The Abyssal Forest
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1.The Forest

The Abyssal forest, is a strange and magical phenomena that covers a large portion of the continent. While it is a forest, it appears as more of a sea covered in trees constantly increasing in size as one gets to the heart of the forest. These changes in size and depth moves from the outer ‘Shoreline’ and descends to the ‘Abyssal Trench’ in the darkest reaches of the forest.



2. Ether

The source of life in the world, Ether, is something that exists and emits from all living things. All of these having an amount that they exude and intake, similar to the oxygen. As the forest gets deeper, the trees and other parts of the environment growing larger and larger, it emits greater/denser amounts of ether, causing changes in their surroundings. These changes caused a variety of new races to form, many of which those on the shoreline have never seen. Likewise, similar to the forest, other magical phenomena tend to occur within the forest, some of which people have learned to control. These bursts of, and alterations of the surrounding ether, has come to be known to people as ‘Magic’.



3. Magic

Magic, the name we’ve taken to using when referring to the manifestation of ether in an area. Whether it occurs naturally, or by the conscious effort of some sentient creature, these manifestations of magic can cause miracles, or mass devastation.


For clarity here is how these phenomena form and behave:

Control of magic requires the source to produce a field of control. Once this field has been produced, the source is able to manipulate the ether in that zone and cause a magical reaction under it’s control ->


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This only works within that field and the effects weaken the further it gets from the source ->

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Sadly not all creatures are born equal, the scale and control varying on how lucky you were when you were born. The elves especially are surrounded by ether, down in the lower areas of the [shelf], and are practically as terrifying as the monsters they live around when they’re so inclined. I can only imagine what types of creatures exist further down in the forest.

But, excluding natural talent, people can be trained to better control magic, and the flow of ether as a whole. Old mages who have trained for years are said to be able to turn into elves themselves, or at least those are the rumors. Either way, while strengthening oneself is not easily done, training to at least outskill stronger creatures is a good alternative to help one survive the harsh wilds of the forest.

In the past hundred or so years however, Humans, Dwarves, and other sentient species of the forest who are also magically-deficient, have taken to developing various devices to help overcome these shortcomings. Magical Items can help store ether, allowing users to overcome having poor reserves of ether themselves. Some can even extend the effective range of their powers.

On the other side of the coin though, are wild magics. These occur naturally, and can take almost any form; from a sentient construct made of drifting leaves, to a river flowing in the air, to the event known as evolution.



3. Evolution / Mutation

The varying depths of the forest are the cause for varying concentrations of ether, creating vastly different environments on each level of the forest. This magical influence has the ability to shape and alter the life at its level, creating wildly diverse biomes at different depths. This is the primary theory behind the locations of the different races, for the elves live deeper in the forest and deeper still, the drow and other strange races while humans are mostly found closer to the ‘shoreline’ and dwarves hidden underground. In a sense, the ether is the cause for and catalyst of evolution, accelerating it to the point where there have been rumors of elves being born of humans in as little as three generations, providing they are at a level where enough ether is present to enact such changes.

If evolution is the natural growth process of the forest, mutation is the violent leap forward. While evolution usually affects entire groups or levels of the forest, mutation takes effects individual organisms, violently altering their physical makeup and almost invariably bringing about madness or instilling violence in creatures unfortunate enough to undergo these changes. Affected creatures may exhibit any number of symptoms such as growing in size, increase or decrease in number of limbs, heads, appendages, etc., complete change in material makeup or even in some cases, total conversion into something entirely foreign. Mutation is often caused by a sudden increase in the surrounding ether, whether it be by actual change in depth (such as the case of the dwarves, who delved too deep into the forest) or by sudden spikes of ether in the form of eruptions or exposure to magical artifacts that have malfunctioned. Regardless of cause or effect, the result is usually horrific to behold and a danger to anything foolish enough to stand in its way.
A lesser version of this is ether poisoning, which happens when a creature ventures at a moderate pace deeper into the forest, gradually exposing itself to greater levels of ether. Rather than cause a mutation, ether poisoning causes a slower development, causing things like foliage, mushrooms or other forms of life to sprout from the affected creature until they succumb, usually dying in the process. If caught in time, ether poisoning can be reversed, though in some cases, physical alterations remain.



