The great Empires have perished. They may rise again, but not for hundreds of years. What remains is fragmented city states and well protected villages, points of light in an all too encroaching and wild darkness.
The heroes are the stewards of this world, tasked with watching over it in these dark times, protecting those few pinpricks of civilization, barricading against the darkness, and in some cases, spreading hope and civilization across the land.
The land itself is filled with magical and fantastical locations, isolated spots of beatific wonder or stunning horror. Most locations are ancient, powerful and sometimes nearly forgotten, but others are vibrant and full of life, a sign that the world hasn’t passed on into obscurity just yet.
Communication and travel across cities, towns, and villages is primitive and backwards. A few well traveled trade roads do exist, though they are not well maintained and are very dangerous to travel alone, so merchants usually travel in well protected caravans once every few months. Magical methods of communication and travel do exist, though they are closely guarded by those who control them and expensive to obtain.
The Old Continent is the principle population center of the world for free peoples, and most heroic and early paragon tier adventures probably take place here. Other continents do exist and hold their fair share of interesting locales, settlements, and adventures, but they are exotic often dangerous locations and most people don’t know much about them.