Disclaimer: This guide to the setting of Sundering Shadows is a WIP. Please contact Kismet via discord or in-game mail if you have comments, questions, or thoughts!
Sundering Shadows is a high magic, low-tech dark fantasy setting. While originally based on the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms setting, it is now a highly unique world with its own lore, history, pantheon, and geography. In this guide, we will cover important aspects of the setting and mention things that every character living in our world would know and be impacted by.
Sundering Shadows is a dark and gritty world where monsters are very much real and roaming the lands. Everyday life is tough, and it takes grit and determination to carve a life for yourself in the harsh environment. Most civilized races gather in cities or villages to defend themselves against the forces of darkness – or in some cases against the forces of light. The recent decades have been filled with tribulations, beginning with the total upheaval of the former pantheon, and culminating in the rise of two primordial goddesses over a decade later. In the meantime, the world has been plagued with three elemental storms and over a year of total darkness following the awakening of Ashra. In the aftermath of these wars, the world lost half of its total population and those who survived all have a story to tell about these troubled times.
In this atmosphere, adventurers are both the heroes and villains of the world. Revered by some, hated by others, those that survive to reach the pinnacle of mortal power often become the movers and shakers of our world – for better or for worse.
Sundering Shadows has a large established world and an even larger continent that is not yet coded. These maps of the mainland and the known islands show you the most important regions in the coded world.
Generally speaking, a Kingdom's jurisdiction reaches a few miles outside the walls of its main city, up to the last farm that pays their allegiances to it. The roads are considered somewhat safe for travelers, but bandits have been known to frequent the main trade routes. The forests, hills, and mountains, however, are riddled with beasts and should be explored with care. A city is unlikely to investigate a crime committed outside its area of influence unless the victim is of some importance to the authorities. Normally, such investigations fall to temples and other organizations.
The rules within each city vary, but most will have a sign set up at their main gates listing the important ones. Among the actions most commonly considered crimes are: Murder, assault, thievery, property damage, using offensive and/or dangerous magic, wielding weapons and displaying tools most often associated with thieves (lockpicks, etc.), and assuming a dangerous form, such as a dragon, wolf, bear, weretiger, etc.
Note that most of these crimes aren't hard-coded. Unless an actual fight occurs, your avatars won't know you've broken the law. We ask you to consider the setting and your character when entering a city and think logically about things. Your character may not care about the law, but how would the guards react if a werewolf with whirling swords surrounding it suddenly stalked into town wielding twin battleaxes? Would they attack? Ask it to leave? Runaway? Likewise, if you see someone doing this, react accordingly to help increase immersion. If an avatar is available, you could use the <thought> command to let us know if you see something that the world should react to.
Magic is an abundant and living force in the world. While mastering it takes talent, dedication, and/or practice, it is common enough to play a role in day-to-day life. City lights are powered by magic, city guards have magical equipment, and entertainers use it to bedazzle and impress. Cities employ healers, wizards, and telepaths to aid both citizens and visitors. There are mage and psionic guilds in many major cities, as well as magic portals (also known as nomadic portals) that connect allied cities.
Religion is an important part of everyday life in the world. Every city has one or more churches where people can seek aid, guidance, and enlightenment. Priests are often called upon to help with childbirths, injuries, illnesses, and funeral rites. Religion is very much real in the world of Sundering Shadows. Deities exist beyond doubt, clerics wield the divine power of their patrons and even a commoner may pray and have their wishes heard by their chosen god. It is just as common to pray to many gods as it is to pray to one, and very few individuals pray to none.
Given this reliance on magic, the advancement of technology has been slow, and in most cases, technology has a magic component. Examples of this include running water, clockwork toys and one known early-model version of a spelljammer. The recent decade has seen the rapid progression of technology, with the introduction of pistols and more advanced clockwork/steam-powered engines. As such, the pre-industrial era of the late 1600s is a good real-world frame of reference.
The history of Sundering Shadows is marked by the many brave adventurers and villains who have inhabited it through the years. It is riddled with war, dragons, demons, allegiances, gods, destruction, and renewal. The faith of the world has hung in the balance many times, but the forces of good have always prevailed. Thus far.
