Aash are tiny orange crystals that pulse with an inner well of power. They slowly grow inside hollow geode pools within eloquently named Aash Trees. If left unchecked the geodes will stagnate and halt production of Aash, killing the tree and transforming it into a Haunt, where nightmarish Aash Ghouls spawn endlessly from the festering geodes. Thus, Aash is continuously harvested at a safe rate and has formed the base of trade and civilization. Aash, curiously, can be consumed and boosts one's energy, however if ingested in an unrefined state the energy boost overcharges and overloads one's mind. Refined Aash also serves as a source of power for machinery, a key ingredient in advanced Alchemy, and a source of heat for various purposes.
The Aash Trade stretches far and wide, and while the Tribunal work diligently to protect law-abiding traders, cultists and outlaws alike wreak havoc in the wilds. Civilization rests within the security of Aash Towns, settlements built around Aash Trees to protect the Aash from the enemies of the Tribunal, house the harvesters and traders who fuel the Aash Trade, provide landmarks for travelers, and to act as a prison in the rare case when an Aash Tree stagnates and becomes a Haunt.
The Old Ones were an advanced civilization that ruled the world in an ancient age, however some catastrophe led to the disappearance of all of these ancient people, leaving empty ruins to slowly erode into dust. The mystery of the Old Ones has led many to venerate them as beings to learn from, or as higher creatures with access to knowledge unheard of. A mad cult emerged based on the idea that Aash somehow originated from the Old Ones, thus they ritualistically ingest raw Aash to "elevate" their minds and somehow connect with their mysterious predecessors.
The Tribunal is the last guardian against many countless threats to the all-important Aash Trade, however they have become steeped in tradition and superstition against any kind of potential foe. To top it all off, an ancient ruin has emerged from deep within the world, carrying with it an advanced Aash Ghoul capable of controlling and guiding wild Ghouls towards some abstract purpose. Strange times are ahead...