Terror of Nagash
Magic is everyday, but it isn’t simple: Magic isn’t rare. Most people see a little bit of it everyday: the local healer, the farm-mage, the fortune teller, a village’s ever-flowing fountain or the magical town clock. Magic wielders are as common as craftsmen or blacksmiths, but neither of these are trivial skills. Like craftsmen, there are the truly skilled wielders and the mediocre masses. Likewise, magical items are not uncommon, although they are usually a quirky family heirloom at best. Powerful wizards and powerful magical items are both far from commonplace.
The world is ancient: History stretches back farther than any mortal understands. And yet, over all of this time, little has changed. Technologies have been discovered and then lost. Empires have risen and fallen. Throughout the world, ruins are built on top of older ruins. Conflict, time and natural forces eventually claim all great empires. Ancient civilizations and empires survive in legends, powerful magical artefacts, and the ruins they leave behind.
Monsters are everywhere: Most monsters of the world are as natural as bears and horses. Many beast-like monsters are used as mounts, pets and pack animals. The wilds are dangerous places, filled with fearsome beasts and bands of roving bandits, all trying to survive in a harsh world. Although most creatures originate from the natural world (Nature skill), there are those that are drawn from other planes such as the Feywild, the Shadowfell and the Elemental Chaos (Arcana skill). There are also aberrant creations that seem to defy all natural laws of the universe (Dungeoneering skill).
Evil races also have empires: Many of the world’s races are classed as “evil” or “uncivilized”. This does not mean that they are unintelligent or unorganized. Like their “good” counterparts, these evil races also need to unite together for protection and power. In fact, the world’s crueller races also form empires, united by a common cause, a powerful leader, or powers beyond their control. Like the civilized races, these evil empires are not always made up of a single people. Often, different evil races band together. So be wary! Although you may encounter a wild band of unorganized marauders, they may also be the vanguard of a power-hungry empire!
The good races usually band together: The character races listed in the Player’s Handbook are commonly referred to as the “good” races. Of course, not all men or elves are necessarily good, but the constant threat of monsters and evil races often unites these races against the common enemy. There may be racism and prejudice between such obviously different peoples, but when the howling hordes are at the gates, differences are quickly forgotten and alliances formed.
Adventurers are exceptional: Player characters are the explorers, protectors and heroes of the world. They are dramatically more powerful than most non-player characters and destined for greatness. The character classes from the Player’s Handbook are used for extraordinary individuals. Just because an NPC can wield a sword or shoot a bow does not make them a fighter or a ranger. An NPC in the town guard is simply a soldier, not a fighter. An NPC might be an old, grizzled veteran of countless battles and still not be a 3rd level fighter.
Gods are real: Gods exist, though most of them maintain a distance and detachment from the everyday happenings of the natural world. Avatars and angels appear in the world on behalf of their gods, and promote the agendas of the gods they serve. Gods are extremely powerful compared to mortals and monsters, but they are not all-knowing or indestructible. In rare times, new gods ascend and other gods are vanquished as part of the constant war in heaven, a mirror of the conflict played out in the natural world.
Religion is powerful: Religion is a powerful force for all of the races. However, the idea of “faith” takes on a very different meaning in this world, since gods are active and provide clear evidence of their existence. Religion is more commonly practiced out of fear of reprisal, a common ideal, or a desire for deliverance. Clerics, paladins and their followers pray to the gods, seeking access to divine power in order to further their spiritual ends in the world. However, these divine powers are a gift of the gods, and can be taken away if the follower no longer follows the divine doctrine.