|Art by Michael Creager|
In the third age of magic Padrech dar Choim, the Great Necromancer, was banished to the Realm of the Dead by the High Emperor Padrom III after a long and bloody war. There, on the cold and silent Fields of Decay, he brooded as centuries passed. Slowly, with the passage of time, he gathered his forces for his next assault on civilization. While marshalling his power he found allies to his cause in Tol Morn, Lord of Vampires, and Mezal, Avatar of the goddess Szanbu (Misstress of Fear and Terror). Now, his time has come again...Thus begins the Introduction to Dark Emperor, an Avalon Hill bookcase game published in 1985. For this game, the designer, Greg Costikyan, tried “to create a believable fantasy world.” According to the designer's notes:
Many fantasy worlds are built with unimaginative, and sometimes impossible, geographies. This may seem to be a minor point but, as a geologist, it is a sore point with me. I hit upon the idea of placing the game in a world of impact-crater geography where the plate tectonics that has produced the geography of our own world does not operate... I proceeded, therefore, to produce a set of tables to generate random locations and sizes for impact craters and generated geography on a hex grid map with a compass. The result is the world of Loslon.I have attempted to create a passable rendition of this world (without hexes). I have used grayscale for purposes of visibility and have used different symbols to represent Loslonian runes.
(I could find no instance of the 'Air' rune on the Dark Emperor board.)
Several battlefields are indicated on the map. The Necromancer opponent can recruit undead armies from these places. The battlefields are: (1) Battle of Fornost, (2) The Hecatomb, (3) The Fallen Standard, (4) Battle of Kelar Isle, (5) Battle of the Gates, (6) The Emperor's Lament, (7) The Graves of the Marind Warriors, and (8) Battle of Geysers. Units of distance are “imperial zotz” and no conversion formulae are presented. Why the the 'Battle of Fornost' transpired over a thousand zotz away from Fornost is also not explained.
Costikyan also developed “the elements of a believable language, in order to produce consistent names.” Also from the designer's notes:
Another peeve I have with much fantasy and science fiction is inconsistent naming. Writers seem to delight in inventing outlandish names with no thought to the fact that a culture produces those names and certain rules apply to them.
Here are some brief notes regarding the kingdoms of Loslon.
Zolahaureslor: In the wake of “the Necromantic War the ended the third age of magic,” the fringes of the empire were subject to “a series of revolts and barbarian incursions.” Zolahaureslor is what remains of the empire. “Its court life is a labyrinthine web of deadly intrigue.”
Ahautserion: This former area of the empire was conquered by a tribe called the Marind Warriors. “Its economy is dependent on mining and metal-working.”
Ferlarie: “When the south was overrun by the Stavek barbarians, and it became clear that the empire could not help them, Ferlarie declared its independence and built a sizable fleet to protect its far-flung dominions.”
Kelaron Oiret: “The Kelaron peninsula, like Ahautserion, was overrun by the Marind Warriors...In this land the tribal customs of the Marind evolved into republicanism.”
The Marechs: “The two Marech kingdoms, Lammarech (Eastern Marech) and Loymarech (Western Marech), were conquered by the Mari, a civilized people driven south by a series of crop blights during the empire's decline.”
Starkeep: “Starkeep is of great religious importance to the lands around it.” It is the realm of the Star Believers – “a cult of sky worshippers associated with the Serenity rune.”
The Scythe: The people of the Scythe train rocs “to fight and carry riders.”
Stavror: The Stavek barbarians “tended to mount a sizable invasion of the empire every century or so.” With the decline of the empire, the Stavek occupied the southern regions and have “become one of the most powerful, and prosperous, nations in Loslon.”
Tal Pletor: Twelve years ago in this nation, a mercenary general “usurped the throne, married the ex-king's wife and killed the remainder of the royal family.”