4. Creatures and the Hunting Guild

The Forest is a massive place, and the beings who live beneath its boughs range from scurrying field mice, to towering behemoths many would consider to be gods, to those who surpass even them. The creatures that live deeper in the Wood have adapted to much higher levels of Ether saturation, like we see with the elves. Those that venture up from their native depths, either through accident or for some twisted reason, can cause great damage to both to their surroundings, and themselves.

It is because of this that the Council of Humanity officially sanctioned the Hunting Guilds, which had already been informally operating for years. These groups coordinate smaller groupings called ‘parties’, whose numbers range from ten to fifty members. Their primary goal is to defend the realms against the rampaging abominations that come charging out of the Depths. These creatures, driven mad by the relatively low levels of Ether in our lands, no longer have a handle on their actions, and our only recourse is to bring them down before the damage they cause becomes irreversible.

Occasionally, elves and dwarves join these guild for reasons of their own, but most parties are comprised mainly of humans. Being skilled in magic isn’t a prerequisite, at least not anymore. Back before the Guilds had been made official, it was rare for anyone not considered a mage to be a hunter. Even then, those who did not have the magical talent made up for it with such skill that their exploits immediately placed them within the tales of legend.

Nowadays, through the advent of powerful tools and technologies, the Hunting Guilds welcome all who would risk their lives to protect the realms of mankind. However, most hunters only consider this to be a side objective, as selling the rare, oftentimes magical parts of their targets almost always yields much higher dividends than the meager living wages the Council gives them.



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5. The Guides

We guides, while we all vary in our methods, are an invaluable resource to the people of the forest. The job comes with a constantly looming air of danger as we venture into the forest and observe its patterns. As researchers and explorers, we study the creatures and their various habitats, the land and it’s resources, and the vast world that is hidden past those trees.

Each one of us seems to have different specializations from what I hear, while I may study the migration patterns of the creatures and the various paths that are safe to travel between, another may study solely the plant life and where to find them. But then we have those crazies who try to find ways to kill the larger monsters we’re told to avoid at all costs.

Most of us work out of a local town or village, sometimes as a small guild working together, or as private practices. Others choose to work slightly more nomadic, working for the sake of learning even more about our mysterious captor.

The most experienced of our life threatening occupation are known as divers. Those fools aren’t content with just their surrounding regions and believe they can enter the lower areas of the continental shelf and beyond. The dangers only increase as we get lower into the forest, not to mention the need for stronger magical items makes it a risky endeavour with less payoff. Though we still need them, even if they are foolhardy. Should something from those depths ever come up to the upper levels, I’d rather know what they are at least and how to run if needed.


6. The Caravans

Travel and trade within the forest is a very dangerous endeavor with all the mutated monsters lying in wait, especially during the summer time. The lack of refined roads and inability to see what types of creatures may appear, the farther away we move from our respective areas, makes long distance travel a foolhardy endeavor.

While some choose to hire personal bodyguards or commissioned the guild & guides for work, others choose to rely on those who choose to take on the foolhardy challenge of constantly navigating the forest. These bands of adventurers, and or traders, are known as caravans, who freely travel between the various towns of the shoreline, as well as dive to deeper levels of the forest in search of materials to trade.

Some choose to navigate the forest in carts, either drawn by tamed creatures or propelled by strange magical tools, one could only imagine came from dwarves of the lower floors. They have surfaced more and more in recent years, becoming an valuable resource to those of us who rely on certain materials we can only find in deeper trenches of the forest.

