The goddess of life and air, Dwayna is the even-tempered leader of the old gods. Her followers are mainly healing Monks and Elementalists specializing in air magic (though in times of war, there are few denizens of Tyria who have not let fly a prayer to the Winged Goddess to spare them or their loved ones). Dwayna is often depicted as young, tall, and slender rising over the ground on huge feathered wings.
The goddess of life and air, Dwayna is the even-tempered leader of the old gods. Her followers are primarily healing Monks and Elementalists specializing in Air Magic (though in times of war, there are few who do not send a prayer to the Winged Goddess to spare them or their loved ones). Dwayna is often depicted as young, tall, and slender, rising above the ground on huge feathered wings. Canthan artists often depict her floating above the vibrant, living souls of their eternal ancestors.
Dwayna watches the world from the heavens, beatifically observing humanity. Healing Monks and Air Elementalists consider her their patron goddess, but countless heroes in need of healing whisper her name in prayer. Dwayna speeds travelers on their journeys, and when her followers are in danger, she sends down lightning from the skies to punish their enemies.
In works of art, Dwayna is often shown as a tall, slender woman rising above the ground on feathered wings. Elonian artists sometimes show her rising from lands ravaged by drought, disease, or plague. A Dervish assuming the Form of Dwayna towers over mortal men, surrounded by elegant wings.
And when the world rang with the clanging of swords and did fire fall from the skies, Dwayna, goddess of life and air, heard the wailings and pleas of the weak.
And when the rumblings of war did not cease, came Her charge, Doric, who did prostrate himself at Her feet.
And cast She now a glance upon the war-torn lands and wasted flesh of the fallen, and with tears upon Her cheek did lay Her gentle hands upon the prostrate man. Then saith She unto to him and all Her charges, "Lay down thy weapons, and as I have done unto ye, so ye must do for your brethren. Offer protection to the weak. Give solace and shelter to those who need it. Be ye a salve to the wounded.
"For I am your goddess, and I will give blessings to all who follow these teachings."
- The Scriptures of Dwayna 115 BE
The god of war and fire, Balthazar is often worshipped by Warriors and Elementalists, though there are Monks who have been known to follow his scriptures as well. Army commanders and guild lords will often say a few words to the Bastion of Martial Glory before leading their followers into battle. Balthazar is frequently shown holding a greatsword, its tip lodged in the ground, with a pair of battle hounds sitting at attention at his feet.
The god of war and fire, Balthazar is often worshipped by Warriors and Elementalists, though Monks devoted to the Protection or Smiting disciplines can also be found among his devotees. Army commanders and guild lords will often say a few words to the Bastion of Martial Glory before leading their followers into battle. Balthazar is frequently shown holding a greatsword, its tip lodged in the ground, with a pair of battle hounds sitting at attention at his feet. In Cantha, the sword is usually one of the single-edged imperial style, and the battle hounds are usually replaced with winged drakes.
Worshiped by Warriors and Fire Elementalists, the Lord of War watches over the battlefields and arenas of the world. Monks who practice Protection and Smiting disciplines speak his name with reverence. Balthazar gives strength to soldiers marching into battle and any adventurer who’s ready for a fight. He guides the sharpened edge of a sword or axe so that it cuts deeply. Many insist that he watches over the battlegrounds of the world to see who glorifies his name. In arenas protected by his priests, followers demonstrate their prowess in battle to earn his favor.
Statues of Balthazar show him holding a greatsword, sometimes with a pair of faithful battle hounds sitting at his feet. Some Elonian art portrays him with majestic lions or other predatory companions crouching beside him. A Dervish taking the Form of Balthazar is a fiery presence, assaulting the world with armor as resilient as heavy plate and a weapon as lethal as the deity's greatsword.
For weeks did the battle rage on, and those who had taken up the mantle of war grew weary and their courage began to falter.
Then did Balthazar, god of war and fire, appear to the soldiers, carrying with him a grand sword that did glow with such brilliance it blinded any who looked upon it. When he spoke, His voice was like thunder, and it shook the ground with force.
Then saith He, "Lift up thy weapons. For you are my soldiers, and must you be steadfast, strong, and brave of heart. They who neither hesitate nor stumble shall be rewarded. Then shall you have glory. Then shall your deeds be remembered for eternity."
And then did release from His sword a hundred thousand flames, which encircled the soldiers. For this was the fire of courage, and forthwith did they follow the god into battle without fear or hesitation. Thence was the enemy struck down.
- Scriptures of Balthazar 48 BE
The twin goddesses of beauty and illusion, Lyssa is the patron god of the Mesmer profession. Many a spellcaster has fallen under the charms of these two, making it easy for them to choose to specialize in the mesmeric arts. Lyssa is usually portrayed in her natural state—a pair of twin, intertwined goddesses, back to back, no illusions or glamours involved. There are stories of young men stopping to gaze longingly at statues of the beautiful goddesses, only to forget themselves and die of thirst while simply looking on.
Twin goddesses of beauty and illusion forming a paradoxically singular entity, Lyssa is the patron god of the Mesmer profession in the northern Tyrian continent. In Cantha she also represents the incarnation of luck, both good and bad. Many Canthan Assassins revere Lyssa more for her intrinsic duality than her famous beauty and have been known to invoke her charms. Depictions of Lyssa in Canthan culture reflect the typical northern style: lithe twin figures of exquisite beauty entwined in an eternal dance.
The patron goddess of Mesmers wears many masks, appearing in myriad forms. Patrons of the arts effusively praise her particularly in the courts of wealthy Vabbi but some fear her as a temperamental goddess. Behind her beautiful façade, some say, she maintains a deep communion with chaos. Displays of art and culture please her, but her wrath is terrible to behold. Her followers use her magic for illusion, trickery, and deception, twisting the magic of others to suit their own goals. By her whims, her enemies are brutalized by despair and hopelessness, while her beautiful followers are elevated to heights of rapture.
Tyrian artists often portray Lyssa as two goddesses: twin figures of exquisite beauty entwined in an eternal dance. In Elona, the masks may change, and the dance may change, but Lyssa’s dual nature does not. She is beautiful to some and terrifying to others. A Dervish assuming the Form of Lyssa wears multiple masks, channeling blessings for mayhem and magic.
And it was, that a stranger came to the village of Wren seeking shelter and employment. Though young in years, her body was stooped and twisted, her flesh eaten by disease. "Ye have the mark of plague upon ye," said the citizen named Gallrick. "Leave this place lest you sicken our people."
"I've lost my family and my home," cried the desperate woman. "Have you no heart?"
Yet each person, in turn, did look away.
Then from the crowd came a young woman, Sara. She looked upon the woman with pity. "If you need help," said Sara, "I will give it." And Sara did approach the gnarled, bent woman and did offer her a helping hand.
Then the sickened woman pulled from her body the robes of plague, revealing Herself to be the goddess Lyssa.
The people of Wren fell to their knees, begging Lyssa's mercy. But lifting Sara gently, saith She, "True beauty is measured not by appearance but by actions and deeds. Many have eyes, but few have seen. Of all here, you saw the beauty behind the illusion. And you alone shall be blessed with My gifts."
- Scriptures of Lyssa 45 BE
Necromancers learn early that the way to true power is by bowing down at the foot of the god of death and ice and pledging total, undying allegiance. Statues of Grenth depict the god with the body of a man and the skeletal head of a drawn-faced beast. Often, there are followers at his feet, grasping toward his open, clawed hands, clamoring for the powers the unforgiving deity may feel so inclined to heap upon his subjects.
Necromancers learn early that the way to true power is by bowing down at the foot of the god of death and ice to pledge total, undying allegiance. The Assassins of Cantha pay homage to Grenth, and rarely take on a job unless a priest of Grenth places a blessing upon the task. Ritualists, who speak to and control the darker forces of the underworld, also draw strength from Grenth’s teachings. Statues of Grenth depict the god with the body of a man and the narrow, skeletal head of a beast; Canthan artists tend to add a draconic look to the skull. The Canthan version of Grenth stands astride a small mountain of the dead, but in Canthan art the faces of these corpses are always averted from the god of death, as if in shame, to distinguish these enslaved dead from the “living” ancestor spirits.
Necromancers revere Grenth, as do Water Elementalists, who often punish their enemies with chilling cold. When the world is at its darkest, fearful souls pray to him as a means of last resort. Worship of Grenth requires sacrifice. Any path to his hidden secrets tests the soul as much as it does the mind. His acolytes and cultists know that the veil between worlds is thin, but if they can pay a price of blood and souls, the bodies of the dead will rise up and wreak havoc in the world of the living. The faithful know that when they die, their souls will eventually pass on to the Mists…but they still pray to Grenth, so that he may ease their suffering along the way.
Monuments to Grenth portray him with the body of a man and the narrow skull of a beast. Throughout Elona, many of these statues have piles of bone and ivory beneath them, left as offerings by anonymous and fearful commoners. When life is difficult, zealous worshipers leave offerings of flesh and sinew, showing their devotion with fanatic displays of sacrifice. A Dervish assuming the Form of Grenth glares at the world through a bestial skull, measuring the worth of each fallen corpse.
Came then Desmina, scorned and exiled by her people. And in her misery and wretchedness, did Desmina curse the gods for abandoning all who, like her, admired power and ambition.
And asketh she, "Where is the god to whom I may give my undying devotion? Where is the god to whom I may beg revenge against those who scorn me?"
And rumbled then the earth from far below, and with a terrible groan, split open. The ground grew white with frost and ice, and from forth the frozen earth spilled the rotted, skeletal minions of Grenth.
Appeared then the god, and with bony hands outstretched, welcomed the girl into His fold. Saith he, "I am your god. Follow where I lead, come whence I call, and the rotted corpses of the dead will be yours to control." And swearing allegiance in life and beyond, did Desmina thence become the god's first follower.
- Scriptures of Grenth 48 BE
The goddess of earth and nature, Melandru is the favored god of Rangers and earth Elementalists. It is said the Maguuma druids at one time worshipped this deity, but there are none alive today who can confirm the truth of this rumor. Melandru is frequently depicted as a human female torso whose lower body is the trunk, branches, and roots of a living tree. Her statues attract weary travelers. Beneath her branches await plenty of fresh water and shelter from the elements.
Many Canthans, especially the suspicious Luxons and the warlike Kurzicks, believe that the goddess of earth and nature has abandoned the empire. They believe that not even Melandru could have withstood Shiro Tagachi's literally petrifying death cry. But Melandru’s devoted followers — the Rangers, Earth Elementalists, and many cultist sects know that this is merely a misunderstanding of what the goddess truly represents. They know that the goddess endures within the crystalline shell of the once-thriving Canthan landscape. Melandru is frequently depicted in both Cantha and Tyria as a tall, winged dryad from the waist up. But whereas northerners see a creature whose lower half grows naturally into a living tree, Canthan artists usually describe a severe figure ensconced in an outcrop of Echovald quartz. Melandru’s roadside temples offer shelter, food, and water to weary travelers even in Cantha, though such shrines are few, and separated by long stretches of lifeless stonescape.
Rangers and Earth Elementalists leave offerings to Melandru, trusting to her guidance. Throughout Elona, roadside temples to the goddess offer shelter and water to weary travelers. Wandering Dervishes maintain many of these shrines. With her blessings, the ground can slow or snare enemies, wanderers can survive in the harshest wilderness, and masters of magic can shake the very foundations of the world.
Most statues of Melandru show her as a tall, winged dryad rising from a tree-shaped base. Many temples use magic to shape that shrine from a living tree; for example, Elonian sculptures often rise from the base of a mebayah or a rooted dreamflower. A Dervish assuming the Form of Melandru has an arboreal appearance, acting with the same resolve as a tree with roots deep in the earth.
And it was that a tribe of godless humans wandered the land. Where camped did they lay waste, senselessly destroying everything nearby.
And so the tribe set out to find another camp, when suddenly sprouted a wall of thorny branches, which blocked their exit.
Then saith Ewan, leader of the tribe, "Know ye our ways. Whosoever does magic in this tribe shall be put to death."
Yet none comes forward. Then, from the earth grows forth a large tree, and unfurling its branches, reveals the upper torso of a woman. Saith She, "I am Melandru, the Mother of earth and nature. Henceforth I bind ye to these lands. When they suffer, so shall ye suffer."
And as She saith, so was it done. From their limbs sprouted branches, and the blood in their veins was the sap of trees. Then was Ewan and his tribe converted, and became they stewards of nature.
- Scriptures of Melandru 48 BE
And so it came to pass that Jadoth, being persecuted by the horrific Forgotten armies, and hounded from his home, did seek refuge among the cooling mists of the Crystal Sea. Untold weeks passed as Jadoth huddled in his sanctuary, with nothing to see save the endless ripples of the boundless ocean.
On the 51st day of his exodus, a frightful sight manifested before Jadoth's eyes: the unmistakable shape of Forgotten warships upon the horizon's shimmering edge.
And prayed Jadoth, "Abaddon! Lord of the Everlasting Depths, Keeper of Secrets, open mine eyes and bestow upon me the knowledge of the Abyss that I might smite mine enemies and send them to the watery depths!”
An unsettling silence swept across the waves. The twilight sky shattered and stars streaked down upon the Forgotten armada. The seas boiled and ruptured, and gave birth to a maelstrom from which not even light could escape, and transforming the sky above into a midnight void.
And thus was magic gifted to Jadoth, chosen of Abaddon, the first of the Margonites.
- Scriptures of Abaddon 1BE
And so it came to pass that Spearmarshal Kormir, hero of all Elona, was pulled into the inky blackness surrounding the God of Secrets. And though her sight had been robbed, her body wracked, and her spirit flayed, she remained resolute.
And so was she joined within the Realm of Torment by fearless allies, <character name> and other great heroes, who stood at her side as she sought to thwart Nightfall. Together did they battle through Fear, and Anguish, and Madness, until at last they stood before the face of the imprisoned god; he who had challenged the Five and lost; he who threatened to break the chains placed upon him by the other gods; he who now sought to bring Nightfall to the world: the dark god, Abaddon.
And so did Kormir and her allies engage the dark god in titanic battle. And through her power, and their combined skill and bravery, and the blessings of the Five True Gods, did Abaddon at last face his ultimate defeat.
Yet the power of a god cannot be destroyed, and Kormir, making a choice that only a mortal could make, did take upon herself the mantle of the Goddess of Truth, with all its power and responsibility, all its dominion and duties.
And so by mortal hands did a new immortal enter creation.
- Scriptures of Kormir 1075 AE
The Mouvelian calendar (named after Grand Patriarch Mouvel, the first high priest of the Church of Dwayna) begins counting years from the moment the gods left Tyria. This event is known as the Exodus. Years before this date are labeled BE (Before the Exodus). Years after this date are AE (After the Exodus). Years prior to the year 1 AE count down, getting smaller as they get closer to the time of the Exodus (just as they do in the Gregorian calendar).
There are 4 seasons and 360 days in the Mouvelian year.
The Canthan Empire uses its own dating system for strictly internal and local affairs. When dealing with outsiders such as the Tyrians of the northern kingdoms, most Canthans can easily convert from the mathematically sound Canthan calendar to the more commonly used Mouvelian dating system. The Mouvelian calendar begins counting years from the moment the gods left Tyria, an event known as the Exodus; years are labeled BE (Before the Exodus) or AE (After the Exodus). In Cantha, the years are counted from the date the clans unified into the Empire of the Dragon under Lord Emperor Kaineng Tah: the year 510 BE according to the Mouvelian calendar. The years before this date are not considered important enough to number, and are simply referred to as the early, middle, or late pre-imperial era.
Unlike the Mouvelian calendar, which divides the 360-day year into four seasons aligned with the elements, the Canthan calendar—also 360 days—is broken into 12 months of 30 days each. Each month once aligned perfectly with the cycles of the moon, but over time the two cycles have diverged. Today, the new moon usually appears roughly halfway through any given Canthan month.
Most months of the Canthan calendar have names whose origins are lost to history and predate the empire by centuries. Only two—Changhai and Kainengtah—have relatively recent origins. These months, which bookend the Canthan year, are named for the two most celebrated emperors in Canthan history: Kaineng Tah, the Lord Emperor who united the Canthan clans; and Chang Hai, a prince who followed the path of the hero and became Ascendant before taking the throne. Chang Hai became the first of many such "Ascendant Emperors."
Whenever Elona's scholars write about history, they use their own conventions for writing about time. Different countries use different systems: Tyrians use the Mouvelian calendar, while Canthans have their own Canthan calendar. When dealing with outsiders, Elonians have little difficulty converting their dates to one of these other calendars.
On the continent of Tyria, all history is relative to the year the gods left the world, an event known as the Exodus. Elonians begin their calendar two hundred years earlier, when the first of the Primeval Kings began their rule over Elona. All years in Elonian history include the letters “DR,” measuring years after the Dynastic Reckoning.
Like the Mouvelian calendar, the Elonians divide a 360-day year into four seasons aligned with the elements. Each season is ninety days long.
Priests proclaim that each season is sacred to a different god or goddess. Merchants have their own names for the seasons, passed on from the Tyrians with whom they trade. Mages believe each season corresponds to an element.
Some Elonian festivals mark the passage of one season to another with tributes to the gods.[list][*]Dwayna, the Goddess of Air, is featured in many Spring rituals, since that season is Air-aligned.[*]Lyssa also features prominently in many Spring rituals, particularly events dealing with courtship and matrimony.[*]Many of the greatest sacrifices to Balthazar occur during the Summer, since it is typically the best time of the year for raiding.[*]Practical Elonians think that Autumn is the best time for harvests. They thank Melandru for her bounty with Earth-aligned rituals at that time of year. Tyrians, on the other hand, think of Autumn as a Water-aligned season, perhaps because of the many ships that set sail at that time of year.[*]Elonians speak of Winter as the season of water, the element associated with cold. Though their country does not have ice or snow, priests perform their most elaborate rituals to Grenth during the coolest and darkest time of the year.
Prophecies and Factions King Adelbern
Born in: Drascir
Age (1072 AE): 61
Descended from the great King Doric, King Adelbern is well-liked by the citizens of Ascalon. His easy demeanor and battlefield heroics secured his spot as one of the most popular kings in the history of the walled nation.
In his younger days, Adelbern was the champion of his guild, Ascalon’s Chosen. Tales of his feats during the Guild Wars are told and retold today—the enemies he fought growing larger and fiercer as the stories are passed from one mouth to the next.
He’s older now, and though he’s a well-liked king, his insistence that the army can hold back the beasts from the north has started the people whispering to each other in the streets. Not everyone agrees with the king on this matter. Making matters worse, Prince Rurik, the king’s eldest son and heir to the throne, is among those who criticize Adelbern’s policies. And though he is close to his son, the king and the prince often do not see eye to eye.
Born in: Drascir
Age (1072 AE): 32
Firstborn son of King Adelbern and heir to the throne of Ascalon, Prince Rurik is a brave, bold man who often takes action on the spur of the moment. He leads by example, never cowering or shirking a challenge. Some say he has no fear. Others claim his brash bravery is merely reckless. Regardless, the prince is liked by almost everyone in Ascalon, and he spends much of his time among the citizens, preferring the company of commoners to that of Ascalon’s rich upper crust.
As a boy, Prince Rurik trained at the Ascalon Academy and did a stint as an officer in the army. Today, he maintains a fighting force of his own, known as the Ascalon Vanguard. These soldiers are completely independent of the king’s financing and influence. Rurik's father, King Adelbern, takes a certain amount of offense to this, though he keeps it to himself and his closest advisors. Though the prince is loyal to his father, he doesn’t always agree with the man’s methods or ideology.
King Jalis Ironhammer
Born in: Grooble’s Gulch
Age (1072 AE): 127
The wise kind of the Deldrimor dwarves, King Jalis Ironhammer rules his people from the peaks of the Shiverpeak mountains. He is a smart, strong, patient man who makes his decisions based solely on how they will affect the well-being of all the dwarves in Deldrimor. He lives to serve his people and they love and respect him for it.
There are those, however, who wish to see the good king taken out of power. Namely, the Stone Summit, a group of xenophobic dwarves who have broken their ties with Deldrimor and are trying to take control of the dwarven nation. Over the past several years, the Summit have been growing their power, and a civil war is brewing.
King Jalis Ironhammer does not want to fight other dwarves, but he will do what he must to keep his people safe. Along with his loyal brother, Brechnar Ironhammer, the king has rallied his forces, and they stand ready to defend their home. The question on the king’s mind though is this: Can he win?
Patient, thoughtful, and wise—all are attributes commonly ascribed to King Jalis Ironhammer, except by the rebellious Stone Summit Dwarves, of course. When Ascalonian refugees sought passage through the Shiverpeaks, King Jalis recognized the advantages of helping potential allies during their time of despair. This wise decision was more than repaid when the adventurers he had aided returned and helped defeat the leaders of the Stone Summit Dwarves, restoring order to the Shiverpeaks.
Once the immediate threat of civil war was gone, King Jalis turned to rebuilding Deldrimor society. But the discovery of the Tome of Rubicon has pointed the Dwarves toward a new destiny—one that will test the mettle of this great king as he attempts to lead his people through the greatest trial the Dwarves have ever faced.
Born in: Rin
Age (1072 AE): 24
Devona is quite serious and direct in her dealings with others. She aspires to be a great Warrior, just like her father. At times this aspiration turns into a tremendous internal pressure to succeed. Devona's father was one of the leaders of Ascalon's Chosen, a prestigious and well-respected guild. He died defending the city walls against a raid by an Orrian guild during the last Guild War. Devona was only a little girl at the time, but since that day, she has dedicated her life to mastering the martial arts of sword and hammer.
Devona is the level-headed leader of the party. She always assesses a situation before rushing in, which sometimes puts her at odds with the brash Cynn. Despite her restraint and control, Devona has a temper, and it can get the best of her. She would sacrifice her own life to save the life of a friend, and she frequently puts herself in harm's way to protect those who travel with her. Devona has a deep sense of loyalty and duty. To her, there would be no greater honor than to follow in the footsteps of her father and give her life defending that which is most dear to her.
Devona naturally rises to lead most any group she is with, and in Cantha she often butts heads with both Togo and Mhenlo, despite her lack of experience on the southern continent. She always assesses any situation before rushing in. This often puts her at odds with the brash Cynn and the impulsive Lo Sha – and when her temper gets the best of her, this often erupts into verbal, though not physical, conflict. But whatever differences she might have with her allies, she is loyal to a fault. Devona would sacrifice her own life to save the life of a friend, and frequently puts herself in harm’s way to protect those who travel with her. Devona was the first of Mhenlo’s friends to volunteer to join him in Canhta. Indeed, there was no question she would join him, she told the Monk. Loyalty demanded it. Cynn
Born in: Surmia
Age (1072 AE): 20
A former child prodigy, Cynn always had people catering to her every whim. Her family was among the nobility in the city of Surmia—until the Charr invasion and the Searing. When Ascalon was destroyed, Cynn got caught outside the Wall (Surmia was one of the first places to fall during the initial assault). A magical projectile fell directly upon her palatial home, killing her parents and trapping her under a broken table for several days. A Charr warband discovered her while looting the city. They dug her out, thinking to make a meal of her, but Cynn had other ideas. She single-handedly wiped out the entire warband, turning them and the remains of her home into little more than a smoldering pile of ash.
Cynn is a bit of a princess but with a decidedly dark streak. She's often cynical and flippant when dealing with authorities or situations that seem hopeless. She's highly intelligent, and magic comes easy to her. Because of her experiences during the Searing, Cynn has developed a rather cavalier attitude toward her own death. Consequently, she tends to bite off more than she can chew, and often gets herself and her friends into trouble.
She has joined Mhenlo’s expedition to Cantha to satisfy her own curiosity, to learn new ways to make things explode, and out of an honest (though well-hidden) desire to stop the mysterious threat in Cantha before the southern continent sees the same devastation that has wrecked the northern realms of Tyria. Aiden
Born in: Kree Foothills
Age (1072 AE): 32
The son of a huntsman, Aidan grew up with a quiver of arrows on his back. His mother died giving birth to him while his family was on a wagon train from Kryta to Ascalon. As soon as the boy was old enough to hold a bow in one hand, Aidan’s father packed up just the good steel heads of their tools and the two men headed off into the wild. They found a spot in the middle of a forest clearing, refitted their tools with hand-carved handles, and built their own home from scratch.
Aidan is a survivor. Nothing is out of the question if it means he and his companions will live for another day. He thinks fast and acts even faster. His inner calm—a sort of simple confidence—has a way of infecting everyone around him. Being the oldest member of the party, he has the wisdom of years his younger counterparts lack, though he never feels the need to lord it over them. He does feel a certain amount of responsibility to keep the group informed and out of trouble if at all possible. From time to time, he takes on the role of group patriarch, but only if there is a meltdown and he sees the need for his cooler head to prevail.
