals would outlaw are fair game. Yet, it remains a place where the strong and clever can cut out a significant part of the cake for themselves.
- Existence: 100 years
- Government: Republic
- Economy: Black market
Upon the beginning of the Great Bloom, the great magic city of Osenvar to the east was one of the first to fall to the rapidly encroaching Wilds, quickly being enveloped in the thick flora and relentless fauna attracted to the massive amounts of Mana surrounding the city. Most of the populace perished in the assault, and many of the city’s rulers and nobility were able to escape with their subjects’ left behind. Many of the escapees were able to strike it on their own, founding new cities and settlements, or settling in others they ran across along the way. But one of the escapees, then a student of the magical arts, wasn’t going to settle for becoming part of an increasingly thin diaspora.
This man, Kolle Mollenar, took it upon himself to reclaim the Osenvar of his young life from the Wilds. And the key to his success would be the invention of what is now essential technology for the world at large, the Mana-Siphon. With an advanced version of this technology and a very large group of Hunters, he managed to get through the thickest of the Wilds to secure what was once the center of the magical city. From there, he and the survivors of the expedition managed to restart the city, though using the Wilds to their advantage with the modified Mana-Siphon and reinvented itself as a budding agricultural power in the land.
- Existence: 30 years
- Government: Oligarchy
- Economy: Agriculture
The Kingdom of Sulinad
If something isn’t broken, sometimes it is best not to fix it. The Kingdom of Sulinad was founded far before the Great Bloom after a widespread war dedicated to the pages of history. Practically from its inception, the Sulinese have become known for their warrior culture, producing many of the best-known, best-skilled, and downright most fearsome fighters in the world’s history. Discipline, bravery, and ruthlessness are the tenets of the Sulinese way of life.
Despite how much the rest of the world loathed the Sulinese, they survived the Great Bloom in spectacular fashion. Sure, it took them some time to figure out about the Wilds’ connection to the Mana (no one said that the Sulinese were adept in magic), but they were able to root the invasion forth from land from sheer might and a complete lack of fear and value for their lives. It’s not surprising that word of their success spread through the land. They settled into the world after the Bloom as a military power, running their economy through the hiring, training, and exchange of warriors. Hunters the world over know of the Sulinese Martial Academy and save up their earnings to afford the classes there. Sure, it’s expensive, but most come out of there vastly better than ever before.
- Existence: 400 years
- Government: Feudal
- Economy: Military training and personnel
When the Great Bloom came it was pure luck for the Grand Duchy of Valeria to survive, maybe more so than others. Grand Duke Weidlig of Valeria was not suited for his role. He was young, merely 20 years of age and completely dependent on his advisors. A puppet, but not even a good puppet, for he chafed at the limits that had been put upon him. The city itself was more or less governed by the bosses of the factory, carefully balanced against the resentful masses of the workers and their unions.
When the Great Bloom began it was the factory workers who were sent out to fight. The guardsmen were a joke, under-equipped, under-manned and very soon in flight. All the while Grand Duke Weidlig refused to take appropriate action, and instead had his puppeteers hanged. But that left him a lonely duke, inside a city under siege, refusing to even come out of hiding in his chambers. All the while the working class learned their worth and learned to fight. A man named Anvar Kell took successive control over the city’s resistance, spearheaded the setting up of mana-siphons and fought for every inch of Valerian ground. Not long after, the borders stabilized and Anvar Kell ventured up to the last opposition to his people’s rulership: the Grand Duke. Weidlig was publicly hanged and the “Valerian Peoples Front” set up, to serve the interest of the common man. Now, at last, the people was ready to start rebuilding.
Or so they believed.
But loyalists of the Duke, as well as common workers, were disgusted with the execution. They took up arms in counter-rebellion and the young cousin of the Grand Duke, Melicia, was hailed as the new Grand Duchess. Several mana-siphons were soon put to the torch and the forces of the Wild were once again inside the city. Now, even fifty years later, Valeria remains a city under siege. Large parts of the city where reclaimed by royalist forces with the now 60 year old Melicia of Valeria as Grand Duchess, while the ancient Anwar Kell still tries to hold the faltering Valerian Front together as they are faced with a two-front war against forces both human and Wild.
- Existence: 200 years
- Government: Police state, unclear about future
- Economy: Manufacture and infrastructure, if any
Circle of Harmony|Circle of Harmony
What started as an apocalyptic cult upon the onset of the Great Bloom dedicated to submission to the new world order of Wild dominance oddly enough turned into one of the biggest success stories of mankind after the Bloom. As per the namesake, the Circle was intended to bring the its devotees into harmony with the Wilds. The idea was that the harmony would prevent some of the worst effects of its influence, including the conversion to Druidism. After all the problem, the cult’s founders believed, was merely mankind’s wasting of the world’s resources - Mana included.
It started with only a handful of people from many walks of life. Humans, elves, dwarves, even an orc in the bunch took an expedition into the Wilds as Hunters and never came back to their cities. For a while, the idea started to work. They learned some of the secrets of the Wilds’ dismay at what it considered its "children" after contacting one of its Gods, a being named Ofnoet. Also under its advice, they started to better trust each other, deciding that they need the approval of everyone to make the major decisions. Harmony was soon underway. Then under the direction of their divine consul, a few in the Circle went back to the cities to spread the word. Most saw them as madmen, others denounced them as Druids, but they managed to capture the hearts and minds of some others before they either fled back to the Circle, or were executed for their heresies.
The Circle’s secretive nature continues today, only with a certain few willing to think outside the box and have compassion for the woes of the Wilds allowed to know its whereabouts. Only 20-30 people are actual members, but now with hundreds of open-minded visitors seeking to gain further knowledge of the new world around them, as well as some who find refuge in the Circle’s openness to hock wares which the cities would never allow.
