The hook for the game will actually be identical to that of the original adventure I ran (which actually managed to make it through two encounters and two skill challenges, a pretty incredible level of success for a play-by-post game on Myth-Weavers), though advanced a few hours or even days and not necessarily featuring the same characters. The Tran are, or were, the dominant clan of dwarves in a civilization stretching across a massive continent and spreading slightly into the connected landmass to the south. The vast majority of the dwarven empire is subterranean, with major surface settlements every few hundred miles for commerce with other nations and consideration of those citizens who do not thrive beneath the earth. However, almost all travel within the Tran Empire is conducted through paved and buttressed tunnels underground, patrolled by crack dwarven guards mounted on trained saurian’s (or, even worse for brigands, arcane steel mimicry of the same). There are no highways above ground, and in fact hardly any roads at all. The major Tran cities are all walled, and the farmers who operate directly outside the walls can depend on the efficient protection of the Tran army—thousands of goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears bred and trained to serve their dwarven masters without question. The rest of the Tran surface “territory” is essentially held just like countries use radar and airforces to keep the skies above their land clean of strangers, and for the same reason. Bands of Tran dwarves roam the woods with their orcish troops, killing dangerous monsters and quelling the savage beastmen that infest the woods and fens…but frankly, the dwarves aren’t even trying to be everywhere at once.
Unfortunately for the players, this is a time of great upheaval in the Tran Empire. Specifically, all of the Tran are dead. Somehow, in an undertaking so massive it boggles the mind and eclipsed the preparation of the nation, hordes of beastmen were teleported into the homes and holdings of every Tran dwarf. With the clan eradicated, the other dwarves of substance have been recalled beneath the surface to debate who is best suited to seize the civilization; a debate that is likely to drag on for some time. Once their dwarven masters disappeared, however, the goblinoids seized the cities with a practice and precision that suggests decades of planning for this very eventuality. They have a nice, already-crafted empire they’re loathe to see wasted, and have set about eradicating any foreign elements in their towns while efficiently killing off those dwarves who might remain on the surface to challenge their rule. On the frontiers, entire orc bands had their dwarven handlers snatched from their midst by magic; lacking leadership, they’re quickly working to expand their control and fortify themselves, equally eager to escape the iron gauntlet of dwarven rule.
Other races and cultures exist, of course, and there are some innovations I’m anticipating bringing to the game; but this serves as a brief introduction for what is to come.