The Foundation Stones
According to the stories, there was a time when there was peace in all the lands, and everyone lived together in harmony, supported by wondrous miracles of magic.
That time is not this time.
Today, the world could be worse, but it is not the golden age. People die of disease, but there are no world-shattering epidemics. People are killed in battle, but there is no global war. The worst happened already, and civilization survived it and bounced back. The world is rebuilding, resettling, and reclaiming the ancient lands. But who knows what might be hidden out there, beyond the knowledge of civilization?
The Foundation Stones
For a brief history of the world, visit the History and Geography page.
For an introduction to magic in the setting, visit the Magic page.
For the Stones themselves, visit the Foundation Stones page.
For a discussion of potential starting areas, visit the Starting Areas page.
For a more detailed introduction to the setting, read on.
The World of the Foundation Stones
Approximately a thousand years ago, uncontrolled magic ripped through the world, leaving unequaled death and devastation in its wake. Civilization was pushed to the brink of destruction, but held on, and now has a foothold from which to begin reclaiming the world.
This is Eparus, the world of the Foundation Stones. Are you ready to explore the ruins of the old world and discover the secrets buried beneath their ancient stones?
The Adventurer’s Guild Introductory Manual, first written at the founding of the Adventurer’s Guild in the Haven Islands and updated four times since, begins by laying out for adventurers a reminder of the world they have chosen to explore and what their goal in so doing is. It is reproduced here for the players of those adventurers to read as well.
A thousand years ago, there was peace all across the lands. Everyone was healthy, well fed, and the lands were secure from monsters and invasion. Famine, war, and pestilence were known only as legacies of the past; monsters were still told stories of, but it was believed that they had all been exterminated. It was a true golden age. And like all golden ages, it could not last.
Bloody revolution sprang up across the lands. Madmen turned to techniques of lost antiquity in attempts to gain more power. There was death on a scale not known before, not even in the annals of history. In today’s historical texts, this is known as the First Herald. Because as bad as it was, worse was yet to come.
Although some nations successfully defended their sovereignty from revolutionaries, others fell. The new governments of the fallen nations wished to expand their power further; destroying their own country was not enough, they needed to rain destruction across the world. And so began a great war. Before it ended, all of the nations of the world would be drawn into it. This, the Second Herald, was still not yet the worst event of the ending of the golden age.
As the war progressed, nations became desperate. They turned to anything that might allow them to win. Historians regretfully admit that by the end of the war, there was no distinction between those who had fallen to revolutionaries and those that had maintained their original governments. There is disagreement whether those in power simply took an excuse to expand their powers, or if they genuinely felt it was necessary, but in either case, the war grew and devoured their nations until all that was left was the fighting machine. And the war was not yet done with them. Entire nations were destroyed, all of their people slain. No distinction was made between combatants and civilians, for indeed the destroyed nations did not make that distinction themselves. And this serial genocide was the Third Herald.
A clinical discussion, as here, may miss some facts which must now be made note of. Firstly, it is not known exactly how long ago the golden age was or exactly how long the Heralds lasted. Records from that era are spotty at best, although more are being uncovered every day by the tireless efforts of adventurers. Secondly, while the exact duration of the Heralds is unknown, it was no less than one hundred years, and most historians estimate it to be approximately three hundred years. Thirdly, the horrors of war are glossed over. Make no mistake, it was a truly apocalyptic war. The lack of any specific discussion of horrific events should not lead the reader to conclude that those events did not happen.
A curious reader may find themselves wondering, why are these events called Heralds? Given what these events are, what horrible thing could they possibly be serving as a warning of? The answer to that question is the Severing. It is not known what the Severing was, exactly. The most popular theory among historians is that some sort of terrible magical weapon was unleashed in an attempt to end the great wars, but that its effects went beyond what was intended. Its effects are known, however. Prior to the Severing, magic in all its colors and forms worked together as a seamless whole. The fact that that is no longer true is the reason why it is called the Severing; as light split by a prism, the Severing split the forces of magic into the colors and types we know today. (For a more complete discussion of the details of magic, consult a dedicated magical text. For the purposes of this text, it is only necessary to know that what was once whole is now severed.) But if that had been its only effect, the wars would have continued, perhaps with lesser ferocity, but continued nonetheless. The greater effect was in the separation of the types of magic.
