WORLD OF PAELEEN
A Fantasy Setting for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
Paeleen (PAY-leen) is a world in which the forces of magic ebb and flow with the tides of the Three Lights, the moons of the world. The world itself is made up of 6 major continents. Some Ithraen sages claim that the vast underground region should be classified as the 7th “continent”. It is simply referred to as The Fallen World. There are also floating “wooden islands”, inhabited by a strange race of elf-like beings, that travel the seas and oceans.
The primary area that will be focused on so as to not overwhelm the prospective Fantasy Elements DM is going to be the eastern side of the continent of Paeleen. It is the “center of the world”, so to speak. It’s northern areas are sub-arctic, with most lands being temperate, and the far south of the map reaching the tropics. With this range, a DM should have no trouble finding a location to start his campaign.
Origins of Paeleen
Aeon’s ago, a race that called themselves the Culderans lived upon Paeleen. At that time, Paeleen was mostly a wilderness, devoid of any permanent civilizations, cities or towns. The Culderans were a nomadic people, following the herds of deer, caribou, bison, and other game animals on what is now known as Reanarah. As time passed the Culderans population grew, and permanent settlements started to slowly appear in areas where very little travel was needed in order to find food. Agriculture and domestication of wild flightless birds, pigs and cattle started to take root. This was the beginning of the Culderan civilization.
As the centuries passed, the Culderans developed a sophisticated and complex written language that took into account the time of year and general location to certain cities and landmarks, the locations of the two suns, etc. Through the languages esoteric usage, some Culderans were able to actually change the physical world; this was the beginning of Culderan Magic (and where the games current Rune magic gains it’s power, although at a significantly reduced potency). As their language was already a “naturally occurring” magical script, virtually every Culderan could use magic. Indeed, as time went on those that delved more deeply into the magical arts found that their power was virtually limitless.
The Culderan civilization advanced at a phenomenal rate once a more solid understanding of how the gigaverse (the planet they were on, it’s plane and one-billion planes of existence) worked. Magic made everyday life easy; magical hot and cold running water in every home, instantaneous communication between people hundreds of miles away from each other, magical chairs and carpets that carried a rider comfortably all around town, and most importantly, the Gates, were created.
The Gates came in all sizes. Some were the size of a small doorway, and some were colossal in size, where four or five wagons could enter side by side. They resembled stone archways or pillars with glowing magical symbols etched into their surface. Most were large enough to allow a full-sized wagon to enter with room to spare (12’ wide at least, and 15’ in height), some were four or five times that (or more; 60’ wide and 100’ in height), allowing for the huge magically levitating transport barges to enter. The Gates themselves were unmoving themselves, where they connected two points together. Many Gates were built, creating a web of magical, instantaneous transportation between different locations on the continent, and some even to other continents (or even other planets or planes of existance!).
The Grey Mists
Before we get into the rest of the history, a quick mention of The Grey Mists is in order.
The Grey Mists are magical in nature. Knowledge of how they came to be is left a mystery, but two common theories are that either a very powerful deity (or several banding together) created it in order to discourage initial culture clash between the various continents and their peoples, or a cabal of powerful Ithraen spellcasters did to protect themselves from outsiders. The generally accepted theory (at least in the arcane scholarly circles) is that ancient Culderan wizards of unsurpassed power created a spell that would keep those on “their” continent here, and keep others out (specifically, when the Second Uprising came about; see below). Weather or not the gods had a hand in the Culderan wizards magical findings is, again, up for debate. Other less accepted theories abound, however, and the debate is still ongoing in the philosophical, theological and magical institutions.
The Grey Mists do not surround every continent or island. In the past, they may have, but the centuries has degraded them to the point of being almost like roving hurricanes…without the winds. It is virtually impossible to distinguish the difference between the Grey Mists and normal maritime fog without the use of magic. There is one location in the Grey Sea where the largest incident of Grey Mist is found in a stable location. It is easily large enough to cover a medium-sized continent. All scrying attempts and divinations have met with nothing but inpenetrable darkness.
The New Races
Well after the Culderan civilization was established, the race as a whole started to get bored with their lives. Many adventurous Culderans ventured to other planes of existence, and some to other continents on the planet on which Paeleen resided. Several other intelligent races were discovered, although none were anywhere near advanced as the Culderans were. The Culderans decided to bring some of these races to Paeleen so that they could be educated or used as slave labor.