Aidan is a survivor. Nothing is out of the question if it means he and his companions will live for another day. He thinks fast and acts even faster, with an inner calm and silent confidence his friends find infectious. Aidan has wisdom his younger counterparts lack, though he never feels the need to lord it over them. To Master Togo, Aidan is a youngster, and the Ranger has easily let the mantle of wisdom pass to the Ritualist. Aidan was glad to join Mhenlo’s journey to Cantha, though he is troubled nightly by the thought of his homeland having to get by without him. This is not arrogance, but simple recognition of fact.
Born in: Serenity Temple
Age (1072 AE): 22
Born in Serenity Temple to a priest of Dwayna and priestess of Balthazar, Mhenlo has been steeped in the teachings of healing and smiting magic. A devoted servant of both Dwayna and Balthazar, he has studied hard his entire life, and has been rewarded by both the gods of his provenance. But paying allegiance to two gods has not been without its consequences; having no clear path to follow, Mhenlo has a tendency to overanalyze situations and possible consequences, not sure whether to take the path of aggressive strength or that of defensive grace.
Mhenlo spent much of his life inside Serenity Temple, paying homage to the old gods and studying the Path, which will lead him to enlightenment. He is rather timid as the story begins, not completely trusting of his magical prowess, but with Cynn’s help he gains confidence and becomes more comfortable with his considerable power.
Mhenlo spent much of his life inside Serenity Temple, paying homage to the old gods and studying the Path, which will lead him to enlightenment. He also spent a long stretch of his youth studying under Master Togo of Shing Jea Monastery, where he was exposed to even more religious and philosophical teachings that made it no easier for the young monk to find a focus in life. But the teachings of Togo and the Ritualist’s wisdom made a deep impact on Mhenlo. When Master Togo sends a request for Mhenlo’s aid, the monk wastes no time gathering his friends and setting out for Cantha.
Born in: Unknown
Age (1072 AE): 20
Eve hasn’t a clue where she was born—she was found as a young child stealing food from a sleeping vagrant in the back alleys of Ascalon City. Fortunately for Eve, she was not found by a city guard but by a kindly matron, who brought her to the Holy Dwayna Academy for Wayward & Incorrigible Girls (Ascalon City branch). Wherever Eve had come from, she had already learned to read at an advanced level before she ended up at the school students called the “Wayward Academy,” and voraciously devoured every text in the library. It wasn’t long before Eve’s curiosity (and her ability to both manipulate and avoid Matron Irma) led her to a secret library in the bowels of the Academy. There, forbidden texts opened up an entirely new world to young Eve. By the time she was 15, she had raised her first bone minion.
Eve had never gotten along with the other girls—she much preferred the company of her tomes and scrolls. When, one day, a few of her fellow students pulled an especially vicious and humiliating prank on her, Eve literally pounced upon the leader of her tormentors, bit the girl’s ear off, and swallowed it whole. That was the end of Eve’s studies at the Holy Dwayna Academy for Wayward & Incorrigible Girls, and not even Matron Irma mourned her departure.
Eve met Mhenlo, Cynn, Devona, and Aidan during the Charr invasion. She was in the graveyard, experimenting with new methods of undead resurrection, when the Charr flooded into the cemetery on the heels of Mhenlo and the others. More out of curiosity than any noble intentions, Eve ordered the Charr to stop. When the beastly creatures turned on her instead, thinking her easy prey, she simply raised her hands and called forth a small army of the dead to meet them. The Charr never stood a chance. Eve was amused when Devona asked the Necromancer to join them, but has since become a good friend of Devona, Aidan, and Mhenlo. She is often in conflict with Cynn, but the two respect each other’s power enough to get along when the going gets rough.
Of all Mhenlo’s friends, Eve is probably the most independent, and it would not take much for the Necromancer to leave them behind and strike out on her own. But she is smart enough to know that loyal allies—even the living—are valuable to one with her powers. She has joined the expedition to Cantha to learn new ways to manipulate the powers of necromancy, and, she freely admits, to see what kinds of horrors might be created from Cantha’s unique species. Eve’s one constant companion is a human skull she found in the hidden library. She insists that the skull—which she calls “Adam”—speaks to her and dispenses wise advice at critical junctures. No one else has ever heard the skull say a word.
Born in: Kaineng City
Age (1072 AE): 50
Emperor Kisu grew up admiring his elder half-brother Togo in Kaineng City. Both were sons of the last emperor, Kintah, but Kisu was the legitimate son of Kintah and his wife, while Togo—though 15 years Kisu’s senior—was born to the emperor’s favored concubine Yuki. The two were always close, but when Kisu left to take on the duties of empire, Togo followed a different path. Kisu became the sovereign ruler of several hundred thousand souls on the southern continent, while Togo studied the ways of magic and ritual. The emperor is respected and beloved by the Canthan people, even though few have ever actually seen him in person outside of the urban areas of Kaineng City.
When not holding court, Emperor Kisu often dwells in his own palatial, private section of the city, Raisu Palace, which is forbidden to all but the emperor and those he chooses to allow inside. And every year during the Harvest Festival, he travels (with a well-armed entourage) to the temple where Shiro Tagachi slew Kisu’s ancestor 200 years earlier, in defiance of fear or fate.
Born in: Kaineng City
Age (1072 AE): 65
Son of the previous Canthan emperor and his beloved concubine, Yuki, Togo grew up in the palace and helped raise his young half-brother, Kisu. Though Kisu was next in line for the imperial throne, he and Togo were always close, and the elder half-brother helped oversee the future emperor's education alongside the palace tutors. When Kisu left his studies behind to take on the imperial role, Togo left for Shing Jea Monastery, eventually rising to a leadership position. In the time since, each has grown accustomed to running his own "empire"—Kisu the literal Empire of the Dragon, and Togo the most respected and holy academic institution in the land. There is no ill will between them, despite the petty efforts of some underlings to drive wedges between the half-brothers. Still, for the safety of each, their blood relationship is not widely publicized.
Togo went on to become an accomplished Ritualist and was key to several Canthan military victories before he was named the new Master of Shing Jea Monastery upon the death of Master Botah. To the casual observer, Togo would appear to have been shunned by the palace, possessing no power. A closer look reveals that he is the emperor's "behind-the-scenes" man; Kisu rarely makes a move of any importance without consulting his half-brother first.
Born in: Wajjun Bazzar
Age (1072 AE): 22
Nika's past is shrouded in nearly as much mystery as Nika herself, though Master Togo has learned a bit about her—everyone knows the master of Shing Jea Monastery. She has also let slip to Master Togo, if not to Mhenlo and his friends, that she was born in Wajjun Bazaar, a market district not far from one of the largest ports in Cantha. Her father died mysteriously before she was born; her mother sent Nika to the secretive Conclave at a very young age to learn the art of the Assassin, a trade that the women of her family had practiced for centuries. Her mother, in fact, runs the largest Assassin's guild in all of Cantha. Nika killed her first man at age 10, and made her first solo kill when she was 12. She has never murdered anyone, to her way of thinking—assassination is her business, and she kills only to defend herself or her friends, or to fulfill a licensed contract.
Nika joins Mhenlo's group almost by accident. She is impressed by the way the disparate group of heroes works so efficiently, and offers to fill a void left by a set of twin sisters that left the group earlier. She is wholly dedicated to only two things—avenging her ancestor Vizu and protecting the Empire of the Dragon.
Born in: Kaineng City
Age (1072 AE): 25
Lo Sha is one of the most brilliant teachers at Shing Jea Monastery, but like many true geniuses, he is somewhat addled when it comes to small details. And like many Mesmers, he is justifiably vain and proud. Headmaster Kaa likes to say that if Lo Sha would focus on his skills as much as he focuses on his fellow Mesmer instructor, Mei Ling, he could be one of the greatest Mesmers in Canthan history. So far, Lo Sha’s obsession with Mei Ling has kept him just shy of true greatness, but even so, few can equal his talent with illusion, inspiration, and domination magic.
Lo Sha joins Mhenlo’s group at Master Togo’s insistence—Togo is one of the few beings Lo Sha truly respects, and the Mesmer would follow the master of Shing Jea Monastery into the underworld if asked. He prefers, however, to remain at the monastery whenever possible, studying new and spectacular ways to manipulate the perceptions of others—especially Mei Ling’s.
Born in: Cavalon
Age (1072 AE):
The Turtle Champion is respected and honored throughout the Luxon territories for his courage, his profound sense of justice, and his awe-inspiring power on the battlefield. He was the first Luxon Champion to earn his title in mortal combat that ended without the death of either combatant. Argo’s opponent, Tullus, had fought bravely, and continued to keep his guard defiantly up even after the bloody loss of a foot and many other injuries. Rather than strike Tullus down as the crowd demanded, Argo simply declared himself the victor and handed Tullus his sword. The gesture allowed his foe to leave the arena alive and with honor intact, but was a clear indication of Argo’s victory—to hand over his weapon showed that the future champion had nothing to fear. Justice was served, the bloodlust of the crowd was relatively satisfied, and this noble act earned Argo the admiration of all the clans. Even the Kurzicks honor Argo’s bravery and skill, as a foe against whom they themselves can hope to prove worthy.
Even more than the Luxons’ traditional enemies, Argo carries generations of hatred in his heart for the Canthan Empire, which he, and many Luxons, believe has kept his people cornered in the most desolated section of the continent, the Jade Sea. Yet as much as he despises the Canthan Empire, the continent is still his home. And when threats arise that no one faction can face alone, Argo might be convinced to join forces with the Kurzicks—and perhaps even with the Canthan oppressors—to fight for the survival of all.
Countess Danika zu Heltzer
Born in: Arborstone
Age (1072 AE): 22
Danika zu Heltzer dwells with the rest of her family in the fortress-like Cathedral zu Heltzer, a monument to Saint Viktor (one of the two champions who slew Shiro Tagachi on the day of the Jade Wind). Like her father Count Petrov zu Heltzer, leader of the great Kurzick House that bears their last name, Danika is proud to name the venerable Viktor as an ancestor. Unlike her father, Danika is much more open-minded toward non-Kurzicks and the other Kurzick Houses. This is probably attributable to her avid reading habits. To overcome the extreme boredom of what she considers her “imprisonment” in the cathedral, she has voraciously devoured the contents of countless tomes in the zu Heltzer family library, especially those that speak of other lands and other peoples.
Danika has never been more frustrated with the Kurzicks’ isolationist policies, which she believes can only lead to the further decline of her people, and indeed her world. She is eager to venture into the world outside Echovald Forest, and find new allies for all the Kurzicks. Like Argo, her sense of justice is strong, and she would be among the first of the Kurzicks to set aside factional differences should a greater threat arise. She has even had some contact, against her father’s strict orders, with House Vasburg, the longtime rivals of House zu Heltzer.
No one but Shiro Tagachi knows what made this sacred imperial bodyguard—the emperor's most trusted servant—turn on his master on the Day of the Jade Wind. Did Shiro plan to sever the unbroken imperial bloodline and crown himself emperor? Was it revenge he sought, for some perceived wrong the emperor had done to Shiro or the Tagachi family? Could Shiro have been seeking some form of power that historians can no longer comprehend?
Whatever his motive, Shiro's act has been literally carved in stone. On the last day of the Harvest Festival, the emperor's favored bodyguard arrived at the Harvest Temple and was waiting when the emperor reached the pinnacle of the temple's tower. Shiro cut down the emperor of Cantha where he knelt on the holy floor, staining it forever with the monarch's blood. Shiro himself was slain only moments later, but his revenge on those who killed him was the most significant event in Canthan history since Kaineng founded the empire. In Shiro's final moments, he drew on all of his ill-gotten power to drain the emperor's very soul away. Seething with magic but mortally wounded, the treacherous bodyguard screamed, and his voice washed over an area hundreds of miles across. Shiro's death wail became the Jade Wind, a cataclysmic wave of energy that turned trees, animals, people, and open water into stone and crystal.
In the wake of Shiro's fall, the empire carried on. But Shiro's legacy on the continent is undeniable and permanent. Today, many signs point to Shiro's return after two centuries in the border realms of the afterlife. A spectral force driven by rage, a thirst for power, and a special kind of madness, he corrupts everything in his wake. The Canthan people know nothing of this, and suspect that the hideous results of "the Affliction" are some kind of monstrous plague. But even those who know that Shiro stalks the shadows have no idea of the power seething within him— or what he might do with it.
Nightfall and Eye of the North
Centuries ago, Turai Ossa saved the nation of Elona by defeating the undead lord Palawa Joko. In gratitude, the populace praised him as the warmarshal of Kourna... and the nation accepted him as their king. Since that time, all of Kourna’s warmarshals have been direct descendants of Turai. Varesh Ossa is the latest inheritor of that legacy—and like her ancestor, she has a vision for the future of the nation.
Varesh Ossa is a brilliant commander, a loyal Kournan who instills loyalty and dedication in her troops. Like her ancestor Turai, she has also shown an interest in more spiritual concerns. Elonians see much of Turai’s greatness in Varesh. By using political acumen, her charismatic presence, and the influence of her family legacy, Varesh has rallied the Kournan army, inspiring them as Turai Ossa did long ago. Some loyal Elonians hope that she can unify the nation again, restoring it to the greatness of its past. Others fervently hope that she does not share his madness. History will see how well Varesh succeeds on her own spiritual quest.
Three generals report directly to Warmarshal Varesh Ossa. General Morgahn has known her the longest, having served under her father for decades. When Varesh was born, Morgahn spent years assisting with her training and the shaping of her character. As a loyal patriot, he considers duty and honor to be the highest virtues a soldier can have. Although Varesh is curious about lofty philosophical concepts like Ascension, Morgahn keeps to a simple faith. He's a devout follower of the goddess Lyssa, holding great respect for artists and crafters. Like any good soldier, he chants his prayers to Balthazar when charging into battle, but in the dark of night, it's his faith in Lyssa that sustains him.
General Bayel rose through the ranks of Kourna’s army through dedication, hard work, and ruthless use of force. As an Ascalonian, he worked twice as hard to prove himself as many Kournan recruits, demonstrating his resolve and discipline again and again. If he knows the outcome of a battle comes down to his life or someone else’s, he sees nothing wrong with making sure it’s the other soldier who loses. His zeal extends to battles against countless opponents. When the Centaurs became rebellious, he volunteered to lead the “pacification campaign” against them. When the corsairs showed a blatant disregard for Elonian law, he took pleasure in leading raids against them, taking revenge on behalf of his adopted nation. Overwhelming force has solved many of his greatest problems.
As a result, Bayel is admired in the courts of Warmarshal Varesh, feared by those who serve him, and hated by those who oppose him. His enemies claim that he cares little for “collateral damage,” that he considers the deaths of civilians a small price to pay for the security of the state. As a ruthlessly efficient war machine, General Bayel will stop at nothing to destroy his enemies once he sets his sights on an objective. Victory demands nothing less than complete dedication.
In recent years, Varesh has spent more time with Kahyet than her other generals. For decades, General Kahyet has served faithfully as the Dervish mentor of Varesh. At seventy years old, she has endless stories of the history of early Elona. Although she is still an effective commander, her health is failing. Many Kournans take comfort in knowing that Kahyet’s insights and wisdom might live on in their warmarshal.
Kahyet has served as a teacher and guardian to Varesh Ossa for years, assisting her in her studies of the principles of Ascension, Dervish philosophy, the Elonian gods, the history of Turai Ossa, and more esoteric lore. When she learned that Varesh was following the same spiritual path as her ancestor, Kahyet guided her on the path, inspiring her with secrets that only a few truly understand. Kahyet’s time may be running out, but she knows that an era of greatness is at hand.
Just as Kourna has a martial government that rewards military service, Istan’s meritocracy promotes its best and brightest officials. Working alongside scholars, philosophers, and bureaucrats, Elder Suhl has ascended to a position of prestige: he’s the leader of the Council of Elders. The nation’s Elders are promoted after years of dutiful service, but only one is elected as the clanmarshal, the leader of the council. Elder Suhl has been cautious during his rise to power. He prefers to advance good causes, show support to his allies, and give aid to people he trusts. His ability to see raw potential in Istani's youngest bureaucrats—as well as officials from the other provinces—has helped elevate him to the position of authority he holds today.
As the spearmarshal of the Sunspears, Kormir is legendary, and her place as the head of the Order is assured. Despite her personal victories, she is deeply concerned with training new recruits. Kormir has trained more Sunspears than any historian can recall. She’s experienced, educated, fearless, and highly skilled. A calm, capable, and inspiring soldier, she does more than maintain the foundation of the Order—she strives to become the embodiment of a great Paragon. She’s proud of her achievements, and each victory moves her one step closer to securing her legacy. Many believe the organization would fail without her. This sentiment is not lost on Kormir. Each time she receives such extraordinary praise, she’s compelled to work even harder training the next generation of Elonian heroes.
The prince of the Great Library at Chokhin has attained his position by applying his keen mind to careful research. Extremely logical, Mehtu is meticulous with details, but he often misses the "human element" when making his plans. Some see him as cold and calculating, but he isn't without humanity. Mehtu is wise enough to understand happiness, for example, and his love for his daughter means more to him than anything else in the world. He's a proud father, although sometimes he doesn't fully understand his emotional and irrational child. Unfortunately, he is also learning to understand fear. The deeper he delves into the mysteries of Vabbi, the more disturbing his revelations become. Perhaps the answers to his dilemmas lie in a comforting, unemotional routine of meticulous research.
The prince of the Pleasure City of Makuun has priorities, and his success depends on keeping them straight. As a wealthy businessman with abundant resources, Prince Bokka wants to experience the finer things in life. He just happens to define "the finest" as "the most expensive." Exotic cuisine has expanded his waistline, even though buying it never seems to fully deplete his treasury. He has spared no expense cultivating his tastes in art, particularly when he sponsors some of the finest, most expensive theatrical productions in Elona.
Some jealous rivals consider his tastes to be garish, describing his artistic sensibilities as pretentious and overblown, but he knows art almost as well as he knows money — and he knows a lot about money. He is pragmatic in acquiring wealth, doing whatever he must to accumulate more of it for great displays of culture and taste. Sometimes his pragmatism manifests in a need to take the path of least resistance — he hires other people to handle difficult tasks, dirty work, and heavy lifting — but that's easy to justify. After all, true art does not exist without suffering and sacrifice.
The prince of the Citadel of Dzagon is in a frustrating situation. Prince Ahmtur is a man of action, an aggressive, take-charge leader...who has been forced into a defensive position. He became prince by securing trade routes from raiding inhuman tribes, cleverly planning raids and attacks. Defending those routes is another matter entirely. His troops must hold back raiders while the rest of the merchant princes benefit from his work. So far, he’s managed to hold the raiders at bay, but he longs to see direct action again. He’d rather go on the offensive than limit his life to garrison and patrol duty. He’s going a little stir crazy, but as long as the inhuman tribes are a credible threat, he cannot walk away.
The undead lord of the Desolation, Palawa once controlled the valleys leading north out of Elona from his strategically positioned Bone Palace. Commanding hordes of undead followers raised from ancient tombs, he invaded Vabbi, intent on conquering it and using its riches to make him even more powerful. After he was defeated by the great Kournan hero, Turai Ossa, his body is said to have been imprisoned beneath a huge stone plinth. Many villainous individuals have attempted to commune with the spirit of the Scourge of Vabbi. As long as his history lives on, people will remember his name...and as the saying goes, history is still being written.
“Trust me on this one.”
Age (1075 AE): 25
Koss can find a way to get along with just about anyone. He gets along with heroes, doing whatever it takes to help the Sunspears protect Elona. He’s courageous enough to say what others are afraid to say, and he'll do what others are afraid to do. He also gets along with the less respectable representatives of Elonian society. For the good of the Order, he's used a combination of aggressive charisma, physical intimidation, and sympathetic morality to build up a network of informants. Of course, some of those contacts aren't entirely trustworthy, which means his information has a price.
Because of a few questionable deals with informers, Koss doesn't entirely get along with his commanding officers. He's managed to talk his way out of being discharged outright, but his extralegal activities have taken a toll on his career. He's skillful enough in combat that he should be an officer by now, but an officer with contacts in the underworld is a risk the Sunspears can't afford to take. Despite that, he knows their investigations need information, so as a loyal Elonian, he'll keep doing what it takes to save his country... no matter how much of a personal sacrifice that might be.
“The outcome of the battle is determined before the first soldier leaves the barracks.”
Age (1075 AE): 48
A lifetime of experience has made Dunkoro the man he is today: an elder strategist who knows his way around Elona. He's a veteran of battles against corsairs, Centaurs, heket, desert raiders, and stranger enemies. Although he's faced countless dangers alone, he prefers to spend his time advising other soldiers, offering direction and insight to any soldier who will listen. Unfortunately, not everyone listens to his advice. Most recruits respect him professionally, but personally, he remains distant from everyone below him in rank. When life and death are on the line, he doesn't seem to care about other people's fears and concerns, only results: you win, or you die. With this determined and unemotional approach to warfare, Dunkoro's insights have meant the difference between victory and defeat throughout his career. For any hero who prefers rational strategy over chaos, Dunkoro is the man with a plan.
“You can push, but I will push back… only harder, much harder.”
Age (1075 AE): 26
Melonni's an idealistic crusader from a small town in Kourna. She sees herself as a woman who fights for what she believes in... even when no one else around her agrees. When she was younger, no cause was too daunting, no sacrifice too great for the sake of her people. For better or for worse, the villagers of her homeland will never forget her. Now that she's older, she's learning to pick her fights a bit more carefully, largely through trial and error. Deep in her heart, she knows that her decisions will be proven right in the end. By the time she's ready to return home, she's hopeful that she'll be welcomed as a hero.
“I signed on for the heroic songs and praise. I did not sign on for the blood-sucking bugs.”
Age (1075 AE): 18
Some adventurers are a little too eager to be heroes. Many have tried to guess which village or city Tahlkora ran away from, but Vabbi's a pretty big place. No doubt her home is far away from the horrors of war and the nightmarish abominations that stalk scorched wastelands. She certainly seems well-educated in the myths and lore of the land, but her practical education needs a bit more work. As a young woman dreaming of heroic triumphs, Tahlkora has diligently studied tales of romance and high adventure. She's as fluent with the folk tales of Istani commoners as she is with the thrilling narratives of great literature. Now that she's seen what adventuring is like in the real world, however, the difference between dreams and reality is rapidly becoming more apparent.
Explosive Zaishen Disciple
“Understanding is half the battle. Fireballs are the other half.”
Age (1075 AE): 27
Acolyte Sousuke always has advice, wisecracks, and commentary on his current situation. His amused outlook on life, unrestrained curiousity, and quirky sense of humor are rare for a Zaishen, but he backs it up with a flamboyant, explosive fighting style. A mission is only a failure, he believes, if you don't learn anything from it... and Sousuke doesn't care much for failure. As a Zaishen disciple, he's one of the deadliest combatants in the world, and he has a compulsion to prove it again and again.
Grim Zaishen Archer
“Actions, not words.”
Age (1075 AE): 17
When Jin was a young girl growing up on the coast of Cantha, her family was slain by monstrous creatures in the dead of night. From that moment on, she trained as an archer, determined that the forces of darkness would never take her by surprise again. For hours, she silently practiced with her bow, taking some small measure of comfort in the sound of a bowstring releasing or the menace of an arrow in flight. Even before she joined the Zaishen Order, she was a determined and deadly adversary, and their instruction has made her even more dangerous.
Traveling with others makes her feel a little safer, but she considers the concept of "safety in numbers" a delusion. In the end, she knows it's her own skill that means the difference between life and death. She does not care about rank or status in the Zaishen Order. Each day she systematically eliminates another monster threatening Elona, she finds it a little easier to survive one more night of troubled sleep.
“Tell me again why I should help you. Where were you, two-legs, when my family was slain by the Kournan jackals?”
Age (1075 AE): 17
Like many races in the world, the leonine centaurs of Elona are struggling to survive. They've overcome incredible hardships, including the need to survive without help from more populous races—including, it would seem, humanity. Zhed is a centaur who's keenly aware of this last fact. He's seen his people suffer and die while the masses of humanity continue to spread across the savannah. In fact, he claims to have seen atrocities the Kournans would not dare admit. Some centaurs insist that humans are responsible for the death of their race, and Zhed certainly agrees. At best, he sees the "two-legs" as a means to an end. In the worst of times, he sees them as rivals... or prey. His dealings with humans have not been good, but if he must work with adventurers to reach his goals — and adventurers need to work with him — he'll need to set aside his animosity. How long he can be trusted is another matter entirely.
“Risks? So there are risks. That’s just part of doing business.”
Age (1075 AE): 27
A native of Freeman's Cove, Margrid was born a sailor. She took her first steps on the rolling deck of a sailing ship, and she proudly claims to have sea water in her veins. She's not just a corsair—she's the descendant of generations of corsairs, a woman who knows no other way of life. Life on land seems strange, predictable, and dull by comparison. People on land have vastly different ideas about morality and business, but for her, the Code of the Corsair is as immutable as the laws of nature. Land-dwellers sometimes regard her as a little shady, overly cynical, and blatantly self-interested, but those qualities are essential to anyone who survives in a world troubled by pirates and thieves. She's learned to roll with the punches, coping with everything life throws at her. Anyone who travels with Margrid should be ready for an exciting, dangerous journey. If Margrid has anything to say about it, the venture will be eminently profitable as well.
