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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Blueiji's Avatar

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    Default What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Hey folks! I've got a worldbuilding query. I'm curious what sort of unique spins you've put on classic archetypes, monsters, or ideas within your setting(s). These can be big changes or little ones, and can range from serious to goofy.

    A few examples might include:
    -> In the Elder Scrolls world, there's a species of Wood Elf that reveres plantlife so much that they're strict carnivores—refusing to eat or harm any vegetation.
    -> In Arthas/Dark Sun, dragons aren't their own species but are rather the result of powerful sorcerer-kings slowly transforming themselves into tyrannical, lizard-like forms.
    -> In one of my own settings, Aboleths don't have language. Their capacity to inherit detailed and complete genetic memories precludes the need for social behavior/complex communication (except for with servants, whom they just magically/psionically dominate anyway).

    To phrase the question in another way: what's an interesting tweak, subversion, or modification to the "norm" that you've made within one of your own settings?

    (Obviously, any setting that's built from the ground up to be entirely unique isn't really what this thread is about. This is more for notable modifications to existing lore assumptions, rather than brand new assumptions.)
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    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    I have a civilization that lives along a big, swampy river Delta (vaguely Egypt-inspired in some Points, in other Points very much not). They consider stone at least somewhat sacred, because solid ground to build on is very rare.

    Another interesting thing About them is that they believe in a modified concept of the multiple souls the Egyptians believed in, kind of mixed with a superego/ID thing and reincarnation. They believe in a dualistic soul, an impure soul of the body and a pure soul of the mind. When a person dies, their souls are split. Those who can afford it have their body transformed into a mindless undead, because doing so will trap some of their impure soul in the body. This will guarantee that when their soul is next reincarnated, it will be more spiritual, freed from unclean desires. Of course that also leaves behind a hungry, aggressive undead creature, who then has to be burried in a carefully warded grave. Those undead are highly dangerous, but killing them is one of the strongest cultural taboos, so they have Warriors who specialize in catching escaped undead without damaging them.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Giants are actually the descendants of ancient humans who ate the flesh of the Tarrasque and were transformed into giants. The Ordning is less a code of honor and more a literal psychic force that connects all giants and allows giants to command other giants of a caste below them with only their voice. The Tarrasque also came out of an icy rock that fell from the sky in ancient times.

    Also yes, all the sci-fi esque implications of this that you are imagining are probably true.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    My world has a brine-beetle that lives on seaweed rafts in the open ocean. Their sizes range from the size of a human hand to the very rare colonies of giant scavenger beetles. The beetles have a drive to gather any flotsam to weave into nests into which they lay and incubate their eggs. Many generations of nestbuilding and collecting flotsam has resulted in massive rafts of living and rotting seaweed, sometimes miles across, with the thickest mats up to 100 feet thick, with vines and tendrils dangling into the darkness of the deep. The great gyres of the world's oceans help to draw in an endless supply of building materials in the windless doldrums regions where the few storms that flow through are unlikely to do more than scatter the fringes of the mats.

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    I like the idea that trolls (of the d&d variety) perform haruspicy on themselves as a religious ritual. Slicing open their belly, flopping the innards out, and then reading the future in them.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    I had fun with race logic.

    • Dwarves, halflings, and gnomes can crossbreed -- but always produce humans (that's where humans originally came from).
    • Deep gnomes turn to stone when they fall asleep.
    • Orcs are the product of a malfunctioning warforged foundry.
    • High elves are elves adapted for living at extreme elevations.

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sandmote View Post
    I like the idea that trolls (of the d&d variety) perform haruspicy on themselves as a religious ritual. Slicing open their belly, flopping the innards out, and then reading the future in them.
    I remember an illustration of that.
    Seems like something Pathfinder would do on one of their funny days.
    Last edited by Yora; 2021-08-07 at 04:30 PM.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Souls aren't commodities. You literally can't sell your soul to a devil. Rather, infernal contracts are the metaphysical equivalent of worshiping Asmodeus. The contracts may be extremely benign and fair, and in fact devils go out of their way to give more than fair contracts and not trick anyone to sign one. They want satisfied repeat customers.
    Last edited by Formion; 2021-08-07 at 05:53 PM.

