Session 0: Explaining the Setting and Subclasses

An Introduction to Neria

Once, Neria was a world like most others. Wars were waged over territory, resources, and - despite their little interest in the humanoid races wiping each other out - in the name of the gods. No one knows just how long the races and regions of Neria fought each other, only that the gods eventually decided that the world they'd created had seen enough war. The gods of magic aligned themselves against man, and took from them the greatest weapon that they used to kill each other with - magic. For the first - and last - time in all of history, the sentient beings of Neria had a single goal to unite them.   As it happens, gods aren't as immortal as they claim to be.   Now, Neria is a world where people are motivated more by innovation and survival than they are fighting over the local resources. When the gods were killed, the cosmic force shattered reality into millions of pieces. These shards of power made manifest contain the magic that the gods had held from the people of Neria, opening endless opportunities for those able to interact with the magic in the crystals.   One would be mistaken in believing that the citizens of Neria escaped punishment for their act of extreme hubris. The people of Neria may have easier access to magic - and more of it, at that - than ever before, but they also deal with aether storms, the violent scars left over the world as reality tore itself apart. These storms are not only dangerous, with constant lightning touching down, but are extremely caustic to crystals exposed to the storms for an extended period of time, rendering the magic within them useless.  

How is Neria the same as other D&D settings?

Neria is, for all intents and purposes, still a fantasy setting, if flavored with more modern elements than classic Dungeons and Dragons settings. Many elements of the setting are easily recognizable from other settings, and players and DMs alike will find familiarity in things such as classic 5th edition mechanics, races, classes, spells, and equipment.   Like other classic Dungeons and Dragons settings, Neria is a world full of various different regions, all with their own rich cultures and ways of approaching life. Neria is a world full of possibilities, where everyone is sure to find something that appeals to who they are as a player or as a DM. Content is provided so that one is able to create their own stories and adventures, but campaign modules will also be released, giving DMs and players both a quick and easy way to engage with the setting.  

How is Neria different from other D&D settings?

Perhaps one of the most obvious differences between Neria and other settings is the lack of gods. Thousands of years have passed since the people of Neria rose up to slay the gods, and any who still follow the ancient beliefs of these dead gods are looked at as eccentric outcasts and relics of a time before. Instead, crystalline shards discovered throughout Neria contain within themselves the very essence of magic. Different classes have discovered different ways of channeling these energies using the crystals created when the gods were destroyed.   The second important difference between Neria and other settings is that Neria is plagued by aether storms. These storms have all of the force and wrath of a thunderstorm, but instead of soaking the world with rain, the aether storms interfere with magic. When someone with the ability to cast spells spends longer than a week exposed to the storms, their ability to cast is hindered greatly, if not permanently affected.  

How does this affect the kind of character that can be played?

