World Background

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History

The world was once a lush and verdant place, the temperate weather a perfect balance for animal and plant life to develop, and it was thanks to this abundance of natural resources that the Human’s were able to grow in such numbers and advance as far as they did. Then with the coming of the rift everything changed. Rift energy had been seeping into this world through a weak spot in the barrier between the elemental planes. Where this weak spot was a huge rift crystal had sat absorbing this energy so that it never reached the surface. However when an earthquake shook the plates of the planet the crystal was shattered discharging all of the accumulated energy in a cataclysmic conflagration which burst up through the surface of the world and broke through the barriers between the planes allowing rift energy to pour through and corrupt the world. The aftershocks from the cataclysm formed huge fissures beneath the earth and from there additional smaller rifts occasionally break through the surface to spread their corrupting influence.

The Human’s lost over half of their great city as it fell away into the ground and with it the centre of power and stability of government they had enjoyed for so long. It was from the cataclysm that the current state of affairs arose. In the aftermath of (insert cool apocalyptic name here) the noble houses attempted to take charge using their personal armies to enforce law upon the citizens. Gangs and cults grew up and from these the Warbands eventually developed. Over the centuries that followed conflicts raged between these many factions until the five ruling Houses of today emerged above all others as the most powerful and influential factions in the city.

Humanity was not the only race affected by the coming of the Rift. As time passed after its appearance the world became less verdant, water became scare and life became increasingly hard for all the races and species of the world. This was due to huge fissures and cracks spreading out from the rift beneath the surface of the world which were swallowing up the subterranean rivers and reservoirs so that the water was drained away from the surface and deep into the world. The humans with their more advanced technology were able to create water pumps and farms to extract water from deep beneath the surface or glean every drop of moisture from the surrounding land. Though this allowed them to continue relatively normally over time it has made the rest of the world even more barren forcing even greater hardship on the other races and species inhabiting the continent.

Human Culture

The city is ruled by five Noble Houses who rule from floating islands above the city who are each responsible for governing a section of the city below. The city is so expansive that some areas are effectively unadopted by any of the ruling houses so are lawless and much more run down places than those governed by the ruling houses.

Each House or Warband has its own unique culture and way of ranking those within its service. The majority having existed for centuries and many hold deep set beliefs and traditions, goals and methods of operation. Also, due to the extended periods that the Warbands have operated over there are deep seated hatreds and rivalries between many factions but also an uneasy peace and histories of cooperation between others.

To enforce a semblance of order and more often than not the will of the House each of the ruling factions employs their own armed forces, known as Custodians to the general populace they are most commonly used as a measure against the “lower class” Warbands that would run amok if left to their own designs. Custodians most commonly operate singularly or in groups of two to three so as to cover as large an area of the vast city as is possible, highly trained and equipped with the best armour and weapons their House can afford they represent the iron fist of the law and are more than a match for all but the most powerful and ruthless Warbands.
Through the Custodians the ruling houses attempt to mediate some semblance of law throughout the city though the actual effect they are able to maintain is considerably less than they would have the general populace believe. More often than not crime and violence are a barely concealed undercurrent only just kept out of sight by the Custodians. The result is a very rough and harsh life for the populace, especially in the unadopted slum areas, and over the centuries this has bread a very tough and hardy people.

When it is felt that a particular Warband is threatening the position of the ruling houses or is threatening the overall stability of the city Houses will call together a large number of custodians to form into a strike team to deal with the problem before it disrupts the perceived stability of the city. These teams are horrendously ruthless in their mission and once deployed it will only be a short time before their targets are brought to “justice.” Though the collateral damage of these operations often causes more destruction than the activates being persecuted the Ruling Houses still employ these same methods after centuries as a way to visually reinforce their authority and power over the general populace.

