A Dying World–an Inevitable End
All Things Must Pass to Ruin
This page is dedicated to my apocalyptic epic fantasy setting, the World of Ruin.
(Fan of my Forgotten Realms work? Check out the World of Ruin! It’s got that same sword-and-sorcery feel, on a larger scale and with the kid gloves taken off. I think you’ll love it.)
The World of Ruin is a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy saga.
A massive magical war ravaged the world millennia ago, and the few humans who survived buried themselves in fortresses hidden beneath the earth. They emerged after centuries set out in the Prophecy of Return to a world full of monsters, barbarians, and hardships. The few civilized men and women erected Mage-Cities that have gradually fallen, one by one, to the ravages of Ruin, until finally only one remains: Tar Vangr, the City of Steel. It stands in the frozen north, a last bastion of civilization against a world on the verge of collapse.
I describe the setting as Game of Thrones meets Fallout by way of Assassin’s Creed: epic, full-metal fantasy in a broken world spiraling into its own doom, torn apart by political rivalry, besieged by death-mad barbarians, and polluted by the irresponsible use of magic. It is a new dark age in the making, and one that is not so far from our own world.
Those who survived did so by abiding deep in castles riven in the everlasting stone, shielded from the ravages of time and wild magic. They cleaved to the Prophecy of Return: a period of time agreed upon by the worlds’ greatest sages before the world would once again be safe for habitation. Several mage-cities arose from these shelters, becoming small bastions of civilization in a new, shattered world. Some folk emerged a little too early and the magic that broke the world did the same to them. Twisted, ruthless, and evil, these barbarians call themselves the Children of Ruin, and they live only to kill and destroy.
The Calatite Empire arose some thousand years ago, centered upon the mage-city of Atropis, City of Power, at the heart of the Dusk Sea. For centuries, Calatan kept people safe in the mage-cities under its aegis:
- Tar Vangr, the icy City of Steel in the ever-cold northern frontier, their rulers being the Winter Blood of Denerre, known for their unique power of frostfire (Tar Vangryur).
- Luether, the vibrant City of Fires in the warm southern archipelago, their rulers being the Blood Ravalis, famous for their skill in metallurgy and alchemy (Luethaar).
- Angarrak, the fabled City of Stone in the rugged western mountains, with no ruling Blood but rather a council. Their folk are famously short, stout, and industrious (Angarran).
- Echvar, the hidden City of Trees in the trackless eastern forests, with their circle of sorcerers of various powers. Their folk are supposedly more bestial than human (Echveer).
One by one, these mage-cities have succumbed to the oppressive march of Ruin, their noble blood dripping away through attrition and infighting. Even Atropis, the great flying city of impossible architecture, fell crashing into the sea. In time, only frost-choked Tar Vangr and heavily embattled Luether remain, maintaining their sovereignty through the environment and through technological supremacy respectively. It is only a matter of time before only one remains, and it will stand as the last light of civilization in a dying world.
This is the main story of my World of Ruin series, assembled here in chronological order.
“King’s Shield,” Women in Practical Armor, Evil Girlfriend Media, Fall 2016. Kindle, Paperback
Twenty years before the action of Shadow of the Winter King, Ovelia witnesses the birth of Lenalin’s first child and must immediately make a terrible choice: rescue the prince, as is her duty, or rescue her dear friend the princess, as her heart tells her. Featuring a very familiar, terrifying antagonist! (Back the WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR anthology today!)
“Oathbreaker: A Tale of the World of Ruin,” When the Hero Comes Home, Dragon Moon Press, June 2011.
Fifteen years before Shadow of the Winter King, Regel finds that some fates cannot be undone, and some oaths cannot be broken.
“Angel of Tears,” BLACKLIST e-book anthology, companion to BLACKGUARDS from Ragnarok Publications, Spring 2015.
After the fall of the Winter King but before the main action of Shadow of the Winter King, Serris seeks to rescue her master, Regel the King’s Shadow, from an unseemly pact with a foul new master. Brute force will not win the day, but the Circle of Tears is known for its treachery, and Serris is the Circle’s queen.
Shadow of the Winter King, first book of the World of Ruin series, Dragon Moon Press, May 2014. Amazon Paperback, Amazon Kindle, B&N Paperback, B&N Nook.
The last true knight of the Blood of Winter must forge an unlikely bargain with his most hated enemy to mete out justice in a world falling to chaos and darkness.
Shield of the Summer Prince, second book of the World of Ruin series, Dragon Moon Press, November 2015. Kindle, Amazon Paperback
Two sets of heroes set out from Tar Vangr after the assault on Blood Ravalis–one south, one north. The last true prince of Blood Ravalis returns to Luether, the southern city of his birth, seeking to reclaim it once and for all from the Children of Ruin. To this end, he brings along a hero thought lost, who must face her own struggles. And little do either of them know, sinister forces plot their doom in the hot shadows of the City of Pyres.
