Thar Shaddin is a play by post collaborative fiction forum with a heavy emphasis on quality writing. It has been active for over a decade, having passed its 10th anniversary in July 2015. No dice are used, combat is uncommon compared to other websites, and the story has a strong focus on the day to day life of player characters: grand adventures are often secondary to personal conflict.
There is a great appreciation for Grey-and-Gray Morality, with all characters required to carry both positive and negative traits. Conflict ideally results out of in-character disagreements and is not divided along lines of good or evil.
The setting is a bleak world in which ancient cultures across Earth discovered magic. Unaware of its corrupting influence, they dramatically changed the earths geography, waged war, and created new species such as elves, dwarves, and gnomes. The end result of the war was catastrophic. Even in the present two thousand years later, empires are influenced by its results. Overall, the focus is on a region called Thar Shaddin, where magic is outlawed by the totalitarian government of the city of Marn. Its location in a barren, monstrous plain between two massive, ancient empires has forced a defensive mindset upon the regime and populace alike.
Recently, other areas of the setting have received considerable expansion, opening the setting up for a wider range of experiences. Regardless of the region, writing is expected to be given considerable thought. The members and moderators keep a tight leash on the setting, with all members expected to undergo an in-depth character application process. Those willing to work with the forum to make their character seamlessly fit the setting will discover a dedicated community with exceptionally high standards of literacy and commitment.
The forum can be found here.
Thar Shaddin contains examples of:
- Alternate History: Magic was discovered by Egyptians early in human history, leading to a great deal of change.
- Another Dimension: The Astral Plane, which doubles as the source of magic.
- Badass Army: The Marn Guard, who have long training hours and higher quality weaponry than even the setting's empires.
- Child by Rape: Most half-trolls are this, though there are exceptions.
- Cursed With Awesome: Subverted by the general attitude towards magic. While magic is regarded as a curse and it does let you perform incredible feats, note is made of the fact that most people don't have any need to shoot fireballs, making their awesome talents more of a hazard than advantage.
- Dark Fantasy: The setting can be fairly bleak.
- Deity of Human Origin: Almost all of the Changers have a religion dedicated to them.
- Divine Conflict: The Changer's War was waged between mages who would eventually be declared gods. Whether they were actually divine or not, they certainly had enough power to count.
- Drunk on the Dark Side: One possible fate for mages, though the insanity magic can create isn't always violent megalomania.
- Dysfunction Junction: One of the core ideals of the forum. The forum's favorite threads tend to be the ones that bring out each character's inner demons.
- Eldritch Location: The Astral Plane, the source of all magic. Without the protection of something native, mortals might struggle to figure out how to even move in its AlienGeometry.
- Evil Empire: This is how Marn sees the empires, but the truth is more grey.
- Fantastic Drug: Most are magically created. Two examples would be Copiax, a drug which causes users to spontaneously gain loosely controlled casting ability, and Breath of Teonidus, which does the opposite by shutting down the parts of the brain responsible for magic.
- Fantastic Racism: Wouldn't be Low Fantasy without it. The elves of Darleone lead the charge on this front, refusing to so much as allow humans into their nation.
- Fantastic Rank System: Marn is divided, in order of general power, into Decendants, Synevives, Titres, and foreigners who don't get any specific rank.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Due to its status as an Alternate History, this was inevitable. Eyropa is obviously Europe (though with parts of Africa and the Middle East), and Tian Xia is China, for example.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Notably Averted. The most advanced weapons of the setting, such as early revolvers, tend to be gnome created and therefore have strange drawbacks, but primitive firearms built by humans are present as well.
- Fictional Currency: All cultures across the world use bishani. A bishan looks like a small green coin, and magical forgeries are avoided because each coin has a magical "signature."
- Great Offscreen War: The ancient history variant is seen in the Changer's War, when massively powerful mages waged war with each other and devastated the entire world. They permanently altered entire continents.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Half elves and half-trolls are common, but even half-dwarves and gnomes have appeared.
- Heinz Hybrid: Some player characters have a pretty expansive family tree
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Subverted. Mention is made of the fact that battlemages are not required to wear helmets, but it is used to show their hypocrisy and ability to defy Marn's own rules rather than heroism.
- Hidden Depths: Strongly encouraged. If necessary, users are allowed to send messages to moderaters and avoid putting certain details into their application.
- Immortality: A few characters have some flavors of this, but it is generally discouraged. Even those that do have it tend to possess some serious drawbacks.
- Interspecies Romance: Half elves are fairly common, as are other hybrids, as a result of these pairings.
- Insane Equals Violent: Averted for mages. While magic does have a tendency to drive wizards insane, it does not always drive them to violence.
- Low Fantasy: Though magic tends to be at least somewhat common, all the other aspects are present. Humans are the dominant species, the focus is primarily on personal struggles instead of grand adventures, and politics are generally the source of large scale conflict instead of an ancient evil.
- Made of Explodium: A common drawback to gnome equipment.
- Mad Scientist: Gnomes have a semi-magical ability to create bizarre inventions, often manifesting along this line.
- Magic Knight: The battlemages, Marn's Secret Police, have a tendency towards this. Individual battlemages may differ in approach.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Increasingly Averted as time passes, with other areas receiving more and more expansion.
- Medieval Stasis: To some extent. Justified by magic leaving technology a slower alternative, as well as causing most people to regard the notion of a rational universe as silly. The influence of gnomes complicates matters.
- Might Makes Right: Enforced as a matter of policy among the battlemages.
- Mutant Draft Board: If Marn doesn't execute or register a captured mage, they might get drafted into the battlemages.
- The Necrocracy: Noituratan, an underwater city filled with Aztecan fish zombie missionaries.
- Non-Human Undead: The Noitu are arguably this, though most started as human before being mutated into marine life. The Worm Basilisks are definitely this.
- No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: Inverted. Even followers of the Puradyne religion, which teaches that all Magic Is Evil, acknowledge that their god was a powerful mage. Most religions in the setting are implied to think likewise.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: Collectively called shifters, they can be any species of animal. All share a weakness to silver.
- Physical God: The Changers were this, able to reshape continents and throw the Earth's orbit out of line.
- Police State: Marn certainly is one. Showing disrespect to a guard is technically punishable by a beating, though this is rarely put into practice.
- Pragmatic Villainy: While "villainy" may not apply, Marn has a strong tendency towards this. For example, there are no public executions.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The government may be oppressive, but the rebellion sells slaves and drugs to fund their platform of mage freedom.
- Schizo Tech: Due to the influence of gnomes and magic, technology has slowed in general while a few strange, unique inventions pop up every now and then. Wealthy areas of Marn even have electricity!
- Screw You, Elves!: The setting is quick to stress that elves are not superior to humans, despite what the elves of Darleone would have you believe. Their only real advantages are longer lives and a slightly higher chance of developing mages.
- Secret Police: The battlemages in Marn, a force of powerful mages sent to stop other mages, tend to act like this.
- Super Registration Act: Marn again.
- The Time of Myths: Two thousand years ago during the Changer's War, the Great Seal which separated the Astral Plane from the mortal world did not yet exist, giving mages considerably more power and allowing all manner of creature to freely roam earth.
- The Wild Hunt: Faries will occasionally decide to drag mortals into the astral plane and hunt them through a twisted facsimile of a forest. It's for sport, generally.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Mages are often the unfortunate victims of this.
- Wuxia: The primary influence on recent developments in Tian Xia