The Setting of Rift Fallen
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
― H.P. Lovecraft
No one knows why the Riftfall happened. There are as many theories as there are descendants of humanity, but even the most learned scholar or insightful magus cannot be sure of the truth. Some say it was the wok of crazed cultists practicing ancient magic they could not control, others say that it was mankind’s pursuit of science and technology it did not understand that ripped open the walls between worlds. Rifts in reality opened all over the world like the cracking of a pane of glass. They swallowed cities, farms, people and monuments. They were all torn asunder as pieces of them fell through the shimmering, yawning rifts and landed in a new realm. It was not a thousandth of the world, but even that was millions of humans stranded in this new place.
Those that survived found themselves in a nightmarish new world. It was a blasted and savage place they would come to call Outland. The bleak landscape offered no comfort, its waters poison, its earth wretched and unyielding.
Horrific creatures lived in this new realm, beings so alien to our existence that they broke the minds of those who looked upon them. Life for which we had no reference, malevolently stalked this new world. Some sought knowledge, but more sought flesh. It didn’t end there.
This wasted realm was ruled over by ancient beings exiled from reality, the Great Old Ones – ancient deities, older than our creation, beings of unknowable minds and ancient hate. They were not totally unknown in our world. Old cults had worshipped them, seeing their mysteries through cracks in reality or tortured dreams. Here though, they dwelt in the realm of flesh and had carved it out in their image.
Humanity’s one saving grace was that these beings hated each other far more than they even noticed our insignificant mortal forms. Aeons old rivalries kept them locked in eternal struggle. Their minions, ancient horrors in their own rights, ruled over domains as Chthonic Dukes, and the mad existence they created was a culture beyond the bounds of our understanding.
Some of the refugees from the old world joined these beings, choosing to worship a great old one, serve a Duke and gain some measure of safety in their cult like societies. Some chose the life of freedom, making their way in the unclaimed wastes.
The touch of the great old ones and the mystic forces of this new realm forever changed those who found themselves in this strange new world. ‘Humans’ no longer exist. What exist now are humanity’s descendents. Warped beings bearing the touch of a great old one or elder thing. Changed to survive in this world. Birth does not determine allegiance, the great old ones power cannot control the human mind for long unless the human gives it that power, but they have altered our flesh to serve their needs and warped desires. A human is born into this world as any human child would be, but upon the first night they survive they are changed into a form more fitting to the Outland. The form they take is determined by which Great Old one’s sign is dominant in the sky.
One of the most unnatural aspects of this new life is its ability to return from death. Twenty years after humans arrived in this new realm a different being arrived. It, unlike the Great Old Ones or their minions, did not seem malicious, at least not in the way we understand it. It was called the Nodens and it seemed, in its own profoundly alien way, protective of the survivors and antagonistic against all the great old ones. Starting a year after its arrival death ceased to have the same meaning. As its minions passed through the land they lay down pillars of white stone, marked with alien sigils no one could read, they were seen as shrines of the Nodens. Those who were killed near one of these shrines vanished minutes later with no explanation, and in a few hours awoke in their own bed (or whatever passed for it) as if from a horrible dream. Those who died too far away never returned.
The more powerful entities of Outland, the Chthonic Dukes, and Elder Things found the area about a mile around a shrine was warded against their entry. Despite this protection the shrines also have the unfortunate side effect of acting like beacons to the horrific creatures of Outland who are weak enough to enter the shrines boundaries and their existence enrages the Chthonic Dukes who constantly plot their destruction.
Because of this protection the decedent’s settlements have been traditionally built close to the Noden’s Shrines. It places them in greater danger of the Outland horrors but also closer to resurrection. The Auspices call this the Damocles principle.
Not all survive though. Many of the Auspices have succumb to madness, and in this madness found themselves bound to the great old ones and their powerful servitors. Different than a cultist who has willingly joined the worship of a Duke or Elder God, these beings, now called Shrouded have strange and dangerous powers unknown to the humans of Outland. The Shrouded are in many ways a different kind of nightmare, because they are the ultimate fate of all touched by the Great Old Ones and represent the futility of resistance.
Rift Fallen takes place more than five hundred years after Riftfall. This world is a maddening, horrific wasteland ruled by ancient horrors and stalked by unimaginable creatures and the cultists who serve them. The descendants of humanity survive, and often thrive, by will power and grit, scavenging the cities that fell through the rifts for salvage and history. They have built new societies, and new cultures that cling to existence in the bleak realm. Your character is an Auspice, a decedent of humanity changed by the celestial touch of the great old ones and trying to survive in the nightmare realm of Outland.