THE WORLD OF 1838
THE VICTORIAN AGE
The year is 1838. 19 year old Queen Victoria sits the throne in England, France has restored it’s monarchy, Napoleon has been dead for nearly 20 years, The November Uprising in Russia is a close, brutal memory, Opium flows freely from India to China, while distant Britain, the architect of the trade, reaps the rewards. An American named Sam Colt has patented the “Single action revolving cylinder firearm”. It is a time of enlightenment, exploration and discovery, of repression, conflict and death on a grand scale. Europe is a powder-keg waiting to explode, a single strike from a flintlock or incantation could set it off.
THE CONCORDANT MIRROR
Albion, Hy Brasil, The World Below, The Ephemera, Centre Earth, La Réflexion Magique The Golden Dark, Behind the Looking Glass, Fiddler’s Green, Hyperboria, The Dream Macabre, The Majestic Kingdom of El Dorado, Delightful Haven, Prester John’s Country, East of the Wind and West of the Moon, The Mirror.
Known by a 1000 names, the mirror is a mixture of madness and wonder – a plane where the twilight realm of the Feywild and the grim dark of Shadowfell coexist. To walk the border between one or the other is to literally straddle twilight and darkness. The mirror’s realms are separated from our world by an ever thinning membrane and their presences bleed into our world awakening forces, races and possibilities long dormant.
The only stable spots are where humanity’s forefathers established key cities. In these places magic still permeates but crossover to and from the Mirror is all but impossible. Here is where Humanity can consolidate it’s political, military and arcane power and it is through these bases that they have been able to maintain their hold on a changing world.
There is a primer on the Feywild and Shadowfell in PHB300 and DMG49-52. The only difference is I am combining them into a single patchwork dimension. As players it is not necessary for you to dive deep into this, the full extent of the Mirror and it’s influence in the world is only suspected by the deepest magical scholars. Suffice to know that, where Shadowfell holds sway the magic bleed into our world is dark and sinister, in areas dominated by the Feywild the Mirror's influence will be more unpredictable and chaotic.
TRAVEL THROUGH AND IN THE MIRROR
Geographically, it is a 1:1 mirror to our own (a mile walked in an elven wood will be a mile walked in Essex). Portals exist (and can be created) but stable portals are rare. While it would seem a huge advantage to go through a portal in Paris and reappear in Vienna, time in the Feywild is unpredictable and prolonged exposure to the lands of Shadowfell is not good for the soul.
For thousands of years it has been distant enough that magic was the purview of the mad or the fanatic, working their lives for a brief audience with a distant entity or a fleeting miracle. That is no longer the case. 500 years ago the rituals started working more and more. Strange smells were reported near bridges where children had disappeared. Stories of a chicken-legged house became more commonplace in Russia and silors reported seeing strange islands where none existed before, their surface covered by cities with impossible architecture. For centuries the influence and crossover grew and grew until 300 years ago the first colleges of magic were established and large swaths of southern Britain became marked by Druidic circles.
Today the enlightened know the mirror exists and it’s power can be harnessed by those with the talent and the drive. The ignorant know this as well, though on a more instinctual way, keeping their travels close to established routed and pounding nails of cold-forged over their doorways and windows.
TECHNOLOGY and OTHER RACES
All technology from the Victorian age exists including black powder weapons, steam power etc. it is a time of huge change, for instance the train exists (see below) but is not in every country but in 40 years it will be universal. Magic mixes with technology and the influence of Dwarves and Elves has lead to great advances in metallurgy and crafting while Gnomish conclaves have expanded the ideas of clockwork by decades and Hobbit villages have changed many of the preconceived notions of fashion vs comfort.
Thus far the lack of mass production has kept these advances to regional advances or small pockets of the wealthy or influential.