“Fame is fleeting, but a good meal will keep you going for days. You want that roll?”
Age (1075 AE): 24
Norgu is a classically trained actor, a visionary unappreciated in his own time, and a large, dramatic, boisterous glad-hander. As the leader of the Lyssan Fools acting troupe, he is currently on an extended tour of the estates of Vabbian nobles. Everywhere he travels, he leaves a memorable impression. Few will forget his insightfully accurate and delightfully humorous parody of General Bayel in Gandara, a performance that should keep him on an extended tour for quite some time. Norgu claims to have traveled throughout Tyria and Cantha, returning with stories of a standing-room-only performance in the court of Emperor Kisu and a standing ovation at the Henge of Denravi. Moving quickly from one region to the next, he uses his sunny disposition and personal charisma to get last-minute invites to parties, audiences with the rich and powerful, and of course, free food. Norgu never met a buffet he didn't like.
“The prince likes to give orders. I like to take orders. It’s a good life.”
Age (1075 AE): 28
Goren is big. Goren is strong. Goren is really, really good at sprinting into battle. Unfortunately, Goren isn't exactly the sharpest blade in the armory. He understands everyday conversation, and he can carry out simple commands – particularly sentences with the words "hit" and "smash" in them – but the finer philosophical passages of the Flameseeker Prophecies will remain eternally outside his comprehension. Eager for work, Goren has found employment working as the bodyguard of Prince Bokka the Magnificent. Money and influence don't mean much to him, though. Loyalty does.
Master of Whispers
“Of course I know who you are. It’s my job to know.”
Age (1075 AE): Unknown
Dare not speak the name of the Master of Whispers – not unless you have a good reason for doing so. This cryptic figure is so mysterious that he's hidden his real name; instead, he's always addressed by his title. The Master of Whispers has unquestioned command of an efficient organization, although many debate what form his authority actually takes. One rumor holds that he's the province's spymaster, keeping a job where he serves as a central collector of information from spies across the nation (and perhaps beyond). Others believe he deals with supernatural threats, training his agents as ghost seekers and demon hunters. Whatever the truth may be, he often finds reason for traveling with adventurers exploring Elona (and perhaps beyond). His reasons for doing so are strictly on a need-to-know basis. You're just not ready to learn that yet.
“Grenth lives! You, on the other hand, must die!”
Origin: Tyrian (Lion’s Arch)
Age (1075 AE): 32
Olias used to take his marching orders from the White Mantle, but he now walks his own path. An encounter at the Temple of Ages convinced Olias that he had been chosen for a special mission: he now serves as Grenth's personal "hand of judgment," enacting what he sees as the will of his god. He lives by a simple code. Those who perish and return to life are expected by Grenth to live their lives well. If they do not, Olias ensures they are returned to the cold embrace of the Lord of Death.
Mysterious events in Elona now compel him to act on Grenth's behalf. With strange disturbances in the land, Olias feels that the gods are threatened and the dead themselves are uneasy in their eternal sleep. He has sworn an oath to Grenth that he will find the source of the strange malady and correct it. And if it involves sending new minions to Grenth, so much the better! Death and killing delight him. He is willing to discuss other matters, but strangely enough, most discussions seem to lead back to death and killing.
“I know the smell of this. It smells of death.”
Age (1075 AE): 23
Zenmai learned the ways of silent assassination as a member of the Am Fah gang in Cantha. She broke with her criminal gang when that organization embraced the Canthan Plague as a "gift of the gods." Now she is mo zing - a traveling blade, a masterless assassin, selling her services to the highest bidder. She feels guilty for the disease that overtook her former brothers and sisters, but the one constant in her life has been change. In the growing darkness, she has the feeling that an old, familiar force is back, working from behind the scenes. She wants to confront whoever or whatever is ultimately responsible for the plague that stalked her land.
“I live to serve.”
Origin: The Mists
Age (1075 AE): Inapplicable
The protomatter that makes up the Mists strains toward creation, often spawning demonic creations in nightmarish forms. Not all creatures from the Mists are demonic, however. When the Mists come into contact with a suitable human template, for example, it can copy that form, creating a sentient entity with humanoid appearance and an almost human mind.
Razah is one such creation. It has sprung into being a fully-formed adult. It has the knowledge and capabilities of a human, but lacks common sense. As a result, it asks odd questions about human emotions, contemplates human motivations, and attempts to duplicate human mannerisms. Razah is a contradiction: more than human in some ways, and less than human in others. It needs an identity, a personality, and a purpose. Hopefully, Razah will find its purpose by working with a hero. Otherwise, it could degenerate into an abomination as monstrous and inhuman as its demonic brethren.
When foreigners think of Dwarves, most picture a stereotypical image of a drunken brawler, rushing headlong into battle, screaming a strange battle cry and fighting to the death over age-old grudges, uncollected debts, or ancestral vendettas. Kilroy Stonekin is that Dwarf. A veteran of glorious battles against the Stone Summit and campaigns deep within Sorrow's Furnace, Kilroy has traveled north looking for new adventures and new battles.
A career in the Ascalon military provided Captain Langmar a crash course in fighting the Charr and dealing with the loss of home, comrades, and loved ones. An expert at shutting down her emotions, Langmar never hesitates in making tough decisions or sacrifices if it means dealing a blow to the enemies of Ascalon—the Charr. King Adelbern recognized Langmar's stoicism and ability to lead in the face of death and despair. He gave her the command of the Ascalonian Vanguard and ordered her north, behind enemy lines, on a mission of desperation. If she is not found at the Eye of the North, it is only because she is out slaughtering Charr, fulfilling her mission no matter the cost.
More than the glorified record keeper (as many of his fellow Vanguard see him), Mullenix is a man of many talents as well as a storehouse of information about the Ebon Vanguard, their mission in the north, and the current state of affairs in Ascalon. Stationed at the Eye of the North, Mullenix works closely with Captain Langmar's aide, Gwen, taking care of the base when the captain is out on missions.
An archetypical Norn, Olaf is a warrior, a sojourner, and a hunter who prays to the spirits of nature and has been given the gift of transformation by the Bear Spirit. Like most Norn, he values freedom and individuality, and continually seeks to challenge himself. For Olaf, there is no greater point in life than to hunt and master the creatures of the wilderness. Olaf has seen many winters and hunted many beasts. As the seventh Olaf in his family line, he bears the name with great pride—pride that is diminished by the fact that he has only a daughter of his own. He is the last Olaf Olafson, seventh of that name in a direct line, and unless his deeds are legend, the name may be forgotten forever.
Sif is a Norn hero who makes her homestead in the chill northern reaches of the Far Shiverpeaks, far north of Drakkar Lake. She is a legendary figure who has established her name through her love of the hunt. Sif prefers to take down the greatest of the fell creatures that roam through that wintry range, for nothing else is a sufficient challenge. She will on occasion take on lesser hunters as pupils, but those would-be students must be gifted, experienced hunters in their own right.
Oola is a brilliant Asura who specializes in creating constructs—humanoid magical creations, of which golems are one. She is aware of her own abilities and, like many Asura, gets frustrated when others disturb her research. To that end Oola has squirreled herself away where she can work in peace. She has few assistants and welcomes no visitors, treating them all as inferiors and interlopers. Her security measures are said to be among the finest, and her fierce ability to keep her haven safe has gained the respect of many of her peers (and more than a few attempted infiltrations—all of which ended poorly).
Gadd is a cantankerous, demanding old Asura, who prefers to hire "disposable humans" to help him in the lab with his experiments. Though he won’t admit it, this is partly due to necessity, as many of his own race won't work for him. Many unfortunate "accidents" have befallen Gadd's past assistants, and though one is likely to learn much in his employ, most Asura prefer to live a long life.
Gadd has recently employed a group of humans willing (or stupid enough) to assist him. They claim to be members of a rebel group fighting to restore peace and order to their homelands, which Gadd couldn't care less about. He gives them the "privilege" of testing his inventions, and if they survive, he'll let them purchase a few. Gadd is respected by other Asura but is given a wide berth even by his associates. You never can tell when he's going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed...and use you in his next experiment.
Born in Ascalon, Gwen has witnessed horrible things in her young life, seeing both her country and family destroyed by the Charr. After the Searing, she was captured and enslaved by the Charr, but escaped and fled north, where she found other human exiles.
Since then, Gwen has become an adventurer. She makes her home in the Eye of the North, the headquarters of the Ebon Vanguard, where she serves Captain Langmar. She is one of the fiercest defenders of Ascalon, determined to exact vengeance against those who destroyed her home. Gwen has survived on the edges of Charr territory for years, watching them tear apart her childhood dreams and her beautiful homeland. Now she has nothing but memories—and anger— to sustain her. She is not the girl she once was...
Vekk is an eager young Asura. He and his people have been driven to the surface recently, and he is curious and interested about this new development. Of late, Vekk has been working with another underground race, the Dwarves, on maintaining a set of magical gateways through the Depths.
Although he may not seem daring or even outgoing, his clever mind and agile fingers can create amazing magical items and explosive assistance when his companions are in need. If you can overlook his grouchy and slightly condescending nature... he's actually a very good friend.
As with all Asura, Vekk believes in the Eternal Alchemy, the world's universal flow of energy and purpose. He is considered one of the finest minds among his people, and is always looking to perfect his craft. Of course, it’s not easy being perfect when you're surrounded by idiots...
Jora is a younger Norn, beset by tragedy. Like most of her generation, she has been seeking to establish her name and reputation. Only the hunters of the greatest prey are considered worthy among her people, and as such, she and her brother Svanir trekked through the icy uplands and valleys seeking the most challenging prey.
On one of their hunts, Jora and her brother encountered a great, dark power, and were transformed by it. She lost her Nornish ability to shapeshift into bear form, while her brother suffered a darker fate. Now without a family or homestead, she hunts across the Norn lands of the Far Shiverpeaks seeking redemption of her name and forgiveness by the Bear Spirit. To achieve her goals, she will undergo any ritual, achieve any quest, and seek any treasure needed. She will even accept the help of humans.
Ogden's talent as a healer surfaced early in life, marking him as a chosen of the Great Dwarf from a very young age. As a child, he had the uncommon ability to cheer his fellow Dwarves with simple things: a helping hand to those in need, a kind word to ease suffering. He was a boon to his family and a blessing to his friends. Yet as he grew older, the very gift that set him apart became a burden to the young Dwarf. Empathy can be terrible, and it is a cruel thing on the battlefield. Ogden has retreated into himself, hiding within a shell of determination as strong as mountain rock.
Ogden is loyal to his Deldrimor king and is a true believer in the Great Dwarf. He knows the ancient prophecies of the Great Destroyer, having studied them from childhood, and there are few Dwarves alive who understand their implications quite as well. He realizes the enemy has come at last—fighting in the depths of the earth, boiling up in great numbers, freed by the recent earthquakes. His goal is to fight them, and he will—with any resources available ... until the last Dwarf falls on the battlefield.
Xandra is the daughter of Juno, leader of the Turtle Clan, from the lands of the Luxon people. Trouble in her homeland forced Xandra to leave the area at her mother's behest, traveling to the far lands of Ascalon on what was called an ambassadorial tenure—but which Canthans know to be exile.
Xandra thinks well of her mother despite the unexpected travel, realizing that an intricate web of politics is what keeps her so far from home. Juno, suspected of killing the previous captain of the Turtle Clan, has sent her daughter into exile to keep her safe—or, some say, to prevent a repeat of the same scenario. Either way, Xandra is determined to make the best of the situation, and to honor her clan with brave actions in these strange, wild lands.
Anton has come far since his days as a prisoner in Surmia awaiting execution. While others curse the Charr, Anton privately blesses their invasion—without it, he would never have escaped Surmia and fled north. He survived for many years by raiding the Charr, eventually leading to his capture. Freed by Captain Langmar, he joined the Ebon Vanguard and now serves them as a scout, utilizing his Assassin skills—for once—for the betterment of more people than just himself.
Although he does not consider himself a brave individual, Anton does feel a certain amount of loyalty to the Ebon Vanguard, and has no plans to betray them. Should Captain Langmar die, of course, that situation could change quickly—and the last they will see of Anton is a sheathed blade vanishing into the darkness.
While the war between the White Mantle and the Shining Blade tears apart her Krytan homeland, Livia risks everything to keep her people safe. She joined the Shining Blade to protect them; she killed to defend them. Now freed from the control of the deadly Mursaat, Kryta struggles to survive, its leaders destroyed and its population beset by civil disorder.
Tasked by her superiors with finding a way to end the civil war, Livia has traveled into the Depths. She seeks a weapon of power—anything that will keep Kryta safe. And she is willing to give her life for it... as well as the lives of those around her.
Kahmu is an Elonian Dervish, a native of Vabbi, who seeks wisdom through combat. Over the years, he has drifted farther and farther north, matching his skills against all manner of challenges, considering no fight too small—or too large.
Once Kahmu arrived in Norn territory, he challenged—and bested—some of the Norn's greatest warriors, and his name became legend around the campfires. Some claim he is a spirit, others that he has been blessed by the spirits of his homeland, and still others that he is a Norn born in the wrong body. Kahmu only laughs to hear these whispers. When the hunting here grows stale, he will simply move on.
Hayda is a young, vain, and impulsive Paragon who travels simply for the fun of it. Supremely confident in her abilities, she believes her position as a Paragon sets her apart from others. There is no situation so perilous where her innate charm, skill, and natural abilities will not carry the day.
Hayda joined the Shining Blade after the Mursaat were revealed as the "unseen gods" of the White Mantle, and she now dreams of becoming a legendary hero. She bridles against restrictions, particularly those set by Livia or Bartholos. Following their orders was necessary to gain permission to travel with them to the Tarnished Coast—and there's so much to be learned here. She will not let this opportunity pass no matter what her orders.
Pyre Fierceshot is an outcast, persecuted by the Charr Shamans for daring to speak out against their ways. After his warband killed a Shaman and destroyed a temple, Pyre and his companions fled the ruling shaman caste. Pyre hates them with a fury that only one raised to worship false gods can understand; he has been betrayed, tricked, and deceived, and he has sworn never to fall under the spell of the Shamans again.
Pyre celebrated the demise of the Titans, those whom the Shamans called gods, and now watches with rising anger as the priests continue to deceive his people. At every step, the Shamans seek to tighten their grasp, bringing the Charr once again under their false rule—enslaving them to powers who do not deserve respect, much less worship. The cycle of dominance and slavery must be broken—and the Charr must be free ...
The Great Destroyer
The Tome of Rubicon tells of a titanic struggle between the Great Dwarf and the Great Destroyer, hinting at an apocalyptic time when this battle will once again be rejoined. The Dwarves believe that time is nigh. Hordes of creatures with hearts of flame and skin as black and as hard as obsidian have welled up from the Depths, pulling the Dwarves into a vicious war that threatens their very existence. While the face of the Great Destroyer has never been gazed upon by any mortal creature, the Dwarves do not doubt that these swarms of Destroyers are merely the spawn of the Great Destroyer, which will soon rise.
Like most Charr Shaman, Hierophant Burntsoul rose to power claiming his authority came directly from the Titans. In the years following the death of these Charr “gods” at the hands of mere humans, the Shaman caste fought hard to maintain control over their race. Burntsoul’s cruel nature served him well, propelling him to high standing. His ruthless pursuit of human insurgents and heretical Charr—whom he tortures and sacrifices as a warning to others—is legendary, as is the enormous headdress he wears, fashioned from the sharpened bones of his enemies, and the numerous chains of diminutive skulls that drape his enormous frame.
Factions and races
The land north of Ascalon’s protective Great Northern Wall is occupied by a savage race of beasts known as the Charr.
To the Charr, flame is the physical representation of their gods. In order to keep the gods happy, they must first fulfill their obligation to the flame. To that end, the Charr have constructed a series of sacred buildings known as Flame Temples. On raised platforms, these bestial creatures have inscribed huge circular runes, which define and magically feed the sacred fires. Further defining the ring are pillars of pure obsidian or carved sandstone, sculpted to depict the faces of the mysterious creatures the Charr worship. Between these pillars, in the very center of each of these temples, are the ever-burning Sacred Flames. The Charr believe that as long as the flames are burning, the gods are pleased. If the flames go out, then the Charr have failed in their duties and will be punished by the gods.
Each temple has its own fire, which is tended at all times by four Charr Flame Keepers. The Flame Keepers have only one job—to keep the Sacred Flame burning. This is the most prestigious position a Charr can occupy; only the strongest, most capable Charr can take this honor, and all other Charr bow to the Flame Keepers.
In addition to the temples, whenever a large Charr warband travels anywhere, they take with them a bronze brazier, lit at a Flame Temple by the Sacred Flame. These braziers are placed upon palanquins, which are then carried from location to location by four Charr Flame Carriers. Each night when they make camp, the Flame Carriers erect a flammable effigy in the shape of one of their gods, then ignite it and let it burn till daylight.
Humans learned quickly how to read the flame sign: if the flame is lit, the Charr camp is occupied. If the flame is out, the Charr have moved on.
The Stone Summit
The Stone Summit are a guild of xenophobic dwarves who live high in the Shiverpeak Mountains. Their hatred of other cultures (particularly humans) runs so deep that they won’t even deal with other dwarf clans who have trading relationships with the human nations.
The Stone Summit pride themselves on their fanaticism. To them, there is only one right way to do things-their way. There is only one group worthy of ruling the world-the Stone Summit. All other life is meaningless. They are cruel, brutal, calculating, and cold hearted to a degree rarely seen in civilized nations. A Stone Summit dwarf could split a man’s head without a thought and feel as little concern as if he had just stepped on an earthworm.
The Stone Summit leader, Dagnar Stoneplate, aspires to one day rule all of Tyria. His methods are messy but effective. The price he extracts for failure is death, which tends to put a hard edge on everything.
Those dwarves who have managed to survive inside the guild for any significant period of time are as tough as stone and just as cold. They execute their orders with a brutal efficiency, knowing that they must succeed or die.
The Stone Summit have a penchant for slavery. They can often be found riding giants and other beasts bound with all manner of manacles and restraining devices. They don't bother to tame their mounts, rather preferring to simply chain the beasts and overpower them, making them bend to their will rather than becoming accustomed to their new role. If given the opportunity, they would enslave humans and other, "non-pure" dwarves as well.
Except for the obvious differences (lack of skin, hair, a working circulatory system, and so on) the undead army are very much like any living human army. They have military ranks, a chain of command, and a set of marching orders. The bulk of the army is made up of once-living humans, though there are tales that when this force marches into battle, the animated skeleton of a once-grand dragon marches with it.
There is much speculation about the undead of Tyria and what their goals might be. Many believe that they are the remnants of Orr, those lost souls who were so disturbed by the destruction of their home in the Cataclysm that they refuse to pass into the next life. Others believe there is a more sinister force motivating these creatures, a malevolent being who has raised the resting dead to do his bidding. Some even say this mysterious leader is a powerful lich lord who rules them all from behind the front lines. But most of this is just campfire tales and barroom gossip, for there is no one who lives today who can claim to have seen this creature in the flesh (so to speak).
The Afflicted are simply living creatures-animal, human, plant-that have had the misfortune to get too close to Shiro’s malevolent spirit. Those left unharmed refer to this “disease” as the Affliction and fear that, if left unchecked, it could become an epidemic. The Affliction is not contagious in this way, but considering the other more obvious dangers the creatures present, steering clear of the Afflicted is wise in most any case.
Anyone or anything could become Afflicted, which lends this so-called plague an even more terrifying aspect than any single, normal disease. The resulting mutations are unpredictable monstrosities with all of the combat strengths the original person or creature possessed, but altered and augmented in terrifying ways by the Affliction.
Once someone or something becomes Afflicted, there is no cure. Killing the Afflicted is the only way to give the tortured soul peace; hesitation or pity will only result in death—yours.
The Crimson Skull
This piratical cult is a menace to all free people in Cantha and presents a constant danger on the roads cutting through the continent’s less-populated rural areas. Crimson Skull forays into civilized Cantha have become more regular and murderous in the last 200 years. Entire settlements have been slaughtered by these outlaws. Death serves the Crimson Skull two-fold: as something to worship, and a way to get very, very rich. Within their number the Crimson Skull count trained Ritualists, Elementalists, and Rangers, among others.
The mysterious and ancient Wardens guard the areas of Cantha hit hardest by Shiro’s legacy. Protectors of the Echovald that was, they now guard the petrified forest it has become. They may once have been human, perhaps powerful druids or holy men, but they long ago merged with the spirit they served to become something altogether different.
Now they stand as the ultimate protectors of the Echovald that is. The clan claims the right of vengeance for what Shiro Tagachi wrought, and blames all humans for the Jade Wind that stripped the woods and sea of life, but inexplicably left the Wardens unharmed. Driven nearly mad, enraged at their failure to fulfill their only purpose, they work in their own mysterious ways to reverse the effects of Shiro’s death, but until they succeed, they will threaten any humans they encounter.
Wardens do not take names as such, but take their monikers from their rank in the clan’s natural hierarchy. The lowest ranked, least powerful Wardens are associated with the smallest forms and shapes of nature—leaves, moss, seashells, and so on. Higher up are those Wardens who take their name from particular trees or larger forms of sea life, while those protectors that lead the clans take the names of the seasons.
Tyrian visitors claim that the serpentine Naga resemble the Forgotten of the northern continent, but the two species are unrelated. Like the Wardens, the Naga people lost their homes when the Jade Wind struck. But the Naga population—water-dwelling creatures related to sea snakes which evolved a culture at peace with humans—was nearly wiped out by Shiro’s death wail. Thousands became one with the sea when it turned to gemstone. Hundreds more, mostly traders or mercenaries, died with the humans of Cantha on land. The only Naga that survived were those far enough away not to be trapped in the water. when it turned to jade, and those survivors—only a few dozen in number—were scattered and terrified.
If not for a Naga priestess named Hanasha Coralfin the entire race might well have died out within a few years, perhaps even a few months. The priestess used what power she had left to revive those survivors she could find, who then brought more survivors to her, until a united Naga tribe of barely 40 individuals gathered. Under her guidance, the Naga abandoned their ancient moral codes and began to propagate freely and often, so that someday they might make the humans pay for what they had done.
Now, 200 years later, the Naga are nothing like the peaceful culture that shared the coast with the Canthans of old. They have aggressively taken back whole stretches of crystallized sea and petrified coastline from the humans, and make any journey through the Jade Sea even more perilous.
On the northern continent of Tyria, the mole-people known as the Dredge are a pitiable race, enslaved by the wicked Stone Summit dwarves and ready to fight alongside any who will help free them from their masters’ whips. In the Echovald Forest of Cantha, a few small colonies of escaped Dredge jealously defend their prized freedom. The offspring of a few desperate escapees from the Shiverpeaks who tunneled for hundreds of miles to reach their strange new home, these Dredge have no reason to feel any friendship toward humans or anyone else—they escaped slavery on their own, and plan to establish their race anew in the petrified woodlands.
Dredge villages are marked by large dirt mounds. The mole-people live primarily in the tunnel networks linking the mounds together. Those who underestimate the ferocity and aggressiveness of the Canthan Dredge do so at their peril.
Gangs of Kaineng
The Celestial Ministry ostensibly runs the bureaucracy of the Canthan government, while the emperor rules as the sovereign monarch and commander of the entire Canthan military. Commerce, however, falls to the two largest organized crime organizations in Kaineng City. The two gangs-something of a misnomer, since each gang contains hundreds if not thousands of captains, money-men, thugs, and the like-control almost all trade, legal and illegal, in the Canthan capitol. The Am Fah and the Jade Brotherhood are in a state of constant cold warfare, which sometimes spills out into the streets, along with a lot of blood. For hundreds of years, neither has been able to topple the other, and out of necessity the rivals have been known to cooperate during the occasional crackdowns on their activities. Were one gang or the other ever to gain the upper hand, the resulting trade monopoly could conceivably lead to a coup against the throne, so the emperor's personal agents help ensure that never happens.
Dragons of all shapes, sizes, and origin have called Cantha home for thousands of years, since long before the tribes of old joined to form the empire that took them as its symbol.
The primitive and brutal enemies of the Tengu, the Yeti are just intelligent enough to form a hunter-gatherer society, but one with a deep tradition of honor and courage (as the Yeti understand these concepts).
These beastly insects have begun to appear with more frequency in the countryside and other areas surrounding Shing Jea Monastery. Mantids form small hives in the caves that dot the area, and are always on the lookout for prey—either to feed themselves, or their queen’s eggs.
These peaceful spirit monks have become corrupted by Shiro's return, and will sometimes strike out at the living. Approach any Kirin with caution.
