Ten Things You Should Know

1. The gods are distant. In contrast with the Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms settings, this setting has no real gods. Even though people believe in and pay homage to the heroes of the distant past and legend holds that they were beings of great power, they don’t grant spells, and they’ve never appeared directly to a petitioner. Clerics, who are divided in this setting into hieromancers (channeling positive energy) and true necromancers (channeling negative energy), derive their powers from the sheer force of their beliefs rather than through some divine conduit – which often leads to tremendous power winding up in the hands of people whose sanity is very much in question. Some clerics do revere the heroes of the distant past (or horrid abominations), and so derive their power from the strength of their beliefs in those entities and what they represent, but there doesn’t seem to be any actual transference of power.

2. Tone and attitude. Sword and sorcery, balanced between grit and wonder. The world blends traditional D&D fantasy with dark adventure and a hint of the magical Renaissance. Most of the people in the world spend their lives just trying to get by; the world is a wondrous, dangerous place, and they do the best they can with what they have. There are exceptions: some people embrace the danger and the wonder, striving to carve out a place to call their own in the world.

3. Not color-coded for your convenience. Alignments have blurred and shifted from the traditional D&D setting; not everything may be what you expect. The red dragon you encounter, while aloof, may be possessed of a noble soul, while its silver cousin may be a malicious reaver, bent on destruction. This is not to say that everything is inverted, simply that things are less cut-and-dried than they are traditionally.

4. The Mirrored Lands. Out of the strife and war that have pervaded the last several centuries, five nations have finally settled, each united behind a guiding force: Lucerne, a fantastic nation devoted to the magical arts; the Necropolis, an ancient city ruled and served by the dead; Nobilis, a strong and stable empire whose regent and highest lords are noble dragons; the Harrowhame, an amalgamated nation of monsters, welcoming of outcasts of all stripes; and finally Czernaya, a militaristic nation forged from the ruined holdings of scores of feuding warlords and given over to the common man – at least in theory.

5. Magic has a price. Spellcasting is relatively rare and quite fantastic; most people are aware of its existence, but relatively few have seen its effects firsthand – except in Lucerne, where magic is a generally-accepted part of everyday life. Whether or not the common man is aware of it, magic of any sort draws from the life-force of the creature wielding it, which is as dangerous as one might imagine. The unwary or unwise wielder of magical forces, whether arcane or divine, is unlikely to survive for long.

6. New races. While advocates of the smallfolk may be frustrated by the absence of gnomes from the Mirrored Lands, their disappointment may perhaps be allayed by the addition of two new races: the dragontouched, creatures of disparate races with the blood of the mighty rulers of Nobilis running through their veins, and hobgoblins, disciplined warriors and skilled metalworkers who are just beginning to come into their own among the civilized races.

7. The world was not always as it is now. Ancient, well-preserved roads and aqueducts stretch between ruined cities thousands of years old; some contemporary cities have been built atop these ruins, while others have been left to the auspices of dust and wind. Historians and scholars refer to this elder civilization as Ur, lacking a better term for what had come before. Widespread academic interest in the ancient culture and its contemporaries has only recently surfaced, with the world finally at peace for a time, but mage-scholars of all stripes have been fascinated by it for generations: many of the greatest thaumaturgic achievements of the contemporary world owe their existence to the partially functional artifacts and half-translated runic hieroglyphs of Ur.

8. These aren’t the epic levels you’re looking for. The most powerful people in the world, the paragons of their kind, have only six character levels. This leads to the feats they can accomplish being much closer to a realistic baseline; they can’t leap an eighty-foot chasm in a single bound or survive a drop from a thousand-foot precipice. That being said, sixth-level characters are the best of the best. To quote from the E6 system guide:

“Imagine the perspective of the average medieval peasant in a d20 game. This person has the stats of a 1st-level commoner, and while they might not know their stats explicitly, they know their relation to the rest of the world. Our peasant knows that he can be killed quite easily by marauding raiders, enemy soldiers, or even wild animals. He’s not mighty, he’s not organized, and he doesn’t have any special skills to bring to bear when danger strikes. He worries about drought and flood, and the welfare of his livestock. His extended family likely all lives within a mile of his birthplace. To him, a trip to a town ten miles off is an expedition into the unknown.

Imagine you are this peasant, and you meet a trio of 6th-level adventurers. When you address the wizard, you are speaking to someone who could incinerate your home and slay all your livestock with a few words. The fighter has prevailed against a dozen orcish skirmishers and slain them all – and he could do the same again. The cleric is a man so holy that the gods themselves have granted him the power to cure the sick and heal the wounded. These are epic heroes.

Now consider the powers of a CR 5 manticore. To the peasant, the appearance of this manticore near the village isn’t a nuisance: the beast can, and likely will, slay you in seconds if you draw its attention. You, your livestock, and your entire family are in immediate danger of violent death. Even if you were well armed and gathered a large peasant militia, your village faces heavy losses and no guarantee of success. Against such a creature, adventurers may be your only hope. E6 recognizes that 6th level characters are mortal, while reframing the game’s perspective to create a context where those same 6th level characters are epic heroes.”

9. The Prime Material Plane is the thing and the whole of the thing. There are no distant planes like Celestia or Baator; shattered reflections of the Material Plane such as the Ethereal and Astral Planes do exist, but fiends and celestials and everything in between can be found somewhere on the Material Plane. Fiends and other monstrosities are rumored to infest the rotten heart of the earth, while legends abound of a paradise populated by beings of good and light far beyond the northern mountains of the Frostfell. Elementals are creatures of magic, bound to places in harmony with their natures: fire elementals in places tied to fire, earth elementals in rocky terrain, air elementals among the clouds and water elementals tied to oceans, rivers and lakes.

Ten Things You Should Know

The Mirror of Night corridorgeist