Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.
It's been a year since Aang proved Katara right, and ended the war with the Fire Nation once and for all by taking Ozai's bending away. The former Fire Lord is imprisoned, and in his place Fire Lord Zuko has come to power.
But just because the war is over doesn't mean the repercussions just go away. There is still a lot of anger against the Fire Nation and the nations as a whole are rebuilding.
The Air Nomads were almost completely wiped out during Sozin's comet 100 years ago. There are a handful scattered around, the remnants of families who happened to be away from the Temples when the attack happened.
As the remaining airbenders are mixed with other nations, the features specific to their race have mostly disappeared, or else appear here and there in those with the right blood lines.
Air is the element of freedom. Airbending is based on the real life martial art Baguazhang. The first airbenders were the flying bison.
Airbending relies on circular motions and evasive techniques. The majority of traditional Airbending skill teaches avoidance and non-lethal strikes against the enemy. Traditional Airbending seeks to disable - never kill. That is not to say that airbending cannot be used to kill - only that traditional techniques make it difficult. Modern Airbenders are known to employ a number of techniques that the Nomads would likely have frowned upon.
Airbending has two subskills - Spiritual Projection and Flight. The former absolutely requires an intensely spiritual airbender and the majority will be unable to master it, and essentially allows the Airbender to project their spirit to another location they are familiar with. Flight, however, is relatively simple with airbending and the typical glider-staves that the nomads used.
Airbending can be augmented either with staves or a weapon like the war fans.
Culture varies widely across the Earth Kingdom - due to its size and its many different groups of inhabitants. There are the Kyoshi Islanders, the Swamp people, and even the Sandbenders who call the Earth Kingdom home - as well as a wide array of citizens ranging from wealthy to quite literally dirt floor poor.
Currently the Earth Kingdom is settling in under a new King by the name of Asante, and also struggling to repair the damage that the war with the Fire Nation did to their lands. There are many displaced refugees and many, many soldiers that never came home.
Earth is the element of substance. Standard Earthbending is based upon the real life martial art of Hung Gar. Toph's specific brand of Earthbending is based on Southern Praying Mantis. The first earthbenders were the badgermoles.
Earthbending movements typically involve standing one's ground and manipulating the earth beneath them to attack and defend. Earth is a stubborn element - and it takes a certain iron will to manage to bend it properly.
Earthbending has a few distinct sub skills. The most well known is probably sandbending - which is mostly practiced by the tribal people of the Si Wong desert. Most Earthbenders find sand hard to work with due to the fact that it doesn't stick together like the material they are used to working with.
The other two notable subskills are limited to Toph Bei Fong - and those she chooses to teach. That is, Seismic sense, which she uses to locate and identify those touching the ground in her vicinity and Metalbending, which was previously believed to be impossible.
The Fire Nation is currently settling under the rule of Fire Lord Zuko. The war is over, and there is a lot of work that goes into transitioning from an industrialized nation pumping out weapons of war into a peace time economy. The Fire Nation will be feeling the effects of the war for a long, long time.
Fire is the element of power. Firebending is mostly based on the real life martial art of Northern Shaolin. However, there are elements of several other arts, including Xingyiquan which utilizes most every part of the body as a weapon of some form and Chaquan which emphasizes some of the acrobatic work common in certain styles of Firebending. The first firebenders were the dragons. Dragons have mostly died out, now, as their slaughter was made a sport during the Hundred Year War; only two remain.
Firebending is a mostly offensive art. There are exceedingly few defensive moves that are actually taught to benders - though some have created their own movements that may qualify as defense. It requires, above all, extreme control of the body down to controlling one's own breathing to generate the most power at the right time.
It is known that extreme cold can weaken a firebender and even prevent them from being able to bend at all.
There are two distinct subsets of firebending. The first, and most common, is Lightning bending, which can be split between generation and redirection. The more common form is redirection. Working with lighting requires an intense amount of control and a sense of emotional stability - lacking either will result in potentially deadly explosions.
The second is a nearly unheard of ability known as combustion bending - and it is a skill that one must be more-or-less born with. It involves sending out a blast of Qi that strikes a target and explodes, rather than traditional firebending methods.
