The world ended in fits and starts, degrading gradually over a thousand years of near-constant war. When, exactly, it ended is hard to tell, but it is univerally agreed that it started in the latter half of their industrial revolution. As the world learned to mass-produce industrialize magic bloomed into the world as well.
This was, unfortunately a universal blossoming, and not all of the people that were gifted with the power to warp reality at will were kind and generous souls. Wars raged across the world, fuelling new discoveries in both science and the magical arts at an astoundingly fast rate, and pushing all the races of man to their breaking point and beyond.
This was the beginnings of what is now called the First Global War, fought primarily between magic-users over who would rule. The Allied Normal/Magical Council sought to coexist peacefully with normals as regular members of society, following the same rules that everyone else did. The Oppressors (a name given them by the eventual winners of the First Global War, remnants of the Council Nations) sought to subjugate all non-magical people and use them as they saw fit, answering only to each other.
This war lasted for nearly a thousand years, with both sides being responsible for catastrophes and atrocities both magical and technological. Swathes of countryside were wiped clean with magical plagues, massive death-curses, genocides, nuclear bombardments, kinetic bombardments from the nascent orbital platforms and space-stations that the races of man had just started to put up.
The war was not entirely constant. There were frequent breaks in the fighting when both sides would become too tired, or bereft of resources to continue, and there were times when the people of that world lived a whole generation without constant strife. In the end, though, the unceasing and brutal warfare wore society down to just a few waning lights, and trackless wastes.
Two-hundred years into the war, the Elves came. They, too had a part to play, as conflicted, muddy, and full of sadness as the native populace. Their ship, a massive living, tree-like vessel they call the Earthship, arrived in the solar system during one of the great conflagrations of the First Global War, known as the Cabal Purges.
Mankind had just put some of their first fortified space-stations, the Orbital Platforms up at the very reaches of their atmosphere, an attempt by the Council Nations to combat the ever-growing, and utterly ruthless Cabal of Enchanters that was at the time the chief power-structure running the Oppressor forces.
Terrified, and on a hair-trigger after the great lycanthropy virus-bomb that infected tens of millions and killed nearly a billion souls, the Council shot first, and asked questions later when a ship that dwarfed anything they could possibly imagine building, and of equally impossible design suddenly appeared at the edge of their atmosphere.
The Elves, suddenly under attack responded in kind, though the damage to their ship had already been done. Unable to fight the pull of the planet’s gravity after the damage from the Orbital Platform’s rail-gun bombardment, the ship fell to earth. This event is now know as The Great Tragedy, or the Firestorm.
The massive ship was designed to be a world-seed. A colony ship to populate a barren world and make it livable for elves. On it were some 10 million elves, most of them in suspended animation. Of the ten-thousand original crew, some thousand survived, thought they in sacrificing themselves, they saved nearly 5 million of their brothers and sisters.
Those crewmembers did the only thing they could do in the minutes and hours they had before the catastrophic impact to minimize the damage to both the world at large and their own people, triggering the emergency protocols on the Earthship to seed. The ship dropped it’s ‘leaves’ as it sped through the atmosphere dropping thousands upon thousands of the collected plants, and animals that they had brought with them from their home planet onto the earth.
Many of those ‘seeds’ burnt up in the atmosphere, and are the reason for the day being known as the Firestorm. The ship itself plummeted to earth, slamming into the planet like a comet, and bathing the world in smoke and dust. It cracked into three large pieces, one tumbling hundreds of miles across the land, tearing a gruesome path of destruction that can still be seen as a scar upon the land. The other two stayed in the crater, two massive, broken monoliths, alien, and silent for years.
The world choked and nearly died in that time. The elves, devastated by what had happened tried their best to make amends, as did the Council Leaders. But there is only so much that can be done, and many of the survivors of that day, elven and non-elven alike, could not forget, or forgive.
This led to two camps forming amongst the Elves, those that wished to try to make a home of this planet that they found themselves on, and to help the people that were devastated by the crash-landing of their ship, and those that hated everything about the planet and wanted to leave as soon as possible.
Eventually, these two camps would come to be known as the Light Elves, and the Dark Elves, due to their attitudes toward the indigenous people of the planet.
