This document describes the world of Ashen Sea. It represents the common wisdom of the people that inhabit the world. These things may or may not be true, but almost everyone believes them in either case.
Ainkarra and the Ashen Sea
The game takes place in a land called Ainkarra. Ainkarra is a harsh and arid wilderness where the only civilization is found in a handful of city-states and nomadic tribes. The history of Ainkarra is one of conflict and change. City-states wage war on one another. Peoples depose their tyrants for new ones. Threats and discoveries emerge from the wilderness.
Ainkarra is hostage to the Ashen Sea, an enormous basin of dust, sand and silt that expands endlessly to the north and east. No one in Ainkarra has ventured far into the Ashen Sea and returned, and no one in Ainkarra comes from beyond the Sea.
The Fall, Psionics and Magic
The Fall was a magical cataclysm that destroyed the world and left it a husk. The Fall is believed to have created the Ashen Sea and many other strange phenomena. The Fall happened many centuries ago, and who or what caused it is unknown.
Psionics, or psychic powers, are very common in Ainkarra. Every intelligent species has some form of telepathy, as do many of the plants and animals. Psionics other than telepathy exist, but their use is feared and reviled by all civilised peoples and outlawed in the city-states.
Magic exists, but is uncommon, mysterious, dangerous and mistrusted. The few who are capable of powerful magic tend to be tyrants in charge of city-states. Those who don’t keep their magic secret risk being executed or enslaved by these tyrants.
Since the Fall, or perhaps as a consequence, metal and water are scarce resources in Ainkarra. Metal is particularly treasured, and only the richest can afford to obtain metal items. Instead, people use materials like wood, rawhide and bone as substitutes for metal. Water is scarce, and drinkable water even more so. There is no rainfall or running water in Ainkarra. Most of the water that does exist is either under the control of a city-state or bitterly poisonous.
There are no gods universally worshipped in Ainkarra; legend says they abandoned the world long ago. Each tribe worship their own local spirits and powers, but these petty gods rarely answer prayers. Religion is not a large part of most people’s life.
The City-States and the Peoples of Ainkarra
Humans living in city-states make up the majority of Ainkarra’s population. Elves and halfelves also live in city-states, but usually have little social status. In the city-states, most people pledge their service or trade their labor to the local rulers in exchange for just enough food and water to survive. It is a tolerable life for most. Yet, some are willing to improve their lot by venturing into the wilderness to hunt, scavenge and trade.
The technology of the city-states of Ainkarra is similar to the real world’s Bronze Age, with agriculture, pottery, writing and the wheel. The big difference is that very little is made from metal, due to its scarcity. Crime is uncommon in city-states. This is not because Ainkarra is a land of justice. Instead, the tyrants of the city-states maintain order with an iron fist. In the wilderness, there is no law nor any protection provided by the city-states.
Outside the city-states, there are many tribes of nomadic elves who live in Ainkarra’s wilderness. These elves tend herds of beasts and migrate across the land. City-state folk view elves as untrustworthy vagrants, an attitude they apply to the few elves that live in the city-states.
Halfelves are the results of human and elf mating. All tribal elves refuse to allow halfelves to live with them, forcing the half-breeds to eek out a living in a city-state or as a scavenger in the wilderness.
Races other than humans, elves and halfelves are very uncommon in Ainkarra, and not found in city-states. The Kreen, a race of insectoid people, are rumoured to inhabit the far south of the land.
Sen Seren, the Abenai and the Sereni
The biggest city in Ainkarra is Sen Seren, a huge stone metropolis known to predate the Fall. Sen Seren is the central focus of the game. Five years ago the Abenai, a tribe of humans from the east, conquered the city of Sen Seren. The Abenai then enslaved most of the original inhabitants, the Sereni. Before being conquered, the Sereni were skilled traders ruled by great merchant houses. Most of Sen Seren’s interior is divided between seven walled districts. Some of these districts were abandoned long ago and become home to dangerous creatures.
