[Note: This document is a brief background to introduce NWN players to the setting. It will evolve overtime and grow. For those ready to take the plunge, please see the Character Creation Guide, and Installation Instructions]
In A Nutshell:
Arnheim is a rustic barony reminiscent of dark ages continental Europe. This is a rustic civilization amidst wilds filled with the denizens of Faerie both fey and goblin and their infinite variations. Dark forests, rolling hills, old mines, and small villages comprise much of Arnheim’s landscape, but this is a landscape undergoing change. Conflict between the wilds and civilization are transforming Arnheim for better or for worse.
Arnheim was independent until recently when the previous baron converted to The Faith, and swore allegiance to the Orsennan Empire. His son, Baron Strom, continues this legacy, and the wealthy families of Arnheim have followed suit, many abandoning their own traditions so as to improve their social status. Outside of the city, however, many still cling to the old ways for which they are seen by the urban folk as both uncivilized and dangerous. These views are not entirely unfounded as relations with both goblin and fairy-kind are rooted in the old traditions.
I have drawn upon real world history and folklore for inspiration. Consider the Germanic folktales recorded by the Brother’s Grimm as source material along with Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and the like. Charlemagne’s war with the Saxons is an important historical influence. In place of the Catholic church and memories of Rome as the driving force of civilization, I have inserted an empire similar to Persia (Orsenna) and a Zoroastrian-like religion (The Faith).
- Arnheim is much like the bohemian forest of fairy tales during the medieval era of continental Europe. Although the barony of Arnheim has a capitol city and numerous settlements, it is a rustic place embedded in a forested wilderness. Typically Elves, Gnomes, Feyborn, Goblin-touched, and Druids are from Arnheim and “wild”. The game will be set in Arnheim.
- Orsenna is modelled after Persia, a Classical era empire of Asia Minor. In the game, Orsenna is an empire from across the sea which has annexed Arnheim. Orsenna is a civilizing influence upon the world. Typically Monks, Paladins, Dwarves, Pygmies, and Clerics of The Faith or The Mystery are from Orsenna.
- The Adermoer, the Aderlating River and Adermarkt will be the focus of a number of adventures and thus known to the characters you play. The Aderlating River valley is the southernmost part of the Arnheim Barony, and considered uncivilized as much of it is dominated by marshes (The Adermoer). Its a rebellious region but lacks the population to resist the Barons of Arnheim who conquered it. Adermarkt is a tradepost connecting the area to the capitol of Arnheim via the Southroad.
- Falkswoud is a forest between The City of Arnheim and the Aderlating River. The Southroad passes through it running north and south. Falkswoud was once known as the people’s forest, and filled with followers of the old ways, but The Baron of Arnheim now claims large swaths of it as his personal hunting ground. So now rather than a place filled with the Fey and Druids, there are packs of wild dogs/wolves, and vagabonds. Only the most stalwart adherents of the old ways remain.
- The Faith is a fantasy version of Zoroastrianism. The organizing principals of the religion revolve around a Cosmic Struggle between Good and Evil with the Temple of Light (the main temple of The Faith) being ostensibly on the side of Good. Clerics and Paladins are the religious classes of The Faith.
- The Mystery is a Taoist flavored spinoff of The Faith. Enlightenment is the goal, and thus this religion is inward looking, and contemplative with no central church or temple. Many independent monasteries exist in the world, including one in Arnheim which predated Arnheim’s annexation by Orsenna. Clerics and Monks are the religious classes of The Mystery.
- Nature is the “deity” of the Druids who are the only priests of this religion although rangers can earn status in the religion as well. Trees are sacred in this religion – just like they were with the real world Saxons circa 700 AD.
- Polytheism is a kind of belief which encompasses many religions each focused on one or more gods. The most common polytheists are the Dwarves who worship the god of War who they call Gohkazk’th, but in Orsenna is called Cyriacus. Otherwise polytheists are typically from wild areas or in small groups who refuse to be converted to The Faith and worship one or more of the eleven gods. Clerics are the only priests of this belief.
- Undevoted – this is the “atheist” option for characters who just don’t care.
A number of the standard races in NWN have been adjusted to fit with the setting. For more specifics such as game mechanics, see the Character Creation Guide.
- Both elves and half-elves have been redefined as human half-breeds, children with one human parent and one fey parent. Elves were raised by their fey parent and are thus considered part of that world by other humans. The Feyborn (formerly half-elves) on the other hand were raised by their human parent, and are thus understood as at least partially human by the townsfolk of Arnheim.
- The Goblin-touched (formerly half-orcs) are humans that in their infancy were transformed by goblin pranksters. Goblins steal human babies from families that offend them, and then give the baby a disfiguring curse before returning it to its parents.
- Gnomes on the other hand are a kind of independent and solitary goblin (or fey depending upon one’s perspective) living underground. If you have questions about magic, you should ask a gnome. They are both innately magical as well as studious practitioners of wizardry.
- Pygmies / Leshii (formerly halflings) are a diminutive race of humans conquered by the Orsennan empire. They are highly religious and thus those found outside their home villages are typically “holy wanderers” – errant priests spreading the holy word of whatever religious cause they have taken up. Despite their religious nature they are not particularly dogmatic and are accepting of other religious views.
- Dwarves are a warlike and clannish people that prefer to live underground. Many dwarven clans have been absorbed by the Orsennan empire as fighting units. The fighting units are semi-autonomous but owe fealty (and loyalty) to the emperor. Similar to the Cossacks and the Scythians these conquered tribes are elite units in Orsenna’s armies. Due to the discipline that comes from a culture focused on honor and battle, Dwarves who convert to The Faith make good paladins. These dwarves however exchange their clan affiliation for that of The Temple of Light. Conversion to The Faith also requires that they deny that the dwarven god, Gohkazk’th, (aka Cyriacus) is a god. Cyriacus is no better than an “angel” in The Faith’s cosmology.