I know I haven't been as active as I'd like. Constant work, the holidays, preparing adventures for a party of people who've never played before, preparing adventures for the Hounds, reading books, and watching Dexter have pretty much eaten into my blog-writing time. Oh, not to mention working on the boxed set which is actually what precipitated this post. For all of this, I apologize.
Worlds need history. Without it, they are severed from time and place and can have no sense of what they are. Unless the central conceit of the game is a world without history, I simply cannot see how a good setting can exist without deep and rich background, particularly for a game like D&D which draws heavily on the notion of fallen empires and vanished times, of ruins and ancient tomes and days gone by. These things require history, deep and dark as the dungeons in which the PCs delve.
I experienced this afresh while I was working on the region for the boxed set. The Duchy of Paix (pronounced Pax) is a region of the Third Empire of Miles and as such I assumed that sharing in the Milean timeline and history would be enough to give it a good flavor and background. However, as I built the town of Casselflor I realized that there was something missing, namely a history not on the grand sense but of these woods and these hills. It didn't matter what the King at Miles was doing, it mattered who lived in the Vallaine Wood, what murders and foul deeds were afoot in Valbois.
So I went back and traced the Duchy all the way through the beginning of the Ninth Age when it was the Kingdom of Pax. I enumerated each of the kings and queens and their accomplishments, the wars they fought, the castles they built... and then I got down to the nitty-gritty of what Casselflor itself had been like when the Florian dynasty built their keep there. The more local history that I worked out the more the very land began to make sense. Things placed themselves based on the past; the ruins of the Florian Keep, the ancient gigantine tomb and temple complex, even the inns and roads.
So this isn't a plea for rolls and rolls of ancient events, I suppose, but rather for a more detailed immediate and local history that can date back to the settlement of the region, even if the early events are only vague details. The more you know about a place, the more that place makes sense, and the more real it becomes.