This realm is one that resembles Toril and the Forgotten Realms in almost every way, with a few key distinctions in its past and present cosmology.
The realm once had a supreme Pantheon of eight Gods residing over it. However, hundreds of years prior to the present, ‘The Exodus’ occurred and – without warning or explanation – those Gods entirely abandoned the realm. In the ensuing Chaos, as the magical energies the Pantheon had imbued into the realm flared up with nothing to control them, monstrous entities from other realms and planes of existence invaded and ran amok.
The inhabitants of Twilight, used to gaining incredible powers from their worship of these Gods, were blindsided by this apparent betrayal, and fought desperately to defend against these attackers without much of the magic that they had become accustomed to commanding. Those magics that were naturally and deeply engrained into the Weave were still accessible to a degree, but the Clerics and Warlocks of the realm suddenly found themselves lacking and had to rely on deep meditation and strong conviction to find any magical energy at all.
Over time, the eight Domains – Death, Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery and War – have all receded into background aspects of the realm without manifestations to worship and commune with. The names of the Pantheon that once represented them bring distaste to the general populous, and fury to those who had once committed their lives to them. Magic still exists in the world to some degree, much of it having been naturally present regardless, but those who found their power mainly through bargaining or worshipping the Deities now align themselves with the values they once represented, sourcing what magical energy they can summon from their devotion to those values.
When the Exodus occurred, the Twilight Realm was suddenly unprotected against the machinations and invasions of those creatures existing beyond the Material Plane. The elemental forces of the Inner Planes began tearing some areas of the Material Plane apart, until a new equilibrium was reached after 100 years of extreme weather and turmoil. As this was happening, the influences of other creatures like Archfey and Demons, alongside other Gods from outside the Pantheon, all seized the opportunity to seed themselves in the Twilight Realm.
Chief among these new forces within the Realm were three alien Deities: Bane, Malar and Vecna. Bane believed that he had found a new Realm to control in his ever-hungering quest for domination, and he revealed it to Malar and Vecna in a deal brokered to win them all the objects they desired – endless hunting grounds and a store of secret evil respectively. These three formed the basis of much of the discord that was sowed in those first 100 years, including the propagation of the Dominion and the development of a thriving, seething Underdark modelled on the most chaotic and brutal of the other Realms they had encountered.
Now, any forces of the domains that still exist are under much more direct threat from darker influences. Whilst not all the domain magics are good-aligned in the first place, all have found it a much more dangerous practice to maintain, and in general domain magic is harder to successfully wield.
The Three are not at their full strength in the Twilight Realm, not by some measure, which is what has allowed resistance to form and stall their total takeover. They are powerful and control much of the Underdark as well as the Cult on Merran, but without abandoning their own planes of existence they cannot bring their full force to bear on this Realm – luckily for its inhabitants.
The History of Merran
Merran: A medium-sized island in the Twilight Realm, ruled by a coalition of Dragonborn and Orcs called the Dominion.
Kalva: Merran’s capital city, much like Dalaran from World of Warcraft with 3 quarters for each main race involved and 1 for the remaining inhabitants.
Orcs: Co-rulers and make up a large portion of the Dominion infantry, although these orcs are specifically a roving band of the Many-Arrows that still owe reverence, if no longer allegiance, to their original bretheren (they are thus known as the Orcs of the Lost Arrow).
Dragonborn: Co-rulers and skilled diplomats due to their innate charisma, they are more heavily involved in internal politics and also make up the shock forces of the military. Their drive to improve has led to impressive organisation and technological advances. They were also formerly the Cohort, but have adopted the Dominion as they primary designation at present.
Sun-Elves: The original inhabitants of Merran (known then as Runath Tarkhal-Quessir, or Land of Lost People) and so known as the Tarkhal-Quessir. They fought a bloody war against the Dragonborn 320 years prior to the player introductions, after the Exodus stripped them of their connection to the Deity of Light, Corellon.
The Common: Made up of the other races of the planet that find their way to Merran, mainly outcast races such as Tieflings, Goblins and rebellious or mercenary Humans.
The Cohort, or ‘Svih’ (literally ‘group’), a Dragonborn clan that was comprised of thousands of families and smaller clans cast out for their tendency for violence and admiration of their Dragon ancestors, came across the landmass of Runath Tarkhal-Quessir as they were searching for somewhere they could establish a home and build up their forces. They originally called it Z’ar Okarthel, ‘New Home’, and attempted to crush the Sun Elves that met them upon their arrival.