Recently, a group calling themselves the Noz Atra Caravaneers have stopped into town, passing through to make a quick profit before the winter I could only assume. One of the two apparent leaders of the band, Harold Noz, apparently knew Ol’ nan from a long time ago, but as to how the two know each other none can say. Though it is strange to see the old lady act so friendly with somebody, a male with no discernible magical talent no less.

6.1 The Noz Atra Caravaneers

The Noz Atra Caraveneers, a mixed band of creatures that travel between the various towns and settlements throughout the forest, apparently able to procure any material their clients need. The band is small but filled with former warriors from guilds, city mages, and a few divers to help them navigate the forest. A odd group, with a few elves and dwarves mixed into their ranks, the caravaneers are led by a local legend and a living myth; Harold Noz and Vanya Atra.

The strange Human and Elf pair have apparently been travelling together since roughly 20 years ago, and the strange rumors of them beginning a few years after. Harold Noz, the group’s face, is a strange man of boundless confidence who oversees the negotiations with the group, as well as the lead hunter of the group. An oddity seeing as though, from what has been gathered on him, he has very little ability to control ether. Then there is Vanya Atra, a rather reclusive elf who generally stays with the caravans equipment instead of joining Noz, during negotiations. Atra seems to be some kind of tinkerer, which is a very dwarf like thing for an elf to do. But nonetheless, apparently the equipment of the caravaneers is all maintained, and sometimes created by her.

Some speculate on the two’s relationship, but by their leadership it seems that the caravaneers have managed feats very few guilds and bands have been able to manage.



7. Seasons

As time passes, the saturation of Ether within the land fluctuates, causing rippling changes throughout the Wood. Both the elves, and us humans call these changes ‘seasons’, while the dwarves refer to them as ‘tides’.


7.1 Spring / Dawn Tide

During the spring ether production is at its highest, probably to compensate for the low levels in the winter. While saturation levels are nowhere near that of Summer, the surge of new Ether causes many strange occurrences that are not seen in any other season.

7.2 Summer / Devouring Tide

Summer is the season where ether levels are at their highest, making it the ideal time for young mages, and Magic tool creators, to develop themselves further. Likewise food production, and agriculture as a whole, benefits from the amounts of ether breathing life into them.

However this is also a dangerous time, as mutations occur most frequently during this season. Creatures, usually docile, suddenly change into rampaging beasts and the hunters workload doubles in frequency and danger. The constant string of ether geysers pushing more ether to the upper levels forces this outbreak of mutations to plague the land.

While our apt name of Monster Season is fairly accurate, I believe its dwarven name better describes the truth of this season, The Devouring Tide.

7.3 Fall / Ruin Tide

The fall is a trying time for some, and a rebellious time for others. While we try to stay directly out the internal struggles between other humans, we’ve noticed that the fall is always a signal for some bunch to try to take down the upper caste. Ether starts thinning this time of year and we have to be careful to save enough up for the winter. Silly skirmishes and territorial battles ensue because of this though and those who aren’t as adept as the upper caste, when it comes to magic, take this opportunity to strike while they’re being conservative.

For us guides and hunting guilds however, this is a pretty handy season. While it the ether levels have dropped, they don’t seem to cause any problems to our bodies, unlike during the winter. But the creatures we usually have trouble dealing with seem to feel the effects early, and either migrate to the lower levels, or become significantly easier to deal with.

7.4 Winter / Termina Tide

“Termina”, a pretty good name by those old dwarves for this time of year. It may be short lived, but it certainly isn’t easy on anyone. Luckily for us, unlike the elves, humans and dwarves store significantly less ether in our bodies, making the lack affect us less. The elves, and similar races to them, really get the brunt of this though. Their bodies grow extremely weak and their magic ability drops significantly. Some opt to go deeper into the forest, at their own risk; I guess they felt like the danger was worth not losing as much of their strength.


