You are a native of a port city called Ptolus, or you have recently arrived there. Native or not, you know a few things about this city—it is not without a reputation, to say the least. To call Ptolus a dynamic place with a strange and varied identity is to understate the situation greatly. Only now are explorers truly discovering how ancient the city really is and unearthing details of its varied history. Ptolus is where that strange breed that calls itself “adventurers” congregates. It’s a place where people are as concerned with what lies below the ground as they are with what’s above. This is like no place else in the world.

Ptolus lies in the world of Praemal within the bounds of a very old Empire unsure of whether or not it has toppled. Three different emperors claim the throne, and portions of the once great realm cleave off like icy shards from a melting glacier. This decaying society looks upon previous centuries and sees grander, more civilized, and certainly better days. Progress seems on the decline—skills and lore that people possessed just a few hundred years ago are lost now.

But this is not a time to lose hope altogether. This civilization, older than our own real-world cultures, is more sophisticated than our own in some ways, but less so in others. A myriad of races and peoples have come and gone, creating an intricate (and sometimes confusing) amalgam. Good struggles against evil, and law against chaos. But the shadows only threaten the light— they do not yet consume it.

Not so long ago, the first men and women who would one day be called “delvers” returned from exploring the catacombs below the city of Ptolus laden with gold and magical treasures. Today, hundreds of new would-be delvers pour into the city each month, hoping to strike it rich like others before them. Most never crawl up from the realms below, but adventurers keep arriving with dreams of gold and fame. Those who do emerge back into the light bring with them tales of surprisingly vast reaches of natural caverns and ancient hewn passages, perhaps dating back to the dark days when this area lay in the thrall of the terrible Skull-King, Ghul, and the region was pocked with winding warrens and subterranean chambers created by his dark armies. They also tell of the horrors that dwell outside the life-giving reaches of the sun: unknown monsters and devious demon-minded things with a cunning unknown to human-, elf-, or dwarfkind. In the city, entire industries have evolved quickly to service the needs of these adventurers. In the shadow of an unnaturally tall, ancient spire with a very dark past, a whole new form of economics, politics, and social structure struggles to be born.

Creatures and individuals (good, evil, and otherwise) that normally remain in the shadows are drawn to this large gathering of adventurers and magic. The needs of the delvers prompt renewed devotion to magic, science, and religion. As the Empire of Tarsis dies, Ptolus—for years a backwater town on the edge of civilization—is quickly becoming the center of something much larger than itself. Omens and prophecies of children born with strange birthmarks surface in the city with increasing frequency. No one yet knows exactly what, but something is happening in Ptolus. Something new stirs in this city . . . and that something is very, very old.