There are those whose arcane pursuits chase mastery of the manipulation of a given element, or the conjuration of burly beasts or formidable forces, always dabbling in the command and control of something. For the descendants of the Shadehound line, however, true magic comes from the manipulation of nothing. Floating, dreadful silhouettes with long pointed ears and features indistinguishable beyond the light markings of their face, Shadehounds are articulate speakers, though their every breath is carried on a low, rumbling growl. Born only in the hours of the dawning dusk, Shadehounds live and breathe the lightless world, mastering an element absent of illumination in ways few others can ever hope to achieve.
Command of the Nothingness may at first glance seem like an impotent school of magic, but its power becomes evident when you consider how much of the world is untouched by light. Wherever there is light, so long as an object exists within its reach, a shadow will always be cast. A competent Shadehound capitalizes on every patch of darkness, pulling it up from a surface with a gesture and a gutteral command. These patches of shadow can be molded and shaped into whatever suits the Shadehound’s needs, be it a staircase, a fall-breaking cloud or a sharp shady set of spikes. Wherever they wander, and whatever their agenda may be, so long as there’s darkness the Shadehound always has the tools needed to see its given task through to the end.
Stroll along a sandy beach when the sun softly sets behind its backdrop of seaside scenery and you may hear the soothing sounds of a solo set or an ensemble band wail and welcome the night. Sat on a rock or a hunk of driftwood you’ll find between one and ten Shellsongs, depending on how fondly Fortune smiles upon you. Short and stocky, with stubby arms and round little fingers, Shellsongs are a race of seaborne songweavers who live off the coast and come ashore to hash out a harmony and enjoy an improvised intermission between daytime and nightfall. Docile and easy-going, these rhythmic reptiles mean no one any harm, and their reputation as mellow musicians earn them a degree of protection among their fellow sentients- it’s considered poor form by local standards to wish ill upon a Shellsong, and may the pantheons protect anyone who would bring harm to a seaside evening band.
Shellsongs’ first love is their craft, the music. Playing the evening set is their sole drive, it’s what they live and breath and strive for. All other love comes secondary to the music, and while two Shellsongs may find a common flame, it’s often a short fling until they move on. Sometimes an egg is born of this, buried in the sands to incubate and hatch, their young greeted not by parents, but by whatever band might find them. Young Shellsongs are fast to grow, and as they develop they begin to explore the sounds in their souls, and how they can best bring them out to share with the world. Each Shellsong builds his or her own instrument as they grow, some finding the windy whine of a seashell matches their wavelength, while others string taut, dried kelp and let the strings sing on their behalf. Every Shellsong’s song is different, fitting like puzzles with their peers to fill the glowing, fiery sunset with beautiful, calming sounds. There’s never need for rehearsal, just play what’s in your heart!
Beyond the reach of the sweeping hands of time there exists a horde of creatures, possessed of gnashing teeth and thrashing tails, who live apart from our world, but whose appetite is felt as a part of our everyday lives. Those who’ve bridged the gap between space and time to discover these hour-hungry horrors call them Chronovores, and attribute every lost day and forgotten stretch of time to their meddlesome munching. In their perception of reality, time exists as an infinite series of fraying, intersecting and intertwining lengths of cord stretching from one horizon to the other. As such, the Chronovore’s physiology is one of sharp claws and sinewy muscle, the creatures well-adapted to a life of climbing over, leaping from and latching onto metaphysical vines of varying thickness. Their long tails help them maintain balance in a world ever-flowing, but it’s their long teeth that help them really make a mark in our plane.
As the strands of time weave and wind, parts of threads will often fray off into nowhere. Whether these represent potential futures unrealized or progress prematurely terminated, the seers who glimpse beyond the veil still debate to this day. But what’s known by all seeking to study the stream of time is the Chronovores feed voraciously on these faltered futures. Acting as timestream cleaners, Chronovores consume time without a destination, ensuring there’s no clutter among the order of the threads. The reign of rulers deposed or unelected, youthful aspirations long-abandoned and the machinations of the fallen all create these frayed never-woulds within a given strand of time, and it’s the job of the Chronovore to consume them and keep time flowing cleanly. In our world this manifests as anything from forgotten languages and civilizations to forgotten tasks someone was on their way to fulfill. No one remembers the never-will, and we have the Chronovores to thank for it.
