Age of Death
Six-hundred years ago the necropolis fell from the sky; debris rained down and devastated entire cities, kingdoms and nations. War between these feeble rogue states erupted, and the people suffered for it. Uncaring, alien elves, enslaved all who crossed their path, forced to work at their pleasure palaces and to serve the whims of their new masters. The dwarves hid from conflict, content to toil away in their great underground cities. Their knowledge gave birth to iron-monstrosities that whined and spewed smoke and steam, fire blazing in their eyes. Humans did as they always had; they fought and killed each other over land, resources, religion, and the right to call themselves lords or kings.
The ancient necropolis, meanwhile, sat dormant, until a band of would-be robbers entered its corrupted halls. Inside they found the Slender Crown, the rotting god from another world. As the adventurer's screams echoed through the chambers of the ancient palace of death, droves of demons, undead, and things far too horrible to name spewed forth into the world.
Now, in the Age of Shadows, a cold mist dominates Ayo'tha. Entire cities wall themselves off within their borders to hide from the terrors that lurk outside once the burning light of Aith'na sinks and darkness consumes the countryside. You are a foolhardy adventurer, you seek your fortunes outside the cities walls. Searching ancient ruins, seeking out artifacts and relics of powers long forgotten. You'll either live long enough to reap the benefits of your exploits and claim power, or die alone in some dark corner of the world. Either way, this is your story.
Birth of Magick
RUINATION OF MAGICK AND RELIGION:
The world is a fragmented, ruined shell of what it once was, and magick is what ensures it stays that way. In ages past, before the Night of Prophecy -- when humankind and the other races of Ayotha were given a chance to meet a sliver of what it was that they had foolishly called their Gods -- the world followed the rules set out for it at its creation. Arcanery, in a very generous sense of implying it existed at all, was only a theoretical, philosophical exercise, conducted in meeting halls and lounges by societies that simply enjoyed dressing their social circles in a different kind of trapping. It did not exist; not merely as the world sees it now, in this broken age of horrors, but at all, and when it did arrive, it did so on the wings of nightmares.
Magick is not some mystical recipe its practitioners follow on a day-to-day basis to casually manipulate the world around them; while it effects very real results in the world around it, these results are consequences of another reality being imposed upon ours and causing the one we live in to shatter, albeit in -- at least hopefully -- a controlled fashion. As far as scattered records can ascertain, the application of this knowledge came at the hands of the humans of Ayotha first, as most of their peers and the other races struggled not just to rebuild but to survive in the lloigor-wracked wasteland that was once a comparatively peaceful, fertile world. After the Night of Prophecy, rumors of uncovered writings which allowed real magick, real power, to be channeled through a dedicated practitioner and out into the world. These writings were collected in an utterly forbidden grimoire that came to be known as the Black Book, a tome with many speculated origins. Some say the Book is a legitimately living, sentient other, an alien and conscious entity with an unknown and sinister purpose. Others say that it exists simultaneously in other times, other places, other worlds, and exists conterminously to spread its influence in the past, present, and future all.
What is incontrovertible, however, is that the following of parsed and translated rituals found in this book or copies of it has wrought unmistakable horror upon the world and those in it. While the Night of Prophecy was responsible for the destruction of cities, towns, and life, the magick found in the Black Book is responsible for the corruption of what remains and what has been built to try and effect repairs upon those shattered remnants. While there is real power to be found in the practice of these rituals, the overwhelming vast majority that even know of the existence of the Black Book are far from willing to pay the cost of not just their sanity, but that of their friends, loved ones, and fellow men. Every so-called spell cast brings the known world closer to a tremulous reality merged with that of wherever the grimoire truly came from, and even among the universally-loathed practitioners, all but the maddest can recognize that that would bode very, very poorly for our world and those living in it.
Most do not know the intricacies of magick, of course, but they know enough and have heard enough of rumors to wish to stamp it out where it exists. People have been strung up and burned, tied and quartered, even tortured to death over days over the mere mention of witchcraft, and this is the case through almost all of actual civilization. There exist, of course, esoteric societies, occasional outposts, even whole races of people who feel differently, but these people are outside their own universally reviled as destroyers and corrupters of the highest order, and they are ruthlessly hunted and slain by those who catch wind of them. Only in the vast, far reaches of the untamed world is this viewpoint ever relaxed, and even then it would still be a poor idea to reveal oneself -- fear is the most powerful motivator of violence.