Ere is not Medieval Earth
Ere is a world where fantastic elements have been present from the start and as such, has been part of the course of natural events there. People have always been able to use magic. Exotic minerals such as mithral and adamantine aren’t just something mined and used for magic weapons, but are dietary minerals that are part of biology like iron or potassium. Different flora or fauna mean different ecologies have developed.
In Earth terms, the technological and cultural level is around 1860s with different areas reflecting different mixes of trappings from the wild west, Victorian England and the Age of Exploration with a unique flare courtesy of the greater variety of options provided by magic, alchemy, other new sciences and combinations thereof.
Magic is Science
On Ere, magic is a naturally occurring force on Ere. It has its own rules that can be observed and recorded and that’s exactly what people have been doing since they arrived on the world. Because of this, anyone with the right knowledge can perform basic spells and rituals and experts can develop, refine or re-purpose them.
Over the centuries, communities of mages have gathered to experiment, document and theorize on the the nature and uses of magic. With over a thousand years of such study and discovery, magic is now being applied to day-to-day life from mystic steam engines powering vehicles to cities illuminated by mage lights and the mass production and sale of certain magical items.
Magic is Everyday
The energies that fuel spells and rituals permeate the world and the knowledge of certain basic spells is widespread. Having a good education means knowing a handful of rituals at the least and many children know enough to conjure light and water, sometimes even flame.
Enough money can buy clothing that doesn’t stain, pitchers that heat themselves, or jewelry that conceals blemishes. Governments and other powerful organizations are even able to field the means to communicate instantly across vast distances or teleport.
Magic is the ‘old way’ of doing things, something everyone can taste, but the purview of the naturally talented and educated to truly master. Which means…
The New Sciences are on the Rise
Once relegated to local trade secrets or secret projects of tyrannical despots, the new stability stemming from the end of the Age of tragedies alongside the widespread adoption of printing technology has allowed the so-called ‘New Sciences’ of alchemy, metallurgy, electrical and mechanical engineering to become widespread and commercially viable.
The ready availability of matches and lighters, improved food preservation, advanced weapon smithing, and chemical treatment of everything from textiles to medicine have placed power formerly only accomplished with magic in the realm of the mundane.
Most impactful has been the advent of the mass-manufactured firearm, bringing the deadly threat formerly associated with offensive spellcraft into the hands of the lay person. Long rifles are swiftly becoming a staple of city defense while pistol duels are fast becoming a dangerous and popular pastime for the wealthy.
Most of the Common Races are not Natives to Ere
The Vishnari gods brought humans, elves, halflings and hailene to Ere from their dying homeworlds some 1500 years ago. Miare, lasconti (and other hengeyokai) and dwarves were created by Sylph and the dragons shortly thereafter. This is a known and accepted by all of these peoples and a core reason why even worshippers of other gods also revere the Vishnari as saviors of their ancestors during the event known as Saint’s Landing.
Just as many mortal races arrived from other worlds, so did much of the wildlife found on the twin continents. Sylph in particular was instrumental in rescuing flora and fauna from those same planes and transplanting them to Ere. Among these are creatures mortal races consider monsters as well as megafauna including dinosaurs and gigantic mammals. Despite her good intentions, this has caused widespread environmental disasters. Alongside the emergence of spirit beasts, an ecological balance has yet to be struck, leading to mass migrations, extinctions and population spikes that often drive creatures into direct conflict with one another and the mortal races.
The Original End of the World
Over five thousand years before the Vishnari gods brought their people to Ere, the world ended. Very little is known about what caused this apocalypse or how it happened, but surviving legends among the orcs, goblins, kobolds and ogres suggest that new mountain ranges were thrust into the sky in mere minutes, the heavens turned to fire and wept meteors, seas surged to drown all in their path and the ground swallowed cities without a trace.
Very little remains of this earlier world besides the aforementioned legends and folk memories of those few races who survived. On occasion, a ruin will be discovered full of ancient artifacts and strange magics, but understanding of what came before may remain forever a mystery due to just how nearly complete the devastation was.
But there is one legacy left from the original world of Ere that is with its people at all times even when they didn’t realize it…
The Well of Souls
Serving as both the ultimate afterlife and the metaphysical core of the world, the Well of Souls is composed of the discarnate energy left over from the demise of billions of sapient beings who perished when the original world ended.
This vortex of soul energy sits at the center Ere’s afterlife where the spirits of the dead slowly make their way to it to await reincarnation.
Early on in Ere’s history, the Dragon Nations performed a great ritual that tapped into the Well to empower themselves and their descendants but at the same time allowed discarnate energy to leak into the world in greater amounts than before. While this is also the origin of spirit beasts, the mortal races would also harness this in the form of bardic traditions that control soul energy through something the bards call the Word and Song.
But even before the dragons breached the Well, the presence of discarnate energy was already giving rise to spirits, native elementals and small gods by empowering the ideas, emotions and raw primal concepts into independent beings.
Spirit Beasts Pose an Even Greater Threat
In addition to unpredictable and capricious wildlife, the world is also host to a deadly phenomenon known as ‘divinity sparks’. These rare occurrences can take place anywhere on the twin continents or the surrounding ocean and appear as a diaphanous flash of white light that appears either from the earth or from a few inches above it, traveling upward between three inches to eighteen feet. If this light comes into contact with a living organism, that organism becomes infused with energies from the Well of Souls, transforming them into a supremely powerful version of itself known as a spirit beast.
Most spirit beasts remain mindless or become sapient enough to go mad, rampaging throughout their home region. Occasionally, a divinity spark will affect multiple creatures, creating a new true-breeding species. The danger presented by these ‘lesser beasts’ is compounded by the fact that spirit beasts are functionally immortal unless beheaded, slain with fire, or otherwise subjected to specific conditions.
On rare occasions, contact with a divinity spark will grant sapience to the recipient. Paired with their newfound powers, these ‘greater beasts’ can become threats far exceeding lesser beasts as they are capable of planning, plotting and building allegiances.
Wild Threats and Bandits Have Shaped Day-to-Day Life
Since the advent of the Age of Tragedies, bandits—often the remnants and descendants of disbanded armies and scattered tribes—have haunted the wilds just as much as monsters and megafauna. They raid and extort small remote communities and waylay attempts at forming trade routes.
With so many dangers arrayed against them, farming enclaves, trade hubs and other settlements have adapted whatever means at their disposal to defend themselves. Almost no village is without its walls, be they constructed of brambles, grown from living trees, stone raised from the depths of the earth with magic, or engineered from expertly cut rock and planks.
In any settlement smaller than a city, every child is raised learning to defend themselves, usually through training in martial combat, but any youths who demonstrate exceptional talent with magic will be taught as best the locale is able. The presence of alchemists, gunsmiths and other new scientists can drastically change how one village’s defense is fielded in just a single generation.