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Aboleths & mind flayers are related.

    Mind flayers are a clone species that eventually matures into aboleths given the correct environmental and hormonal cues. The whole cycle is: aboleth (any, no genders) decides it needs minions, sefl-regulates its hormones, gestates & drops several thousand fingerlings. Fingerlings cannibalize for a while and the 50 or so survivors become little octopi about as smart as a dog. Their intelligence upgrades as they eat smarter creatures untill about smart-chimp level & small human size. Then they pupate into full mind flayers.

    After a few centuries if they eat enough smart & experienced people they undergo a change. If they get an injection of aboleth slime into the brain they turn into a clone of the aboleth with the memories of the mind flayer. Otherwise they grow tumor-like egg sacks that eventually kills them and releases hundreds of fingerlings.

    The whole thing with elder brains is a long running ruse. Those are just big bioengineered neuron clusters that act as sapient mind radars and can be used by nearby mind flayers as a relay or a psychic puppet. Plus adventurers tend to beeline to "kill the boss" letting more mind flayers escape powerful parties.
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Viking Beaver-men...haven't really fleshed out the idea much yet though. Was thinking up names to put onto a map and 'Beaverheim' popped into my head...what else was I supposed to do with a name like that?

    I quite like the idea of it though.
    Last edited by thunderclan; 2021-08-09 at 03:33 PM.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Why don't elves run everything?

    Way back in 1st ed AD&D elves were given a very long lifespan. Many assumed that longer lives meant better opportunities to acquire wealth and political power.

    But then there were no PC elven clerics, but there were NPC elven clerics. Why?

    In my world the elves eventually want to leave the mortal world for their afterlife. At some point, usually in advanced age, the elf begins to desire the transition and begins to train for the journey. These are the elven clerics. After a few centuries they are spiritually ready.

    They often attract less experienced elves to them, and when the cleric makes the trip the followers go too. Younger followers are often those with more worldly experience, so the more elves adventure and wander far from home, the more likely they will wish to go.

    Usually the ceremony for passing into the other realm involves a trip, whether by horseback, ship, or on foot. The voyagers appear to fade away as ghosts to those who observe such voyagers.

    Drow were cut off from the afterlife when they took up demon worship.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Why don't elves run everything?
    In my setting, elves are a young race. Only about 5,000 years old, compared to humans that have been around 150k, and dwarves, gnomes, and halflings are older than that. Never mind the dragonborn, who have been around for over five hundred MILLION years.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Usually the ceremony for passing into the other realm involves a trip, whether by horseback, ship, or on foot. The voyagers appear to fade away as ghosts to those who observe such voyagers.
    That is a beautiful and poignant image and I'm totally stealing it. It reminds me of the elves of middle earth, but just different enough to have its own flavor.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    The Tribe of Jeb. There are Dwarfs all over that only refer to themselves as a Son or Daughter of Jeb. Nobody knows who Jeb is, if his sons and daughters have their own names. If this is an ethnicity, a religion, or a weird magical curse. When they meet, they speak gibberish to each other but scholars have concluded that the words themselves have no meaning yet the Tribe of Jeb can somehow communicate. They do not seem to have a specific region or settlement or even a common trade. We do not know what they are. We have no idea what they want. All we know is that the tribe of Jeb is as numerous as it is inscrutable.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    The gods are not only young, but are better described as "the universe's customer support staff" rather than creators or all-powerful beings.

    The current crop of gods were only elevated to that status about 250 years ago, after the Great Mechanism that manages the universe's power flows disempowered the last set and drained them in an effort to keep from collapsing (stupid adventurers and their recklessness...). The prior set were only 2500 years old, making divine magic the youngest form of magic, with harmonic/bardic coming first, then wizardry (including sorcery and warlock pacts), then spirit magic (druids + rangers + other primal types), then finally clerical magic (including paladins, etc). Some say that now there's a new type (artifice), but that's not confirmed yet.

