The Severed Reach: World Overview
The world of The Severed Reach is similar to most standard world settings of D&D, such as The Forgotten Realms or Eberron, but features a few of its own quirks and features.
Thousands of years ago during the era of the primordial world, a powerful and mysterious event known as the Cataclysm ravaged the continent. The geography was met with an intense upheaval as the platonic plates grew erratic and unstable. The landmass began to split and shift, raising and lowering vertically. Wide valleys became canyons riddled with death defying chasms and pits. Mountains split wildly, blossoming outwards into enormous craggy formations.
The geography of the world would never be the same. Much of the land began to sink and lower, with the lowering sunken regions drawing closer to the Underdark the core of the planet.
Where terrain did not sink, it rose. With landmasses rising into nearly heavenly heights, tall cliff sides and plateaus overlooking the sunken pits and canyons became common place.
During the Cataclysm many ancient civilizations suffered and collapsed, plummeting deep into the chasms of the Underdark. A few of the ancient elven civilizations in particular fell deep into the belly of the earth, forming the foundation of the feared dark elf society of the Underdark, the drow.
The now freely cracked open Underdark caused unspeakable horrors and creatures to inherit the sunken land as well as a unstable energy current of magic to materialize in the lowest depths of terrain. The sunken depths of land had become close to the unstable energies of the corrupted plates of the earth, bringing them closer to whatever unstable magical force caused the Cataclysm in the first place.
But the Cataclysm was not the end of civilization. Quickly society adapted to the new world. Cities and villages were constructed on the tops of the highest cliffs and plateaus, away from the dangers of the sunken land.
By the very nature of the new geography, societies began to label the various height levels of the world as three distinct layers.
The Severed Reach
The highest level of the world is known as The Severed Reach. Closer to the heavens than the earth below, The Severed Reach is where majority of civilized society exists.
Away from the dangers of the other levels, The Severed Reach is considered the safest place to live. So much in fact that rest of the levels are considered mostly inhabitable. Because of this, most call the entirety of the world “The Severed Reach” because any other level is too dangerous for any civilized society to exist.
This is of course, not entirely true. The Severed Reach houses most of the wealthiest members of society and as such most don’t consider the possibility of living in any other level except for The Severed Reach. The more extreme aristocrats consider the more poverty stricken villagers that live within the outskirts of The Severed Reach to be as uncivilized or at the very least as foolish as the goblins and orcs that inhabit the Outskirts.
Cities of The Severed Reach are built on the highest peaks of plateaus and cliffs, often building bridges over long pitfalls and chasms. While travel can be done on foot or on horseback, treking through the dangerous Outskirts, the fastest and most luxurious form of travel is via Airship. Airships commonly fly over the dangerous lands below to reach adjacent cities and hub skyports. Because of the usefulness of airship travel, many airship owners or captains have been renting out their services of travel to prospective travelers- for the right price.
The political climate is currently fairly calm and there hasn’t been a major war in over two hundred years. However tensions can often rise occasionally from disputed territory as real estate is incredibly important in The Severed Reach.
Regardless, because all the races generally consider themselves united together to form The Severed Reach, a sense of comradery helps instill peace, believing the true threat and dangers to be the various orc tribes on the outskirts of civilization and the mysterious drow that live within the Underdark.
The Severed Reach is accepting of all the common gods and pantheons, ranging from Pelor to Saraenrae. These two gods are more common as most shrines and temples believe that the higher and closer they are to the heavens and the sun, the closer they are to their respective gods and ultimately the stronger their worship. Because of this, cities often leave their highest peaks for the construction of shrines and temples.
Sloped inclines and treacherous woods is what The Outskirts entails. Despite the danger, various villages have found refuge in forming settlements in the calmer areas of The Outskirts. These villages are usually formed by individuals who want more freedom and affordable living expenses.
Living in The Outskirts is cheaper but at a heavy cost. Hordes of dangerous creatures and hostile tribes of orcs or goblins endanger many settlements. The Outskirts are often the most common employer of mercenaries and monster slayers.
Criminal organizations often use the Outskirts as a safe haven to enact their will as there isn’t any law to hinder them. Thieves guilds and assassin’s guilds often have hidden bases within the Outskirts in order to bypass the law.
The Outskirts also tends to slope downward at a heavy incline, reaching closer and deeper to the true dangers of the world…
The Sunken Below
Few enter The Sunken Below and live to speak of it. But those who do return with vivid accounts of the horrors that exist deep within.
Existing closer to the damaged plates of the earth, The Sunken Below is cursed with a magical field of unstable energy. Because of the erratic nature of this magical field, many planes of existence can materialize through portals and co-exist. Portals to other realities and planes can form and materialize randomly and the creatures that roam the Sunken Below often come from other realms of existence. Few of these wandering foreign creatures and monsters end up travelling up and inhabiting The Outskirts, much to the local villagers misfortune.
While the general term is The Sunken Below, it’s common for its locations to be named with the Sunken prefix.
