1012 BC (Before Campaign :-)) – The land is divided between great nations and kingdoms. The civilized “good” races make up the majority of the population, with humans being the most numerous. Magic is abundant, infusing everyday life, and is often taken for granted. Buildings and other structures stretch high into the sky and various forms of transportation exist. Many people are well educated and most can at least read. It is a time when craftsmanship focuses as much on beauty as it does on utility, which can be seen in all things from architecture, to clothing, to implements of war. Entertainment plays an important role in the culture with the arena being one of the most popular forms. Religion plays a fairly passive role, although shallow worship is common. This time in history represents the apex of civilization and life is good.
12 BC – The world, as it existed 12 years prior to the start of the campaign, fits the points of light concept discussed with the introduction of 4th edition. At this time in history, there are no longer great nations ruling vast lands, magic has dwindled, becoming mysterious and special, civilization exists primarily in small settlements, with an occasional town forming the hub for trade in a given region. These “points of light” are separated by vast wilderness that has all but swallowed the remnants of the thriving civilization that came a thousand years before, leaving the occasional hint with a partially buried statue or perhaps the ruins of some formerly great stone structure. As such, little is known of the the earlier civilization or why it collapsed. The wilderness is home to vicious evil humanoids and unknown lurking horrors that prey on the unwary, so extreme care is taken when venturing away from settlements. Most trade is between local settlements and towns, but some trade between distant settlements still exists, however imported goods are typically quite expensive due to high risks. Many people remain in the same settlement their entire life without ever visiting another settlement or straying very far from the safety of the settlement. Education in settlements is limited to basic reading and arithmetic, but in towns, education is a bit better due to the increased availability of books and some towns may even have small libraries. Magic is also very rare in smaller settlements, but is a bit more common in towns. Religion plays an active role in society, especially in small settlements, where worship is primarily to Pelor for agriculture, Moradin for construction and smithing, and Bahamut for protection. Humans still account for the majority of people in towns and surrounding settlements, but some communities are composed primarily of a race other than human. Towns have greater variety of races due to trade. Typically, one can find at least a handful of any given race in a town. Life is hard for most, but pleasure is taken in simple past times, such as patronizing the local tavern after a hard days work, and periodically traveling to town to trade, let loose, and even pick up the occasional bauble.
11 BC – Refugees from surrounding settlements migrate in droves to Shadowvale, a small, but well protected trade town in the shadow of an inactive volcano. Those arriving from different areas recount similar horror stories involving packs of ravenous human-like creatures attacking communities at night, tearing apart animals and people alike and gorging themselves on the flesh of the fallen. These voracious predators are described as wearing the tattered clothing of commoners and appearing human apart from their grayish skin, bulging eyes, and, perhaps most notably, their distended jowls lined with several rows of inch long needle-like teeth. Most that are bitten by one of these horrors and survive the attack appear to have a high likelihood of taking ill within a days time with high fever, beginning a progression that ends with the full transformation into one of these beasts themselves within 3 days from the initial bite. The people are terrified and chaos ensues. The fear that those who survive attacks with bites, scratches, or any kind of wound are afflicted drives mobs to slaughter those in question in the streets, even before any symptom is shown. As the food supply within Shadowvale dwindles, people begin fighting for the remaining scraps. The ravenous monsters throw themselves at the gates of town night after night to get at the feast that lies within. Each night their numbers grow outside the town walls. The arrows have been all but spent. It’s just a matter of time now…
Our first session begins the following night with the “disposable” pregenerated characters. Your real characters are likely children during this time (although there may be exceptions). Some might be refugees, some might be in town with their family for trade, some might live in town. This introduction ends with some refugees (mainly women and children) escaping through a one way portal to a dwarven stronghold, named Oristal, deep within the mountain that had been abandoned and sealed for many hundreds of years due to the mines being spent.
Present – The real campaign picks up 11 years later. Around 800 surviving refugees are now trying to make a go at life in the dwarven city. Many of the refugees that survived the attack on Shadowvale died in Oristal within the first year due to famine and disease as there were little resources available to sustain the population. Still many others died in its defense. On a number of occasions throughout the years, expeditions set off to find a way back to the surface, assumed to be several miles above, but nothing has ever been heard from those that left. The many hundreds of miles of caves, caverns, passages and mines beneath the mountain teem with evil humanoids and unknown horrors. Survival in this hostile environment is a constant battle. Yet, civilization is being rebuilt here in the depths of the mountain and a flicker of hope remains that some day the light of the sun will shine again upon the faces of those that dwell within Oristal – “The Elder Forge”.