    Other things--
    * Humans are an artificial race created out of hobgoblins, who themselves are a temporary form of goblins that occurs when tribes are under stress.
    * Dwarves, giants, and goliaths were all one race at one point. One set got depowered/cursed --> dwarves. Giants are what happens when a goliath undergoes a special ritual to be rewritten by runic programs. Those that don't die and manage it become various giants, who are sterile. Giant-kin are fertile "failure states" of that ritual. The Orduning is literally a programmatic thing, depending on how many clauses in the program you can survive.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Elves are vulnerable to iron and one kingdom that opposes them puts iron in/on everything. They ritually sprinkle red salt on their food. Their coins have an iron outer-rim. They bind their books in iron covers and write them with iron ink out of iron pens. They wear decorative iron circlets on their heads. They seal business deals with oaths taken while holding an iron rod.

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    Lizardfolk

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    The Horde

    The Veil separates the living world from the afterlife, and is damaged by obscenity. Acts of terrible violence and emotion lead to the weaknesses in the Veil, which is what causes hauntings and curses to enter into the world. Massacres stand at the pinnacle of these hauntings, which leads to the Horde.

    Where great battles or mass murder have been committed the Veil is nauseatingly thin, and spirits pour into the world seeking revenge. These spirits infest the blood soaked clay and become Orcs, horrifying earth-zombies in the shape of men. The Orcs are intelligent but filled with the same desire for revenge and fear of being returned to the Earth as all ghosts, and so set out in the twisted semblance of their prior forms to slay the living. Specifically to drag living captives back to be sacrificed on their Altars, keeping the Veil from healing and allowing them to regenerate and grow new Orcs.

    These Hordes look and act like semblances of their living selves, so some fight in formations millennia out of date and others as children ridden down by invading forces. The Hordes can be defeated by the cleansing of their Altars, but this involves defeating an enemy that fights to the end without heed of their own lives and capturing the Altar on the Site to heal the Veil. Hordes fight one another over captives and lands, but since they cannot use each other for food they work together to keep Altars from falling. The Hordes instinctively know that reducing the number of Altars makes it more likely that they will all be exorcised and the Age of Blood will end.
    Last edited by Tvtyrant; 2021-08-10 at 04:23 PM.
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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    The "cowboys in fairyland" sample setting I wrote up for STaRS has some good ones.
    • Dwarves are kinda Aztec. They live in jungles have metallic skin, build huge cities and ziggurats, and sacrifice sentient humanoids to appease their gods and hopefully keep them from destroying the world.
    • Elves are... well, okay, I mostly just copied the Marat from Codex Alera. Nomads who venerate totem animals, and in exchange become physically more similar to them.
    • Goblins think they have to shed their own souls. As they see it, this is only one in a series of worlds, each one getting more and more paradisiacal. To get to the next world, they have to pour themselves into their art and craftmanship so they can be born smaller and smaller-- bugbears in one life, hobgoblins in another, and so on-- until they're small enough to escape.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    One thing I've thought about is having the Always Evil just-flat-out-monsters, Worgs and such, be a matter of "improper" moral actors, in that while intelligent they aren't meaningfully more behaviorally flexible than an ordinary animal. It is very, very difficult to meet D&D benchmarks of "Good" with the ethical sense of a pack of wolves, because you are a member of a pack of wolves, just one that happens to be capable of speech and better planning.

    Truly animalistic threat responses and hunting considerations with the subject being Humanoids, because they are frankly what constitutes easy prey most of the time in these high-fantasy worlds, is very far into Evil behaviors. The theft of livestock with active refusal to consider the well-being of their herders is also an Evil act, but again, these fantasy worlds are ridiculous. They aren't Humanoids, and do not have anything at all demanding they think exactly like them.