“The Sunken Woods” or “The Sunken Valley” for example. Individuals and monsters that exist within The Sunken Below are often called “The Sunken”
The geography is often rather similar to The Severed Reach, but fauna from other planes such as the Feywild can often exist. The Sunken Below is most commonly engulfed in a thick other worldly fog or mist, the lowered visibility often dooming adventurers who get lost in its depths. Sunlight is also a rarity as- often or not, the tall cliff sides of The Severed Reach often overshadow The Sunken Below, masking it in darkness even during daylight.
The corrupted magical plane of The Sunken Below allows wraiths and spectral entities to exist freely. It’s not uncommon for the victims of The Sunken Below to wander aimlessly in its depths, even past the release of death in a spiritual form for an eternity.
Sanity is often vulnerable while traversing through The Sunken Below. If you’re not violently dismembered by a shambling abomination from another plane of existence, you’ll soon find your sanity to dwindle. Inexperienced travelers who somehow survive and escape The Sunken Below often return with significant mental damage and their personalities aren’t quite the same. One famous story told of an half elf adventurer whose consciousness somehow remained trapped in a Sunken Forest and he was unable to come to terms with the fact that he escaped, believing that everything he was experiencing was an elaborate illusion.
Experts of The Sunken Below ill advise anyone adventurers from traversing through it casually. Even for the more calmer sections of The Sunken Below, intense precaution and preparation is needed to avoid succumbing to death or a tragic, hopeless existence.
On a more pleasant and interesting note, one can often find ruins of cities and relics of the ancient civilizations of the past, pre-Catacylsm, within the depths of The Sunken Below.
The Underdark exists deep below the earth. Inhabited by the drow, the drow have mastered the unstable energies that exist deep within the planet’s core (and The Sunken Below) and have made settlements and cities. Using the cover of night and the shade of the cliff sides of The Severed Reach, the drow occasionally reach the surface world to enslave individuals and force them into slavery.
Despite this powerful comfort with the unstable energies of the world, these energies are weaker or straight up don’t exist higher up in The Severed Reach. This has prevented the drow from overwhelming the surface world until they find a way to harness their magic on higher altitudes.
While an average citizen of The Severed Reach will more than likely never meet a drow or venture into the Underdark, an intense prejudice exists against drow and the Underdark. In fact most citizens of The Severed Reach don’t consider the Underdark as a layer of the world. Parents often scare their misbehaving children by warning them that the drow will come and take them away.
The Mithril Cloaks
By the very nature of the world, settlements call upon the aid of various bands of mercenaries and adventurers for hire. Traversing into The Outskirts and even the dangerous depths of the Sunken Below, various guilds compete for contracts as they slay monsters and other hostile threats.
You’re part of a renowned group known as The Mithril Cloaks. Founded years ago from an alliance of rival dwarven and human mercenary groups, The Mithril Cloaks are one of the most commonly known mercenary band throughout most regions of The Severed Reach.
What separates The Mithril Cloaks from other mercenary groups is that they’ve found success in accepting all types of individuals and misfits from various ranks and races. Where other groups rely heavily on armored sellswords, The Mithril Cloaks employ spellcasters, scholars, artisans, and historians in their ranks believing that a successful mercenary band should rely on more than just brute strength.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon for those seeking adventure to seek to join The Mithril Cloaks. Paladins might find joy in the opportunity to smite those marauding creatures beneath their faith. Thieves might try joining in order to seek penance of their crimes. The more scholarly mages may find the magic fields of lower levels of the earth fascinating and may use these jobs as an excuse to research and hone their arcane prowess.
However, the prestigious nature of The Mithril Cloaks means that those seeking to join have to go through various test runs and trials before going on their very own “Crucible”. A Crucible is the final trial before being officially accepted into The Mithril Cloaks.
You’re are on the crux of your very own Crucible. You’ve ran various menial tasks and trial contracts with a party of fellow aspiring members. It is this final contract that will make you all honorary members, gaining the emblem badge of The Mithril Hammers, a gilded green mithril hammer that rests on your pauldrons or clips onto your leather attire. It will be this badge that will signify to The Severed Reach your prestigious valor as members of The Mithril Cloaks.
Depending on who you are, you may feel modest and humbled by this badge or your pride and honor strive on acquiring it.
While its more common for contracts to be delivered through ornate parchments and documents, often sealed with a wax seal. This particular contract however, the contract that is your Crucible, is a little different.
The contract has been written by an aristocrat and former adventurer, a Lord Belmont. He has summoned you to his lavish mansion in the small city he rules over, Angelwine, famous for its deliciously brewed wine.
Lord Belmont wishes to speak with you all directly to detail the incredible task he wishes for you all to take care of. In his letter he urges that there may be some difficulties from outside interference and that due to the nature of secrecy, it’s better for you all to meet with him personally.
And so you and your band of adventurers ride off to Angelwine to the Belmont Estate to learn what final trial you must overcome in order to become full members of The Mithril Cloaks.