There are some who say that the demonic, savage Oni originate in the Mists, others from someplace even more distant, dark, and cut off from the world of sanity. They are killers from beyond, appearing from nowhere to butcher their victims, for what reason no one knows. Whatever their purpose or origin, the Oni are among the most deadly things on two legs in Cantha.
Elonian Centaurs not only have equine features, but also resemble the swift gazelles that run across plains and savannahs. These creatures are also more leonine than their distant Tyrian cousins, displaying some of the social behaviors of big cats—a group of Elonian Centaurs is called a “pride.” Their extended families normally prowl and hunt around a pride’s breeding grounds, fighting to defend their territory.
In brighter times, Elonian prides gathered around massive “ancestor trees,” where they believed the spirits of their forebears watched over them. According to arcane scholars, the fruit of these trees was seen as divine, possibly as a way to pass down spiritual wisdom from one generation to the next. The Kournans have decimated the Centaurs by driving their prides westward, away from their territory, ancestry, and spirituality. Since then, General Bayel’s pacification campaigns have allowed the province of Kourna to recruit many of them as slave laborers. Exiled and refugee Centaurs now raid human villages to survive, and most have developed a fierce hatred for humanity.
In Vabbi, fierce and filthy harpies prey upon wandering bands of travelers for anything they can steal. Some legends hold that the harpies were once beautiful winged creatures who proudly served Dwayna, the Goddess of the Air, until a catastrophic event cast them down from the heavens. Now they stalk the earth as they struggle to survive. Vabbi poets elaborate further, claiming that the fallen harpies now hate everything that walks on the ground. Vabbi scholars dismiss such romanticized notions—this race of screeching, vicious, petty thieves is probably too simple-minded, they say, for such complex motivations.
As jealous, hateful creatures, harpies delight in tormenting other intelligent races, sometimes raiding and robbing more for twisted amusement than out of a desire for wealth. Dervishes claim they’ve seen harpies stealing food from wanderers just to watch them starve, or in some cases, snatching bright treasures from adventurers purely out of envy for the shiny baubles wanderers wear.
Harpies gather in extended families, each with the social structure of a corrupt matriarchy. Once a harpy matron decides to sink her talons into a stretch of countryside, her descendents will make life miserable for any who pass through those lands. Most harpies are clever enough to hunt in lands frequented by defenseless travelers, but throughout history, a few harpy matrons have set their sights on rarer, brighter treasures.
In some Vabbi myths, only the matron of a harpy family can breed, making life even more unpleasant for other females—but this may just be a thinly veiled allegory attacking certain powerful wives in the estates of wealthy Vabbi.
Prolific and belligerent, amphibious heket are a nuisance to anyone traveling across Elona. These creatures thrive in water, but prefer to survive in arid areas. The farther they’re found from their spawning grounds, the darker the days ahead will be. No matter where they claim their territory, heket spawn in alarming quantities. From the moment they’re born, they savage each other as they compete for the few resources in the area. The crude concept of bashing someone on the head for food is instinctual, and heket become more aggressive as they grow larger. Once a region cannot support any more heket, they lurch from their breeding grounds searching for food. By the time a band of them begins attacking human travelers, exterminating them is a public service.
Colossal wurms roam the sulfurous wastelands of the Desolation. These burrowers tunnel through soft soil with amazing alacrity. Elonians know them by their more formal name: the Junundu. According to historians, the undead lord Palawa Joko commanded these wurms to patrol his kingdom, but the junundu’s inability to tunnel through solid rock limited their usefulness. Myths tell of great heroes using junundu to travel across the wastelands, covering vast distances safe from the sulfuric clouds. More recent accounts describe devastating wails and thunderous attacks that shake the very earth and topple buildings in their wake.
According to legend, Junundu society is developed enough that they act in service to a queen mother: a subterranean monstrosity called Aijundu. Lurking below, Queen Aijundu patiently waits for foolish surface-dwellers who would dare to cross her apocalyptic domain. As long as wind shifts the desert sands, some say, she will lie beneath it...waiting.
Outside the world we know, other dimensions exist, realms beyond what we can see and experience. Civilized humans know that when they die, their souls pass on into the Mists, the realm of the afterlife. Some spirits linger in this world, or find ways to walk back into the realm of flesh...yet there are other creatures who watch them and wait, drawn to the energy of countless souls.
Sometimes souls are not enough. In dimensions alien to the physical world, sentient entities scheme of ways to enter the realm of flesh, dreaming of the havoc they can wreak. Just as ghosts can defy death by returning to the land of the living, demons find ways into our world, where they feast on suffering, despair, and the vital energy of intelligent creatures.
Demons are more than creatures of the Mists—they are made from the Mists themselves, bits of etheric matter that have gained malignant sentience and power. Whether they appear as monstrous humanoids, bestial abominations, or radically inhuman horrors, they share many of the same aspirations: the strong consume or dominate the weak, reveling in their feasts and victimization. As they are not native to the real world, demons hold an abiding hatred of its denizens. They are also ruthlessly intelligent, more than willing to enter into arrangements that allow them to routinely prey on humans and other foolish living creatures.
Djinn are spirits with deep ties to the Elonian continent, usually bound to spiritually strong areas. In some Elonian legends, they have the power to act unseen. Like humans, they’re allegedly capable of choosing a path of good or evil. In a sense, djinn really can act unseen—many are shapeshifters, capable of assuming a human form when interacting with human beings and other species. Some Vabbian myths describe the djinn as protectors of the natural world, making them enemies of unnatural demons from other dimensions.
Most djinn are bound to the locations and places they protect, most commonly rivers, lakes, and stretches of desert. When humans first came to Elona, truly powerful wizards attempted to bind djinn to estates, caves, vaults, or other places where wealth was hidden. Djinn guardians who outlive their masters may forget their original commands, or they may become powerful enough to find their own motives.
Djinn are relentless when defending the items, places, and causes they protect, but they may also bestow their favor on people who aid them in those tasks. Vabbi legends hint at djinn granting wishes and bestowing powers. In more recent accounts, adventurers have shared stories of djinn who offered them magical knowledge and powerful magical items... including some salvaged from mighty heroes who dared to disturb the djinn.
On land, Elona’s laws are defined and enforced by its three provincial governments. Life at sea is different. On every ship, a captain’s word is law, and many sailors follow their own personal codes of honor. Corsairs live outside the law, whether they’re standing on solid ground or the treacherous deck of a fast ship. As a matter of survival, each one recognizes the Code of the Corsairs, although many disagree on its particulars.
The most important concepts in the Code are loyalty to one’s captain (and the conditions under which you can justifiably mutiny), fair methods of distributing wealth (and the best times and places to steal it), and honorable ways of resolving differences (as well as the best ways to cheat in a duel). Land dwellers are often baffled by the inherent contradictions of this code. No matter how a sailor defines a personal code of honor, corsairs unite against their common enemies, setting aside all differences. The Code has kept the corsairs around for generations, passing on traditions, superstitions, and contradictions from one generation to the next.
The corsairs have remained free by learning to survive in treacherous waters, sailing where the Istani will not or cannot follow. Their fleets remain hidden near the most dangerous stretches of the Elonian coast. Between the northwest coast of Cantha and the southern rim of Elona, a deadly sea is troubled by sudden storms and cyclones, hidden reefs, and dangerous sea creatures. These waters were once navigated by fearless Luxon raiders from Cantha, and to this day, brigands from many cultures search for secret coves hidden by these deadly waters.
The Dwarves remained neutral during the great Guild Wars that waged between humans, but after the Searing everything changed. Mired in their own civil war, the Deldrimor extended the hand of friendship to Ascalonian refugees... to the betterment of both races. Since the end of their civil war, the Dwarves have re-entered the Depths in search of their destiny, and sought out alliances with races both above and below ground.
The Ebon Vanguard—originally made up of an official unit, the Ascalon Vanguard—operates behind Charr lines. As the unit pressed north, it picked up human refugees, exiles, and escaped prisoners from the Charr work camps. Together they forged a new organization, toughened by their experiences and more flexible than a traditional military unit. They endured much hardship on the march through the harsh northern climes, but upon finding the Eye of the North, the Ebon Vanguard established a base of operations for their covert campaign of disruption.
The Norn are a race of nine-foot-tall warriors who live in the northernmost Shiverpeaks. They revel in the harsh climes, leading dangerous lives among savage beasts. These mighty hunters are not organized into a single nation. Instead, those who display exceptional strength and prowess in battle establish homesteads, though they are certainly not considered "rulers". They often spend years at a time tracking a particularly strong or clever quarry; they never give up on a battle, a pursuit, or a friend.
The Norn revere the spirits of nature—from the wolf to the snow lynx - but the most powerful of these is the Bear Spirit, who, according to myth, blessed the Norn with the ability to change shape and "become the bear".
The Asura are a race of diminutive but incredibly intelligent humanoids who live beneath the surface of Tyria. They see the world as a complex magical machine, and their philosophy of “Eternal Alchemy” touches everything they do. Inventors, scientists, and spellcasters of every stripe, the Asura consider many other races beneath them—and are not afraid to tell them so at every opportunity.
It has been centuries since Asura were seen aboveground. In fact, until recently, many humans thought they were a myth. However, recent reports have confirmed their existence.
Constructed out of stone, vegetation, and other semi-natural materials, golems are massive creatures whose strength (and completely empty minds) perfectly complement the small-stature but incredible intellect of their Asuran masters.
Often used for defense as well as general tasks, golems are difficult to make and even more difficult to control. The Asura work on just one golem for years at a time, unleashing it only when absolutely necessary. If the work goes wrong, the golem could destroy its creators rather than their enemies. Those are risks the Asura are willing to take in order to combat threats. They put their trust in superior intelligence...and superior firepower.
Disgusting creatures of fluid and membrane, jellies live in all environments and subsist on just about anything. Even in lava, deep underwater, or within truly toxic areas, jellies can mutate enough to adapt and survive. This survival tactic does more for them than just allow them to adapt—they actually feed, on a very deep level, from the creatures they ingest. Jellies have been known to develop magical abilities and spell-like powers simply by defeating adventurers and feasting on them.
This makes older jellies far more dangerous than younger ones; the ingested abilities of a hundred adventurers may linger within the jelly, giving them access to an incredibly large variety of powers stolen from many years worth of such prey.
Fleshreavers are horrible, fleshy monsters with an unusual method of evolution. A young fleshreaver is born as barely more than a small skeleton; the parents assure the survival of their young by layering muscle, tissue, and flesh over the delicate newborn.
Sewn together by older fleshreavers, they use only the finest musculature and bone from prey to flesh out the body and wings of their young, carving horns from the discarded bone fragments. Once a fledging fleshreaver has been fully created, it must continue the handiwork of its parents, acquiring new flesh pieces and better musculature to attach to its skeletal structure in order to supplant its rapidly growing form.
An old folk legend states the only reason Dolyaks were domesticated instead of minotaurs is because minotaurs would rather be beaten to death than obey a command. Dolyaks, simply put, were less stubborn. Minotaurs are one of the oldest species in Tyria and are very much prized by the Norn for their warm, furry coats. They were once extremely populous throughout the Shiverpeaks but now reside solely in the northern regions, where they have sheltered valleys and caves to make their homes.
Distant cousins to the sand, chaos, and desert wurms, the great ice wurms are particularly unusual members of the species, making their home in the frigid marches of the Shiverpeaks rather than the warm territories their brethren favor. A thick layer of blubber beneath their tough skin helps insulate them from the cold. These wurms are significantly stronger and more deadly than their southern counterparts, able to burrow through upper layers of stone, as well as dirt or sand. Such abilities, of course, make them much more formidable opponents.
Found along the Tarnished Coast, the Krait rival even the Charr for viciousness and cruel ingenuity. These semi-intelligent creatures are vicious and xenophobic, attacking all other species on sight. Little is known about the elusive krait, but a few witnesses describe an army of slithering, serpentine warriors that seem able to transform in the middle of battle into numerous—and much more dangerous—forms. The reports are incomplete at best, as survivors of these encounters are often too hysterical to recall any salient details.
The Human Kingdoms
The Kingdom of Ascalon
Once, Ascalon was a beautiful, fertile land of rolling green countryside and magnificent cities. Her people were viewed as grim by their neighbors. This was perhaps, to be expected, given their never-ending war against the aggressive Charr. Indeed, it was their unfailing vigilance, their Great Northern Wall, and the blood they shed each year to defend it that had protected not only Ascalon, but also Kryta and Orr through the ages.
Then came the invasion, and with it, the Searing.
Anyone alive today will remember the day the lands of Ascalon were blasted and torn with magic fire. Whole cities and guilds were destroyed in the Searing, and the might of Ascalon was shattered. Now the Great Northern Wall lies broken, and the Charr have overrun much of the kingdom, defiling it with their unholy shrines, killing those who stand in their way.
The survival of Ascalon hinges on but a single remaining corner of the fallen kingdom—the capital city of Rin. In the final years of the last Guild War, the people of Rin looked to a soldier named Adelbern, a simple man of humble origins, who rallied the people with his courage and cunning and steeled them not only against the guilds of Orr and Kryta but also against the terrors of the Charr.
The sudden destruction of most of the kingdom during the Searing has taken much of the fight out of the man now known as King Adelbern. He has become stubborn and set in his ways, afraid of losing what little he has left. But in his son Rurik, the people see a leader with the courage to perhaps help them reclaim their fallen kingdom.
The survivors of Ascalon live in a state of constant warfare, using hit-and-run tactics and the remnants of the Great Wall to prevent any significant advances by the Charr into their territory. King Adelbern has circled the wagons, so to speak, content to simply defend what Ascalon has left and live to fight another day. Prince Rurik, on the other hand, is far more daring than his father thinks is wise, and has even suggested that the time may be coming to launch an offensive against the Charr.
Already the rumbling of the winds of change can be heard in the streets. People are frightened. They wonder what will become of them. Some even wonder aloud if Adelbern has lost what it takes to steer Ascalon back from the brink. They wish to see the prince step up and take command of the kingdom. Perhaps under his guidance, the people of Ascalon will live on to see another golden age.
The Kingdom of Orr
Situated on a peninsula south of Ascalon and west of the Crystal Desert, Orr was a vibrant, proud, and prosperous nation. Its citizens were the favored of the gods, living in the shadows of Arah, the deserted city once inhabited by the likes of Melandru, Dwayna, and Balthazar. Deeply spiritual, the Orrians looked after the buildings and structures left behind when the gods left Tyria, caring for them in the hopes that one day, the divine beings who created magic and bestowed it upon the world would return.
The Orrians were a peaceful people, hoping only to do their duty toward their gods and content to be rewarded in either this life or the next. When the guilds began feuding, Orr as a nation tried to stay out of the conflict. This was not the sort of struggle that entire kingdoms got involved in. But when the strife overflowed into armed conflict, and guilds from the other human nations began fighting in the streets of Arah, Orr rose to defend itself and the city of the gods.
Soon after Orr mobilized its armies, Kryta and Ascalon did as well, and what had started as a dispute between localized groups became an all-out war. The Guild Wars raged for nearly fifty years. During that time, none of the three human empires was able to assert dominance over either of the other two. While Ascalon, Orr, and Kryta were busy fighting with each other, they became blind to the threat from the north—the Charr. The northern beasts swept in, taking Ascalon in a spectacular magical battle.
At first, Orr was saved from much of the fighting. The guilds with allegiances to Ascalon and Kryta withdrew, heading back to defend their homes. Orr regrouped, granted a moment to prepare simply because they were farther south. The Charr had to make their way through Ascalon before they could reach the gates of Arah. But eventually Ascalon fell, and the Charr arrived in Orr.
Hopes were high that the Charr would be defeated quickly. The Orrian army was the equal of any in Tyria, and the invaders had already fought a long battle against the Ascalons. But those hopes were dashed in less than twelve hours.
The invaders reached the gates of Arah without breaking stride. The Orrians failed to protect their charge. With defeat at the doorstep and the kingdom nearly in ruins, one man turned to a forbidden magic. The king’s own personal advisor in the matters of the arcane took it upon himself to destroy the invaders, no matter the cost. Unrolling one of the Lost Scrolls, kept inside a warded vault deep within the catacombs below Arah, he spoke the words of a litany that spelled the end of the Kingdom of Orr forever.
There are few who survived that day, now known as the Cataclysm. While the Charr were never allowed to step foot in Arah, few count what the king’s advisor did on that day as a victory. The resulting explosion felled the invading army where it stood, but so too did it sink the entire peninsula, leaving only a scattering of small islands in its place. The beautiful city of Arah was consumed. What’s left above water now lies in a pile of ruins, blackened by the Cataclysm and years of neglect. All that remains in the wreckage of Orr are the wandering dead—those souls unable to rest in the shadow of this great disaster.
The Kingdom of Kryta
There are two types of humans in Kryta: those who worship the mysterious Unseen Ones and those who do not. The worshippers have become known as the White Mantle because of the long white sleeveless robes many of them wear.
It is the responsibility of the White Mantle to oversee the other humans and impose upon them the rules and laws of the Unseen Ones. Those inside the organization receive special privileges (more food, better clothing, access to books) simply for abiding by the rules of the Unseen Ones and carrying out the orders handed down by the White Mantle high priest. To the Krytans the White Mantle are the root of law and order, the protectors or saviors, if you will, of their lands.
The White Mantle maintain a series of temples all over the continent. Members of this organization frequently, though not always, choose to reside in these temples to better perform their duties to the Mantle and to more effectively worship the Unseen Ones.
Since the end of the last Guild War and the repelling of the Charr invasion, the White Mantle have maintained a high level of military preparedness. They don’t ever want to be caught off guard again, and they often keep large stores of weapons inside their temples to use in case of emergency. It’s also not uncommon for followers of the Mantle philosophy to be highly trained warriors. Fighting skills will come in handy if the day comes when they will need to once again defend Kryta from invasion.
Saul D’Alessio – Founder of the White Mantle
Saul D'Alessio was a fallen man. A gambler and a drunk, Saul reached the lowest point in his life when he lost a bet he could not repay. At the time, the local betting house was run by the Lucky Horseshoe, a gambling guild whose influence spanned almost the entire length of the continent. To avoid defaulting on his payment, Saul took to robbing merchants traveling on the road from Beetletun to Shaemoor. Though he successfully paid his debt to the Lucky Horseshoe, he was eventually fingered by one of his victims and tried as a thief. His punishment was exile from the Kingdom of Kryta. The local authorities blindfolded him and rode him out three full weeks before leaving him to fend for himself.
Alone, broke, and lost, Saul wandered through a dense forest for several days, surviving on only roots and berries. On the fourth day, delirious with hunger, Saul emerged from the trees to see what he thought was a hallucination—a city of massive towers reaching into the heavens. The architecture was astounding, and the creatures who lived here were unlike any he had ever seen. Walking down into their city, Saul got a closer look at the denizens of this place. They were tall and thin with with strange wing-like appendages that waved about in the slightest breeze. When they walked, their feet seemed not to touch the ground, and when they spoke, it was the most melodious sound he had ever heard. Surely these creatures were the stuff of divinity. Hungry and exhausted, his clothes ragged and dirty, Saul dropped to his knees and touched his forehead to the ground. He had found his gods, and they in turn had found their most devoted disciple.
Saul D’Alessio returned to Kryta a changed man. His rags had been replaced with a sleeveless, pure-white robe embroidered with golden thread. His once sunken, sickly features were again full and healthy. He no longer craved the bottle, no longer wished to strike it rich gambling. His life had purpose. He had returned to spread the word, to deliver his finding to the humans of Kryta.
During this time, the Krytan Empire was in the midst of two wars—one against the guilds of the other human nations, and another against the beastlike Charr. Food was becoming scarce as the invaders burned the crops and salted the fields. It was then that Saul came to the people, offering help from his powerful, enigmatic gods.
Saul’s new faith was so powerful that soon he had a small following. As a group, they traveled the land, recruiting more and more, offering salvation from trying times. Though no one ever saw the winged gods or their cities of massive towers, they took Saul at his word that they did truly exist. Saul was a shepherd, and his sheep followed his every step. Those who showed real conviction were given white robes, each embroidered with golden thread.
This was the beginning of the White Mantle.
Beaten, outnumbered, leaderless, and facing almost certain death, the people of Kryta looked to Saul to lead them out of their darkest hour. Saul D’Alessio was transformed from a messenger into the general of a great army. With their new faith and their new leader, Kryta and the White Mantle managed to push out the Charr, forcing them back over the mountains.
Though his efforts were successful, Saul eventually lost his life fighting the war that freed the humans of Kryta. In the last offensive of the war against the Charr, Saul led his troops deep into Charr territory. His network of spies, though normally quite effective, failed him on this day. The Charr were waiting in ambush, and the beastly creatures slaughtered Saul’s unit to the man. Consequently, Saul became a martyr for the White Mantle. His teachings live on in the temples, and his name adorns a seacoast on the southern edge of Kryta, a memorial to a man who brought peace and prosperity to the people of this tropical region.
Regions and Landscapes
The Ruins of Ascalon
Blasted and battered, the current landscape of Ascalon holds only the ghost of its former glory. Skeletons of grand cathedrals and remnants of whole cities lie broken on the shifted, displaced ground. The protective Great Northern Wall is perhaps the most intact structure in the entire kingdom, but the destruction that surrounds it lies in testament to its ultimate failure.
Before the Charr invasion and the Searing, Ascalon was a fertile land, full of wheat fields and blossoming flowers. Now though, little grows here in this wasteland. The once loamy earth is now dry and arid. The riverbeds have dried up, and the mudflats have turned into a patchwork of cracked plates and jagged scars in the ground.
The Shiverpeak Mountains
For hundreds of years, all the dwarves in this mountain range were united under one flag: the nation of the Deldrimor dwarves. Most of the architecture in the Shiverpeaks was built during this time, and it reflects a time of peace and prosperity—but that time is over now. Today, the mountains ring with the sounds of civil war, and new architecture has sprung up: slabs of stone lashed together with huge iron chains mark the areas where a new guild—those who have broken from the old ways—have made new settlements.
The Shiverpeaks are an inhospitable environment for the ill-prepared. There are only two known passes through the mountains, and any wishing to cross them must endure freezing wind, flash snow storms, and unstable terrain that shifts with the change in temperature.
Travelers to Kryta will find a stark contrast between the fortified, polished-stone buildings of the White Mantle and the thatch-roofed huts of the regular citizens. There is a surprising amount of wealth here, but it is kept in the hands of those who adhere to the doctrines of the Mantle, and this is reflected in the architecture of the region.
On the coast, the weather is hot and humid. This is somewhat mitigated by the beautiful white-sand beaches and the crystal-clear blue saltwater beyond. Farther inland, it cools down a bit, making the area ideal for farming and raising livestock. Those Krytans who don't practice any of the mystical arts tend to gravitate toward fishing and farming.
Years ago, many tribes of human druids lived among the Maguuma's lush greenery and wildlife. But it has been a long time since anyone has heard word from them, and many believe that they were eaten by hostile jungle creatures or simply swallowed whole by the man-eating plants now rampant in the jungle.
The higher elevations are mostly devoid of water. Only the largest and hardiest of plants can live here. But down farther, closer to the water table, the Maguuma grows thick. The vegetation can become so dense that there are areas of the jungle floor that have never been touched by the sun’s light.
Legends tell of a time, thousands of years ago, when the Crystal Desert was covered in water. These legends claim that it was the gods who raised the land, leaving it bare and empty in order to give the solitary creatures of the world a place to call their own. If the legends are true, humans were not among those for whom this land was made. There have been attempts by humans to settle in the desert, but they have, without exception, failed miserably, leaving behind only the grand monuments they built here proclaiming their short-lived triumph over this harsh land.
The weather in the Crystal Desert is hot and unforgiving. The winds blow hard, making and unmaking dunes, covering up the present and uncovering the past. An examination of the sand will reveal that each grain is actually a tiny, pointed crystal. In isolated locations, larger crystal formations have been revealed by the constant, unforgiving wind.
The Ring of Fire Island Chain
Just south of the Tarnished Coast lie the volcanic islands that together make up the Ring of Fire. The large volcano at the center of the ring is where the gods reportedly dropped the Bloodstones before leaving Tyria for good. Of the islands that surround this one, many are still active. Ships that pass by the Ring report hearing the tell-tale hiss of scalding hot lava hitting the ocean, instantly vaporizing the saltwater into steam.
The reefs off the islands are formed of black pumice stone. There are very few natural ports, and those that might be suitable for docking would bring the crew of the ship within danger of being caught by a sudden, unexpected eruption.
There are no known settlements in the Ring of Fire.
Before there were humans or dwarves, before there were even worlds or the stars that light the night sky, there was but one thing in the universe – the Mists. The Mists touch all things. They are what binds the universe together, past present, and future. They are the source of all good and evil, of all matter and knowledge. It is said that all forms of life, no matter how simple or complex, can trace their origins back to this one place.