    Cosmic Alignment does not care about clashing mental frameworks on this level, and thus such very literally bestial cruelty from something with a full mortal soul capable of deliberate choices will be sending them straight down under. And it goes just as well the other way! Blink Dogs are quite genuinely dogs, and very exceptionally friendly ones. This becomes Lawful Good, as they are actually more prone to working for the good of urban populations than most any humanoid since they're far more prone to generalizing their more common benevolence.

    Meanwhile, Worgs are typically small family units that pretty routinely violently clash, being exceedingly willing and able to brutally murder first cousins. Again, things that are fine for true wild animals in the state of nature are not okay for inter-sapient conflict resolution, no matter how scarce their real ability to behave otherwise or establish and maintain a better way of life. Basically a whole mess of starkly limited self-control that causes very strong stereotype accuracy.

    Granted, I also place slavery in the Law/Chaos axis since the argumentation against it as a whole in real philosophy is entirely about personal liberties that are the reason we have the Law/Chaos axis, with most of the same things making realistic slavery "wrong" tripping on serfdom and in some regards being a liege-lord with hereditarily subordinate nobles. So, y'know, basically the entirety of Feudalism, making the permission of real slavery in broadly Lawful Good societies, albeit necessitating protections wildly beyond historic precedence, kinda required to have the medievalesque Swords and Sorcery work. Basically a rather awkward conclusion of trying for ludonarrative resonance.
    Last edited by Morphic tide; 2021-08-10 at 06:10 PM.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Axbeak Riders of the Northeast Badlands

    A region of porous rocky sand studded with granite knolls, knobs, and ridges is arid, sparsely hydrated, and for most of the year sparsely vegetated. In the rainy season flash-floods leave chains of shallow pools and ponds which quickly dry up, but in their silty wake grasses and wildflowers bloom for a few weeks leaving seeds behind to bloom again when the next flash flood comes along.

    There are permanent water sources. These are usually hidden in rocky crevices, and known only to the various animals which can thrive in the otherwise inhospitable wasteland.

    Two of these are the ostrich and the axebeak. Ostriches are not uncommon, and their mobility allows them to evade floods while seeking blooming valleys. Axebeaks are more rare. As obligate carnivores they are required to eat meat, though bugs and small reptiles are their primary diet when very young.

    A gravid female will find an ostrich nest into which she will lay one egg a night for 3-6 nights, consuming an ostrich egg each time. She plays no further part in their care. The ostrich mother protects the nest from the sun and forages at night until the eggs hatch. Thereafter, the male ostrich guards the young, both ostrich and axebeak, until the axebeak chicks grow strong enough to begin to prey on the ostrich chicks. Thereafter, the male ostrich will recognize the axebeaks as 'other,' and will drive away or kill the axebeak chicks. At that point the axebeaks may forage as a group, but over time they will become solitary hunter/scavengers.

    Small human or halfling barbarian tribes herd ostriches, and they have learned to tame the axebeak males as mounts. (Whether cultural or because of some aspect of axebeak nature, the females are deemed unsuitable as mounts, and are turned out to fend for themselves when they are three months old.)

    Those who desire an axebeak mount go out to find a wild ostrich nest that has some of the slightly larger axebeak eggs and take them back to the nesting site of their domesticated flocks. When taken as hatchlings and hand raised, the males are larger, stronger, and obedient. Well cared for axebeaks almost never attack without being commanded, though the mothers of small children never let their children play where untethered axebeaks wander.

    Part of the training involves piercing the sinus with a twig and as the axbeak grows, replacing the twig with larger and larger twigs until, at nine months, the mount recieves its permanent bit, which is used to attach reigns that the rider uses to guide the mount.

    A padded saddle at the hip is held in place by an x-shaped girth that crosses the breast in front of its vestigial wings and cross again just forward of the knees. The stirrups are located there, though mounting and dismounting is usually accomplished while the bird is squatting.