Demons and devils hail from planes beyond our own, lands of thumping rock music and burning mountains where the fives are high and they dig for skulls or blow things up and perceive reality in a more dilated capacity than any other known line of creatures, often known to speak with the unseen in ways no other line can replicate. But while the demons who visit our world may be loud, obnoxious, hedonistic and grossly-inarticulate in their use of language, they’re not freeloaders. They have unique talents that they’ll offer for the right price, and many enterprising demons have set up thriving businesses in our plane, none of them loyal to anyone but themselves. And if you’ve ever shipped post or parcel with the carriers in blue, you’ve surely struck a deal with these demons, whether you know it or not. They call themselves “Mailer Daemons”- spelled as such to make them sound fancier. They’re a line of outworlders who have set up shop on our soil, offering “to send whatever ya got wherever ya wants it to go,” committed to a code of conduct unmatched by any other parcel service by “super-duper pinkie swearin’ we won’t look at whatever dumb thing you’re tryin’ to send.”
Local city-states, kingdoms and alliances have their own established postal services, but there’s limitations where they can go and how fast they can get there- if the realm is at war or poor weather befalls a region, your urgent letter will assuredly be delayed or intercepted. Mailer Daemons don’t have this problem since they hold no earthly allegiance except to the customer. Equipped with nimble hooved legs and large wings, a Mailer Daemon can sprint across loose rocky terrain, thin ice and searing sands, and their wings let them sail over mountains, lakes and oceans alike. Their outposts dot the whole of the world, and they’re famous physiques allow them to dart from point to point without pause or interruption, ensuring your parcels get where they need to go as quick as possible. Their services don’t come cheap, though, and it isn’t because their job is hard, no. Mailer Daemons are great at doing what they do best… the only problem is their speed and mobility make them tempting targets for roaming Cannonesses eager to pick one out of the sky from far down range. ”Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the Mailer Daemons from doin’ their job; but those dang sharpshooters with their big fat devil-bullets might slow ‘em down a peg. Just a heads up.”
Meet Necro Ned. He’s the son of two powerful geomancers who grew up in the midland hills and studied earth magic like their parents and their grandparents before them. Ned’s been pushed to study geomancy all his life. He hates it. ”Listen, Nedrick,” his parents would crow, “Geomancy is a noble profession, and as long as you’re living under this roof you’re gonna study the Earthen Arcanum! Your Pepah would be spinning in his self-woven gravechamber if he ever found out you left the family trade to study, what?” Necromancy. Ned was fascinated by the darker, much cooler magical art of the dead. Ever since the Iron Bard came through their humble village to weave his spell of thrashing chords Ned has been transfixed by the rock-and-roll lifestyle of the kids across the river who talk to ghosts and raise bands of skeletons from beneath the earth. What’s Ned ever raised from the earth? A protective wall of dirt and stone? Please, he thought, I might as well just stuff myself into my school-issue lockbox. No. Ned was going to become a necromancer, and he was going to do it by any means necessary. Working his part-time job commanding lawns to mow themselves, Ned saved enough coinage to slip across the river to the next town over and buy as many secondhand tomes of necromancy as he could. He absconded home with the right tools and the proper spell components he saw the cool kids use to summon their spectres and studied his spells in secrecy.