In the middle of The Mists is a spot where time moves neither forward nor back. It is a tear in the fabric of the cosmos, the point of perfect balance between all forces of the universe. This place is known as the Rift, and there is nothing to which it does not connect, nothing that cannot be reached from inside it. Those who have the know-how to travel across the universe through the Mists must pass through the Rift on their way to all other places. It is the center of all things.
Hall of Heroes
In the center of the Rift, deep inside the Mists, stands the imposing walled fortress known across the multiverse as the Hall of Heroes. This structure is the pinnacle of the afterlife. When a hero dies, his spirit goes to one of two places: either it is buried with the deceased body, forever trapped inside the rotting flesh and rancid bones of the corpse, or it is released into the Rift. This latter honor goes to only those few whose deeds in life were legendary enough to be known across multiple worlds, and fewer still earn a place among the souls ensconced inside the Hall itself.
For a long while, the Rift and the Hall of Heroes were accessible only by those who had passed from the mortal world into the immaterial. It was the Land of the Dead, an exclusive club whose membership cost the blood of one’s own life. But within the last century all that has changed.
Lord Odran’s Folly
Using a spell of his own devising and the sacrifice of many souls, Lord Odran, a powerful arcanist who specialized in the study of temporal distortions, opened a portal that offered him access to the Mists and eventually into the Rift itself. The spirits who had given their lives to earn access to the hallowed afterlife were outraged. They turned their fury upon the intruder, attacking Lord Odran with all of their legendary, collective might. But it had been hundreds of years since most of the spirits had interacted with the physical world, and none of them had ever done so in their shadow form. As powerful as they had been in life, they could not harm the physical manifestation of the wizard lord—not yet. He was untouchable here in the land of the dead, and he traveled freely through the Hall of Heroes.
Over the years, Lord Odran learned to use the Rift to travel across the multiverse. He opened portals on nearly all of the different worlds, turning the Rift into his own personal gateway. But though he was clever, the wizard lord was himself only mortal, and eventually the spirits of the Hall discovered a way to interact with the corporeal world. Odran’s last physical journey through the Rift cost him his mortal life. The wizard lord was torn to shreds by hundreds of angry souls seeking retribution for his trespasses.
When Odran’s mortal body died, the wards and enchantments that kept his portals hidden failed, and the gates to the Hall of Heroes were laid open to all who were able to find them. The wizard lord had been canny though; Odran knew that one day he too might be ensconced in the Hall of Heroes, so he hid the portals in the most treacherous locations he could find. The fear of death, he surmised, would keep the meek at bay.
But a long time has passed, and it is clear now that the wizard lord, like the gods before him, underestimated the greed of men. Over time, the whereabouts of the portals have been revealed. Though they remain difficult to get to, there are those with enough skill and enough bravery to reach them, and every day the numbers of intruders to the Hall of Heroes rises.
An unending battle for supremacy rages inside the Hall. The spirit inhabitants have taken to playing groups of mortals against each other for sport, placing bets on which will make it farthest and giving special aid to those they favor. Control of the Hall itself has its rewards—and its costs as well.
The Lands of Elona
Elona, the Land of the Golden Sun, thrives in a realm surrounded by savannahs, deserts, plains, and wastelands. Three allied provinces stand side by side to support this proud nation. To the west is Istan, an island province littered with the ruins of an earlier Elonion empire. To the east is Kourna, known for its fiercly loyal soldiers, dedicated army, expansive estates, and agriculture. The northern province of Vabbi is home to wealthy merchant princes, a long where successful Elonians believe their safety, security, and affluence allow them to sponsor many of the nation’s greatest achievements. Despite occasional rivalries, these three provinces – Istan, Kourna, and Vabbi – have kept Elona prosperous and strong for over a thousand years.
The island province of Istan is known for its navy — a formidable fleet that patrols Elona's western coastline. Each day, ships from Tyria, Cantha, and other distant parts of the world arrive in the port city of Kamadan. From there, merchant ships travel to Istan's numerous islands and the Kournan mainland, braving waters troubled by corsair patrols, cyclones, and greater dangers. Valiant Istani watch the waters, confident that when hostile outsiders arrive in Elona, the province’s citizens, soldiers, and sailors will be ready for them.
Great Istani heroes have been forged by great adversity: war, famine, invasion, and stranger threats. Over six hundred years ago, the infamous Scarab Plague devastated this province. Victims died horribly, as insects erupted through boils on their skin. Many believed the outbreak of plague had supernatural origins, blaming the suffering of the innocent on unseen forces. In this troubled time, heroes tended to the sick, evacuated towns and villages, and searched for the source of corruption. Though the origin of the plague was never found, great tales are still told of heroes helping the beleaguered populace.
To this day, Istan rewards bravery and accomplishment. No word describes its government more than "meritocracy": the best and brightest are rewarded with promotion, and years of service are recognized. Village elders watch over many towns and outposts, eventually rising to positions of respect and authority on the Council of Elders. The province has its fair share of miscreants and scoundrels, of course—criminals typically sink to the dregs of society—but each dawn in Istan, another hero’s journey begins.
The province of Kourna is eternally ready for war. Military historians analyze the great battles that have taken place here: the epic conflicts of Primeval Kings, the desperate efforts to unite the land in the Shattered Dynasty Era, and of course, Turai Ossa’s defeat of Palawa Joko near the Grand Cataract at Jahai. For centuries, Kourna has had a military government, and its leaders have been direct descendents of Warmarshal Turai Ossa. Inspired by his example, Kournans revere loyalty, patriotism, a strong sense of duty, and dedication to military service. Not every Kournan is a soldier, but farmers laboring in the fields and crafters slaving in workshops know the value of a safe and secure province. The strength of the state depends on loyalty to its leaders. Pacified Centaur laborers add to the province’s muscle. Typical Kournan dedication drives citizens to work hard for prosperity—in fact, the entire nation relies on the province’s agriculture and handiwork. Kournan adventurers go to war secure in the knowledge that their swords are well-tempered and their armor well-made, forged as surely as the soldiers who wield them.
The northern province of Vabbi is known for its great wealth and refined culture. Merchant princes pride themselves on their large estates, prosperous businesses, and patronage of the arts. Its provincial government, the Grand Forum of Vabb, is a plutocracy: only the wealthiest princes in the land have the power to make laws. Their legislature is openly democratic, but secretly, a merchant with influence has more power than a councilor with one vote.
Vabbian princes rule the land. Most plutocrats sponsor great festivals and celebrations to display their importance and influence. Celebrations in Vabbian estates are wonders to behold: Dancers flourish in their elegant fashions, gourmands sample cuisine, revelers consume epic quantities of alcohol, and cultured citizens enjoy great works of drama and poetry. Heroes are welcomed at these festivals, where their heroism is celebrated in songs and stories.
The Vabbi are effusive in displays of self-importance, but also keenly aware of how much they depend on other Elonians. The guards of Vabbian estates watch the mountain range to the north, while citizens on the province’s southern border depend on neighboring Kournans to keep them safe. Outside the walls of the grand estates, danger is everywhere. Raiders know secret passes through the mountains and mines, and monstrous creatures roam the landscape. Fortunately, every generation of Vabbi includes idealists who dream of adventurous journeys across Elona. New tales of adventure appear on the shelves of Vabbi’s libraries each year, as actors portray new heroes on the stages of Vabbian theaters.
The Order of the Sunspears
Elona doesn’t have a unified government—the three provinces work side by side—but one alliance of heroes defends the entire nation. From the southern coast of Istan to the northern peaks of Vabbi, peace has its price: the eternal vigilance of the Elonians who guard their nation.
These valiant defenders are the Order of the Sunspears—an elite order pledged to defend the nation against all threats, whether martial, mystical, or supernatural. When the Scarab Plague devastated Istan centuries ago, the Sunspears evacuated the populace and sealed off infected cities. As the Istani slowly resettled the islands, the Sunspears helped restore civilization, protecting outposts and colonies. Whenever brigands and tribes in the surrounding wilderness ready their weapons, wherever the threat of civil unrest grows, the Sunspears rally troops to defend their homeland.
The Sunspears are autonomous, answering only to their own leaders, called Spearmarshals. The Order respects the authority of each province, but insists on the freedom of its members to travel wherever they must to safeguard the nation. Beyond the walls of cities and towns, corsairs, harpies, Centaurs, undead desert lords, and other marauders prey on the unwary. Outside the world we know, malefic forces wait in darkness, patient and potent, scheming of ways to enter the realm of flesh. In darker times, a province may prevent, limit, or forbid the Sunspears from conducting an investigation—since each province has its own defenders—but most Elonian citizens know that the Sunspears are their best hope for protection and salvation.
The devout claim that the gods themselves have chosen the champions of Elona and a new generation has taken up weapons to answer the call. Now you have been chosen—as a Sunspear, you will be trained as a leader. You have a duty to your country: finding threats to Elona and eliminating them. With other heroes by your side, you are the shining light that must drive back the forces of darkness, fighting for the glory of the Golden Sun.
Then and Now
The mighty kingdom of Ascalon has seen better days. Humbled under the relentless assault of the Charr, its cities ruined, its population scattered across the globe—Ascalon has become a conquered and savaged nation. Brave heroes have slowed, but not stemmed, the invading hordes. A large military force under the command of King Adelbern continues to defend the nation from incursion, but they slip farther and farther south as their battle lines collapse beneath the strength of the Charr forces.
In these dire times, brave cadres of Ascalonians—among them, the Ebon Vanguard—have taken up the fight to save Ascalon from the Charr and free it once more. These small units—many made up of humans who have escaped Charr enslavement—have slipped behind (and, in some cases, broken through) the Charr lines. They harry the invaders and divert supplies and troops away from Ascalon, leaving the Charr to gnash their teeth at human ingenuity and perseverance.
The White Mantle suffered losses when the veil of godhood was lifted from their so-called deities, exposing the Mursaat as powerful, yet mortal, creatures. The revelation of this manipulation and deceit fueled a revolt in Kryta, led by the Shining Blade—and Kryta fell into civil war. The strongest force for unification, the Shining Blade are scattered and losing power, forced to deal with too many enemies at once. It has become Blade against Mantle, royalists against warlords. All fight one another for control of Kryta.
In an attempt to find a way to turn the tides of war in their favor, both the Shining Blade and the White Mantle have sent agents across the reaches of Tyria, searching for powerful allies or magics. Each side has vowed to bring peace to Kryta—no matter the cost.
The defeat of Shiro Tagachi ended the plague that had afflicted Cantha. However, it took adventurers and members of the imperial guard a few grueling years to track down all of the Afflicted and the remnants of the Shiro'ken army that the Betrayer had unleashed in his final attempt to destroy the empire.
Over the past few years, life has begun to spring up in Echovald Forest as many areas have seen new growth take hold. Some even claim to have seen a change in the Jade Sea—small pools of water forming or even waves moving beneath the frozen surface—but these reports are unsubstantiated rumors at best.
Life has returned to normal for most Canthan residents. Kaineng still struggles under the burdens of bureaucracy, overpopulation, and crime, while the Kurzicks and Luxons remain locked in a never-ending battle over scant resources. Shing Jea Island remains an oasis of pristine valleys and beautiful vistas. Monks come to the island regularly for scholarly pursuits, while the general populace descends in droves for every festival held within the safe confines of Shing Jea Monastery.
Commerce returned to a brisk pace once the Affliction ended, and since then, many Canthans have sought to re-establish old trade routes to Elona and Kryta as well as locate new opportunities farther north. However, recent reports of earthquakes and giant cracks opening in the middle of urban Cantha have some believing this time of relative peace and prosperity has now come to an end.
The Land of the Golden Sun has weathered a long night and lived to see a new dawn. It has been three years since Varesh Ossa’s reign of terror nearly unleashed Abaddonupon the world, and the effects of that event still resonate throughout all three provinces.
Kourna, home of Warmarshal Varesh, was perhaps hardest hit in the aftermath. In addition to the dark lord’s nightmares, which have yet to completely fade from the minds and memories of its people, Kourna had to deal with a power vacuum after the loss of its leader and most of its military. The Sunspears, along with Morgahn, an ex-general of the Kournan armies, proved invaluable to its recovery.
Both Istan and Vabbi fared much better after the death of Abaddon. The Istani, long supporters of the Sunspears, were lauded for the aid they provided in the campaign against Varesh. Attendance at Kamadan festivals has seen a marked increase, as people from across the world come to the Sunspear homeland to pay their respects. In Vabbi, the three princes spread their wealth copiously throughout the province to heal any wounds to their vaunted architecture as well as the rarified sensibilities of their people. Annual performances of Norgu's Nightfall in the Bokka Amphitheatre draw huge crowds...if not rave reviews.
All of Elona has prospered from increased trade with Cantha and Kryta in recent years, and many Elonians have begun traveling the world, for both pleasure and adventure. But as word spreads of strange rumblings from beneath the ground, adventurers are likely to return to Elona to investigate.
The Great Dwarf
Originally Posted by [B
Tome of Rubicon[/B]]The Great Destroyer has been cast down into the Depths. Never again shall its name be uttered, lest it rise up and bring ruin down upon the world.
Every Dwarf knows the tale of the Great Dwarf and the Great Destroyer. While most Dwarves with any spiritual leanings still believe their race was forged upon Anvil Rock by the Great Dwarf in an age before men, few actually put much stock in the myth of a titanic struggle between their Dwarven deity and a mystical creature of vast destructive power and limitless evil. That all changed, however, when the Tome of Rubicon, an ancient Dwarven artifact supposedly created by the Great Dwarf himself, was found buried deep within Sorrow’s Furnace.
After quashing repeated attempts by the Stone Summit Dwarves to retrieve the tome and call forth the Great Destroyer, High Priest Alkar led a group of excavators into the rubble of the Stone Basilica to bring the ancient relic home. In his translations, Alkar has found that the tome contains more than just an account of the earliest days of the Dwarven race. It also provides specific details about a final conflict between the Dwarves and minions of the Great Destroyer who will “swarm up from the bowels of the earth and spread across the world.” The battle between the Great Dwarf and the Great Destroyer is fated to play out once again, it seems. The tome does not foretell the entirety of the outcome, nor predict a victor. It only mentions that the Dwarves will be “forever transformed” by this final battle.
The Depths of Tyria
The Dwarves have provided limited information about the mysteries they have uncovered beneath the earth. Initial reports describe an immense, interconnected underground complex they call the “Depths of Tyria.” These natural caves and excavated areas house structures left behind by civilizations dating back to a time before the arrival of humans in Tyria. The Depths are connected by a series of magical gateways that allow swift travel through miles of earth and stone.
These gateways were created by a race known as the Asura, who use them for mining, research, and other jaunts across great distances. Most of the gates are guarded by Asuran GOLEMs, for the Depths teem with threats—both animal and geological. Those who dare to travel below realize the risk they take in doing so, and those who return tell wild stories of monsters made of fire and stone that move in the Depths.
The Asura of the Tarnished Coast are a brilliant, if diminutive, people who dwelled, until recently, within the Depths of Tyria, where they regularly dealt with Dwarves, Dredge, and other underground races. However, a dangerous race from even deeper within the world—the Destroyers—overran their subterranean homes, forcing them to the surface. Now, the Asura must learn to survive in a hostile, strange, and all-too-brightly-lit world. Still, the surviving population is of two minds—half of them long for a return to their underground empires, while the other half believe their former lands are lost forever, that their future lies among the strange races of the surface world.
The Asura fled from the encroaching Destroyer hordes through magical gates that link the caverns of the Depths throughout Tyria. While these refugees reached the surface in a variety of locations, the bulk of the exodus came up along the Tarnished Coast, across the Sea of Sorrows from the sunken remnants of Orr. Here they found abandoned ruins high in inherent magical energy—the perfect location for a race of magical researchers to settle and continue practicing their craft. Rata Sum, the largest of these settlements, sits at the western end of the massive canyon known as Riven Earth. Many Asura meet in these magical ruins to exchange ideas and plan for the future.
The Asura brought their culture, heritage, and architectural styles with them to the surface, renovating the ruins by magical means to more closely resemble their subterranean homes. In addition to pyramids and great gates, the Asura erected geomystic generators to focus the magical energies brimming in the Tarnished Coast to further aid in their research. They also built large forges and kilns to produce prototypes and finished magical devices. This is no collection of lore-gathering scholars—the Asura are inventors and builders. And their creations tend to work more often than not.
In addition to architecture and magical devices, the Asura brought another important piece of their culture with them to Rata Sum: the game of Polymock, which they have begun spreading among the other races of the surface world with varying degrees of success. The Polymock master, an Asura named Hoff who lives in Rata Sum, is willing to instruct interested individuals in the basics of the game.
Rata Sum is also home to Mamp, the closest thing to a leader among the Asura. Mamp is a genius, like many Asura, but his genius lies in an innate ability to get other Asura to work together, putting aside rivalries and personal conflicts for the common good. Mamp's gestalt outlook allows him to pull together diverse individuals, make critical connections, and find combinations that are truly greater than the sum of their individual parts. He is less a leader than a herder of cats, which is the way most Asura like it.
The Asura are nothing if not adaptable, however, and take pride in their ability to conquer new challenges through the strength of their prodigious intellect; a pride they display exuberantly to all around them. Faced with the impending destruction of their race at the hands of the Destroyers, they have instead found new lands to tame, new races to ally with and/or manipulate, and new opportunities to seize and profit from. The Asura are, of course, confident of their inevitable success.
In the Shadow of Dragons
For generations, war and chaos raged across the land of Tyria. Five great races competed and warred against each other, struggling to tip the balance of power in their favor.
Then the dragons woke.
The all-powerful beasts stirred from their millennial sleep under earth and sea. With their magical breath the dragons spread destruction and created legions of twisted slaves. A deathless dragon named Zhaitan raised the sunken nation of Orr, triggering earthquakes and tidal waves that destroyed entire cities across the Sea of Sorrows.
Zhaitan's undead armies surged from the sea, hungry for the destruction of the five races of Tyria: the charr, a ferocious race of feline warriors; the asura, magical inventors of small size and great intellect; the norn, towering shapeshifters from the frigid northern lands; the sylvari, a mysterious young race of visionary plant folk; and the humans, an embattled but resilient people.
Now heroes from the five races must set aside ancient rivalries and stand together against their common enemies.
Magic, technology, and cold steel will determine the ultimate fate of the world.
They may be short in stature, but this subterranean race of magical inventors are intellectual giants. These incredibly intelligent beings use their knowledge and skill with magic and crafting to assert their natural dominance. In the world of the asura, it is not the strong who survive, but the clever. Other races believe they should rule by virtue of their power and strength, but they delude themselves. All will serve the asura - in due time.
Driven to the surface of Tyria by minions of Primordus, the Fire Dragon, the asura have created a complex new society based in vast Maguuma Jungle metropolises like the awe-inspiring Rata Sum. Asura life is based around the study of the Eternal Alchemy, an all-encompassing metaphysical theory that they analyze in their great research institutions - the College of Statics, Dynamics, and Synergetics.
Asura use their magical skill to create servitor golems, asura gates, blasting rods, and other magnificent inventions. Their culture is organized, but highly flexible--these small geniuses often gather in specialized work groups called "krewes" to accomplish greater tasks. Asura establish their reputations with their peers by building a portfolio of successful projects or by becoming the foremost expert on some arcane field of study. They constantly seek to prove their own intellectual superiority, and by extension the superiority of the asura race.
Who are more fit to rule Tyria than the asura? The more primitive, warlike races can be useful when an asura needs something heavy lifted, but they mistakenly believe that brute force or resiliency entitles them to power. How mistaken they are. As any asura will explain, mastery of the Eternal Alchemy equals mastery of Tyria. Who can argue with such logic?
The thundering sound of their advancing war machines makes the lesser races tremble with fear. They are the charr, and conquest is their birthright.
The charr race was forged in the merciless crucible of war. It is all they know; war defines them and their quest for dominion drives them onwards, always onwards. The weakling and the fool find no place among the charr.
Many generations ago, the charr overthrew their religious caste and reestablished the ancient Legions, the foundation of their military culture. The charr turned their backs on the false gods and embraced industry, creating weaponry and great machines of war as deadly and unforgiving as the charr themselves. They use any means available to crush their foes--be it ambush, bombardment, or claw and fang. Victory is all that matters, achieved by any means and at any cost.
The charr train from youth to be warriors. Their society is organized into war bands, companies, and the four great legions. Ash Legion, Blood Legion, and Iron Legion are loosely allied, while the treacherous religious zealots in the Flame Legion conspire against them all. Today, conquered Ascalon is the homeland of the mighty Iron Legion, but even under charr rule it is still a nation at war. Operating out of the massive Black Citadel, the three legions battle against human rebels, the ghosts of long vanquished Ascalonians, and a tyrant of the Flame Legion who seeks to make himself a god. The charr have never had a shortage of enemies, and they wouldn't have it any other way.
The resiliency of the noble human race has been tested many times. They have paid a dear cost for their security and liberty, yet their spirit remains unshaken.
From the invasion of Ascalon by the savage charr, to the cataclysmic rise of the lost kingdom of Orr from the depths of the sea, mankind has been battered and overwhelmed. They have lost homelands; their prayers go to silent skies. Now, the remaining sons and daughters of man have one last homeland--the nation of Kryta, ruled by Queen Jennah. Harried by bandits and marauding centaurs and torn from within by political intrigue and treachery, the Seraph guard stand watch over a troubled land. Only through courage, will, and unity can the humans retain their storied culture and reach once more to rise above.
For more than a hundred years, pennants have flown above the city of Divinity's Reach, an island of civilization and peace in an otherwise chaotic world. In Ascalon, valiant human fighters in the stronghold of Ebonhawke struggle to keep the last ember of resistance lit against their charr conquerors. They swear that one day they will reclaim that lost nation; that they will never abandon the cities of their ancestors or forgive the charr, who crushed the ancient armies of Ascalon beneath iron boots.
The candle of mankind would have been snuffed out long ago were it not for the courage and dedication of heroes. These defenders of the realm are the best, last hope of their people. Despite all odds, humanity will prevail, bolstered by faith in their gods, devotion to their queen, and the dream of a brighter future for all mankind. They will stand the wall against the enemy once more, from Divinity's Reach to Ebonhawke, and they will not fail.
They hail from the frozen north--the norn, a race of heroes. These massive, shape-shifting warriors prize individual valor and victory above all. They trust only the power of steel.
The norn do not beg or grovel for the favor of the Gods, no. Instead, they revere the spirits of animals and draw strength from them. The norn can assume the form of their sacred totem beasts--bear, snow leopard, raven, and wolf--and call upon their power whenever they do battle, which is often.
Driven from their homelands in the distant north by the Ice Dragon, Jormag, the norn have carved out a new homeland with their blades in the frigid heights of the Shiverpeak Mountain. The great Ice Dragon's shadow falls over these proud exiles, for some twisted, corrupted norn--the Sons of Svanir--worship Jormag as the ultimate Totem spirit. A brutal and bloody destiny awaits these traitors.
Scattered throughout the unforgiving Shiverpeaks, the norn live in fortified hearthsteads and communal lodges, like the great hall Hoelbrak. They hold the governments of the weaker races in disdain, for the norn do not follow--they lead. No norn has ever bent her knee before King or Queen, and none ever will.
Every norn knows that only the bold and the strong achieve immortality. Victors are celebrated in story and song; the weak are forgotten, buried by the snows of time. Such is the way of the hero; the way of the norn.
Long ago, a weary soldier planted a strange seed in the depths of the Maguuma Jungle. For centuries, the Pale Tree grew, branches arching over the forest, until at last--twenty five years ago--it bloomed, and the Firstborn stepped into the world. They were followed by their brethren, season after season of sylvari, wide-eyed with wonder and searching for purpose in this strange land. Shaped first by the Dream that nurtured them before they awakened, the sylvari now travel Tyria seeking adventure and their place in the world. They struggle to balance curiosity with duty; eagerness with chivalry; and warfare with honor.
The Dream still lingers in their souls, like an echo of a distant song. Through it, they can sense the ebb and flow of their race, feel the empathic connections between all sylvari, and share their discoveries and knowledge like water into a river's current. They have a deep connection with the land and the riches it bears, and know that all things which grow and blossom are their brethren. Guided by the lessons carved into the sacred Ventari Tablet, they have built a city within the forest, and created a culture that blends the mystery of magic with a steel-tempered resolution to do good.
But not all sylvari are noble, and not all Dreams are pleasant. Some of the children of the Pale Tree walk a shadowed path, devoted to a Nightmare that boils beneath the surface and whispers of dark moons, wicked revels, and terrible secrets murmured at midnight. The Nightmare Court rejects the virtues of their brethren and seeks to draw all sylvari toward their sinister philosophy. If they are not stopped, they will taint the Dream with their evil deeds and corrupt the Pale Tree herself, condemning the noble race of sylvari to a future of vice and corruption. In the battle between Dream and Nightmare, the fate of the newest race in Tyria will be determined by heroes.
Last edited by Konig Des Todes; Aug 24, 2010 at 07:49 AM // 07:49..