Lower down the hierarchical scale from the Great Houses are the Warbands themselves. Each Warband is a law unto itself and it’s goals are not limited by the word of the law as it is laid down by the Houses above. Though all treated as one and the same there are many different origins that a warband may have emerged from. Some are out and out military ventures comprised of experienced fighters out for money and power many of whom aren’t above highering themselves to more powerful factions if it furthers their own ends. In contrast to this there are more philosophical or religious Warbands who may fight for the benefit of the people or to cleanse the city of its corruption and decadence. Then there are the mercantile Warbands whose operations centre on the acquisition of money and furthering the commercial side of their operation. Lastly, the many petty political factions of the city are not above employing their own Warbands to further their means, whether they be upstart Houses attempting to rise above their station or commercial guilds and traders who wish to create a more welcoming climate for their business these factions are often ruthless and insidious, worming their way towards their goals and striking openly only when their goals are within reach.

Although some of the citizenry are possessed of highly developed technology the city itself grew up long before this era of technological enlightenment, thus many of the buildings are a melding of old heavy stone architecture and newer metallic and glass additions. For those who reside in the slums and less well maintained areas of the city technology is a much rarer commodity, with many living with technology comparable to that of the steam age or industrial revolution. However, one universally available form of technology is that of weaponry, with a profusion of guns circulating on the black market making life in the city a very unpredictable affair.

Away from the human city the world is largely unpacified with a great many ferocious and voracious creatures inhabiting the wilderness. Forced to adapt by the harshness of conditions these animals have become increasingly resilient and dangerous and can be a threat to humans even with their advanced arms and armour. The world is still incredibly diverse and for every evolutionary niche there are many creatures vying for the rite to fill it.

The Custodians

The Custodians are the equivalent of a normal Warband’s foot troops but because they serve one of the great Houses they are far better trained and equipped with the best arms their House can provide. Although the city itself is a unified body the great houses are not, thus certain laws and tenets are in place to ensure the equal governing of the city as a whole. In regards to the Custodians each House has the right to maintain what amounts to a private army of Custodians but also has a duty to the city to provide a law enforcement force to keep the peace between the rest of the warring factions when within the city limits. Due to this dual role the Custodians fulfil each House is very selective when it comes to choosing it’s fighting men as they must be fiercely loyal and dependable without question when fulfilling missions for their House. Some are chosen and trained from a young age, some are picked up from other, more minor Warbands or warring factions and others still are criminals drafted into service for their “unique” skills. Essentially Custodians may come from almost any walk of life so long as they will fulfil the House’s wishes. However there is one exception to this, a Custodian will never change allegiance between Houses as loyalty and trust will be among the most highly regarded assets in the eyes of his master, and if you’ve changed sides once, what is to prevent you from doing so again.

As with the Great Houses themselves there is a strong rivalry as well as a grudging respect between the Custodians of each House, thus direct contact is generally avoided as tempers may flare and such powerful combatants coming to blows is always best avoided. Although open conflict is discouraged and generally avoided it is not unknown for rival custodians to fight when the Houses they serve are in open conflict with one another. However these rare conflicts undermine the Custodians as law enforcers so any such skirmishes are generally downplayed or hidden away from the eyes of the public.

In addition to the practical roles the Custodians fulfil for their House they also act as a visible reminder to the rest of the city of their House’s power and so are always armed and armoured to inspire fear and respect in those they encounter. Whether they be the macabre, black armoured warriors of the House of Morrigan or the white robed, shining silver plated soldiers of House Avallach, every facet of their appearance is designed to intimidate and command obedience. Due to the psychological effect the presence of Custodians has each House ensures that those that serve them are distinct from all others with their own armour style, colouring and ornamentation so that there can be no question who it is that they serve.

Rift Energy and Technology

Rift energy is a new type of energy that emerged into the world with the coming of the Rift, although concentrated around the rift itself it permeates the entire world in varying quantities, more energy being found around fissures or smaller rifts that have opened up since the coming of the first rift. It is believed that due to the extensive subterranean network of cracks and caverns spreading out from the Rift every small rift and offshoot crack is linked underground back to the first in the centre of the city.

