World of Illiria

Illiria is a land shrouded in mystery, filled with ruins and danger. A catastrophic event, known as the dark honeymoon, decimated nearly all life, leaving only a handful to rebuild their world from the ashes.

Despite the devastation, tales of lost potential, hope, and determination against all odds abound in every corner of this world. The Game Master, along with the players, will unraveling these tales, each of which holds the promise of adventure and discovery.

Contents

The Age of Yesterday

The Age of Yesterday was a time when Illiria shone as a prosperous land, brimming with magic and wonders. Hundreds of advanced civilizations thrived and reached their full potential, harnessing the incredible power of magic.

Magic was abundant, providing the means to ease life’s burdens, from creating sustenance and healing ailments to securing victories for the sake of prosperity.

For those who were fortunate enough to live during this era, they inhabited a true utopia. Freedom reigned supreme, with no worries or constraints holding them back. Resources were plentiful, and jobs were a means to bring glory to one’s family name, rather than a necessity for survival.

But alas, those halcyon days are long gone. Now, Illiria is a mere shadow of its former self, and the dream of returning to that wondrous time is but a bittersweet memory, a reminder of what once was and what may never be again.

-Aurelious Dotrus, a Past Nobleman

The Olympian Gods back then...

Oh, how I long for the days of old, when the gods graced our lands with their presence. In those days, one could meet a deity face to face! Oh, their power, their majesty, truly divine.

But now, the gods reside in their home at Olympus, far from mortal reach. Only the most deserving may catch but a fleeting glimpse of the divine.

The gods departed to test our independence, to see if we could maintain the world without their intervention. Alas, we proved unworthy of their trust. Despite all their gifts, we failed them, and now suffer the dire consequences of our inadequacy.

-Iphigenia Sanctus, the Ancient Cleric

The Dark Honeymoon

The undead first appeared in our village, seemingly harmless and in small numbers at first. We couldn’t even imagine the disaster that would follow.

Initially, we suspected that a rogue wizard was practicing forbidden art of necromancy in the area. However, despite our best efforts, we found no evidence of a dark ritual. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the situation was far more dire than we could have ever imagined.

I can still recall the moment when the grim reality set in. I was only twelve years old, tending to the farm, when I witnessed a headless chicken rise to its feet. At first, I dismissed it as a strange quirk of nature, but then the cows, pigs, and other livestock followed suit. Soon, it was the elderly, soldiers, and even the deceased who were returning to life as undead abominations.

As the frigid grip of the first winter took hold, we were powerless to stop the relentless onslaught. By the time the snows had thawed, half of us had already fallen to the curse of undeath.

-Old Commoner

The events that unfolded during that time are shrouded in mystery, but my sources have whispered about the disturbance in Olympus that started the Dark Honeymoon.

Persephone, the Goddess of Birth and Renewal, disappeared without a trace. Without her presence there were no births nor deaths, just decay and rot. The souls of the dead were trapped in their bodies, unable to move on. No flowers bloomed, and no animals mated, leaving the world barren and lifeless.

As if that wasn’t enough, Demeter, the great Goddess of Harvest and Prosperity, plunged into a deep depression, unleashing a brutal winter upon us. She couldn’t bear the loss of her daughter, Persephone, whom she cherished dearly.

We eventually learned that Persephone had gone to Tartarus to marry Lord Hades, abandoning all her duties. Can you believe that?! We here, fighting in the end of the world, while they were fucking in their honeymoon. Unbelievable!

To this day, Persephone still spends half of the year in Tartarus, which is why winter still haunts us. It’s sickening to think that the gods treat the end of the world as a mere family drama. We are nothing but mere pawns in their sick game!

Tell me, do you still believe in the gods? Do you still have faith in them after what they’ve put us through?

-Sir Basil Karras, the Exiled

The New Age

Alright, let me tell you straight up, we’re living in a total shithole. You gotta be tough as nails if you wanna survive around here.

Thinking about going hunting? Better watch your back for all the monsters left over from the goddam honeymoon. Want a peaceful life? Good luck with that, ’cause there are bandits, ratoids, and all sorts of other crap waiting to mess with you.

