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A Short Guide
A short and sweet introduction to the world of The Charred Shores.
The Charred Shores Adventures
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Hooves & Horns
Deep in the Umbral Woods, a homestead is being overrun by a mysterious horde of goats - and they don’t seem to want to leave. Did they turn up for an easy feast of garden vegetables or is something more sinister ahoof?
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The Charred Shores: A Short Guide
A short and sweet introduction to the original Dungeon Realms World.
A New World to Explore
Welcome to The Charred Shores: a fantasy setting that’s both warmly familiar and excitingly new. Races and creatures you’ll recognize roam its diverse lands, while its history, lore, and mysteries will spark boundless adventures. Investigate rumors of fairies in whimsical Fairfax, survive the cold, orc-ridden wilderness of the Lightless Coast, sail with pirates in the Scattered Sea - anything is possible in the inclusive, easy-to-understand world of The Charred Shores.
One World, One Culture
After a cataclysmic battle, The Charred Shores as it’s known today was founded when all people came together under one pantheon and created a single, collective culture. Dwarves may have their own history and customs that differ from elves, but everyone speaks the same language, uses the same currency, knows or worships the same gods, and understands the same societal norms. A character of any race or sexual orientation won’t be persecuted or discriminated against due to perceived differences; these kinds of issues disappeared when everyone had to work together to survive. Yes, some tensions based on prejudice will always exist, but they’re an exception, not the rule. Different cultures and backgrounds are celebrated, worn as badges of pride that fit into a larger, unified worldview.
Many Places, Many Genres
The culture might be unified, but the geography of The Charred Shores is very diverse. Its regions offer different types of fantasies, which play into a region’s lore and atmosphere. You can join an epic rebellion in the dark forests of Cerena, deal in thievery and political intrigue in the bustling metropolis of Cradle Island, or uncover new types of magic in the cliffs of Alavastra. No matter what kind of fantasy you want to play, The Charred Shores is home to it. Some say other dimensions may even be reachable…
In fact, parallel dimensions called “Realms” exist here in infinite numbers. Some resemble the primary Realm of The Charred Shores so closely that any difference is barely noticeable. Some are so vastly wild and unfamiliar that a quick trip there could fracture your mind. The Abyss, the Below, the Realms of the gods - most never see these, but they’re not impossible to reach. For a Realmwalker, anything can be explored. All you need to do is find or create a portal. Being able to travel between Realms gives adventurers and GMs complete creative freedom.
Familiar and New
The Charred Shores includes familiar races, monsters, classes, and items from other fantasy RPGs, thanks to the Open Game Content license - a bank of fictional works that are available for wide use. This cooperation from different creators means you can encounter dragons, skeletons, goblins, and other creatures you love (or loathe!) while playing your favorite classes.
Even though some of the content is recognizable, The Charred Shores puts its own unique spin on things. A red dragon may look like a normal red dragon, but how it came to exist and how it behaves are new aspects that you’ll have to discover. The Charred Shores may be easy to jump into when it comes to inhabitants and rules, but the history, lore, and secrets it holds are like a complex woven tapestry just waiting to be untangled.
The Divine Secret
The nine gods that make up the pantheon of The Charred Shores are soothingly straightforward. They all govern their domains, have blanket personas, and they’re not very present in day-to-day life. This simplicity makes them more digestible, but there’s a secret these reclusive deities have hidden since the multiverse began. Discover what the gods are hiding below, and give your campaigns a surprising undertone that could evolve into a world-ending threat.
The Pantheon offers everything a player may need in just a few sentences with a rich, secretive history for the more inquisitive GM.
“Before the Ennead, the nine gods, we lived in darkness. Cowering in shadow, always at the mercy of the horrors stalking us. The foulest were the Titans. Bloodless, ephemeral brutes that destroyed our homes. But the gods came - they fought the biggest Titan of them all for days, tearing the earth and flooding the lowlands, until at last they turned the monster into stone. Its crown of flames kept burning. As it died, a beam of light rose into the sky, like a beacon. Thus the Titan became our Beacon of hope. The storms died out and the sun rose. A new civilization was born right under the Titan’s feet - Cradle, my beloved home, from which the small peoples slowly migrated to retake the lands they once tended.”
The Beginning as taught by priests of the Piper
All worlds have their origins. Some are shaped naturally by the cosmos, while others are made by intelligent beings. No one knows exactly how The Charred Shores’ brilliant blue planet came to be. Perhaps it was forged by billions of years of gravitational pull, or perhaps it was sculpted by entities that live beyond the night sky? What we do know is that life there began in a whirl of chaos.