The races that would later be come to known as Ithrean, Khuzlaan, Kudjola, Phan and Trinn, originated from other continents. The Culderans taught these “lesser races” the basics of magic as well as other civilized talents. One thing that was never taught successfully was the Culderan language itself. The other races could grasp basic concepts and simple phrases, but never developed the ability to naturally cast magic through it’s use. The other races were thought to be too primative to be of any use other than basic physical tasks such as construction or for use in armies.
Through the centuries the other races became increasingly knowledgeable about virtually everything, and with that came the seeds of discontent. The new races were treated as second-class citizens, many were owned by Culderans or by a Culderan town or city. Little by little the other races started to rebel against their Culderan masters.
The First Uprising
Eventually, the discontent of the new races reached a breaking point. It started in one small town. The Trinn and Kudjola population refused to work for their “masters” and demanded equal recognition by the towns folk and it’s leaders. The leader of the town took a heavy handed approach and he and his colleges used powerful magic to strike down each and every non-Culderan in the city. Over 500 non-Culderans died a painful death within minutes. This was known as the First Uprising.
The Second Uprising
In a town on the southeastern coast of Reanarah, a coup occurred. Late at night, a group of non-Culderans used simple wizardry to gain entrance into the town leaders compound. In the course of ten minutes the entire family and guards of the leader was slain. In the morning, a full scale rebellion was in progress. The towns guards, who were made up mainly of non-Culderans, turned on their leaders. The slaves of the town fought against their Culderan owners. Sympathizers from other cities and areas used the town Gate to reinforce their rebelious allies and protect them from the magical spell that quelled the First Uprising. In the course of that bloody day, every single Culderan was slain within the town walls. The number of Culderans slain was over 1,100, and the number of non-Culderans slain was over 2,000. Word reached the other city-states quickly. And, like a flame put to dry grass, the uprising spread across the continent.
The War of the Gates
The Culderans knew that the Gates were of primary importance. They Culderans dared not destroy their own work, so they had to control every Gate. The next 5 years saw bloody battle after bloody battle take place to control every Gate across Paeleen. The non-Culderan magic was surprisingly powerful, but not enough to compete one-on-one against Culderan magic. Where the non-Culderan advantage was, was in numbers and expertise at physical combat. The Culderans were not as strong, healthy or agile as their opponents. Centuries of using magic for every little detail in life had weakened their bodies as a race. The Gates could be used by the non-Culderans to bring in supplies and even reinforcements from other continents.
The Culderans were able to gain control of 70% of the Gates. This almost spelled the end of the non-Culderans if it weren’t for one simple, overlooked detail; sailing vessels. Indeed, the Culderans considered travel by crude physical means to be beneath them. Only non-Culderans used such means as horses, camels or boats. The Culderans had no navy, but the non-Culderans had a flotilla of sailing ships, merchant vessels and other waterborne craft. They also were well skilled in the use of mounts of all sorts; flying beasts, mighty lizzards, and the most versitile and adaptable, the horse.
Over the course of one year, the non-Culderans more than doubled their number through the use of boats traveling across the seas to their homelands. When this was discovered the Culderan arch-mages gathered together to create a spell that would stop all physical means of travel outside of the coastal waters between the continents. The result of this effort was (allegedly) the creation of The Grey Mists. Some say The Grey Mists could not have possibly been created by Culderan’s in such a short time; they theorize that some deity or deities nudged the arch-mages research to help them along. Of course, no one knows for sure. The Grey Mists caused anything traveling through them to be turned around at some point, put on a path back to their original entry point or sometimes to some other direction, but always away from the Grey Mists.
The Grey Mists gave the Culderans a bit of time to plan and recover. The next few years saw an uneasy truce between the Culderans and the non-Culderans. Skirmishes and small battles continued, but neither side gaining any significant advantage. The Culderans and non-Culderans were at a stand still.
