Tides of Fate
What is Shard?
Shard is the center of activity on the material plane. It is where the gods play their eternal games through mortal emissaries, and where the balance of power of the multiverse is determined. Once a normal world, Shard is now a sea of flying stone islands, orbiting the remnants of the molten core of the previous world.
A History of Shard
A thousand years ago, the world was at the height of a golden age of civilization. Arts, culture, and magic flourished, peace reigned in civilized lands, and the wilderness at the edges was receding faster than ever.
Then came the Night of Fire. An arcane experiment meant to harness the power of the Sun went horribly wrong. The world shattered, and Shard was born. What had been unified kingdoms, fabled magocracies, and flourishing theocracies quaked as the world split into a thousand pieces. They now formed a rotating halo of rock around the molten core of the planet.
Life began to return to normal as Shard stabilized. The giant islands of rock floating around the new star managed to sustain life, and (for the most part) managed to avoid one another. Farm land was farmable, but port cities dried up as the oceans now floated elsewhere in the void. Within a few years, it was discovered that a new mineral, spellstone, a black, shiny stone found in veins throughout each island, was responsible for both the atmospheres and the orbit of the islands.
In the decades and centuries that followed, new skyships were commissioned, with keels shaped from spellstone, bound by spells to the will of their captains. Nations found themselves split between islands, and so new governments and new nations formed. Wilderness and monsters thrived in the wilds that the restructuring created.
The Structure of Shard
The Void is the empty gap between islands. It is the sea upon which skyships sail. An unprotected adventurer floating in the Void should expect to freeze or suffocate, depending on how long they can hold their breath and keep warm.
Spellstone is the secret to surviving in the Void. The spellstone keel of a skyship keeps the air of the ship bound to the hull, while providing propulsion through the Void. Likewise, at the bottom of each island, a sphere of spellstone supports the island in its orbit, and holds its atmosphere to the island. Naturally occurring veins of spellstone regrow at a rate of an inch per year so long as part of the original vein hasn’t been disturbed.
Beyond its practical application, spellstone has been added into the currency. A single platinum piece is worth 100 gold pieces.
Spellstone has a peculiar sensitivity to the will of sentient creatures. Using a DC 10 Wisdom check, an adventurer can destroy a spellstone piece, turning it into a fine gray powder, and the resultant release of energy heals 1 hp. When touched, an adventurer can attempt a Wisdom check on larger pieces of spellstone. For each 5 points by which the check exceeds DC 15, a cubic foot of spellstone is destroyed, and the resulting energy cures 1d8 hp.
The Core is the remnant of the molten parts of the world. The magic that tore the world apart is still interacting with the remnants of the world. At the interface of the Void and the Core, this magical disruption has a tendency to spawn portals to the Inner and Outer Planes, producing all sorts of horrors. Most of the portals have been too transient to attract the attention of anything too powerful, but it’s only a matter of time for something to find its way to Shard.
The inner edge of Shard’s halo of islands is the remnants of what was the underground caverns of the world. These islands tend to be heat scorched and barren on their surfaces. Inside, they are rich in traditional ores, and, more importantly, spellstone.
Dwarven kingdoms dominate the islands of inner Shard. Their chief exports are steel and spellstone, and they use their wealth to expand their mining operations while patroning the arts. Over the past five centuries, there has been a sharp increase in the use of goblinoid slaves in the mining business, to protect dwarven lives while mining. While goblin slaves have sharply increased, so too have goblin raids on dwarven communities increased, as the few remaining tribes seek to free their brethren, and plunder a dwarven warren or two in the process.
Notable risks of inner Shard include mind flayers, drow, and fire-friendly dragons. In response, dwarven skyships are praised not for the aesthetics, but for their military capabilities.
The surface of the world that was that is still habitable, farmable, and lush sits in the middle of the halo of Shard. Halflings, elves, and humans tend to make their homes in mid Shard. The bulk of the population of Shard is found in mid Shard.
Elves of mid Shard tend to claim forested islands as their new homes. Their ships are known for their speed, and have an appearance as if they had been grown around their spellstone keel.
Halflings are the ultimate traders, and make their homes wherever there’s a coin to be earned. Their ships are known as the most dependable path from one city to another.
Humans are as variable as the nature of the world, as are their ships. No two human vessels are identical, each as unique as their captain.
At the edges of the halo stand the islands too cold to support life on their own. For the most part, these worlds are frozen rocks, devoid of plants. Hardy evergreen plants and wooly creatures still stalk some planets, while others are frozen barren rocks.
The barren islands of outer Shard have no place for life on them. But where life fails to flourish, undeath finds a place. Zombies stumble across the surface of these islands, stalking for something to attack. Skeletons guard cities from before the Night of Fire, while liches and mummies have formed their own nations in the remnants of what came from the previous world.
However, the forces of undeath are not alone in their conquests of outer Shard. Gnomish explorers saw opportunity in the remnants of the previous era, and as such, gnomes have set up exploratory colonies throughout outer Shard. The empty space provides plenty of room to test new inventions, and the gnomes have found plenty of raw materials amongst the ruined cities. Gnomish ships are renowned for their propensity for breaking down, though in a pinch, nothing is better than a gnomish ship for providing a way out.
Not every island developed a spellstone pedestal upon which to root itself, and the rules for mining spellstone were not known until mistakes had been made. The result is transients, wild islands whose orbit is out of sync with the rest of Shard. While the early years saw many collisions with transients, the intervening millennia has helped to clear their nominal paths of habitable islands. Nowadays, the passing of transients is used to mark time and seasons.
Of particular note is Oracle, rumored to be the piece of Shard containing the remnants of the laboratory in which the experiment that ripped the world apart began. Oracle has resisted a thousand years of attempts to predict its path. Scholars doubt that it even remains on the same plane as Shard for most of its journey through the Void. A sighting of Oracle is a portent of momentous events to come, and as such is feared by most who see it.
Not all of the water from the world’s oceans was lost in the Night of Fire. Some survived, wrapped around islands. Others failed to find land to cling to, and curled up into transient chunks of ice.