The dark elves viewed all of the races of humanity as not much more than ignorant savages, at best, and often as nothing more than animals to be bred, and used as they saw fit. They had only one goal and that was to repair or rebuild their earthship and leave the planet.
The light elves understood the tragedy that brought them to the planet, and sought to coexist and help the people of the planet. After two hundred years, they were so at odds with the dark elves that they could no longer live together, and the two sides agreed, in the interests of hopefully someday reconciling their ‘argument’ as they called it, to separate, with the light elves moving to the tumbled section of the earthship and calling it home.
Since that time the dark elves and light elves have been in a state of neverending cold war. Neither side wishes to kill the other, as they are functionally immortal, and have very low birth rates, but both constantly use proxies or attempt to stop the other from doing whatever they view as ‘going too far’.
Both the dark elves and light elves stand mostly aloof from everyone else, and are viewed by many as ethereal, and frightening beings that rival the Gods for power.
The Light Elves Sought harmony with what they see as their new home, and eventually sided with the less vicious of the natural inhabitants, trying their best to act as mentors to those that they met.The long lives of light elves, both helped and hindered them in this endeavor. They stand aloof, and apart. Keenly aware that they are not of this world, but trying to commune with it as best they can. They are often resented by most mortals, and intercede only when they absolutely must, as too much time spent with humans often leads to conflict, which they see as unfair, given their technological and magical superiority.
The dark elves have no such qualms. They were, in fact, the creators of the trollkin, though most people, including the Trollkin themselves are not generally aware of this.
History, from this point becomes deeply entwined with the feud between the light and dark elves.
Trollkin were created by the dark elves from indigenous trolls. They ran rampant through the forests near their crashed ship, and were a serious threat to their survival. So they changed them. With their magic and their science they flash-evolved trolls into trollkin, and then set them to the task of eradicating their ancestors from the surrounding area with ruthless efficiency. They also turned out to be handy expendable soldiers for sending on slave-raids and throwing at the various native factions that would occasionally take having their families taken from them to die slaving away for the elves as they tried to rebuild their ship.
After several hundred years of this (a relatively short grace period for elves) the light elves stepped in, and put a stop to the practice, sending scouts and special operatives to help the trollkin liberate themselves, and spiriting them away to their forest and pulling as many of the natural trolls as they could out as well.
The light Elves set up the trollkin throughout the forest, and are one of the few races that they routinely still have contact with. Now, trollkin society has blossomed and they can be found throughout the world, though rarely, and nearly all are elf-aligned, worshipping elven deities and holding elven concepts of morality, and society. Though with some odd quirks all their own.
Ritual cannibalism is common among trollkin society, which is not the case for elves, but a byproduct of a very harsh birth as a race. Still, despite their somewhat frightening appearance, and willingness to eat the bodies of their most revered and respected members, or enemies, they are seen in a mostly positive, if somewhat cautious light by the rest of the races of man.
Dwarves were created by the Oppressors in the early years of the First Global War as a slave race as well, intended to be miners, and craftsmen to work the manufactories.
At some point not long after their creation, the Allied Normal/Magical Council managed to liberate most of them from a massive concentration/work camp and put them on several reservations throughout council lands.
The dwarves, being almost entirely subterranian, quickly burrowed underground, and set about systematically freeing any still-captive dwarves over several long and bloody centuries.
Dwarves are magically inert. Being a mutant race cloned specifically to never be an effective magical threat to their Oppressor overlords and thought to be too slow and docile to ever rise up. As a result, dwarves can only access magical energy through the use of magical items.
Luckily for dwarves they were made to be incredibly industrious and fairly ingenious, if somewhat unimaginative. They quickly took the skills they’d learned and figured out how to create ‘collectors’ that can draw magical energy out of the environment, or from ley-lines in the earth ,and store them in special batteries for use in much the same way as other spellcasters of different races do, but with different limitations. (For more information see Iron Kingdoms’ player handbook and libre mechanika about Mechanikal items)
Unfortunately, like everyone else the end of the war decimated them, with earthquakes destroying whole cities, and severing their underground roads, and burying whole nations beneath collapsed mountains. Still, they were some of the first people to re-emerge and are doing fairly well, in their surviving vaults and cities.