The Sides of Light and Dark
Several years passed until one day, a Culderan army marched to within sight of a non-Culderan held city. The non-Culderans prepared magical defenses and watched, knowing that the Culderans were about to assault them with magic. As the Culderan army of mages started to chant in unison the sky above turned to black. Streaks of red, yellow and purple lightning cascaded across the clouds and a hot, rancid wind blew across the plains at the base of the nearby mountain range. Suddenly a huge shaft of black smoke erupted from the ground from within the cities walls! Arc’s of flame and lightning leapt from the column of darkness, and inhuman howls echoed from within. The non-Culderans felt fear like they’d never felt before. Seconds later the shaft of black smoke started to expand. At first it was a slow crawl, but quickly started to move outward faster and faster. Before the non-Culderans could react the entire town was engulfed in choking hot smoke. But it wasn’t the smoke that was the true danger, it was what hid with the smoke.
Demons, devils and other nether-planer creatures leapt to and fro, clawing, biting and bashing anything in their sight. Most the size of children, some with the stature of the mightyest of warriors, and a few terrifying behoemeths whose bulk was equal to a house. The terrified non-Culderans tried to flee, but the blackness of the smoke prevented any sort of thoughtful escape. Within minutes every living thing that was in the city was dead.
The Culderans rejoiced at their success…if only for a few minutes. After the demonic horde had finished annihilating everything in the city, they turned their attention to the Culderan mage army. The mages commanded them to return to whence they came, but the horde did not acknowledge them. The Culderans scattered to the winds, some trying to teleport home, others trying to use magic to increase their speed so that they might escape. The demons ripped into Culderan flesh as easily as they had the non-Culderan flesh. In their panic to escape the mage army neglected to close the gate that they had opened.
Assault from the Netherplanes
The Culderans who managed to escape the rampaging hellish horde used the Gates to travel to other towns and cities to warn them of the blunder. It wasn’t fast enough, as the very Gates that had once enabled the Culderan race to expand and build their civilization was the very thing that was to be their doom. It looked like it was going to be the end of their civilization. The demonic creatures poured through the gates. They didn’t care who they encountered, Culderans or not, any flesh was target. The next few hours saw thousands of demons, devils, evil spirits and other nether-beings spill onto and into Paeleen.
Having no choice, the great arch-mages of Culderan cast a “failsafe” spell that disabled the Gates. With the Gates closed, the surviving populace could fight back the onslaught of evil creatures. The original gateway to the netherplanes that the Culderan mage army originally created still was not closed, but the demons had to contend with a large and nigh-impassable mountain range (see the Land of Shades in Reanarah). The gateway’s expansion grew, but at a much slower rate.
The nether-creatures were systematically killed or driven into hiding over the next year. Civilization on Paeleen was holding together by a thread.
With no mortal solution in sight, the Culderans beseeched their deities. As well did the non-Culderans. The gods heard their cries for help. After several weeks of prayer and sacrifice, the gods helped.
The gods decided that the Culderans were largely to blame, but that the non-Culderans should always be reminded of the follies of power. Over the course of one night, all the Culderans living on Paeleen vanished. The demonic gate that had been opened was reduced to a fraction of it’s former power and size. But the land where the demonic gateway was opened was too infested with evil to ever recover, and the gods left it as a permanent reminder of the past mistakes of toying with such powerful magics. That land was to be named the Land of Shades.
The Alfar & Dwarves
With newfound faith, the inhabitants of Paeleen started to rebuild. The most difficult location to reclaim was that which is now known as the Land of Shades. Too many demons had spilled through this area; it was a blight that could not be cleansed by mere mortals. The population at large prayed to the gods yet again, and one answered; The High God.
The High God created the Alfar and the Dwarves to fight the hordes that constantly tried to spill over (or through) the barrier mountains blocking the Land of Shades. These specialized races did an admirable job, but the fight is ongoing to this day. It is only by the combined vigilance of the Dwarves and the Alfar that the forces of evil don’t once again assault Paeleen and the races of men.
It has been over 3,900 years since the disappearance of the Culderans, the introduction of the Alfar and Dwarves (or, Elevari and Dwarvendune in the old tongues). Gods have been born, countries have grown and declined. The reign of the Dead Kings as well as the hey-day of the Scions has come and gone. Yet the ever growing threat of evil haunts the land. The nether-creatures that were driven into hiding long ago still plot and scheme, tempting or threatening the mortal races into doing their bidding, and their horrid offspring lurk in the dark recesses of the world. The great bastion of the Dwarves, Wargate, is still waging a battle against the evil hordes that call the Land of Shades their own, ever seeking to expand across the planes of Renarah and beyond.
