From the PDF
The world of Early Dark quakes with human conflict, fearsome natures, and uncertain magicks. Civlization flickers at the edge of chaos in a forgotten time, centuries of lost history that exist in every culture, an age set between the cosmic events of myth and the quotidian happenings of the remembered past.
Where would heroes come from in such a world and how would they live? Instead of seeking inspiration from modern fantasy, we went back to the myths themselves. How did people in antiquity describe their heroes? What mattered to them? It turns out the lives of heroes were both mythic and mundane, and so Early Dark set out to capture both the common and the cosmic elements of a world where morning fog lingers late, and dark falls early.
Heroes embedded in culture
Abstract alignments replaced with concrete responsibilities and duties
Experience counted in 'Pages' written about the hero
Realistic, immersive human ecologies
One mechanic for battle, arguments, searching, and learning
Players level up by constructing and earning Epithets and Social Ties
Heroes with both strengths and weaknesses
Character creation starts in medias res and creates a story
Early Dark has no elves, no orcs, no metahumans. But we have quite a collection of legendary critters. Following ancient myth, most monsters in Early Dark do not represent species of fantastic creatures so much as individuals. The Minotaur of Crete was not a species at all, but a single monstrous being. In the same way, we have families of Fell and Fae creatures in Early Dark that each cover a range of unique magickal beasts.
Ogres, for example, take the shape of what they eat
Fae spirits age by moving through space, not time
Many of our animal species resemble Pleistocene megafauna
Dragons are of a race older than humans, almost Lovecraftian in scope
Environments are dangerous, alive, and aware
What would societies with dark, uncanny magick really look like? How would this magick work and who would believe in it? Early Dark represents magick as dangerous for the caster, unpredictable, and a little unnerving. Above all, we wanted it to be consistent and fit in the world.
Two different, but related systems of magick
Most spells are effect-based and open-ended
Spellbooks are powerful tomes each with its own language
Nods given to both logocentric and practical magickal traditions