The world you grew up in was pretty good when you can bear to think back on it. Though you didn’t realize it then, those were easier times. Ersa was a fairly dull place in those days. There was always plenty of food to go around, and there were many more people around. Dwarves lived in their underground kingdoms, following rich veins of metal ore in the mines and turning that ore into finely crafted metal goods. Cities, towns and villages gave fealty to local lords in return for their protection in time of need, though in the places where you lived, those times were beyond memory. People traveled the roads and lived outside of settlements, in the countryside, without fear. There were huge cities, where crowds of people lived and the buildings were packed in so tight you couldn’t even walk between them in some places. And there was no such thing as magic in those days. That was before the Rain of Stars.
One normal afternoon, the sky darkened as if there was going to be a rainstorm, but instead of raining, it just continued to get darker and darker until the world was as dark as the inside of a cave. Eventually, the stars came into view overhead, as if a cloud had passed and the sky had cleared. The people were afraid, as the stars moved around the sky in crazy patterns. Even without the reassuring light and presence of the moon (for the moon regularly traveled the sky every night, driving back the darkness), the stars provided a dim light, enough to glimpse all manner of horrors taking place. The earth ran like hot candle wax as the world around them fluctuated wildly. One moment a towering tree stood in a spot, the next minute it turned into a metal spire, the next it became a freakish, gigantic creature with slavering jaws. Areas of land turned from earth and stone to flesh, with giant mouths slobbering and hungering, and giant eyes rolling in lidless sockets. Mountains collapsed, sinkholes swallowed buildings and even towns. Whole forests transformed to stone or crystal.
The powers unleashed during this storm warped reality in ways those witnessing it couldn’t even comprehend. Trees pulled up their roots and started wandering. Even worse, it also warped some of those witnesses. The lucky ones were twisted together with something living and were changed. Those twisted with unliving things quickly died as their systems tried to cope with the unfortunate pairings. More were simply killed or seriously injured during the resulting devestation. Much of the population was decimated in that time.
Near the end of the storm the stars stopped moving, and started falling from the sky. Some fell to the ground, burning the world where they landed and some went out before making it to the ground. In the end, they all were snuffed out, plunging the world back into darkness. Eventually (and none are sure how much time they passed in the darkness) the sun rose, but it rose on a changed land. The landscape was vastly different than before. Cities and towns could as easily be unscathed as they could be gone entirely, as if they had never existed. Even some of the survivors were different. Many of those who were changed by the storm went mad, lashing out and wreaking havoc all around them. The sane survivors quickly realized they would need to band together for protection in this bizarre new world.
You were lucky to survive, and took shelter in the remains of a town named Artin. Around 60 survivors (most born and raised in the area, a few travelers) live in the remains of the town, which once housed upwards of 600 inhabitants. You are dependent on each other for protection and survival. Many of the structures in Artin were damaged during the Rain of Stars, when great spires of stone thrust up through the ground of the town. Fortunately, the section of town around The Friar’s Bear Trap (an inn that survived) was largely intact and people gathered there. A few days after the Rain of Stars, as it has come to be called, the weather turned cold and the snows started, much too early. You and your companions patched up the buildings that were largely intact and moved in to shelter for the winter. On rare nights you can see multicolor lightning over the hills to the north and you have a deep feeling that this world will never be the same.