Prior to the Severing, magic was simply magic. The Severing created a separation between wild, unformed magic and structured magic. Unfortunately for civilization, it was not immediately known that this was the case. Indeed, the existence of structured magic was not discovered for hundreds of years after the Severing. But again, had this only affected spellcasters, it would have not ended the wars. However, wild magic is not restricted to spellcasters. Storms of pure magical energy raged across the land, with unpredictable effects. Whole tracts of land were ripped up and destroyed. Monsters raged out of the newly created wildernesses. Civilization began to crumble, and might have been destroyed entirely were it not for another new discovery. After the Severing, magic is greatly weakened by running water, especially wild magic. Rivers and coastlines offered a refuge from the chaos and destruction felt all over other continents, and it was on rivers and coastlines that a defense was constructed against the monsters. At first, civilization and defenses were mundane. Reliance on running water to defend locations against wild magic meant that even those friendly magic-users who had learned how to use it were helpless to defend against the monsters; for while a simple stream a foot wide may protect one from sorcery, it offers no defense against an orc. Against these relatively mundane threats, strength of arm and fortitude of will was necessary, and fortunately for us all, civilization was able to rise to the challenge. This period, after the Severing but before the discovery of structured magic, is known as the Ferrovum. Civilization regrouped and held on. However, it was often by the skin of its collective teeth, and records from this era remain spotty as well. The exact length of the Ferrovum is unknown. What we do know is the date it ended; four hundred and eighty-nine years ago as of the time of this writing. The end of the Ferrovum was marked by the construction of the very first Foundation Stone in Belru Astu, and the discovery of structured magic.
A Stone comes in two types; Foundation or Focusing. All of the Foundation Stones (of which there are seven) are housed in Belru Astu, where they were constructed. Astute readers may note that there is the same number of Foundation Stones as there are branches of Foundation magic, and that is not an accident. Each Foundation Stone empowers that branch of magic in the Foundation. Prior to the creation of a particular Foundation Stone, Foundation magic could not produce magic of that type. It has never been tested, but it is assumed that were a Foundation Stone to be destroyed, Foundation magic would lose access to those powers. For obvious reasons, they are kept under very secure guard, with their exact location not announced to the public, nor are inspection tours held. They are the foundation of modern civilization and the source of the Belruel Imperium’s power. Focusing Stones may be found in almost any city, town, or village. The creation of a Foundation Stone is kept a state secret, and it is said that fewer than five people in all the world know how to do such a thing. The creation of set of Focusing Stones is not given to the general public, but the Guildmaster of any Mage’s Guild branch knows it, as indeed he must; the greatest part of his or her responsibility is to create and maintain the stones in those settlements near him. Both types of Stones act as a powerful ward against wild magic. Undirected wild magic (that is, wild magic that is not cast by a sorcerer) cannot penetrate this ward, and a sorcerer’s power is greatly reduced if he is too close to a Stone. In addition, they can empower a mage. Though ordinary mages may not draw on the power of a Stone, those who create and maintain it may draw on its power to assist them in spellcasting. Further, the ward created by a Stone protects a mage from worrying that their spells may backfire or weaken due to area magical conditions, as is always a concern when they are out in the wilderness.
With the assistance of Stones to push back the boundaries of the wilderness, it has been possible for civilization to expand. It is not an easy task, and one that costs the life of many adventurers every year. Expansion has been limited, and contact has yet to be re-established with many distant portions of the world. But every year, the wilderness is pushed back a little more. More monsters are slain, more ruins are discovered, and more is learned about the world that we live in. One day, we may even know what precisely the Severing was. The invaluable assistance of adventurers like you can not be discounted in the reclaiming of what we once had. Many adventurers may go into the business looking to get rich; that is not the right attitude to have. For while it is true that many adventurers become rich, many more die.
No, adventurers are pioneers, explorers, colonists! We are the first wave of civilization, discovering what lies beyond, making more and more of the world safe for those who simply want to live their lives in peace! That is why we do this. What will you discover, what ancient treasures will you unearth, what areas of the world will you make safe for civilization once again? The Guild looks forward to hearing of your exploits.
-Adventurer’s Guild Introductory Manual, Fifth Edition