The Waste of Saar
Legends tell of a time of plagues that befell the world generations ago – ravaging monsters, drought and flood, frost and heat, locusts and poxes; migrations and wars in which much of the art and culture of the old world were lost. Humanity was reduced to a handful of enclaves huddling in the most hospitable and fertile cradles of civilization. Since then, assuming the legends are true, the monsters have died or gone dormant. The weather has stabilized. Thanks to the hard work of farmers and priests, the masses no longer live on the edge of starvation. Craftsmen ply their trades; tradesmen ply their routes; philosophers contemplate; artists and architects create.
And on the borders of the human realms, a few individuals venture forth. The loners, the mad, the desperate, the greedy; they gravitate away from the centers of human civilization toward the wilds. Some find adventure and wealth. Most are lost forever to history, taken by accident, violence, starvation or disease. This is not an age of exploration or grand expeditions. While adventurers do band together, there are no well-funded adventuring parties braving the unknown in order to bring back maps and treasure, and plant flags, for a sponsoring nation. But less competition means more for you, right?
You have come to the border of the Waste of Saar – a vast, largely-uncharted wilderness stretching north and west of civilized lands. There is a natural border here: the Chasm, also known as the Howling Gulf, an impossibly long ravine that measures over a hundred meters wide and several hundred deep. On the southern side are sparsely populated farmlands at the outskirts of two human nations: the Unified Monarchy of Aul-Athan, and the Khoral Multitude, a theocratic republic.
The bridge that spans the Chasm is a wonder of modern engineering: a graceful arch of glossy stone, supported by meticulous enchantments and strong enough to hold an army battalion. But the lands on the civilized side no longer hold anything of interest for you, unless you can find enough treasure to allow a triumphant and comfortable return.
On the northern side of the Chasm huddles the town of Khun (“Wart”). Although there is a modicum of agriculture in the fields around, and of industry within the walls, Khun is in essence nothing more than a guard post, a garrison to secure the bridge against the unknown dangers of the Waste and provide advanced warning against any threats to the human realms. Those who dare the depths of Saar find respite in Khun, lodgings and supplies and healing at reasonable prices – but little else; the soldiers have no interest in what lies beyond the walls unless it poses a direct threat, and long ago learned that time spent befriending itinerants is time wasted.
Beyond Khun sprawls the Waste – fields and forests, hills and mountains, moors and swamps; abandoned cities, hidden caves, lost temples, tombs, holy sites, fairy circles, and even the occasional human hermit, madder still than the adventurers that stumble across them or seek them out. The soldiers also warn of bandit bands and, stranger still, nonhuman settlements scattered throughout the wilds.
You find yourself in Khun, making tentative alliances with the handful of others like yourself. All your worldly possessions fit in a bag on your back. You have no name but what you make for yourself. The Waste of Saar awaits.