Chaldea began as a roleplaying game world back around 1981. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons® in 1978, and it wasn’t long before I graduated from playing to GM’ing. I never was a fan of the published adventure modules—instead, I went straight to building my own worlds and creating my own adventures.
During the 35 years since I began working on Chaldea, I’ve always been inspired by real-world history, especially military history. Chaldea’s story begins with the death of Kordaava, the emperor of the known world, a story inspired by the real-world tale of Alexander the Great: a warrior-king who conquered all in his path, built an empire, but then died without a clear line of succession. In our world, Kordaava is that warrior-king, adapted to fantasy by making him a demigod of Set. And our story opens with Kordaava’s assassination.
Another significant influence for me was real-world mythologies. Like most men, I imagine, the legends of the Norse gods gets my testosterone flowing. But I’ve always been interested in the Middle Eastern pantheons as well, especially the Sumerians and the Babylonians. In my D&D games, I would sometimes throw in some lesser-known Canaanite or Hittite deities just for good measure. In Chaldea, I lean heavily on these real-world mythologies. In the cosmos of Chaldea, instead of all these pantheons coming from the same world—Earth—each pantheon is instead a group of deities from a different world. The Egyptian gods are from a world inspired by ancient Egypt, the Greek gods come from a world inspired by ancient Greece, and so on.
Chaldea, however, is not the home world to any of these pantheons—it’s simply one of thousands of habitable worlds in the universe (the “prime material planes,” in D&D terms), and any particular deity’s interest in Chaldea depend on the extent of that deity’s influence and concerns there. Or the machinations of that deity’s enemies in Chaldea. In our story, Set has a noteworthy stake here, as Emperor Kordaava was a demigod of that god. But now that Kordaava is dead, Set’s dominance on Chaldea is threatened, a situation not at all helped by the fact that elsewhere in the universe, he’s engaged a full-scale war with Isis.
Another traditional fantasy aspect I’ve leaned on heavily in developing Chaldea is the dragon. Whereas none of the deity pantheons come from the world of Chaldea, dragons do. If you asked someone on a far distant world about Chaldea, they might say, “Isn’t that were dragons come from?” There were perhaps a few hundred dragons back in the origins of time. But by now, most have died or moved to some other world in search of adventure, treasure, knowledge, or solitude, and the few who remain are over a thousand years old. These are the elder dragons, and they are as powerful as gods. In fact, it’s the presence of the elder dragons that’s kept Chaldea from being overrun by any other pantheon.
Most Chaldean races are easily recognizable: humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, halflings, and various monsters of classic fantasy. And because this world was born from 1970s’ style D&D, I think most old-school D&D players—or those finding their way to it now through those old schoolers—will find the world easy to access.