Dwarven culture is extremely clannish. And outgrowth of their very strong familial ties and the product of those being ‘broken’ regularly by their enslavement for hundreds of years. Clan, is family, but you don’t have to be blood-related to be clan. They have and do allow non-dwarves to be be ‘kith’ and occasionally full ‘kin’.
Halflings and Gnomes
Though little different mechanically from traditional halflings and gnomes, socially they have some key differences, primarily in their history and cultures.
Halflings are the second youngest of the races of man, coming into existence as a permanent and true-breeding race on their own within the last two-hundred years. They were just beginning to be seen regularly at the end of the previous civilization, and are a result of ‘natural’ mutation in humanity that eventually started breeding true.
They are almost always seen in human settlements, in their own enclaves, or as travelling nomads, and are generally accepted in much the same way little-people, or gypsies/travellers are in real life. They do have some distinct cultural differences as a result of several generations of being relegated to ghettos or forced into nomadic life, travelling from town to town or city to city looking for a home, before being more or less accepted. This has resulted in many settlements being suspicious of halflings as thieves and scavengers, likely to ‘steal your baby’ when their fairly common caravans would come through town.
Gnomes are the result of human and dwarf interbreeding and have existed as a full race for only 400 years. Some scholars believe them to be the precursor to halflings, and this may be possible, but they are distinct enough in culture and genome to be their own race. They are also not compatible, genetically speaking, as mates with any other race.
Gnomes are exclusively found with dwarves, being mostly shunned by humans for their odd, and somehwat (to a human) unattractive head and very short stature. They are smaller, even than halflings, though surprisingly hardy, most likely a result of the genegineered fortitude of their dwarven ancestors. Or as a result of The Quickening.
The Quickening occured around 300 years ago when dwarven genesmiths finally found a cure for the gnomish problem of sterility. Prior to this, gnomes could only be made by a human and a dwarf mating, and this often led to abandoned children and other deep societal pains for the very family-oriented dwarves. They could not stand to see their own kin deprived of the ability to carry on their legacy except through proxy’s or adoptions.
This lead to The Great Migration, which was a period of about fifty years where the vast majority of gnomes on the planet moved to dwarven cities and were cured. After this period, gnomes generally mated among themselves, as the refugees had a hard time integrating, and putting aside their hurt at the shunning they generally received at the hands of humans and preferred to live in their own enclaves within dwarven holds.
Still, it is not uncommon to see gnomes within dwarven clans, or even the occasional mixed-race family of dwarves and gnomes. Interestingly, this hasn’t led to a hybrid of a hybrid, but a mix of gnome and dwarf children. This is only the case for dwarven mothers, however, as a dwarven child cannot come to term in a gnome mother’s womb, and so are generally stillborn, or aborted early if caught. Gnome mothers can give birth to gnome children from dwarven fathers but these are fairly rare occurrences.
This is a general term, given to all the various people that dot the post-apocalyptic Wasteland that resemble anthropomorphic versions of animals. From catfolk to tengu, to lizardfolk, almost all are the result of some form of meddling.
Most often, this meddling was from the Coucil nations, not the Oppressors. They were either misguided attempts to create soldiers (like the cat-folk and tengu) or a way to allow the people of an area ravaged by some environmental or magical upheaval survive. Sometimes willingly sometimes not entirely
Lycanthropy, and werekin, are the result of a horrific curse-disease created by the Oppressors as a form of arcanobiological warfare. A magical virus-bomb. This is partly responsible for the destruction of society throughout the world as it was the last straw in a world whose infrastructure was already crumbling under the weight of nearly a millenia of unchecked magickal and technological warfare.
The disease-and-curse was incredibly potent, fast-acting and effective. It was this worlds “zombie-plague” affecting anyone infected with the disease within a fortnight and leading to the erroneous belief that it was controlled by the moon that still persists to this day throughout most of the world.
It was nearly impossible to treat and might as well be completely impossible now that technology is nearly nonexistent throughout the world at the level it was at the time of the Lycan Bomb. It spread through blood, and from parent to child.
Initially thought to have been cured and wiped out, the second great Lycan Bomb occured nearly one generation later, as the children of those thought to be cured and saved suddenly turned 25 years to the day from the occurence of the first Lycan Bomb.
