Please make OCs for Empyria. I will owe you my life.
Empyria is based on cheesy, over-the-top JRPGs, especially Namco's Tales series. It is optimized for telling stories about plucky young adults with ridiculous hair and even more ridiculous clothes, setting out to explore the world, do acts of heroism, and usually kill god at the end for some reason. For things not covered in this brief guide, just think: would this feel at home in a silly JRPG? If so, congratulations! You've nailed this setting's flavour, and that's the most important thing.
Most important characters in this setting will be humans. You can read more about them on the humans page, but tl;dr: human appearances are heavily influenced by the background mana field, so what a human looks like depends almost entirely on where they're born.
The hard requirements for humans in Empyria are:
- Bipedal body plan with an upright spine.
- Two arms and two legs. Additional small protrusions like fins, antennae, or insect wings are ok, but should not be as large as the main four limbs or articulated with bones and joints.
- One head at the top of the body, large enough to fit a human brain. All major sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc) should be on the head.
- One tail, but it can be vestigial like with real life humans.
- Internal anatomy similar to all other humans - e.g. even if your human has insect-like features, they'll still be a warm-blooded mammal with a humanlike internal skeleton and organs.
Other than that, you can basically go nuts! Play with fur, scales, colour, proportions, number of eyes, etc. Make a furry if you want. Those count as humans in this world.
Note that humans are still supposed to be mostly plausible biological creatures, so their physical features will affect their capabilities. If a place produces humans that have trouble performing everyday tasks (humans with no eyes, restrictive armour plating, etc) people probably wouldn't settle there in the first place. That's not to say you can't do that, though! You'd just have to come up with a good excuse for why their parents made that decision.
Humans can have minor biological abilities beyond real life baseline humans, but they have to be justified with a visible physical feature - preferably one that exists on a real life animal. You can have heat-sensing pits, venomous spurs, superhuman bite strength, etc. Major abilities that would require drastic changes to a humanoid body plan (e.g. flight) wouldn't be possible.
Humans can do a limited form of magic called spellcasting. This ability is biological as well, controlled by a series of glands and organs in the brain and torso; barring rare genetic conditions or irreversible physical trauma to these organs, anyone can cast spells. Most people have a spell or two memorized for mundane things like charging your phone or heating water, but certified mages have a much bigger arsenal.
First Age artifacts, created before most magitech knowledge was lost, can do basically anything. These are occasionally unearthed from ruins scattered all throughout the land. However, if your character has one, that implies they're kind of a shady character who has refused to turn their find over to a mage academy for safe storage and study. If the artifact is particularly overpowered, they might get people sent after them to neutralize it.
Humans born outside the safe cities are cursed, which has implications for both their appearance and abilities.
- At least one random chunk of their body is replaced with monster flesh. These chunks don't necessarily match up with the body part they replaced - e.g. a cursed human might have a wing, a mouth, or just a glob of meat instead of an arm.
- All the monster parts on a single cursed person are the same color, and have a distinctive unpleasant veiny/wrinkled texture. There's always a clear divide between cursed flesh and untouched flesh; it doesn't fade in and out.
- Cursed body parts can have any features on them, including ones otherwise illegal for human designs. Extra limbs, facial features not on the head, etc.
- A cursed body part might give the person a thematically appropriate power, e.g. being able to see through solid objects with a cursed eye. These don't have to make biological sense - even someone with a single tiny wing might be able to fly. It's bullshit curse magic.
Essentially, a curse is a highly unpredictable birth defect. The vast majority of cursed infants die within a day of birth, and the few that survive to adulthood are plagued with health problems. They face social ostracization too, and are often abandoned or kept locked up by their guardians out of fear.
In-universe, a human's appearance is determined by where they come from. However, there are a ton of little towns scattered throughout Empyria, and no widely-available catalogue listing all of them. So you can design your character, then invent a town, plunk it on the map, and say that people from there look like that. Most towns in this setting are named after Ars Goetia demons, but this is purely for my own convenience and you're free to do whatever you want. Some canon towns are listed here, as well.
Most people never leave the town they're born in, but important characters are actively expected to be exceptions to this rule. Becoming an adventurer or moving to another town are highly significant decisions in one's life, and it's a good idea to think about your character's motivations for doing so.
Empyria's technology level is roughly modern unless otherwise specified; more details can be found on the tech page. People live in houses with air conditioning and refrigerators and all that stuff, it's just powered by mana instead of electricity. Generally speaking, Orlisian towns are urban and high-tech while Wywish towns are more rural, but it's not a hard rule.
Roughly speaking, people in this setting are divided into those who travel on a regular basis (adventurers) and those who don't (civilians). Most important characters will be adventurers, but like, if you want to make a completely ordinary office worker in this fantasy setting full of magic and monsters, that would honestly be amazing. Go for it.
Adventurer jobs aren't limited to monster-hunting - travel between cities is inherently dangerous, so things like mail delivery would also be adventuring jobs. Some people even become adventurers to broaden their customer base for an otherwise mundane job - e.g. traveling merchants and bards and the like.
In terms of aesthetic, adventurers are basically D&D player characters: weirdos with extensive combat knowledge and way too much money who are honestly kind of dangerous but provide an invaluable service to society, so you just have to leave them alone and hope for the best.
Empyria is mostly populated by flora and fauna that exist in real life, but due to the recent extinction event it's more common to see smaller and hardier creatures. Animals occasionally exhibit weirder coloration than real-life counterparts, but don't have any special powers beyond that.
Since monsters completely ignore animals unless directly attacked, monster-detecting watchdogs are often kept by adventurers and farmers. Civilians inside the towns keep cats and dogs too, but usually smaller ones. Ridable mounts are rare; horses are extinct and oxen are mainly used as beasts of burden.
Summoners can keep monsters as mounts or for battle. Treating them like pets is unusual, and will definitely earn you some weird looks. There's no real limits to monster design - as long as it's not humanoid and looks like it could show up in a JRPG random encounter, you're good. They can have a handful of magic abilities too, but powerful monsters are much harder to catch. The average summoner's max capacity is around six slimes or one unicorn.
You can also make a spirit, but they'll be dubiously canon since they're very very rare.
Pick two elemental alignments (air, water, fire, earth); your spirit will be able to do any magic, as long as it doesn't require the other two elements of mana. The specific boundaries of this are pretty loose and most magic doesn't have any element requirements, but your spirit shouldn't levitate without an air alignment or shoot fireballs without a fire alignment, for example. Since spirits use mana from their own bodies to do magic, they can destabilize themselves and die if they overexert their powers, but they're still capable of a lot more than humans are.
- A spirit's appearance should reflect their elemental alignments in some way - e.g. a water-aligned spirit might be blue or have fins and scale patterns.
- Since spirits are just big globs of mana, they tend to be smooth in texture - e.g. your spirit can't have fur, but you can evoke the look of fur with tufts and patterns.
- The smallest spirit is Sylph (size of a pigeon) and the largest is Gnome (size of a two-story house). Smaller spirits are less powerful, but more flexible and better at shapeshifting.
Other than these points, they can basically look like whatever you want! There's no limits on limbs, body shape, etc. and all spirits can see and hear regardless of if they have any visible sensory organs. Your spirit could look like an umbrella if you wanted, though that would imply some strange things about their personality.
Spirits don't have families; they randomly pop into existence in places where mana gather, with a basic knowledge of language and their own abilities. Most of them take up "personal projects", like turning a patch of forest into a garden or protecting a particular village. Spirits rarely get involved in human affairs, even the protectors, but older spirits are more likely to break this rule.