About the Ascent Project (Ascent Supplement)
From D&D Wiki
Many D&D game worlds describe a period in their histories during which the civilizations of the Dwarves and the Elves were marvels to behold, a golden age of mighty magics and epic works of art. However, most of these settings are set centuries or even millennia after these ancient nations' decline, focusing instead on the political destinies of the younger races.
Ascent describes a world experiencing the apex of these mighty civilizations. The Dwarves and the Elves are rulers of the landscape, their sorceries and crafts affording them mastery over the other races. However, their reign is not a benevolent one. Irreconcilable differences have split the Dwarves and the Elves, and they wage war against each other, sparing no resource. However, having realized the potential that their long lives yields them, they have become fearful of their own mortality. Instead, they enslave the younger races to fight their wars on their behalf. In exchange, these slaves are granted the gifts of an elder civilization - education, protection, sponsorship. In their arrogance, the Elders see this as a fair trade.
Not everyone agrees with them. Murmurs are occasionally heard of rebellion. Whispers of a long forgotten god circulate amongst the slave population. Rumors are told that sometimes a slave will hear the voice of this god, guiding them toward some greater destiny. Few are those that dare to hope for liberation, and their masters squash such sentiment whenever they hear of it...but the rumors are always heard again.
Ascent is intended to be used in one of two ways. It can be used as presented here: a self-contained world detailed and designed for a new campaign. Alternatively, it can be used as a template for an already-existing game world. If your regular campaign setting features Elves and Dwarves whose civilizations have since declined or even been destroyed, you can easily apply these concepts to the landmasses and peoples of your own familiar world, allowing your players to roleplay in the misty reaches of your game-world's ancient past.
The world of Ascent was first conceived of in 2002 as a group project to be entered into Wizards of the Coast's New Fantasy Setting Search contest (which was ultimately won by Eberron). The core concepts of a world dominated by Dwarves and Elves were agreed upon, but some of the contributors weren't happy with the idea that these elder races might not be so noble in their domination of the younger peoples. The group disbanded shortly thereafter, abandoning the project. Yet this core idea has stuck with me over the years, and I've tinkered with it from time to time, resulting in this latest version of the setting.
My primary influence in creating Ascent was The Complete Book of Dwarves for 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Even though the rules contained therein are outdated, I highly recommend this book for its non-mechanical information. Similarly, GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome for the Mystara setting had enough useful materials on clans, language, and other details that I still draw inspiration from the concepts it presented. Sadly, while these books were available for a time as PDF downloads, as of April 2009 this is no longer the case.
Another influence which has been undeniable has been the movie "Gladiator." Imagine the German forest battle with Maximus commanding an army that includes not only humans but also Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other races and you'll get some idea of what I was imagining for Ascent. The anime movies "Windaria" (with its forest full of ghostly apparitions that frighten and confuse combatants) and Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" (with its Dire Beast-like 'forest spirits') also contributed significantly to my vision of how the Elves might fight their enemies.