The Ancient Days of Youth
The first intelligent creatures ever recorded on The Charred Shores were the playful, chaotic Fey. They inhabited the lands like kids on a playground, which later inspired the term “Days of Youth” to describe this era. All types of Fey - elves, pixies, and satyrs, to name a few - established their own territories and experimented on other life forms to create new races and magic. But they weren’t the only creatures on The Charred Shores.
During the Days of Youth, vicious monsters and enormous titans roamed the continents with no goal other than destruction and survival. The Fey would fight them when they cared to, trapping and imprisoning many of the titans with magic, but being neither good nor bad, the Fey preferred to live in the moment. They had their fun. But eventually the fun had to end.
The Fey that had some sense of responsibility began combining forces in an effort to reclaim all of The Charred Shores from the beasts. For the first time, a pseudo-empire formed, and certain Fey beings were worshiped like gods for their immense power. These Fey actually became gods - ascending beyond normal immortality - and kept the whole world in check. Things grew fairly calm for many millennia, but it’s not like the Fey to sit stagnant for too long. Some started experimenting with more and more dangerous magic, until they discovered how to create portals between the Realms. Then it was too late. Great hordes of monsters, demons, devils, and beings of pure evil poured through the portals, plunging the world into chaos once again. The Fey were strong enough to close the portals, but not enough to resist - and their empires scattered and fell.
A Pantheon Arises
When times seemed darkest and hope began to wither, another spark flashed and this time it burned for all peoples, not just the Fey. A new pantheon rose from the ashes of ruined villages and cities, and the newly-ascended gods battled the titans in a long, horrifying war. Finally, the gods killed the very last titan, a fiery brute who commanded flame, and it turned into stone where it stood. Its crown of flames emitted an everlasting beam of light into the sky. That was when the world began again. The continent was named “The Charred Shores” because of the scorched earth and ashes surrounding the petrified titan. With the war won, humans, elves, dwarfs, tieflings, and other peoples joined forces to reclaim their lands, the gods quietly watching and fading into obscurity.
We are now in the 2nd millennium since the titan’s Beacon lit up and Cradle Island became the origin of all civilizations. Countless cultures, wars, and heroic deeds have shaped the world and although the darkest days may have passed, new dangers always lurk just around the corner. New heroes rise and fall, celebrated or shunned by the common folk. What kind of hero will you become?
The Gods and Magic
The Pantheon is as mysterious as they are powerful. Most people living on The Charred Shores worship one or more gods from the Pantheon and, if you’re lucky, the deities might return the favor. Clerics, paladins, and other worshippers can gain amazing powers from their deities, but the gods are still elusive. Once the titan was killed and the Beacon was lit, they seemed to vanish forever. Some people believe the old gods are dead, while others desperately search for new gods. But what actually happened to the Ennead?
“And with a spike of blinding lightning he crashed down on the foul demon, banishing it back to the abyss forever.”
From Tales of the Spear
The Great Lie
Magic is a strange, fickle thing in this world. Some folks can summon balls of fire out of thin air. Some folks only ever dream of feeling the sparks of magic. Why is that?
The great wizards of Alavastra, who hail from distinguished magic schools, would tell you it’s because some simply have a connection to magic and choose to study it. The doctrines, dogmas, and theories around magic have been built up since the Days of Youth and everyone seems to believe that magic works like any other element in the cosmos. The truth, however, has been kept expertly hidden by the gods themselves.
Magic isn’t another type of element at all - it’s created by one’s whole-hearted belief in something. If you truly believe, without a single doubt in your heart and soul, that you can fly, you will be able to leap up and soar through the air. If you truly and completely believe you’re immortal and all-powerful, you will start to become so. The beliefs of others boost your own magic even more. It takes thousands and thousands of devoted followers to make you ascend into godhood, which was exactly what happened to the gods of the Ennead. Each of them was once a very real mortal who believed in themselves so purely and amassed such huge followings of worshippers that they actually became divine.
Nine Gods Only
Nine gods were made during the Dark Days, perhaps because people needed something to believe in more than ever. There was no time to question or rationalize when a demon legion, orc horde, or titan could decimate your home while you slept. But after the new nine gods created a pantheon and helped conquer the world’s evils, they had a choice to make. Would they rule as active overlords, exposing themselves to mortals and risking that the true nature of magic and their divinity might be discovered? Or would they take the passive route, hiding away and maintaining their secret so no other gods could ascend?