Don’t even think about relying on the Gods. And as for the Empire, they’re too busy dealing with the aftermath of that damn honeymoon to care about us.

Running away might seem like a good idea, but where are you gonna go? Head south and you’ll end up in the Dark Lands, where vampires will turn you into a juice box. Head north and it’s just a frozen wasteland. East? You’ll run into a bunch of savage tribes and cannibals. And unless you have a ship, forget about heading west.

My advice? Stay strong, and keep your weapon close. If you see something weird, don’t hesitate to attack. Weird stuff around here is usually dangerous, and hesitation can be the difference between life and death.

-Ostrum Hatzi, Chief of the Wolf Guild

The Great Empire of Kartelles

Don’t trust a word the Empire says. They claim to protect us, but it’s all lies. They want one thing and one thing only – absolute control.

When the honeymoon was finally over, we foolishly thought we could finally have peace. But the Empire took advantage of that moment and claimed our lands and our lives. We thought they would help us rebuild and start anew, but they just started another war for power and control.

We are tainted with the blood of our kin in our hands. We must avenge them, and the only way to fight back is through a revolution.

-Kinara Scala, Leader of the Red Fists

We are the final line of defense in this godforsaken world! We’re the only ones standing between total destruction and survival. We’re warriors, saviors, and protectors all in one. Without us, there’d be nothing but chaos and despair. So tell me, if not us, then who else?

-Isateus Drakos, Great Commander of the 3rd Order

The Great Empire of Kartelles arose from the ashes of four major cities after the advent of the Dark Honeymoon. The destruction created by the event caused countless mortals to be left displaced, desperate, and half dead—and also created a power vacuum. Two soldiers, the Tiberius and Thrax Spathis, were able to capitalize on this chaos and garnered enough followers to begin reconstructing their fallen cities. While the Twin Emperors’ past is largely shrouded in secret, rumors run rampant that they were either deserters who left their military unit to die once the Dark Honeymoon began, or they were captains who fought valiantly (but ultimately failed) to save their men.

Under the Spathis Brothers’ rule, the Kartellian Empire grew rapidly, not only occupying the territory formerly owned by its restored cities, but also extending its dominion over the territory of the vassal settlements annexed into the empire’s expanding borders. While the defining feature of territory owned by the Kartellian Empire is the marble walls erected around and throughout the cities to act as a visual beacon of hope amid the darkness, the architecture found within the Empire reflects the vast amount of cultures under its rule:

  • Aetrix, “The Bastion,” acts as Kartelles’ military center, and has a tightly-packed layout with narrow streets and heavily reinforced walls.

  • Caelora is Kartelles’ economic hub, with sprawling wards that extend along multiple converging rivers towards its central feature, the Harbor.

  • Temenos is Kartelles’ religious center, with multiple religions finding a foothold within its walls. With a mosaic of buildings representing the worship of every god brought from the multiple cultures accepted into Kartelles, Temenos is where many refugees and newcomers are drawn to.

  • Mysteia is Kartelles’ hub for magic, where many of its seasoned mages teach the aspiring youth. While its width is the smallest of the cities, much of its architecture has expanded upwards, where many towers sit as spires that pierce the skies. The simple walls that surround the city are protected by intricate runes.

The political structure of the Empire is largely influenced by these four cities, and is known as the Four Pillars of Kartelles. During their lifetime, Tiberius and Thrax each oversaw two of these pillars: the Emperor’s Chalice (church), the Emperor’s Scales (economy), the Emperor’s Sword (military) and the Emperor’s Wand (arcana). They decreed that each citizen is required to join one pillar, and may switch under the right circumstances.

The Spathis Brothers promised health and safety to all who joined their ranks, and while this grew their numbers, it wasn’t entirely true—using ‘savages’ from the Great Tribes, prisoners of war, and even Kartellian prisoners, the Emperors utilized a regiment of surgeons and necromancers under the leadership of Alakai Stroud, the ‘Father of Monsters,’ to create chimeras that would act as the first line of defense for the Great Empire of Kartelles. However, after the natural death of the Twin Emperors, Alakai Stroud disappeared from the Empire. He has not been seen since, and the chimeras he created no longer serve a master.

