Yes, it's me once again.
As I've mentioned a few times ago, my method of working on my setting is a constant two steps forward, one step back. Trying some things out until it turns out that the setting doesn't work as I want, then peddling back and trying again with those things that did come out really well. And something things get so warped up and twisted that I can't untangle it anymore and I go back to a new clean blank map and a big box of all the elements I want to keep from my last attempts. And I think it's time for that again, this is actually more like the 5th or even 6th take on the world, but I have a feeling that this might turn out to be the final one. Or at least the one after this will be.
Mostly I play D&D 3rd Edition or Pathfinder because I know how these games work and all the others don't really seem to offer any major benefits to them. Depending on how 5th Edition is turning out, I might consider it as the game this setting will be based on when it's finished. Otherwise Pathfinder is a strong candidate, but I also plan to make the world more generic or original and not exactly a D&D world, and it should be easily adaptable to pretty much any game system.
Sword & Sorcery
Or call it heroic fantasy, if you must, but there is more than just the scope of things that is strongly influenced by that literary genre. The Ancient Lands is not a world about conflicts between cosmic powers or the politics between great kingdoms, but a setting for rather ordinary people who happen to get involved in some extraordinary things. There's no Dark Lord, no big invasions, or political conspiracies, just people dealing with the dangers of a wild and often hostile world and the threats posed by other people like them.
The common role of the protagonists is to defend their villages and clans against the many dangers of the world that surround them and to discover magical artifacts and knowledge that bring greater power and prestige to their people and themselves. Warriors, hunters, shamans, lorekeepers, and healers are among the many on which the chiefs may call in times of need and danger.
Or actually a kind of pseudo-Bronze Age. Unlike most generic fantasy settings, the Ancient Lands is neither a medieval nor a renaissance world, but set in a much earlier stage of civilization. The Stone Age lies well in the past and the use of steel is not something terribly uncommon, but mostly life for the people consists of independent and self-reliant villages that are often bound in loose alliances that shift as individual positions and situations are changing. Most weapons, armor, and farming equipment are made in the villages that use them and each community has to provide it's own food. There are some powerful warlords who have the loyalty of numerous villages surrounding their own home, but other than that there are no real kingdoms or empire that hold political power over large areas of land.
Status and Allegiance
In the Ancient Lands, the things you can or can't do depend just as much on your personal station as on the local laws. All have their duties to maintain the stability and safety of clan and village, and the good of the group often has to come before what one would rather chose to do instead. While a slave has none of the freedoms and previleges of a warrior, it does not mean that he will never have them. Status is not something defined by birth, but defined by ability and respect. A true warrior is not someone born to and raised by warriors, but someone who has the heart and the skill of a warrior, and those who desire to rise up in rank have to prove that they serve it.
The rank and status of a person make a great difference for what things they can get away with and how they will be treated. A high ranking member of a chiefs family can not only demand but will be given hospitality in the homes of their peers. But at the same time, there are places where only slaves and peasants can go, and assistance that only they will recieve. Even more so than a characters race or clan, his rank and status have a major impact on where his adventures will take him and how he will fare in distant places and foreign lands.
Points of Light
This paradigm holds very well for the Ancient Lands. Most of the world is uninhabited and unexplored, and never has been before. While all villages, towns, and castles are connected with many of their neighbors for trade and to lend some assistance in times of trouble, there are few roads and it often takes days or weeks to get from one place to another, during which one is completely cut off from any form of civilization and entirely reliant on oneself and ones companions.
Spirits and the Wilderness
The Ancient Lands are an animistic world, in which everything holds some life force and as such as least a tiny trace of a spirit. Where the life force is strong and concentrated, rocks, trees, lakes, and the land itself become sentient and powerful beings that can be both kind and hostile to mortal creatures. Being in good standing with the spirits is something that is of great important to all humanoid people at any time. A helpful spirit of the land may grant a village rich harvest and a steady suply of water while keeping away plagues and dangerous beasts, while the wrath of a spirit can spell certain doom for everyone who draws their ire. As such, a major role in society falls to the shamans, wise men and women who can hear the will of the spirits and commune with them on behalve of their villages and clans. Without a shaman, no village can hope to endure and survive, but a wise and powerful one who is able to keep the spirits beneign is one of their greatest defenses against the dangers of the outside world and any evil that may come from within.
An Ancient Past
While the civilizations of mortal humanoids are still young, the world itself is an ancient one with a long history. When mortals still lived in caves or like beasts in the forests that cover the land, fey people build grand castles and palaces their like has never been seen again since. But eventually most of these citadels fell empty, their masters returning to a life with their kin in the Spiritwold. It was not long until the first brave elves and lizardfolk discovered and explored the abandoned ruins, now that there wasn't anyone left to guard them. From artifacts left behind in the halls and from encountering the mortal slaves the fey had discarded as well, knowledge of metal and farming reached the humanoid races and became the basis for their new civilizations.
Even thousands of years later, many of these magical ruins lie still hidden deep in the forests and mountains, still undiscovered and unexplored. The value of objects and knowledge found within them can often be imeasurable and they often bring a lot of power to those who gain their possession.