Mask of the Blood Queen, third book of the World of Ruin series, Dragon Moon Press, March 2017. Dragon Moon Press Epub/Kindle, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Trade Paperback, B&N Nook, B&N Trade Paperback, Kobo
Two sets of heroes set out from Tar Vangr after the assault on Blood Ravalis–one south, one north. Regel the Oathbreaker and the mysterious assassin Mask press through the frozen wilderness, evading barbarians, living magic, and the doom of an ancient world, seeking to find refuge in the fabled Necthana, City of the Deathless. But even as the endless cold settles in, destiny beats hot in the blood, and the companions do not see eye to eye. The creature called Mask has a different agenda, one that will shake the World of Ruin to its moldering foundations.
Scourge of the Broken World, fourth book of the World of Ruin series, Dragon Moon Press, May 2021. Amazon preorder.
The last battle, where all the heroes and villains of the World of Ruin clash over the fate of all. Alliances are broken and reforged, ancient loyalties are tested, and powerful magic shudders deep beneath the earth, rising to the surface. All must pass to ruin, and yet hope lingers, because some powers are greater than hate and rage.
Tales of the World of Ruin
These are stories set in the World of Ruin, but not directly related to the main story. Exactly when they transpire is a matter of some debate.
“Hunger of the Blood Reaver: A Tale of the World of Ruin,” When the Villain Comes Home, Dragon Moon Press, August 2012. (Amazon, Kindle)
“Which is the greater tragedy? That you have all that power and do not use it, or you think you can stop yourself?”
“Apostle of the Crimson Destroyer: A Tale of the World of Ruin,” Chronicles of the Demon Lord, Schwalb Entertainment, November 2016 (Schwalb Ent, DriveThruRPG)
“Find the Bael, rally whatever warriors remained, fight back, save those she could. Find a way to survive. Get revenge.”
Influences and Inspirations
Aside from the obvious parallels to the Fallout games and extremely dark fantasy series like Game of Thrones, etc, the World of Ruin also draws upon my deep and abiding love for Final Fantasy. It is a place of skyships and magic-propelled weaponry, of swords imbued with thaumaturgical power sparking off whirring powered armor.
Considering my background and skills as a game designer, it has occasionally come up whether I will create a RPG to go along with the World of Ruin, and the answer is a solid maybe. For now, I run games in the setting on the Shadow of the Demon Lord engine, which makes it a particular honor that I got to take part in Rob Schwalb’s amazing success, by writing a World of Ruin story for his Chronicles of the Demon Lord anthology.
Most people in the World of Ruin cannot wield magic naturally. Only a scant few bloodlines (mostly highborn) maintain the gift of magic, and it rarely awakes without powerful need.
Those who call themselves sorcerers or magicians tend to manipulate Thaumaturgy, magic created by alchemical processes and rituals, which they then use to ensorcell objects to can produce a certain number of effects before needing to be recharged. In more traditional fantasy terms, this would be like charging a wand before taking it into battle and using it to produce spell effects.
Some relics exist, which are magical items that do not require Thaumaturgical charging—they simply recharge themselves every day (or under different conditions, such as an hour’s exposure to sunlight, etc). Some relics even produce a permanent effect that has never been known to be suppressed or ended. The art of making these relics has been long lost, and most date from the World of Wonder before the world fell to ruin.
Peoples of Calatan
Most folk in the World of Ruin are human, of some extraction, but there exist significant differences based on circumstance and exposure to magical radiation.
Humans are the baseline species of folk who populate the lands of Calatan. They dwell in the mage-cities or in the frontier beyond.
Barbarians or the so-called Children of Ruin are humans who have been toughened and warped by the roving magical energies of Ruin into bestial, monstrous killing machines. (SotDL equivalent = orcs.)
Ruinscarred or Ruinwarped are humans who have been born “wrong,” due to magical radiation or harm during gestation or, according to folklore, the sins of a forbidden union. They are without exception ugly and twisted things, off-putting at first glance. (SotDL equivalent = goblins.)
Angarrans are humans who hail from the lost subterranean city of Angarak, known for its engineering and technological prowess. Their blood is vanishingly rare. (SotDL equivalent = dwarves.)
Extremely rare, rotlings are human/magic hybrids born of Ruin herself, who can wear many faces and wield strange and bizarre powers. Hated and feared by most, they often strike out into the wilderness and become Druids of Ruin. (SotDL equivalent = changelings.)
The deathless fae, a race of human energy vampires who can live forever unless slain, are thought by most to be myth, and only a hundred or so exist in the world. (SotDL equivalent = elves.)
The sentinels are Atropis’s mythical construct guardians. (SotDL equivalent = clockworks.)