- Existence: 15-20 years
- Government: True democracy
- Economy: Tourism, black market
Far to the north, nestled in the deep snows and ruinous mountain ranges lies Frost’s Grip. The town marks the last point before the Endless Snows and the Glittering Skysea, or at least the last point it is safe to venture. Farther north, the skies become irresistable to even the most hardened hunter, drawing him or her deeper and deeper into the icy night. Even at Frost’s Grip, the pull is often difficult to resist. Every citizen lives their days in fear of the call from the star-filled night sky.
The town was originally a Dwarven mining town, but the unending snowfall of the Great Bloom buried the settlement. Years later, teams of Northern Dwarves and the hardiest Hunters set out to reclaim the town and begin the mining operations again as the growing Post-Bloom world needed the rare metals that once came from the northern mines to fuel the Manatech explosion. The snowfall was too deep to assemble a mana-siphon on the ground; the Consortium engineers instead built them halfway up the mountain in a sheltered cave. This cave complex became host to the new Frost’s Grip. The layout of the caves shifts in a way similar to the Dungeons, and so much of the town was built on enormous platforms that were built jutting out from the mountain. The forest of support beams and mana-tech that keeps the town from collapsing is enormous and requires hundreds of dedicated workers to keep in full condition. Most rappel down through special manholes to maintain the underside of the city. Temporary worker’s platforms have, over time, coalesced, and now support a tiny town of their own underneath the main city. The city itself is rife with rowdy miners and aloof Consortium executives, and ruled by a Foreman, who has near-absolute power for one year after he is elected. The city is beset by freezing winds and endless snows, which are plowed off the platform by Manatech plows. Houses are built as large multi-room one-story buildings, which are easier to heat than individual houses. Only the very wealthy can afford houses that have more than one floor, and none have buildings taller than three floors.
All this work is funded by the wealth of metal and minerals that emerge daily from the Frost’s Grip mines. Immense caravans pulled by specially-bred bears and dogs carry the resources to Valeria, who have the most need for raw materials. From there, the metals are shipped to other industrial towns who receive their shipments several months or even years after their initial order. Most cities have regular trade agreements to receive materials monthly. Frost’s Grip is a relatively peaceful and wealthy settlement, despite the difficult conditions they live under. They are mostly reliant on overland shipments of food, as their few greenhouses cannot produce enough food for everyone. Most miners eat at huge Consortium meal-houses that provide plentiful (if mediocre) food. Miners stake claims to sections of the mines which are mapped out on an enormous board on the wall of the city hall. Fights over jumped claims are common but rarely deadly; it’s far too cold to waste energy trying to kill someone. The Miner’s Union tries to keep the map up-to-date and represent miners in getting the best prices, but is generally considered ineffectual and bloated. Cartographers willing to risk the mines are usually heavily armed and paid very well.
- Existence: 100 years
- Government: Constitutional dictatorship
- Economy: Mining
Kaima Noer was, until very recently, The Swallowed Town. Forty years ago, the nearest settlement (Cerra Noer) suffered one of the most one-sided Druid uprisings ever known, so bad that the few survivors spent years being grilled in the Capitals to better learn how to avoid subversion. Cerra Noer's main Manastores were vented into the livestock pens, resulting in a sudden swarm of hooved monstrosities. Communication from Kaima Noer were lost within a day's time, leading many to believe it had been swallowed in the wake of its' sister settlement.
The relatively new settlement survived, thanks to a few quick-thinking Magineers and the tenacity of its' hunters. The moment Cerra Noer was swallowed, the magineers of Kaira Noer cannibalized all non-essential magitech in order to take on the extra pressure the Wild was now putting it under. Due to a lack of coordination, this included most of it's communication equipment.
It took nearly thirty years of blood, sweat, and tears, but Kaira Noer blazed itself a trail back to greater civilization, and into the history books as the only settlement that pulled itself out of the Wild without outside help.
- Existence: 50+ years
- Government: Council
- Economy: Subsistence farming
The Downward Spiral
At the center of the continent came one of the first surges of the Wilds upon the Great Bloom, literally rending the very earth around it. The land pinches downwards into an indescribably deep hole, dragging flora and fauna alike into it with a sort of supergravity. It can be assumed by some Mana researchers that one of the most powerful Cores, known as Hellfall, lies there. Since its appearance during the Bloom, it has been tracked moving ever so slowly eastward toward Second Osenvar, creating an ever-growing chasm to depths unknown.
The Glimmering Skysea
To the northern reaches of the continent lies a perpetual show of lights in the sky, a sight so beautiful that even the most hardened Hunter is compelled to follow it to its origin. However, the closer the person gets to the lights, the stronger the winds become until the Hunter is either frozen to death, or blown away to dust, whichever comes first. Much like the Downward Spiral, people can only explain it as the dealings of Oculus, one of the Cores behind the Wilds.
The Jaws of the Dead
To the western reaches of the continent lies a jagged mountain range... or more like a bunch of ranges smashed together. The result are rocky spires that reach from the depths of the earth to the heavens above, seemingly eating everything the spires touch. For those wanting to know more about them though, the meaning becomes terribly literal, sapping the life force out of anything that touches the spires. Another theorized location of one of the Cores, Nekhmet.
On the southern end of Aarn’s regional territory, near the Stygian Scar, lies a pair of statues of the Aarn on either side of the ruined road leading into the thick forests of the center of the continent. Some of Aarn’s more elite Hunters man the Pass, ensuring safe passage for caravans into its lands. However, there has been rumor of surprisingly intelligent and clever monkeys wandering into the Pass to steal the goods, tech, and sometimes the caravans themselves. And since some of these caravans indeed don’t make it to Aarn proper and beyond, perhaps these stories may have some credence to them.
