Work is coming along nicely and I feel quite positive about the reboot. I think I now have a baseline that is much more true to my original idea of having a setting that takes place at the beginning of the lost golden age of most generic fantasy worlds. The last version was turning more and more into a world of desert empires. While I still lake anything that would look like a map, the world pretty much falls into four tightly connected mini-settings. They run basically from north to south with an ocean in the east and unexplored wild lands to the west.
One of the most central premisses of the setting is a huge expanse of wilderness that surrounds the small islands of settled lands. The main centers of civilization in the Ancient Lands are not cities but strongholds. Strongholds come in many forms but most of them are large fortresses or heavily fortified towns that also double as the home castles of the clan chiefs. Some strongholds can be exceptionally large towns that have gained great riches with trade, while others consist of nothing more than a single keep. However most of the people of a clan live in farming villages within a days travel from the main stronghold. Larger clans often have more than a single stronghold, which are then usually the garrisions of the chiefs most trusted senior warriors and their soldiers.
The Northlands are heavily inspired by Scandinavia and Canada, drawing lots of ideas from the northern lands of Middle Earth like Forochel, Angmar, and the Blue Mountains, and from Skyrim.
At the center of the Northlands lies a large but not very high range of mountains that in many places is relatively flat and forms large moors and highlands. North and East of the mountains lies the sea while in the south are the Great Forests and in the west cold open plains, which are seperated from the Great Forests by a chain of hills starting in the southwest of the mountains and running into a southwest direction.
The Northland are home to four different people of which none is clearly dominant. Near the northern coasts lives a tribe of tall humans with brown hair and fair skin that does not seem to be related to any of the other human people in the Ancient Lands and might have mixed with elves a very long time ago. They are mostly hunters and fishers, as there is not much farmland in their coastal farmlands. Throughout the mountains are many gnome strongholds, which lie mostly underground and are much bigger than they look from the outside. The gnomes mine and produce most of the iron and steel found anywhere in the Ancient Lands. On the southern slopes, there are also some wood elves who don't have much contact with the elves of the Great Forests. The Plains in the west and the hills on the border of the Great Forests are the homelands of the kaas, 7 feet tall humanoids with coarse light brown fur and dark brown manes, and faces that resemble lions, wolves and humans. Despite their appearance they are not evil peoples and explorers and mercenaries can be found throughout the Great Forests and as far south as the Plains.
The Great Forest
This is basically the core and centerpiece of the world, building on the High Forest from the Forgotten Realms, which is the original starting point for the entire Ancient Lands. It's a massive temperate forest that is also inspired by Mirkwood and the Anduin Valley from Middle Earth, the Eldeen Reaches from Eberron, and the planet Kashyyyk from Star Wars.
The most numerous people of the Great Forests are wood elves. Gnomes can be found in many of the hills and clans of kaas can be found in the northwest and many human clans have settled the southwestern parts near the Plains in recent centuries.
The Great Forests are home to many ruins of the shie, a race of fey people from the spiritworld who had created numerous citadels in the world of mortals thousands of years ago only to abandon all of them at a later point. Many of the elven strongholds and a few human villages are build on or inside the remains of such ancient ruins.
The name is mostly a placeholder, but large warm grasslands are the centerpiece of this region. There are also a number of large warm and dry forests with a Southern European climate, which are obviously much smaller than two really big forests, but still considerably big. Inspirations come from Tethyr, the Chondalwood, and Shaar in the Forgotten Realms, and the Barrens and Azshara regions from Warcraft. Maybe a little bit from the Talentia Plains from Eberron, but I actually don't know almost anything about those.
The Plains are where the northern and southern lands come together and they are home to dark elves and wild elves. The dark elves are pretty much based on the Dunmer of Morrowind from the Elder Scrolls games, with non of that spider stuff and fetish outfits. Instead they are a lot more like... well, Steppe Elves. The wild elves are the southern clans of the wood elves and more wild and primal. And I think somehow humans will have to fit in, as I intend to keep them as new arrivals from the West, and the plains would make an obvious primary route for their migration to the coast and into the Great Forests, and they would leave some cultural marks of their presence.
Another new race is currently running under the name "Nezumi", though they are not actually ratfolk. Instead they are a race of 4 feet tall humanoids with sand colored shaggy fur, who have some similarity to ferrets and faces similar to desert dogs. They have more of a stone age culture with no widespread use of metal in weapons and armor, and they live in large villages in the thick forests at the edges of the plains. While they are from a primitive culture they are clever and fast and often seen as rather fearless or even reckless.
The Southern Jungles
The south consists of huge sub-tropic and tropical jungles similar to the Amazon and the Congo, and also the jungles of Indonesia and Thailand. Inspirations come from the jungles of Chult in the Forgotten Realms and Xen'drik from Eberron.
Taking the idea from Eberron, the jungles are home to surface dark elves that are a bit more savage than most other elves but still belong to the three major races. They are found in the western parts that border the Plains.
In the western parts are the lizardfolk dominant, with some remote corners still being under the control of naga lords who never abandoned their citadels in the thousands of years since most fey strongholds were abandoned. The lizardfolk draw not a lot of inspiration from the D&D creatures but are instead based mostly on the Jungle Trolls from Warcraft and the Turians from Mass Effect. The lizardfolk had their own civilizations long before the elves and anyone else, as they overthrew their naga masters in some of their citadels and took over, preserving a great deal of their knowledge on architecture, metalworking, agriculture, and even magic. While elven slaves were left behind by their fey masters centuries earlier, they had only access to whatever those slaves remembered from their own tasks and lacking many of the tools and resouces needed for their professions, so it took them much longer to catch up with the lizard peoples. Still, lizardfolk are generally not great thinkers and most of them outside the great strongholds live with pretty much the same comforts and using the same equipment as most dark elves and wild elves, and live in small villages of hunters in the jungles and on the coastal islands.