This is a campaign-world idea that has been floating around my head for a while:

"During the Age of Blossom nature's bounty was abundant, and the fields and orchards flourished. Civilization, too, has blossomed: mighty and magnificent empires of men, elves, dwarves, kobolds and hobgoblins grew out of the many kingdoms of the North; culture, philosophy, art, magic and the crafts reached unprecedented heights; and many new, wondrous machines were invented to make the lives of men, dwarves and kobolds easy.

But then came Winter. Suddenly, in the middle of the springs five hundred years ago, thick clouds gathered at night and showered snow. The Decade Without Spring followed, a horrible time of frost when the rapidly-growing glaciers and mountains of snow buried the great cities of the North. The Northern fields, once yielding fertile crops, withered and died in the unending winter, bringing widespread famine - the harbinger of civilization's fall. Strange creatures, once trapped in the frozen edges of the North, now roamed freely among frozen cities and frost-choked farms.

But not all was lost. The South, once dry and arid, has enjoyed heavy rains, giving rise to new forests and fertile lands where sparse woods and dry steppes have once existed. There, south of the edge of the continent-spanning glaciers, the remnants of men, dwarves, elves and many others found refuge from the howling winter blizzards and the savage, furry beasts of the once-glorious North. Even then, these survivors were tattered, mere shadows of the former civilization. And strange new creatures, unknown before, roamed the countryside, spreading terror and fear. Even nature, once bountiful, has taken a dark, cold twist. Soon, a barbaric new Dark Age took hold, an age where the sword reigned once more.

And you, adventurers, are sons and daughters of that age, out to reclaim the remnants of the glorious past, slay the beasts that guard them, and maybe even restore a little bit of the lost splendor."


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The basic idea (which, of course, won't be known to most players at the beginning of the game) is that the world the game is set on is a living being, a divine being in fact, once the tame, pleasant nature/agriculture Mother Goddess of the Age of Blossom. However, a group of powerful magic users found a way to tap into the Mother Goddess' life-force and drew away a large amount of that life-force to feed the creation of an artificial Clockwork God. The Mother Goddess, greatly weakened, has retreated into a period of hibernation in order to heal, bringing about an abrupt ice-age. And in her slumber, she dreams up dark, twisted things. Meanwhile, the experiment was successful: the Clockwork God is alive in a vast manufacturing complex deep in the frozen northern mountains, building an army of automatons and golems and striving to form a Clockwork Paradise of steel, brass, cogs, gears and steam.

Nature itself, and those who follow it (druids, dryads, some faeries and so on) became as cold as the Mother Goddess. Only a few druids could muster enough inner strength to tap into the Mother Goddess' still warm heart; the others have become as cold as the northern winter. Forests tend to be dark and twisted and to contain strange beasts.

Both the Mother Goddess' strange dreams and a variety of magical experiments and accidents carried out during the last years of the Age of Blossom have spawned strange new monsters. These weird beasts, as well as terrors of old set free by the ice and the fall of civilization, terrorize the remaining population, inhabit the ruins of previous ages, and sometimes even form their own kingdoms.

If I'll decide to use alignments, the Mother Goddess was once Chaotic Good and is now Chaotic Neutral bordering on True Neutral (that is, wild as the vines choking a ruin bordering cold as the northern winter); the Clockwork God is Lawful Neutral. Neither is truly evil, though both are quite alien in their outlook. There are probably several other gods (sun god? moon god? immortals?). You could actually play a cleric of the Clockwork God or the Mother Goddess if you want (though the latter usually has druids rather than clerics). Powerful monsters could also act as gods of sorts but that's what cultists worship - not heroes!

The old technology got along more or less well with Lawful magics. In fact, I've imagined a perpetual steam-engine using bound fire and water elementals and channeling them through each other to produce a never-ceasing supply of steam; of course, that also means never-ceasing slavery and agony for the elementals... Once freed, they might be vengeful... :twisted:

The current society is feudal, primitively so, and quite brutal and barbaric. Wars between the various small baronies are common even if all barons have sworn allegiance to the same count, duke or king. Monsters sometimes become barons themselves or, alternatively, use human slaves for their own dark purposes away from the settled areas. Roads are dangerous as bandits and monsters are common and guards (far from settlements, that is) aren't. And the winter brings forth snow-orcs, riding winter-wolves, attacking under the cover of moonless blizzard nights.

Ruins are common. Even away from the glaciers, famine, disease and frequent violence greatly reduced the population, so many places are abandoned and thus become inviting for monsters, tyrants and bandits to dwell in. Under the glaciers, entire cities are buried, haunted by snow-orcs, clockwork automatons, ghosts and worse - but containing many priceless relics from the Age of Blossom.

The glaciers have their own monsters - Snow Orcs (furry, boar-faced, suffering only half damage from cold attacks), Winter Wolves (treat as Dire Wolves, but they receive only half damage from cold attacks), Mammoths, Woolly Rhinoceros, White Dragons, Sabertooth Cats, Polar Bears and undead - a lot of undead, especially in the buried cities. Mammoths, woolly rhinos and sabertooth cats also live in the forested areas or even grasslands south of the glaciers. Snow orcs riding winter wolves make deep raids into the south in the winter, and usually attack during snowstorms and blizzards.