The Known World
A once peaceful world faces dark times after the disappearance of a race referred to as The Elders. The magic they created and left behind is slowly fading, the rise of monsters and uncivilized races forces them into smaller and smaller numbers of safe cities.
Much is unknown about the world as a whole. The continent is fairly massive, supporting 4 kingdoms, and a country run by council, though this is little more than a city and a few surrounding villages.
The continent itself is an island with varying climates and geography. Snow is rarely seen but in high mountain passes and the plains of the far north. Varying from cliffs on the shore to foothills 50 leagues from the ocean, a range of mountains rings the west, south, and east, but there are many passes and lowlands through the mountains that are easily traversed. A mass of mountains in the north west house the majority of dwarves and drow. To the north are The Great Plains, home to a bulk of humans. The plains devolve into a desolate desert in the centre of the island. As the mountains roll into foothills, we find halflings and wolflike shifters, The south east is thick forest where the elves have their mighty city in the trees, and some tribal humans settle. Catlike shifters make their home here as well, and the eladrin have a major city further inland, on the plateaus overlooking the forest. Refugees from any race can be found pretty much anywhere, but even before that, people settled more or less wherever they felt was home.
The fastest way to travel across continent is a portal system, but access to this is very limited, due to the danger of failing devices. The next would be dragonback, however it is rare that a dragon would allow any but it’s bonded humanoid to ride it. After that is usually ship, from major port to major port, or the highway system established by the Elders. Ships tend to be fast, light travel/merchant vessels not meant for the open sea, and the troubling times limit the funding for exploratory expeditions.
The lay of individual kingdoms and countries is changing fairly rapidly, smaller villages have been reported raided and taken by groups of orcs, ogres, goblins, etc., their citizens flee to larger towns or cities. The country side is usually patrolled by town watch, or the army of the country, to keep as much of the farmland safe as possible. Soldiers bearing the proper tabard, and trustworthy bands of adventurers, are often welcome to stay the night in farmsteads.
Spires of Elder design can be found across the land, divided in to major and minor variations. Major spires typically have access to the portal network. There are eight known major spires, but the number of minor spires is something of debate. The spires used to be home to Elder, but usually very few, even in the major spires. Only the very brave, or very foolish venture into a spire. Magical traps, strange creatures, and other dangers are rumored to plague the spires.