Reason: Updated as of this date
UV: The Dragon of the Deep is probably the most enigmatic of all. We do not know much about him. What's his name? Is he as hungry for power as the others?
Jeff Grubb: The Deep Sea Dragon (DSD) has attracted a lot of attention on the forums primarily because we haven’t really referred to it since the “Movement of the World.” The existence of the DSD is not well-known to the average Tyrian (for whom the other dragons may be legendary or distant threats). The exact nature of the DSD is as yet unrevealed, and its powers differ from the other dragons as those Elder Dragons differ from each other. But it shares with its kindred a desire to consume, corrupt, and destroy.
Kill Ten Rats: Ghosts of Ascalon brings a lot of perspective to the Guild Wars world. How do you keep all the lore bits straight for each separate group, like the different racial accounts of the Foefire?
Jeff Grubb: We (the designers and writers) know what happened as far as the raw facts of the matter, and we keep an updated lore database in case any one of us steps in front of a bus. Matt [Forbeck] strained those facts through the racial viewpoints of both human and charr, based upon what information they would have (i.e., as survivors) and their own prejudices. The end result creates more of a feeling of real world, and for the inhabitants of the world there are different flavors of truth, depending on who you are and what you are doing.
Kill Ten Rats: When the shadow show in Divinity’s Reach recounted the charr’s invasion, why did it skip over the assault on Kryta, which was ultimately repelled by the Mursaat and White Mantle?
Jeff Grubb: The shadow show was longer in earlier drafts, including scenes from Cantha and Elona. I brought it down to its current state both for length and to send the underlying message that “Bad things happen elsewhere, but here in Divinity’s Reach you are safe under your Queen.” Yep, it’s a bit of propaganda, and the fact that Kryta itself has its own rocky history (can anyone say “civil war?”) is casually glossed over. It underscores one of the themes of the book – different people tell different tales for different reasons.
Kill Ten Rats: Similarly, it appears that the true story in Guild Wars was not known or important to the characters in Ghosts of Ascalon, such as the audience with Glint (whose lair seems to be at the end of the Dragonbrand) or the destruction of the titans by humans. Is this the case, or is it just a matter of perspective?
Jeff Grubb: It depends on the situation. The audience with Glint is a personal experience for the heroes – those who remember it probably would do so from family histories as opposed to racial epics. In the case of the titans, the charr put much more weight on the fact that THEY no longer believe in gods than on the fact that HUMANS killed their pretender-gods – you see that in Pyre’s statements in Eye of the North.
Kill Ten Rats: From the Movement of the World, Decimus writes of five Elder Dragons, one of which the community has named the Deep Sea Dragon. However, that dragon is not mentioned at all in the Ghosts of Ascalon timeline or text, save for Dougal’s hint about there might be more of “them.” Can you tell us about this enigmatic fifth Elder Dragon?
Jeff Grubb: The DSD (Deep Sea Dragon) is a fave on the boards primarily because we’ve been so quiet about it. Part of the reason for our reticence is that it does not yet have as much direct impact on our five primary races. I mean, you have four impossibly huge and deadly dragons to start with, and you want a fifth? Oooookay.
In Tyria itself, the volume known as the Movement of the World by Decimus does exist, but it’s not for sale in the bookcarts that line the Kormir High Road in Divinity’s Reach. It belongs to the Durmand Priory, and is continually being challenged and researched and revised by the scholars there. Dougal has read the Movement (or one of its derivative works) and that is why he has problems with their book-lending policies.
Some Elder Dragons we know a good deal about in the game, while others we don’t. The supposed existence of a DSD gives us a “here be monsters” feel for the open ocean, and for the moment, that’s OK.
Kill Ten Rats: In the book, spellcasters seem to have specific names according to the magic they cast, such as Killeen the necromancer or the off-handedly mentioned mesmer. Why didn’t the melee-focused characters in Ghosts of Ascalon seem to have such specific profession titles?
Jeff Grubb: In Tyria, when a spellcaster uses a particular spell, it is pretty easy to determine what kind of magic they are using, so to make an in-world statement that someone is a necromancer or an elementalist is a safe bet (Fire spells? Elementalist!). Someone with a sword or bow could be a warrior or a ranger or something else altogether, so the easy tagging you see with spellcasters breaks down. In early drafts, we had a lot of use of “warrior” when we meant “hero” or “adventurer,” so we cleaned that up to reduce confusion.
Neoseeker: You've referred to yourself as an “embedded writer." What do you mean by that?
JG: We have a writing staff. We have very talented people, and their primary task is to take all the design documents – all the text, conversations, etc. – and put them together, making sure it all irons out. I work with these content people in the design department. Officially, I’m not a writer, I’m a game designer. My job is to be a resource for all the other designers, all these content people. Okay, I need a name, take a look at this conversation, or I want to say that charr don’t shower that much. We’ll always coordinate to make the best story possible.
That’s why I say I’m an embedded writer. I’ve done a lot of writing: novels, comic books, and games. In this case, I’m working with the game designers in order to produce a good game from the ground up – if that makes sense.
Neoseeker: Many players complained about the unusually brief story in Guild Wars Factions. Do you think NCsoft bringing you aboard for subsequent games was a direct response to that?
JG: Well, I was working in the Seattle area. Actually, I had interviewed once with them before. And in the wake of Factions, they were looking to get more story-based. And my responsibility at ArenaNet is content, lore, and continuity – a game designer basically, but a game designer who writes.
And out of that, we started looking at what type of story we were selling. Nightfall was the first project I was involved with as far as the story was concerned, and after that Eye of the North. And right now Ree Soesbee and I are responsible for lore and continuity for the upcoming Guild Wars 2. And I’m the co-author with Matt Forbeck on Ghosts of Ascalon, which is our first novel and shows up next week.
Neoseeker: That’s great! And it’s a prequel to Guild Wars 2, right?
JG: It basically takes place in the space between the original Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. There’s 250 years of history. We’ve jumped forward in time, and the result is this world has changed. The dragons have woken up, and they’re hungry. The other races are getting more powerful, the humans have been rocked back on their heels. It’s a very rich world with which to tell stories, so what we did is say, “So what stories do we need to tell before people get into the game?”
One of them was the resolution of the Human Charr War – that is one of the big stories of the first novel. How do we get to the truce where we have the humans and the charr working together? That’s the larger issue. The smaller issue is the personal story of Dougal Keane, who is one of the few who had gotten into the haunted city of Ascalon and came out alive. This is because King Adelbern’s last actions basically transformed the natives into ghosts.
Neoseeker: In order to combat the Charr?
JG: Yeah. So the Charr may control Ascalon, but a lot of [territories], the ghosts will come out. The ghosts of Ascalon are remnants of the past, which [the heroes] must get beyond if they are to survive.
Neoseeker: Does this mean we’ll be visiting that area in the game then?
JG: Correct, and there is strong coordination between the book and the game. Characters will show up in the game, and characters from the game will be showing up in the book. We’ve actually redesigned some of the towers in Ascalon to fit with what we said in the book. It’s just a very exciting time because we’re growing the game and the novel at the same time. As we’re changing it all the time, we’ll sometimes make a change in the game and ask, “Okay, how do we explain that now, because in the book we said something else.”
I know we are fearless about coming up with cool new stuff. So if you wonder why there’s no mention of something in the book, maybe because we haven’t thought of it yet.
Neoseeker: When we talk about continuity, are the events in Cantha and Elona going to cross over?
JG: We are concentrating on Tyria – of course, the world of Guild Wars Prophecies – for the first book. Do we get to Elona? Do we get to Cantha? We don’t know yet, but we do know what happened there. We’ve dropped a few big hints. When you’re coming into the game and unable to go into Cantha immediately, you know the link with Cantha has been broken. There have been some refugees that’ve come up, human and other races all coming together in Tyria.
Same thing with Elona. Stuff happened further down south, sealing that area off for the time being. What exactly happened, we don’t know yet or can’t reveal.
Neoseeker: I hear that Palawa Joko is in charge now.
JG: Yes! Palawa Joko, who came out of one line in Prophecies when you meet the Ghostly Hero, who said, “I fought against Palawa Joko in the Battle of Jahai.” We had no idea what this meant, so we went and created Jahai and Palawa Joko. In the middle of Nightfall, the centaur warns you not to work with him, he’ll become too powerful, you’ll live to regret it! When you’re fighting an undead guy, he can wait. He has secured his faction of power. Now, how does that work out when the dragons awaken – I don’t know what yet, can’t tell you.
Neoseeker: Are we going to be seeing other races from other continents?
JG: There are other refugee races, plus the five player races. There’s the human and charr, which we know from Prophecies; there are the Norn and the asura that we first met in Eye of the North. And there are the sylvari. At the very end of the EotN, we show a plant growing, and that’s where the sylvari come from. For 250 years, the Pale Tree has been growing, and about 25 ago, it started to bear fruit, and that fruit is the sylvari.
They are fully grown and have a downloaded consciousness, in that they know what’s going on – fire is hot, swords are pointy. They’re functional but don’t necessarily have all the finer points of Human emotions, how people relate, children, or even death. All of this is undiscovered country for them, and part of the story you see in Guild Wars 2 is them discovering them.
Neoseeker: If you pick a sylvari character, that’s what they’ll talk about during interaction with other characters?
JG: They’re going to be talking about how they fit in and are very much into discovery. They’re an innocent race, a noble race. The Pale Tree grew up with the Tablet of Ventari, the centaur who found a peaceful way, and that had a deep influence on who they are. As a result, they are a very noble race. Three words I like to use to describe them are: beautiful, noble, and plant. They’re a very good-looking and honorable race, but also very alien. People often underestimate the sylvari.
Neoseeker: I remember reading that NPCs will react differently to your character depending on your background.
JG: Right, they can react differently to you. Your home district – the Salma District in Divinity’s Reach, your private patch of territory in Norn city of Hoelbrak – is yours, and your decisions and what you do in the game will affect how people react to you, and who and what’s there. There’s going to be an evolution happening as we tell your story.
Neoseeker: Will the story have a definitive beginning and end cutscene like in Prophecies?
JG: That’s a component, so we have a lot of stuff happening. We have events that are going on continually, a dynamic persistent environment. You’re going across a country and you encounter centaurs attacking an outpost, and you can drive them off. Or the centaurs have taken over the outpost, and you can drive them out, and then rebuild the outpost. The world is not always the same whenever you encounter it.
Now in addition to that, we have the story of you. You make certain decisions when creating a character and others over the course of play that affect what adventures in the story are made available. You could be born on the streets or to the gentry of Divinity’s Reach and that gives you different story options. Part of that is replayability and to give everyone a different story. If you start as a commoner, you’re going to have a set of adventures tied into that but also others based on the decisions you’ve made. I could be a commoner elementalist, you could be a commoner elementalist, and we could still have very different life stories – that’s part of the coolness.
Now we also have what we call “dungeons” right now, and that’s closer to what we think as the story of Guild Wars. We have a lot more cinematics, a lot more characters talking.
Years ago we saw the greatest adventurers ever to get together – you met Logan, Rhitlock, Zoja – and they broke up. Part of it is, as we are trying to pull the races together to fight the dragons, we’re also pulling the heroes back together. I keep referring to this as “pulling the band back together.” So, that’s part of the overarching story.
Neoseeker:When working on continuity or character crossovers of any kind?
JG: It’s been 250 years, so you’re not going to be seeing characters you played or created in Guild Wars. A lot of the NPCs and stories come over. We have Logan Thackeray… Well, Gwen is involved in a relationship with Keiran Thackeray, and one of the factions has the name “Jorasdottir,” likely related to Jora.
One of the things we do in the book is evaluate how we look at the past. A human character tells the story of Gwen and the founding of the Ebonhawke, the Charr just lights into that because Gwen is not a hero among their race. You can see all the races have their own personality and differing views on what happened in the past.
Neoseeker: Are the stories race-specific at all?
JG: They are up to a certain point. Humans have to deal with human problems, and the charr deal with charr problems. But the overall arc is we have dragons to worry about. That begins to overtake the individual, parochial nature of each race.
Neoseeker: The human race is nearing extinction, isn’t it?
JG: They had Ascalon, and that’s gone. They had Orr, and that was sunken. They’ve got Palawa Joko and Elona, and we don’t even know yet what’s going on in Cantha. The other races have been very successful. The charr have been around forever and control Ascalon, and the Black Citadel is built on the ruins of Rin. The norn have been driven down by the dragon and now occupy former dwarf territory, fighting the dredge that believe themselves the true heirs to the dwarves. The sylvari have grown up. Of course, the asura believe they’re going to run the world, and it’s just a matter of time as far as they’re concerned. And asuran are not gnomes; when they build something, it works.
Neoseeker: Any particular reason why the centaur weren’t made into a playable race? They’re a recurring element.
JG: They’re the ‘bad guy’ race. They’re very useful that way, especially now that charr and humans have called a truce. Makes creating armor sets easier too, and I don’t even know what they do to swim.
Neoseeker: They do have four feet.
JG: True, maybe they have this little dog paddle. Maybe they have too much buoyancy and as a centaur, you couldn't even go in the water. That would be bad...
Neoseeker: Does the inclusion of underwater areas mean we’ll be seeing more of Orr?
JG: Orr has risen, so that’s easy. But we are going to see lots of sunken shipyards, underwater races like the quaggan and the krait, plus underwater cities and settlements. Of course we’re populating those areas with fish, monsters, and all sorts of things.
Neoseeker:Will we be allowed to visit every race’s area? For example, if I play as a human, will I be allowed to visit the charr capital?
JG: If you’re a human, you can get to the Iron Citadel, which from a storytelling standpoint, is one reason why we had to end the war. The charr and the humans still don’t like each other. There are a lot of hardcore charr ‘renegades’ who do not want to see the truce succeed, and human ‘separatists’ are not comfortable with the way things are currently going.
But again, you can go to the Iron Citadel, the main city for the charr, even if you’re human. Likewise, you can still go to Divinity’s Reach if you’re asura, charr, norn or sylvari.
Neoseeker: Only three classes have been revealed, all pulled from the original. Will any classes be race-exclusive?
JG: Those are classics. And no. In the book, our sylvari character is a necromancer, although certain races may gravitate toward a specific class socially. You’ll find more warriors among the norn and charr, or elemenatlists among the asura.
Neoseeker: Lion’s Arch is coming back?
JG: Lion’s Arch is back. In the book, we go to Lion’s Arch, and like most of Tyria, it got kicked in the teeth. When Orr rose, it set off a huge tidal wave and swept up the Sea of Sorrows, wiping out a lot of Lion’s Arch.
The Krytans pulled back from there about the time Divinity’s Reach was founded, but the survivors, which were the pirates and the corsairs, started rebuilding. When you go into Lion’s Arch, a lot of the architecture is overturned boats and other old repurposed nautical equipment. You’ll still recognize it as Lion’s Arch, but it’s been 250 years, and we’ve blown it up and rebuilt it.
Neoseeker: With those cultures overtaking Lion’s Arch post-flooding, will we see Canthan or Elonan influence in the new Tyria?
JG: In the human nations, there are Canthans, Elonans, Krytans, and Ascalonians who have lost their homelands. They’ve gathered together under the descendants of Queen Salma, the current queen being Jenna, and Divinity’s Reach is the last great hope for human culture.
ZAM: Can you go into anymore depth on the Sylvari? They’re really the one race that people don’t really know about...
Soesbee: And I’m tremendously excited about them! The first Sylvari set forth on the world twenty-five years before the game begins. However, the tree that the Sylvari came from is older than that and dates back to the events in the first titles – you can see it in the Eye of the North. The tree is 200-250 years old, but the first Sylvari blossomed and came out – we use the term “awakened from the dream” – twenty-five years ago. The Sylvari has a certain state of knowledge in that the tree is like a racial memory. Things that a Sylvari learns – not in its specifics but in the sense of things – is stored in the tree so that the next generation has a certain amount of knowledge. So if the first generation came out and said “I wonder what that is! What is it? It’s a sword! I can hit things!” The second generation would then come out, and they wouldn’t have a memory of picking up a sword and learned to swing it, but they would know that the item is a sword and they kinda know what that’s for. This sort of racial comprehension then lends itself to the idea that the Sylvari love to do exactly that: Explore. They run out and look at things so the next Sylvari can know what that object is. Anything from a blade of grass to a specific type of fruit fascinates them. That said, the Sylvari are new, but they’re not naïve. They’re not babies. They just don’t have experience. They’re like a kid out of college; they’re educated and knowledgeable, but they’re not experienced. Because they’re new and literally coming from the world, they have a sense that there’s something wrong. The other races go to some lengths here and there to deny the threat. The Asura, for instance, believe they can just go hide underground so they’ll simply bug all the other races and leave the Asura alone. The Sylvari know that it’s not just a dragon that’s terrorizing a locale over yonder; it’s a sickness in the world. You can’t ignore it or the world will be destroyed.
ZAM: Are there racial prejudices directed at the Sylvari?
B]Soesbee[/B]: If you look at a map and see where the Sylvari popped up, they appeared right next to the Asura. The first thing that the Asura think when they see the new race is “Aha! A test subject!” So the Sylvari had a really quick awakening to the other races in the world. While it didn’t cause ‘em to go to war, it did lead them to be a bit more cautious and not just wander up to people spouting things. That said, the other races certainly have blinders on in the same way that you see your car every day, you don’t realize that your car needs a wash. A person that sees it once a month might realize it really does need a cleaning.
ZAM: What kind of difficulties did you experience with writing out the lore of a newly created race – the Sylvari – compared to these other races that had existed prior to the events leading up to Guild Wars 2? You’ve definitely come up with some unique concepts for them, especially since they’ve only been around for a grand total of 25 years, compared to the “hundreds and hundreds” typically seen in fantasy.
Soesbee: They’re certainly not elves. As much as people think that they look like elves, they’re not elves. They don’t have that veneer of ancient history or that old weariness to them. The Sylvari have a very fresh look to the world; everything is very vibrant and interesting. They want to know how things work . You know what Kryta looks like – you’ve been there a hundred times. But when you go with a Sylvari, he’s fascinated. It’s a whole new experience for them.
GuildMag: There has been a mention of three specific multi-racial orders that can be found in Guild Wars 2: The Order of Whispers, Durmand Priory and the Vigil. Can you tell us some more about the development of each of these three orders?
Ree Soesbee: Each of these orders spans the breadth of the continent, organizing on a wide-scale level through all the racial lands and capital cities. However, the histories of these orders – and their methods – are very different. The Vigil is a young group, founded within this generation. The Order of Whispers, as you know, originates in Elona and was active in Guild Wars: Nightfall. The Durmand Priory was founded in between, around the time of the Rise of Orr and the flooding of Lion’s Arch. Founded for different reasons, they have all come to the same conclusion: If the Elder Dragons rise and sate their hunger upon Tyria, they will destroy the world.
This doesn’t mean the groups are allies, however. Each of them espouses different methods and practices; what one group might see as tactically necessary, another might condemn. What one sees as a foundation of hope, a second might call naïveté. As they interact throughout the story of Guild Wars 2, the orders might find themselves allied or opposed to one another, based on the situation. The Vigil tends toward more militant, straightforward solutions. The Durmand Priory is a group of scholars, interested in history and lore. The Order of Whispers prefers to maintain a low profile, controlling and manipulating a situation without ever showing their hand. In the game, a character can join one of these three orders. Depending on that choice, the character will see events unfold from the perspective of that order, and can become involved in the Guild Wars 2 story from a different point of view.
We will be revealing a great deal about these orders in time, including the names of their leadership, their ongoing activities, and plans. Stay tuned for more!
GuildMag: In the Original Guild Wars, seers were a pretty mysterious race, what can you tell us about them and what role will they play in either GWB or GW2?
Ree Soesbee: There have been a lot of questions about the Seers and their ancient war with the mursaat. Sadly, these aren’t questions we can answer at great length without giving away some very deep secrets of the Guild Wars world. I can say that they are one of the oldest races of Tyria, dating back long before the Gods brought the humans to the world; to the time of the writing of the Tome of Rubicon. In those ancient days, the Seers fought against the mursaat, but they were in turn defeated by their enemies, and their civilization lost to the ravages of time.
Some remnants of that civilization, and that ancient time, still remain in modern-day Tyria (both in GW and GW2), but often, those who discover such things do not realize what they have found. There are opportunities in Guild Wars 2 to uncover some of the most ancient lore, including previously untold tidbits about the Seers and their story, but such information will be very difficult to come by.
GuildMag: In the original Guild Wars, the Xunlai and Zaishen were of great importance to the game. What role, if any, will they play in Guild Wars 2 and can you tell us some more about their activities during the 250 years that have passed?
Ree Soesbee: The Xunlai and the Zaishen orders still exist in Guild Wars 2, but hold positions of significantly less prominence than they once did. We can’t tell you much about account storage, banking, and so forth, but we can say that their ties to Cantha have been mostly lost, due to the severing of all contact between the northern and southern continents because of the rise of Orr.
The Zaishen still hold tournaments and serve to honor and protect the holy places, but now they honor more than Balthazar alone. They honor the Spirit of Bear, and the Eternal Alchemy’s place in chaos and strife; they revere Charr heroes as well as Sylvari dreams of chivalry and courage.
GuildMag: In the released artwork we can see a lot of machinery, from robots to trains to airships, will these have a function in game, or do they serve a different purpose?
Ree Soesbee: The charr are a very technologically evolved race. Because of their scorn for magic and faith, they have turned to ingenuity and engineering to advance their culture. They have created and improved on explosives, guns and mechanical firepower, and siege engine technology far beyond that of any other race.
Not to be outdone, the asura manage to keep up handily with their magical inventions. Crystals, arcane fluxes, energy-manipulating rods all work in unison under the guidance of asura hands. Sometimes, it can be difficult to distinguish asura magical machinations from charr technological engineering.
Science, both magical and technological, has advanced beyond that used in the original Guild Wars. While Guild Wars 2 is still a fantasy-based world of high magic, it now also has a unique feel of technology mixed in, brought about by a natural progression of research and development. I’m not sure entirely what ‘will they have a function, or will they serve a different purpose,’ means, but I can say that these items, and the racial advancements they represent, are integral to the lore and gameplay of Guild Wars 2.
GuildMag: With the current on-going campaign of Guild Wars Beyond going on, will we be seeing physical changes to the world of Guild Wars, like in cities or other places, as a result to this on-going campaign?
Ree Soesbee: As with any world’s history, significant events can cause significant changes. Players who have been watching our trailers and reading our lore interviews already know that the world of Guild Wars 2 has changed both culturally and physically from that of the original game. The rise of the Elder Dragons has left scars upon the world and its people, as have other significant events over the course of the past two hundred and fifty years.
We are working closely with the Live Team, interweaving our lore with their activities, and making sure that the history of Tyria is unified. All we can say at this time is that Guild Wars 2 will certainly take into account the entirety of Tyria’s past.
MMORPG.com: You have a large number of races in the game, how will they work together?
Eric Flannum - Lead Designer: In our lore none of the five races are at open war with each other but none of them are close allies either. The exception to this is the City of Lion’s Arch which is an independent city state that welcomes all races equally. In Lion’s Arch you can see charr technology working hand in hand with asura magic and the resulting teamwork has turned Lion’s Arch into the preeminent mercantile power in the world.
As might be surmised from recent web activity the White Mantle and the Shining Blade still have much going on in ‘Guild Wars: Beyond‘, so I don’t want to harsh their mellow.
However, I don’t think I am giving anything away by pointing out that 250 years later , the Shining Blade are the personal guard of Queen Jennah of Kryta. The White Mantle, like the Mursaat, are a bogey-man used to scare small children (“Listen for the curfew bell, or else the White Mantle will get you.”).
2. So far, four of the five races have a faction within their race that are in opposition to the rest (Flame Legion, Sons of Svanir, Nightmare Court, White Mantle/senators that are against the queen), is there an ‘evil’ faction within the asura race as well?
Yes. Yes, there is.
Oh, you want more? You know how the asura work in krewes? Well, one of them invented a corporation. They call themselves the Inquest.
This is a major innovation, by the way. For all of the brilliance of the Asura, their biggest weakness is their own egotistic and selfish nature. They tend to hide their notes, write in code, keep secret bases, train only a few apprentices and even then keep their biggest secrets to themselves. So often the most brilliant inventions of the asura become lost enchantments and technology.
The new revolution brings a number of asuran researchers together under a common leadership with a common goal. The individual members of the group may not be aware of the greater goal, but those running the organization know what’s going on. The gathering (and just as important, storing) of knowledge allows members of this group to build upon the research of predecessors. Of course, being asura, they don’t want to share that knowledge and power with anyone else.
The Inquest runs a very tight ship – once you’re a part of it, you aren’t going to be allowed to leave. They believe that everything you learn is proprietary knowledge, and they have the right to reach into your brain and take it out, if they so choose. Freed of even the tentative ethical limitations that keep the ordinary asura in line, the Inquest engage in research that even the maddest asura would shudder from. They are meddling in things that were not meant to be known.