  While no one wants to be caught in an aether storm, as the lightning strikes can cause severe burns, none are more affected by the absence of the gods and the presence of the aether storms than those who can cast spells. Those with spellcasting abilities have had to adapt over the millenia, learning to either work with the aetheric energies of Neria, or ward themselves against them. Some spellcasting classes have been more affected than others by these adaptations, going as far as to implement new archetypes and specialties into their societies.  
  • With the aether storms affecting magic in unpredictable ways, and without the god of magic to counter the effects, artificers known as Generators have grown to rely on their own mastery of magic in order to circumvent the effects of long-term aether exposure. Generators employ their abilities by creating shields that can withstand the storms for finite amounts of time, or by storing stable magic into a battery-like object for later use. Their ability to master the winds and lightning of the storms has aided them greatly in creating objects that can withstand the storms and its effects.
  • Bards that have developed their abilities within the unpredictable circumstances of the aether storms have banded together to form the College of Resonance. The crystal shards all have their own frequencies, and each frequency seems to affect different things in different ways. This creates an endless list of possible ways to incorporate the crystals into their music, fitting their instruments and ear accessories with shards so that they can tune themselves to the right melody. Music created by bards in the College of Resonance are favored by adventuring parties, as their music seems to ward off some of the effects of the aether storms by keeping their companions calm, focused, and unknowingly in tune with the harmonies themselves.
  • The natural landscapes of the world have changed in the years since the fall of the gods, altering some spirits and introducing completely new ones. Druids of the Circle of Shards devote themselves to the celestial crystals and their shards, communing with and living among the spirits held within the different crystals. Such druids spend their lives seeking out the purest of shards in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of those that would exploit the crystalline spirits.
  • While traditionally known for their bonds with wild beasts, a small group of rangers known as Construct Commanders have adapted to the new type of fauna created by men. These rangers familiarize themselves with the mechanical bodies of Constructed animals, learning to take advantage of its versatility while also learning how to keep these constructs - and themselves - safe from the effects of the aether storms.
  • Similar to sorcerers whose abilities come from the element of air, these Aetherborns’ innate magic is granted through the aetheric forces in Neria. Unlike a normal storm, however, aetheric storms are charged with magic, and rather than abilities that reflect the violent nature of storms, the Aetherborn embody the disruptive forces of the aether storms. It's possible that they were born in part of the world exposed to the storms, or they fell victim to some of the darker experiments known to occur when trying to give newborns the ability to cast magic by infusing them with aetheric lightning itself.
  • Most assume that dead gods have no power, but these warlocks are some of the few who know better. They found The Felled Gods and listened to their stories, and before they left, the gods offered them great power if they agreed to bring their memories back to life, reminding those who have turned their backs on them what happens when they forget that even dead gods still have power.
  Despite the death of the gods several thousand years ago, there are still clerics in Neria. They are viewed as an almost cult-like institution at this point, full of outcasts who desperately cling to the past. At best, they are avoided unless desperately needed, and at worst, clerics find themselves in a position to be feared. Many don’t understand the devotion to dead gods, and would rather have nothing to do with it. Rather than being adorned with amulets or holy symbols, clerics are fitted with channeling crystals when they first begin their training. These crystal shards, believed to carry small pieces of the gods themselves, act as their holy tools for magic and prayer.   Paladins find themselves, by contrast, in a position to be pitied. Without gods to follow and serve, paladins in the new Neria have found new purposes and ideals to follow. Most people view this as an unfortunate necessity, as the paladins no longer have a choice in whether their dedication and devotion is to a god or not. The few paladins that have found themselves to be in a position to meet a dead god usually swear their oaths to Glory or Vengeance.   The scholarly wizards are, perhaps, the least affected by the death of the gods, despite the fact that there is no living god of magic to provide them with spells for their books. Instead, wizards now seek out crystal shards containing magic, and fit them into a device created by Generators designed specifically to channel the energies of the crystal shard and cast the spell stored within it. For all intents and purposes, the wizard still has their spellbook - it simply looks different than what wizards from before The Fall would have used.  

Where does this campaign take place?

Keepsake takes place on the continent of Usora, a large island-continent occupied by several city-states. Together, these territories make up the Usorian Thaumocracy, a union focused on advancing society through the study, understanding, and implementation of magic. Vyseers from each territory are appointed based on their experience with and knowledge of the magical energies in Neria. These Vyseers then gather as a council, making decisions for the Thaumocracy as a whole by implementing a majority-rule vote.   The first act of Keepsake starts players off in the territory of Everward, one of the oldest and most advanced city-states in the union. One of the largest features of Everward is the Usorian Forge, a place of both study and creation for those who wish to follow the path of the artificer, or deepen their understanding of the magic held within the crystals. The Forge draws people from different parts of the Union, to be sure, but also from different parts of Neria.  

How would Everward be described to someone who had never been there?

Collectively, the Usorian Thaumocracy has been called Sumneria (little Neria) by the elves for as long as anyone cares to remember; the influx of people from all over the world has created small pockets of culture in different places in Usora.   Everward is an experience unto itself; it is, after all, considered to be the place where breakthroughs in thaumatism are most likely to happen, thanks to the presence of the Usorian Forge. Thaumalogical advancements are always implemented in Everward first, creating a captivating contrast between the scattered ruins of the Time Before, the aetherically charged crystal shards that litter the landscape, and the amazing feats of architecture and infrastructure that seem to be constantly changing.   Depending on where in Everward one looks, the way these things interact with each other might change. In the slums of the city, known as the Scrapyard, the unfortunate and desperate live within the ruins themselves, unable to find shelter elsewhere. The grizzled black marketeer that works out of the greasy tavern around the corner might have a shaped crystal where his eye should be, but there aren’t many people in the Scrapyard that could afford crystalline replacements or upgrades.   Those with money to spare, such as the residents of the gated community of Courtmeadow, might have more augmentations than they need. Some women find it fashionable to shave one side of their head, and have inert crystal shards implanted into their skin to create ornate patterns. Rather than rings or bracelets, some might have jewel-shaped crystals grafted directly to their body. Collecting crystal shards is as much a hobby to these people as it is a way of life; even those with no spellcasting ability want to get their hands on as many crystals as possible, just to say they have them.  

