[Let’s Study: Early Dark] Part 1: Prologue

Early Dark is one of those games where I found it extremely helpful to read up on the assumptions, motives and strategies involved with the Author’s choices in game design. Perhaps it is due to the sufficiently unique take on fantasy presented in the game that you can’t just jump into the setting right away.

And so we start from the very beginning, taking a peek at the Prologue of the book to see what they have in store for us.

Right off the bat, Early Dark states its objectives as a game. What they’re looking to deliver include:

  • Tactical Crunch – Not in the sense of having a ton of charts to look up, but having interesting options when it comes to maneuvering and strategizing to get the upper hand.
  • Flexible Encounters – Early Dark strives to grant a measure of customizability to every encounter. An encounter with any given creature is rarely the same the next time that the players run into another like it.
  • Deadly Combat – This is pretty self explanatory. This game isn’t about to hold back when it comes to combat. I imagine we’ll be seeing more of this when we start studying the Combat chapters.
  • More Than Hit-or-Miss Outcomes – The game looks to try and make it so that even Missing doesn’t mean you’re ineffective for your entire turn. This should be interesting to see when we start checking out the mechanics involved.

These are admittedly pretty lofty goals as far as the game is concerened. I’m looking forward to see how Early Dark delivers.

The Prologue continues to discuss the thinking behind the World of Early Dark. Alternate History is one way of defining the world as the authors are taking real-world ancient civilizations as the seed for Early Dark’s own, but with an interesting twist. They took one “good guy” civilization and one “bad guy” civilization from popular history and mashed them up to come up with the five cultures in the game. It’s an interesting methodology, and the results are definitely not the kind of civilizations I had expected in any game.

One of the most important points made here that I felt bears repeating is to focus on the idea that the world of the Hara Sea is set in the equivalent of 600 BCE to 600 CE. This timeframe is far outside the traditional Renaissance and Medieval periods and can help dispel any stray expectations as to what Fantasy “should” look like.

The Five Civilizations

Here’s a quick summary of the five unique civilizations presented in Early Dark, as well as their roots in our real-world history:

The Vayok civilzation are a Clan-based society of survivors and warriors who are used to a tundra climate. They are a blend of the Norse culture and the Inuit.

The Anu are perhaps one of the most intriguing for me as they are a mix of Han Dynasty China blended together with the Olmec culture of Central America. Being of Chinese descent myself, I’m curious to see how they mix these two cultures together.

The Alagoth take the Persians and mash them up with Celtic. This is another interesting setup for me given how little I know of these two parent societies. I’m coming from a zero-knowledge perspective and I’m eager to see what will come out when we get to studying each of the civilizations in turn.

The Neferatha are perhaps my second favorite, as they are a blend of Egyptian motifs with Indian epics. It’s an interesting blend and a strong counterpoint to the Anu. I’m curious to see how the two relate to each other.

The Edish are the last of the Five in the book, and cover a civilization where the Native American culture blends with the later end of Greco-Roman culture. It’s another difficult civilization for me to grasp, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the Early Dark authors do with them.

It’s pretty clear to see that the authors of Early Dark really like their setting and are willing to take risks on interesting elements that aren’t immediately “cool” in popular culture. It’s not an easy one to communicate admittedly, and rewards those who are willing to put some effort into understanding the inspirations behind it.

Tomorrow we take a look at the second chapter: Atlas of History, and examine the setting and histories of the Five Civilizations and how they get along.

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