The Inquest also have their own way of looking at the Eternal Alchemy; the unifying philosophy of the asura race. They believe that the universe is a great machine, and given enough power and knowledge, they can run that machine. They can control everything. And, being asura, they might just pull it off.
3. Is the Scepter of Orr going to make a comeback in Guild Wars 2?
It is unlikely that something as powerful as the Scepter of Orr will stay hidden forever. When we last see it, at the very end of Eye of the North, Livia is reaching for it. What happens next has yet to be revealed, but yes, she does command the power of the Scepter, for a time.
4. Originally, the Iron Legion was said to have their capital named the “Iron Citadel” but recently they have been said to have a capital named the “Black Citadel.” Are the “Iron Citadel” and the “Black Citadel” the same, renamed, place?
The Iron Citadel and the Black Citadel are one and the same. It is the headquarters of the Iron Legion, but the other legions have representation there as well. There are four great legions, each descended from the quarreling children of the last Khan-Ur, the ruler of all the charr. Each of the children commanded their own legion, and upon the death of the Khan-Ur, fell into squabbles (making it relatively easy for the humans to take and hold Ascalon). The four legions are Flame, Iron, Ash, and Blood.
Eventually, the Flame Legion, controlled by its shamans, dominated the other legions, and launched the attacks that resulted in the Searing. They captured a blasted, war-torn land, but their gods were destroyed and the shamans revealed as frauds. The other legions regained their power and drove the Flame Legion out – they refer to the Flame Legion as “the Gold Legion” because gold is soft, malleable, and weak. The Flame Legion’s lands were divided among the other legions, with the Iron Legion commanding the old human ruins of Rin, upon which they built their Black Citadel.
The Blood and Ash legions have their own major citadels, to the north and east, but the one closest to the other races is the Black Citadel of the Iron Legion. The Flame Legion is still active in this region as well, for they believe this land (and all charr lands) to be rightfully theirs.
5. In a recent interview with IncGamers, Ree stated that when an asura dies they “become no more than a facet in the Eternal Alchemy” – does the use of “facet” have any connection to the other seen facets? And what does this line mean?
‘Facet,’ in this case, is not to connected with the facets found in Glint’s Lair or in the “Paths of Redemption” quest. Those facets reflect a much older power.
Ree’s comment reflect the nature of the Eternal Alchemy. Living, or dead, we remain components of a greater whole. The system is effectively closed, and those things within it may transform or ascend, but still remains part of that larger alchemy – whether it be thought of a structure, a system, or an interlocked machine.
6. In the aforementioned interview, Ree said that the list of norn spirits is incomplete – are the two spirits, Eagle and Snow Lynx, which were released in pre-beta lore and the manual respectively, still canon lore?
The Spirits of the Wild that norn are in contact with are Wolf, Bear, Raven, and Snow Leopard. ‘Snow Leopard’ and ‘Snow Lynx’ are the same Spirit. There are others which have been lost (Eagle’s story is unknown) and a few that have been chased down and eaten by Jormag.
7. What can be said about the history of the norn? And for that matter, the history of the asura? Will their histories before the events of Eye of the North be expanded upon in the future?
Both races are integral to GW2, and players of both races will be able to delve into their racial history and discover a great deal about the past of both the asura and the norn.
For the norn, their great story is that of fighting Dragon (as Jormag is called by them). Great heroes went up against the beast, but to be defeated time and again, while the rimebound minions of the Elder Ice Dragon drove their peoples further and further south. Within Hoelbrak, the norn’s great stead in these warmer mountains, there is a single great tooth in its Great Hall. That is the legacy of Asgeir, the mightiest of warriors, who cut the fang from Jormag’s mouth and led the norn south to this safe haven.
The asura’s story with dragons is known to those who played Eye of the North – they were driven up from the deep places of the earth by Primordus’ lieutenant, the Great Destroyer. But they were not the only race driven to the surface. In their wake came a particularly irritating race of scavengers – the skritt. The asura have a particular dislike for these creatures, who seem intent on spreading to every corner of the world.
8. Among the frogman race, only the Hylek tribe have been mentioned to be around in GW2 – what has happened to the three other frogman tribes: the Ophil, Gokir, and Agari?
The hylek name now refers to the entire race, though many hylek can claim descent from the other sub-species of hylek as well. There are innumerable tribes of hylek along the Tarnished Coast and along the Sea of Sorrows, living in grounds that they have captured from other, weaker races, or in lands ignored by more powerful ones.
9. In Nightfall, the Skale race was expanded a bit with their own god, Moa’vu’Kaal: are there more of these gods and is there an origin to this one?
Moa’vu’Kaal is a great monster, venerated by the skale, but is not a god in human terms. Of course, the charr say that the human gods are nothing more than great monsters. Or great humans. Or possibly great lies.
The skale, by the way, are akin to seagulls – rapacious omnivores that feed on anything they can fit into their mouths (and a number of things that they cannot). They live at the edges of towns and cities, and survive by the fact that they breed in huge numbers.
10. How much did the Grawl evolve in that 250 years (technology, architecture, religious and “political” system)?
Only a little. They are still below the other races in technology and are still organized on a tribal system. As far as faith is concerned, they are similar to the skale, in that they venerate powerful natural objects and great monsters, and vary from location to location.[quote] IncGamers | Guild Wars 2 Developer Interview
IncGamers: In GW1, the norn worship six spirits: the Bear, the Raven, the Wolf, the Ox, the Wurm and the Owl. One GW2 interview mentions different spirits: the Bear, the Raven, the Wolf and the Snow Leopard. Have the Norn really changed the spirits they revere? If so, is there a lore explanation for the change?
Ree Soesbee: The norn have not changed the spirits they revere; the list in GW1 was an incomplete one. Although the Great Spirit, Bear, is seen as the strongest, most important Spirit of the Wild, she certainly is not the only one to guide and inspire the norn people. Groups of norn – usually families, larger lodge houses, or isolated hearthsteads – tend to revere a particular animal spirit more than others, invoking its bravery, wisdom, or cunning in order to emulate its beneficial qualities. As with all things, the norn are very individualistic about their personal beliefs. This means that in some areas, Ox is a very well-known spirit and guardian, while in others he is far less important.
When the Elder Dragon Jormag arose in the northern Shiverpeaks, the norn were led south to establish Hoelbrak by four of their most powerful Spirits of the Wild – Bear, Raven, Snow Leopard, and Wolf. The other spirits did not take an active hand in the norn exodus. Spirits such as Ox and Owl had other issues taking their attention; they were not able to lend their aid to the norn in their time of greatest need. The four Spirits of the Wild that aided the norn the have become more prevalent, and the norn who settled Hoelbrak built four large Spirit Lodges to thank them for their protection and wisdom. The other spirits are not given the same prominence, but that does not mean they have been forgotten.
IncGamers: What's the degree of hostility between the Gold Legion and the other charr legions? Do they openly try to kill each other, or is it just a matter of not liking each other but working together for the good of the charr?
Ree Soesbee: Open warfare rages between the three charr legions and the Flame Legion, mockingly called the ‘Gold Legion’ by their foes due to their soft characteristics and reliance on magic rather than weaponry. The Flame Legion subjugated and enslaved the other three legions during the period before the Searing through the fall of Ascalon. Kalla Scorchrazor’s defiance and the great war between the charr earned freedom once more for the Iron, Ash, and Blood Legions, the Flame Legion fell into chaos – but they did not lose their drive and determination to gather all charr under their banner and seize the throne of the Khan-Ur.
It has taken the Flame Legion two hundred years to gather their forces enough to once more face the other three legions in open battle, but even over that time, they never lost sight of their goal. They have used tactics ranging from guerilla warfare and sabotage to infiltration and betrayal, all in the name of power. There have been times during the interregnum when the Flame Legion was strong enough to challenge one, or even two of the other legions – but now, with the rise of their new ‘God,’ Gaheron Baelfire, the Flame Legion is strong enough to challenge the combined might of all three legions in battle.
If the Flame Legion dominates the Iron, Ash, and Blood Legions once again, they will usher in a new era of tyranny among the charr. They will take their vengeance on the charr females who dared oppose them and raise weapons against their ‘rightful lords.’ They will raise Gaheron – one of their own – to be the sole God among their race, and other charr will worship him, or be destroyed.
So, no. I wouldn’t say it’s an amicable relationship.
IncGamers:How long does an asura live? We got some hints on GW:EN that an asura could live for centuries...
Ree Soesbee: Asura live for slightly longer than a human – perhaps 5-10% longer (an exceptional lifespan for an asura might be 120 years). They do not live for centuries – but asura inventions often continue to operate long after the original architect has become no more than a facet in the Eternal Alchemy.
IncGamers:Is Vekk still alive?
Ree Soesbee: In GW2? No, I’m afraid not. But as to what happened to him in the end… well, let’s just say physics choked back.
Jeff Grubb: The asura do not have last names or surnames. They may take on honorifics ("The Mighty") or titles ("Councilor"), but the nature of family is different among them (as seen by Vekk and Gadd). Their names tend to sound like a SFX from Mad Magaine (Ker-Flunk!). Male names tend to end in a consonant. Female names tend to end in a vowel
Ree Soesbee: The asura are ‘not from around here,’ so their names do sound a little odd to human ears. Usually, their names consist of a short, sharp first name of one or two syllables (‘Vekk’). Those with two-syllable first names, particularly if the second syllable being a -a or -i (Vekka, Vekki) tend to be female – or get teased horribly in Asuran primary studies schools.
In social usage, asurans follow the human tradition of Jobname Name (‘Crew Leader Zeen’) rather than having a last name as humans would identify it. To the asurans, their job title and their krewe are the most important distinctors that one can have. It’s typical for an asura to use his krewe’s name as a last name when dealing with humans, although this can also sound funny to those used to Krytan conventions – Fivv of Universal Necrotics, or Blira of Hyperthetical Industries.
There are a few instances in the two hundred plus years between GW1 and GW2 where unconventional asura have taken on a more ‘human’ naming pattern in order to better socialize with their targets… er… friends. Those instances are rare and fairly uncommon, and other asura make a habit of conveniently ‘forgetting’ about their friend’s embarrassing eccentricity.
Ten Ton Hammer: We know that in Guild Wars 2 the Elder Dragons are awakening. Can you give us some insight into the dragon Zhaitan that players will encounter in the game and why the Elder Dragons are now waking?
Jeff Grubb: Zhaitan is the Undead Elder Dragon. Its lair was beneath Orr, so when it rose to the surface, it brought that sunken nation back up from the depths. Zhaitan now makes its lair in the former City of the Human Gods. Yes, Zhaitan is that powerful and yes, you do encounter it. But first, you have to face the dragon’s minions, from the undead plaguing the shores of Tyria to its more powerful and twisted champions.
The whys of the Elder Dragons are not yet revealed – we toss around some theories in-game, but we don’t reveal their complete origin yet. At the start of the game, the dragons are considered elemental forces—like earthquakes or tidal waves—that are uncaring and deadly to living things.
Ten Ton Hammer: Dwarves are believed to possess more knowledge about dragons like Zhaitan, but what remains of the dwarven race has been scattered? Will there be dwarves in the game that might possess information related to the dragons and perhaps their awakening?
Jeff: The dwarves knew of the Great Destroyer, the harbinger of Primordus, and knew of Jormag, and may have had knowledge of the other dragons as well. However, in Guild Wars 2, the dwarves have transformed into stone forms and have descended into the depths to battle minions of Primordus. There are a few remaining dwarves on the surface that may be of some help to players, but for the most part, the dwarves have taken their knowledge of the dragons with them deep underground.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will players eventually encounter the other Elder Dragons?
Jeff: The effects of all the Elder Dragons are ever-present on Tyria and all the races in Guild Wars 2. Encountering them in person is an opportunity for future expansions. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves—let’s see if you make it past the first dragon.
Ten Ton Hammer: Some of the races have been at war with each other and have some pretty bad blood such as the human and charr feud. With the awakening of the dragons, old rivalries of Tyria have found a common enemy. How will each race interact with members of other races because of this? Have some found new alliances? Are the relationships strained between some and are others still at war?
Jeff: The first of the Elder Dragons woke up 50 years after the time of Guild Wars: Eye of the North, and others such as Jormag and Zhaitan have showed up in the two centuries since. So the mere appearance of dragons has not been enough to force the free races to put aside their differences. The charr/human treaty is still a new and fragile thing, and peace talks are still ongoing within sight of the walls of Ebonhawke. The norn don’t consider themselves as vanquished by Jormag, the Elder Ice Dragon; they think of their situation as a temporary retreat. The asura, as they always do, have their own agenda—they regard the other races as merely pieces of the puzzle. Yes, the other races know this about the asura, and they hold a strong distrust regarding them and their schemes. The sylvari are looking for their own place in the world. Of all the races, they are the ones who are directed against the dragon minions. The other races don’t know what to make of the sylvari, and the sylvari use that to their advantage.
Ten Ton Hammer: What role will the player play in uniting the races of Tyria?
Jeff: The players grow personally throughout their quests, going beyond the race-specific challenges of their people to the point where they join one of the multi-racial orders (Durmand Priory, Order of Whispers, or the Vigil), which transcend racial agendas and face the greater challenge of the Elder Dragons. The players are keystones in pulling other people together.
Ten Ton Hammer: How has the world changed since the first game?
Jeff: Physically, a great deal.
Orr has risen from the depths of the Sea of Sorrows. Lion’s Arch has been flooded and rebuilt. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik has left a long, deep scar across the land in its flight south. The charr control Ascalon, but Ascalon City is literally a ghost town. New human cities have grown up, like Divinity’s Reach and Ebonhawke, along with the asura seriously expanding Rata Sum and the sylvari Grove growing up around the Pale Tree. There are a lot of places familiar to GW1 players, but it has been 250 very tumultuous years later. The Elder Dragons, they tend to redecorate.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a little more about the humans and their gods? Will we learn more about the human gods and their facet depiction as dragons in the Guild Wars quest The Path to Revelations?
Jeff: In the wake of Guild Wars: Nightfall, the human gods stepped back from meddling with the world, letting humanity stand on its own two feet (and humanity is wobbling, but hasn’t fallen down yet). The gods remain important in the lives of humans, even if they are no longer on speed-dial, so to speak. The worship of these distant gods remains a strong part of what it means to be human. The charr deny the importance of gods, the norn have animal spirits, the asura have their Eternal Alchemy, and the sylvari are still shopping around, god-wise.
The facets are interesting (this is a reference to a set of quests in Eye of the North in which the player tracks down the facets of the various gods for a researching asura). They are not the gods themselves, but rather ghostly servants, and are tied to the Forgotten, who are not minions of the Elder Dragons.
Ten Ton Hammer: Underwater exploration is something many players are excited about in Guild Wars 2. What inspirations did you draw from when creating the art and design of the underwater areas and what sort of places can players expect to see?
Jeff: From a design side the big challenge is the addition of a third dimension – our initial battles in the underwater asura labs have been wild. From an art perspective, the underwater areas are as rich and varied as the surface environments are, with a wide diversity of sea life and settings. The area beneath the frozen lakes of the Shiverpeaks will be very different from the wreck-haunted straits off the coast of Orr.
MMORPG.com: The new game trailer gives some insight into the races. What storyline is your favorite of the group and why?
Ree Soesbee: Favorite?! We love them all!
Each of the races have their own challenges and their own story. In the end, however, they all share a common world--and therefore a common danger. Zhaitan, the dragon of Orr, plans to destroy all life on Tyria, and the other dragons are not far behind him in power. No matter where the individual races begin their story, all of them must come to see that their survival against these powerful foes is inextricably tied together.
MMORPG.com: Can you talk about the relationships between the races?
Ree Soesbee: Sure! As most fans know, the charr and the humans have a rocky relationship. Ascalon is ruled by the charr, but the human fortification of Ebonhawke still stands against them. Many charr and humans still dwell on old enmities and hatreds and are not willing to give up their feud even in the face of mutual destruction.
On the other side of the world, the young race of sylvari arose and began to explore the world--finding first the cunning asura. Among the asura, the sylvari experienced an initial lesson in trust--or mistrust--which they will not easily forget. The asura treated them like expendable helpers at best and experiments at worst, leading to a mistrust between the two races that is not easily overcome.
The norn have a sense of independence that keeps them somewhat apart from such matters, but also makes them distant and less informed about the larger movements in the world. They admire the charr for their boldness and find the human queen weak because she is compassionate, but they do not interfere in Ascalon. They feel the other races must stand alone--even as the norn do.
Kotaku: Who are these characters in this video and what's their significance in the overall story of the game?
Ree Soesbee: The characters in the video are the members of the famous adventuring group, Destiny's Edge, renowned for their bravery and skill. Although Destiny's Edge no longer travels together, tales of their heroic deeds are told in every part of Tyria.
Logan Thackeray - Captain Logan Thackeray is a commander in the Seraph guard of Divinity's Reach, defender of the last human kingdom. When danger threatens, Logan faces it with the determination of a man who knows that he is the only thing standing between all that he loves… and its utter destruction.
Rytlock Brimstone - This ruthless charr warrior has risen quickly through the ranks of the Blood Legion to become a Tribune of great renown. He stands foremost among the charr of the Black Citadel, carrying a sword of fire and leading their armies to greatness.
Eir Stegalkin - Eir is a norn hero and tactician of great renown. There are those who call her a visionary, who say she speaks to the Spirits of the Wild. With her companion wolf, Garm, Eir roams the icy Shiverpeaks, bow and blade in hand, searching for meaning in the snow's silence.
Zojja - The foremost apprentice of the venerable asura inventor Snaff, Zojja seeks to live up to her mentor's legacy. Zojja's intellect is unrivaled even by members of the Arcane Council of Rata Sum, and her ability to multitask across a spectrum of disciplines inspires awe and jealousy among her fellow asura.
Caithe - Her blades are as swift as a blooded sunset, her movement as silent as the fall of night. Caithe was among the first sylvari to step upon the earth of Tyria, but where the others turned toward the sun, she sought shadow. She has never been afraid to gaze into darkness – or to seek truths that others fear.
Kotaku: You show off some very interesting environments in the Races of Tyria video. Can you tell us more about them?
Ree Soesbee: The video takes us across the vastness of Tyria to the homelands of each of the five signature races of Guild Wars 2.
Divinity's Reach - A breathtaking monument to the human spirit, this shining city is the capital of Kryta and a bastion of hope to embattled mankind.
The Black Citadel - Capital of the Iron Legion, this massive charr war-keep was built on the ruins of the conquered human kingdom of Ascalon.
Hoelbrak – In the frigid heights of the Shiverpeaks the norn have built this grand encampment, with huge lodges where they seek the wisdom of the Spirits of the Wild.
The Grove - Deep in the Maguuma Jungle, this mystical settlement has grown around the Pale Tree, the birthplace of all sylvari.
Rata Sum - Rising from the jungle, this metropolis of geomystic generators and giant ziggurats is full of brilliant asura and their golem servants.
Onlinewelten: Is there some kind of hierarchy among the dragons? Eye of the North gave the impression that Primordus was the boss.
Ree Soesbee: There is no hierarchy. Primordus is the boss of Primordus’s servants, whom we saw in Guild Wars: Eye of the North as the destroyers. Primordus was also the first dragon to ‘awaken’ in the world, although the actions of the player characters in that chronicle pushed back his actual rise for several generations. The other dragons, including Zhaitan and Jormag, are independent entities, powerful and inscrutable like forces of nature – and completely uncontrollable, even by one another.
Onlinewelten: There are considerable concerns that firearms do not fit into a fantasy setting. Didn’t you have any qualms?
Eric Flannum: This reaction is actually something that we were a bit surprised by. The world of Guild Wars has a tradition of using “black powder,” from the powder kegs used to blow open doors in Prophecies to the fireworks and giant turtle cannons in Factions. We thought it was a natural evolution over the course of 250 years for our races to advance their technology. This was especially true of the charr, who have pioneered the use of technology since they have given up on the notion of gods and consider the use of magic to be a sign of weakness.
Onlinewelten: Will the charr cults play a role in GW2? What about the remaining dwarves?
Ree Soesbee: The charr have changed a great deal since the original Guild Wars, and have reestablished their Legions and their original culture. The Flame Legion, led primarily by the shamans who were in charge during the Searing, still exists, but they are reviled by the other Legions.
The dwarves have left the surface of Tyria to hunt Primordus and the destroyers below ground. There is one dwarf active in Tyria, and the players can interact with him, but the others have not been heard from in generations. They have become little more than legend to those races who remained behind.
Onlinewelten: Is the sylvari’s telepathy going to be of any relevance?
Eric Flannum: Sylvari don’t have telepathy as most people think of it. Instead, they have a racial empathy and feel the emotions of other members of their race in a more abstract way. They aren’t able to communicate to each other directly without actually speaking. This empathic sense will indeed have an effect on the game for sylvari players.
Onlinewelten: Will the gods return some day to Tyria?
Ree Soesbee: The humans still worship their Six Gods with devotion, despite the fact that the gods no longer take an active hand in the destiny of Tyria. Have they truly left? Are they watching, but choosing not to directly answer prayers? These are questions that the people of Divinity’s Reach struggle with on a daily basis. Only the gods themselves know the true answer -- to their questions, and yours.
Onlinewelten: Could you tell us a bit about the “evil” sylvari, the Nightmare Court?
Ree Soesbee: The Nightmare Court can be compared to legends of the Unseelie Court, the Dark Fae, and other faerie creatures of darkness. They are evil, like many things in Guild Wars, but they are intelligent and rational – they have chosen a path that they believe is the ‘correct’ one, and they are eager to convince the rest of the sylvari race to embrace their ways. We’ve said before that The Dream has two sides – it is neither wholly good, nor wholly evil in itself. The Nightmare Court have an affinity for the darker side of The Dream, and they seek to understand its depths. They hold Dark Vigils filled with regal depravity; twisted courtliness and sadistic tournaments that pervert sylvari chivalry.
The Nightmare Court don’t consider themselves ‘perverse,’ and some among them might even argue that they are not wholly ‘evil.’ They simply follow the darker side of The Dream and explore depths of the sylvari soul that already exist. Who is to say that the sylvari were not wrongly influenced by Ventari’s ancient teachings, that clinging to the lessons of his Tablet has not changed them from what they were meant to be? The Nightmare Court feel that they need to commune with all parts of their spirits, with all parts of nature – no matter how horrible or vile. There, they find secrets and enlightenment that other sylvari are too chivalrous – or too afraid – to seek.
Onlinewelten: In one recent interview it was mentioned that the sylvari correlate with a certain season. Is this relevant for the player? Do the characters differ depending on the time of the year in which they were created?
Eric Flannum: The season that their sylvari character correlates to is very relevant to the player. We don’t grant the character anything that is power-related, but their season is one of the many things that differentiate one characters personal story from another’s.
Onlinewelten: Do you plan something similar for other races?
Eric Flannum: Each race has a number of factors that will change their personal story. Some of the things that are equivalent to sylvari seasons include a human’s racial heritage, a norn’s animal totem of choice, a charr’s legion affiliation, and an asura’s college.
Onlinewelten: Are the kodan just another form of the norn or a species of their own? They seem to be living on an iceberg with sails. Does that mean that their city is constantly changing position?
Ree Soesbee: Kodan are not norn. Kodan are not shapechangers; the form you see is their sole physical form. Some scholars hypothesize that the two races may share a common history, but they are not at all the same race.
The great kodan sanctuaries, their cities, are mobile. However, with the rise of the dragon Jormag in the far north, their Sanctuaries have been pushed out of the massive ice seas and into the shallow bays and harbors that border the Shiverpeaks. They cannot return to the arctic oceans, for fear that the dragon will destroy them utterly.
Onlinewelten: We have seen news that norn can transform into ravens. Will players be able to fly?
Eric Flannum: Players will not be able to fly in Guild Wars 2. When we were looking at new places to take Guild Wars 2 we decided pretty early on that we wanted to tackle the underwater exploration aspect both because we thought we could make it really visually appealing and do it in a way that was a lot more accessible than it usually is in other games. Underwater exploration adds a lot of playable space to our world that we need to populate as well as providing us with a lot of technical and artistic hurdles to overcome. Because of this we thought it was prudent to only take on the underwater exploration.
As for the second part of the question, norn do not transform into ravens so much as a half norn/half raven form. Unfortunately for the norn (and fortunately for everyone else), they are not able to fly in this form.
Onlinewelten: Could you tell us a bit about how the races relate to each other in general?
Ree Soesbee: Old angers and different values make the races unwilling to ally with one another; too many of the leaders in Tyria have their own ideas about ‘how things should be run’ to make for easy or simple relations. Further, some races – like the humans and the charr – are still skirmishing and arguing about historical grievances even while they’re trying to make peace. The sylvari are so new that most races view them with a certain amount of uncertainty and mistrust, while the asura go to great lengths to make sure everyone else realizes their intellectual superiority. As for the norn, they’re more focused on the individual hero than the overall ‘nation,’ so it is nearly impossible for any of them to say they speak for their race as a whole.
