This document is designed to be an introduction to the Talamhlar campaign, and to help facilitate character creation.
Introduction to the World
The game world is called Talamhlar (derived from the Irish talamh [land] and lar [middle], as a hidden reference to the Old Norse Midgard, Old English Middangeard, and of course Tolkien's Middle Earth). It's not uncommon for people to refer to it simply as The World, though this term sometimes refers to Talamhlar as well as its two mirror planes, Faerie (the Feywild) and Umbria (the Shadowfell).
The Town of Helmund
This medium sized city (pop. approximately 8,000) lies 2 miles north of Lake Nevrir in the Brumewold. Helmund was originally founded by Dwarves centuries ago, but is now a racially diverse city. All of the common races are well represented, and all of the uncommon races are present in small numbers as well. Rumor has it that a crossing to Faerie lies nearby, so transient Eladrin and Gnomes are fairly common. If you are a member of a rare race, you may be the only individual of that race in town. If you're a Shifter or a Half-Orc, you are grudgingly tolerated but not made to feel welcome. Travellers stay in a large inn called the Granite House, which was carved from a single block of granite by the cities founders.
The terrain surrounding Helmund is comprised of rolling hills with patches of forest and agricultural land within a prairie matrix. The climate is temperate with 4 distinct seasons. Several local tribes make use of land in the Brumewold, which is largely free of monstrous races. A Quenyar (tribe) of Elves (pop. approx. 300) inhabits the Brumewold year-round, keeping a small amount of livestock but largely hunting and gathering. They are on good terms with the people of Helmund. A band of Halflings make use of the Brumewold's abundant game from late autumn through the winter during most years, occasionally taking refuge within Helmund during severe weather. There is also a wide-ranging nomadic tribe of Humans, Elves, and (not surprisingly) Half Elves that usually show up once a year, though when they appear and how long they stay is generally unpredictable to the people of Helmund.
The pantheon in this campaign is identical to that in the PHB. A variety of minor gods exist, generally ruled by the major gods, but they are not well-known and not often worshipped. Various Celestials (Deva, Angels, etc.) serve the gods (though they rarely answer to minor gods). It's not uncommon for Deva to leave the Astral Sea (the Divine Plane, where the gods and their servants dwell) and strike out independently. In the youngest days of Talamhlar, the Dawn War raged between the Gods and the Primordials. The Gods wished to rule over their creation, which the Primordials sought to destroy (their motives are not known). The war repeatedly scarred The World until the Primal Spirits (see Primal Power) intervened, banishing both the Gods and the Primordials shortly before the end of the War (which the Gods eventually ended up winning, though their stewardship over the World had been revoked). Thus the Gods are worshipped, but their ability to affect Talamhlar is very limited. The Primal Spirits, manifestations of aspects of the World itself born out of the calamity of the Dawn War, are guardians and maintain balance. Some say that their numbers are infinitely numerous, though they keep their affairs hidden from the sight of most mortals and do not accept forms of worship. Individuals that commune with the spirit world (e.g. Primal characters) are viewed as allies rather than servants by even the mightiest of the spirits.
See my post on the overview of races; any unlisted races are not available for Player Characters (PCs). There are no restrictions on classes, including those available only through DnDi (Assassin, Monk, Psion). If you want to make an Artificer, you're responsible for obtaining the Eberron Player's Guide. Characters will start at 1st level, and must be created using standard point buy (22 points) or one of the equivalent arrays (PHB p. 17). Alignment should be unaligned, good, or lawful good. Companion characters (NPC party members) will be present for portions of the campaign.
Most regions of Talamhlar are somewhat low-magic. What this means is that there are no "magic shops" where you can purchase any magic item that you need. Items can be created with the Enchant Magic Item ritual, obviously, and most cities will have a ritual caster capable of doing so (though not necessarily one of high level). It's recommended that at least one party member can cast rituals, because having an NPC do it will cost more than the market price. Magic was more common in the distant past, so magic items are more common in ruins or cities that have existed for a long time.
Though you're encouraged to create whatever type of character you want, I will not compensate for weaknesses in the party with encounter design. For example, if everyone decides to be a striker you will feel the lack of the other roles (in this case, mostly defender). I would also recommend striking a balance between melee and ranged.
Going along with this, I'd like to state the disclaimer that I may occasionally present the party with challenges above their abilities. Don't assume that all fights can be won (especially if the encounter is a result of some other failure or bad decision), and roleplay your characters realistically as people with a sense of self-preservation. Sometimes fleeing may be the best option.
Your Last Memory
I'm putting this out there just so that there's no surprises when the campaign starts, and so you have some idea of what to expect.
The last thing your character remembers is going about his/her normal business. You're alone, and suddenly, you have a strange feeling like you're being watched. As you begin to turn your head to look over your shoulder, everything goes black. Now your head is throbbing--no, your whole body is throbbing--and you wonder what awaits you when you open your eyes...