I’ve been playing with Stellagama Publishing’s Sword of Cepheus fantasy RPG. I wanted to make my own setting to try it out in, so this is what I’ve come up with:
A vast demilitarized frontier between two antique and dying empires.
All of known human history is the war between the Empire Immemorial and the Supremacy of Sleep. The origins of the conflict are lost in deep time, but the war itself raged for thousands of years. Vast armies, strange technologies, and colossal sorceries were unleashed. Untold numbers of people, cities, and entire countries were annihilated in the endless carnage.
The war gradually dwindled over the millennia. The last battle took place centuries ago. No formal peace was ever declared, but the Empire gradually congealed into decadence, while the Supremacy retreated into quietude and mystery. There has been no contact between the empires since the war.
The land between the empires, where almost all the battles took place is commonly known as the Dispute.
Entering the Dispute has been forbidden, punishable by torture and death. The Dispute is lawless, unpatrolled by any empire. It is rumored to be strewn with forgotten battlefields, tombs, and ancient technologies.
As the Empire declines, people, either desperate or greedy, are beginning to slip past the Barrier separating the Dispute from the Empire, in search of treasure, land to settle, or forbidden knowledge.
The Empire Immemorial
Over the years, the Empire has slowly declined. The once-vast corpus of science and sorcery has been gradually forgotten. All of its institutions are hollowed-out shells of what they once were. Glittering ornate facades over a empty, rotten foundation.
It is ruled by the Emperor, who is sealed with his staff in the Tranquil Throne, the ancient domed city-palace of the Empire. No one has entered or exited the city in centuries. The emperors increasingly infrequent orders and communiques are sent by messenger ravens to the generals and government officials that run what is left of the vast Imperial bureaucracy.
The current Emperor is Ezelon CCCLXXXV, who ascended to the Tranquil Throne over 100 years ago. Other than his (or her?) name, nothing is known of the Emperor.
The Legion Unending
Once the mightiest fighting force in the Known World, the imperial army, like all institutions in the Empire Immemorial, has slowly diminished over time. Its endless, arcane rituals and heraldry are inscrutable to outsiders. Many of the legions are more social institutions than military, concerning themselves more with internal politicking and ritual display, than any actual defense of the Empire.
A engineering wonder of the old Empire, the Barrier is the vast wall-city separating the Dispute from the Empire. It once housed millions of soldiers, but has slowly been abandoned. It is only fitfully patrolled in most places, if at all. In more remote sections, the walls have crumbled, allowing free movement to and from the Dispute.
An ad-hoc settlement around one of the largest gaps in the Barrier. It was originally established as a community of workers who were tasked to repair the hole in the barrier, but it has gradually become a community centered around trade, and the recovery of artifacts and resources from within the Dispute. Outfitters and guides for Dispute expeditions are common here. This is where most adventurers begin their journey. A small company of the Legion Unending is stationed here. No one has actually tried to repair the breach in generations.
The Excellent Fellowship of the Menagerie
A society of scholars whose sole interest is studying and collecting plants and animals from the Dispute. They will often pay for unique specimens, preferably alive. They have been known to place bounties on particular creatures of interest.
Supremacy of Sleep
To the citizens of the Empire, the Supremacy remains a mystery. There has been no contact with the Supremacy of Sleep for centuries. What is known of them is more myth than history.
It is said they are ruled by a council of mysterious masked aristocrats known as the Lords of Somnolence. They supposedly were sorcerers of incredible power, who could command vast armies of abominations, demons, and atrocities made flesh.
There are those who hold that the Supremacy no longer exists. There are those that believe that somewhere beyond the Dispute, they continue to plot and scheme, ever-ready to destroy the beloved Empire. There are other, more radical scholars that deny that the Supremacy ever existed – that the wars of old were fictions. No one knows for certain.