This is the land of Alm. Long ruled by beasts and fey, it has now become home to a strange species called humans, and their closely-related allies, the orcish mor. Created as slaves on the nearby continent of Parosea, these newcomers followed their “awakened” guides to a promised land where they still struggle to find their own place—and where their own conflicts now bloom.
In the absence of other organised religions, the zealous Church of the White Staff has arisen, claiming unique revelations and damning “heretic” magic users. The neighbouring kingdom of Kalyvas is cautious and methodical, refining swords and soldiers into machines of war, while the smaller nation of Tenebrae has turned to dark alliances to fend off their powerful neighbours. The city-state of Independence serves as a neutral trade hub where warring kingdoms come to bargain and barter, while the Rogue Isles are a haven for lawbreakers of all stripes.
All around, the gnolls of Beasthome are an ever-present threat, always eager to win back territory. The eladrin of Calanshae present the appearance of allies, but their courtly games have only their own interests at heart.The mottled nation of Brandeis controls much of the mainland, mighty and proud, and dogged by those who await their misstep.
From the deserts of Ashar, the jovial abilen align themselves with humans, developing vast trade networks in all civilised lands. The forests of Deepwood reach into the feywild, traversed by anarchist elves, while the jungles of Ka’a are home to the fearless wu-kan. The nomadic equitarn roam the plains, carrying heavily the scars of war. Jotun fey-trolls walk their solitary paths through every secret wilderness, while the regal soratami remain aloof and isolated on their floating island empire.
All about, the relics of the past are a reminder of ideas and inventions long-forgotten. Deep below the earth, industrious kobolds explore deep caverns in search of Aethyr artefacts, crafting bizarre gadgets of metal and magic; beneath Independence, the mysterious felbraug instead unravel the secrets of their own souls. And above, airships scour the skyline for the lifeblood that drives these impossible machines: Escarnum.
Skies of Escarnum is a contemporary fantasy setting with a lighthearted, age-of-adventure atmosphere and pulp themes. It takes a bold, stylised approach to storytelling, emphasising fun and cinematics over realism.
Ideally, Escarnum attempts to blend fondly-held themes and tropes from several styles:
- Pulp Heroism: At the core of Escarnum’s style is the notion that heroes should be larger than life. Whatever happens, they are the stars of a story before they are pieces in a game; they should always be able to make bad choices and take risks in the name of fun, and in turn have opportunities to mitigate or escape the consequences. If in doubt, think of narrative before you think of realism; something that is enjoyable is always better than something that is sensible.
- Romantic Fantasy: Escarnum is a world designed around modern ideals and sensibilities, even as it is set in a fantasy era. The trappings may be old-fashioned, but the themes are enlightened. Sexism, racism, homophobia—such prejudices are certainly not absent, but they are the stuff of villains, or distinct character flaws. Escarnum furnishes its protagonists with enlightened ideals and sensibilities, then contrasts them with ignorant and prejudiced opposition.
- Shounen Anime: 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons excels at telling combat-heavy stories, where everybody finds their own way to fight for what they most value. Likewise the shounen genre, with its focus on personalised combat powers and bonding through battle. Many other recurring shounen anime themes—friendship and found family, self-determination and identity, and youth versus authority—are the exact same ideas Escarnum wants to bring to the fore.
What Escarnum isn’t, is another pseudo-historical European fantasy realm, where men are men (as long as they are straight, white, cisgender men), women are princesses, and everybody in between need not apply. We already have plenty of traditional high-fantasy and edgy dark fantasy settings. Escarnum’s flavour is inspired much more by animation, superheroes and video games than sprawling fantasy epics.
More than anything, Escarnum aims to be welcoming—to combine the inclusiveness of the best modern and independent genre fiction with the robust mechanical system of 4th Edition D&D. If you feel like there’s never been a place for you in other D&D settings, we want to make a place for you here!