The World of Adanth is a campaign setting that has been forming in my head since long before the phrase “campaign setting” came into general use. It is the setting I would likely be using had I not fallen in love with Eberron, and it shares many of the same elements – at least, the way I run my Eberron campaigns. I have decided to finally put it to writing here, so my friends can review and critique it as I go.
The inspiration for Adanth comes mainly from two sources. The lesser part is the cosmology, if you can call it that, which was heavily inspired by Steven Brust’s To Reign in Hell. The greater part came from an early, and at first immature, impulse which I think a lot of RPG games experience in their youth: the desire to play a modern character transported to a fantasy world.
But, I thought, if it happened once, it had probably happened before. What would a world look like if humans were periodically transported to it? And if creatures were periodically transported from our world, would they also be transported from other worlds as well?
Adanth is an alternate earth, still largely unpopulated by humans (or other humanoids), with an ecology mostly devoid of the impacts of civilization. It, or the plane it resides on, floats freely through the multiverse, occasionally coming into contact with other planes of existence. Among those familiar with the phenomenon, this occurrence is called “worldfall.”
When it does so, the barriers between the worlds grow less distinct; that is, it can become difficult to distinguish where one world begins and the other ends. This is particularly true in the wild places, untouched by civilization in wither world, and those travelling in the wilderness or at sea can cross worlds without knowing it.
The first humanoids to inhabit Adanth were the fey. It is possible that Adanth was once an outpost of Faerie, although that is not altogether clear. What is known is that there is a sizeable population of fey, who outnumber humans in most places, and that there has not been contact with the land of Faerie for a very, very long time.
Humans are newer on Adanth, as they are newer everywhere. Although Adanth experiences worldfall with Earth relatively frequently, it is less common to cross the boundaries between worlds than it is not to cross them, and the odd hominid that crossed over had little chance of survival without it tribe, let alone being likely to find a mate or create a culture. Those that did, being of limited technology, had little impact on the world.
Things changed with the age of sail. When a whole ship changed worlds, the shipmates had a much improved chance of survival. And if enough women were travelling on the ship, there was a possibility that a resulting settlement could survive beyond a single generation. These people often settled in the places where their destination ought to have been, so there are often human settlements at the same locations that boast large coastal settlements on Earth.
Another event in human history that had a significant impact on human populations was the great migrations of Germanic tribes in Europe. Families, sometimes whole tribes, travelling the wilderness with provisions and livestock could find themselves in Adanth. Since many of these groups had no specific destination in mind, other than space to live, the location of inland settlements is less predictable.
As human populations on Earth grew, and the wild places of the world began to disappear, crossing between worlds became less frequent. That happened first on land, as the forests of Earth were converted to farmland, but eventually occurred at sea as pollution changed ocean habitats. Those who did cross over tended to bring more advanced technologies with them tended to have little impact, if they found a human settlement, unless they knew how to build the technologies they carried, or unless someone else in the village could reverse engineer them.
So, culturally, many of the settlements are similar to ancient or tribal Earth cultures, and a modern human might be more comfortable (if bored) in an elegant faerie city than in a harsh pseudo-Roman settlement. Technologically, the human settlements will be more recognizable, as they have tried to advance as quickly as possible, building on what knowledge the odd new immigrant brought with them, in order to protect themselves in a land or monsters and magic-wielding fey.
The growth of certain technologies has been slow, because the small human populations limits the scale of any projects. At times they have acquired magic from their fey neighbours to replace resources they cannot manufacture or trade for, and adapted it in distinctly human ways. But for the most part, human settlements rely on primitive technologies to survive, and fey settlements rely on magic.
Upon this premise, nearly everything else was built. The portion of the world I have developed in my head is pretty Eurocentric, because those are the cultures and histories I am connected to and familiar with. You are unlikely to see a campaign in Asia or North America, because those are not my cultures to write about.