This same group of players has already run a party through a year-long campaign in the same setting, a home-brew realm I call the Constant Sea. I might get into some of the quirks of this setting later, but for now you just need to know two things. First it's an inland sea based largely on Eastern Europe and the Middle East, with cultural influences from Turkey, Armenia, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. Second, it's a fairly low-magic swords-and-sorcery affair, where magic is rarely as important as politics in the goings on of the world, and spell casters are, if not rare, at least uncommon.
The first campaign involved a lot of travel and getting used to the quirks of the setting, such as racial definitions, important players in the political landscape, and the different theologies. With this game, most of the players have a more complete understanding of the setting, and ended up with characters more smoothly integrated into the world.
Sir Fane Vascelov
Sir Fane is a young knight from a northern country called the Iron Principalities, a loose confederation of bickering mountain fiefdoms in constant conflict and skirmishes. He has spent most of his adult life leading a band of other knights and outriders to defend the border of his little homeland, an oft forgotten principality called Malall.
The principalities have been in increased turmoil since their defeat by the Kolechian Reach nearly a century ago. What had always been a loose collection of allied states has drifted closer and closer to the edge of civil war, due to a loss of its most economically valuable city to the Reach, and a loss of faith in the ancestor worship that first bound the principalities together.
Disaster struck for the knight when the Prince of Malall, Fane's distant uncle, died under mysterious circumstances with no clear heir to the throne.
Prince Seneslav of neighboring Ramor moved quickly to claim regency over Malall, leading many to believe that he had Fane's Prince assassinated. The young knight certainly believed as much when a band of Seneslav's men tracked down his company and attempted to take him into custody for his blood ties to the throne of Malall.
Sir Fane resisted them, and abandoned his group to seek out the rest of his family. He was only able to rescue his spoiled dilettante of a sister, Narcisa, and together they escaped to the sleepy, provincial kingdom of Harmark, where they hoped to hide out from Seneslav's agents.
Fane is a fighter who focuses on agile, quick-footed combat with a shield and short-sword. He's a somewhat experienced leader with a keen strategic mind undercut by his unwillingness to leave others in risky situations.
Vasily and Vitaly Zherdev
These Half-Elven brothers were raised in a Harmark village whose name even they have forgotten. Their mother was hard-working, but not quite equal to the task of raising two non-human boys on her own, so they were forced to learn a measure of independance from a young age. This served them well when Orcish raiders from the Wild March stormed through the countryside, putting their village to the sword and slaying their mother. When the smoke cleared, the brothers Zherdev resolved that the only thing to do was to find their elven father, despite the almost complete lack of evidence as to his identity, apart from an old elven arrow that their mother had as a keepsake.
They decided to split up - Elves dwelled in two regions, the Northern homeland and the Gold homeland. Vasily went north, and Vitaly voyaged south.
In the south, the elves' nomadic lifestyle has long been in direct opposition to the nearby human civilizations. Within the last couple of centuries, a major empire in the area collapsed into lawlessness and infighting, which has led the elves to start pushing back into land held by humans for more than a millennium. Vitaly (On the right up there) fell in with one of the major forces leading the charge to retake land for elvendom.
The young half elf ended up in the retinue of Zorica, one of the three elven living gods. Much like the Dalai Lama, the elven gods are presumed to reincarnate when one dies. They have some clerical power, but are mostly renowned for extraordinary physical ability and grace. Zorica is currently leading a religious band east and west along the Gold Homeland, harrying human settlements and delivering sermons to whip the elven populace into a fervor. Her philosophy and authority channeled Vitaly's young anger into a kind of bloody serenity, which he used to execute assassinations of their enemies along with other expert in Zorica's band. He has come to embrace her philosophy - from a broad enough perspective, the world is as unchanging as the sea. Borders change on maps, but fall into the same recognizable patterns. Nature goes through the same rituals time and again. The duty of elvenkind is to guide the world towards its "classical" state, and even the violent actions that they take are only in the name of restoring elvendom to its natural extent.
In the North, the elves have enjoyed relative peace, apart from ongiong skirmishes with orcish tribes from the Wild March and the Wayward Steppe. Far enough from both the metropolis of Icos and the Tyranny of Krath, they enjoy fairly cordial relations with their human and dwarven neighbors, to the point that there are several permanent human settlements on the coast to allow for trade and communication.