Kaima Noer’s sister city along the Noer Sea is still enveloped deep in the Wilds’ grip. It’s furthermore isolated by one of the large chasms cracked into the land from the Downward Spiral at the center of the continent, the chasm situated between the two cities. While Kaima Noer rebuilds and recovers from the Great Bloom, terrible beasts and mutated men roam within Cerra Noer. Some rumors even say that these capture creatures are planning a coup of Kaima Noer to resume their conquest of the land.
First Osenvar Ruins
Though Kolle Mollenar managed to get to the core of the first Osenvar to begin reclamation of it from the Wilds, he and his crew ultimately decided to build Second Osenvar in a mountain pass just to the east of the former city. The roads through the old city still exist and are generally well-kept by Hunters assigned to protect travelers from the Wilds still trying to get a foothold in the surrounding ruins. As large as the old city was, there are obviously still locales within the old city which have not seen the presence of mankind since the Bloom. Perhaps great treasures, technologies, and secrets lie within.
Grave of the Unnamed Hunter
A solemn, yet strange place. Located north of Sulinad is a small tombstone stating, Here lies the Hunter who perhaps had a name in life, but has abandoned it in death. It was in that location a Sulinese Hunter dove in front of his fellow Hunter to save him a crushing blow from a beast. Once the Hunter lay dying, the team realized they had never asked the fellow his name. To honor him, they made a make-shift tombstone for him, expecting it to become overwhelmed by growth within a day. But it has stood untouched by The Wilds for six years now, and has become a small shrine to Hunters everywhere, symbolizing the sacrifice they will all make one day. Thousands of Hunters every year make the pilgrimage to the small stone, leaving an offering of flowers and candles.
Even before the Great Bloom there were places which struck fear in the hearts of those who heard about them. The underground labyrinth of Mezcotal is one such place. Centuries ago, it was the project of a death cult who wished to bring themselves closer to the Underworld to resurrect their lost and loved ones. Since then, it has evolved into a subterranean civilization which eventually died out decades before the Bloom, unable to reach the promised Underworld of their lore. Once the remnants of the death cult were no longer there, expeditions were taken into the dungeon, offering a very grisly view into the mind of the desperate. Blood sacrifices, mutilation, cannibalism, Magical augmentation... all of the practices forbidden by the laws of the surface cities were all welcome in this unholy place. And this was before the Bloom...
And then there is the Mezcotal after the Bloom. Much like the Dungeons across the world, the corridors of Mezcotal seem to be alive, constantly shifting, changing its configuration under no power other than its own will. Perhaps it’s this nature that leads the most ardent Dungeon explorers to stumble across it, as if the Dungeons are bringing them to their master. Once there though, most of these unlucky explorers die in one way or another. Devoured by a monster. Crushed by a trap. Absorbed into the walls. Starved to death finding a way out. Driven insane by the Presence within.
The Presence within? There is a tale brewing out there in the Hunter community about the Presence and the Hunter who met it and came out of Mezcotal alive. Sadly enough, barely anyone who hears the tale can remember the Hunter’s name, but the Presence was a whole different matter. When the death cult which made the labyrinth died off, as the tale goes, they did not do so quietly. Their spirits were so in tune with their search for their coveted Underworld that they collectively became a Presence unto themselves. The Presence serves a bevy of unknown Gods which seem to have no alignment with either the Wilds or humanity. Perhaps the Presence has become the usher to the Underworld and the Dungeons are its River Styx.
One of the first cities lost to The Great Bloom, it once housed a proud population of artist’s and architects. Nowadays, however, the architecture has outlived the architect far too soon. Located in what was once a sprawling swamp, Rawranawrarwarn is now found at the heart of a blistering desert. Hunter expeditions there to recover pieces of art report strange sightings. Open doors, clean streets, unfinished meals left over. Noises are said to be heard when one approaches, roaring and the sounds of clawed feet, but all this ceases when one enters the city. A strange place, better left alone.
Despite all the strife of the fight against the Wilds, there are some out there looking for a good time. And leave it to the good people of Halliwell to make the best out of a difficult situation. While there is plenty of work out there for Hunters, sometimes things go so well that there’s a little extra time, even in these trying times. A rather inspired and egotistical Hunter by the name of Edgar Veddis thought it would be a great idea to set up gladiator matches in the middle of this war. And who would have thought that it would be so successful!?
Since the Stadium’s founding in the outskirts of Halliwell, the entertainment has grown from the occasional brawl between Hunters to more organized fare, such as Fireball, where teams of Magisters fling a fireball around the field into a modified Mana-Siphon to score points. It can get violent, but it always draws a crowd!
A strangely shaped bone that fell from the sky, slowly causes all growth around it to cease and eventually die. It’s strange properties were crucial in The Defense of Aes Kalon. Since its arrival, the Wildsbane has become a treasure throughout the land. Many revere it, others covet it, even others want to incorporate it into new Manatech... or more appropriately, Anti-Manatech. The Wildsbane’s powers have also brought upon the idea - the hope, to some - that all of the world’s remaining civilization can be united against the threat of the Wilds. Many of the elders of the city have brought upon the idea of United Front against the Wilds. There is the problem of the individuality of the cities it wishes to bring together. As if the cities, nations, and kingdoms of old were distinct from another culturally before, a generation of isolation between the vast Wilds made them even more distinct and ferociously independent than before. Bringing them together under the fight for the Wilds may be possible, but to keep them there... the difficulty will be immense.
Some theorize that the Wildsbane is one of the fragments from the Jaws of the Dead upon its creation during the Great Bloom, its deadening effects thwarting the Wilds upon its arrival to Aes Kalon.
