An interesting aspect of the Elric saga is that it takes place late in the history of that Earth. Elric's line has ruled for 10,000 years. The story often speaks of those that came before - the Doomed Folk. The Doomed Folk had an advanced civilization that rivaled anything that came after it - it may even have rivaled the gods. Magic, technology, nothing could compare to those halceon days millenia ago.
This is a theme that is found in much of the literature that inspired D&D. One only has to look to Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels (from which D&D gets its distictive style of spell casting) to see Earth in its last days as the sun slowly burns itself out.
The world of the advevturer is then ripe for exploring. There is now reason for there to be ruins; reason for delving deep in the earth for treasures long thought lost. This twilight world presents a mystery that cries out to be discovered.
Now, I have no desire (let alone the time) to catalogue thousands of years of history and geneologies like the good Professor Tolkien. I'm more then content to sketch out a few key events and leave the rest a mystery even to me.
Leaving big blank holes gives me room to add details as play progresses. I can take cues from the players and provide detail as needed. What is important here is having a solid framework to build on.
The framework is made up of those key events in the past. These events are designed to spark ideas rather than dictate history. They're jumping off points. It is also important to keep it loose because I do intend for there to be ways to travel to other times. If I paint in too much detail I may paint myself into a corner and not have any room for the players to explore and interact with the setting.
Another reason for leaving blank spots is that it requires less of the players to get up and running. The last thing I want is to have required reading before players can get going. Players need enough details so that they can make intelligent choices during character creation and the rest they learn as they go. Again, the setting info should act as inspiration not dictation.
Elements that will definitely be included are: a lost and sunken birthplace of civilation, powerful magic and technology of the ancients, forgotten civilizations still thriving in hidden realms, buried cities of wonder, and layer upon layer of history. The acumulated history that is somewhat acurate only goes back a few hundred years. Beyond that it's legends and rumors. And legend and rumors are meat and drink of hearty adventurers.
Next time on Exploring Elric: Magic!
Follow Your Bliss,