Hearth is the home world of the human race, and over the countless generations they have manage to find a way to scrape a foothold even into it's farthest reaches. As they spread out across the globe they formed distinct cultures, and their appearance took slight changes to suit the environment they made their home. These cultures created their own civilizations with differing taboos and social norms. Some cultures tended towards peace and knowledge, while others towards war and conquest. Because of their extreme proliferation on Hearth, almost every major sovereign body is ruled by the humans. Humans spread and populate so rapidly that three quarters of the hominid population of Hearth are humans.
Early in the history of human civilization there were powerful rulers who gathered vast empires spanning continents, and even groups of continents. The greatest of these empires spanned three continents and lasted through three millennium. Their power waned and started to crumble as other groups garnered their own power bases around and within. Even ages after their downfall the ruins of their great civilization dot the landscape. Relics of the empire have also fallen into legend, lost to the ages.
In the current age of the world many nations have sprung up where vast empires were before. Some minor empires remain, though nowhere near their glory of ages past. One continent bears a scar, forged by a volcanic chain of mountains, that is ruled by dragons, it is called the Dragon's Maw. Conflict among disgruntled nations around the scar are forced to a strained peace because of the power dividing them. The human nations to one side of the dragons have formed a union to protect each other and their own interests of preservation.
Magic amongst civilized humans is not directly discouraged, but it isn't a completely common occurrence either. With radical groups hunting magic wielders as abominations, it is no wonder that most magic is used either in secret or in a select few sanctuary cities, like Archaven. Some mages disregard the rules and the threats and use their abilities to help people openly.
What Archaven is to mages, there are a few counter minded cities where human purists keep strict laws on the books against using magic, or even being a non human within certain borders. Some of these laws can be as strict on what you are in the borders from incarceration to execution. These human purists follow a deity of fear and power named Morliad, whose downfall is prophesied to come at the hands of a practitioner of great magic. The militant arm of the cult of Morliad are called the Staffbreakers, for their goal of destroying mages and their iconic objects of focus.
Archaven has successfully remained hidden and neutral through the last millennium. Most outside arcane universities have a connection to the Grand Academy in Archaven, that is severed when a possible threat from the outside is made known. This link keeps the universities abroad kept up with the most advanced magics, and keeps Archaven away from prying eyes. Mages outside of Archaven spend years hoping to receive a summons to the city, and a chance to visit the Grand Academy.