Vasily initially came to live in one of these settlements, trading his dual-heritage for a certain amount of status in the frontier lodge. This was always to be temporary, and eventually he transitioned to life in one of many nomadic bands of northern elves, learning their tongue and their customs, but always aware of his position as an outsider and inferior in their eyes. Eventually, a violent outburst of his led to his exile form the tribe, and near death in the untamed wilderness of the northern homeland, until he was discovered and taken in by a druid - an outcast in a similar way as him.
The druid passed on his philosophy that it is pointless to fixate on what things are or aren't, for all things are in constant flux. Climate changes with the seasons, outlooks change, rivers change their course over time. Even the so called "Constant Sea" has altered its coastline, as indicated by submerged ruins and cliffs bearing the fossils of sea shells. He taught Vasily that he shouldn't seek to be either man or elf, for he is at both and either as need and culture dictate.
Some twenty years passed, the time that the brothers had agreed upon back in the remains of their village, and they both made their farewells to the lives they had discovered. They would meet again, for the first time in two decades, in the capital of their old homeland of Harmark.
Vasily is a rogue, skilled in stealth and assassination, using a shortbow as his preferred weapon. His bearing is at times eerily tranquil, with a frantic stress only occasionally breaking through.
Vitaly is a druid, capable of transformation into several animals. He's sullen and often withdrawn, reflecting his hermit-like training.
Anton Kostov is the odd man out of the party. Where the others are outcasts, exiles, soldiers, and slayers, Anton is a hapless scholar way out of his depth, without even much in the way of magic to back him up.
Anton was born and raised in the Kolechian Reach, perhaps the most stable country in the setting. It suffers from a touch of overzealous expansionism and occasional goblin problem, but overall it's a fine place to live, and has been at relative peace for almost a hundred years.
In short, it's one of a few countries calm enough to sustain academia, and Anton is in that class. He was born to minor wealth and spent a long time in the Grand Academy of Bolchar, under the tutelage of the iconoclastic scholar Gavril of Jadva. From him, Anton learned a distaste for the Kolechian practice of hunting down Warlocks and Sorcerers, and a curiosity bordering on a pathological suspicion of authority.
Gavril of Jadva's research was always kept secret from Anton, but on late, drunken nights, he ocasionally let slip that it had to do with the far north, and a little talked of country called Harmark. Not long afterward, Gavril passed away from a long-standing medical condition, and Anton found himself in possession of a mysterious book that had belonged to his mentor and under increased scrutiny from the university staff.
The book, though blank, would vanish any writing put into it, though on occasion, some strange script would appear in it. Under pressure from the college to refocus his efforts and gripped with savage curiosity about the mystery Gavril had left behind, he took as much money as he could from his family wealth and set off, without much of a plan, toward Harmark.
Anton is a bard with no musical training, relying on a crossbow at need and possessing no spells that can harm creatures. His true strength lies in his scholarly and linguistic knowledge, and his indignity in the face of heavy-handed authority.
Galapas, like Anton, comes from the Kolechian Reach, but his place in that society was built by the bloodier impulses of a "strong" society.
Galapas was a soldier in the Westmost reach, in the shadow of the Old Bones, a towering mountain range that defines one border of the realm. A thousand years ago, goblinoids first appeared from those mountains, a vast army that threatened to overwhelm the Constant Sea. The area that would become the Kolechian Reach took the worst of it, until they were able to rally and cut off any path for the goblins to escape. Since then, the Reach has maintained a standing army for the express purpose of combating goblins wherever they appear.
Galapas, like most other citizens of the Reach, harbored an immense hatred for Goblins of all stripes. At a young age, he joined the town watch, with stories of heroism and valor in the face of the goblin blight ringing in his ears.
One day, however, while home on patrol, he discovered his younger brother offering aid and shelter to an injured goblin child, an act that was tantamount to treason. Mindful of his orders, Galapas killed them both, turning over the bodies to the watch. Not long afterward, he joined the army and took part in several excursions into the foothills of the Old Bones. But the war years and the killing years wore down his soul like the wind wears down the stone, and his dreams were haunted with visions of his fratricide. He rose through the ranks, but returned to his home less and less often, sick at the thought of the people that had celebrated the murder of his brother. At last, word came to him that his village was in the path of a hobgoblin warband, and he did nothing as it was swept from the earth.Not long afterward, he quietly resigned his commission, and took to the roads in a long journey to nowhere
Galapas is a Fighter, a scout captain by trade who fights best at extreme long range with his bow. He is bitter and often cynical, with a deep aversion to the limelight and a distaste for perceived grandstanding, and the way that it reminds him of the Kolechian myth of the Goblin Slayer.