Thinking of a darker fantasy setting...

Now that only little work remains on Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu (BCK), I began thinking of another ACKS setting. Contrary to the four-color-comic gonzo look and feel of BCK, I am now in the mood for something darker and colder.

My initial thought was of something resembling the deepest, darkest Middle Ages, with an eye towards their later years, especially the Black Plague and the 100-year-war. Possibly with shades of earlier Dark Ages. Unstable politics, sweeping plagues, Chaos rearing its tentacled head in all sorts of places, strong quasi-monotheistic Lawful faith vs. older (both Chthonic and Neutral) gods, iron-fisted church, religious fanaticism. Fey being unpredictable and alien. Probably more anarchic than the real-world late Medieval period, with central governments being very weak and local rulers having to fend for themselves due to weak and incompetent kings. Time for the aspiring mercenary to make himself king!

More traditional “D&D” in part - Elves and Dwarves, goblins and other beastmen. With certain twists.

I originally thought about a Europe-style continent but had a writer’s block about its shape, then thought of something resembling East Asia, again with a writer’s block. Then I had an epiphany - use geography and fauna inspired by Ice Age North America! Being a fan of Michael Scott Rohan’s Winter of the World Trilogy, of course, played a certain part in these thoughts. I found very good climate/ecosystem and topographic maps for this. Of course, my map will be as different from real-life North America as Autarch’s Auran Empire is different from the real-life Roman Empire.

This also adds layers of complexity. I thought about the extant culture coming to this continent from two other continents when the ice covered them. Back then, most of the continent they came to was free of ice. They established city-states and were for the most part chaotic, until the first Emperor of Elysia conquered the city-states in the name of Sol Invictus (or Marduk? in any case, a Lawful monotheistic diety). This established the Elysian Empire - my general concept of it is quasi-Roman, quasi-Byzantine.

The Empire eventually crumbled and fell. This probably involved spreading Chaos worship, internecine warfare over the Imperial throne - and creeping glaciers from the North. Local nobles now have to fend for themselves, as dark and twisted things stir in this benighted time.

Recently I have been thinking about adding some “Early Modern” influences. Inspiration came from the old computer game Thief: Dark Project and the newer computer game Darkest Dungeon, both containing somewhat more advanced technology side by side with the fantastic elements...

A few things I wrote which are related to this setting and my initial thoughts of it: