I don't know if I can do proper justice to this here. I know for certain I'll make mistakes. But you have to start somewhere. I recently finished reading 'Magicians End', the concluding book in Fiests lengthy 'Rift War' saga. For a time now, I've been contemplating other long epic fantasy saga's, noting differences and points in common. After reaching the end of 'Rift War'...well, time to write up some of these thoughts. First, the series - all of which, at one point or another have been best sellers : Elliot, 'Crown of Stars': Seven books. I've read them all. Erikson, 'Malazan': Eleven (?) books in the core series, plus more by a collaborator. I've read six of Eriksons, and one of the others. Fiest, 'Rift War' : Thirty books over a thirty year period, most solo, a few with co-authors. I might have missed one, but I'm not sure. Kerr, 'Devery' : Fourteen books. I might have missed one. Martin, 'Song of Ice and Fire' (Game of Thrones) : Five books, plus a few short stories. I have yet to come across a copy of the latest short story, but have read everything else, including some spoiler chapters. I might also make the occasional reference to Jordans 'Wheel of Time' (which I've not read, so I'll be going on hearsay), Pratchet 'Diskworld' (which I've read most of but doesn't count as 'epic), and others. -0-0-0-0- Worlds, Worldbuilding, and Historical Sweep: All these worlds are developed in depth, with sufficient detail to appear 'real' in the mind of the reader. Each begins or is built around a specific nation, and each has characters who venture substantial distances to other realms, some of which become secondary settings on their own. It is worth noting that the starting nations in each of these books is large and soon becomes endangered one way or another: 'Wendar' in 'Crown of Stars' is a medevial type nation entering into dynastic turmoil; Eriksons 'Malazan' is an empire beset by revolt (Seven Cities); Fiests 'Kingdom of the Isles' suffers repeated major invasions; and 'Westeros' in Song of Ice and Fire' devolves into civil war. Kerrs 'Devery' is a bit of an exception, because much of the tale takes place at the perphiary, rather than the core of the nation, but it too endures civil war and unrest. A large, problem plagued nation seems to be a good choice for a fantasy epic. Likewise, each world comes with substantial history, much of which figures directly into the epic: The crisis in 'COS' (Crown of Stars) was initiated in the distant past, and witnessed by a time traveling character. The bulk of the action takes place over about a decade. Individual episoded in Eriksons world go back as much as several hundred thousand years...though I note this still leaves huge swaths of 'unknown history'. Most of the activity seems to take place over the span of about a decade, give or take. Time traveling characters in the 'Rift War' Saga witness the act of creation itself, and learn key things about their own quests. On a more immediate level, the Kingdom of the Isles has a history going back centuries from the start of the first book, and the series as a whole spans most of two hundred years. Kerr's work is built around a repeated cycles of reincarnation, with some of the tales (lives) in these cycles going back most of a thousand years. The core stories are scattered over a period of about a century. The world in 'GOT' (Game of Thrones) has at least a sporadic history going back several thousand years. The bulk of the action (apart from the short stories) takes place over just a few years. Worth noting that Martin originally intended to expand this period by five years. Lessons here are: 1) A good epic fantasy world will have history. Detailed, thought out history, that pertains to the plot somehow. 2) The action within the books will have time to take place. Characters need time to learn. Sometimes this is a couple of years, sometimes a century or more. Ancient Realms, Barbarians, City States, and Other Worlds: 'Wendar' in 'COS' is beset by invading barbarians (roughly fantasy mongol types). It was also once part of Aosta, an older, mostly collapsed empire to the south. Other nations, some also once part of Aosta are also present. There is also a otherworld scheme featuring an isolated planetiod, and a sequence of mystical worlds much like those in Dante's 'Divine Comedy'. Eriksons world is steeped in fallen empires. The one which appears to get the most play is Lether, which actually gets conquored twice (?) in the series. There is also an abundance of barbarians on this world. Many of his characters spend a great deal of time in 'Warrens', which are 'worlds' of their own - and the source of most of the worlds magic. South of the 'Kingdom of the Isles' on Fiests 'Midkemia' (Rift War) is the Empire of Great Kesh, a frequently hostile, corrupt and decadent nation which has been around for a long while. The region to the north of the kingdom is the domain of barbarian tribes. Novindus, across the sea, has a large number of barbarian tribes. A great deal of action also takes place on 'Kelewan', another planet altogether, dominated by the Tsurani empire. Likewise, a fair amount of action takes place in realms so bizarre they might as well be heavens or hells. South of Devery on Kerrs world is 'Bardek', a large archipegalo ruled by a quasi roman society split into city states. Another, unnamed continent or large island is south of these islands. A large, militant nation of 'Horsekin' (nonhumans) dominates the plains to the north and west of Devery proper. Several key characters are either natives of or spend substantial time in a sort of 'faerie world' (astral construct). A number visit other worlds, including earth. Martins world does feature another continent, once the domain of a cruel empire, now under the sway of timid city states and fierce Dothraki barbarians. As yet, there are no other worlds. So... Each of these worlds features an ancient empire or three (or more). Barbarians, often horse riders, are present on each world, but only occasionally present a major menance. City States are also found in each world. All of the settings but Martins also feature connections with actual other planets and/or 'spirit realms of some sort. A fair portion of the epic tale takes place in these...secondary settings. That should do for starters (I have much more). Should I continue?