The various human races have developed countries, with allies and enemies, and the land is more or less at peace. Still, from the dark holes in which they live, the demons, devils and other nether-creatures are a constant threat to those who travel too far off the beaten path. Recently, adventurers have been finding long lost dungeons, caves, keeps and castles that were used by the ancient Culderan race and the ancestors of the non-Culderan slaves during the wars, the magics which had hidden, trapped or blocked their enterances have ended or waned.
The Gates have mostly been forgotten, with no known settlement being within walking distance of one (when the demonic hordes poured through them, most folk figured it was a bad idea to live too near the gates). However, at least one Gate has been found and it’s location relayed to others. The location of the Gate is known only to a few select individuals, but rumor has it that it is located somewhere along the east side of the Whitecap Mountains. It was still inert, but surely the magic that closed the gates over 3,900 years ago is weakening…
The Fallen World
The Fallen World is the vast underground passages (man, creature, or nature made) that honeycomb the world. It is theorized by many Ithraen sages that one could travel under the oceans and seas to reach any other location on the planet. Of course, this is still just a theory, although many Underground Fol and Earth-Hewn Dwarves claim it is true.
The area’s closest to the surface of the land is called the “Shadow Realm”. Much of the Shadow Realm’s near settlements on the surface are actually inhabited by surface-dwelling races. Vast caverns are home to whole towns and cities, and underground “highways” connect some of them together.
The reaches lower than the most upper ‘levels’ of the Fallen World are collectively known as it’s namesake; The Fallen World. While most of it tends to be naturally occurring caverns, passages and caves, there are a few legendary locations that were built long ago by races of that time. These locations are called the “Urghan’dhor” (“Under World”, in the ancient language of the dwarves). These man (or creature) made dungeons are dangerous and often filled with dead falls, traps and ancient horrors set to guard the dungeons’ secrets.
A “wooden island” is, in actuality, a single tree of immense size. These wooden islands are generally from 3 to 10 kilometers in diameter. The tree (“Isle Tree”) starts off as a normal sapling. Over the next 5 or so years, it grows at a standard rate. However, it then starts to grow “outward” at roughly a 2:1 width-to-height ratio for the next couple of decades, and at an astounding rate. By the end of a few hundred years, an Isle Tree can be seen on the horizon; it’s roughly two kilometers in diameter and 1200’ in height. The tree itself isn’t solid wood though. As it grows “outward”, it is effectively growing out new roots that snake around each other, sometimes with large gaps between them. The tree also starts to ‘move’ itself via growing and destroying roots. It always moves in the shortest direction towards the ocean.
Wooden Islands are considered the sole property of the race of alfar that live on them. These alfar, the Isle Alfar (sometimes Isle Elf), consider it sacrilege for anyone other than them to live on or use one. If an Isle Elf finds some race other than their own living on or otherwise using an Isle Tree, they fly into a rage and are very likely to attack or otherwise remove the offending creature. As of this time, all known Isle Trees are Wooden Islands, each under the control of a “country” of Isle Tree Alfar.
The God-Paths (and The Gates)
A “God-Path” and a “Gate” are magical stone gates that lead from various locations on the planet to other locations (some not necessarily on the planet or plane…). Many of these are dormant or their pass-key has been lost to time.
It is also worth noting that these God Paths are not the same as the ancient Culderans Gates. Based on the same magical technology, the God-Paths are the non-Culderan version and actually may likely even pre-date the Culderans. The end result is the same, however; traveling from one location to another.
Where the Gates are instantaneous (in fact, one can actually ‘see through’ a Gate to the destination location as clear as if they were looking through a doorway) and usually requier a pass-key, the God-Paths require actual physical travel through them. Additionally, the God-Paths almost always requier a pass-key to activate them for travel into (exiting is automatic), whereas a Gate is constantly open or easily activated at the source by reading the inscription carved onto it or near it.