The werekin are the derivation of that curse-disease, utterly insane and bent only on spreading the disease. They are feared as no other thing on this planet, beside possibly the undead. Thankfully, they rarely form long-lasting packs and mostly get killed off before infecting enough people to cause a full plague now. Still, their bite carries the disease, and it can create new lycanthropes.
Orcs and Half-Orcs
Orcs are, surprisingly, the saviors of all sentient life on the planet. Though very few will thank them for it. When the Lycan Bomb went off it decimated and effectively crippled nearly every race on the planet, except the orcs.
In the annals of orcish history the Great Lycan War is the greatest fight they have ever had, and the for which they are most proud. They had finally found an enemy as savage, and strong as they were. And they had decimated the evil and cowardly but very smart humans they orcs were finally free to leave their mountains and run rampant.
In just over a single human generation, the orcs swelled into the billions thanks to their short lives and quick breeding which was no longer held in check by the systematic killing that they largely inflicted upon themselves by attacking the much more technologically superior humans, dwarves and elves previously.
For most of the last century they fought, burned, raped and pillaged across the world, mostly destroying the last remants of civilization as they raged against the ravenous lycans.
Orcs may only live for thirty years, but they reach sexual maturity and full adulthood in ten, and can continue to reproduce until they die. Thanks to their incredible ability to reproduce like boars and a willingness to ruthlessly murder any of their own infected, as well as a willingness to sacrifice themselves for a ‘good death’ they eventually drove the werebeasts to near-extinction.
As they did this, they naturally encountered the few settlements lucky enough or strong enough to survive the Lycan Bomb, and would often steal humans for ‘sport’. This inevitably led to Half-orcs.
Owing to the violent nature of their existence, humans wanted nothing to do with the offspring, and orcs had little use for the long-lived but weak and ‘cowardly’ muties as they often called them. Though they would, and still do, occasionally carve out hard-fought and tenuous niches for themselves in orc ‘society’ such as it is.
The remainder that survived to adulthood, eventually started to form their own communities and tribes, and managed to meld their two warring genetic selves into something wonderful. They built their own communities and towns and raised children in much the same way humans do. It is not uncommon to occasionally come across a village, settlement, or tribe comprised entirely of half-orcs complete with little half-orc children.
Though brutish in appearance and short-tempered they are not savage. They are, however, shorter-lived than humans thanks to their orcish blood, and do not live much past fifty. This is still better than an Orc’s thirty years. They reach sexual maturity around the same time as humans, and generally start to have children around the age of fifteen, though it’s not uncommon for them to have them as late as twenty.
Bugbears, Hobgoblins, and Goblins
The goblinoid races have existed alongside humans and orcs for as long as either can remember and serve as the opposite but equal to humans. They are almost universally evil, owing to a culture that views self-interest above all else as the highest calling an individual can aspire to.
Hobgoblins are ruthless and utterly without morals, but understand the need for cooperation and have thus formed a very brutal, but effective caste system, reminiscent of a mix between meso-american culture and persian caliphates. While it is not impossible to find the occasional hobgoblin that is not a high-functioning sociopath it is extremely rare. Still, there are rare small tribes that are more native american in their beliefs than meso-american. Prior to the end of the world, they lived mostly in swamps or swampy regions, and tropical jungles. Now they are, like most other races, spread across the planet in little pockets.
They made up the bulk of the Oppressor nations, and were the chief opponents of all of humanity for most of the thousand-year war. Their fate is, and was, much the same as everyone else’s. Their cities laid low, their populations ravaged and left scrabbling over scraps with a few, truly dark, murderous cities hiding out there, hoping still to bring about a utopia where all the races of the world are subjugated beneath their boot-heels.
Bugbears are a sister-race to hobgoblins whose origins are lost to memory. They have been around for as long as hobgoblins, though some say they were the original template, and hobgoblins and goblins but pale copies of the original. Whether this is true or not is still hotly contested by scholars in the Golden City, but no one is willing to spend time close enough to one to find out.
What is sure, is that they are some of the most dangerous beings on the planet next to the dark elves, and were viewed even by them as dangerous to cross. Practically all are genius-level intellect and some have been known to live for as long as 300 years, though more still normally find magical or other means to continue their dark, horrific existence beyond that, or die well before it by violent means.
