Skies of Escarnum

Welcome to an age of adventure!

This is the land of Alm. Here, humans have only recently arrived after serving as a slave race on the nearby continent of Parosea. Led by their "awakened" guides and with the aid of their allies, the stoic equitarn, humans have fought to earn a place amongst the savage bestial races who rule Alm - but not without generating their own conflicts. In the absence of other organised religions, the zealous Church of the White Staff has arisen, claiming unique revelations and damning "heretic" magic users. The kingdom of Brandeis controls much of the mainland, dogged by those who await their misstep, while the smaller nation of Tenebrae has turned to dark alliances to maintain their position in an escalating war. The city-state of Independence serves as a neutral trade hub where warring kingdoms come to bargain and barter, while the Rogue Isles are a haven for lawbreakers of all stripes.

Around them, the gnolls of Beasthome provide an ever-present threat, always eager to prove their strength and win back territory; the eladrin of Callan'Shae present the appearance of allies, but their courtly games have only their own best interests at heart. From the deserts of Ashar, the jovial abilen align themselves with humans, developing vast trade networks in all civilised lands. The forests of Deepwood reach into the feywild, traversed by clever elves and their strange cousins, while the jungles of Kaath are home to the roguish wu-kan. Jotun fey-trolls roam every wilderness from deep caverns to snowy peaks, while the regal soratami remain aloof and unchanging on their isolated island home.

Map: The continent of Alm
(click to enlarge)

All around, the relics of the past are a reminder of ideas and inventions long-forgotten. Deep below the earth, industrious kobolds explore deep caverns in search of Aethyr artefacts, crafting bizarre gadgets of metal and magic; beneath Independence, the mysterious felbraug instead seek to unravel the secrets of their own souls. And above, airships scour the skyline for the lifeblood that drives these impossible machines: Escarnum.

Skies of Escarnum is a contemporary fantasy setting with a lighthearted, age-of-adventure atmosphere and strong magepunk themes. It draws its style from various fantasy and science-fiction anime and manga, and from countless classic video games (particularly old-school console RPGs). It takes a bold, stylised approach to storytelling, emphasising fun and cinematics over realism.

Ideally, Escarnum attempts to blend fondly-held themes and tropes from two particular styles:

Pulp Heroism: At the core of Escarnum's style is the notion that heroes should be larger than life. Whatever happens, they are the stars of a story before they are pieces in a game; they should always be able to make bad choices and take risks in the name of style or character, and in turn have opportunities to mitigate or escape the consequences. If in doubt, think of narrative before you think of realism; something that is cool is always better than something that is sensible.

Romantic Fantasy: Escarnum is a world designed around modern ideals and sensibilities, even as it is set in a fantasy era. Essentially, the trappings are old-fashioned, but the themes are enlightened. Sexism, racism, homophobia – such prejudices are certainly not absent, but they are portrayed as objectively wrong, the stuff of villains or distinct character flaws. Escarnum furnishes its protagonists with enlightened ideals and sensibilities, then contrasts them with savage and prejudiced opposition.

The Ancient Future

Wherever they go, adventurers in Escarnum can discover strange relics that serve as the legacy of an ancient civilisation, the precursors. Far advanced in their knowledge of both magic and science, the precursors combined both to create incredible items whose secrets are now lost to the world. Most such relics are buried deep beneath the surface of the world, or concentrated on the continent of Aethys, and it was the kobolds who first began to discover and experiment with them.

Many relics are still a mystery to modern races, and more still are long-since broken. However, as engineering and magic advance once more amongst the peoples of Alm, their understanding of these powerful devices also deepens. As adventurers in the age of humanity, your characters have the chance to seek out and recover devices most people only dream about – and maybe even to be amongst the first to discover their true purpose.

Skies of Adventure

Floating far above the surface of the world, mysterious crystals known as Escarnum await those bold enough to claim them. Infused with tremendous arcane energy, Escarnum is the key to powering precursor relics – and developing new devices in their image. The crystals are amongst the most sought-after resources in the world, and various trade cartels wage daily economic wars for the right to harvest and sell them.

Gathering Escarnum, though, is a challenging and costly practice. Funded by enterprising kingdoms or wealthy private interests, crews of daring sailors traverse the skies in whatever vessels they can acquire, hoping to strike upon the mother lode that will bring them fame and fortune. Some dare to seek the Lost Continent, a land mass so rich in Escarnum that its only remaining fragments - the Rogue Isles and the Soratami homeland of Sorairo - now wander the skies as floating islands. Competing with vicious sky pirates and airborne beasts – as well as each other – are your characters willing to brave the Skies of Escarnum?

Escarnum Material

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