The Old World, the fallen glory of the first age, the might and splendor of the ancient Empire, the wisdom and power of the High kings of Old. The two words, Old World, should have such a connotation. There is much truth to be found in such myths and wonders, but the truth of the matter, and its eventual end are quite different from what is remembered.
What is the Purpose of the Old World
While haivng no connotation to the old world of Europe in comparison to the new world of the Americas, the Old World serves two purposes. The Primary purpose is to provide a richer background of previous events, rather than the frontier-first come feeling that can arise from younger settings. The second purpose is to provide a world analagous to our own, from which the Realm Phantastique can rise. In my home campaign, the end of the Old World was a catastrophic event known as the Nightmare War, or the Earthshatter, depending on locale. It is placed in the vicinity of 1000 years ago. Was it really exactly 1000 years ago, no, but people like nice round numbers. Trying to remember that the Old World ended around September 22nd, 972 years ago lacks the fullness of the 1000 year marker.
What was the Old World really like?
The common description of an age of wonders is quite accurate to the modern setting of Aterrizar. During the Old World, there were wonders and marvels such as flying ships (sailing ships with ensorceled keels, not airplanes) as well as networks of supernal roads that allowed near instantaneous transportation via the spirit realms. Magic was as prevalent as technology is now, and sorcerers were given no more thought that computer programmers or engineers. This created a world wide community, much like we have now.
The Old World suffered from things unimagined in modern Aterrizar. The populace lacked focus, or a manifest destiny. Their empire stretched across the known world, and even ventured into the spirit realms, raising colonies on elemental planes, and in pocket realms across the aether. (Stop cringing CP) They had no one unifying faith, or idea of the future. The prevalence of magic rendered it mundane, and the people were jaded. Despite the wonders around them, they became apathetic and discontent.
It was during the decline of the Old World that the bloodlines were mingled. New races sprang from sorcerous unions, and the creation of hybrid animal-folk was all the rage. Why have a simple harem, when a harem of svelte feline-femmes was an object of status. The bizarre became common, and drunkenness, murder, incest, and all other sorts of acts became more and more common. Even the noble houses weren’t immune. Most actually started the demented and debauched trends. This is where the old myths of minotaurs, medusae, and other fantastic races (outside of the Man/Elf/Dwarf/Orc foundation stock)
This is in a way my interpretation of what our own world might be like if there were truely magic as protrayed in games as well as the various magical races and such. There is a touch of Roddenberry optimism in that people get along rather than fear of magic, and violent racism. In it there is a reflection of the loss of direction, and initiative coupled with an apathy towards consequences and repercussions of actions. Appearance outpaces the importance of substance, and a vicious cycle grows out of it until only the bizarre and outlandish, or painfully nostalgic garners praise. (See some of the choices for films of the year, and any chic fashion show for my point)
How did it all end?
The Old World ended in an accidental enviromental catastrophy that cascaded through anything that was magical, or drew on magical power. In typical fashion, there was a power struggle in the high government and the Emperor was assassinated. There were numerous generals, heads of state, wizards, and even non-humans vying for the empty throne. Things got out of hand and several high level spells were all unleashed in a massive exchange between several wizards in the central city. Resultant from that was the violent collapse of several key clathrates that caused a violent chain reaction.
Many spells and wards were in place to ensure safe passage to and from the spirit realms, and the elemental courts. These boundaries were vital to the survival of the Old World. When the boundaries failed, the riff-raff boiled over from the other side and laid waste. Nameless entities, some lacking fixed shape or true name came from the between places, demons and devils came forth, and disgruntled elementals saw their chance to attack the arrogant humans who had ruled over them for so long. It was called the Nightmare War in the areas that surround the wasteland that was once the heart of the Old World. These regions still have epics, myths, and tales about the heroes who fought the monsters as they poured through and the magi who sacrificed themselves to close the portals.
In areas that were far removed from the epicenter of the event remember it as the Earthshatter. The clathrates of the outlying regions were badly disrupted, but were neither wholly corrupted or destroyed as the clathrates of the epicenter. This contamination has lead the perpetual sustainment of the wastelands, as well as the slow return of the destroyed clathrates in the region.
As can be imagined, the aftermath was horrible. THe infrastructre that supported the economy of the Old World was completely destroyed. None of the ships could fly, most of the libraries, and places of learning were completely destroyed. The centric nature of the empire ensured that the greater part of the Old World’s accomplishments would be consumed when the event happened. Famine came quickly in regions that relied on imported food, disease and pestilence were rampant in the wake of the surging population of rodents and carrion eaters. Entire species of intelligent life were eliminated, entire societies and kingdoms ceased to be. The wonder and splendor were replaced with fear, ignorance, hardship, and hopelessness.
Rise of the New
There were a few things that helped in the restoration of civilization. Based out of the city of Sangreal, the Trinitine Faith and their ideal of the Holy Kingdom served as a stabilizer, helping ensure the safety of the local populace, winning converts through offering food and protection from hardship. The Northern Kingdom of Nyserta offered its own aid in the records that survived there, isolated by the bulk of the mountains between them and the heart of the empire. Lastly, the Half-elves offered their own support in the years that were to follow by being leaders when leaders were in short supply. (None of these events would overlap for at least the first 300 years following the Nightmare War).
During this time, many of the weapons, scrolls, and other magical goodies left over from the Old World were lost, destroyed, or depleted dealing with the demons and horrors who escaped the end of the war and had made themselves quite at home, further reducing the supply of items, and increasing the superstition and misunderstandings about them.
The Old World in Hindsight
Most societies see the Old World through rose colored glasses, as some items, especially durable works of stone, and such survive. There are no surviving records of the excess and debauchery that colored the end of the Old World. Equally obscured are the details that surround its end. Most assume that there was a sudden, unforseeable accident that ended it all. Some, especially hardline Trinitarians claim that it was the work of their angry gods punishing the world for its wickedness. The Nysertans view themselves as a continuation of the Old World society, though this is about as accurate as claiming modern America as a continuation of Aztec and Olmec society.
a Note on Presentation
The Old World, as a proper noun, began as a plot device in some of my prior submissions. It was sort of a joke, a reference to the Roman Empire, and a bit of satire to begin with. To present it as a wholly imaginative work that has been part of my own compilations for years would be misleading and perhaps do a disservice to the ideal of the Old World.
Thank you for slogging along with me.