The Shattered Sea
Sages speak of a time thousands of years in the past when land was not covered with water, when huge land mammals preyed on smaller ones, when the shaky dominion of sentient beings over the land tightened… until it was suddenly relinquished altogether. What happened? No one remembers, but many cultures believe that a group of gods who held back the waters from the land decided to let go. And while many believe that the gods may have done so because of some conflict of their own or because they were simply malevolent, most human cultures believe that the cataclysm was brought on to punish Aoroa for its irreverence, its cruelty, and its lack of devotion. The conflict between these two beliefs – between those who think that the Shattering was intentional and perhaps even, and those who are altogether indifferent or angry at the gods, blaming them for the evils that have befallen all sentients since the Shattering – is what separates much of humanity from itself.
Humans on Aoroa, while genetically diverse and varying widely in appearance, fall into two groups: the Wik and and the Ounish. The Wik are scattered across the islands, though they tend to prefer temperate areas over the hot equatorial regions and, for reasons unknown, make their homes for the most part towards the eastern quadrants. The Ounish, by contrast, bisect the two largest swaths of Wik territory, preferring the warmer middle regions toward the East. Their power is concentrated in one island chain known as the Tromsoes.
The Wik are a loose confederation of unaffiliated human communities located to the north and south of the Ounish islands. They do not consider the Ounish to be enemies, but neither do they go out of their way to socialize with them. Wiks tend to be olive to chocolate-skinned, while Ounish have skin of white to light-brown. About 10% of Wiks have pointed ears, a legacy of a genetic anomaly going back to time unremembered. The average lifespan of a human who does not die from violence or disease is 120-150 years.
In D&D terms, both Wik and Oun have the advantages listed as core in edition 3.5: one free feat and two skill points per level to spend as they choose, reflecting humans’ adaptability to their surroundings. They have no favored class.
The difference between Ounish and Wik culture comes down to a fundamental and radical difference in philosophy. The Ounish are born colonists and are militarily active, while Wiks are disorganized and do not recognize themselves as a single sociopolitical entity. (Ounish and the Wik pidgeon tongue are related but not wholly mutually intelligible.) Ounish are practiced spellcasters; the Tromsoes contain an entire island devoted to training mages in powerful water and weather magic. In contrast, Wik magic tends to be of the hedge wizard sort, and is used to solve minor domestic problems like broken pottery or a lack of chert. Wiks often see Ouns as physically weak, and a common Wik idiom calls a helpless child “useless as an axe to an Ounwoman.”