The Old World
The Nine Gods of Illiatu have always stood apart from other pantheons. Even prior to the Scourging, no living mortal could remember a time when gods outside the Nine were worshiped. Whether other gods may exist, or may have existed, is an open question – in any case, ever since the Scourging, the Nine have been silent. Some believe their silence to be divine punishment for man’s role in destroying the world, while others suspect that the Scourging was a consequence of some catastrophe befalling the gods themselves. Despite their silence, a small number of worshipers have found real power in the ancient prayers and learned to cast divine spells. Some oracles even claim to speak for them once more.
Common knowledge of the Nine is as follows:
Titles: King of Kings, Perfector of Mortals
Symbol: A crown and scepter
Domains: Law, Good, Glory, Community, Pact, Mysticism
Favored Weapon: Mace
The god of justice, Zabariel exhorts mortals to form societies based on institutionalized compassion. His clerics often serve as impartial judges or collect tithes to feed the hungry. In times of strife, a leader blessed by Zabariel glows with golden light, marked as chosen in order to guide communities to rally together and overcome. Paladins of Zabariel are part of a tradition stretching back thousands of years and are the most implacable enemies of Asuszaz’s legions alive. Zabariel appears as a golden-bearded king in full regalia, illuminating miles around him.
Titles: The Merciful, Lifegiver, Flower of the Heavens
Symbol: A golden rose
Domains: Good, Animal, Plant, Healing, Creation, Purification
Favored Weapon: Whip, net, or any nonlethal weapon
The goddess of beauty, healing, and the benevolent side of nature, Aumvalia is worshiped by healers, good and neutral druids, farmers, and women expecting children. Her temples often resemble gardens of exotic flowers with buildings constructed from still-living wood. Her gentle demeanor has been known to give way to wrath, however, when nature is needlessly despoiled or when her archenemy Sathka devours the innocent. Aumvalia appears as a red-haired nymph clothed in golden roses.
Titles: Heavenly Rebel, Liberator, Bane of Tyrants
Symbol: White wings and a sword
Domains: Chaos, Good, Liberation, Protection, Trickery, Luck
Favored weapon: Longsword
Yshadur is the goddess of freedom and protector of those who cannot protect themselves. She aids rebels aiming to topple tyranny whether by cleverness or force of arms, and her clerics are equally comfortable with sabotage missions and open combat. In times of peace, she watches over society to ensure that violence is only used as a counter to someone else’s violence – though her orders of clerics and paladins still train for the day when an ambitious warlord inevitably attacks the peaceful lands. She is a tireless foe of Kaegroth and her battles with his forces are legendary. Yshadur appears as an armored woman with pure-white hair and feathered wings.
Titles: The Burning Eye, Eternal Watcher, Lightbringer
Symbol: A stylized sun disk with an eye in the center
Domains: Law, Sun, Fire, Travel, Celerity, Oracle
Favored Weapon: Scimitar
The goddess of the sun, Maphiel serves as a patron to travelers as she completes her own daily journey through the sky. She sees all things touched by light of any sort, and so has more oracles than any other deity, with the possible exception of her rival Uthaeotho. None should mistake Maphiel for a friend of mortals, however – like the sun itself, approaching her without the proper preparations can leave one blind or burned. She values obedience to the proper ancient rituals and so a would-be supplicant is well-advised to perform his research ahead of time. Maphiel appears as a three-eyed woman formed from blindingly bright fire.
Titles: The Balance, Keeper of Secrets
Symbol: An eight-sided pyramid inscribed with glyphs
Domains: Air, Earth, Knowledge, Magic, Mind, Summoner
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Some say that Naxuur exists to maintain balance between the other eight gods, between the earth and the sky, and thus within magic itself. It is certainly a god of magic and knowledge, wielding power over the minds of mortals and constantly attended by legions of scribe-like angels, but its motives remain inscrutable. Prayers are offered to Naxuur when the supplicant seeks to recover forgotten knowledge or discover something never before known, as well as when some aspect of life has been pushed out of balance. Naxuur appears as a faceless, androgynous eight-armed figure wrapped in white robes.
Titles: Dweller in the Depths, He Who Remembers
Symbol: A tentacle curled around an hourglass
Domains: Chaos, Water, Cold, Oracle, Travel, Mind
Favored Weapon: Tentacle (or spiked chain for humanoids)
The god of the oceans, Uthaeotho is a strange and alien being who is said to dwell at unimaginable depths, meditating on the lost memories of those who died in darkness. Some apocryphal scriptures claim that he is kin of Asuszaz, but Uthaeotho bears none of the Outer Darkness’s malice towards living creatures. The Dweller in the Depths protects seafarers and occasionally grants his vast reserves of knowledge to an oracle. It is said that every word spoken in darkness – and every thought never spoken – reaches his ears, but that he is blind in the light. This would certainly explain his enmity towards Maphiel. Uthaeotho appears as a mass of tentacles emanating from a whale-like central body.