Months of tiny trials and experimentation passed and soon Ned was ready for the big test. Under cover of darkness he’d sneak into the village graveyard and raise a band of buddies to show the whole world and the kids in black what a cool necromancer he was. So he prepped his spells and raised his hands, uttering blasphemous invocations to summon and command the dead. Lightning cracked across a cloudless sky… and nothing happened. Distraught, he tried again. Nothing still. How could this be, Ned thought. I followed the spells to the letter and did everything by the book, how could it end in failure? He choked back tears of despair, his posture slouched, and just then he felt the ground beneath him start to rumble. The earth swelled and cracked, and up from the graveyard soil rose the coolest earthen golem Ned has ever seen! Bristling with tombstones and caskets and filled to the core with awesome bones, Ned didn’t raise the dead from their graves, he raised the graveyard itself! Oh man! It was all he could do to keep from crying, but he wasn’t fighting tears of sorrow this time. His parents were right, he had the heart of a geomancer all along! But more importantly, geomancy was just as cool as any other arcanum, and Ned couldn’t be happier. He hugged his newly-risen friend, his mind racing with excited thoughts- wait’ll the kids across the river see what I can do now! The moral of the story is to be yourself, you’re probably a cool person no matter what your talents are, or something.
There’s magic in the world. It isn’t extremely common to see it harnessed, but that’s part of what makes magic what it is. Scholars and practitioners alike have long studied the origins and innate properties of the arcane, but while their theories all share common themes, each is different enough from the others to bar them all from the domain of scientific fact. We know magic works, but we don’t fully know how or why. That doesn’t keep some of us from using it, however, and of those who can harness this ubiquitous force few have as intimate an understanding of its function as the Circuit Sages. Born of the scorched lightning fields of the northwestern region, Circuit Sages treat the flow of magic as a cousin to the flow of electricity they’ve come to know over countless generations. Draped in thick insulated robes marked with intricate linework, a Circuit Sage’s skin is thick and waxy, giving off no sheen of light or shadow. They speak many tongues but they don’t have lips, so their teeth are always bared and their voices carry on a raspy whisp. Their pupil-less eyes never blink and their physical presence has a perpetual static charge to it- they’re careful to shake hands with prospective clients so as not to give them a shock. Being around a Circuit Sage is slightly disquieting, but the service they offer is worth the price of discomfort.
Circuit Sages do not conjure, form or otherwise manipulate raw magical energy into any desired effect, be they common or uncommonly known. Or in other words Circuit Sages don’t cast spells, and they’ll be upfront in telling you this if you seek their aide. Instead, Circuit Sages read the flow of spells cast by other casters and amplify, redirect, capture and store, dampen, resist or neutralize these altered surges of magical energy using physical gestures, runic tokens or their own bodies’ innate arcane fields. Circuit Sages are masters of spellcasting support and their services have found use in countless disciplines- researchers rely on their aide to control unstable experiments, armies enlist them to enhance the potency of their spellcasters and cities under siege have called on them to help neutralize the effects of those same spellcasters. A Circuit Sage can smell magic in the air and adventuring parties have hired them to explore ancient ruins to help detect and disarm arcane traps, and even those parties who don’t bring a Circuit Sage will often purchase the stored, stolen spells they seal away in small runed stones to be released and re-cast at will. If one can get past their unsettling aura, the Circuit Sages are valuable allies to any group looking to carve out a life from a world teeming with magic.
Power is often fueled by technology. If you have more and you can do more with it, you command much more leverage and influence than if you were without. And under the salty waves of the open sea few cultures hold the reigns of technology as strongly as the Redscale kingdom. Cold-blooded and bipedal, Rescales are a race of fishpersons whose discovery of metal and rubber enabled them to develop unparalleled means of exploration and conquest, allowing them to build a great and sprawling civilization on the sandy shoals of the deep. Subsisting on a diet of non-sentient fish and aquatic vegetation, Redscales are lean and quick, able to zip through the water with ease when they’re not encumbered by burden of bulk. Their king, Lord Bubbleglub the Briny, commands the seat of power in the ornate and gilded castle at the heart of Shellspire, their central city. Built of stone and mortar, Shellspire is a winding maze of old streets and open markets bristling with commerce and activity. Redscale weaponry is built to be hydrodynamic, from their curved swords to their long arrows and harpoons, if a weapon can’t be wielded with ease in the thick atmosphere of the sea it isn’t worth the material it’s made from. Many aquatic races swear by Redscale blades and bows as their rubber-coated parts are easy to grip and their metal bits resist corrosion, on top of slicing through the sea like a baracuda on the hunt. And while merchants and craftsfish barter to sell their tools and trinkets, the real prize of the Redscale kingdom is its unique take on armorsmithing.
