It is the closing of the Fourth Age in the world of Yaril.
The world is still wild and uncivilized. Ancient cities crumble in the deserts and forests. Forgotten kingdoms lie deep in the mountains and jungles. The underworld teems with dwarfholds and forgotten hollows. Barbarians and beasts roam the frozen wastes and primordial steppes. Even in the lands of men, the cities have high walls, the roads are full of dangers and the nights full of noises. The great bastion of civilization, the Empire, is burning with the fires of treachery and war.
The Imperial House of Thorne was without an heir. Emperor Laton the Fourth was growing in age, but still a strong man, until treachery did him in. Poisoned by one of the imperial courtesans who fancied her bastard son might seize the throne, the Empire was thrown into chaos. Civil war has raged for 7 long years throughout the Empire to the south, and the heart of human civilization burns.
A dozen would-be Emperors have arisen, each powerful noble house putting up their own favored son as the successor and calling their bannermen to battle. The Grand Council, which traditionally ruled in the absence in the Emperor, was torn asunder by the question of successions. The villages and cities of the Empire burn with war, and there is no end in sight.
Though chaos reigns in the southern continent, a peace of sorts can be found elsewhere. The feudal kingdoms of Snowreach lie across the Deepsea, linked by blood but separated by centuries of tradition with the Empire. The kingdoms are unified in theory, but a High King of Snowreach has not been elected by the Princes for many years. It seems that the most powerful amongst them are content to let the Throne of the North lie empty, not trusting the ambitions of others.
Elder Times and Eldritch Ruins
While this present struggle of men is new, the world is old. It bears the scars of conflicts far more profound and eldritch than the War in the Empire. Tales are still told of the ages before- of the reign of the Elder Race in Koros; of the Glade King in Velthana; of the coming of the Great Ruin; of the Age of Slaughter and the rise and fall of the cruel Narathi.
But even with all this, of the great empty cities that are to be found on every continent, of the decadent and decaying kingdoms of this world, it is still so very young, uncivilized and verdant. From the impenetrable jungles of Kath to the endless snowy forests of Firend, there is much unconquered. Civilization might have grasped a place in this world, but it has not tamed it.
And not all of the ruins are above ground. The world is carved with hidden hollows, dwarfholds and goblin warrens, but also deeper delvings into the Dark. The Dark is not be taken lightly, for it is said that go deep enough and the line between the worlds begins to fade. There are places in the Dark where the dead walk, where the very rules of reality no longer apply – or so the tales go.
There is a place for a man with a good sword arm or a stout mind in this age. There are walls to be defended, ancient cities and dungeons to be looted, and innocents to protect. There is adventure to be had, for those brave enough to seek it.