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Titles: Merciless Judge, Chains of Man, Clenched Fist of Tyranny
Symbol: An armored fist, surrounded by chains, wielding a gavel
Domains: Evil, Law, Domination, Inquisition, War, Force
Favored Weapon: Warhammer
The god of order at any price, Kaegroth is a patron to tyrants but even a good king may offer the occasional prayer during times of war and strife. Kaegroth’s followers recognize that they individually are but cogs in the larger machine of society, and so will accept servitude to a worthy master – but they are equally quick to pounce on a superior who has proven himself incompetent in his position. Armies led by clerics of Kaegroth are terrifyingly efficient forces whose soldiers willingly sacrifice themselves to gain the survivors a tactical advantage. His greatest goal is to defeat Yshadur and crush the common peasant’s hope of revolt. Kaegroth appears as a suit of black full-plate armor with hundreds of chains spilling out of its gaps, clutching an enormous judge’s gavel.
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Titles: The Patient Stalker, Predator of Nations, Nature’s Maw
Symbol: Bloody jaws
Domains: Evil, Animal, Plant, Weather, Pestilence, Strength
Favored Weapon: Bite (or scythe for humanoids)
The cruel goddess of nature, Sathka represents the merciless and predatory aspects of the world. Evil and neutral druids often revere her, and the common folk offer prayers to Sathka when a village must fend off a wolf pack or a plague. Supplicants ask not for protection or mercy – for the Patient Stalker would sense weakness and attack – but for the strength to prove themselves superior to the would-be predators. She considers followers of her enemy Aumvalia to be weak-willed and useful only as prey. Sathka appears as an unusually muscular nymph with a mouth of razor-sharp teeth which she never reveals until it is too late.
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Titles: Voice of Madness, Breaker of Souls, the Outer Darkness
Symbol: Worms surrounding a cracked skull
Domains: Evil, Chaos, Madness, Death, Destruction, Dream
Favored Weapon: Greataxe
The god of madness, mindless slaughter, and the terrifying void between the stars, Asuszaz’s worship was prohibited in the ancient empires, though he found plenty of worshipers among orcs, giants, and nihilists. Besides the defilement and destruction of mortals, Asuszaz’s goals are unknown… though the effects of the Scourging are frighteningly reminiscent of the landscapes from nightmares with which he once plagued mankind. Asuszaz appears as a shadowy, indistinct form in which swim thousands of miniature eyes.
Nations of the Old World
Though few remember them today, six great empires ruled over Illiatu before the Scourging. Trade throughout the southern seas was ruled by Servacal, a land of merchants and coin. To the west, Aurthon and Morgrim squabbled endlessly over the magical forests along their border; to the east, an uneasy peace reigned between the tyrannical Kaegroth-worshipers of Cathotan and the Argent Republic. Between the two great continents stood the vast Wildlands, a deadly realm of jungles, swamps, and deserts ruled by druidic clans.
Details on the lost empires are hazy at best; a small number of surviving maps (see the maps page) give the locations of important cities and major landmarks, but few if any adventurers have returned alive to confirm that these have not been completely destroyed. Only by excavating such sites will the heroes learn the culture, technology, and magic of the ancient world.
One site stands out as particularly important, as it is the origin of three of our heroes:
Long ago, ships from Aurthon discovered a previously unknown subtropical isle to the west, with bountiful water supplies and natural resources. Intending to use it as a stopover port on the journey to Cathotan, the empire sent several ships filled with colonists to settle Cyos. No sooner had the first homesteads been constructed, however, a tremendous storm filled the skies and did not abate until weeks had passed. The skies were now choked with dust, but Cyos was spared most of the effects of the Scourging. The colonists’ few precious ships were sent back to the mainland to discover what horrible fate had befallen the empire, but never returned.
During the first century after the Scourging, Cyos sent three different locally-constructed ships to the mainland, but these repeated the fate of the first armada. Eventually the Cyosians realized the futility of such endeavors and focused on building the island’s population. They retained much of the technology of the old world, including seafaring vessels and both arcane and divine magical traditions. For a time, Cyos prospered.
Now, three hundred and fifty years after the Scourging, three small towns exist on the island. The population has reached the island’s carrying capacity, and worse yet, the already small metal deposits on the island have been completely depleted. There is no choice anymore; another ship must be sent to the mainland to discover exactly what befell the ancients. The elders of Cyos have begun a lottery system to choose these doomed sailors, and have promised prisoners amnesty should they volunteer for this task. Should you choose this origin, you are one of these characters.
Magic in the Scourged World
Among the ashes of ancient empires, a precious few still retain the magical traditions of old. This knowledge is usually passed down from a master to one or two apprentices – any more would strain food supplies to the breaking point – and all too many chains of knowledge are broken by the sudden death of the mentor or his pupils. Even rarer is the brave (or lucky) soul who stumbles across a site of ancient power and escapes alive with its secrets. Some have even claimed to hear the voices of the Nine whispering secrets directly to them, but are usually dismissed as madmen.
All is not well for aspiring mages, however. Demons stalk the landscape, reveling in granting minor powers to mortals they have tempted, only to snatch them away at the worst possible time – usually after the victim’s village has come to believe that the age of the ancient mages is returning. Villages that have been disappointed this way have come to view all magic as the work of demons and occasionally hunt down a true practitioner of the mystic arts.