War and the rise of the Guild
As the people of Altaeon learned to distill Chroma from the blood of dragons, the destructive capabilities of magic increased exponentially. Working magic no longer required lengthly rituals or rare material components. With chroma running through their veins, modern mages could bring cataclysmic power to bear in an instant.
The war fought between Odesse and the Bolgundrian Alliance in 1933 was a brutal affair. The death toll of the conflict stands a wound that northern Altaeon has yet to recover from. Mounted knights were ordered to charge into mile-wide walls of searing plasma. Pikemen died by the hundreds in the trenches of Ballynd as the their blood was transmuted into acid.
Fearing for the future of the continent, the Magistrate of Catosalaam, Nadia El-Khaldun called for a summit to be held, where world leaders would meet to set rules for governing the new age of war. The Collection of regulations drafted to prevent a war of such magnitude from occurring again became known as the Catosalaam Accord.
The accord slowed the magical arms race of the 20th century to a crawl. Professional armies came to rely increasingly on massed gunfire, capitalizing on the recent invention of flintlock firearms. Soldiers were, however, left woefully unequipped to deal with the incursions of outsiders that were beginning to occur with unprecedented frequency.
Enter the Adventurer's Guild.
These privately contracted warriors, unbound by the Accord, rose up to defend the modern world- or rather, the modern world's highest bidders.
In Altaeon, color is power. Phyiscal and Metaphysical phenomena can be understood in terms of the five colors: Red, Blue, Green, Gold, and Black. With every candle burned, with every idea imagined, with every blade that pierces flesh, color is shifted, mixed, and transformed.
The practice of wielding metaphysical power over this process is known alternately as magic or chromatics. For mortals, magic is impossible without the presence of a substance known as Chroma in the blood. Chroma is the pure distilled essence of any particular color that is consumed whenever a spell is cast. It doesn't matter what pathway to magic a person takes- be it arcane, divine, or primal- every one of them needs Chroma. In the past, magic was rare. It was thought that chroma could only be distilled from material components. Spells involved lengthly alchemical processes and esoteric rituals to work.
In the late 19th century, Alchemists discovered that the blood of dragons could be distilled to produce a form of chroma that could be ingested or injected into the bloodstream, granting mortals the ability to cast spells without preparation.
The Gods and the outer planes
The Gods are real. That much is known. Religious debate tends to revolve around exactly how divine the divinities of really Altaeon are.
While there are as many interpretations of the world's mythic history as there are cultures, a dominant belief system has established itself throughout much of the known world. It holds that. Altaeus, a human king who lived roughly 2000 years ago sought to free humanity from the oppression of the primordial titans and their Elven worshipers. Altaeus gathered many powerful followers who rose up and defeated the titans, shattering the worldwide elven empire they sustained. In slaying the final titan, Ur, Altaeus gave his life. His sacrifice granted him enlightenment, which he used to raise himself and his followers to godhood. Together, the pantheon separated the prime material plane from what would become known as the outer planes. In doing so, they deadened the influence of magic in the world, ensure that mortals could live peacefully,free from the powers that allowed the titans to exist in the first place.
Widespread belief in this myth has lead to centuries of Elven oppression all across Altaeon. Elves are often believed to be inherently affiliated with the titans. Particularly religious people hold elves responsible for the enslavement of mankind in the mythic age, despite the fact that no archeological evidence has ever suggested that any elven culture kept human slaves.
The gods are now believed to reside in the outer planes they themselves created. Not since their apotheoses, however, have they physically visited the material plane. It is believed that upon death, mortal souls will travel to the outer planes. Most find their way directly to the underworld. Some, however, are believed to be called directly to the side of the god they devoted themselves to in life.
The term "Outsider" refers to any being native to a plane other than the prime material. Creature's who hail from the realms of the gods are impossible beings with physiology unbound by the laws that govern the mortal world.
The rifts that open between the plains are a threat chiefly because of the outsiders that inevitably funnel through. They are drawn to these rifts powerfully and inexplicably. These rifts are difficult to close manually, so it often falls to adventurers to deal with whatever comes out until it closes on its own.
The longer an outsider remains in the prime material plane, the more 'real' it becomes. Within a month, they may begin to require food and water to survive. Within a year, some may even be capable of reproduction. Most disturbingly of all, some outsiders who have been stranded for a sufficient length of time have demonstrated complex thought and the ability to speak.
Primordials are land spirits who exist as a physical manifestation of a particular natural phenomenon. They are semi-sapient and are known to form bonds with mortals who seek them out. Certain magic users, commonly known as conduits, intentionally seek out these beings to further their understanding of prima chromatics. Communing with primordials is the only path to learning spellcraft that involves neither study of the arcane nor devotion to a religious institution.
Existing in the nebulous space between the mortal and the divine, dragons are beings of pure chroma bound in flesh. There exist five types of dragons, one for each color. It is from the blood of these creatures that chroma is distilled, thereby allowing mortals to wield magic as the dragons do.
Possessing the unique ability to absorb ambient chroma from the land, dragons have access to a nearly limitless pool of magical potential. The only limit to their power seems to be their ability to endure the psychological strain of spell casting. An ancient dragon has had potentially hundreds , even thousands, of years to hone their craft beyond what any mortal arcanist could achieve.
Dragons are sapient, highly intelligent, and functionally immortal. Why they haven't yet taken over the world is anyone's guess. Some would say they already have. Highly individualistic and solitary beings, dragons are typically unconcerned that others of their kind are hunted for their blood. In fact, they often view other dragons merely as competition and are more than happy to allow one another to be dragged off to slaughter.