The characters are all natives of the island of Aeru - a large island roughly the size of Great Britain. Until a few decades ago, most of Aeru was ruled by the Archduke, a man appointed by the Emperor of mainland nation of Theria to govern the island nation. A little over twenty years ago the Archduke died without an heir. With the death of the Archduke, various warlords and minor nobles each tried to lay claim to the Archduke's title, and the island fell into chaos for decades.
In recent years, a level of peace has descended over Aeru. The petty warlords and minor nobles have each achieved a level of control over their lands, but none has the strength to push his advantage and take control of the whole isle. In addition, representatives of the Emperor have begun to insist that the island work out its problems and maintain the Emperor's tribute - or else.
Much of Aeru is uncivilized "frontier." Many bordertowns sit at the edges of what can loosely be called "civilization" in Aeru. These towns generally rely on self-sustaining agriculture, although at one time most towns were set up to be either mining or lumber towns, supplying the fruits of their labors as tribute to the Empire. Over the last few decades, more and more of these towns have turned to subsistence farming as the roads to the port cities have become more dangerous and lawless.
The world of Aeru is slightly different from most D&D campaign worlds. Elves, dwarves, gnomes and many other non-human races are legends from ancient history. Some are still born with traces of "fae-blood" in them, throwbacks to an ancient race known in legends as the Fae. These throwbacks are called "faeborn" and are often looked at with fear, contempt, and occasionally envy by their human brothers and sisters.
The goblin races are among those who share the world with humans. On Aeru, tribes of goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears live at the fringes of human civilization. Usually goblins stay separate from human society, at least on Aeru. Occasionally, however, children of goblins and humans are born. These fearsome looking men are known as "goblinspawn" by their human brothers and sisters. Goblinspawn often have no place in either human or goblin society, usually becoming nomads and adventurers out of necessity rather than design.
Religion on Aeru is also different from most D&D campaign worlds. The major religions of Aeru are druidic in origin. Different Orders of druids revere different aspects of nature in their own ways. The people of Aeru also tend to follow druidic teachings, especially in the bordertowns near the frontier. Here, the only religion that people are exposed to are the teachings of the Druidic Orders. In addition, the druids often use their divine powers to assist the communities that they tend to by helping with mundane tasks like pest control and ensuring that crops get enough water.
As an outgrowth of the Druidic Orders, a number of Monastic Orders also dot the landscape of Aeru. These monastaries house men and women who have decided to take the life of quiet contemplation instead of the more active role that the Druidic Orders take. Although the Monastic Orders grew out of the Druidic Orders on Aeru, some Monastic Orders are so different from their founding druidic principles that outsiders often do not notice the connections. Other Monastic Orders maintain strong ties to their druidic roots, with both monks and druids becoming members.
The other major religion of Aeru is the Church of Theria - technically the only legal religion on the island. When Theria conquered Aeru millenia ago, the Empire impose its Church on the people. The original religions of Aeru were persecuted out of existence, with the remnants of the old priesthoods slowly turning into the Druidic Orders of today. The Church of Theria is a "monotheistic" religion that demands that the faithful worship only one god - the Emperor of Theria. The Church insists that the Emperor is the God-Emperor of Theria, and all other gods are merely demons pretending to be gods. Indeed, over the last thousand years most of the ancient gods of Aeru have been completely forgotten.
Our story begins in the bordertown of Gerald's Haven. This community is a typical bordertown on the Aeru frontier. The town is the size of a small village, with maybe fifty residents in town and a handful of farmers in the surrounding area. The town itself is protected by a large wooden stockade and by a militia of the local able-bodied men and women. These protections are primarily there to guard the town from raids by the local goblin tribes.
Recently, the raids by local humanoid tribes have stepped up in frequency and ferocity. In the month before the campaign began, the humanoids raided the village and kidnapped six members of the community. Two weeks before the beginning of the campaign, a group of experienced villagers undertook a raid on the humanoid stronghold near town, the Demontooth Citadel. As the campaign begins, the villagers are realizing that their loved ones and the rescuers may not be coming back. It becomes obvious that it is up to our heroes to do something about it.