The Capitals exist in the midst of a constant battle between Civilization and the Wilds. Enormous devices of great arcane power, Mana-Siphons stand at the edge of every town, drawing in Magical energy and reducing the Wilds’ influence on the area. This energy can be used to create electrical power, which every settlement relies upon. As long as the Siphons continue to function, the Wilds’ growth is curtailed. Several huge Capitals exist, the handful of pre-Bloom megacities that survived through either technology or magical intervention. These cities are host to millions of people from every known race. Intermingling and intermarriage are common and, indeed, accepted. In these Capitals, great throngs of people live in towering apartment buildings and travel crowded streets to get to work. Most people could spend an entire day without feeling the presence of the Wilds.
By contrast, frontier settlements exist as outposts close to and even within the Wilds, and the people there live their every day in wary acceptance of the danger that lurks outside their walls. Some settlements have barely more than a thousand people living there, and might see travelers from other settlements perhaps once a month, while some are large enough to sustain communications with the Capitals, with populations in the tens of thousands.
Food is a vital concern in every settlement. Farming within the city walls is a common and effective way of producing staple foods, especially since crops grow much faster in the post-Bloom world. In the crowded Capitals, citizens with private houses usually have rooftop gardens, while apartments are usually required by law to have a garden or greenhouse on the roof. Multi-storey vertical greenhouses are also a relatively common sight, especially in cities where space is at a premium. Novice Hunters are often dispatched into the Wilds to hunt monsters and animals for meat. Sometimes these Wild creatures are dangerously infected with mana, and require curing and siphoning before they can be consumed safely. Sometimes, adventurers have to eat while on the trail and run the risk of Mana Sickness, which is told to lead to much more than an upset stomach.
Water is a big concern for most settlements that are just starting out. The risk of river monsters must be balanced against the risk of thirst. Most settlements rely on cisterns and rainwater as their primary source of water. Larger cities sometimes have to use the huge underwater lakes that can be found through Dungeon exploration. Magineers lay pipe to draw water from these enormous reserves. Rivers and such can be tapped into the the same way, with Hunters clearing out any Monster threatening the pipes.
Towns are protected from the Wilds by the Guardsmen, the stalwart protectors and police force rolled into one. They often patrol the edges of the town, watching for monsters or other Wild attacks. As well, they maintain law and order (although most larger cities have a separate police force, smaller settlements rely on the Guards for this task). When not dealing with mundane crime, the most experienced Guardsmen often search for dreaded Druids as well as others who have been corrupted by the Wilds. The only group that equals the Guardsmen in bravery and martial prowess are the Hunters, the brave or crazy individuals who make their living escorting convoys between villages, scouting out the Wild Unknown, or delving into the Dungeons in the hopes of a lucrative find. These frontiersmen are regarded as both heroes and threats, as not everyone who delves into the Wilds returns unchanged. When a new settlement is to be established, Hunters find good sites and fight off the Wild while helping a squad of Mages from the Consortium assemble a Mana-Siphon.
Mages still work as spell-slingers and masters of the arcane, although they are more likely to be found tinkering with Manatech or fixing the town’s Mana-Siphon than poring through books of eldritch lore. Mages and engineers are often the same thing in practice, tending to the Manatech of the world as Magineers, although it’s possible to be such without any excessive arcane talent. However, as most devices (even ones that use electricity) eventually draw their power from Mana, Mages are uniquely suited to act as repairmen in the Magineer capacity, inventors and researchers in the Magister capacity. Experienced, powerful Mages often act as commanders of a town’s Guardsmen because their understanding of the flow of Mana helps them predict where and when attacks from the Wild will come.
Technology is at a level comparable to the late 20th Century, with a mixture of medieval and modern elements. Electrical lights, appliances, and other inventions exist, although they might be hacked together out of wood and stone in places where metal and plastic are hard to come by. Enchanted or otherwise Mana-powered devices are uncommon, and people using them may be regarded with suspicion. Outside the confines of civilization, however, Mana is the only power source available, and many common devices can be found (or modified by a Magineer) that work with raw Mana. Fluctuations in magical energies can make the use of such devices dangerous, as they run the risk of burning out, exploding, or worse. Guns are still at the flintlock/black powder stage, encroaching firing cap technology, although some Manatech weapons can spew thousands of bullets, lightning or billows of fire.
But there has been word of a new advance in Manatech, whispers of something called a Datastore. It is said that this advance allows the transit of information through the ambient Mana of the world. Think of it as a mobile telephone, but on a grander scale and scope. Intellectuals are already extolling its open nature, both as a means to share information with each other in order to restore order to the world and tame the Wilds, but also to expose and tame the growing corruption and terrible practices within the megacities. Of course, this technology seems to have some time to mature before it can become widely available to the populace. It is, of course, no surprise that some in the higher circles of these societies are denouncing this Datastore as heretical technology which may actually strengthen the Wilds through the wider-spread use of the world’s Mana.
Due to the isolated nature of mankind’s settlements in the setting, transport is an extremely limited affair. Most settlements, even Capitols, try to be as self-sufficient as possible due to the danger and uncertainty of travel between them. The leftover roads from before the Bloom are largely unstable and are, in spots, overgrown by the flora of the Wilds. However, there are still some routes that are more or less intact between some of the settlements and Capitals, but only due to constant maintenance and clearing. As such, it is always best to bring a caravan of Hunters and arms along for the ride, just in case the Wilds encroach upon the traveling party. Of course, if the roads are too difficult to navigate, there is always the idea of cutting through the Wilds to make a new path.
