Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-two years after the Age of the First Kings, a of group once-idealistic and perfectly ordinary adventurers — a human soldier by the name of Faulkner, a half-elf, Lillia and Sjurd, a displaced dwarf — took on a task for one of the most powerful lords in all the kingdoms and fiefdoms — to lead an army to utterly destroy a lesser rival on his border who threatened to invade.
After many months and much battle and sacrifice on their part, the task was complete. Not one stone of the rival's stronghold lay on top of another once they were done, and none of the farms on his land would hold life for a generation. Thousands of lives were lost and thousands more were displaced forever. When they returned to the lord's castle to receive their reward, the king in question — in a moment of weakness, revealed that he had sought to destroy his foeman for reasons purely wanton and selfish.
Upon learning this, Faulkner, consumed in utter rage, drew his sword and slew the lord on his throne. There was no complaint from either of his companions. The three staged a coup and took over the kingdom, ruling as a triumvirate. Quickly Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, Faulkner, acting on a dangerous philosophy that the only way to end the excesses of the current system was through its — frequently violent — replacement, the new rulers began an expansionist campaign, letting no one and nothing stop them.
But this story is not that one. No, really. Well, kind of.
One 19-year-long Time Skip later, and the newly-named Empire of Steel, ruled by Lord Faulkner has spread far and wide, with a small smattering of kingdoms and nations spread in the high mountains, the thick forest and across the coast still untouched — but not for long. A loose coalition of men, elves, gnomes, tribes of orcs and Lizard Folk and many others united only in their opposition to the ever-advancing troops of The Empire is the only thing between them and total dominion over the continent. Within the held lands themselves, La Résistance does whatever it can to damage or at the least pester the occupying forces.
Enter our protagonist, Bevan Culverin, son of Evan, a fresh-faced recruit with a bow and knife. After his father was arrested on trumped-up charges by Sjurd's Prefect Guard, he's joined La Résistance in the hopes of finding him again. We follow the adventures of the platoon he's assigned to as they travel around the land, joined with a small supply cart and a mortar.
In general, the idea of this story is to subvert or at least invert as many fantasy tropes as possible, beginning from Five Races — the usual dynamics have been shaken up by the rise of The Empire, and many things taken for granted in your typical fantasy world may not apply any more. The general tone of the story would be closer to a Wagon Train approach.
2991 provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Alliance: Whatever few unconquered states remain, out of necessity.
- Ax-Crazy: Sjurd and the Prefect Guard, a bloodthirsty troop that randomly locks up and kills anyone they want to under the pretext of defending The Empire.
- Being Good Sucks: Faulkner especially, till the point he gets tired of the whole thing and takes things into his own hands.
- Black and Grey Morality: For all of its expansion and uprooting of the old systems, the Realm of Steel is actually a pretty lawful place, and much less corrupt than the kingdoms it's overtaken. The majority of its opposition is in it for personal gain.
- Character Alignment:
- Chainmail Bikini: The majority of clothes and armor worn are "function over form".
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Subverted. Soldiers of the Empire of Steel wear blue and white uniforms, fimbriated with gold piping.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- The Empire: The Empire of Steel. Really welcoming that one.
- Enemy Mine: The kingdoms of the land would have been perfectly content with fighting and backstabbing each other and picking on the tribes, but since the balance of power's been tipped...
- End of an Age: Even if The Empire falls, there will be radical changes to the balance of power throughout the land.
- Fantasy World Map
- Five Races:
- Men remain as the mundane race, though most work for The Empire purely because most of the kingdoms of man have been overrun by it.
- Elves are no longer passive and are now more hotheaded than ever, seeing as they want to reclaim lands lost early in the war. Their pretense of superiority is running thin, considering their many losses to "lesser" humans and dwarves.
- The dwarves are sitting out the war in their mountain kingdoms, not wishing to get involved partly out of security and partly in shame of Sjurd's actions. Instead, Orcs and Lizard Folk make up the Stout in the loose alliance.
- Gnomes, formerly the Cute, have undergone forced militarization, and have come out into the open in droves, constructing siege weapons and cannons for The Alliance.
- The Fair Folk are far and few between, their services sought for and power feared by both sides.
- Functional Magic:
- The Time of Myths: The Age of the First Kings, long since passed.
- La Résistance: Within the occupied lands, about as organized and cohesive as the forces opposing The Empire — not much, that is to say.
- Light Is Not Good
- Lizard Folk: Dromaeids.
- Meaningful Name: What happens when the author gets his hands on behindthename.com.
- Medieval Stasis: Progress is a bit slower than in our world, but the progress technology is plodding along. Gnomes lead the arms race, but don't have the man(gnome)power to put their new machines to much use yet.
- Mirror Universe: This is one.
- Mordor: Not wholly black and evil, but the capital of the Empire is quite a cold and impersonal place, with white towers dominating the landscape. The surrounding area is slightly better, being farmland and all.
- Noble Savage: The Lizard Folk tribes. The orcs less so.
- Our Orcs Are Different: By and large groups of nomadic wandering brigands, although some choose to unite with The Alliance and La Résistance.
- Power Trio: Faulkner, Lillia and Sjurd.
- The Squad: The Platoon, rather. Read more about individual members at the Character Sheet.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Faulkner.
- World Building