The world itself has no name, but for the sake of consistency on my part, let's call it Myern. Heh.
The continent that my old players were on was called Hurshen, and their little playground was called Western Melheim. Eastern, Northern, and Southern Melheim were all seperated, but I'll get into that in a second. Distance, relative to maps, etc, was a little off, as the campaign world was meant for flavour and not geographical realism. I'll start off with a history of the world and why things were as they were. Yes, I realize there may be gaping holes in the storyline, but they didn't matter at the time ;)
The (Brief) History of Myern.
A few centuries before, Humans and Elves of powerful cities grew too powerful with their magic. Something happened, a feud, a battle of egos, resource quibbling, no one really knows, but a war erupted between the two races, their magic ripping across the continents and rending the earth and sky. It took divine intervention to stop the chaos. Both humans and elves got holy retribution upon their races, as the gods came down and destroyed all the powerful mages and their cities. The human and elven deities protested at first, but when they realized the world, and potentially their own positions were at stake they acquiesced. Because of this their power has greatly weakened.
The gods who allied to crush human/elven kind were varied: dwarf, halfling, orc (who gladly joined to "righteously" kill elves), and various other demi-human pantheons. Human/Elven magic and magical items were gathered and destroyed, yet there is a constant search for items that crop up still. [If found they are to be delivered to a temple and destroyed. There are also frequent “Mage Hunts”, where suspected wizards are rounded up checked. The end result of “Mage Hunts” depends on the hunting race. Good-usually the mages are registered and/or ‘neutered/gentled’. Mages can be offered a job, or slavery. Both involve the same work, but slavery would mean the cutting of the tongue and one hand to prevent spellcasting. They are put in ‘factories’ where they make useful magic items, such as spellguns. The volunteers would build the weapons and the slaves would write out the scroll ammunition. [Small scrolls rolled into a metal cartridge, put into a shotgun-esque firearm. The scroll is the ‘gunpowder’, used up in the discharge, the casing flies out for re-use]. Evil-they are sacrificed to the gods. /end tangent]
Deities also feared the re-kindling of humanity and elvenkind, so they constructed holy barriers of force between certain regions of the world to prevent widespread movement (i.e. expansion/coordination) for humanity and to contain the more powerful magics of the elves. New mountain ranges were also created, with the force barriers cutting through these, to help the containment. Dwarves, halflings, and orcs were given the task of guarding these borders against Humans/Elves by their deities. Dwarves obey dutifully by essentially being shepherds, firmly but gently the remnants of humanity. Orcs, true to their nature, were brutal warlords and overseers. Slavery is not uncommon in their areas. They are allowed to bring/use these slaves in other areas, as long as they are treated decently. The slave’s conditions are watched over carefully by the other races. The clergy are allowed to buy the freedom of the slaves at a premium. Orcs make most of their currency this way.
During the period of upheaval, as orcs help protect everyone else from the elves and humans, they realized the power of their strength and the power of cooperation thanks to Clerics of Kord, who performed many miracles of strength. The orcs were so impressed they all converted to Kord. He attained Greater God status with the orcs worship. While they still can be cruel, orcs are no longer evil at heart. Gruumsh' power waned and now he longs to slaughter his betraying creations. Gruumsh has turned his attention to the goblins, usurping their usual deities. Halflings guard the forest and plains (along with various other demi-humans) and keep an eye on the elves. They prefer to be nomadic, checking on locations far and wide for trouble. These races can freely roam between the barriers, if given permission by whoever is guarding them. High-level clerics can create gateways between the barriers, thus ensuring goods, skills, and culture to cross the world. However, after all these centuries, gaps are appearing in the barriers….
What have humans elves been up to?
Humans have degenerated into barbarian tribes, some roaming their penned areas, others establishing rough villages. The use of magic is rare and evokes fear, because of the past. Humans wander, and trade, and seem content with their new lifestyle. Their deities have not strongly interfered in their daily affairs. The clerics are almost shamans, but don’t have the strong tie to nature. Only clerics are literate. Sorcerers occur more frequently, since magic is in their blood. Sorcerers usually have their magic enhance their battle prowess.
Humans have also taken to the sea; one whole subset of humanity is a sea-faring folk, living on huge floating towns. They haven’t degenerated into savages, but live on technology and their wits. They are the continent traders, since the force barriers do not extend into the sea, and although they are valued for their ability to trade, they are still monitored.
Elves population numbers are extremely low and they fight a constant battle against all other races. Magic is natural to them, and they continue to study and teach it. Most have gone underground and established small enclaves in the open caves. The creatures below don’t care as much about the demands of the gods. These elves remain much the same, albeit slightly paler. They can come out into the natural sunlight with no penalty. Elves are on the run from most races. They actively pursue magic and want to expand their power again. They occasionally ride across the open world trying to locate lost cities (both elven and human) and loot the magical wealth within. On these rides they are in danger from all sides since their presence is hard to hide. Many hunts have happened during these rides. Elves have become more aggressive and violent because of the apparent genocidal plans of the other races. Elven deities have disappeared from the pantheons since the Cleansing. They were appalled at what happened (even after helping) and also went underground, to help protect their kind.
Filling in the gap of the city populations are the mixed races. During the brief period when some races were allied, lots of inter-breeding went on. Humans who were against their magic-using brethren fought alongside the dwarves and orcs, and their off-spring are the half-orcs and half-dwarves. Half-elves have always been around, though their numbers are less. Because centuries have passed since the wars, the mixed races are not as numerous as they were and now seem almost fully human/dwarven/orcish. Yet they all live together in relative harmony in their cities. Occasionally they breed with full humans, dwarves, etc, and bring in new blood to their lineage
The clergy and their temples often preach against the evils of magic, and the benefits of the divine. Divine potions and other magical items are available, for the right price (and of the proper faith). People are devout, but not fanatics. The mixed races can choose any deity they wish, and do so without undue pressure.
A major threat to everyone is the hordes of magical creatures that roam the continents. These warped monstrosities were brought into being by the power of human and elven magic in ages past. Somehow they have bred and survived, even spawning new kinds of monsters (minotaurs -humans and bulls-, gnolls -humans and dogs-, lizardfolk -humans and lizards-, bugbears -humans and orcs-, etc). The people sometimes go on crusades, with the blessing of all the deities, to eliminate these abominations. They were not created by the gods and thus must be removed.
Since continents and areas within continents are blocked off, people live in relative peace. The primary danger comes from the roaming monstrosities, who always seem to come back. The elves, being underground and free to improve magic, may well become a threat as they slowly gain back power.