A more recent advancement in technology, although possibly more dangerous than the other means of transport in the setting. Theoretically, Airships are capable of bypassing a lot of the dangers on the ground, and are far more expedient than traveling through the Wilds. However, there are two factors that limit Airships. One is the Manasiphons on board. While they are more or less reliable, a heavy drop in ambient Mana will kill the engines while a surge can make it explode. Either is a very bad thing. The other factor is that they can only travel short distances before they are swarmed by the avian beasts of the Wilds. This leads to only a handful of Airships in service among the scattered settlements and Capitols of the world. Such scarcity leads to a level of autonomy among airships, rivaling that of former nations. The pilot decides when and where they are going, no questions asked. After all, one can’t simply fire him and replace him, it takes years of apprenticeship to avoid mana depressions and surges. The crew of airships are the best of the best, from engineering to combat. Airships know they’re needed, and act as such.
While the world around the Capitals and settlements is dangerous, to say the absolute least, at least there are the Guard and the Hunters to keep the general populace safe and sound for the most part. Daily life is much like the daily life we have in our reality - a daily grind, usually from morning to sundown, interspersed with social contact with friends and family, and the dealings with acquaintances of many preferences and likings. Granted, some of the technology is different than in our reality - private automobiles as we know it do not exist, though there is likely some form of public transit. But for the most part, it is analogous.
A new middle class has been emerging within the megacities in recent years, with the rise of private businesses after the fallout from the Great Bloom started to settle down. This has been leading to a distinction of classes that have reappeared since the actual calamity. The Guard and the Hunters are still respected in society, but are becoming better known as necessary grunts. Politicians and leaders are still seen in a good light, though there are rumors of growing corruption within the upper echelons. The growing class of businessmen are more open about their less savory practices, but have a bit of leeway given their necessity in the growing marketplace of the megacities. For some, if the Wilds won’t kill mankind off, mankind may do that job all by themselves.
People of the Post-Bloom World
In these trying times, it’s easy to be shoehorned into a particular profession. Such choices are limited these days, but are vital to the success of mankind even in these circumstances. But there is one profession more important than the others, that of the Hunter. Hunters come from just about all walks of life, be it martial, social, professional, Magical... the diverse nature of Hunters make them the best (if only) group to actually go out into the Wilds and tame it, inch by inch, gathering the resources it has to offer. Odds are that a player will be portraying a Hunter in the course of a story in this setting.
The Guardsmen are the protectors of any settlement in this age. They generally keep the populace protected from without, though they also perform protection from within in the smaller settlements, where there isn’t as many people to perform either task by itself. Essentially, the Guardsmen are the martial profession of choice for those getting into the field, learning to use blade, bow, and bullet alike. In the larger Capitals, it is common to see a police force separate from the Guard. Policemen are tasked with protecting the cities from within, be the threats standard criminals, Druid spies from the Wilds, or corruption from the upper echelons of society. Policemen are proficient in smaller blades and firearms, but also have a better grip on the social aspect of dealing with the unruly, sometimes able to defuse a situation before it gets bad.
While there are still Mages that venture about, using magic in more traditional ways, they are better known in two capacities. Magineers specialize in the operation, repair, and optimization of various forms of Manatech. If it’s broken, odds are that a Magineer can fix it. The better Magineers can also use Manatech in ways that it wasn’t intended to be. A Mana-Torch, for instance, can be optimized to become, say, a magical flamethrower if the Magineer is good enough to do so. As such, Hunters who come from this background are usually tasked with the weaponized Manatech. On the other hand, the Magisters are those who research and develop the Manatech to be built in the first place. They are the ones who draw upon thousands of years of magical knowledge as well as the consultation of their contemporary scientists to come up with the Manatech that offers at least some level of reprieve for a troubled people. Their extensive knowledge of the inner workings of Mana and spellcraft lend to an ability to resist the corruption Mana can bring upon them, allowing them to work as raw spellcasters when they are Hunters in the field.
Businessmen, a recent profession in terms of existence after the Great Bloom, know that there are opportunities abound in the fight to reclaim their world from the Wilds. They work with many of the other classes and are becoming the driving force for further development of Manatech, investors of expeditions into the Wilds for further resources. Some question their motives, but their results are concrete. Ruthless, and ready to start thriving rather than just surviving. Despite these advances, vestiges of the royalty of old remain in the Capitals as the Politicians, although their methods have changed. Some of the settlements and Capitols have changed to a less formal, more democratic society. Others devolved into oligarchies with experts and elders at the helm. Even others maintained their feudal hierarchies in name and structure. But in any of these cases, the Politicians are able to do the talking, to get people together for a common cause. Or perhaps to drive them apart, depending on the people.
Kolle Mollenar: Inventor of the Mana-Siphon, founder of Second Osenvar, and leader of the Consortium. While Kolle is best known for his fight against the Wilds and his journey to reclaim Osenvar, he understands that the next move is always more expensive than the last. He runs the Consortium on the manufacture and sale of Mana-Siphons for the time being - the agricultural economy of Second Osenvar will be unable to finance a push to eliminate the Cores by itself.
Anvar Kell: Hero of Valeria’s worker rebellion and ordered the execution of its former ruler, Grand Duke Weidlig. He rules Valeria as a police state through the Valerian Front given the constant threat of loyalists against him and his circle.
Grand Duchess Melicia: Successor to Weidlig’s rule of Valeria and leader of loyalist efforts against Anvar Kell, bolstered by those who were disgusted at her predecessor's execution (including some of the workers who fought under Kell). She wishes to return Valeria to the way it was before the rebellion and keeps the pressure on Kell's fragile government.
Edgar Veddis: A Halliwellian entrepreneur who founded the Veddis Stadium in the outskirts of town. He makes a surprising fortune hosting entertainment and sporting events, even in the trying times after the Great Bloom.
The Aarn: Elven hunter who survived the Great Bloom and founded Aarn. Entirely corrupted by the Wilds; speaks to emissaries of the Cores who enter his tower from the Dungeons. He is old and dying, and the Wilds are slowly losing their control over him.
