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.."Welcome to the land of Yrth, a magical realm of incredibly varied races and monsters – including people snatched from our Earth and other worlds by the cataclysmic Banestorm! Whole villages were transported – from such diverse locales as medieval England, France, Germany, and the Far East. Now humans struggle with dwarves, elves, and each other. The Crusades aren't ancient history here – they're current events!"
That very much sums up the setting of GURPS Banestorm, the latest incarnation of Yrth, the oldest fantasy setting originally designed for GURPS. To expand on the story mentioned in the blurb, the world of Yrth was originally populated by Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes, Orcs and Ogres. But a faction of Elves, deciding to rid themselves of the destructive Orc race, designed a powerful magical ritual called the "Orcbane". It did not work as planned.
The resulting magical catastrophe, known as the Banestorm, brought countless amounts of people and creatures to Yrth, including Humans from Medieval Earth. And as Humans tend to do, they soon expanded to take over most of the continent of Ytarria, displacing the native Elves and Orcs (the Dwarves remained safe in their mountain forteresses).
One Thousand years later, Ytarria is now more or less a Standard Fantasy Setting, dominated by The Empire of Megalos, surrounded by various other nations on all sides. Technology is maintained at a low level by the Ministry of Serendipity, an Imperial office which hunts down rogue technologists and victims of modern Banestorm incidents, in order to brainwash them to erase dangerous information from their minds.
This setting provides examples of:
- Arabian Nights Days. Exemplified in two distinct nations: the kingdom of al-Haz, founded by Shi'ite Muslims, and the kingdom of al-Wazif, founded by Sunni Muslims. There used to be a third such kingdom, al-Kard, but after it was conquered by Megalos and subsequently became an independant nation, it became the culturally diverse nation of Cardiel.
- al-Haz and al-Wazif are primarily divided over the existance of magic and it's acceptability according to Sharia Law; the Wazifi Sunnis see nothing wrong with the use of magic for bettering human lives, though they require wizards to serve two years in service to the government. The Shi'ite Hazi consider magic more dangerous and morally dubious, and barely tolerate its use for good, though many Mullahs want it outlawed entirely. Only Megalos' use of magic in it's army keeps these radicals in a minority.
- Barbarian Hero. The Nomad Lands is essentially where most of them come from.
- Fantasy Gun Control. Actually enforced by the Ministry of Serendipity.
- Horny Vikings. Invoked by some of the tribes of the Nomad Lands, which were in part descended from Norse settlers. ...At least those tribes that aren't descended from Celtic Warriors, that is.
- Knight Templar. Aside from the actual Knights Templar of Yrth (see below), Megalos also has the Knights Hospitaller, which are actually even more fanatic, barely considering friendly nonhumans worthy of protection, and rejecting any use of magic. In response, the Muslim nations of Ytarria developped their own order of holy warriors, the Ghazi Orders, who mirror the Christian knights eerily well, and have even earned the respect of a few knights.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same. Very much so, from the beards to the underground kingdoms. They are also well known as artificers and merchants. Some Dwarven renegades actually end up becoming warlords in the Orclands, dominating orc tribes.
- Our Elves Are Better. Subverted in that they have clearly fallen on hard times since the Banestorm, and are essentially a Dying Race. They survive in small communities hidden away in the various forests of Ytarria, with their largest communities being in the two massive forests known as the Great Forest and the Blackwoods.
- One truly different variety of elves are the Dark Elves, who are notable for being anything but Drow; they are actually a faction within elf culture, calling themselves "The Purifiers", with a philosophy of genocidal xenophobia, first against orcs, and then anyone who isn't an elf.
- Our Goblins Are Different. Here, Goblins are short, green humanoids from the mostly arid desert world of Gabrook. They are intelligent, civilized and naturally curious, and actually fit well enough into human society. Hobgoblins are their larger, dumber cousins.
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder. These cousins of Dwarves, noted for preferring the surface world, have more or less evolved into go-betweens between Humans and Dwarves, but are otherwise unremarkable as a race, harkening more to the pre-Dragonlance versions of D&D Gnomes then the modern gadget-loving versions. This is in part due to the Ministry of Serendipity's enforcement of Ytarria's Status Quo. Though it wouldn't be hard to imagine a hidden group of Gnomes experimenting with steampunk inventions...
- Our Orcs Are Different, and located somewhere between Tolkien and Blizzard Orcs. Another race native to Yrth, they were once spread across the continent of Ytarria, before being pushed back away from the more fertile regions by the only race rivalling them in aggressiveness, stubbornness and constant breeding: humanity. Now existing solely in the more arid lands of the Orclands, divided into numerous tribes which wage war on one another when they don't gather to threaten their neighbors.
- The Kingdom. The Kingdom of Caithness, formerly a Megalan colony that splintered off to become it's own nation. Currently embroiled in a civil war between Rebel Nobles and the Loyalists to the Crown.
- The Knights Hospitallers. The first Church Militant group to develop on Yrth from Banestorm Immigrants, they interpreted the event as divine will, and founded the city of New Jerusalem on the spot. Eventually joining Megalos, they have since become infamous for their rigid conservatism and intolerance, their order being closed to all nonhumans, preserving a hatred of Muslims even in times of peace, and even banning the use of magic among it's members.
- The Knights Templar. The actual Knights Templar of Yrth, while being a Church Militant group themselves, are actually rather mild in their fanaticism, compared to their rival order, the Knights Hospitaller. On the other hand, they may have more sinister secrets, having mastered magic very rapidly after their arrival on Yrth.
- The Empire. The previously mentioned Empire of Megalos, which dominates most of the continent of Ytarria.
- Wutai. The nation of Sahud, a definitely Japanese-inspired kingdom with strong Chinese, Korean, and Mongolian elements. This is justified in that, like all of Banestorm's human cultures, Sahud was founded by humans from the very cultures it represents.