As a player in Tyria, all races will be able to work and adventure together, and experience the wonders of the world. There may be cultural biases or other difficulties, but it is possible for a human to visit the charr’s Black Citadel, or for a charr to walk the streets of Divinity’s Reach. And all races congregate in Lion’s Arch – the one true haven of cooperation and peace.
Onlinewelten: Many fans have longed for dwarves. Why didn’t they make it as a playable race?
Eric Flannum: One of the things that we try to do with our story and lore is to build a sort of roadmap for where the world and all the races that inhabit it have been and where they are going in the future. The dwarves have played an important part in past events (more than players are even aware of at this time) and will have a role in the future as well. Because of the destiny we chose for the dwarven race, they didn’t make a particularly compelling playable race for Guild Wars 2. But who knows what the future holds for them?
Mondes Persistants: ArenaNet is famous for its original design and background. But dragons be dragons. They look probably like the most classic creatures of the Guild Wars world. Nevertheless, how did you work their design for Guild Wars 2? What did you do so your fans don't just go : "oh, dragons... meh"?
Chris Lye: The Elder Dragons are ancient, elemental beasts, exponentially more powerful than any of the dragons players know from Guild Wars. They’re more powerful than the human gods or any other being that has ever been seen in Tyria. Fighting an Elder Dragon is like battling a hurricane or a tidal wave.
Jeff Grubb: Guild Wars 2 is set in Tyria, which was the setting for Guild Wars I. It's 250 years after the events of Eye of the North, and during that period, the dragons have awakened. But these dragons are just like shadows, echoes, you know, mere sparks compared to the elder dragons. The elder dragons—which you saw in the video—are these powerful, titanic, elemental forces. Zhaitan, who is only one of them, brought the sunken nation of Orr up from the depths and reanimated its population as undead minions, and makes its lair in Arah, which is the city of the human gods. That's how powerful the dragons are, and Zhaitan is just one of them. So this is the ultimate threat; they've awoken hungry, they corrupt anything they touch, they devour anything that gets in their way and they destroy anything that opposes them. And in this world—this is the meta-story; the largest story—is the story of the five living races coming together to fight against the dragon. Each of the races have their own conflicts; we have a large story, then we have racial stories, and most importantly, we have the story of you. Your story runs through this epic background of basically leading them past the war.
ZAM: Why were the dragons asleep, and why have they awoken?
Mike O'Brien: They have always been here. They are power; raw, incarnate power. The City of the Gods was built on top of a dragon, the central transfer chamber that the sewer used in Eye of the North was built on top of a dragon...they're just literally magical reactors to a great degree. And the ‘why' and ‘where' are something we're going to get into, in the game itself; it's part of that story. But right now, it is like hurricanes and earthquakes hitting; it's a natural force, it's a uncaring force, it's a mindless force to a great degree. You can't reason with these dragons; you can't play Bilbo and Smog—you're not going to have a conversation with these things. They have their minions and corrupted lieutenants; each one has the different tendency, and all have left their mark on Tyria. The Charr lands have a huge scar basically dragged across the dragon brand, which was a dragon flying and breathing over that territory. And all along that area is a corrupted, nightmare landscape. You can see some examples of art form; we started asking [the art department] to give us some nightmare terrain, and they created some beautiful shots that we turned around and incorporated into the game.
ZAM: So the dragons play a pretty big part of the storyline. From a quest-to-quest or daily basis, will they be there in the backdrop? Or will they be an eventually-emerging theme?
Mike O'Brien: Not every adventure will be a dragon adventure, but the adventures will build to the war. As you discover the world, the story expands with you. The humans, for example—since the time of Guild Wars I—have had a hard time. They've been driven out of their nations, they've had nations sink and blow up; they're reduced to one major nation, Kryta, in the city of Divinity's Reach. Their big problem is that they're confronted on all sides; they have bandits, they have centaurs that have come down out of the mountains, they are trying to basically make peace with the Charr, which have been their rivals and enemies for 250 years. There's a very tentative truce between the two big sides that we had in 'Prophecies.' This is not everybody getting together to sing Kumbaya; there are some major obstacles that have to be conquered?
Massively: We're intrigued by the concept of evil Silvari, called the Nightmare Court. What all can you tell us about them?
Ree Soesbee: The Nightmare Court are Sylvari who have embraced the darkest parts of the dream; a terrifying nightmare that contains as much horror as the dream contains inspiration. Those who choose this path are evil, cold, emotionless, cruel creatures who enjoy propagating evil. They want to burn out their emotions, forcing their converts to do horrible things in order to destroy all the sympathy, empathy, or compassion they might possess. They seek to purely understand the depths of Nightmare – and feed yet more horror to the dream. Their Dark Vigils are things of legend, filled with regal depravity; twisted courtliness and sadistic tournaments that pervert Sylvari chivalry. Their greatest ambition: to turn the Pale Tree herself to the Nightmare, and envelop the world in cruelty and bedlam.
Ten Ton Hammer: With so much uproar and devastation, has that shaken people’s belief in the gods at all? Are they still going to play an important role in the future?
Jeff Grubb: Yes and no. At the end of Nightfall - after Abaddon was defeated and Kormir became the new Goddess of Truth - the gods pulled back. They basically said, “Humanity, we’ve been mucking with you, we’ve been too hands-on, we’re going to step back and this world is yours to do with and succeed or fail as you can.” So the gods are somewhat like parents and humanity has been riding a two-wheeler for the first time. They’ve been running along behind and they’ve just released the seat and the kid is going back and forth across the highway, and the parent wants to grab the seat again, but the kid has to learn for itself.
That’s what humanity is doing right now. They’re not doing as well as you would expect after being left on their own, but the gods are not as involved as they were. Humanity’s faith in the gods is still strong and there’s still response, but not to the same level of interference that you’ve seen previously.
Ravious: Now that the gates have opened on Guild Wars 2 information, will any secrets to Guild Wars 1 be further explained, such as Bahltek, the undeciphered Asuran banner, or the giganticus lupicus?
Jeff Grubb: Short answer – yes. It is the same world, so we will be using the lore and history of the world. What pieces get revealed and explained will develop as the story evolves. And just to drive you mad, at least one of the items listed will be addressed.
Ravious: The focus of the story in the trailer seemed to be on the unification of the races and one elder dragon, Zhaitan. The other awakening dragons are only mentioned in passing. Will the first Guild Wars 2 story (campaign, story arc, etc.) deal primarily with Zhaitan and Orr, or will we encounter the other elder dragons as well?
Jeff Grubb: The ultimate foe of Guild Wars 2 is Zhaitan, but the influences of the other dragons run deep through Tyria – Jormag’s worshippers are active among the Norn, Kralkatorrik’s brand is carved across the charr lands in Ascalon, and the minions of Primordus continue to surface across the land. But the story of GW2 leads to Orr, and the City of the Gods which is Zhaitan’s lair.
Ravious: Why did the elder dragons awaken now, and nearly all at once?
Jeff Grubb: By “nearly” you mean “once every fifty years or so over the past 250 years”. This is a lifetime in human terms, but an eyeblink in the history of the world. They are primordial powers that now are growing restive and unleashing their power on the world.
Why exactly are they waking up now? Unrevealed, but they are waking up hungry.
Ravious: Humans are an interesting wild card in the Guild Wars world. What we know is they first appeared in Cantha, the Empire of the Dragon, and the now-called human gods were very relevant to all the lore built up in Guild Wars 1. Now, with the awakening of the elder dragons and waning of the human race, the human gods are less involved in the world of Tyria. Who or what created the human race and what is their point of origin? Why do the other races seem to hold so little value in the human gods, who allegedly “created” Tyria as we know it?
Jeff Grubb: The full story of the origin of the humans has yet to be revealed. They arrived in the Tyria (the continent) sometime after they first appeared on Tyria (the world). It seems, from their previous appearances, that they have come up from the south, so the “human homeland” may be further south than Elona and Cantha. The idea of human gods “creating” Tyria is viewed by other races with mixed reactions. The charr think of it as theological propaganda (and that the human gods are not true gods, only more powerful, once-mortal, beings). The asura are perfectly willing to accept the idea of gods as (rather large) gears in the Eternal Alchemy. Norn are perfectly willing to allow the idea of gods, but think of them as a different type of their own animal spirits. The sylvari consider them unproven, since the gods have not shown their presence directly to the sylvari.
Ravious: Which came first to the world of Tyria, the elder dragons or the human gods (current pantheon or predecessor pantheons)? Do they have any prior relationship, especially since the human gods created Glint, a dragon, to shepherd their creations?
Jeff Grubb: The Dragons, as we said, have always been here. The gods predate the humans, but not by much. Much of what we know about Glint comes from Glint herself. The truth of the matter may be very different, and she has her own reasons for saying what she has said.
Ravious: Kerrsh’s quest line in Eye of the North (ending with the quest The Path to Revelations) is a hotly debated topic on the lore forums. Why are the facets of the human gods depicted as dragons? Can the gods’ cryptic message be explained in terms of Guild Wars 2?
Jeff Grubb: Dragons are power, and the facets reflect the nature of the power that the human gods have harnessed. Both the Asuran Central Transfer Chamber and the City of Arah were built on places of power, which turned out to be directly over Elder Dragons.
It is possible that the cryptic message refers to the Dragons – “a land unwaking” could be the risen kingdom of Orr, and answers to the origin of the dragons do lie there.
Ravious: Dwarves are also an interesting race in that, according to the trailer, they actually had legends about Zhaitan. Given that they also had legends about the Great Destroyer, the dwarves seem to have much more knowledge about the elder dragons than the other races. What year were the dwarves created, and what legends did they have about Zhaitan?
Jeff Grubb: As one of the elder races, dwarves know more about the Primordus, his minion the Great Destroyer, and their dragon kindred. Only a portion of that was written down in books such as the Tome of Rubicon, but the knowledge still survives elsewhere.
[B]Ravious:]/B] The Mursaat was one of the favorite races of the players, even though their demise was caused by players’ hands. What can you tell us about the few Mursaat that were left after Eye of the North? What have they been up to for 250 years? Will they make an appearance in Guild Wars 2 or will more Mursaat Rallies have to be held?
Jeff Grubb: The Mursaat are a favorite race here at ArenaNet as well, and we have a number of creatives that are big Mursaat fans (which is why they showed up in the Bonus Mission Packs). Their ultimate fate has yet to be revealed, so keep holding the rallies.
Wiispace: Will there be any continuation of the original Guild Wars story or at least some mention of it in Guild Wars 2? Will there be any old characters revisiting us in Guild Wars 2?
Ree Soesbee: The world of Tyria in Guild Wars 2 is the same as the one players are familiar with from the original Guild Wars game. The passage of more than two hundred and fifty years has changed the world, altering both the culture and the landscape significantly, but the world has many things that will be familiar to returning players. The story of the world is a continual one, and events that the player characters shaped in the first Guild Wars game are turning points in the history of Guild Wars 2.
Due to the passage of time, most characters that were important in Guild Wars are no longer present. Their names are legendary, and their contributions are still recognized in the game, as are the events of our previous releases. From those starting points, we shaped the new world of Tyria – and many of the organizations, gods, and locations from the first Guild Wars will be present in the second.
Wiispace: What can you tell us about the Sylvari race, and how they fit into the whole picture?
Ree Soesbee: The sylvari are a very young race of nature spirits, who have awakened with the rise of a new age in Tyria. They are beings of light, as yet uncorrupted by the world. As a people, they have not yet truly learned of sorrow, suspicion or hatred. The typical sylvari approaches life with curiosity, openness, and resolution, always seeking new experiences. The sylvari do not have the history or learned traditions of older races, but they do have a shared connection with one another, learning things instinctively through the Dream that guides them. With the guidance of their Firstborn and the gentle Call of their dream, the sylvari quest throughout Tyria, going where destiny leads them.
Wiispace: The Guild Wars 2 trailer showed a lot of impressive environments, one of the shots being that there is a sense of real time as the sun went down and the moon came up. Will there be a real time environment as in transitions between daytime and night time and weather changes?
Ree Soesbee: We do, indeed, have a day/night cycle! The transition will not be real time, but rather a sped-up in-game cycle based on the game timer. The transition of day to night will have a big effect on the world, as certain events in the game won’t happen until it is an appropriate time of day. Centaurs may attack the garrison at first light, for example, or spooky ghosts appear at a haunted ruin only during nighttime.
Wiispace: Guild Wars had a very strong lore involving the gods and goddesses in the world, will this also be a major factor in the lore of Guild Wars 2?
RS: Lore will always be a strong factor in the guild Wars franchise. We love writing story and creating a strong world of imagination; our players love experiencing the epic quests and seeing their actions change the world. However, the gods of Tyria as our players have experienced them are primarily human gods – and while the humans continue to maintain a very strong faith, the other races have their own forms of religion. The atheistic charr swear to never again accept the yoke of ‘false idols,’ the mathematical asura keep a steady eye on their Eternal Alchemy, and the norn respect, but do not ‘worship’ Bear and the other Spirits of the Wild. The sylvari are more agnostic, sensing that there is a greater force directing their actions, but not yet able to give it a name – their path is one of questing, seeking answers rather than following blindly another race’s path.
Wiispace: Previous Guild Wars installments have proven that you tend to follow a theme for your environments and lore.(Factions based off Asian themes, Nightfall based off African themes) Will you have set themes for environments in Guild Wars 2 that are based off of real world locations?
Ree Soesbee: The majority of Guild Wars 2 takes place on the primary continent of Tyria, within the lands that Guild wars players would recognize as Kryta, Maguuma, Shiverpeaks and Ascalon. Orr, as we have mentioned in the trailer, has risen from the sea and is also an explorable area. Those areas have definite ‘themes,’ but are shaped more by the events going on in our game.
Wiispace: In the Guild Wars 2 trailer there was a clip of an underwater environment, will there be fully explorable underwater environments in Guild Wars 2?
Ree Soesbee: Absolutely. One of the things we’re extremely excited about is the new ability to explore the lakes and underwater areas of Tyria. We’re designing underwater activities to be fun, and easy to take part in – the ability to go underwater won’t be an extraordinarily annoying or difficult thing to do, because we actively want the players to explored this new environment and enjoy the events occurring beneath the surface of the water.
Wiispace: Will we be seeing anything familiar; as in cities from Guild Wars in Guild Wars 2?
Ree Soesbee: Definitely. The city of Lion’s Arch still exists, although it has changed a lot. Many of the territories of Ascalon retain their original names, if not their original owners. Rata Sum, Kryta, the Shiverpeaks all exist and will be explorable. Other familiar areas, like Sorrow’s Furnace, may have retained their location and be recognizable – but the passage of two hundred and fifty years has changed them in dramatic and exciting ways.
Jeff Grubb: Guild Wars 2 takes place 250 years later and at a time between the events of the first game and the events of the second game, the dragons have awoken. They are elder, powerful, elemental forces which are destroying the world and in order to defeat them the races come together.
The races have all advanced in the past 250 years, the Charr which is a race well known from our original Guild Wars, have overthrown their old religious leaders for example and have became a supreme military, technology civilisation. The Asura which came up from below, the short little guys, have really developed their civilisation on the surface, with beautiful, magical technology with golems, gates and everything.
The Sylvari have awoken, which is a plant-like race, which is new to this world, they feel it is their destiny to fight the dragons. The Norn have been driven from their northen homelands by the dragons and now are settling up with their own lands. The Humans finally have been pushed back on all sides, their an enbattled race. In the original Guild Wars, the Humans ruled and they were fighting these other races, in the 250 years since then they've been losing more and more ground, till finally they have just a few cities left.
The tree of the story is through the dragons, is the threat of the dragons to the world. As we discover more about the races, as we discover more about the places, other stories come forward...the humans against the centaurs, the Charr against their former religious shamen caste that used to run things back in the days of Guild Wars: Prophecies.
As we develop the art, as we develop the story behind it they become other stories and they give us a very rich world. Not every task goes back to dragons, but the important tasks will come back to dragons.
Jeff Grubb: We are setting the game in the world of Tyria, the setting for Guild Wars Prophecies, but 250 years later. And a lot has happened in the 250 years, during this time the dragons have awoken and these are powerful elemental beasts which have been sleeping for a millenia beneath the surfaces as all civilisation and life thrives. Now they are waking up and they're a little bit peckish.
In the new game one thing we're looking at is player mobility, not only getting from place to place, we had the old Map travel in GW1, but also as far as the ability to jump, run, swim and dive underwater. Now in addition to our traditional ways of getting around we also have the Asura, a magical race have taken over a large chunk of the south and they use magical gates to get from place to place, these Asura gates are a vital linkage within Tyria nowadays.
IGN: How does Guild Wars 2 fit into the overall Guild Wars fiction?
Ree Soesbee: When we designed Guild Wars, our goal was to look at standard fantasy settings and then take a sharp left turn to create a unique world with a completely distinct history and lore. It is important that fans of fantasy recognize and feel comfortable within the world, but at the same time, we wanted Tyria to be an extraordinary place to explore and discover. We do a lot of historical research before we create new lore for the Guild Wars game, and within that research, we ask "What is it about this myth (or culture) that makes it truly unique and exceptional?" From that starting point, we take a new approach and build unparalleled fantasy settings that nevertheless feel inviting and intriguing to any fan of fantasy.
For an existing Guild Wars player the story of Guild Wars 2 uses familiar locales, races, and themes, but shaped in an entirely new manner. 250 years have passed in Tyria; not everything is as a returning player would expect it. Lion's Arch is no longer part of Kryta; Ascalon belongs to the charr; a new race, the sylvari, now walk in the Maguuma forests. We plan to build on the familiar locations as well as incorporating surprises that will further reveal the lore of Tyria as a world. We want to show players the new lore--like the sylvari and their mysterious past--but also expand on what we've built, and explain secrets of lore that we didn't get to reveal in Guild Wars due to time or location constraints.
IGN: What can you tell us about the new races and classes?
Ree Soesbee: Well, we're not releasing mechanics right now, so I can't tell you much about the classes. The people of Tyria and their technology--both magical and physical engineering--have advanced. I can tell you a little bit about the races, and there's a lot of really great stuff to tell. So much, we could probably write a whole article just on the races, their backgrounds, their perspectives and their history! But I'll try to be brief.
The five playable races in the initial release of Guild Wars 2 are the asura, charr, humans, norn, and sylvari. Although they begin in different areas, and have slightly different storylines, all the races must come together in order to defeat the Elder Dragons, because no single race is powerful enough to do so alone.
The humans are the most well known race to our players, but they're also the ones who have suffered the most changes. Ascalon has been taken by the charr. Elona and Cantha are lost, unreachable, and Lion's Arch is no longer beholden to the human throne. Only the nation of Kryta, led by its Queen Jennah, stands as a bastion of human civilization. Their last great city, Divinity's Reach, shelters humanity from total destruction. They still worship the Six Gods, but the human gods are less active in the world, perhaps reflecting the decline of their followers.
The charr are the conquerors of the human kingdom Ascalon, a land they claim is their homeland. They are ferocious, warmongering creatures--the foes of humanity for hundreds of years, as violent and cruel as they are cunning. They have led the revolution of physical technology--guns, explosives, and war machines. Ascalon thrives under its charr masters, and the three Legions--Ash, Iron and Blood--march inexorably onward toward their goal of conquest.
Forced by the ice dragon to leave their homes in the far north, the norn have settled in the Shiverpeaks, building new homesteads and totem lodges on the high peaks and in snowy valleys. The greatest of these settlements, Hoelbrak, provides a central meeting point for these rugged, individualistic hunters, but none would dare call the norn a people. They worship the Spirits of the Wild--Bear, Snow Leopard, Wolf, and Raven--and can shapeshift into mighty bestial forms.
Once, the asura ruled the caverns and tunnels below Tyria, contemptuously calling the races above them "primitive" and "unintelligent." The rise of the Elder Dragon, Primordus, drove the asura to the surface--but they have not only survived there, they have prospered. Their great intellect and incredible ability with magic has given them an advantage the other races do not have: an innate mathematical understanding of the magical nature of Tyria, and how best to control and wield it. Now that they have settled into their new homeland and capital city of Rata Sum, the asura aim to rule the surface world with their powerful golems and ingenious plans.
The sylvari are the youngest of the races. Their Firstborn blossomed from the Pale Tree only 25 years ago, and since then, they have attempted to explore the world and understand the strange call within their souls that drives their Wyld Hunts. They are a mystical, naturally curious race, searching for their purpose in the world. Their society is shaped by the proverbs on the Ventari Tablet, the wellspring of sylvari honor and chivalry, as well as the Inner Dream that guides them toward their destiny.
Guild Wars 2 is set in the same setting and Prophecies in Tyria, but it is 250 years later, and things have changed in the past 250 years for the area. I think we’ll see areas changed by time and changed by the catastrophe. Things have really altered what we have and some of which you’ve seen here on the screen.
In the past 250 years, since the last GW, the dragons have woken up throughout Tyria, and these are incredibly powerful creatures. The ones you know from Guild Wars 1 like Glint and Rotscale are shadows of these engines of destruction. They’re like earthquakes or tsunamis. They are power incarnate, and they destroy anything that is in their path. They corrupt anything that they touch. And they intend to consume the world, that is their nature.
You saw here, the Orrian Dragon, Zhaitan rise the sunken the continent of Orr back to the surface and reanimate its former population and turn them into mindless zombies. It makes its lair in the former city of the gods of the humans. This gives you an idea of how powerful these dragons are and what a threat they are to the greater world.
Now the only way to resist these dragons is for the living races to combine, to basically come together, to fight this power. Now we have 5 character races in GW2. The humans, which you know from the original, the past 250 years have not been kind to them. They have been driven back. They have lost territories. The Charr and the Centaurs have all made their lives difficult, so they are now withdrawn to their last great walled city. They are still holding on, their troubles may have passed.”
The Charr are also from Guild Wars 1, they are also the feline war-like race. In the past 250 years, they threw off the shackles of the Shaman Caste that has controlled them for so many years, and have reestablished themselves as a military operation. They are highly military organized, they are very effective, and they are very ruthless. You’ve seen the smoke stacks of their cities in the trailer, you’ve seen them with firearms. Those are two of the races.
The third one comes out of Eye of the North, which was our last product. These are the Norn, and they are big brawling half-giants with shape-shifting abilities. And they used to live further in the north, but were driven south when the ice dragon, Jormag, arrived and basically destroyed their culture. They are seeking a new home, but they’re also seeking to preserve the nature of what it means to be a Norn; which means heroic deeds and brawling and drinking and more drinking. So they’re a fun race from that stand point.
The Asura also come from Eye of the North, and you saw them there as the short, long-eared characters with the power glove. And basically you push the button and the golems behind them activate. They are a magically technological race. They understand magic at a base level which allows them to build magical teleport gates, golems, and floating architecture. That pyramid structure with the blocks at the top, which is an Asuran city. They’re near in here in my heart.
The last race is a new race, they are the Sylvari. And they are a race of plant creatures, who have basically only arrived in the last 25 years. They are a young race, they are born as adults. They share a common dream, a common forebirth (?), that gives them a level of knowledge where they understand the world around them, but they are still trying to find their place in the world. But what they do know is that their place may involve fighting dragons.
So those are the five races. You can play any one of them; you have different lore, different background, different characters, and different attitudes. One of the things that we did when we created these races was that we tried to create different races that people would naturally gravitate to. Some people would like to play the big brawling Norn, some people would like to play the more organized and cunning Charr, and some would play the brilliant Asura. They all have their own advantages and only by coming together can they hope to overcome the force of the dragons.
Part One|Part Two (Note: The videos have been removed, I have not been able to relocate this interview, nor who originally uploaded them)
Originally Posted by Jeff Grubb
Dragons are the heart of Guild Wars 2. Dragons in Tyria, these are the elder dragons, these are the dragons of power. The dragons that you know, you've met, Kuunavang, Glint they are the mere shadows, the echos of these great elder dragons. One of which has basicly brought up the city of Orr and now resides in the holy city of Arah, city of the gods.
*Carried over to part 2 in a question on if total peace has been attained between the races*
The Humans and Charr for example have been at war for 250 years. They are trying for a tenious truce right now against the dragons that could fall apart at any time. There are those who dont want peace between the Humans and the Charr. The Norn, our half giant race, have been driven south from their homelands and they are trying, the Sylvari are newcomers to the area and the Asura, well the Asura are up to their normal tricks
*Question regarding the Charr with the gun*
We have firearms in Guild Wars 2, and the Charr are the most technoloicly advanced as far as martial weaponry but all the races have firearms, all the races have weapons built based upon the nature of their race. The Sylvari grow their weapons, the Norn forge out of ice and steel, each one takes a different approch to equipment but all will have firearms.
Last edited by Konig Des Todes; Aug 24, 2010 at 07:46 AM // 07:46..
Reason: Updated as of August 5