Rift energy itself is a corrupting force, driving people and creatures mad and mutating their flesh if given time to act. In small amounts and with infrequent exposure to high levels of the energy there has been very little effect evidenced. However with sufficient prolonged exposure it will change a life form far beyond its original form into a horrific, unnatural thing of limbs, teeth and claws driving it totally insane in the process. If exposed to high enough levels in one instance a life form will mutate uncontrollably and quickly and in a matter of minutes will appear as if it has been changing for many years or even decades if the level of energy is high enough. Thankfully however, very few of these mutations survive as the speed of mutation often causes catastrophic organ failure so that the creature is dead long before the energy has finished its work on its body. Though Trolls have a very resilient physiology able to take great strain this also makes them more resilient to mutation than most so it is very rare indeed for a troll to mutate to such an extent. Their minds also seem less susceptible to rift induced madness though there is no known reason why this should be.

Several centuries after the emergence of the rift human scientists discovered a substance resembling glass that is able to contain rift energy and in fact creates a null zone around itself as all localised rift energy is drawn into the substance and is unable to affect the surrounding world. From this discovery the scientists were able to create huge standing stones throughout the city which mitigate a large portion of the energy that emerges directly from the rift which would otherwise scourge the current human society from the face of the planet.

Shortly after this it was also discovered that the stored energy of these crystals could be discharged again, originally by necessity as when the monolithic crystals of the city reached capacity their null effect lessened and eventually stopped. As this led to an increase in rift energy levels it was of the utmost import that the crystals maintain their ability to absorb energy, so scientists devised a way of over loading the crystals so that the contained energy discharged into the sky in great bolts of burning light. Upon witnessing this phenomenon the scientists who had originally erected the monoliths set about harnessing the power of smaller more portable crystals, eventually creating lenses to focus the beam and using a second charged crystal to trigger the discharge in controlled bursts. Originally envisioned as tools to help with quarrying and excavation the destructive capacity of this invention was soon realised by the ruling houses and were thus converted into the first rift weapons wielded by the Custodians.

As time progressed more controlled methods of discharge and focus were developed to refine the weapons even further, more portable and larger more destructive versions were developed and finally a neural trigger was developed out of metal infused with ground crystals. This latest and most powerful development of rift technology allows the wielder to fire off blasts of energy from thought through a link created by the infused metal link from skin to crystal. In addition to this adepts of this school of combat are also able to manipulate the energy changing it from heat and light into any other form they wish, creating huge kinetic storms or massive concussive sound waves with only a thought.

In addition to firing off blasts of energy at range the crystals have also been incorporated in the hafts and hilts of melee weapons, giving a rise to a new and deadly age of close quarters combat with the crystals creating fields of energy around the weapons able to cut through the toughest of materials but also absorb and deflect the force of incoming bullets acting in a duel role of defence and attack. The master wielders of these rift melee weapons are inspiring and terrifying to behold flying into combat and spinning their way through their foes deflecting shots from all angles with their spinning blades and cutting swathes of the foes down as if they were nothing more than wheat or corn.

As rift weapons have become more and more dangerous the Ruling houses have attempted to control and regulate them more and more though the demand for them too has risen giving rise to a extensive and incredibly well concealed black market for these most destructive of weapons.
In addition to this there is a highly refined skill which allows the manipulation of rift energy through concentrated meditation, turning it from a purely corrupting force into one that can be turned to the wielder’s needs.

A tribe of shaman who reside in isolation first developed the manipulation of rift energy through the use of meditation. Originally a sanctum for philosophers the mountaintop retreat was split apart when a minor rift opened in the central courtyard and immersed the residing sages in untold levels of energy. Instead of resigning themselves to their fate the sages and savants turned to their minds to save them from the corruption pervading their bodies. They found their salvation through deep meditation, purging their bodies of the energy’s corrupting influence and expelling it into a rift crystal held in their hands. Through further study they were able to take their meditation a step further and manipulate energy stored in crystals and turn it to their own means, casting it like magic as a massively destructive force.

Despite this skill being born from necessity it has been taught to a select few outsiders who over time have spread the ability to others making it relatively commonplace within the Warbands and other individualistic factions. Some have adopted this skill to such a degree that the majority of their members now have this skill, such as the great house Asatru.

