I tend to shy away from pre-made settings. There are tons of great worlds out there–I love Eberron and Athas, Faerun and Greyhawk are classics, and there are so many more–but I just prefer building my own stuff. It allows me to have a bit more creative control over the game and prevents me from feeling too beholden to existing lore.
I’ve made a few different settings over the years, and over the last year or so I’ve started tinkering with a new one. I haven’t gotten too far with it yet, as I’ve only worked on it in fits and starts, but I have some of the basics down and I thought I’d share them here.
The first thing I wanted to establish about this world (which I’m calling Seliit for the time being) was how the different fantasy races would be represented. I started by dividing them into categories: kind of fey (elves and gnomes); human-ish (humans, dwarves, and halflings); a bit monster-y (orcs and goblins); and animal-people (catfolk, tengu, lizardfolk, etc.). I decided to make these races share similar origins, and that ended up shaping large parts of Seliit and how it functioned.
The Elder Races
The first beings to occupy Seliit were the elder races–the elves prime among them. Gifted with powerful magic from their gods, the elder races reigned over the world for centuries… until a cataclysm struck. Though the exact events have been lost to time, many of the elder races were wiped out, and those that remained–the elves and gnomes–retained only a shadow of their former power.
In the ‘current’ setting, a militaristic elvish empire has arisen seeking to reclaim dominion of the world; though their magic has been weakened by the death of their gods (more on that in a minute), gnomish ingenuity has populated the ranks of the Rehledar Empire with powerful machines that combine technology with the arcane. Of course, the elder races aren’t all bad–there are other elvish and gnomish nations that despair at the dark path their kin have chosen.
In the wake of the disaster that laid the elder races low, new creatures began to emerge: three distinct peoples with a common mythology uniting them. The humans, halflings, and dwarves that began to populate Seliit shared a belief in the Cattori–a pantheon of gods that hammered the different races into shape on an anvil before sending them out into the world. Humans and halflings quickly spread across the surface while dwarves built nations in underground caverns and high mountain peaks.
These days, many humans have renounced worship of the Cattori in favor a single deity called Olthur. Unfortunately, the mighty Church of Olthur has begun to splinter into warring factions due to disagreements about scriptural interpretation. Meanwhile, the largest halfling nation has walled itself off from the world; tired of being caught in other nations’ wars, a halfling hero forged a pact with a powerful genie, intertwining the fates of halfling and djinn. Dwarves are still content to roam the underground, living in close proximity to veins of arkicite–a type of magical crystal–that imbues them with strange powers.
Even as the Cattorites began to emerge, the elder races (still trying to salvage their ruined civilization) were faced with another new threat. On what would become known as the Night of Falling Stars, hundreds of strange, floating ships descended from the sky, and out stepped beings unlike any yet seen on Seliit: orcs. What heralded their arrival was unclear, but it did not take long for war to erupt between the elves and these starborn strangers. In a bid to gain the upper hand, the orcs used their alien technology to alter and re-shape several species of Seliit’s fauna, uplifting the animals into a new species, dubbed goblinkin. However, all was for naught. In a terrifying display of arcane might, the elves initiated a ritual which pulled every starborn ship from the sky. This had two effects that would shape the course of the world for the next millennia: firstly, it stranded the starborn on Seliit; secondly, the terrible power of the spell destroyed the very gods who granted the elder races their magic.
Today, many orcs reside in cities built around the ruins of their ancient ships. Most of these have not worked for an age, but there are a rare few which retain power to a few systems, and through these the orcs have relearned much of their forgotten lore. There are even a few who know the true purpose behind the Night of Falling Stars. As for goblins, they grew to resent their orcish masters, betraying them before the war had even ended. Most are now scattered across the world, making their way alongside the other races, though there is a single nation–Gobhome–that is ruled entirely by goblinkin.
Seliit was formed from the elemental chaos by four powerful primal spirits. Each of these spirits left pieces of themselves behind on the planet in the form of crystallized elemental power called arkicite. There are veins of arkicite all throughout Seliit; none of these contain even a fraction of the power of the four Great Crystals, however. These four massive pieces of arkicite house the essence of the four elementals that crafted the world, and when the starborn arrived, something within them changed. The Great Crystals began to thrum and radiate an odd energy, causing animals in the vicinity to rapidly mutate and evolve. Within the span of a few years, entirely new creatures were born: the wildfolk. Each Crystal gave rise to a particular type of wildfolk. The reptilian scalefolk emerged from the Fire Crystal; avian skyfolk from the Air Crystal; mammalian woodfolk from the Earth Crystal; and piscine seafolk from the Water Crystal.
Wildfolk have a deep connection the planet of Seliit and the Great Crystals themselves. Many are secretive, living in isolated villages away from other races; however, many others are inquisitive and friendly, living among the other peoples of Seliit for their entire lives. What most wildfolk share is a fierce love of their world and a drive to protect the Great Crystals–all of which lie within the borders of wildfolk nations.
And there you have it! Those are the first building blocks of my new world. It’s early days yet, and I’ve got a lot of work and polishing to do before I’m anywhere close to finished. Nothing here is final–heck, this is already the third or so revision of where I started from–but I think things are at least starting to take shape. I hope some of these ideas interested you; if so, let me know! I might post some more information about Seliit as I continue to work on it.