Upon the natural death of the Twin Emperors, a council of eight were selected to rule in their stead—two elected officials from each Pillar. The ruling body, while following the wishes of their people, also uses texts left behind by the Spathis Brothers to influence how these wishes are interpreted and enforced.

In the decades since its founding, Kartelles has become an unwavering military might. The ruling body strives to not only protect the people under its purview, but to act as a steadfast force against the undeath caused by the Dark Honeymoon—and to protect its borders from the very creatures made to protect it.

The Great Tribes

Our scouts have observed that these savage tribes often engage in bloody conflicts with us, but also one another, further highlighting their senseless violence and lack of sophistication. Our diplomatic efforts to broker a peace have been met with nothing but scorn.

The savages are known to dispose of their victims in a way that prevents them from rising again as undead, whether by burning the bodies or resorting to the unthinkable act of cannibalism. Our brave soldiers have also reported witnessing ███████████

Our course of action is clear: we must strike at these savages with all our might and cleanse the land of their filth. We alone have the strength and determination to accomplish this noble task. For the glory of Kartelles!

-Stolen order from the Empire

The Great Tribes are made up of the ancestors of those who lived on the outskirts of civilization during the Age of Yesterday—largely farmers, laborers, and hunters. They were the first to discover the undeath sweeping across the land, but their warnings went unheeded. As chaos and devastation bloomed within the larger cities, these small communities banded together to hold off the growing number of undead.

In the time since the Age of Yesterday, the Great Tribes are more akin to large family units than ragged survivors, and they protect their own ferociously, even against other tribes. Initially, all Great Tribes developed a similar death rite—the deceased’s body would be reduced to a state where it could not rise again. Throughout the centuries, each Tribe’s death rite has evolved to fit the culture in which it takes place in. While these death rites vary greatly, the most infamous is cannibalism, which has generated a reputation of fear and danger for those outside of the Great Tribes’ territory. This act has been shunned by the Empire, seeding much of the brewing contempt.

While many smaller Tribes exist scattered throughout the land, five prominent ones have gained notoriety:

Verdantia

The ancestors of druids and farmers who made their living through cultivating the land and manipulating the weather. Their communities are made of twisting dead trees, shaped during fleeting periods when winter’s wrath waned, and the bones of their fallen are used to nourish the soil. They are the smallest of the Great Tribes, and are a rather peaceful people—though if threatened, they will utilize the animals they have nurtured and the earth itself to defend themselves. Their death rite involves removing the limbs from the deceased and burying the body so that it may fertilize the soil and nourish their crops.

Ravagorn

These vicious warriors believe the only path to survival is by killing their competition—including the undead, monstrosities, and other Tribes. They are the most aggressive of the Great Tribes, often intentionally setting out to kill and harvest anything that may be a threat or provide sustenance. They often find themselves in conflict with scouts and laborers from the Empire of Kartelles, and are largely responsible for the Empire’s negative view of the Great Tribes. Their death rite involves consuming the deceased in order to provide sustenance and energy to Ravagorn warriors.

Magistrae

The ancestors of those who escaped the cities prior to their collapse. While the other tribes were born and raised on the land, the Magistrae utilized their strong connection to magic to manipulate the land in a way that would allow them to survive. They have grown ruthless in the time since the Honeymoon, and believe themselves to be the most powerful among the Tribes. They often repel or charm threats by warping its perception of reality, and often engage in ‘profane’ rituals to summon creatures from the shadows. The Magistrae death rite largely involves intricate rituals which prevent those rising in undeath to act aggressively towards fellow Magistrae, and instead to continue to serve their people, whether it be through work or war.

