Forgotten Realms: Empire of Ashes
The Empire’s sweeping conquest has altered the face of Faerûn … although the names and locations remain the same, the scars of war and the yoke of occupation disfigure the land.
Least obviously but perhaps most importantly, the Netherese have somehow cut off the ability of the Gods of Faerun to manifest or interfere directly in the material world; although clerics and holy warriors can still use their divine powers and spells, they can’t commune directly with their patrons, nor call upon them for divine intervention. In the lands of the Empire, even their spells and powers begin to fail them, much as the wizard’s magic is damped there; and in the unholy lands of the Prelacy, those who serve holy or druidic deities suffer diminished abilities.
Sealed Gates and Portals
Similarly, most of Faerun’s portals have stopped working, as well as Gate magics to allow travel to other worlds and realities. Short-range teleportation is still possible, outside of Imperial lands … but any attempt to teleport into, out of, or within the Empire’s sphere of influence invariably results in the traveler never arriving at his destination, or even being heard from again.
The Empire’s (massively successful) opening strategy was to surge from the desert of Anauroch in full force, and rapidly crush all resistance in the North with surprise and sheer force, before turning south and sweeping down the Sword Coast – firmly establishing a single eastward front, and cutting off the vital trade (and supply) routes of the West.
The Legions’ first sweeping march crashed over the towns and cities of the North and down the Sword Coast, turned inland at Baldur’s Gate, casting aside the forces and defenses with terrifying ease. Any who resisted – and particularly military commanders, mages, priests, and elves – were destroyed, often in gruesome public executions. As the first offensive drew to completion, and the war fronts moved with the Empire’s seemingly unstoppable expansion, provincial governors took over each city, permanent garrisons were established, and life settled into vassalage and subjugation.
The second key to the Empire’s first devastating offensive was their alliance with the Cult of Orcus, ensuring that the lands of the South would be too busy with their own problems to come to the aid of the city-states of the Sword Coast. Agents of the Circle of Bones throughout the South ritually prepared their nigh-indestructible Rune-Wights, using the corpses from years of religious wars between Amn and Calimshan. When the cadaverous hordes awoke and eternal night descended, the already war-weary crusaders fell to attacks from within their own cities and graveyards.