They say that once the Wastes were green and good, with water that flowed freely and great swaths of lush foliage covering the lands.
But that was long, long ago.
The stories passed from parent to child tell of a great magical catastrophe that rocked the lands, turning what was green and good into something dry and dusty and red as blood. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, as is the cause of it. Some say that it was caused by the hubris of men, greedily reaching ever farther and ever higher, always seeking what’s just beyond their grasp and destroying themselves in the process. Other say it was the gods themselves who struck down the goodness of the world, punishing its inhabitants for the sins they’d committed. Still others say it was not magical at all but rather the force of a great mechanical weapon that scorched the land. Whatever the cause, the result was the same: the world of before is gone, replaced by a rocky red-gold desert that stretches as far as the eye can see, with rotted great hulks of machinery rusting into dust and the broken remains of cities being swallowed up by sand left behind as the only reminders of what came Before.
Water it the rarest and most precious commodity in the Wastes. It is life, it is wealth, it is God, and what few concentrated pockets of it exist are controlled by the Water Barons. They control and dole out the precious life-giving liquid as they see fit, turning some into tyrants and others into philanthropists. Common folk scrape a living out of the dust and rock that makes up most of the waste, while the nobility luxuriate on lush verdant lands. It can be enough to stir bitterness in even the gentlest of hearts.