al Tahrenor is a pseudo-modern world where technology is primitive and has been superseded by the practice of magic. Thar Shaddin is a semi-autonomous state on Pal Tahrenor consisting of the small city of Marn and the even smaller town of Shim. It is a dreary, isolated little place on a world worth hiding from; where magic is outlawed and the military rules.
The world of Pal Tahrenor exists as a parallel Earth which was irreversibly transformed by the introduction of magic some 3000 years ago. Another plane of reality, the astral plane, was discovered as the source of this power. What began as a slow, innocuous discovery snowballed into a force so powerful it led to a massive war which became known as the Changers' War after the demi-gods who were largely responsible.
The Changers' War twisted and transformed the world and its inhabitants, bringing forth a plethora of creatures which previously only existed in myths and imagination. The war climaxed in such chaos that few historical accounts agree on what exactly happened. The Changers vanished or were killed and an anti-magic barrier, known as the seal, was created to inhibit magical forces by separating the astral and material planes. A new calendar was created at the same time as the seal, counting down from the year 2207. There is just over a century left until this calendar reaches 0. The common interpretation of this calendar is that it points to the collapse of the seal, though there are many theories.
After the war came a long dark age, followed by a period of slow rediscovery. In Europe and Asia, human empires re-established themselves and began warring once more. Many other places such as the Americas have remained in the hands of other creatures, often too far twisted by magic to ever be populated by a civilized culture again.
Magic continued to be practiced by humans and the creatures they have generally learned to coexist with. Although the seal prevents magic on the scale of the Changers' War, people are still able to tap into the astral plane and use it to manipulate reality. Minor mages are commonplace in the civilized empires - useful for a variety of tasks involving things like medicine, travel, engineering, construction and warfare. These would have otherwise been performed by specialists, and as a result the people of Pal Tahrenor have developed little in terms of science and technology and have become trapped in a nearly feudal, pseudo-medieval landscape.
Between the great Eastern and Western human empires is a vast stretch of desolate wasteland known as the Sooqui plain. The Sooqui plain has seen many passing armies and been the stage of great battles between the empires in the past, but has seen little in terms of humanoid inhabitants. The plain is broken up into rough geographical regions known as thars, and one such thar, known as Shaddin, is the setting of our story.
Thar Shaddin, Marn and Shim
Located in what we would call eastern Europe, the region of Thar Shaddin is a dark, unfriendly, and unforgiving place. Isolated by miles of the harsh Sooqui plain, it is a monotonous landscape broken only by low growing shrubs and grasses. The only notable natural feature of Thar Shaddin is the Ofriyu Mar river which cuts a southward path through the center of the thar, along which grow all kinds of flora. Various animals and humanoids live on the plain but they are few and far between. Most are anything but friendly. The only civilized populations in Thar Shaddin live in two places: the city of Marn and the town of Shim. Marn and Shim are located near the center of Thar Shaddin along the Ofriyu Mar and are connected by a single road which crosses the river. This road extends East and West into neighboring regions.
The city of Marn is the heart of Thar Shaddin. With only about 20,000 people, Marn is not a large city by modern standards, but it is home to a powerful authoritarian government that strictly controls the use of magic with penalties of torture and death for those who break their laws. Marn does have many of the amenities of a modern city, including running water and some electricity provided by mainly gnomish technology. The downtown area is busy and has enough distractions, from brothels and taverns to fancy shops, to keep the people occupied. The citizens are cut off from the rest of the world, living in fear and oppressive rule under a government they both love and hate. Some have magical powers which they hide and practice in seclusion, but many others have a religious, almost zealous respect for the government and their ways and would never think of breaking laws regarding magic even if they could. It is not illegal to have magical powers, else creatures with innate magical abilities like faeries would never be allowed inside, but it is illegal to use magic of any kind unless one has obtained permission to do so by the government. Destructive magic used in combat almost surely carries a penalty of death, while lesser infractions carry fines, prison time and torturous interrogation.
The population is more than half human, followed by a mix of elves and half-elves. All kinds of other species live in the city as well. Tolerated as long as they obey the strict laws, they are generally treated as second class citizens because of their magical "impurities". The local culture is militaristic and holds the City Guard in high regard. Being a guardsman is an esteemed position, full of huge physical risks and great social rewards. The City Guard is a powerful force, and the average guardsman is skilled, tough, and brutal in combat.
The government is mysterious and cabalistic but maintains a democratic facade. There is a mayor who is elected but has little real authority. The Judges of Religious, Cultural and Ethical enforcement appear to have the most power in the city although they are appointed through a complicated bureaucratic system involving a number of other highly ranked city officials. These judges try and convict anyone accused of major crimes, specifically those involving magic. The only people in Marn allowed to use combat magic, the Battlemages, answer directly to the Judges alone. Although use of magic is frowned upon, the Battlemages are considered a necessity to deal with magical threats to the city. The more religious members of society often view battlemages as men who have sacrificed their purity for the good of the city. They are granted near unlimited freedom to enforce the law as they see fit, and they have a much deserved reputation of cruelty and power.
East of Marn, across the Ofriyu Mar, is the small town of Shim. There is not much to be seen in Shim but old farms, a cemetery, and a quiet manor situated atop a hill overlooking it all. The owner of the manor is a rarely seen man, only known as Belatucadrus, who locals will tell you is a vampire. There is a single Inn, The Red Chalice, which sees the occasional traveler who prefers not to spend the night in Marn.