Mr. Smith: The Dwarven master of Aarn’s criminal factions. Secretly working for the Consortium to cause a war between the ruling council and the Aarn to allow the Consortium to take the whole town over.
The Consortium: Based in Second Osenvar and nominally headed up by Kolle Mollinar, the Consortium is a powerful and bureaucratic organization. It produces and sells Mana-Siphons to groups of settlers or established cities as well as trains Mana-users of all varieties. Their largest power base, the Consortium Citadel in Second Osenvar, is a closed and mysterious place, with countless closed-off rooms and strange happenings. The steel spire, a rebuilt skyscraper from the ruins of Old Osenvar, is a symbol of the Consortium’s power and wealth, a symbol that many groups would like to see destroyed. While the Consortium has branches in almost every major Capital (except for Aarn, who refuses to allow their representatives to enter to this day,) they remain painfully slow to respond to requests for parts or Magineers. Few Mages can afford their prices, but the training and official recognition the Consortium provides is invaluable.
Mr. Smith, the head of the criminal forces in Aarn, is working with the Consortium. He is trying to incite a war between the ruling council and the Aarn to create an opening for them to take over an entire city, growing the Consortium power base exponentially. This plan is secret to all but the highest managers of the Consortium, some of who disagree with this strategy. Of all the factions, the Consortium has the most power and resources to face the Cores head on, which they staunchly refuse to do (publicly, due to the risk, privately, because it helps perpetuate the Mana-Siphon economy and generate more revenue for a better push against the Cores).
The United Front: An attempt by the elders of Aes Kalon to unite the warriors of the various cities in an orchestrated effort to defeat the Wilds and bring normalcy back to the world. While, in principle, that a United Front would be logical to take on an enemy as large in scope and power as the Wilds, mankind isn’t always as logical as they should be at times. The following are some issues that plague the creation of the United Front:
- Isolation of cities: While the cities and settlements of the world were independent before, the isolation of them between the large areas the Wilds now control has made them even more fiercely independent.
- The Wildsbane: Other cities have a sort of informal hostility towards Aes Kalon given this artifact, making life much easier than those in other cities. Also, other cities want it for themselves.
- Sulinad: People already depend on Sulinad as a go-to place for many matters martial and strategic.
- Ideological differences: Certain ideological mismatches has made unity hard to enforce. The Halliwell Freestate, for example, is hostile to any form of attempts to rein in the blatant criminality going around in their city.
The Valerian Front: Formed by the workers of Valeria when it was under the rule of Grand Duke Weidlig, led by Anvar Kell. Now it is Valeria’s crumbling police force, lacking much of the spirit and discipline it had in its earlier days. Yet, there is a smattering of support in other cities, were a poor disgruntled class of workers are. Though each group of these workers do not yet have enough clout to challenge the current status quo - it's easy to denounce supporters of the Valerian Front as a distraction against the effort to tame the Wilds - it is easily possible that persistence may win more and more hearts and minds as time goes on.
Forces of the Wilds
The Wilds are boundless, tractless, endless forests, deserts, and tundras. As far as anyone knows, they stretch even across the seas that existed before the Great Bloom. Cities are barely noticeable breaks in the endless wilderness, just tiny shelters against the onrushing tide of nature. The Wilds are unlike the forests or deserts that existed before the Great Bloom; they are more vicious, more pure- they exist as if in a world untouched by man or elf. They are the embodiment of the idea of nature, of the indefinable concept of Wild. Lurking in the Wilds are beasts, some recognizable, and some nightmarish and twisted. There are a small number of Wild creatures that understand language and sometimes even cooperate with settlements; but most are destructive and bestial.
Under the Wilds are the Dungeons, the twisted and ruined remains of what came before the Great Bloom. The Wilds grew over and consumed the ruins and remains, and now the wealth of entire lost nations rests hidden underground, tangled and merged together. The Dungeons roil and writhe, changing in capricious and unpredictable ways. Hunters once tried to map them but now accept that they are beyond civilization's comprehension. Sometimes Mages can predict when the Dungeons are about to shift, but these predictions are often no more than educated guesses. Rarely, pieces of the Dungeon are exposed to the world in thunderous explosions; these rare chances allow Hunters to delve into them for profit or glory. Sometimes, they return with great treasures or ancient technology; more often, they never return. Dungeon entrances have a habit of springing up near towns, like an invitation from the Wilds to enter. The dangers of exploring the Dungeons this way are numerous, and most explorers rarely venture more than an hour in before returning to the surface. Those who venture in say that dark things lurk in the Dungeons, although most refuse to talk about it further than that.
The Wilds are constantly trying to overwhelm what remains of the civilized world, and only the Mana-Siphons stop them from growing out of control. Even so, the Wilds constantly send monsters to attack settlements, as well as use Druids to sabotage the settlements from within. Paths between settlements are quickly reclaimed and erased, and those who wander too far often never return. Those that do are often changed, touched by the Wilds and irrevocably different. Sometimes this manifests as a strange gift- wings, scaly armor, night eyes; sometimes the person has been made into a Druid or has simply gone insane. Most do not remember anything of their time in the Wilds apart from a collection of fragmented memories, meaning nothing.
Deep in the Wilds, there are the Cores. Here, the ground itself is constantly in motion, entire castles can float and some say the Wild Gods live somewhere inside. Mana is constantly being given off by the God in waves of pure energy, which cause the Wilds and the Dungeons to intermingle in strange ways. Nowhere is the power of the Wild stronger than in these locations, the strongholds of the Gods. Only a handful are known to exist, and none have entered them and returned to tell whether the Gods still live.