Necresh

Residing on the border of the Dark Lands, the Necresh is largely made up of those who have half-succumbed to undeath. Led by a council of necromancers and clerics, these individuals’ bodies were rotting until the magic of their leaders prevented it from spreading. Their death rite varies from other Tribes, in the sense that many Necresh never truly die. Many who claim loyalty to Necresh were exiled from other Tribes for refusing to submit to the death rite.

Swordain

The Swordain consists of witful warriors who have made a living by offering protection to other Tribes. Because members of Swordain are often hired by Tribes at war, many tribesmen are often pitted against one another. In order to continue collecting valuable resources from other tribes, the Swordain have become adept at pretending to fight viciously, while allowing their comrades to live. They use deception to survive. The death rite of the Swordain varies depending on where they are and who they are around at any given time—if hired by Verdantia, they will allow the bodies of their fallen to fertilize the soul, whereas if they are hired by Ragavorn, they will allow the bodies of their fallen to be consumed, etc.

Dark Lands

Oh, how can you stand there and accuse me of being evil? My thirst for mortal blood is nothing but a mere expression of my existence! I am the next step in the evolutionary chain, a superior being whose very nature is beyond your feeble understanding.

Do you not realize that you too are a predator? You feast upon the flesh of beasts and other living beings, yet you dare to condemn me for feeding on the life essence of mortals? You are nothing more than a hypocrite.

But we, the vampires, we embrace our nature with pride and dignity. We are not afraid to revel in our superiority, to stand tall as the rulers of this world. We are the ones who have built cities, who have prospered, who have evolved during the Dark Honeymoon.

We even protected your kind, asking for nothing more than a little blood in return. And yet you still judge me, still brand me as a monster.

But mark my words, it is not righteousness that motivates your disgust. It is fear, jealousy, and envy. You see in us the power, the strength, the freedom that you lack. And if given the opportunity, I am certain you would trade your very soul to become a vampire, to stand by my side as an equal.

-Lord Balthazar von Emoros, Higher Vampire

Persephone’s voyage began at the heart of the Dark Lands. This blighted stretch of abandonment and undeath is the spawning point of the chaos that rocked the great empires of the world, and is a location that many undead are called to. Beyond being a haven for vampires, liches, devils, and eldritch entities, the Dark Lands are a patchwork of dangerous territories, each harboring its own threats and mysteries.

Eskael, the Blood Rain Capital, stands as the most civilized bastion within the Dark Lands. Here, Higher Vampires – necromancers who have ascended to power – rule alongside other vampires and necromantic creations. The city’s architecture, crafted from red stone, mimics the human form in homage to the vampires’ lifeblood and to instill dread in potential invaders. Human blood farms are scattered throughout, where unfortunate trespassers are kept to feed the blood-dependent inhabitants. During the Dark Honeymoon, many vampires offered their services and/or protection to humans in exchange for access to their blood. This arrangement was initially accepted, but propaganda origination in the burgeoning Empire of Kartelles soured the human opinion of vampires and cast them out—directly in the Dark Lands. This severance of good faith eradicated any sympathy the majority of vampires felt towards humans.

Beyond the border of Eskael, varied factions each siphon, manipulate and engorge themselves on the Dark Lands resonant energy, much to unknown ends. Multiple cults are said to have established settlements on the outskirts of the Void Planes, a location dotted with pits of abyssal darkness. These occasionally belch black, void-like smoke which chokes all life and brings undead creatures to their knees.

Many of the Old Ruins are now occupied by liches—beings that feed upon energy radiated by the undead that wander the Dark Lands—while Dark Elves move like shadows through twisted forests, striking deals with other denizens or waging their silent wars.

Further still, the desolate Ash Wastes remain as the incinerated rubble of the first battle of the Dark Honeymoon. Hundreds of hectares of scorched earth are dotted with the crumbled corpses of the soldiers who once fought here, and bubbling tar pools formed from the molten armor and weapons of the fallen soldier open and close at seemingly random.

The Wellspring

Wellspring? Ha! You must be joking. Up there, the cold is so bitter that it pierces your bones and seeps into your soul. Your skin will freeze and crack, your breath will turn to ice crystals, and your fingers will blacken and fall off if you’re not prepared.

