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    The Vestiges of Magic Setting

    Table of Contents


    Why does fantasy have to be stuck in the middle ages? And what happens to an enchanted world when most of the magic goes away? 

    In the ‘Vestiges of Magic’ urban fantasy setting, it’s been two thousand years since the Light overthrew the forces of Darkness. Now, there’s a modern world of cars, skyscrapers and officers. Elves run fashion magazines. Orcs go to office jobs, and everyone thinks that the age of wizards and dragons is folklore.

    It’s a perfectly ordinary place—on the surface. But magic hasn’t gone away—it’s merely hiding in the cracks.

    If you like your urban fantasy dark and mysterious, with kick-butt action and a touch of noir, then this is definitely for you.

    What was the world like during the high fantasy age?

    I’ve kept the past mysterious and a bit tropey, but here are some facts.

    • In this setting, magic is based on relationships. You want to summon a demon? Make a deal with one, or find out its true name and bind it. You want to ride a dragon? You get the dragon to serve you. You could be a dark wizard and bind entities against their will, using their true names or secrets against them. Or you could make alliances based on an exchange of favors, performing deadly deals or quests to seal a bargain. In this world, a wizard was either a slaver, a blackmailer, a diplomat, an information broker, or a mix of all the above.
    • Zhiest (the world) was a nexus between other dimensions, awash in tides of interdimensional energies. Many beings visited to trade, or even had diplomatic relations with the local inhabitants. Beings like dragons and fae could exist on Zheist as long as they could draw on power from their native realms. Otherwise, they couldn’t survive.
    • A great empire of wizards ruled a vast, world-spanning empire.
    • There was a form of intrinsic magic, based around nature and relationships with elemental spirits but this wasn’t as powerful as the multidimensional stuff.

    How did the Age of Magic end?

    Remember that world-spanning empire? The last to rule it was the Dark Emperor. Two thousand years ago, the forces of the Light and Dark met in an ultimate battle on the Plains of Reladon. The Dark Emperor sought to drain the world’s lifeforce to become a god. The heroes had to stop him, and they ran out of choices.

    They cast a last, desperate spell, the Rending, that severed the world’s connection with other dimensions.

    Good news—it stopped the Dark Emperor’s ascension.

    Bad news—the world nearly died in a post-magical apocalypse. Creatures that couldn’t live without magic remained sealed in their home dimensions, or died. Earthquakes shattered continents, cities fell and civilizations collapsed.

    The remaining divine entities did what they could, and patched things together behind the scenes. The survivors adjusted, embracing laws of technology and science to create a deterministic universe. Which leads us to….

    A contemporary world looks like modern-day Earth?

    Mostly! There are cars and skyscrapers and coffee shops. Yet it’s clearly a different world, not-Earth. History might talk about battles against elven kingdoms, and ogre wrestling is a popular sport.

    Most people don’t remember the Age of Magic as being real. It’s folklore and legends; bedtime stories that never happened. But the magic is there, hiding in the corners of the world. And once you step into the place, you become part of a shadowy, occult environment and can’t find your way back…

    How does magic work in the new age?

    Remember those things that got banished and sealed away in their home dimensions? They’re still there. Waiting, trapped, watching. And they still have the magic.

    To get it, you need to make a pact with them. Some of them remember being enslaved during the Age of Magic, and will gleefully toy with desperate mortals hungry for power. Others don’t mind making practical arrangements. After all, they’re stuck in their home dimension, and having an agent is the only way they can influence the outside world.

    • Why do people use magic? To do things they can’t do via ordinary mortal means. Because it requires making a pact, it’s all for personal gain or desperation. Maybe to help with revenge, or to return after death to deal with your unfinished business.
    • How does it work? Magic is a flow of energy from another dimension. A flow of extra-dimensional energy overwrites the localized reality, enabling supernatural effects when present. For example, to summon a zombie, you’ll need a source of spectral energy from the Underworld, the land of the dead.
    • What does it feel like to use? Each realm has a distinct flavor of energy. Infernal magic is painful, like barbwire running through your guts. Death magic is sad and regretful, like holding a party that no one shows up to.
    • Who can use it? The Rending abruptly sealed all portals to other dimensions. Demons, fae, nature spirits, angels are trapped in their home realms and have limited agency to influence the mortal world. However, if you make a pact with one, you gain their vestige—a shard of their soul—and this enables you to channel supernatural energy into the mortal world. This changes you—you’re not a normal mortal anymore. You’re now half an extradimensional entity. Someone who accepts a demon’s vestige becomes a cambion; another who makes a pact with a fae becomes a changeling.
    • Where does the magic fit into the world? It’s secret and hidden. You have to figure out that magic exists, who you want to make a pact with, and hopefully find a patron whose goals align with yours.

    The overall vibe is if you want magic, you hustle for it, and cut deals with powerful extra-dimensional entities. It’s a grungy, noir occult world. You take on supernatural debt and have to weigh the bargain you’ve made against the power you gain. Sometimes you may not have a choice but to agree.

    What sort of creatures are there?

    • Cambions. The servants of demons; creatures of vengeance, violence, and passion.
    • Changelings. The retainers of the fae; dream merchants, entertainers, and artefact collectors.
    • Nephilim. The agents of the angels, who act as reality support technicians and keepers of boundaries.
    • Preservers. Monster hunters empowered by dead heroes who protect the weak and innocent from supernatural predators.
    • Revenants. The survivors of the ghost realm, who come back from death as necromancers, memory-devourers and psychopomps.
    • Werebeasts. The champions of the nature spirits, who keep the balance between the wilderness and the civilized world.

    Are there still wizards?

    The closest to wizards are the occultists. These are mortals who spurn a vestige, who gain power by scavenging magical artifacts. And yet most of these relics are unstable, and occultist must risk their life and sanity to wield these pitiful scraps of power.

    What next?

    Click here for a description of the published works in the world.