They call them Terranauts. Those brave Redscale soldiers, masters of the blade and bow, who answer the call to explore the lands above are intimately familiar with the incredible advancements in Redscale armory. Sacrificing their natural agility for unrivaled protection, Redscale Terranauts learn to move and work while wearing the heaviest of heavy armor, to the point that it’s an extension of their body. Terranauts cannot breathe the air above, so they rely on a series of pressurized seals within their suits of plated mail to provide them a hospitable environment in the world beyond the waves- their water-filled plate also provides them added protection from crushing or bludgeoning blows, since they’re dense with water and not air they’re extra-resistant to non-piercing attacks. Donning a helm of thick crystal-glass, Terranauts are afforded a full view of the world around them- this special glass has been carefully developed over generations to resist cuts and blows, its thick walls and spherical design making it tough to crack. And while these are both impressive technological traits, the real technological feat of the Terranauts’ armor is in the water filtration units installed on their backs, pumping air in to keep their suit of water fresh and breathable. Equipped with the finest of tools the kingdom has to offer, a company of Terranauts is well-equipped to venture beyond the deep on missions of diplomacy, asset-recovery, acquisition of resources or military exercise. And though they’re called Terranauts, their special pressurized armor allows the Redscale kingdom to expand its reaches downward as well as upward, exploring the crushing pressures of the deepest of undersea trenches. Truly there’s no point on this earth beyond the reach of the Redscale kingdom.
Carpenters, blacksmiths, architects and other workers of wood often select different materials for their different desired properties when working on one project or another; whether it’s a softer, more flexible wood or something thick and sturdy, craftspersons will hunt down different strains of lumber to produce their wares. Among the most-coveted is Ironwood, a type of tree occasionally found growing in every biome on the planet. Ironwood is renowned for its metal-like stiffness and wood-like weight, making it an ideal choice for applications where strength is valued but weight can be a detriment, like shipbuilding. Unfortunately, Ironwood is in extremely short supply, as the sturdy trees are slow to grow and even slower to cut down, as their assets as materials make them a troublesome crop to harvest. Some arborists devote their entire trade to the growth and maintenance of this rare stock, and a stack of lumber can fetch a hefty price on the right markets. Ironwood Arborists are as rare as the wood they farm, due not just to the difficulty of raising the trees but of finding a seed to begin a business with, but every grower devoted to the plant is committed fully- feverishly so- each one aspiring to acquire something so unpredictably rare that only one grower every generation or so will ever have the fortune of finding- the Ironwood King.
Ironwood is a robust and durable plant, individual trees found growing anywhere from the balmy tropics to the bitter frozen wastes, but never more than two of the trees have been found together, except around the Ironwood King. It’s growth is marked by the raising of two gnarled hands from the soil, clutching a glowing green crystal, soon to be followed by a thick and mighty trunk bearing a broad and gnarled face shaded by a canopy of thick, windchiming leaves. The Ironwood King’s roots spread deep and wide, making it nearly impossible to uproot and transplant, and around it within two hundred feet a rich and bountiful thicket of Ironwood trees will grow. The Ironwood King sits at the center of this fertile iron crop, often gazing silently into the green crystal believed to give the Ironwood King total omniscience within a mile of its domain. It seldom speaks, but when it does the Ironwood King reports of conditions that could threaten its sturdy crop or of intruders into its domain, making it a valuable asset for any arborist who can earn its trust. Bandit leaders and military rulers of old have been known to build their hideouts around Ironwood Kings, as this worldly omniscience is of immense strategic value. But Ironwood Kings grow so rarely and unpredictably that their existence can’t be planned around, they can only be hoped for. And for Ironwood Arborists looking to maintain a rich crop of ironwood to process and sell on market, the cultivating of an Ironwood King spells the end of their financial troubles forever, and sometimes spells the beginning of whole new troubles yet to come.
