Before the invasion
People lived normal lives without elves, dwarves, or even halflings. Monsters and magic existed only in faerie tales and the imaginations of children. Men waged war on each other with sword and shield and horse, squabbling over castles and farms. A handful of large cities dominated the countryside, their stone towers standing as a symbol of power and greatness. They built grand temples to serve gods that never spoke to them.
First came the elves
The elves opened up sungates: giant, golden holes in the sky. They sailed through them in magical flying lightships that looked like some kind of strange plant turned sideways. Magic poured through the sungates at a controlled flow rate designed to keep the lightships aloft but not cause too much chaos in their new world. The elves wanted slaves and the people of this world were easy pickings. The fey slavers had strange magic that cut through armies.
Then came the dwarves
The dwarves were looking for mineral resources: mainly quartz, gold, and iron. They use these metals to power their legendary clockwork cities back home but their world has been stripped of useful fuel, and soon this one will be empty, too. The dwarves opened up thundergates, giant black holes in the ground, and through them poured rockships. These hulking vessels look like aerodynamic steampunk boulders and are powered by precious metals. They released thousands of geared automatons into the world: reapers, diggers, strikers, seekers, tunnelers, breakers, and explorers. Like ants, they harvested the riches of the world with perfect, impersonal efficiency.
And then they fought
It wasn’t long after the dwarves’ arrival that the real war began. For a while, the native people of the land thought that the elves and dwarves would fight each other and leave them alone. That their prayers were answered. War would not be such a blessing.
The elves fought back with great magic, opening the sungates and flooding the world with arcane power from the enchanted places they had conquered. They blanketed the planet with the treeplague to starve the dwarves of resources. The dwarves attacked the elves’ source of power: the gates that brought their power. Brass swarms blotted out the sun one day as they attempted to rip the sungates and close them off for good. When that didn’t work, they invaded the elven homeland through the gates, using this world as a conduit, an unfortunate waypoint in a much larger war. The elves sent their own lightships toward the dwarven home, too.
They struggled over control for this world still, since it was the link between them. People huddled in the largest cities to get away from the treeplague and the dwarven bots. Elven magic brought new horrors to the land: dragons and other fell beasts, goblin mercenaries. Dwarven mechanics weren’t enough so they imported their own creatures and armies. Oozes and golems, giants and elementals thundered across the landscape.
Until the gates closed
The war lasted a decade before competing spells got out of hand and caused a backlash that slammed the gates closed on both sides. Cut off from their homelands, the remaining elves and dwarves dug into hardened positions and vied for an advantage that would secure their safety. The dwarves built Steelholme, a mountain city with most of its space underground. The elves constructed Greenspire, a fey paradise of impossible skyscraping towers, lush living gardens, and magically lit apartments. The treeplague continued to thicken over what used to be farms and towns, even while the dwarven cutters continued their programmed battle against the green tide.
We hide in the city of Lasthold
Lasthold is the final holdout of humans in this world. Every other city has fallen, either torn to dust by the roots and vines of the treeplague, or disassembled brick by brick by dwarven colonizer machines.
Two decades after the arrival of the enemy, the first generation children of this world born in magic have grown up, and they are different. Some of them seem to have control over magical power, or their bones are harder and muscles faster, or they can talk to their ancestor spirits (or, say some, the gods). The people are pinning all their hopes on this new generation, the Blessed.
The Blessed have captured dwarven automata and put them to good use, defending Lasthold from treeplague and monster and other machines. They have mastered healing magic to combat the pox and black death that wafts in on dark winds. The greatest warriors among them are rising up to kill the dragons that steal their livestock and burn down their neighborhoods. They’re building armies that might someday be strong enough to march on Greenspire and Steelholme and restore dignity and sovereignty to the original people of this world.
You’re probably a human, though people rarely called themselves that before the invasion. They called themselves Sennites, Lorish, Gerans, Teeks, Odalians, Madish, and so on. Now they all live together, speaking a pidgin mix of all of their languages they call Common, and trying to put aside old grudges and differences of culture and religion to fight against a common enemy. The fight isn’t distant or idealistic. It’s an everyday kind of battle against an existential threat. Fight or die.
Maybe you’re an elf or dwarf. Not all of them are bad, you know, but it’s hard to convince humans of that, since your people have ruined their entire planet. Once part of the enemy, perhaps you deserted your own people to come fight for the oppressed. Maybe you’re an outlaw from your own kind, forced to live among the natives here and now starting to like these plucky primitives.
There are half-elves and half-dwarves (halflings), too. They’re really rare, but children are occasionally born to one human parent and either an elf or dwarf partner. Most of these pairings are quick, but do not believe that there is no love there. Just realize that love between enemy races cannot last long in this world and that mothers and fathers often aren’t around to raise their half-breed babies. Some grow up with one parent. Some grow up in the orphanages where they were abandoned. It’s a lonely life.
Whoever you are, you’re special. You’re Blessed, which means, no matter what they call you, you have something that your parents never dreamed of. You have magic coursing through your veins and it gets more potent the more you’re tested. They may say you’re a fighter, which seems common enough, but you’re stronger than ten normal warriors. Perhaps they call you a rogue, but you’re supernaturally fast and graceful, and you understand people better than they understand themselves. As a holy man or women, people might call you a cleric, but you have something no priest before you can claim: real holy power; believe me, the gods are real, and they are eager to sound their trumpet over the land. Maybe people call you a wizard. No one ever meant that before, not in a literal sense, and few people yet understand what that really means. If you’re a wizard, you have started to unravel the secrets of magic and work with it directly. Your knowledge is modest now, but it is growing, and in time you will command the power of the universe!