And if that’s not enough for you, there are also the Yeti, Ice Giants and Blue Elves. The cold, the curses and the monsters are all too much to bear. So don’t be a fool and think that the north is some kind of escape from our troubles here. We are better off facing our challenges where we are than risking everything to explore the icy hell that lies above.

-Iliana Selin, Great Explorer of Ruins

Known as the Wellspring of Demeter’s Sorrow, this land was once cherished by Demeter as her favored sanctuary. It was formerly a vibrant farmland, teeming with life and nourished by her presence. Demeter would walk among its inhabitants, listening to their needs and desires, making the land a bountiful source of sustenance for settlements far and wide during the Age of Yesterday. But when Demeter succumbed to her deep depression, a bitter cold emanated from her, freezing everything around. Yet, in her enduring love for these inhabitants, she imbued upon them a transformation—some sprouted fur as their bodies grew thicker, becoming Yetis that could withstand the cold; some felt their skin hardening and their ears lengthening, becoming Blue Elves with hearing sensitive enough to detect the footfalls of a mouse across the icy expanse; while others felt their bodies turning to ice, becoming creatures that melded seamlessly with the ground itself—Ice Giants.

In the aftermath of this change, much research and debate was aimed at finding a reason for these seemingly arbitrary transformations, giving way to much religious tension and political debate among the factions that reside within the Wellspring.

Yetis are among the most predominant race within the Wellspring. Their settlements are often tucked within the ruins of buildings within the small cities and towns that dotted the farmland, and are small in nature, with only 20-50 inhabitants. These settlements often consist of family units, wherein each member is tasked with taking care of a specific piece of land in preparation for Demeter’s return. While the true number of Yeti settlements is unknown, each settlement adheres to the laws laid out by Demeter’s Chosen. This individual is believed to be the only one who is able to communicate directly with Demeter, and continues to execute her wishes through the work of her people.

Blue Elves are a skittish race that prefer to avoid interactions with both the denizens of the Wellspring, as well as the travelers that occasionally visit the expanse. With a much weaker endurance to the cold when compared to the other races, the Blue Elves chose to inhabit the caves beneath the ice. While having weak eyesight, their hearing is very sensitive, allowing for a near-silent existence, and awareness of who or what stalks their dark corridors.

Those that became Ice Giants chose to live a solitary life, often living alone as opposed to within family groups. They remain as quiet specters, observing the frozen tundra without interfering. They are, however, very territorial, and have been known to assimilate their victim’s bodies into their own.

Frost Dragons are an enigma among the Wellspring—there is no documentation regarding their origins, and very few have left interactions with them alive. Frost Dragons inhabit the tallest mountains within the Wellspring, guarding something largely unknown.

The Burning Sand Sea

The disappearance of Persephone and the abandonment by Demeter was hardly felt by those of the Burning Sand Sea at first. Initially their land consisted of near-endless steppes residing on the edge of the desert. The grass vanished and the sand spread, but the Alabaster River continued to flow. It was only when the banks of the River began to recede did they know that the world had forever shifted.

Settlements within the Burning Sand Sea are few and far between, with only three major cities on record: Dunesk, Nilexus, and Osara. The center point of each city is a massive ziggurat surrounded by smaller structures, constructed to shield inhabitants from the sun while also efficiently venting any heat buildup that may occur within. Exterior paths between buildings are rare, but each is shielded from the sun to allow for ease of passage for those who may need to engage in faster travel outside of normal passageways. Grass and farmlands are plentiful within these cities, though blood occasionally seeps from the soil. Many of these settlements are home to multiple races and cultures, as they are a common migration point for those fleeing the undeath wrought from the Dark Honeymoon. Trade and cultural exchanges happen frequently at these hubs.