In recent years, a few events have had such world-reaching consequences that they would be widely known. The Long Night of 751 SG was particularly hard, and it is estimated that half the world's population perished. Nobody lived through these decades unscathed. How did they affect your character and their family?
The Darkwood and Dagger regions are plagued by seasons of abnormal weather, which would later be known as the First Elemental Storm. An excruciatingly hot summer gives way to winter so cold it freezes even the vast Shadow desert and the seashore beyond. Food is in short supply and the situation becomes desperate. An entity known as Ryorik is rumored to be the cause of the storm. The weather becomes increasingly more unstable until one night, the storms are silenced by the song of a bard and a wedding, known as Ryorik's Wedding.
Kismet, ancient goddess of knowledge, breaks free of her imprisonment in the Shadow Gate, and in her rage throws all other deities down to earth. The deities, stripped of their divinity, gather their faithful and many battles are fought. The old gods die or disappear, giving rise to the current pantheon. It is known as the Silence, for during this time all prayers go unanswered, and the clerics of the realm have no power.
With the elemental gods lost, the elements themselves are thrown into imbalance. Yet another season of unstable weather plagues the already famished lands, killing many and leading even more into despair. Entities from the elemental planes attempt to use this opportunity to claim dominion over the mortal realm. The entity known as Ryorik ends their plans and takes his place as the new Elemental God.
Following the famish of the elemental storms and the upheaval of the pantheon, the coming decade is marked by grief and trouble. Mortals struggle to come to terms with the loss of their old gods, while the new gods compete to prove their place in the pantheon. Some fail and are lost to history, while others rise to claim their place. Crime is rampant across the realm. Villains thrive and the heroes of light strive to keep their lantern lit in an ever-darker world. Towards the end of the decade, the Prophecy of Light and Night resurfaces and rumors spread of a coming evil the likes of which the world has never seen.
As the darkness grows beneath the realm, Ryorik suddenly vanishes, casting the world into a third elemental storm. On Springtime 1st, 751 SG, a hole of pure darkness erupts outside the gates of Antioch and destroys most of the city. The darkness shoots up to the sky and covers all the lands in eternal night. Ashra, The Primordial Evil, has awakened.
Despair spreads across the land during what will be known as The Long Night. Crops wilt from lack of sunlight or drown in freak storms, reservoirs succumb to rot or sudden wildfires. Monsters, either emboldened by Ashra or merely desperate for food, ravage the countryside, burning farms and eating people. The last farms and villages are abandoned when humans and their allies flock to the cities for shelter. They are met with sickness, hunger, cold and closed doors.
It is estimated that as much as half of the world’s population die during this period.
On Autumnstime 8th, 751 SG, four artifacts known as The Elemental Hearts are united at the base of the World Tree. Their combined power tames the elemental storm and awakens Edea, Celestial Light. She rises to battle her dark sister Ashra and her presence ends the eternal light, restoring the balance of night and day. The deities Seija and Khyron are born.
The tribulations are not done however, as shown by our timeline of recent events. For those wishing to delve deeper into these events, books on the Silence and the Long Night can be found in Shadow Library.
There are many languages spoken in the world and most races have their own tongue. The human tongue, known simply as common, is the most widely spoken language and is used by traders on the surface. Undercommon, by contrast, is a language spoken by many that trade in the Underdark and/or in criminal circles. Some races, particularly elves, dwarves, and fey, are hesitant to teach their language to other races, preferring to learn common instead.
Note that humans all speak common, though there may be regional differences in speech patterns and expressions.
When roleplaying, please refrain from using modern abbreviations (such as lol, brb, idk, etc.) and words/idioms that would not make sense in a fantasy setting (“big as a truck”, “Christ almighty”, etc.) Consider using world specific idioms instead, such as “big as a minotaur”, “messy as a goblin's nest”, “by the Weaver's Wrath”, etc. Besides that, the language used on Sundering Shadows is contemporary English.
When referring to game mechanics, such as character levels, spell levels, weapon enchantments, and exp for instance, we ask that you use terms a character would relate to, instead of the OOC terms. Sometimes, this means we have to speak in a roundabout way to express ourselves.