They were the worst offenders in the First Global War, willing to do things that even the hobgoblins balked at. It was a Bugbear that stole the Lycan Bomb from a Hobgoblin necrotechnoarcanic research facility when those ‘lesser’ goblins decided the risk to their own species was too great.
They proved correct, and were themselves nearly wiped out. It is said that there is still a pack of werebeasts out there, ruled by a massive werebear that seems to be able to think, plan, and some say, even speak. Though the few stories are told by survivors left-behind, who are mad from the horrors they witnessed and have to be put down soon after giving their account as they are almost always infected themselves.
Bugbears do sometimes command hobgoblins or group together, but rarely, as they are so absolutely evil that they can rarely be together for long before they start killing each other. How they mate, and raise young is completely unknown at this time.
Goblins were created by bugbears after their dwarves were taken from them, and were only marginally successful. They used hobgoblins, and made sure to make them extra stupid, so they couldn’t possibly ever pose a serious threat to them.
Barely smarter than dogs, goblins love all things ‘shiny’ and can speak, but not well. They can perform complex tasks if taught to do so, but are generally best left to manual labor under the watchful eye and quick whip of their hobgoblin or bugbear overlords.
Still, they can effectively wield weapons and make good disposable skirmishers for battles, as well as great miners, sappers, and laborers. For their size, they are (like dwarves) able to carry a surprisingly large amount of weight, and take a surprising amount of punishment.
Wild goblins are horrific to see, but if given proper care, can be almost harmless. They were designed to follow the Biggest, as they will often call it, and fight endlessly over who is the Biggest amongst themselves. The arrival of nearly any race save Halflings or gnomes amongst their ‘tribes’ will normally cause them to initially attack and try to kill it as they see anything bigger than them as a threat, then if enough of them have died and the ‘Biggun’ is still alive, they will generally scatter.
Some explorers have noted that very occasionally a goblin will ‘imprint’ on a ‘Biggun’ and follow them much like a dog does, and a few researchers have managed to live amongst goblin tribes for short times as gods, until inevitably they are either challenged for rule by a particularly spunky member of the tribe and run-off, or, for reasons unknown, eaten.
Other Races, and Monsters
There are many other races and monsters throughout the world, most of them existed naturally or were the result of mutation, either intentional or as a result of environmental factors and unintended magical consequences.
As noted before the elves did bring a number of animals with them, and these are primarily the animals you would most commonly associate with elves, or the fae. Fairydragons, pixies (considered a vermin by elves, much like rats, and about as smart, they weren’t seeded but rather hitched a ride on the ship in much the same way rats hide in cargo on sailing ships), blink-dogs, and other similar creatures.
Vampires and Dhamphir
Prior to the Lycan Bomb Vampires were extremely rare and seen as monsters. When the Lycan Bomb went off, however, it was the Vampires that rose to save the races of man from the lycanthropic tidal wave of carnage that descended on the world. Not wanting to compete with the horrendous monstrosities that were running rampant throughout the world or be hunted by them, and seeing a chance to rise from the dark holes they were forced to hide in for aeons, the vampires stepped out of the shadows and went to war openly against the werewolf menace.
They forged alliances with some communities, offering protection in exchange for blood and acceptance amongst them as equals. Sometimes they took over, becoming de-facto warlords, and conscripting humans into their ranks as vampire soldiers to fight the war. Humans willingly asked to be made Vampire to hunt the weres, to fight back more effectively, and with some trepidation on both sides, the number of vampires in the world swelled in a few short years to number in the millions.
It was they who stemmed the tide in the initial explosion, and they who fought the hardest. They were repaid for their efforts by a grudging acceptance amongst the other races. Vampires were now men, too, and held places of power. To cement that power, and keep it safe, they became selective in their turning, and began to breed with some humans, knowing that the result would be Dhamphir.
They developed a heirarchy where the Pure Bloods (those original vampires from before the Lycan War) were at the top, afforded the most luxuries and privileges. They are given almost complete free-reign in what they do, thought there are some clear rules, as detailed later.
