Set in a world nearly destroyed by bardic rivalries that ended in a cataclysm that shook the world and raised the seas. The world was not drowned, but it lost much of its habitable landmass. Nearly 70% of the world was inundated, and much information was lost. The few remaining records tell of the bards becoming the most respected and valued class in Lorica. In time, the colleges' arrogance grew to match their egos, and conflicts started over establishing a hierarchy, with each of them having a different ranking system, with themselves at the top. Each college sought to prove their supremacy through performance, magic and artifacts. While no one agrees on what actually caused the cataclysm, every college insists that it wasn't their fault.
In response to the excesses of the bardic colleges, a group known as the Dour arose (primarily from the human, dwarf and orc races). They preached a philosophy of austerity, condemning frivolity in general, and the bardic class most specifically. To the Dour, frivolity was a dangerous distraction from reality, and the Bardic Colleges married that frivolity with power, leading inexorably to the madness of the Bardpocalypse. In a fever of post-apocalyptic rage, the bardic colleges were all but wiped out. Yet, some traditions survived ... passed down from parent to child or from patron to student.
The campaign is set in 1451 AC (years after the cataclysm). The Dour Theocracy still holds sway in the west, and they still forbid frivolity for its own sake ... entertainment is allowed only in service to community and religion (teaching lessons, morality, or praising the gods), and the word 'bard' is still a dire insult. While the Dour Reformation has relaxed and allows some entertainment for its own sake, professing oneself (or being suspected of being) a member of a bardic discipline is punishable by imprisonment and interrogation, and the crime of "Bardic Corruption" still carries the death penalty. Areas under the Dour Theocracy forbid all public and private performances, except for those presented under the authority of the Dour priesthood.
Outside of the Theocracy, however, the rest of the world has come to embrace performances again, albeit with restrictions and suspicion. The term 'bard' is still disreputable, having been largely replaced by 'entertainer'. Still, the bardic traditions persist, and as one travels east from the Dour, it becomes more common to hear of 'arcane entertainers' who travel and perform in groups either for themselves or as part of a trading company.
The Trading Companies have even started to seek out arcane entertainers for their advance teams, as they are able to serve as performers without requiring additional guards or handlers. These teams are led by an entertainment manager. Professional entertainers look down on arcane entertainers, seeing their magic as either a crutch to support a lesser talent or, at best, a dangerous side hobby. While all arcane entertainers are not necessarily bards, they are regarded as 'bardic' by the public. Their magic makes them more dangerous than a true entertainer, and their focus on entertainment makes them dangerously unpredictable and erratic, compared to simple adventurers.
It is into this world that you were born. You were secretly apprenticed under one of the bardic traditions, either by family or by a patron who recognized your talent, and you were taught caution and discretion alongside your entertainment style and how to tap into and tie bardic magic to your skills. Your patron may have been a proud descendant of a bardic college, passing on secrets to keep the skills alive, or they may have been taught their arcane skills with the belief that they were NOT a bard, merely an arcane entertainer. Whether you consider yourself a bard or part of a college is up to you.
You have reached the 3rd Level and been recognized by your teacher as a part of their tradition. However, there is only room for a few professional entertainers in any given town, and your eventual departure was a condition of your training. Now that day has come, and you have packed your belongings and set out to seek your fortune. You saw yourself as a travelling entertainer and not some flunky for the trading companies, but you quickly discovered that each town and state has its own rules about travelling entertainers, and many places recognize only their own licensing process ... meaning that you often face a new fee or regulation at each town. Working without the license is risky and being caught would mean (at the very least) confiscation of your earnings and ejection from the town.
After several weeks of barely making ends meet, you have reached your final option, only to find that even trading companies want experience. You have heard rumors that the Firesong Calvacade is less insistent on qualifications, and they always seem to be hiring. You journeyed to Armwood in Storia, where Firesong Calvacades is based, and you find yourself standing outside a tall grey stone building. The words "Firesong Calvacades" are painted in huge, garish letters, and the paint glitters in the sunlight. There is an A-frame sign set up beside the door, and a burly human man stands beside it, looking disinterested.