Experience points (exp) is an out-of-character term (OOC). It can represent the amount of training it takes to learn a new ability (feat or stat point). It can also represent the relative strength of your soul and/or mind.
Spell levels and character levels (CL) are OOC terms that represent your character's general power as opposed to others. Instead of asking someone their level, you could ask them which monsters they fight or what areas they normally adventure in. Spells can normally be divided into minor spells (0-2), average spells (3-5), and strong spells (6-9) or similar. Spell levels have also been referred to as circles: A 1st level spell can be a spell of the first circle.
Similarly, a + 5 axe can be referred to as “an axe enchanted 5 times” or “a powerful axe” and a + 2 strength bonus can be referred to as “an axe that increases your strength by a small degree”.
Note that Sundering Shadows still uses the term “race” from traditional D&D to distinguish between different types of creatures, but the scientific term species would be more accurate: Races on Sundering Shadows refer to different intelligent species that share a set of biological attributes and characteristics, as well as a cultural bond.
Racism abounds in the world of Sundering Shadows. Your race determines your strengths, weaknesses, and in many cases your demeanor and potential allies/enemies. Racial enmity is as old as creation, and it runs deep. Elves abhor orcs and drow, gnomes have a special hatred for goblins, and vice versa of course. Traditional fantasy tropes apply: Dwarves and elves are suspicious of each other but can collaborate, halflings have a tendency towards kindness and thievery, gnomes are mechanically inclined, orcs and goblins are savage, and trolls are generally dumb and like to hit people with clubs.
Some animosity exists between the human ethnicities, stemming from past events. Tonovi and Antioch are in opposition, for instance, and the Morinnen and Maalish tribes have long been at odds. Additionally, half-breeds (half-elf, half-orc, etc.) and planetouched (tiefling, aasimar, genasi) are often viewed with suspicion, contempt, and/or pity. Anyone carrying the taint of an evil outsider, such as tieflings, find it hard to compete with their innate evil nature, thus giving life to the legend that all tieflings are bad.
Racism in the world of Sundering Shadows is structural and systematic: Beast races are banned from most civilized cities and Tonovi considers any race not human or drow as beneath them. If a crime is committed in a village, the tiefling or kitsune passing by is easily accused. In most cases, racism in this world is also a well-founded and important survival strategy: In a world where your race often determines your alignment and outlook, it is considered naïve to believe that an ogre can be anything but a man-eating monster that needs to be put down before you become its next meal.
It is important to differentiate between the game and the real world. The Sundering Shadows community is open to people of all ethnicities and real-life racism in any form is not allowed or supported. Similarly, real-life racial slurs have no place in a fantasy setting.
Equality varies greatly from region to region, and between races. In most human cities, people of all genders are considered equal under the law, but traditional gender roles often apply: There are more male blacksmiths and female tailors, for instance. The kingdoms of Tabor and Antioch have male-only monarchs, while the Duchy of Tonovi has a long tradition of female rulers. Drow society has long been ruled by women, but the system is threatened by the death of their former goddess.
In human lands, nonbinary and openly trans people are uncommon, but not unheard of. They may be met with curiosity or plain bigotry by some and accepted without question by others. Conservative cities such as Tonovi and Antioch are less accepting of nonbinary people than the more liberal states of Shadow and Seneca. The savage races value strength above all, and actual gender rarely matters, with the exception of goblinoids which enslave their women. Elves and dwarves rarely concern themselves with traditional gender roles, which may well have influenced human opinion. Magic potions that change someone's gender exists, but are quite rare and expensive.
Jarmila, the Goddess of Love, does not discriminate based on sexual preferences, nor do most legal systems in the realm. There are factions that may disagree, but the world at large sees homosexuality (and similar) as natural.
Note that there is no LGBTQ+ movement in the realm of Sundering Shadows, just as there is no organized feminist movement. Many modern terms would make no sense in the setting.
Again, it is important to differentiate between the game and the real world. Characters (both PC's and NPC's) may possess and express hurtful and bigoted opinions in-game. The Sundering Shadows community is open and friendly towards people of all genders and preferences, and any real-life discrimination is not allowed or supported.