8. Boulderfast and Surrounding area

8.1 Government

The Council of Humanity is the governing body that has presided over all human affairs since the beginning of recorded history. Of course, there have been groups that splintered off in the past to form their own governments, but they were either crushed by the Council, or lost deep within the Wood. There are some of us who speculate that the less populous species, like beastmen and goblins, have their origins in this latter group, but no official records exist, and they seem to have no intention of telling us themselves.

8.1.1 Government Involvement

While along the Shoreline, the Council’s influence is strong, the deeper we travel into the Wood, the weaker their grip grows. Out here in Boulderfast, the Council’s only real power comes from sending us new tools and hunters. The mayoress, Ol’ Nan, is supposed to be a direct extension of their will, but she mainly picks and chooses which parts of that will are important enough for her to uphold.

Occasionally, the cities will gather their resources together and send out an expedition of hunters, divers and guides much like myself, in an event known as Gala Mortuna (which in Olden means, the Great Unfolding Story). It is the town’s sovereign duty to provide supplies and a place to rest for that party, but with Fall impacting our harvests so much, we’ll barely have enough food for ourselves, let alone an army of suicidal, glory-seeking idiots.

8.1.2 Rule of Law

While our mayoress doesn’t feel it necessary to uphold all of the Council’s laws, those that she does decide to follow through on are upheld, or else. As one of the most powerful mages in Boulderfast, people tend to listen when she lays down the law, or they risk losing a leg in the process. Her officials are almost all mages of some notable caliber, and they tend to have their own agendas, but when Ol’ Nan takes a stand, her’s is the final word. However with Fall rolling in, the powers of mages are beginning to wane, and those who rule only through intimidation are finding their subjects growing less and less receptive to their commands.

8.1.3 Social Services

This deep in the Wood, the only things the Council can do are send us new tech and fresh recruits. Ol’ Nan does what she can to help out the injured and sick, but everyone is expected to pull their own weight. If they don’t, they can hack it on their own in the Forest.


8.2 Economy


8.2.1 Economic Wealth

Though not particularly prosperous, there is enough wealth and resources to sustain the town and allow it to participate in trade between nearby villages, despite the fact that it is Autumn. There isn’t that much trade during this season, most of the towns are working to prepare their own walls and hunters for the coming tide of monsters. In an ironic twist, this is also the main driving factor of Boulderfast’s trade, as hunted monsters often yield strange and exotic body parts that can be of great use for medicinal or magical purposes.

8.2.2 Economic Distribution

Some have a bit more, some have a bit less, but nobody save the mayoress is really that far above any other in Boulderfast again only through her ability to control the ether. In terms of actual material goods, nobody really has more than anyone else, for magical talent and prowess are far more valuable than material resources in this forest for the former often yields the latter.

8.2.3 Agriculture

These past few harvest cycles have not been kind to Boulderfast and scarcity is beginning to set in. Even the more well-off folks of the town aren’t can’t be guaranteed a meal every day now, and it isn’t getting any better. Between Autumn’s coming and the increasing amount of monsters emerging from the depths of the forest, there is less time to harvest what few pitiful crops that might reach maturity.

8.3 Social Relations

8.3.1 Class Relations


The C.O.H may claim that they are a fair and just government, here to help the people, but they’re really just a bunch of upper caste oppressors. Those of us with less reserves of ether, and or aren’t very skilled, are left in the lower class, no matter how useful we may actually be. Meanwhile some noble, with no idea of anything except how to rain fireballs down on us, can basically get away with murder and few would flinch. They’ve been getting slightly less tolerant of extreme behavior like that in recent years, however this is still a society ruled by magic.

Here in Boulderfast though, Ol’Nan doesn’t like to enforce any class related laws and generally keeps us all on the same level. Under her of course, her power rivaling that of a council elders. We still have some nobles that like to tote around and flaunt their magic, but luckily Ol’Nan’s presence is enough to prevent a war with them and the hunting guild. Overall, being this far away from the capital sure does relieve some of the tension of this whole, magic vs non magic power struggle.

