Chapter 8: Setting
The Darkrealm Rules are specific to the Allornus setting. While the core mechanics are quite versatile, the working parts of an RPG are at their best when they're representing the flavour and tone of a specific setting. In Allornus' case, the setting reflects dark, grungy pessimism about the medieval way of life. It encourages stories that focus on hardship and sacrifice, and highlights the value of the protagonists' heroism by making heroics hard, and costly, while not judging them harshly for falling short of the standards of true heroism.

It has an unusual (but by no means unique) attitude to the fantastic. Exotic beasts and monsters are frequently presented as commonplace, and magical events and the machinations of gods and demi-gods might be considered unremarkable by many, or at least an anticipated hardship in life. Meanwhile familiar fantasy tropes like spellcasting, bucolic fantasy villages, and enchanted items are practically non-existant. And technologies like medicine, with the absence of magic, are woefully inefficient. These are all things that the system and setting expect players and directors to have an understanding of.

Players or directors looking to run more light, high-fantasy games are encouraged, not to adapt the rules and setting, but to consider entirely different settings in the Darkrealm family, with their own specifically tailored rules. No Man's Land offers a vividly baroque setting inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, while Echoes is a more traditional fantasy setting with the notable omission of the human race. Players familiar with these rules will be able to quickly pick up the nuts and bolts of those settings, but will find the rules more suited to their respective flavour.

Technology and Lifestyle


Allornus tends to assume the worst tropes of the medieval setting, with the life of a common man being short and brutal. Literacy is rare, more than simple numeracy is uncommon, medicine is poor and disease widespread. Indentured labour or slavery are common and essential cornerstones to the economies of most developed nations. Hygiene is often poor. Communication is facilitated by runner or rider, or at best hawk or pigeon, and news is both slow moving and unreliable, making even outlandish rumours credible. Poverty is common, with gaps between the upper and lower classes being vast, and barter is more common than currency. And players will find that items like weapons and armour are restrictively expensive to acquire and maintain in many regions.

Metal

Iron is unusually rare in Allornus, and has unusual properties. Weapons and armour are still commonly iron or steel, but this only makes them rarer and more valuable. But most tools, inexpensive weapons, and even horseshoes, are made of more brittle brass. There are fewer metals in general in the world, and their combinations to create alloys do not reflect those of the real world.

Religion


In a world where gods (hereafter called 'Divh' as they are in the setting) are undeniably real, it's natural for all characters to have some kind of relationship with them. It is considered normal for a character to have a religion, and it is expected that they will spend skill points to represent their ability to properly practice that religion. However the Divh of Allornus are, at best apathetic to the plight of mortals, and at worst downright malign. Worship of these beings is not about seeking reward, but instead about placating them, and respecting that without their vast powers the world would not exist. And only on their suffrage does it continue to. Divh are omnipotent and omniscient, and completely alien. As a result they will never make effective antagonists, nor allies. However, for complex metaphysical reasons they're also exceptionally hesitant to employ their infinite power in the mortal world, and so when they do rarely have an agenda they are conscious to use thwartable mortal agents to achieve it.

Kinds of Divh

To complicate matters, Divh does not just imply Christian-styled divine spirits beyond the world. But rather it is used as a cover-all term for any powerful, immortal being someone might choose to worship. And many of these beings are very much involved in the world, have limited potency, and work well as powerful antagonists. Paragons and Elementals are the most common examples of these lesser Divh. Paragons are mortal beings that have been infused with the divine and ascended. The true, or old Divh ceased doing this centuries ago, but examples still survive in the world. They have a physical body, though those who have died are still objects of active worship. It is, at best, unclear whether or not the deceased paragons have any tangible influence in the world. Though it would be an enormous feat, a paragon can be tricked, escaped, combated, or killed.

If one considers ecosystems and weather patterns to be to bodies of living things, then elementals are the souls of these things. Though they are far more alien than the paragons in their desires and thoughts, elementals are limited by geography, and can be harmed. Of all possible objects of worship they are also the parties most likely to offer tangible rewards to their worshippers, be that clement weather, bountiful crops, or keeping predators at bay.