The Water Tribes
The Northern Water Tribe is an ice fortress that protects a small oasis within a cave. The oasis houses the moon and ocean spirits that grant the waterbenders their power. Moreover, the Northern tribe is the least effected by the war as they closed their walls and protected themselves, never seeing a direct attack except a single siege in which the Moon spirit was killed. It was restored, and much of the fortress has been rebuilt. More recently, Chief Arnook passed leadership of the North to a Northern Waterbender named Shigeru.
The Southern Water Tribe on the other hand was decimated. All of the waterbenders were taken away from the tribe or killed, with the exception of one young girl - Katara. By the end of the war there are only the warriors with Hakoda and a handful of adult women and elderly individuals remaining, along with a handful of children. It will take time for the tribe to rebuild.
Water is the element of change. Waterbending is mostly based on the real life martial art of Tai Chi - specifically Yang style. It emphasizes graceful, flowing movements. The first waterbender was the moon.
Waterbending is interesting in that it has developed multiple forms in three distinct locations. Northern, Southern, and swamp style waterbending are all different.
Northern waterbenders tend to be more defensive, and tend to be skilled in architectural work with their bending. Southern waterbending is more offensive. Swamp benders have a style that centers on manipulating water within plants. Swamp benders also tend to have very different movements surrounding their waterbending - instead of flowing, they are very rigid.
As with the other bending styles there are two distinct subsets - not counting plantbending. These are Healing and Bloodbending.
Healing centers around using water within the body, as well as from an external source, to locate injuries and mend them. It requires a distinct knowledge of anatomy to be successful.
Bloodbending appears to be only possible beneath a full moon. It involves manipulating the fluid within a living person's body. Thus, forcibly bending their body to your will.
Other Special Abilities
Used most notably by Ty Lee - Aura sensing is the ability to read a person's mental and emotional state. This reading tends to come to the sensor as a 'color' and depending on the individual's state it may be described as dingy or murky. The aura tends to be kind of faint, and can be ignored relatively easily. This isn't a very precise reading - and most tend to put these sensors (occasionally called Empaths) off as either joking or foolish. Aura sensing is not a skill that can be taught, it must be in-born. It could theoretically be trained to be stronger, and more precise but because it's such a random skill that most have never bothered trying, especially not on any large scale.
Used most notably, again, by Ty Lee - Chi Blocking is actually a martial arts skill that requires a very thorough knowledge of anatomy along with familiarity of where and how the chakras that guide energy through the body are located. In essence, this skill is a method of disabling bending and crippling an individual for a relatively short period of time. This is achieved by striking very specific pressure points on the body of one's opponent.
Spirit Sight is most notably a trait of the Avatar - but the avatar's version is much, much deeper, as it allows him to traverse the spirit world itself. The Sight portion of the skill does, sometimes, crop up among the masses. It is a combination of an innate tendency along with a very particular set of training (or a whole ton of faith). Usually all three.
Spirit Sight requires the user to believe in spirits. Not just shallowly "oh sure, of course they're real" but truly, deeply hold that the spirits are entities in this world that may control and affect many things humans don't necessarily understand. This faith, combined with meditation (and assisted by certain times of year thinning the barrier between the living and the Spirits) allow normal people to view spirits that may not necessarily be trying to be seen.
It does not allow for much in the way of communication, except during the solstice, or during a period in which a rather powerful spirit is attempting to be seen - but it can be a useful skill either way. By seeing the spirits, sometimes these seers can understand what is upsetting the spirit, and may make offerings that are more effective in calming it down.
Foresight is typically limited to prophetic dreams that may or may not come true. Most will dismiss these dreams (even their own) as fantasy, or as unimportant. But, paying attention to the omens within dreams can help guide choices or forewarn of coming danger. They are typically vague and may not be recalled until the event is happening right in that moment. It tends to run in family lines - but sometimes someone with the innate ability to learn Spirit Sight will crop up with limited foresight - in these cases it is often believed that the spirits themselves are using this person to communicate.