A few months ago I started thinking about developing a dark ages fantasy setting, either for gaming or for fiction (or both I suppose). Gaming settings tend to be more medieval or renaissance in flavor but I felt there was a lot you could do with a dark ages set-up. Even when I’m doing fantasy, I tend to start with history and/or mythology, so I picked up two books: Roman Britain and Early England 55 BC to AD 871 by Peter Blair and An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Brions AD 400 to 600 by Christopher A. Snyder. The latter was quite detailed but very dry. Blair’s book wasn’t as focused on what I was interested in but it was more engaging and provided a nice overview. Both did a good job of getting ideas percolating in my head. Originally I had thought of creating a fantasy setting from whole cloth, but I soon became taken with the idea of doing an alternate history Britain in which Christianity had never become more than a small sect. The continent would be there in the background but the setting would really be about the struggle for sub Roman Britain.
Last week I picked up the recent Age of Arthur supplement for the Warhammer Ancient Battles miniatures game. It’s a nice book that summarizes a lot of the material I’ve read about the dark ages and the historical King Arthur with the wargamer in mind. It covers Romanized Britons, Welsh, Scots Irish, Picts, and Saxons, providing many army lists and variants. As one would expect, there’s also photos of beautifully painted miniatures that provide visual stimulation for just the period I’m looking at. I did not pick it up as a research book per se, but it’s really quite useful in developing my ideas. It also makes me want to collect yet more armies, though I think sense will prevail in the end there.
As for the setting itself, I’m not sure if I’m going to move forward with it or not. I had thought it of possible use with 4E if we decide to support the game, but I don’t know if alternate historical fantasy is a great fit with the direction WotC is taking the game. I’ll have to think about it more once I see the new rules.