The Afterlife

The setting also assumes that mortal beings do have an eternal soul (though there is theological debate as to the fate of consciousness after death), and that there is an afterlife. Most faiths agree that the spirit passes into an afterlife space, known commonly as the Shadow World, which is also the place that dreams take place. This physical alternate dimension can also be accessed physically from certain places in the world. Many religions teach that worship in life will lead to a soul receiving a guide through this dangerous land after death, to somewhere beyond. Others maintain philosophies of rebirth as a new being. Regardless, it is viable to contact the recently dead via dreams, and even to play the final journey of a deceased soul as a roleplay session.

Magic


Magic inundates the world of Allornus, but more typically in the very fabric of the universe than in the spell-slinging sense. While the setting does host spellcasters, magic in Darkrealm is not something that the player characters deal with much, if at all, since using magic usually means the end of the character, either rendering them too insane or mutate to play, or outright killing them. Some characters might risk learning little bits of ritual magic during their exploring the Darkrealm. These spells tend to be very narrow, very powerful, and usually extremely costly to cast. Players should expect even the most minor spell, if successful, to permanently impact their character's mental health. If the magic is improperly cast or the spell is a powerful one, then the player should be ready for severe impact on the sanity, and physical capabilities of his character.

Spells won't always and immediately cause the character to be unplayable, but are all they likely do so every time they are used. As such, magic and spellcasting isn't a part of the game that players are expected to use extensively, if at all. Usually when a character does use a spell it is because the risk he takes is the culmination of a personal or plot journey, in finding some terrible and profane secret that he only intends to tap once (or intended to destroy, but just couldn't resist.)

The exceptions to the rarity of magic are, of course, villains. While some horde magical knowledge for an occasion of terrible need, or as a sort of deterrent, mad sorcerers make fine opponents and great threats, not only to those they victimize, but to the very fabric of reality when they practice their magic. They'll still be exceptionally rare individuals, but not so rare that players are unlikely to encounter one or two in their heroic careers.

The other exception, or exceptions, are divination, and alchemy. While these two would likely be presented as subsets of magic in other settings, here they embrace nature rather than subverting it, and are relatively commonplace practices with little consequence associated with them. Alchemy resembles modern chemistry, though the principles on which it is based are inherently magical. Divination is more similar to real-world practices like tarot or astrology.

Playing a Wizard

Wizards are a backbone of the fantasy genre, and so should not be completely precluded as a player option. Players keen to portray a wizard should be encouraged to look at practising magic as the bitter-sweet culmination of a personal ambition, after a lengthy campaign pursuing magical lore, rather than a starting point for an archetype. And if they want to continue using the character, they should be prepared to use their new-found powers extremely sparingly, and at exceptional risk.

Other Oddities


A few other major oddities exist in the world, and are worth familiarizing oneself with. Iron is rare, and there are fewer metals in general in the world. The world is flat, dropping into the void somewhere at its undiscovered edges. Iron or steel weapons might still be the norm (though they are exceedingly expensive) but many tools, and even cheaper weapons or armour, are likely to be of brass or copper. Humans, (called 'landsmen' in Allornus) do not have the same range of technologies as they do in the real world, as they share the technological advancements of historic man with other races. Most notably they are exceedingly poor navigators and seafarers, and unremarkable miners, and many civilizations haven't taken to the horse as they have in real human history. Literacy is also not the norm, and illiterate characters are common, and shouldn't be disadvantaged. Exotic animals of some variety form key parts of the ecosystem in each setting.

The Tome of Lore: Core Rules for Darkrealm
Chapter 1 Character Creation; Concept; Core Details; Player Interaction
Chapter 2 Talents; The Fourteen Talents; Generating Character Talents; Properties
Chapter 3 Traits; Character Traits; Context Traits; Status Traits
Chapter 4 Skills; The Skill List; Purchasing Skills
Chapter 5 Gameplay; Announcing a Test; Sequence of Play; Actions and Objectives
Chapter 6 Damage; Opposed Tests; Effects of Damage; Recovery; Death
Chapter 7 Development; Awarding Hero Points; Training; Changing Character Traits
Chapter 8 Setting; Tone; Technology & Lifestyle; Religion; Magic; Other Oddities
Chapter 9 Player Races; Civilized Races; Racial Abilities
Chapter 10 Gear; Armour; Weapons; Tools; Animals and Transport; Clothing; Weight and Encumbrance
Chapter 11 Magic; Alchemy; Divination; Talismans and Relics; Fear and Superstition; Spellcasting
Chapter 12 Game Creation;
Appendices Common Actions; Damage Statuses