Hundreds of years ago, The Planar War upset the balance of power between the two rival Kuo-Toa empires. The War was won thanks to a group of intrepid adventurers, but the Kuo-Toa took the opportunity to conquer the weakened land dwellers. Few would recognize the world today from the one hundreds of years ago. Since the war, nations have risen and fell, races disappeared, and thousands have fled to a new frontier previously occupied by Orcs. Today, a fragile stability has been reached by two empires in the frontier lands. One city has declared itself independent. Peace reigns in The Free City, but the fight teeters on a needle’s point, with both sides doing anything they can to tip the scales in their favor.
Meanwhile, most people haven’t seen a dwarf in their lifetimes, and it’s rare to see an elf of any sort. Halflings are often spies from the Deluvian empire. Orcs have claimed battle lands in Korstraad. Dragonborn are one of the few species humans can rely one nowadays.
The world is a dangerous place. Trade routes are attacked by gryphons or trolls, the wilds of the far north are filled with dire (or even more warped) predatory animals, malicious spirits may play games with passersby and even benign spirits can be fearsome in their wrath when their domain is under threat (including an accidental threat, like ignorantly logging in an ancient grove). But there are currently two main threats to the nations of the world; Orcs and Kua-Toa (fish-men).
Though history tells that the powerful nation of the orcs once sent forth armies that numbered in the millions, they were by and large destroyed and their lands scorched into desert in the Shatterwar long long ago. The survivors and their descendants have been hardened by the harshness of their climate, and a brutal “only the strong survive” martial culture. Nowadays, their numbers are small, but small towns have been razed to the ground by as few as two-or-three orc warriors, and when word comes of a band of orcs (half-a-dozen or more), terror grips the countryside. Most orcs care little for coin, but will kill for magical gear, meat, water, even just for the challenge, and most orcs that raid beyond the borders of Urruk are deadly Swordsages and Warblades (from Tome of Battle).
The wealthy Kua-Toa empires rule almost all of the known ocean, with countless slave-races beneath their heels (including the Sahaguin, Locahtoah, Merfolk and Tritons). About three centuries ago, civil war divided their territory in two; the ancient Deluvian Empire has since conquered the surface nation Verandi (with most of their population becoming refugees in neighboring Vistria), they have taken the entire coast of Laric as a “peacebond” in a controversial treaty, and they war constantly with the dwarven nation of Tarq, posing a deadly threat to all their shipping. The Illud (the new faction in the Eastern waters) have rejected Blibaal, the evil deity of slaughter who aided the Kua-Toa’s rise to power, and they have gone so far as to make treaties with all “land-dwellers” in order to concentrate on their continuing war with the Deluvians, but they demand ever-growing tributes and other concessions to maintain this peace. Make no mistake; the Illuvians may act polite and jovial, grinning as their merchants trade sunken treasures and much-needed food for dwarven steel, but their society is every bit as tyrannical as their Western brethren. Underwater, both empires weild massive armies of aquatic beasts and slaves, and even on land the fully-amphibious "Kaytees"are terrifying in battle with their alchemy, entire regiments equipped with the iconic Kua-Toa"Invisibility Cloaks", and the utterly fearless martial arts adepts known as Monitors, whose ancient monastic orders are reknowned for their ability to calmly fight and win against impossible odds. Hundred-man regiments often break and flee at the mere sight of a lone Kua-Toa wearing monocolor robes.