Lately however, there seems to be a few cases of lower caste workers disappearing. Rumors are saying something insidious may be lurking around Boulderfast, something one of those nobles caused during some strange experiment. I sure hope it’s just a rouge monster or two.

8.3.2 Race Relations

Our relations to the other races has been fairly good as of late. Ol’Nan does not discriminate against incoming traders regardless of what race they are, so long as they follow her rules while they’re here. In this far reach of the woods, we all need to work together to survive, especially during the devouring tide.

Trade is pretty frequent with the dwarves, south of Boulderfast, where we’re frequently sharing new magic tools and ingredients that the other has. The recent boom in our tools, is in part due to this, and the passing caravans from the lower levels.

While our working relation seems to keep us on decent terms with the dwarves, the elves tend to be a bit more reclusive to us. A pact of neutrality still stands, but usually we only encounter their envoys when on monster subjugation, during the Gala Mortuna, or should one be serving as a guide further down. It’s hard to get a read on them, and usually has us pretty tense during interactions. They seem rather docile, and even can be accommodating if travelers pass through. However, they can also end a life before it has a chance to respond. Their extended fields of magic, and naturally high aptitude to it, makes it feel like I could be attacked by someone like Ol’ Nan at any point. But, I guess we’ll be fine so long as we don’t give them a reason to think we’re a threat.


8.3.3 Gender Politics


Women, some of the biggest mysteries here in the forest. From what we know, there’s something different about them that causes them to draw more ether than males. Likewise, they also seem to be able to store more and communicate easier with the ether around them. This difference in our physiology has made it so most nobles, and high ranking officials, are women who have trained to control some of the highest magics we can manage as a species.

This difference makes it difficult at times to deal with the women in the society. While not all do this, and the government “tries” to make the world equal, some women do like to abuse their power over the men in the society. Nobody wants to try to fight a rampaging mage. Granted the male nobles are the same way, and a bit more pompous about it. At the end of the day, all of this just seems to trail back to magic slowly rotting away our humanity.

As tense as things can be at times, things have seemed to get better, around Boulderfast at least, in recent years. While the air of dominance is still there, we all seem to be more concerned with the end of the devouring tide, and getting ready for the ruin. But with the sudden outbreak of disappearances it seems like things are becoming a bit more tense, and everyone is on edge with each other.


8.3.4 Sexual Identity Politics

One’s sex is viewed sometimes as a blessing or a curse, but many still believe it’s something that should not be tampered with. Risking high scrutiny though, some humans still find themselves outwardly displaying their real identities. In the more tight-fisted cities, this behavior, while nonpunishable is heavily ostracized and leads to many who don’t identify with their physical sex, moving away from these areas for the more accepting outer towns and villages. There, even should they be met with mild opposition, few actively act against them, making them more desirable areas to stay.


8.4 Culture


8.4.1 Religious Prevalence

There’s a legend of the time of gods, where a great and powerful goddess turned her back on the people of the world after a tragic event. Unable to control herself she released her immense power to cover the world in water, nearly causing all living creatures to go extinct. The other gods took a stand against her, hoping to calm her, but she would not stand down to her once close comrades, striking them down one by one. After a long battle she was defeated and sealed into the depths of the earth, a large mass of land sprouting from her sleeping body. The other gods, weakened and desiring to avoid further harm to the creatures of the world, choose to reside in the forest, sealing away their memories as gods, and embracing mortality. Some say this is where the land gods were formed.

The land gods are some of the largest, and most dangerous creatures of the forest. Unable to halt their magical power, they constantly emanate fields around them, some causing the creation of life and expanding the forest, while others slowly tear it apart. Those who reside in the forest, weather they worship them or not, respect the strength and existence of the land gods, trying to avoid any conflict with them; terrified of what they may cause if stirred to action. Some humans have chosen to worship these creatures, and the goddess at the center of the forest fully, praying to them as the seasons become harsh. Others see these creatures and the forest itself as a simple phenomenon caused by ether that cannot be explained more than it simply exists.


