Ever since I first became a student of Earth history I've yearned to run a campaign set in Earth's distant past; when creatures so fantastical roamed the land that they could rival even the weirdest entries in the Fiend Folio. I've never gotten around to it, but now that I am about to start a new campaign to test out my home-brewed sword & sorcery rules I needed a suitable S & S setting to run it in.
Very little of the campaign setting has been fleshed out, I have a very general idea of what the world is like and intend to grow the setting throughout the course of the campaign rather than having every detail determined before the first die is ever rolled. Likewise, instead of dumping a massive campaign background in the laps of the players, who will probably never read it, I mean to reveal details of the world bit-by-bit in game and as a series of vignette posts that will be much easier to digest.
So far, all I know about the world is what I've told the players:
The Atlantean Empire, which in the distant
past was widespread and all-powerful, once oppressed and enslaved
the men of Lemuria, but when the Atlantean civilization was
wrought by decadence and decay, and their empire collapsed, they
abandoned their holdings one by one, finally withdrawing to their
island nation of Atlantis, and have seldom been heard from or seen
since. Mankind is now ascendent, and the city-states of Lemuria
fight interminably to establish mighty kingdoms and empires of
their own. All across the land the crumbling ruins built by the
Atlantean overlords beckon to adventurers of bold spirit,
promising fabulous treasures, arcane lore, and artifacts of magic
and super-science, long abandoned by their owners. But such
treasures are guarded, still, by horrific creatures summoned by
the black arts of Atlantean sorcery or abominations twisted by
genetic experimentation. Only adventurers bold and mighty can dare
such dangers and return alive to tell the tales and spend the gold of their conquests.
I have a great fondness for intertwining fact and fiction, and I've never been able to resist doing so in my campaign settings; it enhances the plausibility of the game, and consequently my enjoyment. As such, the lure of Lemuria was irresistible.
Throughout much of the 19th, and well into the 20th century, sunken continents were common explanations for the biogeographic distributions of species, and Lemuria was proposed by zoologist, Philip Scatler, to explain the occurrence of lemurs in Madagascar and India, but not Africa. He suggested that a large continent once occupied part of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, bridging Madagascar and India. "Lost" continents were discredited in the 1950's when the discovery of plate tectonics provided support for Alfred Wegener's theory of Continental Drift, which had, until then, been generally disregarded by the scientific community. But until then they were considered to be valid scientific hypotheses, supported by some of the greatest scientists of the day, including Ernst Haeckel. Lemuria was even proposed as the birthplace of humanity, which raises all sorts of interesting possibilities in a fantasy campaign.
It is hardly surprising that the lost lands of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Lemuria, Atlantis, and Hyperborea would show up in the literary works of fantasists such as Robert Howard and Clark Ashton Smith; they were undoubtedly influenced many of the intriguing hypotheses proposed by scientists of their day, and let's face it, what writer of weird fiction could possibly resist the notion of lost continents and civilizations? Or what gamer?
Welcome Back to the Labyrinth
"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."
"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."
"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"
"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"