Some God-Paths simply activate when one walks up to them and touches the “open” rune located on the stonework, not reqiering a pass-key. A few God-Paths are constantly open, like a gate, but show nothing but a dark swirly mist .
Most of the God-Paths, or “The Pathways” as the common folk have taken to calling them over the last hundred years or so) are easily recognizable, being stone archways with ancient and powerful runes engraved into their faces. Some gates are very small (4’ height by 2’ wide) and some are very large (30’ height by 17’ wide), while most seem to be made to accommodate a human riding a horse (12’ height by about 8’ wide). There are very few god-paths that are constantly active (that is, they require no pass-key), and simply stepping through the archway will put the person on the path.
A pass-key is usually something relatively easy to carry and either find, make or buy (at least in the area where the God-Path is located). Commonly it is something like a fresh sprig of holly, or a piece of volcanic stone, or possibly an amulet made of a willow branch, woven into some certain pattern, or even a complicated word that encompasses multiple tones, speeds and pitches.
What a god-path does is simply connect one location to another, with a shorter distance. When one steps through a gate, he finds himself in a bleak grey expanse. There is no source of light, yet everything on the path can be seen up to about 100’. It’s like standing on a stone path in a grey haze. Colors and sounds are muted, and the temperature evens out to a constant 15 degrees Celsius. The path itself isn’t made of actual stone, dirt, wood, or whatever they were walking on before they entered the gate, but of “solid fog” that looks, feels and sounds much like stone. The path itself seems to twist and wind its way through the vast grayness of The Pathway.
On the path, no two people will ever meet, even if they enter together holding hands. It seems each person entering creates their own “path”. Animals will not enter a god-path on their own, and if they are forced into one they will get a “path” all to themselves. However, animals that are “in the possession of” someone entering (for example, a horse, a pack mule and a guard dog), will appear with their owner as long as they are within about 15’. They will be very unhappy, and will stay with their owner (never straying more than 10’ away). If an animal strays more than about 10’ away, they tend to get enveloped in the mist, with only their muted cries (quickly silenced) indicating they wandered too far. For this reason, a wise traveler ties his animals close together so that none may ‘wander off’.
People who have used the Pathways often tell of a strange sense of dizziness, almost as if one is intoxicated. Some have pleasant journeys, blissfully unaware of the grey nothingness around them. Some have terrifying ordeals, claiming to hear demonic voices and catching glimpses of evil visages or dead, grasping hands at the corner of their sight. One thing is for certain, it is impossible to voluntarily fall asleep while on a path. If someone is somehow rendered “unconscious” while on a pathway, an uncertain fate awaits them. One tale tells of a drunk woodsman who stumbled upon a god-path. Foolishly he entered, where he ended up passing out. When he came to, he carried on and exited the Pathway; he found himself in a far away land, and about 250 years had passed…time instantly caught up with him, but he did not die. He became cursed to live as the undead, haunting the exited god-path, warning others to stay out of “his” gate or face death at his cold, grey hands.
Most people are afraid of using a God-Path for fear of what could be hiding in the grayness or where they might appear, or even when they might appear. Still, for those who are willing to take the risks and brave the loneliness of the eerie journey, using a god-path can save days, weeks or even months of travel time.
There are only 9 known, stable, key-less god-paths (one can, if they know it, tune the Path to a specific God-Path….most don’t, however (see below)). Of these nine, 7 are found inside various cities; claimed by the country in question. The other 2 are located in desolate places; one opens into a small dead cave somewhere in the Fallen World, the other is a “one way trip” to somewhere. Obviously it is working, as divination’s reveal that the travelers are not dead, but their location can not be divined. None who have entered this gate have ever been seen or heard from again.
A god-path is usually a two-way affair (8 of the known key-less paths are two way). Some god-paths that require a pass key only allow exit or entrance; that is, once you emerge from the other side you can’t go back. Some have two different pass-keys, one for entering on one side, one for entering on the other side. The two biggest differences between a Gate and a God-Path is:
- You can see ‘through’ a Gate to the other side (an active God-Path looks like swirling grey mist), and a Gate goes only to that one specific location.
- A God-Path can be “tuned” to any other God-Path…if the person knows the proper key to his destination. If not, a traveler on a God-Path will arrive at whatever was the last tuned-in exit God-Path.