The savannas of the south continents are home to many breeds of great and dangerous game, competing and eking out a living in a land where escape from the beating rays of the sun is often hard to find. A place of great biodiversity often means there’s as many things to eat as there are things to eat you, so awareness is of the utmost importance to survival. Some creatures keep a sharp eye for patterns or movement while others can hear the blades of grass curling under another creature’s foot, and others still stay alive by feeling the ground shake or the subtle shifts of the wind; but for the noble Smellephant, no sense is as important as the olfactory for making it through the day. Standing as high as your average cattle, Smellephants don’t enjoy the strength and size commanded by their cousins, and while they do share the thick hide and long tusks needed to ward off an attack- which often comes in packs out in the savanna- its stubby legs don’t carry it very quickly across the plains. Having evolved a pattern of coloration similar to lush subtropical greenery allows the Smellephant to use its smaller size to camouflage into its surroundings, but it’s still a sizable animal bearing a lot of meat- a rich meal that could sustain a pack for a very long time- and it needs something more than tusk and hide to stay alive, and that’s where the Smellephant’s unique survival mechanism comes into play.
Smellephants lives depend on a keen sense of smell, as one would gather from their name. With two long trunks able to move independent of one another, Smellephants can not only grab, lift and manipulate their environment with all the precision of a two-armed biped, they can pick up distinct smells from very far away- their two noses giving them a scent-based depth perception without equal in the kingdom of fauna. But if you thought this alone was the extent of the Smellephant’s survival tools, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s only one half of a greater mechanism that has kept many of these pint-sized pachyderms alive through long and dangerous nights. While the Smellephant relies heavily on its own sense of smell, it depends even more on the olfactory senses of everyone else as well, as the creature’s sweat glands have adapted to recreate the scents of any given creature it can detect and remember itself. If it knows a pack of dogs are afraid of certain big cats and it’s smelled those big cats before, the Smellephant can reproduce the king predator’s scent when it thinks it’s being stalked by hungry hounds. If it wants to hide amidst a crop of flowers it can make itself smell just like those flowers, or ward off curious carnivores by wearing the stink of poisonous plants, or simply blend into a herd not its own by adopting the local scent with its adaptive sweat glands. It’s a rare trait to deal so handily in scentful mimicry, but it’s been a valuable and life-saving asset to these little loxodontas.
Late at night, in any of the city’s seedy bars and pubs, you can drown your troubled thoughts in the din of drunks and drifters sipping their ciders and heady barley. Listen close and you’ll hear men and women boast of impossible exploits or bemoan the callous hand of the law squashing their attempts to pull themselves out of dire straits. And if you’re really attentive and you happen upon the right place at the right time, you may catch bits of rumors and tales of misfortune befalling the rich and well-connected; of bested security, stolen treasures and private outrage of the wealthy who’ve just become that much less wealthier. These tales are told with a glance over the shoulder, mindful of the city watch, and they’re always shared in a hushed voice, and while the details of each exploit may be different, they all share a few things in common: the same one person is waging this moonlit war on the upper class, and the only thing we know about them is the name we gave them ourselves.
We don’t know to what race or creed they hail, where they came from or even if they identify as male, female or otherwise. The victims of these bourgeois burglaries call them a scourge, a scoundrel, a lowlife and a menace to society, but folks in the gutter simply call them the Whisper. Draped in black, the Whisper moves without a sound, slipping through alleys and up gutter pipes like they’re a natural extension of the city itself. If a task requires a tool, the Whisper produces it from their woolen cloak, expertly employing it with precision and grace. Locks fall like autumn leaves to the Whisper’s hands- which move so fast some believe them to have more than two- and gates thought to be immovable fources manage barely a squeak as they vault overtop in pursuit of the irresistible objects protected within. The Whisper is as much a part of the city as the stables and constables’ offices, and the latter have had a devil of a time rooting this tenacious thief out of the woodwork. No one’s certain what motivates the Whisper, though, and while the downtrodden like to believe they act on their behalf, none have ever seen the stolen treasures redistributed to those in need. Some believe the Whisper keeps a cache of priceless valuables, and rumors of such a prize have brought more than a few mercenaries into the city- not out of loyalty to the elite or even the bounty on the Whisper’s head, but solely to find and claim the growing hoard of heirlooms and antiquities for themselves.