Then came the Veterans as they came to be known. The Full-blooded Vampires made during the wars. These Vampires sit a step below the Pure Bloods, often serving as their personal guards and soldiers, or given duchies, earldoms, or knight-hoods as the case merits.
After the Veterans are the Dhamphirs. Dhamphirs are technically the lowest cast, though still elevated above humans in the eyes of the Vampires. Dhamphir are proviisional vampires. Thanks to their long lives and ability to withstand sun, they are the Squires to the Veterans and the House Guard to the Pure Bloods.
Humans are tolerated, but not well-liked. Still, since humans are necessary for procreation it is not uncommon for a vampire to have a favored pet concubine that enjoys many of the privileges and benefits of being a Pure Blood, or Veteran, depending on whom they are attached to.
Generally, Only Pure Bloods are allowed to mate and make more Vampires. Though, for extremely meritorious service, or if the Veteran is distinguished enough they are sometimes made honorary ’Pure Bloods" or Blue Bloods, and are given nearly all the same privileges and rights as a Pure Blood, though they are expected to defer to their Pure Blood betters.
Unlike most of the rest of the races of man, Vampires are almost entirely patriarchal. Female Vampires cannot have children, as it takes a living womb to quicken, so the only female vampires you find, are Dahmphirs which are fairly rare, and are married quickly to produce more heirs, or concubines made vampires after years of faithful and fruitful service. You have the rare surviving Veteran and Pure Blood females occupying privileged status, but generally speaking, female vampires are almost always vassals to a vampire lord and thus occupy the baseline New Blood tier of the Heirarchy.
While New Bloods are technically higher than Dhamphir, depending on their personal relationship with the Vampire lord they may have quite a bit of power within their own demesne Still, when a conclave or other major gathering of Vampires occurs, it is expected that they remember their place and defer to all in attendance. Heierarchy is extremely important to maintaining order in their society. And Dhamphirs are the children of their betters, after all.
Rules vary from Lord to Lord, but there are some hard and fast rules that everyone must follow, as agreed upon by the Global Vampire Council. No Vampire of less than Blue Blood status will make another vampire without first acquiring permission from a Pure Blood. This is enforced under penalty of death. No vampire, or Dhamphir may kill a mortal for sport, or in feeding, unless that mortal is guilty of a crime, or freely given over for such explicit purpose. This is more muddied, and generally punishment of this is doled out on a case by case basis, with extenuating circumstances taken into consideration. It is expected that while in the presence of mortals you will not engage in feeding from another mortal directly, unless that mortal has given permission. Using magic to gain that permission is tantamount to rape in the eyes of the Vampire Council, and dealt with in much the same manner as illegal progeny or killings.
Specially trained and bred Dhamphirs, known as Wardens are offered up by every lord in a tithe to the Council as children and prepared for a life of service to the Global Vampire Council, overseen by one of the oldest Pure Bloods in existence. Their job is to ensure that all other vampires adhere to the basic tenants and keep the peace. The boon of being out in the open and able to feed easily off of willing humans is to great to allow any one vampire to screw it up. So Wardens exist to make sure that any transgressions are dealt with swiftly and publicly. They can go anywhere, at any time of day or night, and are trained specifically in the strengths and weaknesses of Vampires and how to defeat even the strongest of Pure Bloods.
For their service they are required never to make progeny, though they are allowed to mate and have children when they retire after a period of 300 years (an average Dhamphir ‘lifetime’). Assuming they live that long, and that they served honorably, they are then allowed to become full vampires, though of New Blood status. So far, none have reached that age, but it is expected that like all things Vampire it will run smoothly.
Vampire Dress: Since Vampires are fairly recently liberated from a life in shadows they have adopted a very formal dress-code for themselves, to mark them out as the privileged members of society that they are. This exhibits itself as a sort-of neo-gothic clothing movement reminiscent of Prussian or Austrian Military garb from the 19th century. The dress-code is nearly as strictly enforced as the provision against mating, though not on penalty of death. It is simply expected that all good vampires dress in a fashion appropriate to their upbringing. Shell-coats, jodhpurs, riding boots, great-coats, etc.. All made of the finest materials they can find. Even their soldiers are expected to looks smart. They are all immaculately groomed.