I was writing the third draft of Stuff of Legends, to work with the Another Valoria concept (third draft in chronological order. The second one has not been abandoned... I think). I got to writing about races and I noticed something: I couldn't figure out how to account for 2 entire races being completely wiped out - moreso by a war.
I mean, extinguishing a localized people is relatively simple, given you have the correct tools and methods. But an entire, continent-spanning race? I cannot begin to imagine how one such entire race is wiped out, deliberately, by another race, much less how two wipe each other out.
So the question I'm faced with now: what changes to enact in order to fix this lapse in the setting's narrative. Which bits do I compromise on and which do I hold onto?
Point 1: dwarves and elves evoke certain imagery and concepts, whether present as a race or as history.
Having either or both allows me to evoke certain images and concepts in players and GMs, without having to resort to sprawling descriptions and in depth analyses. This is double-edged, as it provides a familiar foundation, but it also takes away from the wonder in the world, as it sets it firmly in the well known.
Point 1 Verdict: they are both useful, but they aren't necessary. Compromise seems safe. Other races in their place?
Point 2: massive war definitely has immense casualty, but it rarely ends with complete genocide.
To push the part about not being able to imagine just how two races manage to completely wipe each other out. It takes an incredible coincidence to have 2 sides lose to the same degree. In the same vein, some force could intervene and tip the odds. Either the casualty is greater or this just doesn't work.
Point 2 Verdict: this makes little to no sense, except being "cool". Definite compromise. Exterior forces attacking? Shifting of how it ends?
Point 3: avoidance of elves and dwarves as PC races helps avoid reliance on the safest tropes.
Back to point 1: even if they aren't actively around, they still affect the world. Their general presence is a safe bet in design, which I suspect is harming the setting as a whole.
Point 3 Verdict: also back to point 1: other races as a compromise?
Point 4: the state of the continent is supposed to be bad. Disarray and massive swaths of land changed after the Event. Where kingdoms and maybe empires had been, now are city-states at most.
Points of Light is the bread and butter of many D&D-esque games. Adventure is found away from civilization and there is less civilization than there is wilderness. This is compounded by the rarity of safe wilderness, due to beasts and monsters. I want the taste of adventure.
Point 4 Verdict: if I want to achieve that, I need any kind of Event. To continue from point 2, it doesn't have to be a war, although those tend to do it.
Conclusions: It looks like compromise is the way to go here, after I give an honest look over at the original concepts. But it's not yet clear how to proceed - do I nix the elves and dwarves completely? Do I keep them but lose the war? Do I drop the war and find some other Event? Perhaps, is the Event still going on?
I don't really want people to see dwarves and elves in the list and say "Ah, of course!" and take some trope or other. While they are fully in the right of doing so, it feels lazy and plain to me. If I had to cobble together something right now, that takes into account all the compromises:
The Event is likely still going on and is an invasion of some sort - extraplanar or from another planet. There are ways and things. If there are elves and/or dwarves, they aren't recent. Theirs are the grand ruins where the greatest treasure lies. Maybe humans are gone too, since humans tend to be boring. Heck, maybe it's a big like Numenera, where the world now is much different than the world of a long time ago.
Heck, I might do just that.