The nine gods didn’t want to reveal the great lie. It was nice being part of such a small group - infinite power, lack of pain, pure understanding of the Realms - and the gods wanted it all for themselves. Each god found a Realm to rule over that suited their desires and left the original Realm they came from. But they did maintain some level of influence over The Charred Shores, since they wished to keep what followers they already had. After all, what better way could you reaffirm your own belief in your godhood than millions of people praying to you every day? Belief is everything in this multiverse, and the gods continue to harvest it like fields of wheat.
God of the sun, hope, health, growth and life
Symbols: a flute, a sun disk, a songbird, or portrayed as a humanoid man with a crown and a flute, sometimes as a boy dancing
Goddess of the moon, secrets, dreams, and knowledge
Symbols: a cat, cat's eye, or portrayed as a humanoid woman with a feline head, sometimes as a feline humanoid with a shiny white eye
God of the oceans, storms, war, and justice
Symbols: a spear, a blood drop, lightning, or portrayed as a bearded humanoid man with a spear, sometimes as a merman with a spear
God of trickery, good luck, wealth, and prosperity
Symbols: a dragon's head, a dragon, a platinum coin, or portrayed as a dragon made of metal, sometimes as a draconic humanoid made of metal
Goddess of crafting, creation, precious stones, and mountains
Symbols: a hammer, or portrayed as a humanoid woman holding a massive smith’s hammer, often stylised to be a dwarf
Goddess of nature, the wilderness, the sky, and destiny
Symbols: a seven-pointed star, a silver flower, or portrayed as a humanoid woman with a seven-pointed crown
God of death, the afterlife, hunting, judgment, and laws
Symbols: jackals, a bow, an hourglass, or portrayed as a humanoid man with a canine head or a young man holding an hourglass
God of romance, relationships, and protection
Symbols: a thorny rose, a red shield, or portrayed as a humanoid holding a shield and a rose, often portrayed with spiral horns and as any gender
God of magic, fortune-telling, games, communication, and traveling
Symbols: ravens, a feather, cards, or portrayed as a humanoid with a cape and wide hat, sometimes holding a card or with a raven on their shoulder
Rules of Magic
Who would think that the source of all magic was essentially made up? Take spell components: you don’t actually need bat guano to cast Fireball, but its use has been set in stone for millennia, and it works because people believe it works. Now take spellbooks: a wizard doesn’t need to carry their spellbook around like an extra limb - but because all wizards throughout the ages have believed it’s necessary, spellbooks have become necessary. After enough time, belief, and repetition, prophecies fulfill themselves, and answers find their questions.
The rules of magic develop almost the same way a scientific theory does. Someone fully and whole-heartedly believes that tossing a broken shard of flint in the air and whispering an archaic phrase will produce an effect, and because of their belief, it happens. Then they replicate it over and over, creating a ritual. Others see it happen without fail and are convinced that’s how it’s done. Tossing flint and archaic words are now taught in magic schools. No one thinks to try it differently - and if they do, their skepticism will make the spell fail. The rules create and enforce themselves and if somebody somehow discovers the secret of magic, the gods come out to stop them.
Breaking out of this carefully-maintained system is close to impossible. Imagine just discarding everything you’ve ever believed about how your universe works, without any doubt. Only those who possess forbidden knowledge and have seen the multiverse from a higher perspective have any chance of breaking out - that is, if they’re not imprisoned or killed first for their “insanity”.
Magic in the Realm of The Charred Shores is the ultimate mystery. Perhaps in a parallel Realm magic works differently, but here it’s something oddly fragile. Let the secret out and the world could plunge into pandemonium. A creative GM might use this secret to weave a complex campaign; the world-builders who created The Charred Shores often use the rules of magic to connect everything together.
“I met a fella in Cradle who kept talking about how he crossed Faranca from east to west with his crew in search of some crazy book. He went on and on about how something was sleeping under the sand, reaching out and talking to him. The sun must’ve burnt his mind to cinders, poor idiot. Never heard what happened to his crew either. I sometimes wonder about that book, though...”
Excerpt from a letter found on a dead adventurer
The Charred Shores is a landmass split nearly in two, like the open jaws of a dragon. In the very center of the jaws sits Cradle Island: the oldest, busiest, and most hallowed cradle of civilization. Because the land is centered like this, regions and subregions are more organized than in other worlds. Everyone knows Cradle Island and can trace at least part of their origins to it. The coasts facing the island are blessed by the Beacon’s light, which acts as a constant reminder of how far civilization has come since the Dark Days. But when you get far enough away from Cradle Island and can no longer see its Beacon, the lands start growing more unruly and dangerous.
