Etherea is the initial idea for a setting I’ve crafted for the Shadowdark Tabletop Roleplaying game, designed to foster a sense of intrigue and danger inherent in the exploration of magic and the supernatural. The core concept of the world, the Umbraweave, is meant to evoke a persistent sense of mystery and unease, underlining the idea that behind the veil of reality, potent emotions and intense events birth spirits that drift in the shadows. The aim is to instill a constant sense of tension and wonder in the players, offering them a world where magic is as unpredictable and dangerous as it is powerful.

These initial freeform thoughts on Etherea’s history, the rationale behind its magic, and the intricate weave of its religious beliefs are intended to set the stage for an array of adventurous narratives. The remnants of once great empires and fallen civilizations provide a treasure trove of mysteries to unearth, ancient secrets to decipher, and lost treasures to claim. The omnipresent threat of the Umbraweave and its Echoforms, alongside the complex interplay between Weavers and the pious, further drive the sense of imminent danger and conflict. Overall, Etherea is a world shaped by its past, teeming with potential for daring exploits, and ripe for heroes to make their mark.

I plan to continue to chip away at this setting as I gear up to run some Shadowdark in the near future.

Etherea: A Shattered Elegy

A massive ruined city overgrown in forest dwarfing a band of adventurers.

Etherea is a shattered world that was once teeming with magic and wonder. Its landscape was adorned with grand citadels, crystal forests, and cities of floating spires that touched the stars. Etherea was home to mighty empires and enlightened civilizations whose command of magic was unrivaled. They had learned to dance with the Umbraweave, the mysterious realm of spirits, making it their partner in the grand performance of existence.

In the age known as the Aetherium, the Weavers of Legend, Etherea’s most powerful mages, sought to harness the Umbraweave’s power in unprecedented ways. In their ambition, they dared to pull the Umbraweave closer to Etherea, believing they could tame the wild energies of the spectral realm and bend them to their will.

However, their hubris proved to be their downfall. This cataclysmic event, now known as the Echofall, triggered an uncontrolled flood of magic and spirits into Etherea. The once distant whisper of the Umbraweave became a deafening roar. Echoforms, both benevolent and malevolent, poured into the world, their unchecked power reshaping reality and wreaking havoc on the once-great civilizations.

Kingdoms fell overnight, their grand cities crumbling under the onslaught of wild magic. Forests grew and withered in the span of moments, and rivers flowed backwards, their waters turning into shimmering liquid light. Beings of pure emotion roamed the land, their mere presence inciting joy, despair, rage, and a thousand other emotions in those they encountered. The world was thrown into chaos, and the great cultures of Etherea were reduced to ruins and distant memories.

For centuries, Etherea was a fractured realm, a shadow of its former glory. Yet, life is resilient, and the spark of civilization is not easily extinguished. Humanity, along with the other races of Etherea, slowly began to adapt to this new reality, learning to live among the Echoforms and the unpredictable forces of magic. New settlements began to sprout amidst the ruins of the old, like flowers blooming amidst the rubble.

Now, hundreds of years after the Echofall, civilization is once again taking root in Etherea. The world is still wild and dangerous, but the people of Etherea have learned much from their tragic past. The Weavers have rekindled their ancient traditions, guiding their people in the delicate dance with the Umbraweave.

The echoes of the past still resonate in the Umbraweave, but Etherea stands poised at the dawn of a new age. It is a time of hope and fear, a time of magic and monsters, a time of heroes and legends yet to be born. The story of Etherea continues, written by those brave enough to shape their destiny in a world where thoughts and emotions can reshape reality.

The Lore of the Shadow Spirits

In the realm of Etherea, a world teetering on the precipice of light and darkness, the thoughts, emotions, and actions of every living being are far more potent than they appear. Unseen by mortal eyes, a shadowy realm lies adjacent to our own, a spectral echo of Etherea known as the Umbraweave. Here, spirits manifest and drift, formed and fueled by the potent emotions and events that transpire in the world of the living.

The Umbraweave is not just a reflection but an amplifier of our world. An argument between lovers might birth a minor spirit of discord, while a great battle may give rise to a terrifying spirit of destruction. These spirits, known as Echoforms, exist in a vast array, each embodying a different facet of mortal experience. From fleeting spirits of joy, born from laughter and merriment, to lingering spirits of sorrow, born from loss and grief, each Echoform is a testament to the emotional tapestry of Etherea.

The people of Etherea have developed intricate beliefs and rituals over centuries to contend with the influence of the Umbraweave. The threat of inadvertently creating or attracting malevolent Echoforms has shaped a society that values emotional balance and mindful action. Celebrations are tempered with moments of quiet reflection, and even in war, soldiers take moments to calm their anger and focus their intent, lest they birth spirits of uncontrolled wrath.