Curious things. Even our smartest Mages can’t quite pin down what exactly makes them tick, or how they come to be born. For the purpose of this guide, most popular theories will be presented. No God is similar to another, as Hunters say. What little we have gathered from what few survivors there are from a God’s wrath are that their powers are vast and strange. Reports have ranged from the fiery wrath of volcanoes spewing from their hands, to legions of dark beasts at their beck and call. Negotiations usually precede an attack. Usually. Most Gods will demand the settlement give back a portion of its land, or refrain from killing a certain species. Strange and seemingly random things that we have yet to string together. Yet, profit of some sort may be had from them in a few isolated cases, negotiations with a Wild God has yielded success - or at least so we believe. But there might be a hidden cost not yet apparent. In all cases, use EXTREME caution.
A theory that has been tossed around some Mage circles, is that Gods are the result of an long process of events. Firstly, there has to be a huge abundance of Mana, such as in the deep Wilds (where they are most commonly seen). And plenty of space, an entire region in fact. Slowly, the Mana will begin to concentrate, bumping into itself more and more. This is different than what is experience in a dungeon, where mana is shoved into close quarters in a very short amount of time and causes an explosion. Slowly, the Mana takes a recognizable shape. Some Hunters say that witnessing the Birth of a God will drive one mad, into Druidism. Many wouldn’t put much stock into their ramblings, though.
Another theory is that that they are far older beings, having been in existence since the dawn of times, though limited by the weak Mana. With the Great Bloom and the convergence of Mana the gods found the means to enter our plane of existence directly. This theory is disputed by many, feeling that concepts like “divine plane” to be pseudo-science at best, semi-religious raving at worst.
Another common belief is that of the Church of Fools. Its members believe that in the days before the Great Bloom, Man began to pray for his Gods to bless him with their presence on the earth. He wished to learn their secrets of Mana and become just like them. However, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. The Gods fell to Earth, impacting around the world. Each perished at the force of such impact, shattering into pieces and forming the despicable Gods of The Wilds.
- Ofnoet, is one of many exceptions in this world. One of the few Gods known to harbor open benevolence towards Humans, he helps to lead the Circle of Harmony. He is an elusive figure, only showing up to help solve particularly bad disputes between members. His powers are largely unknown but are rumored to revolve around “enlightenment” and the “encouragement of all kinds of growth”.
- The Presence, the fabled collective consciousness of an old death cult and keeper of Mezcotal, is a being neither aligned with the Wilds nor with mankind. According to the tales, it certainly has the powers to be ranked with the Gods, but certainly not the behavior. Perhaps it is a neutral party in the post-Bloom world merely waiting for a convincing argument to support either side, or to take matters into its own hands and pursue an independent agenda.
These people existed before the Great Bloom, but their existence was never a threat to Civilization. Before the Bloom, Druids were simply in a spiritual communion with nature, regardless of the machinations of Civilization. Now, they exist as a constant danger and their numbers only seem to grow as some become corrupted by or begin to worship the Wilds. Working within cities and settlements, druids commit murder and sabotage in the hopes of destroying all that remains of civilization. If discovered, they might give their last shred of humanity over to the Wilds, becoming avatars of the Wilds, humongous, eldritch creatures needing considerable force to stop.
Within the Wilds exist circles of these Druids, whole collections of these madmen, seemingly living in harmony with the chaotic will of the wilderness around them. How they manage to do so without raising the ire of the beasts or the Wilds themselves is a point of immense curiosity for civilized Mages. Even more so, there has been rumor of even larger organizations of these Druids, called the Peht-Hah by one such Druid prior to his execution in the early days after the Bloom. Unfortunately, not much more is known, given that said Druid wouldn't give any more such information before his death.
These are a sly and curious folk. Original reports of them are scarce, but detail them as stark naked, lone hunters. However, as reports got more and more recent, people started to notice a pattern. Soon, small tribal gatherings of Lizardmen were reported following an increase in encounters with Settlements. Some people speculate The Wilds have picked their newest favorite, their champions. These beastfolk are fast learners, and have a strange fascination with human ways of life and technologies. Records detail them even beginning to smith crude spears and shields after a city attempted to eradicate them with a regiment of Hunters that preferred spears and shields. Several Policemen admit to receiving the frantic calls of paranoid citizens that believe Lizardmen are watching them, these reports seem to increase exponentially every following summer.
One particularly bad summer, which recorded over a thousand cases across the known world, preceded a shocking Hunter discovery. A group of over twenty Hunters were assigned to eradicate a nearby tribe, the group was surprised to find out the Lizardmen had evacuated. Within the abandoned huts and canopy housing, Hunters discovered several pieces of both pottery and scribed tablets. Scholars couldn't help but to believe that the lizardmen, previously thought of as tribal champions of the Wilds, at best, were actually forming a civilization of their own when they had evacuated to news of the Hunter advance. One such artifact found at the site seemed to be a crude map with some unique markings near the bottom of a squiggly-drawn landmass. Perhaps they found something of importance there.
Of course, the Wilds have produced a whole bevy of creatures as varied as they are dangerous. Those that inhabit the Wilds are too myriad, too different in even the slightest ways to catalogue effectively. Thus, for convenience, Hunter manuals provide their readers with standard archetypes that most beasts will adhere to. There is always the off chance that a Hunter will come across something entirely different.
Fiends: Beasts of Legend
Even in a world as diverse and dangerous as that of The Endless Wilds, there are creatures which are unique enough to where legends arise of their existence. We'll call them Fiends for now to differentiate them from standard creatures.
- The Bleeder: A cat with red eyes and large claws and teeth which appears in the Cities after especially gruesome deaths.
- Larry: A fish-like creature which seems to specifically prey upon the sailors of Mistwatch.
- The Lost Golem: An elusive figure which stalks the drunk residents of Frost's Grip upon nightfall.
