From the Player's Guide introduction:
The coming of the Time of Revelations has reshaped the world forever. Save for a few scraps of information, most human knowledge and civilization simply collapsed under the onslaught. Additionally, many new creatures were drawn to the planet and created from the collective unconscious of the survivors. Both human and nonhuman had to claw their way back to some semblance of structure and prosperity.
While there are several major movers and shakers on the continent, most settlements are quite small and ramshackle. They are often small rural communities of farmers, woodsmen, hunters, fishermen, prospectors, and cattle ranchers. The population of most communities rarely exceeds 1000. They are often mustered together with whatever resources that is available. These communities are usually united by a common goal and congregate around an area that has easily accessible resources.
In spite of their best efforts, most settlements are fraught with danger. Resources are scarce and often sacrifices have to be made. Even if they are fairly well off, disease, starvation, natural disasters, bandits, rival settlements, slavers, and rampaging monsters can strike at any time. If that wasn't enough, often settlements are destroyed from within by good old fashioned politics and/or internal strife. Most attempts to setup a settlement are doomed from the start.
However, the situation is not completely hopeless. Survivors are often ingenious in their approach to day to day activities. Technological equipment and other "Artifacts" are plundered from ruins and often used in ways that assist survival. Many communities turn to magic or other unique abilities. Settlements that combine the old and the new can prosper in this new world.
In an effort to survive, many towns are setup to secure dedicated trade routes and natural resources. Most of these company towns are on old highway or railroad routes that have been redeveloped. These are extensions of the great powers, such as the Fiend Marches and the Grey Alliance, who have been steadily trying to expand.