Asylum takes place in a world slightly removed from the one you know. In the world of Asylum superstitions are real and they've struck an uneasy balance with the modern world. Stories about supernatural conspiracies behind the power of nations and people trading their very souls for power are mostly exaggerations. Mostly.
At the forefront of the relationship between Earthlings and the supernatural beings Outside are governments and interested parties. In between all of them is Asylum, part philosophy, part supernatural conspiracy. Asylum believes the universe Outside is full of hope and opportunity. They're opposed by the mysterious Host who believe Outsiders should stay the hell Outside where they belong and that Earth can run fine without them.
If you're going to get by in this world, you have a lot of learning to do. . .
The Cold War is over, but the world isn't at peace. The threat of nuclear annihilation was too blunt of a tool; the new world powers are covert organizations that rely on supernatural advantages to leverage their influence. These cartels, ancient traditions and government agencies make it clear that if you want to deal in magic, you'll need to do it by their rules. Their Quiet War remains hidden in the shadows and only occasionally spills over into the public. This struggle pretends to be ideological but it's really about dominance. Whoever has magic has the keys to the world.
Outside, there are also nations. These nations span worlds and are headed by beings so powerful, our ancestors mistook them for gods. The Pantheons sprang forth from the worlds they created, colonizing anything in reach and turning it into another version of home. It surprised no one that the Pantheons eventually turned against each other to spark a War in Heaven that enveloped every known world. After the war ended, the Pantheons locked into an unbreakable stalemate they now call The Great Game. Now they're turning their attentions to an isolated and almost impenetrable world that could tip the scales of balance and help them reignite their eternal war. They call this world Black Iron, but we call it Inside, or Earth.
Inside is the mundane world where normal humans live out their days. Few humans know that their rulers are using magic to battle for supremacy. This supernatural power is carefully imported, bought and sold from Outside. Although isolated and distant from the Pantheons, Earth is full of resources and phenomena that can't be found anywhere else. More than two thousand years ago, our kind kicked early Pantheon colonists off our world. Since then, the stories of our exotic and fabulous world have only gotten bigger. Now Earth has become a fairytale wonderland to Outsiders who dream of emmigrating to a beautiful world where anything could happen.
Outside is an infinite tapestry of alien worlds inhabited by even stranger magical creatures. Some of these worlds are partially known to humanity through myth and legend. Those realms are ruled by the Pantheons who constantly vie for power and glory. Their worlds are miracles of top-down order. Entire ecosystems, races and societies are designed according to their whims and desires. The conditions they create can be far from the heavenly paradise that we imagine. War, poverty, and injustice are rampant. Among the oppressed Outsiders a story has circulated. Black Iron has been found again and the humans have forgiven them. Adventurers, immigrants and refugees have left in search of it. We know they've found us and live among us now, but how far behind can the Pantheons be and what happens when they decide they want to take back what's theirs?
Parallel to the Inside are localized gaps and warped reflections of our world. Places made of pure magic, imagination or just random clashing energy hang Sideways from Earth. The Sideways realms allow the adventurous and secretive a place to live and work just out of public sight. Most Outsiders have been required to live almost exclusively in Sideways ghettos that restrict their travel Inside. Many Outsiders get around this segregation by enlisting in The Quiet War.