What is currently happening in Everward?

Both the City Guard and citizens of Everward are tense, on edge, and not as friendly to visitors as their experience with tourism might suggest. Everyone that had been studying at the Forge has disappeared without a trace, and frustrations are growing as the City Guard continues coming up with no clues as to where they might be. Not only is this a problem in and of itself, but it also means that a large number of artificers have gone missing, just when they are, arguably, needed most.   The aetheric shield that protects Everward from the effects of the aetheric storms has stopped working consistently and reliably. At the time that the story begins, the shield has already been lowered for nearly an entire day, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to restore itself any time soon. No one knows why, exactly, the shields have suddenly stopped working, but they do know that they have a little less than a week to get them operational again before everyone in Everward loses the ability to cast spells permanently.   As if these two problems weren’t enough on their own, Everward is now faced with the threat of piracy. Unfortunately for the Thaumocracy, the advancements that they’ve made with magic as a technology has allowed for the rise of airship piracy. The same shields that protect Everward from the effects of the aether storms protects them from an unwanted airship landing in the middle of the city-state. With the shield down, many suspect that it’s only a matter of time before the piracy and looting begins.  

What would draw a character to Everward - or the Thaumocracy - while this is happening?

With very few exceptions, news about the events in Everward has only just reached the Thaumocracy as a whole, and certainly hasn’t traveled off of the continent of Usora. Perhaps your character is a foreign noble who came to procure several wizards’ wristlets from the Forge for their family’s army, and has no idea that the entire population is missing. Perhaps someone you love is sick with a curious disease, and the only group of healers who may know about it are the outcast clerics of Everward.   There are several things that could draw one to Everward. The promise of amazing magical feats might be enough for some, but not others. Here are some examples of reasons as to why your character might be traveling to Everward:  
  • Your character has a very strong relationship with someone studying at the Forge, and when communication suddenly stops, your character immediately and intuitively knows that something is wrong. They charter the first airship possible to take them to Everward.
  • You never understood why your brother wanted to become a cleric; the gods are dead, and if they aren’t, they haven’t shown as much to anyone else. Still, he’s your brother, and when he asks you to follow him to a strange, new land, you say yes.
  • You’ve searched every nook and cranny within thirty miles of your home, but ruins of the Time Before have all been picked clean. Rumors that the concentrated number of magic users in Everward have drawn secrets from ruins in the area, and you’d love nothing more than to be the first one to discover them.
  • You grew up on the street, or you might as well have, for how well you were raised. There’s no money to be made in the alleys, and now that people are starting to recognize you, that seems to extend to the rest of the town, as well. You know that an airship is to land in Everward within the week, and everyone in the wrong circles suspect that there are pirates on board.

Do the party members have to have established relationships with each other?

Not at all. The only way in and out of Everward is by airship, and since so few captains are willing to fly during aether storms, the party members all end up on the same airship. They may choose to share their reasons for visiting Everward with the party, or keep their reasons to themselves.   Picture your Session 0 as if it were the party member’s chance to introduce themselves to each other, and establish whether or not their motives are in line. This establishes at least a working relationship between party members before the proper start of the campaign. However, if your party finds that backstories including other party members work best for the table, then by all means, feel free to encourage it.   For example: Arastu the monk left the village he was raised in after finding out that his mentors and instructors were corrupt. After taking it upon himself to cleanse the disease from the village, he fled. He soon came upon Endari, a ranger attempting to survive in the wild after fleeing her own past. Having spoken out against the tyrannical king of her homeland, Endarie was exiled and forced to seek a new life elsewhere. While traveling to Everward by airship, Endarie becomes friends with Hope, a tiefling paladin on the hunt for things worse than the monster she pretends to be. Endarie views Hope as a skilled opponent, and not as a devil as most other passengers seem to believe. The three of them together attract the attention of Genar, a charming liar that has a different backstory to give each new person he meets. By the time that the airship lands in Everward, Genar has regaled Hope, who loves a good story, with his many tales, earning him a place within their party.