How it All Began
A Preface by Zeta Kai
In September of 2008, I started a silly little mini-project out of boredom called Vote Up a Monster, where people could vote on certain aspects of a monster & I’d craft a creature based on the results. It was easy & fun, so I did another one. And then another, & another, & so forth. Then it became a minor meme, with other people doing variations on it (Vote Up a Villain, Vote Up a Class, etc.).
Then I made a huge mistake. I called dibs on Vote Up a Campaign Setting. I wasn’t serious, at first, but the idea sat there in my mind, calling to me like a siren. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so in November of 2008, I commissioned my now-friends Afroakuma & Shadow_Elf to help me launch the VUACS project. The polls were rather popular, ran for a while, & the results were distilled into a set of guidelines for the Build Team (as we came to be known) to work from.
Ever since then, the Build Team has been working to bring this project to fruition. We’ve been hosting a series of discussion threads to chat with our ever-patient audience about our progress & what we’ve created behind the scenes. While these threads have run their course, we’ve been working every day to make a full-fleshed out, fully realized, complex campaign setting, one that is full of mystery, magic, & adventure. We want this to be a setting in which 1,001 stories can be told, & 1,001 discoveries can be made.
So now, our journey is complete, but yours is just beginning. Come, see what created. Travel the lands of the Kamala with us. Explore the unknown. See its wonders. Face its dangers. And, above all, tell stories of your own. Welcome to the Hourglass of Zihaja
, a place where 1,001 tales await.
Introduction: Advice from a Fellow Traveler
Beware, wayfarer, for this is a land of magic, mystery, & the many perils that await those who dabble with either. It is said that the wise will walk in the footsteps of those who tread before, for those who wander far are often never seen again. The desert spreads beyond the horizon in all directions, & dangers lurk behind every dune. But the oases are not much safer, so the only sure path is the one known to even the smallest child: one foot in front of the other. In a place where the sands burn in the day & the winds freeze in the night, the road of twilight is the only one that offers the chance of a safe journey.
You may dismiss me as a madman, but know this: what is known is nothing compared to what is not known. What does one truly know about this world? What can be relied upon, when need is great & aid is far away? You travel as you must, on business that is your own, but can you trust in your destination? Your means of transport? Your chosen path? Your own feet? There are many peoples in this world, with just as many beliefs & practices, & while some would do you harm or force you to stray from your goal, even the most bloodthirsty man cannot compare to the wrathful genie, the fearsome dragon, or the hateful ghul. We all have a destiny to fulfill, & you should pray that your fate is not to fall prey to some hidden horror.
My biggest fear, you ask? What keeps me awake in the deep of night, peering over covers & flinching at the tiniest of noises? I’d say that mages trouble me the most, truth be told. They wield forces that they cannot fully understand, & treat with powers that are far beyond them. Once, long ago, a great & mighty realm dared to use the Secret Art for their own purposes, harnessing it to produce wonders & riches unheard of today. They paid the price for their arrogance, & we are still paying their debts to this day, suffering in their stead for their misdeeds. Any who would still practice magic in light of that are either foolish or selfish, & deserve what comes to them regardless.
Speaking of foolishness, about a year ago I was out in the desert by myself. Nevermind what I was doing out there; I was just there, by myself, & that’s all. Well anyway, I was out there in the brutal sunlight with nothing but an empty water sack & a dead camel, & then I saw the Other Side. The other side of what, you ask? Why, the other side of everything! I’m talking about Najmah! The realm of night! The land of the dead! The cradle of dreams! It’s real, & I’ve seen it with my waking eyes.
So, there I was, just me & the endless sands, & all of a sudden, a mist of some sort comes rolling down a dune towards me. Before I knew anything, it surrounded me, the sky went dark, & I wasn’t in the desert anymore. I was in a field of strange grass, under a starry sky. The breeze was cool, & I could hear the ocean near me. I’d thought that I must have died, & I was waiting for a hafaza to carry me away to Judgment. Just then, the mist cleared, & I could see all around me. Oh, the sights, they were more than I could ever describe with mere words…
…What I talking about? Oh, yes. Well anyway, I must have passed out from the glory of it all, because the next thing that I knew, I was lying in the streets of some city that I’d never been to before. They said that I had been raving about a masked man with an hourglass or some such nonsense. To this day I have little memory of where I had been or what I saw, but I know that it happened. It was real. It had to be…
…Well anyway, I’ve been rambling on long enough, I suppose. I’d best leave you be so that you can enjoy the journey. It’s a beautiful world out there, despite the many hazards. Enjoy the ride, keep close to the cities & the oases, & don’t take advice from strangers. Remember the world can’t get you if you get it first!
-The last known words of Ras
Ghabi, before his disappearance