Nonhumans

Although humans appear to dominate the world the majority of their power and numbers are sited in and around the City with only comparatively small settlements and outposts spreading further out over the continent. The rest of the world is largely given over to wilderness though other sentient races inhabit isolated corners of the world.

Trolls
The most commonly seen of these are Trolls, huge muscular creatures but possessed of a slow and somewhat dim-witted mind they are a largely peaceful race which until the rise of technology existed deep within the mountain ranges of the world. Since the Human’s recent advancement in technology a great many trolls have been captured and subdued into slavery and thus are a relatively common site performing manual or demeaning tasks the humans consider themselves above doing. Trolls are possessed of a unique and incredibly resilient physiology which allows them to survive off of almost any sustenance they can find by extracting all the nutrients and storing the excess in organs located above and behind their intestines. The result of this is that trolls, if forced to, can survive without food and water for many weeks and if they can obtain small amounts of food during this time the period is greatly increased as their reserves are topped up little by little.

Goblins
The Goblin race is the second most numerous species on the continent, preceded only by the humans. Though diminutive in stature they have incredibly inventive minds and are prolific inventors and experimenters. This allows them to find uses for many objects that humans would disregard out of hand and so their creations, despite working perfectly well, often appear a rag tag conglomeration of scrap barely kept together with large bolts and huge coils of rope.They are however curtailed in this field by other racial traits, namely their pettiness, and incredibly short attention spans. Thus it is that almost all Goblins that begin a great work to further the advancement of their race get bored by lunch time and wander off to fight over who gets the shiny bits from the latest salvage haul.

Centaurs
Centaurs, roaming the plains in tribal packs of extended families, led by the most senior males, the centaurs are a proud, individualistic race. Not openly aggressive to humans, at the least they dislike the human’s dominance of the continent, seeing their butchery of the natural resources as a perversion of the way the world should be. However they do not hold a uniform hatred for humankind and have been known to interact peacefully with them on occasions. Far less technologically advanced than the humans, centaur culture teaches to live in harmony with the land, foraging and hunting what they need but never destroying the land which they live off.

Minotaurs
Minotaurs, barely considered sentient by the humans of the continent they exist in isolation in the wilderness of the world in small family groups, an alpha male, his mate and their sons and daughters. When the children reach maturity they leave the family group to search for their own mate and start their own families. Although each family maintains its own territory they often share portions with other relations so that a bond is maintained even after each generation has left its parents home to start families of their own. Existing without the aid of technology Minotaurs are considered barbaric by more civilised races, though for their purposes they need nothing more, as hidden within the forests of the world all they need to survive is readily available from the world around them.

Lower down the hierarchical scale are the Warbands themselves. Each Warband is a law unto itself and its goals are not limited by the word of the law as it is laid down by the Houses above. Though all treated as one and the same there are many different origins that a Warband may have emerged from. Some are out and out military ventures comprised of experienced fighters out for money and power many of whom aren’t above hiring themselves to more powerful factions if it furthers their own ends. In contrast to this there are more philosophical or religious Warbands who may fight for the benefit of the people or to cleanse the city of its corruption and decadence. Then there are the mercantile Warbands whose operations centre on the acquisition of money and furthering the commercial side of their operation. Lastly, the many petty political factions of the city are not above employing their own Warbands to further their means, whether they be upstart Houses attempting to rise above their station or commercial guilds and traders who wish to create a more welcoming climate for their business these factions are often ruthless and insidious, worming their way towards their goals and striking openly only when their goals are within reach.

Although some of the citizenry are possessed of highly developed technology the city itself grew up long before this era of technological enlightenment, thus many of the buildings are a melding of old heavy stone architecture and newer metallic and glass additions. For those who reside in the slums and less well maintained areas of the city technology is a much rarer commodity, with many living with technology comparable to that of the steam age or industrial revolution. However, one universally available form of technology is that of weaponry, with a profusion of guns circulating on the black market making life in the city a very unpredictable affair.

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