"A land of Magick steeped in legend, thousands of years old. A land where men, mer (Elves), and mar (Dwarves) had coexisted peacefully for centuries until the coming of Steam. Gilbert Bates, a human, destroyed this peace when he brought steam from the mines of the Mar to the cities of man.
The Mar, as the dwarves of Arcanum are known, had known of the power of steam for five centuries before Mr Bates happened to learn its secrets. Though the mar could have used this technology for short term wealth and gains they chose not to, for as it is with mer and mar, the elder races, their longevity allowed them to see that the use of steam technology would have many profound effects on the world around them; for this reason they chose to hide its secrets from the younger races.
This secret which had been kept so well for half a millennium was eventually betrayed by a human whom the Mar had taken in and raised as one of their own. Gilbert Bates had been found as a baby by Stennar Rock Cutter, a compassionate mar who raised him as his own and taught him the ways of his people, who also revealed to him the secret of steam.
Though Bates had been treated fairly well by the mar, he never felt as though he truly belonged. The cramped caverns of his childhood soon gave way to thoughts of other humans and their cities. Though it broke his heart to do so Stennar allowed him to leave and find a place among his own race and Bates soon left, on the condition that he never reveal the secrets of the mar to anyone.
Young Mr Bates set out from the mines of the Mar ready to make his mark on Arcanum. But as so often happens with the foolhardiness that comes with youth, Gilbert forgot the promise he made to his father. Bates was tempted by the potential wealth and fame he, as the “inventor” of steam technology would have and sold its secrets to the highest bidders.
As a result of this betrayal Stennar became an outcast among his people, despised for having revealed their secrets to an outsider. Stennar died alone, because he refused to disown the child who he loved as his own. Gilbert Bates only heard of his father’s death years later and has been seeking forgiveness ever since from the father he hurt so much.
During the years after Mr Bates’ selling steam to the elite of the United Kingdoms of Arcanum, they have become the new technocratic rulers of their newly industrial societies. The once picturesque landscapes of Arcanum have become marred by the sprawling and smog filled cities of the industrialists. While this new technology has created much wealth for the technocratic and industrial elite, the poor have become poorer. Grinding poverty has filled cities with unwashed masses of the poor which congregate in the sprawling slums outside the warehouses and factories of the elite.
This is the world of Arcanum, a land in which with a little courage and a good helping of luck will provide the intrepid with many opportunities. Arcanum is ripe for adventure."
I have had to change the names of the races because of some potential copyright issues, but hopefully readers will like the names I have chosen. I personally did not like the idea at first but I have come around to the idea in that it adds unique role-playing opportunity for PCs. Elves are not elves but are the Mer a proud and ancient race.... Anyway your feedback is appreciated.