- The Monkey King: A slowly strengthening spirit which haunts the Wet Tooth, an inn deep in the heart of Sulinad.
- The Snake Knight: A terrible serpentine beast clad in an orange carapace roaming the countryside near Aes Kalon.
Adventuring in the Endless Wilds
There is much to do in the world of the Endless Wilds. There is the main struggle of Civilization against the encroaching Wilds. There is also the fight within, claiming order over a growing, contained populace. There are factions and businesses which have a corrupt influence on society to tend with. Then there's the difficult day-to-day life of the various people protecting the Capitals and the settlements. The possibilities are many!
Infiltration of the Druids: Beginning in a Capital, the campaign begins with the destruction of a Mana-Siphon by Druids. After the player characters fight off the vanguard of the Wild attack and have escaped by convenient Airship, describe the city’s destruction and corruption by the Wild. At the end of the campaign, the players can return to the ruined megacity and face the Wild Gods responsible.
Hired Muscle: Hunters are valued for their survival abilities, which can lead them to be hired in the case of escorting a VIP (a leader of one of the cities) or a particularly important item (usually experimental Manatech or an artifact recovered from the Wilds) through the dangerous Wilds between one city and the next.
Touched by a God: Upon a usual expedition into a nearby Dungeon, the group of PCs come across an artifact that is extremely out of place with its surroundings, even given the mish-mash of cultures and time periods the buried Dungeons tend to be within the churning Wilds. If a character touches it, he momentarily becomes aware of one of the Gods’ consciousness. Insanity and Druidism is possible, though the contact would be more of a plot device more than anything else.
Send Them a Message: The characters are rookie Hunters, who on a regular scouting mission are stopped by a God of The Wilds. It demands that the city that they hail from give up half it’s land or be destroyed. They are forced to get into contact with the city’s leader(s) in a vague amount of time. Stealth, shenanigans, and diplomacy ensue as they try to climb their way up the social ladder, sneak into the city’s legislatures, so forth and so on.
The Great Divide: The characters are sent to investigate a frontier settlement that has stopped responding to messages. They find the town has divided along racial lines - elf vs. dwarf vs. human - and have to somehow resolve the conflict before the town destroys itself (bonus points if druids are the ones sowing the seeds of discord. Double bonus points if all the PCs are different races.)
Business on the Side: The characters are shocked when they discover one of their Hunter superiors is engaging in corrupt business, and has been selling massive amounts of Mana-enriched meat to ignorant buyers. It’s up to them to expose him and track down every shipment before it’s released to the public.
A New Life: The characters are accused of being Druids. Forced out of their homes, they must face the harsh roads and find their framers (or begin life anew in a frontier settlement, only to have their past accusations haunt them.)
The Threat to Osenvar: The Downward Spiral has been tracked since soon after the Bloom, the chasm bring dragged through the continent slowly like a knife through butter (hence the assumption that a Core may be behind its behavior). And many of the current readings on its movement is leading researchers to believe that it is headed straight for Second Osenvar. It is up to the characters to figure out a way to either get the populace out of the way, or to actually stop the Downward Spiral's advance.
Mana-Surge: An unexpected surge in Mana from an unknown origin suddenly blows up the majority of the Mana-Siphons in a Capital. If the Hunters work quickly they can find the parts needed to assemble enough of them. But if they dally...
The Sevenfold Provings: The characters have arrived at the city of Aarn to better their credentials as Hunters. After some lessons, they have to go through the Sevenfold Provings. Can they make it through them and what exactly do they entail?
Proud Consortium Employees: Players are either Magineers working for the Consortium or Hunters hired to protect them as they head out to a secluded settlement to repair their mana-siphon. This could start a campaign, with the players working for the Consortium and gradually uncovering their grander plan. Eventually, they could take control of the company and use its resources against the Cores. Experimental, mana-powered tanks, anyone?
Taking It to the Source: The Aarn summons the players to set out against one of the nearby Cores; he has been feeding misinformation to the emissaries of the Wilds and knows that the Core will be relatively unguarded in the near future. Their success or failure could decide the future of Aarn...
The Way Out: During what seemed to be a routine Dungeon run to grab some resources within it, the characters are led from one of the underground shifts to one of the many halls of the dreaded Mezcotal. All of them can hear a voice in their heads, each voice beckoning its owner into a different direction of the labyrinth to find the way out. They are all told that their particular voice is the correct one and the others cannot be trusted (one of them actually IS correct, but they don’t need to know that). Will they work together to find out which one is right, or will they perish as they drift apart to the whims of the multi-faceted Presence within?
Currently, the mechanics planned for the setting are varied and currently under contention among contributors. These are some of the basic matters currently at hand:
- Character Generation: There are some differences in how many attributes a character should have, and what they should be. The differences lie in the mode of play each contributor sees the game being played in: dungeoneering, hack-and-slash, storytelling, so forth and so on.
- Skills: Gameplay is agreed to be largely skill-driven. Characters are likely to be Hunters, which draw skills from their previous experience (professions as Guardsmen, Policemen, Magineers, Magisters, Businessmen, or Politicians) before becoming a Hunter. Of course, new skills can be gained through any of those professions if the characters act in the according capacity, or through skills unique only to Hunters. Existing skills can also be strengthened throughout the story.
- Action Points: In a contentious scenario, characters are able to perform actions through the expenditure of Action Points. As with any usual AP-based mechanic, use too many of them at any given time and the character may be somewhat useless in the long run. However, there are differences whether there is a plethora of actions which cost a set amount of AP each, or if there are only basic actions in which the characters can wager AP for a better chance of success.
- Homebrew or Not: There's also the idea of whether or not we should even pursue using a homebrewed system, or if we should just adapt this to an already existing system.