The Shattered World
War of the Magi
All the powers of the multiverse were approached to aid in the war effort to defeat Kros; those who refused were bullied by the allied forces of the multiverse into contributing. No one was allowed to hold back aid.
However, not everyone provided all they had — many held back reserves, while sum contributed only token aid, holding back the bulk of their power, biding their power until an opportunity presented itself to increase their own power. The final battle against Kros, and the Unmaking that followed, was just such an opportunity: Those who had committed the bulk of their power to the battle were left open and vulnerable, while others were crippled by the eruptions of The Unmaking.
The result was war, all-consuming war, right on the heels of the Unmaking, sweeping all across the multiverse. Weakened armies descended upon realms left undefended by the cataclysmic Unmaking, with barely a half-trained farmhand left to stand against them.
It wasn’t long, though, before it got worse. The lessons of the multiverse’s struggle against Kros began to sink in, and the remaining world powers formed alliances of convenience, creating new superpowers to replace the ones that had been obliterated, with the end goal of conquering as much as they could before turning on their own allies to carve out their own pieces of the world. With so much power coalesced into a small handful of sides, the armies that clashed in these wars were rivaled in scale only by the one that faced Kros’ forces.
The magical power wielded by all sides was staggering, with powerful mages channeling power beyond comprehension on the battlefields all over the world. An arms race began, with all sides rushing to acquire more powerful mages, and research more powerful spells. Rituals harnessing the focus and will of multiple casters quickly emerged as the universally favored answer to the search for more powerful magic. Ritual circles became common sites on the battlefield, more jealously guarded than even the most powerful siege engines.
Shortly after that was the discovery that longer rituals could harness more power. Battles then became decided by whoever could decide the time and the place, for only they could have the time to wield the most powerful — and therefore the lengthiest — rituals.
It wasn’t long before the most powerful ritual circles of the most powerful alliances were casting almost constantly, waging wars against one another from across the world and even between the planes themselves. Spells and counter-spells were hurled across immense distances, clashing against defenses, while new counter-defenses were hastily developed, only to be countered by equally-hastily-developed counter-counter-defenses.
Then a new development emerged. So much powerful magic was being tossed around, that the magical energies themselves began to coalesce and take actual, physical form. Initially appearing as merely thin gossamer strands drifting lazily through the air, it wasn’t long before they began to grow, the already-condensed energies seeming to act like catalysts and hurrying the process of solidifying other magical energy. Arcane, divine, it didn’t matter: magical essence was beginning to take on physical form, signaling to a people who couldn’t understand that Armageddon was almost upon them.