Cultural Lore and Turns of Phrase
“All Knives on the Table”: This phrase means “in all honesty,” similar to “all cards on the table.” The full phrase is “it’s time to put all our knives on the table.”
Blood: The World of Ruin largely replaces the notion of “family” with “Blood.” Members of the same bloodline, related by birth or emotional union. Of the mage-cities, only Luether has the practice of “marriage,” and then only among members of powerful Bloods.
Bloodbreaker: Someone who has killed the last living member of a Blood, essentially “breaking” that bloodline for all time.
Calatite Calendar: Time is tracked in the World of Ruin by season. There are four seasons of 90 days in each year, each marked by a particular event, including Dark Solstice (the longest night of the year, start of winter), Hopedawn (the start of spring), Midsummer (the longest day of the year), and Duskfall (the start of autumn). There is also a fifth day called Ruin’s Night, which was the night before Atropis declared the birth of the Calatan Empire, saying “Ruin’s Night has ended” (see below).
Caster: This is a type of weapon that is like a crossbow crossed with a railgun. It is powered by a thaumaturgical battery, which empowers caster bolts with some sort of magical effect. Casters without a working battery can be operated like a normal crossbow. Light casters are single shot, while heavy casters might have two or more barrels.
Curses/profanity: terms like burn or burning, damn, cursed, blasted, and ruined
Deathless Fae: A mythical group of folk who are apparently immortal, dwell in the shadows of the night, and are considered the chosen destroyers of the world. Supposedly they live in fabled Necthana, the Deathless City. Most don’t consider them real.
Dust Magic (Thaumaturgy): This is artificial magic, created through alchemical and arcane processes. It is usually used to power items, from heating plates to power armor. In Tar Vangr, dust magic is mostly used to enchant weaponry (produce flaming swords, power casters), while Luether uses it for those purposes and also to create metal-clad warmachines, horseless carriages, and other such devices.
Gender and Sexuality: In Tar Vangr, sexuality and gender are generally considered very fluid. The concept that anyone would be only interested in one sort of person is very unusual. Children are not given names or labelled by gender until they gain a name and choose how they wish to be called (nonbinary is a valid choice, using they/their as pronouns). Luether is more heteronormative, particularly among its ruling class. Children are labeled by sex at birth, which seems odd to Tar Vangryur. Many of the Blood Ravalis are notorious for their odd belief that men are somehow superior to women, owing to an ancient grudge against Luether’s first queen they blame for leading the mage-city nearly to ruin. Most in the World of Ruin consider such practices uncouth.
High Blood vs. Thinblood vs. Smallborn: The distinction between the powerful and the less powerful, but still of worth. Thinbloods are minor nobles. They usually have names and are considered to be a force in a mage-city. Smallborn are commoners.
Mage-Caravel: A ship powered by a thaumaturgical mage-engine. It’s essentially a steamboat. They are powered by a single designated pilot who is magically tied to the ship.
Magic: Magic is a stand-in for technology in the World of Ruin. It produces pollution–foul smells, smoke, etc. The more powerful the spell, the more damage it does to the environment. Most people don’t have inborn magical abilities. They are extremely rare, allowing people to produce magical effects without any obvious fuel source or channeling thaumaturgy.
Names: Most folk in the World of Ruin aren’t given names at birth. They gain names through accomplishment, either naming themselves or taking a name from someone they respect. Gaining a name is considered a rite of passage, but some people never gain a name. High Bloods do tend to give their children names immediately.
“Passed to Ruin”: This is a euphemism for someone dying, similar to “passed away.” The full phrase is “all things must pass to ruin,” which essentially means “everything dies eventually.”
Relic: A relic is a rare magical item that dates from the World of Wonder. It recharges itself, usually on a daily basis. It still produces pollution. The form of the item doesn’t necessarily correspond to its function. You are as likely to find a gauntlet that projects fire or boots that allow you to fly as a small metal skull that keeps the rain off or a silky sash that turns into a metal weapon upon command.
Ruin’s Night: The last night of any year is called “Ruin’s Night.” It isn’t the longest night of the year (that’s Dark Solstice) but it is notoriously the deadliest, destined to bring the mighty low and be filled with tragedy. Whether this is some sort of magical effect or simply a tradition is unclear, but many of the great tragedies of the World of Ruin have taken place on the last night of any given year.
Sellsword: A mercenary.
Sky-Ship: Airships that are powered with thaumaturgy. They are propelled by spinning rings that rotate around them: single ships use 1 ring, while larger craft use 2. They can fly up to two thousand feet in the air or so and are powered by a single designated pilot who is magically tied to the ship.
Slayer: A term for assassin, murderer, or killer.
Thaumaturgy: See dust magic.
Warder: A term for a guard, protector, or watchperson.