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The plane of Arcunda has been blessed with unusually stable mana sources. It's well-known that Magic has a tendency to imprint its nature onto its surroundings, and Arcunda too has seen stability for many generations. The races have been largely at peace, barring a few light skirmishes, and magic users everywhere have had time to develop techniques which make special use of the consistent flow of mana, often storing it up for later use. The Collegio Euphio have even co-opted the word "scintilla" to describe the smallest discrete amount of mana that can be thus stored; but most people just call them "motes".
But now, there are rumours. Rumours of a powerful object coming to light out in the wilderness. After years of quietly absorbing mana into itself, mages the plane over have started to notice its presence, and to detect hints of its potential. And now everyone wants to be the first to find it.
Arcanum is a set about how good things come to those who wait, with cards that charge up over time to unleash devastating powers, and cards that leech away built up charge to surprise an unwary opponent when your resources seem spent.
(Setting is intended to feel slightly Greek and Asia Minor-y. It'll probably need some tweaking to get there).
The empire of Laresia has grown up and consolidated its presence across a wide swathe of Arcunda. Generations ago, Humans settled the fertile plains, expanding their territory outwards from the capital, Eba, until it encompassed a roughly circular area about 500 miles across. The native Rhox were generally favourable to being assimilated into the empire, and today prove some of its worthiest citizens.
Laresia's Emperor, who probably has a name and might even get a card, is a benevolent dictator, as his entire line has been before him. He is a good man trying to do right by his people, and he seeks the McGuffin to further that goal and to keep it from those more susceptible to temptation.
With little in the way of belligerent neighbours, Laresia's armed forces are minimal. A small guard is maintained in the capital, but the borders are watched more by scouts and light troops. Foremost among these is the house of Ereson, upon whom the Emperor relies to maintain the borders, and to expand them when appropriate. It is likely that House Ereson will lead any expedition to retrieve the McGuffin.
Most Laresians, especially in the more urban areas, worship at the Church of Cisaea; however, a group of wandering monks following the teachings of a long-forgotten mystic Selio travel itinerantly among the rural farms and townships, and are generally held in high esteem. Many Rhox, wary of the organised Church, have joined the Selian order.
The Mirundaea Archipelago lies off the southern shore of Laresia, and enjoys a pleasant mixture of warm sun and refreshing sea breezes. It is governed by a Republic, with each inhabited island run largely autonomously, but also supplying a representative to a more central chamber, housed on the second-largest island of Bythinios.
The largest island, Euphio, is mostly taken over by the Collegio Euphio, Arcunda's foremost school of magic. Here, wizards of many species - Human, Fae and Vedalken, among others - seek to understand the fundamental underpinnings of magic; and of scintillae in particular.
Mirundaea's spiritual focal point is the smallest island of Salova, located some distance from the rest of the archipelago and hence the site of the reclusive Oracle at Salova. The Oracle, officially the same person for the last thousand years, is actually the latest in a line of gifted female seers; when one Oracle is near death, she appoints her successor to take over the identity. Many make a pilgrimage to Salova each year to seek the Oracle's surprisingly accurate - if cryptic - predictions.
Viratraia is a low-lying region of wetlands situated outside the western part of Laresia's palefence. It lacks the sucking, mephitic swamps-proper of other planes, but still provides an excellent source of Black mana.
The less hostile environment has allowed the native vampire population to build up a number of small cities in the region. These are, in general, extremely fashionable places to be; and, given the strong vampire presence, are often busiest at night. In general, the vampires' need for blood is met by a supply of willing "victims", who volunteer a regular bite in exchange for a not-inconsiderable payout in gold. That way, the vampires can vet the donors beforehand and be sure of the continued quality of their meals. It's all very civilised.
The most fashionable of all Viratraian cities, however, is Noricum. Located in the north of the region, it's reasonably close to the borders of Laresia and $GreenRegion, and many of the more daring inhabitants will cross the border at night to enjoy a frisson of danger among the creatures of the night. Of course, usually the peril is only imagined, and the worst you'll be drained of is your money; but rumours say there's a cadre of shadowy figures you'd be wise not to cross, and the reputation of the Yarau is chilling indeed.
Those with their ears particularly close to the ground say there's a new vampire in town, too; one that makes the others look like weak imitations of the race. They say he's searching for something, and you don't get three guesses as to what.
The dwarves of the Malandia mountains boast of a long and noble heritage. Over multiple centuries, they have delved great underground halls amid an impressive network of tunnels and passages. There is no official central government; the dwarves share an uncanny commonality of purpose, and will simply band together spontaneously to do whatever needs to be done, before scattering to their own individual pursuits.
The entrance to the underground kingdom beneath Malandia is found in the Olmerand Pass, one of the few routes through the mountain that is passable year-round. The route is guarded by a fearsome but honorable clan of minotaurs, who keep the route clear of bandits in exchange for small tolls a tithe of the dwarves' merchandise.