8.4.2 Military Influence

As we’re all isolated from one another in the forest, we can only really rely on our own might to defend ourselves in times of trouble. The human villages and cities, while we all may refer back to the Council of Humanity, must rely on our hunting guilds and parties for protection and law enforcement. While these groups may serve as protectors, they are all still relatively small, and thus their control within towns vary between them.

Here in Boulderfast, the hunting guild is a stalwart protector of the local area, willing to lay down their lives for the village. The guild reports to Ol’Nan as needed, but generally makes decisions and takes requests independently. A few nobles, including Lord Silverback, aid with the more dangerous missions the hunting guild takes on, but the group itself has proven rather competent on their own in defending the surrounding area and collecting rare materials off of the creatures around.

However, at some point or another, almost all the inhabitants have learned to defend themselves to some extent, as even in an isolated area such as Boulderfast, one cannot leave there lives completely in the hands of the guild. This has formed small groups between the inhabitants, but there have been little to no direct confrontation staged as of yet.

8.4.3 Prevalence of Technology

Magic
Magic, this is the name we’ve taken to using when referring to the manifestation of ether in an area. Whether it occurs naturally, or by the conscious effort of some sentient creature, these manifestations of magic can cause miracles, or mass devastation.

Transportation
A lot of travel takes place on foot, as a horse or other mount can be fairly expensive. Carts and wagons are common for traders, which mostly travel in caravans. For those a bit deeper into the trees, wagons have a harder time moving between the trees. Most will go on foot. Some towns have permanent ziplines set up to speed up travel times to nearby locations. Certain scouting guilds have developed grappling hooks, temporary ziplines and other mobile equipment to help travellers climb and swing and zip between trees.

Communication
For those who can read, letters are often sent by caravans or courier. For those who can’t, couriers will often write letters for customers. Couriers sometimes travel with caravans, and sometimes travel alone or in groups.

Tools
Wood is in very high supply and many structures and tools are built with wood of various types. To combat the high degree of wildfires and aid in water collection where there are no lakes or rivers, irrigation systems are very common, as well as complex rainwater capture systems that spiral down from the canopy.

Bows, crossbows, bludgeoning weapons, and spears are common non magical weapons. Long range weapons such as spears, pikes, and arrows are very widely employed and very easy to make. Killing a monster at range is often much prefered, but not always possible.

8.4.4 Arts and Culture Appreciation

Many religions focus on nature and while many prefer the art of bonsai and gardening, carved wood and found wood sculpture are also common. Wood carving is a very common skill in hunters to pass the time, but there are also expert wood carvers. Carvings can be purely ornamental to decorate inns and temples, but they may also take the form of latches for bags and cloaks, quivers, and more.

Gardening is often promoted as good for the soul and is a very relaxing activity. Gardens range from large plots of land, private and public, to front walkways, to a couple pots. Plants are often useful, not just purely aesthetic.

Music
Reed instruments, hallowed pipes and drums are very common instruments. Music isn’t often heard deeper in the forest for fear that it attracts some monsters, but drum beats are considered by many to confuse and therefore repel certain monsters.

Food
Local food contains a lot of hardy vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, and often a lot of meat when it can be safely found. Preservatives such as salt are used liberally to ensure meat lasts in times of need. Stews are very common on the road and in caravans, but at some inns, meat pies, mashed potatoes, fish, and delicacies from the area are refreshing tastes to the traveler.



9. Boulderfast Map

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Government Involvement
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3
Rule of Law

4
Social Services

1



Economy wealth

3
Economic distribution

3
Agriculture

2



Class Relations

5
Race Relations

1
Gender Politics

4
Sexual Identity Politics

4



Religious influence

3
Military influence

2
Technology influence

3
Arts & Culture

4

Size: Villages
Geography: Forest
Season: Fall


Characters
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Items
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Locations






Collaborative Short Story - What Lurks