“In the quiet, isolated villages of Mythoria there lies a pact between the peoples of the villages and the creatures who reside in the surrounding woods: the villagers do not enter the woods, and the creatures never enter the village.”
I know, it’s a blatant rip-off of “The Village”, but it’s a good starting point. At one point many, many hundreds of years ago the villages were completely cut off from each other. Anyone that left the safety of the village disappeared forever, but the creatures of the wilds never came into the villages. A magical barrier prevented anything from surviving for more than a few moments once passing through it. Many an individual that dared to tempt fate and step too close (4 squares) to the barrier would find out that a few moments was all that was needed for a creature to step through and rip their life away. The creature always died shortly after, becoming twisted, mutated and burned. Unrecognizable from what it might have been just moments before
Each village was ringed by a ring of rune covered stones spaced roughly 50 squares (250ft) apart and encircling the village at a distance of roughly 2 miles. Within 2 squares (10ft) of the rune stones “circle” nothing grows and is often referred to as the rune-path. Even with the rune-stone boundary fading, this area doesn’t seem to grow any vegetation. It would take about a half days travel to complete the circuit of the rune-path for a human sized individual.
This gives each region an area of roughly 12.5 sq miles in which to sustain itself. With roughly 1000-2000 people living within a village this makes almost all land with the area “settled” with roads, crops and pastureland in to keep up with demand. Overpopulation being a very serious concern, how the various villages controlled their populations varied from arranged marriages and conception laws to “sacrificing” of the old/infirm to the creatures. Many villages that couldn’t morally enact such laws suffered starvation and anarchy as their society degenerated.
Many centuries ago the barrier started to become fainter and fainter. For the long lived races like the elves and eladrin this seems like a recent occurrence while to the short lived humans they can scarcely remember the time before the failing of the barrier.
As the barriers failed, creatures could venture farther into the protected areas before falling dead. Those people that left the villages still disappeared forever. As the creatures were able to range further and further into the villages the creation of voluntary militias began. The long lived races suffered the most as with their extremely long lifespan their conception rates couldn’t keep up with the increasing rate of deaths.
Some villages researched the skills of arms, while others delved into the source of the barrier and discovered magic and the powers of the gods. Eventually the barriers failed altogether and only the villages that had been vigilant survived. All that remains of those that failed are overgrown ruins and overgrown fields. The barrier was also a kind of blessing to the villages as now they could travel and find resources previously denied to their area.
The villages also discovered both allies and enemies in races/people that they had never known existed before. Some of the fiercest bloody battles took place between the dragonborn and the tieflings. The tieflings might well have been wiped out except for the intervention of the humans to mediate their problems in light of the danger presented by the “creatures”.
Of the several dozen suspected villages all that remains in the known world are 6 villages. Dunihk once a village only of the dragonborn, Ishyr the lands of the Eladrin, Nythoria the village of the humans and elves (and half elves), Sherna a village of the halfling and humans, Toroth which is comprised mainly of tieflings and a few humans and Tellenore consisting of all humans. (You will notice that there are no known dwarves or dwarven settlement, so NO dwarves.) The closest of the villages are roughly 60 miles through heavy forest (3-4 days travel) from each other with the entire collection of villages being spread out over near 400 square miles.
Every year another village is never heard from again. The voluntary armed forces are not enough to step the tide. So some in the villages have started to implement mandatory militia duty in order to survive. Many are even begining to talk of forcing everyone to consolidate into just one large walled town. That is an undertaking of monumental proportions which will need a much better consolidated leadership that is currently in power.
Your group is one of the more newly formed guard patrols You were each chosen for your particular skills to work together with 4 others. The militias are so new that there are several different command structures and constant confusion about exact orders. The humans’, having the highest population are starting to come to the top of the pile though. One thing is for sure though….the creatures must be stopped!