Warding off these spirits has become an essential part of life. People carry talismans imbued with positive emotions to shield against spirits of anger or sorrow. Homes are often adorned with intricate glyphs, prayers, and blessings to keep the dwelling safe from Echoforms. Mirrors, believed to be gateways to the Umbraweave, are covered at night to prevent spirits from crossing over into the physical world.

Despite the fear of the Umbraweave, not all spirits are seen as harmful. Some Echoforms are considered beneficial, such as spirits of inspiration born from creativity, or spirits of love born from deep affection. These spirits are often invited into homes and gatherings with specific rituals, offerings, and music.

It is the task of the Spiritseers, individuals gifted with the ability to perceive the Umbraweave and communicate with Echoforms, to navigate the delicate balance of this world. They work to placate harmful spirits, invite beneficial ones, and guide society in their complex dance with the Echoforms.

The Umbraweave’s existence has shaped the world of Etherea in profound ways. It is a testament to the power of emotion, a stark reminder of the consequences of actions, and a hauntingly beautiful mirror to the world of the living. In Etherea, one’s inner state is not just a personal affair; it can shape the world and echo through the shadowy reaches of the Umbraweave.

Arcana of the Umbraweave

A man standing in the middle of a magical strom of lightning, his face twisting.

Magic in Etherea is not merely a tool, but a profound expression of the inner self interacting with the vast, unseen forces of the Umbraweave. It is an art of intention and emotion, a delicate dance with the Echoforms, and a testament to the willpower of those who dare to shape reality through the shadow realm.

The practitioners of this art are known as Weavers. By fostering intense emotions, vivid thoughts, and unwavering intent within themselves, Weavers can resonate with the forces of the Umbraweave and give form to magic. These spells can range from minor enchantments, like kindling a spark of flame or whispering to the wind, to cataclysmic events, such as commanding a storm or shaking the very earth.

Weaving is a delicate process, requiring not just raw emotion but also precise control. A Weaver must learn to balance the intensity of their feelings with the clarity of their intentions. Too much emotion without control can result in a Wild Surge, an unpredictable burst of magic that resonates with the caster’s uncontrolled feelings. This often results in a rogue Echoform being birthed into the world, a force with desires and goals of its own, unbound and potentially harmful to the Weaver and those around them.

A Weaver’s path is one of constant self-discovery and discipline. They must learn to explore their inner emotional landscapes, confront their fears, and channel their passions. They must also learn to understand the Echoforms, for each spell is a conversation, a negotiation with the spirits of the Umbraweave.

There are many ways to become a Weaver. Some are born with an innate connection to the Umbraweave, while others study under experienced mentors. Some find their calling through near-death experiences, profound emotional events, or deep spiritual revelations.

The Echo Codex, a sacred text among Weavers, details the known Echoforms and the emotions that give them form. It also outlines the techniques to master one’s emotional state and provides guidance on negotiating with Echoforms. The Codex is not just a book but a living record, continually updated with the discoveries and experiences of Weavers across Etherea.

In Etherea, magic is not just an exercise of power; it’s a testament to one’s inner strength, a reflection of their deepest emotions, and a constant reminder of the delicate balance between control and chaos.

Divinity and Faith in Etherea

In the world of Etherea, the divine is not a distant concept but an integral part of life, woven into the fabric of existence itself. Above the Echo-laden Umbraweave, in realms of spiritual vision and celestial majesty, dwell the gods of Etherea.

Each god embodies a grand ideal, a celestial echo of the aspirations, hopes, and fears of the mortal world. They range from Luminara, the goddess of Light and Hope, to Obsidia, the god of Shadows and Secrets. Their influences are as varied as the ideals they embody, their will projected into the world through the spiritual conduit of the Umbraweave.

The people of Etherea honor these gods in their daily lives. Grand temples and humble shrines dot the landscapes, each a testament to the devotion of the faithful. Most Ethereans practice a form of polytheism, offering prayers and sacrifices to multiple gods depending on their needs, desires, or fears. However, some individuals feel a deep connection to a single god and dedicate their lives to that deity’s service. This devotion might stem from a desire for protection, a quest for personal power, or a profound spiritual calling.

This deep faith has led to a tension between the devout and the Weavers. Many of the pious see Weavers as attempting to usurp the divine, their manipulation of the Umbraweave seen as an audacious challenge to the gods themselves. This tension sometimes leads to conflict, with Weavers facing persecution or mistrust in more devout communities.

Yet the divine landscape of Etherea is not limited to these grand ideals. Just as the world is filled with Echoforms, so too is it filled with smaller gods, local deities born from intense Echoforms fostered by specific traditions, rites, or even locations. These deities might rule over a single river, a particular forest, or even a humble village. They are deeply tied to the communities that worship them, their fates and fortunes often seen as intertwined.

Such is the grand tapestry of faith in Etherea. It is a world where the divine is as varied and complex as the people who worship them, where the line between mortal and god can blur, and where the echoes of belief shape not just the Umbraweave, but the very fate of the world itself.