This is the write-up of the introduction to my new Savage Worlds Sandbox setting, The Haunted Realm:
Up until ten generations ago, the Bright Kingdoms were a happy, prosperous land, where Human, Elf, and Dwarf lived in peace. Then catastrophe struck. Nobody yet knows exactly what occurred, but something vast and terrible happened. In a single moment every mirror and scrying stone across the realm shattered. One by one the Gods died, and the stars went out and the moon cracked. The clerics went mad, and in the days that followed most of them killed themselves. A plague began to ravage the landand as its victims expired their bodies would rise as Soulless Ones. Demons began infesting the empty shells, while the displaced souls wandered as pathetic ghosts.
Dark fog covered the center of the continent, and out of them strode the invading armies. Creatures out of legend–Orcs, Trolls, Ogres, Dragons, and things even more horrible–began conquering what remained of the Bright Kingdoms, rounding up the survivors and enslaving or eating them. The remaining survivors fled: the Elves into Faery, the Dwarves deep below the mountains, and the Humans to the overseas colonies in the New Kingdoms. The Bright Kingdoms were no more; the survivors now called the land Gastmor, the Haunted Realm.
Although much of the magic and knowledge of the Bright Kingdoms perished, the colonies of the New Kingdoms grew and prospered, and the people began following the Gods of the new realm. At first, they could not rest entirely easily after what happened in the West. The mages of the New Kingdoms would repeatedly try to scry for information about the old country, but catch no more than glimpses of a nightmare land where, without the Gods, nothing natural grew or thrived. Gradually, though, the fear of imminent invasion lessened, and Gastmor and the Bright Kingdoms were, if not forgotten, allowed to become the concern of mages and academics, as well as the handful of Elves and Dwarves that had been cut off from their homelands at the time of the catastrophe.
Then, fifty years ago, the magic that had been shrouding Gastmor began to recede. The mages and the Elves investigated and what they found puzzled them. Where the fog lifted, of the whatever had been commanding the legions of Orcs and other creatures, there was not a trace. Instead there was evidence of tremendous battles, with invading hordes turning on each other, and the resulting slaughter decimating their ranks and reducing them to scattered bands squabbling over the ruins. The Soul Plague had apparently burned itself out completely. The Elvish and Dwarven nations were still hidden behind mighty magical barriers, unreachable by the magics of the New Kingdoms.
Through their oracles, the New Gods indicated it was time to re-settle the Haunted Realm, destroy the remnants of the evil forces, restore the natural order and bring it once more under the sway of the Gods. The New Kingdoms came to an agreement to grant land to those who wished to settle across the sea in Gastmor, to fund the establishment of new temples, and to send their criminals and troublemakers into exile.
The characters will be settlers and explorers of the haunted wilderness. They may be adventurers seeking fame and fortune, religious devotees carrying out the will of the Gods, criminals sentenced to exile, settlers seeking land of their own, researchers probing into the history of the Bright Kingdoms or trying to fathom the catastrophe that destroyed them, and so on.
Play will take place intermittently, when we have too few (or too many) players to have a session of one of the regular campaigns, and at least some will take place online (either via VOIP like Skype, or play-by-post on the bulletin board) so that Doug and Paul can participate despite the new babies. I intend campaign time to flow fairly rapidly between adventures, so that the players will see progress in settling the setting, and if all goes well there will be successive generations of characters (similar to Ars Magica covenant play). Players will control four or five characters, so that they’ll always have one or two free for whatever combination of players are available that session even if a particular party ends a session in the middle of some activity. At least for the first few game years, adventures will begin and end in the only settled town (Losian) on the Eastern shore of the Haunted Realms.