The Abenai, a tribe of humans, make up half the population of Sen Seren. The Abenai have five clans: the Abenir, the Nisai, the Kerrith, the Iskandis, and the E’Kri. Each clan has its own nobility, warriors and merchants, but the clans work together to rule the city. The tyrant of Sen Seren is Ha’Ren Abenir, a human warlord and sorcerer. Ha’Ren is the head of the Abenir Clan of the Abenai. He is beloved by the Abenai and despised by the Sereni. The Sereni, a human people, make up the other half of the population of Sen Seren. Most Sereni are slaves who work the farmlands that surround the city-state. Farmland is rare and valuable in Ainkarra, and requires magic to fertilize the soil and clean the water. With the invasion five years ago, the Abenai brought their pantheon of gods and spirits to Sen Seren. Many Abenai and Sereni have since quickly adopted a single patron god from this pantheon.
The Ylhainen, also known as the Templarate, are a group of Abenai that keep order in Sen Seren. Templars are the enforcers and private warband of the tyrant Ha’Ren Abenir. They are feared, as they have the licence to do almost anything they want to the rest of Sen Seren’s denizens including openly using magic.
Elementalists are a type of magic user able to manipulate one element – wind, earth, fire or water. Sen Seren, like every other city-state, enslaves all elementalists it finds to use their magic to keep the farmlands fertile and the water clean. The elementalists are kept under close watch by the templars. An elementalist outside templar control is terrifying to Abenai and Sereni alike.
Sen Seren is a city that runs on money. The local currency is called ‘suns’, and minted by the templars from a white ceramic called Kingscale. Most goods and services can be bought with suns, and a typical day’s worth of food and water costs three or four suns.
Recently, a nomadic group of humans known as the Horse Lords have come to power in western Ainkarra. For a decade, refugees have arrived at the eastern city-states with stories of relentless raid and plunder at the hands of the Horse Lords.
The Wilderness of Ainkarra
Despite its lack of water, Ainkarra is not just one great big sandy desert. Ainkarra’s wilderness includes scrubby plains, rocky barrens, salty marshes, jagged mountains and more. Life in Ainkarra’s wilderness is hard. The terrain is unforgiving, dangerous wildlife is common, and there are no reliable sources of clean water and food. Ainkarra’s wilderness is also bisected by many silt rivers – dry, deep channels filled with silt, dust and sand. Wading through a silt river requires significant skill to avoid sinking and suffocating.
Fearsome beasts, primitive barbarians and wily bandits dwell in Ainkarra’s wilderness. Most have psionic abilities, some are magical in nature, and all are intelligent and patient. People travel through the Ainkarra wilderness by foot or by riding beast. Kanks, eight-foot-long docile insects, are most commonly riding beasts. Boats called silt skimmers are also used, being able to traverse the silt rivers and the edges of the Ashen Sea. Ainkarra’s wilderness is also full of remnants of the world from before the Fall. Whoever created these monuments and relics is a mystery to the peoples of Ainkarra.
There are four other city-states near Sen Seren. Valmetze is to the west beyond the Natair mountains. Rakkarl is to the east in the Searleig marsh. Miska lies northeast on an island in the Ashen Sea. Kaivos is to the southwest at the base of the Natair. Trade is common between the city-states of Ainkarra. Merchants frequently travel the wilderness to make a profit selling raw materials and goods.
The Natair mountain range rises to the west of Sen Seren. Crossing the Natair through its many caves, canyons, passes and valleys is difficult but possible. The Searleig salt marsh lurks far to the east of Sen Seren. The former homeland of the Abenai, the Searleig, is a dire mass of mud, poisoned water and biting insects. The Tarrag plains stretch to the south of Sen Seren, composed of scrubby plains and rocky badlands. Compared to the rest of Ainkarra’s wilderness, the Tarrag approaches being hospitable. The Muir Tan waste, a vast sandy desert, strangles the southeast of Ainkarra. The dark yellow sands are perilous even for experienced travellers.
Ainkarra has a single sun, Corusca, that rises to the north and sets to the south. It has two moons. The larger moon, Iska, rises in the south and sets in the southeast. The smaller moon, Valr, hangs dead in the centre of the sky, eclipsing the sun once a day.