When I last left off working on the setting I had run into an issue of creating too much at once, making it a gargantuan task to accomplish.
It’s fun creating a setting in service of potential games. It allows for ideas I would never come up with, if it weren’t for the context of the world.
In my escape rooms, I try to make the experience as real as possible. We don’t have TVs in any of the rooms that don’t call for them. It’s always been more work making the experience more authentic, but it’s been worth the effort. Can you imagine a digital timer in a medieval dungeon? It would totally kill the vibe.
My adherence to making the experience authentic doesn’t stop with TVs. When making the escape rooms, I always try to limit myself to creating puzzles that would be believable in the world. A deck of poker cards doesn’t make sense in there, but a set of Treachery and Schemes playing cards makes perfect sense. That’s the kind of world-building I’m aiming for!
The last world update saw me naming it Ashenreach, but after saying it aloud a few times I grew to hate it. Now I feel Eldermark is a much more suitable name, and conveys the setting a little better.
There was way too much going on for me to focus on that map, so I think it would be best to fill in this map, little by little, and talk about each section as it comes up. I expect that overall it will share similar features as the map of Ashenreach, but much more realized.
So why is it called Eldermark?
It’s where the Elder left their mark on the world.
The Elder are giants bearing immense power not fully understood by modern natural philosophers. While there are records of Elden reported across the far-flung reaches of the world, at some points in the annals of history they were signaled to settle in the land to be known as Eldermark. After this mass migration, historical records cease to report on Giant sightings outside of Eldermark.
The Elder are the race of giants that previously stewarded the lands ages ago. They quite literally moved mountains and shaped the landscape to better suit their settlements. Their societal designs are beyond comprehension by today’s great thinkers.
Giants never accepted the customs and rules of the settled folk and could be openly hostile to other intelligent races. Stories of Giants setting mantraps in the forests, and pots of boiling children fed to the mouths of gaping gods still haunt the dreams of younglings to this age.
In preparation for their Eldertide prophecy, a highly advanced Elder tribe constructed a massive fortress in the artificial mountains their forelders created in the previous ages. This tribe became master miners and masons, and built elaborate structures and living areas within the mountain range itself. The fortress contained a number of supermassive food silos, dormitories, studies, and grounding rooms to be used in this tribes unique worship of earthern ideals.
Through sinister and dark means, a young Elder led a coup against the Tyrants of the Mountains, successfully overthrowing the rulers and deeming himself the Emperor of the Mountains. A great undertaking was taken under the direction of the young emperor. Plagued by visions of famine and despair for his people, he urgently ushered a new age of strife for his people. The mountain-fortress was further expanded upon. Workers began construction of a massive underway system miles below the surface to connect the realm under the will of their emperor.
Agents of this emperor were said to have stalked the lands, collecting magickal artefacts from outside his realm and sending them back to his personal collection. On particular item stood out to the emperor, and would set his people on the course to extinction.
Using the weird magick housed within, a psionic calling rasps into every giants head, “Your Emperor awaits you in the mountains known west.” The shared psychosis is enough for each Elder to decide to travel far and wide to meet this emperor.
Through magickal means, the giants are compelled to stay within the lands as they arrive, believing this is their promised land, from where they will finally rule the world. This is all a guise from which the emperor exerts his power.
This newly minted empire faced several self-inflicted problems. The lands quickly became overpopulated with the influx of settling giants. The local ecosystems were unable to handle the new demands of the migrants, many local wildelife become extinct due to the caloric demands of the Elder.
The emperor ushered the newcomers into the mountains, showing the vast wealth that his empire has accumulated as they go deeper into the ground. Eventually the tour starts to become less extravagant, and at a certain point the guides have been switched with foreminers, the traveler’s belonging exchanged for bed and pickaxe.
The emperor put his new people to work, carving out his ideal Underway system, connecting all the lands that fall under his grasp together. Tribes were starved by the droves. Gruesome as it were, it was also the emperor’s cruel intention.
The most talented or loyal tribes of Elders were spared the horror of the Underway, instead they were tasked with the various biddings of his will. They lived semi-autonomous and healthy lives, while the weaker tribes toiled miles beneath their feet.
Projects these chosen tribes were tasked with include solving the food crisis, the settling of the land and surrounding isles, constructing massive port-cities, and solving the potential labor shortage for when their labor pool is depleted.
Measures were taken to alleviate the food shortages. Strange new magick was used upon wild life, transforming them into useful tools the Elders could use or eat.
The bodies of the dead were stacked and sealed off in sarcophagi chambers. A scheme to make them rise and work again for their masters hatched. Dark tools were gathered from around the world, some plucked from the Emperor’s personal collection to achieve such wicked feats.
The emperor’s favored agents were granted tribes of their own. Though they swore loyalty, some of these tribes were disgruntled with how things were going.
Two major factions arose from the disgruntled Elders: the Stewards and Necromancers. Both shared a similar goal; to usurp their emperor and conquer the civilized lands. Both factions sought to achieve their goal through different means.
Stewards were cruel tyrants that would use foul magick to mutate and influence the creatures of the land into hideous abominations, sometimes more terrifying than their masters. They believed that once their beasts of war were ready they would ride out and cast a shadow over the world.
Necromancers looked towards ancestral guidance and believed that the old kings knew best, and therefore should be the leaders of the next age of Elden. Each Erdking wight now seeks to rule a part of the metaphysical world, to shed their magick barriers and walk amongst the living again.
A civil war breaks out between loyalists, stewards, and necromancers, resulting in the implosion of their capital city, and the collapse of their society.
Now that the elders are established, next time I think I will be creating the major settlements and landmarks that were present during the Emperor’s reign.