The Charred Shores is chopped up into regions, which each contain subregions. Subregions are like countries with unique themes, local cultures, terrain, and conflicts. The subregion of Cerena, for example, holds a mighty kingdom being challenged by rebels. The Shaded Marsh is a subregion of marshlands and swamps that’s teeming with fungi monsters. The Outlands are brutal, lawless, and support little plant life, making survival a constant struggle. Everyone on The Charred Shores is at least a little knowledgeable about the overarching world and its regions, so traveling, exploration, and adventure are a natural way for many to solidify their knowledge. The Pantheon and Cradle Island provide a kind of umbrella of understanding that transcends the cultures and themes of individual subregions.
All who know of Cradle Island can’t talk about it without addressing the elephant in the room - the huge petrified titan that towers above its historic old town. The titan’s magical crown of flames emits a pillar of light that can be seen from the northern and southern shores of the continent, and it’s recognized as a symbol of perseverance and hope. Holy people have since laid claim to the titan’s stone body and dug tunnels and sanctuaries inside it, where they conduct rituals and worship. Under the titan’s feet sprawls an ancient mish-mash of limestone buildings where many types of people live in close proximity. After 2,000 years of growth, the city is now a lively metropolis - ruins and secrets lie under every foundation, political figures butt heads with the monks who guard the titan, and clans of thieves have begun amassing in the city’s labyrinthian alleys.
Following the devastation of the Dark Days, the weak and traumatized banded together to retake the lands now known as the Covenant. Leaders took their people in different directions, fighting off dragons, beasts, and monstrosities until they could fortify and build new societies from the wreckage. Hope started to bloom. Stone castles, busy townships, and secluded villages popped up in every subregion. Harvests flourished. Trading routes increased. To the east, the emerald hills of Fairfax; to the west, the rocky plains of Nuatir and magical conclaves of Alavastra; to the north, Cerena’s evergreen forest villages; and to the south, Yskra’s melting pot, the hardened core of the Covenant. Though uprisings and major disasters threaten to unravel it, the members of the alliance know they can hold strong.
The smallest of burning embers can still set a forest aflame - so goes the motto of the Ember Union, a collection of countries and kingdoms that abide as loose but respectful allies. They try to keep their quarrels from getting out of hand while offering aid to each other when needed. The constant sunshine and mirages lilting on the horizon give the region a feeling of vastness, reminding people there is always more than meets the eye. The Union’s scattered sandstone cities and canvas-tent villages often excel in trade, encourage philosophical discussion, produce legendary heroes, and provide lush oases for weary travelers. Out in the hottest desert and thickest jungles, towns give way to nomadic tribes and survivalists, where the danger of lawlessness and preying beasts starts creeping more and more into daily life.
A jagged, often icy tundra spreads into frozen northern waters, creating the desolate and dangerous land that is the Lightless Coast. Here, nature reigns supreme; only those who can tolerate the fierce elements and skirt around armies of orcs stay alive for very long. Even the best hunters and survivalists meet their doom at the hands of a giant or ghoul. Many malevolent creatures roam the mountain passes, beasts crawl from caves to pick off the weak, and puzzling remnants of forgotten Fey empires lie buried across the snowy valleys, shimmering under the colorful God Mists in the night sky. The Lightless Coast is known for extinguishing the light of hope - no group besides the orcs has built a lasting society, but perhaps with the aid of the dwarves to the southeast, something a bit more welcoming could finally arise.
Thousands of years ago, the Outlands were home to many prosperous elven kingdoms - but the elves fled during the dark days, leaving their lands to grow barren and wild. The huge Faranca desert sits to the far west, hiding valuable secrets and undead horrors amid its towering sand dunes; savannas stretch across the middle of the continent like a dry belt, where raiders, pioneers, and outlaws set up crude encampments and brawl one another for what few provisions they carry; and an intimidating jungle lies to the south, daring treasure-seekers to venture in and not get lost in its deadly, humid clutches. Everyone in the Outlands knows their very lives depend on the phrase “first come, first served”.
Before the dark days, the Elven Empires expanded across the southern continent, ruling over grand cities that withstood the unpredictable magic of other Fey creatures. But they couldn’t withstand demons and Titans and the elves migrated to safety to the far western isles. Many sought refuge in the protective arms of Rundain Forest, erecting towns high up in the colossal trees, but on the islands, the elves constructed their familiar crystal towers and breathtaking gardens of lilac to replicate a glimpse of what they had lost. The elves’ innate curiosity has caused an itch to travel in recent years - small groups tour the continents or teach at the schools in Alavastra, while others invite outsiders into their homes. Their magic, however, is as powerful as ever, which has convinced small pockets of elves to weaponize it and retake their old territories.
The Claw and Scattered Sea
Curving far out into the sea, the Claw is a colorful, isolated peninsula populated by many cultures and tropical rainforests. Diverse animal life thrives in the untouched nature, while in the large, crowded cities that dot the coastlines, many kinds of people make their way by fishing, trading, treasure-hunting, or even pirating. Official brigantines mix with the unregistered sloops that sail the clear waters around the scattered southern isles; if their paths cross, a fierce battle will ensue; even so, many pirates manage to plunder and explore without interruption. Between the bustling cities on the Claw, ancient ruins and mysterious sea caves wait to be discovered - but the wild nature that preserves them won’t let just any cocky swashbuckler pass through unscathed.
Few ships ever try to sail down to the Dragon Islands. The first deterrent is the volatile currents and random storms; the second is the mysterious islands themselves. Their thickly-forested mountain peaks zig-zag along the horizon like terrifying fangs that pierce the clouds. But the truth is not so sinister. The islands are home to diverse species of benevolent dragons and dragonborn, whose societies were built with care and innovation. Without large threats and wars, great minds were able to invent in peace. Their towns and homes are full of shining machinery, steam-powered vehicles, and all manner of robots that help with tasks in day-to-day life. It’s a land like no other, with draconic majesty and modern fare - but the islands’ most prolific tinkerers are longing to seek out new materials and ideas elsewhere.
“The island of Yskra and one other that’s rumored to have appeared out of nowhere are the only indicators of other dimensions. How else could something come from nothing? There is no such thing! Even my feline senses have picked up on strange wavelengths in the air - as if space and time are so thin in certain places I could cut them apart. I think, to either prove this idea or put it to rest, I must travel south, past the Scattered Sea, to where the tsunami without origin was reported to have surged for miles until it broke…”
From Curator Magpie’s letter to the Cat’s Grand Library
The Charred Shores is just a small piece of an infinite multiverse where anything can, and does, exist. The primary Realm where our original adventures and lore take place branches out into parallel Realms that can look almost exactly the same or vastly different. The uniting element is that basic cosmological rules still apply across the multiverse - space-time and some level of gravity, for example. Beyond that, your imagination can lead you in any direction as a Realmwalker. So how exactly do you “walk the Realms”?
Little Mistakes in Space
When the multiverse came into being, little mistakes popped up here and there. That’s the nature of nature: an infinitely-layered fabric will inevitably sport a few ripples or holes. Luckily for those who wish to explore other Realms, these mistakes act as doorways. Sometimes creatures and objects from one Realm pour through into another Realm through the doorway, which is known as Realm Bleed. Sometimes whole landmasses bleed through, and you wake up to see a brand new island on the horizon.
Realm Bleed is extremely rare. Rumors abound on The Charred Shores about it happening, especially following the sudden reappearance of Yskra along the upper shore, but few real studies and observations have been made. During the Days of Youth, when the Fey could open portals and grab creatures and things from other Realms like magicians pulling rabbits out of their hats, Realm Bleed became the main source of biodiversity - it’s said the Fey drew humans from another Realm where their home planet was fraught with unending wars. Of course, darker and more evil things came through the portals and the Fey had to quickly close each one or risk being annihilated. A few portals still remain to this day, forgotten and hidden somewhere on The Charred Shores.
Uncovering existing portals isn’t the only way to visit other Realms. An adventurer might be born with an innate ability to realm walk - flitting between the dimensions either in mind or body. Other adventurers have to learn how to create their own portals with magic. No matter a Realmwalker’s origin, they will find that traveling to Realms that are “further” away, meaning ones that resemble the primary Realm less and less, becomes harder. If you try to realm walk into the Abyss from The Charred Shores, for instance, you might get spun like string cheese around a loop of space-time, never to see the light of day again.
Heroes with great destinies written in the stars often become Realmwalkers. The gods or other powerful forces may recognize a hero’s abilities and give them the opportunity to explore the multiverse. With this key, Realmwalkers can jump to different versions of The Charred Shores, meeting new unique people, facing off against new evils, or even experiencing alternate versions of events they witnessed in their home Realm. If a Realmwalker visits the Fairfax of a parallel Realm, they might find the king is actually dead and a council of persnickety sprites has taken over. The possibilities for creating new storylines in the same locations are endless - which is the very foundation The Charred Shores campaign setting was built on.