Over on the HackMaster forums, the question of campaign settings came up. For his part, Topher presented a rather convincing argument for using a historical locale as the basis for a fantastic setting. He points out that, not only is much of the work already done for you, but such a backdrop is already both highly detailed and believable.
As he mentions, his most recent game is set in a fantasy Samarkand before the rise of the Timurid Dynasty. This is another great contribution, as I suspect many referees (myself included) often neglect the lesser known ancient world as a source to draw inspiring material from. Areas like Transoxania, Bengal and Scythia have always existed on the borders of great empires, but are also themselves the seats of ancient civilization. Transoxania alone saw the rise and fall of countless nations of antiquity which flourished brightly once but eventually disappeared under the sands of time (one thinks of the Sogdiana, Samanid, Kharezmid and Timurid dynasties, to name but a few).
What is perhaps most interesting about these regions is that, not only are they cradles of humanity, but also crossroads and borderlands for very different civilizations and empires. Transoxania accomodated Persian, Chinese, Arab, Greek and Mongol cultures, as well as Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Christian and Muslim faiths. This sort of setting, with its countless variables and a complete lack of the stability found in the neighboring empires, is rife with story potential.
In the future, I'd like to revisit Transoxania in particular, as per Topher's suggestion, as a potential campaign locale. If the readership has similar experience, I would be happy to see this engender a further conversation.