This starter was inspired by the Dying Earth stories of Jack Vance, who was a Gygax favorite and inspired D&D's "Vancian magic system". The evil lich "Venca" was a tribute to Vance.
The stories Jack Vance's of the Dying Earth series are set in the distant future, at a point when the sun is almost exhausted and magic has reasserted itself as a dominant force. The Moon has disappeared and the Sun is in danger of burning out at any time, often flickering as if about to go out, before shining again. The various civilizations of Earth have collapsed for the most part into decadence and its inhabitants overcome with a fatalistic outlook. The Earth is mostly barren and cold, and has become infested with various predatory monsters (possibly created by magicians in a former age).