It was immediately clear that this wouldn’t be as easy as they’d hoped; they had no grasp of the military prowess of these Sun Elf natives. They had found this island even earlier, looking for a place separate from the rest of the realm where they could dedicate their lives to the worship of Corellon. They’d been living here for thousands of years, creating a stronghold for themselves and developing a deep connection to the island’s innate magical energy.
The main difficulty for the Cohort was that the Elves had former Bladesingers at their disposal, a force that had fallen into obscurity after the Exodus but were once divine warriors who carried out the will of Corellon. The Cohort was initially entirely inaffective, losing thousands upon thousands of slave-forces attempting to assault the island with very little success, solely due to the defensive wards the Bladesingers had created. These magical wards established around the island’s shores were vicious, tearing through anything that approached them, and only through sheer numbers of expendable soldiers were the Cohort eventually able to carve out a small forward base by exhausting the wards’ energies – a base henceforth referred to as Death’s Landing.
It was at this point, with only their first base established weeks into their assault, that the Cohort met a tribe of Orcs known as the ‘Lost Arrows’ also stumbling upon the landmass. The leaders of the Sun-Elves immediately knew that the Dragonborn would convince them to fight alongside the Cohort, because of their similar military tendencies and desire for power, and calculations were made. They fought hard at first, but had diminished power compared to when they had a direct connection with Corellon, and could not muster the morale to carry on.
With their new allies, the Cohort were ready to take the island by extreme force and wipe-out the Elves, who at this point had supremely angered the Dragonborn leadership with their resistance. Rather than fighting a long, drawn out war that they knew could only be won at the highest cost of life and was uncertain even then, the Elves surrendered with one absolute demand. Under the new rule, the Elves requested to be their advisors and to be treated as an assimilated people within their new nation. The Cohort and Orcs were blindsided by the request, the bodies rendered to ash by the Elves’ wards still blowing in the wind, but they also saw the reality of the situation just as the Elves did. They did not trust them, but knew that their knowledge of the land would be invaluable for the establishment of a stronghold and, ultimately, allowed them to live on under strict supervision and rule.
Obviously, the Tarkhal-Quessir leadership did have a plan in place behind this: in the days after their surrender, as the Cohort ceased their attacks in order to move their forces inland and establish territory, the Bladesingers sequestered the holy lands of Feyrun Forest – previously blessed by Correllon – within a pocket of the Feywilds. It worked, but the Bladesinger Coven was among only a small group of Elves that actually chose to stay within it, the majority revealing a desire to enjoy the life of controlled-luxury they were offered under the Dominion. Betrayed, but still convinced that the saving of Elf life was the correct choice, the Coven closed their borders behind plane-shifting magic and left their homeland of millenia to be ransacked by its new owners.
The Years Since:
- In the aftermath of the Conquest, the Dominion became the absolute authority on the island, constructing a four-way highway system that stems from the central capital city of Kalva and exerts their control through the ease of travel it offers across the island to Dominion forces. Most of the lands stemming from these four highways was also cultivated and shaped into whatever purposes the Dominion had for it, be that agriculture, livestock, residential areas or industry.
- The Bladesingers receded as a force of any significance, mostly hiding away in Feyrun Forest and locking out all methods of entry – or exit. Those Elves caught outside the forest when this occurred were forced to either accept the new rule or be executed, breaking the spirit of many of them for years to come.
- Recently, within the last 50 or so years, pockets of resistance have slowly begun to form and actually maintain a presence against the Dominion. They are incredibly difficult to maintain, the Dominion having such a tight hold on things, and tens of cells have sprung up and been crushed in the past. However, Elven longevity is an advantage over the Dominion that was not initially understood by their leaders, and it has become far more significant as generations of Dominion forces age out, replaced by less war-hardened and more complacent successors.
At the point of a player’s entry into this setting, the resistance cells have been engaged in various attempts to destabilise and disrupt the Dominion, but are ultimately not making much progress. The players find themselves landed at Death’s Landing, Merran’s primary shipping port and the site of the most deadly battle of the Cohort’s original conquest of the island, through any appropriate means that the DM chooses. From there, they are asked to rout a resistance plot brewing amongst the dock workers by the Dragonborn Foreman Ballas, or be executed for trespassing if they refuse…