The people of the Burning Sea are highly religious, holding their priests and priestesses, the Dunites, to near-godhood. These individuals are hand-selected by the Attendants of the Sand (the government overseeing the settlements of the Burning Sand Sea), often before they reach adolescence. Magical abilities usually emerge when an individual is three to five years old, and if they are able to withstand the tests executed by the Attendants of the Sand, they are chosen to undergo rigorous training to hone their magic and prolong their lives well beyond the normal limit. When their training has been complete, these individuals become Dunites, where they travel to the lowest level of the Ziggurat and bury the majority of their bodies within the sand. Their energy is diverted through the earth to ensure the Alabaster River continues to flow. Those who tend to the Dunites are known as the Grains, and these servants are often worshiped as much as the Dunites are—for their entire lives are devoted to caring for the Dunites.

While instant heat-death occurs only in a small number of locations through the Sand Sea, a common method of execution is to exile the condemned to the harsh conditions of the desert, where they perish within a number of days. Any undead that wander into one of the cities are guided by skilled warriors, known as the Warriors of the Sun, to the covered gardens, where they are then incapacitated and their bodies used to aid the growth of crops.

Thalassa’s Infinite Islands

Thalassa sensed the coming chaos long before the mortals did. Before undeath could reach the coastal settlements, Thalassa used her energy to create an archipelago separate from the mainland and urged her followers to depart. These islands were initially a bountiful refuge, but once supplies and natural resources began to run out, Thalassa started creating near-perfect replicas of the islands across the archipelago. This process, once a miraculous haven for her followers, has deteriorated throughout the centuries since the Dark Honeymoon.

In the current day, islands are constantly emerging from the sea and vanishing in swells of water or eruptions of volcanic rock, forcing Thalassa’s followers to adapt to a nomadic lifestyle. Once, an island would need to be depleted before Thalassa would create a new one, but now the appearance and destruction of the landmasses is arbitrary. The creatures that once appeared on these islands, and the makeup of the islands themselves, were once harmless and only made to be harvested, however, flaws have been copied and twisted, and now many of the islands are distant variations of what they once were, and many of the animals that exist on them are abominations of nature.

While no consistent documentation can be provided regarding the islands, typically five patterns emerge:

  • Volcanic isles, with rugged terrain and active lava flows. Many heat-resistant plants grow in the sparse soil, and many heat-adapted creatures can be found desperately searching for food, including fire-resistant reptiles and ash-colored birds.

  • Floating forests, with marshy terrain and massive trees, connected by thick vines that intertwine in the canopies. Many edible plants can be found on these islands, along with arboreal animals, like gliding mammals.

  • Coral atolls, with shallow, clear water surrounded by coral reefs and sandbars. Colorful coral gardens, flowering plants, and floating algae are found here, along with diverse marine life—however, it is impossible to tell which ones have been created carnivorous or herbivorous.

  • Wind-swept highlands, with elevated, rocky landscapes with steep cliffs and sparse vegetation. Resilient grasses and hardy shrugs cling to the craggy terrain, while large goat-like mammals can be found grazing at the top. The reclamation of these islands into the sea is often the most destructive.
  • Crystalline caverns, with uneven paths that lead deep into the ocean’s depths, with vast amounts of algae and flowering, bioluminescent plants growing on the walls. Coastal birds and crustaceans often flock to these locations.

Three distinct cultures have arisen within the archipelago:

Maridrifters

These expert seafarers have mastered the art of constructing mobile settlements. Their floating villages are patchwork conglomerations of boats and platforms, and are constructed to easily navigate the ever-shifting currents and sometimes treacherous waters. They prefer to remain on the water, and only skilled athletes are allowed to leave the villages to venture onto islands, usually for only a few hours at a time.

Reefborn

These skilled divers and fishermen gravitate towards larger, more stable islands. They utilize materials that can be quickly dismantled to build their homes. They are deeply spiritual, worshiping Thalassa through underwater rituals and offerings made to the sea. They are known for their remarkable ability to hold their breath for extended periods, a trait believed to be a blessing from Thalassa herself.

Tidecallers

These mystics and scholars are largely made up of those either seeking to flee the constant fight against the undead, or those who were drawn to Thalassa’s Infinite Islands through curiosity. They live in seclusion, studying the patterns of island growth and decay from the safety of the shore, rarely ever venturing into the waters themselves.