    Nomadic families of 4-12 axbeak riders guide and guard their ostrich herds as they migrate from the salt plains to the East to the civilized river valleys of the West on their eternal quest for food and water.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-08-10 at 09:39 PM.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morphic tide View Post
    Granted, I also place slavery in the Law/Chaos axis since the argumentation against it as a whole in real philosophy is entirely about personal liberties that are the reason we have the Law/Chaos axis
    Are you using the 4e alignment system? Law and Evil aren't mutually exclusive in most editions.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Are you using the 4e alignment system? Law and Evil aren't mutually exclusive in most editions.
    Law and Evil remain fundamentally separate things, though, the basic premise of D&D Alignment makes it extremely difficult if not legitimately impossible to say a single broad means or motive can be both.

    Hereditary positions in life aren't the problem, because Feudalism isn't Evil. Forced labor isn't the problem, because bonded service as part of prison sentences isn't Evil. The intersection of these two isn't Evil, because that's the bulk of how you define Serfdom.

    The separation between the defining features of Serfdom and Chattel Slavery are technical details of how the inherited state of bonded labor is transferred. It's why we got rid of both. Because there's not really a historic argument against one that is inapplicable to the other.

    Again, this is a matter of not being able to figure out an answer that lets the various forms of Serfdom through. The real-life ethics are irrelevant, it's entirely a matter of letting the game be consistent for the setting backdrops it's applied to. Apparently I'm weird for being willing to set this aside for the needs of Elfgame.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morphic tide View Post
    Law and Evil remain fundamentally separate things, though, the basic premise of D&D Alignment makes it extremely difficult if not legitimately impossible to say a single broad means or motive can be both.
    I would classify that as highly debatable.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    I would classify that as highly debatable.
    Highly debatable, likely to lead to forum infractions, and very off topic.

    In my primary setting, slavery and serfdom exist, but in the primary adventure zone laws prohibit both. Forced labor is only allowed as punishment for crimes. The reason for this is that free labor is more productive and requires only infrastructure that pays for itself. The moral argument is not relevant because in the 35 years of the colonization of the Tinald River Valley the Duke has gotten extremely rich taxing free enterprise, and free people working for their own profit work much more productively than those who are forced to work with threats of violence.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    I would classify that as highly debatable.
    There is not a [Lawful Evil] subtype in 3.5, Devils have two separate [Law] and [Evil] subtypes. There are a very scarce few single effects that attack corners of the Alignment chart, the overwhelming bulk of mechanics interacting with Alignment throughout the games' history are either Good/Evil specific or come in sets of four or five to cover Law/Chaos/Good/Evil and sometimes Neutral on its own. Can you find me even one example of it being explicitly stated that some singular means or motive at least as broad as slavery is actually defined (literally just forced labor) is something belonging to a corner?

    Because even with how the corners are defined for their respective Outer Plane, it is overwhelmingly an intersection of one Alignment's ends with the other's means.

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    HalflingPirate

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    This isn't the alignment topic.

    When Spelljammer was new my player group disliked the whole Gith setup, and almost rejected the premise, until one of our group created The Nebula.

    This was a vast region of space filled with material which was still in the process of condensing into six stars. They were hot enough to be incandescent, but not yet large enough to sustain fusion. Their varying temperatures gave each a distinct color.

    The nebular cloud was mostly nitrogen and water vapor with oxygen in the low teen percentages, excpt where planetoids supported green plants. In those places oxygen envelopes could be as high as thirty or forty percent.

    About forty percent of the lighter elements and upwards of eighty percent of the heavier elements are in the proto-stars. Most of the rest is in the form of metallic asteroids with crusts of earth deposits and ices or even water.

    The result is a cluster of thousands of tiny planetoids within an atmospheric envelope that does not depend upon their gravity to maintain it. Atmospheric density and composition vary from location to location, and gets denser near the proto-stars and larger planetoids, but large swaths of the nebular cloud are dense enough to support terrestrial life.

    From the surrounding star systems the cloud appears to be a massive multicolored hoard of gemstones. In Eric's version at least six neighbor worlds had sent Spelljammer ships to the nebula for colonization and exploitation.

    Waystation was a Mars-sized world on the fringe of the nebula with a terrestrial environment. It was a trading station maintained by the PCs homeworld, though by a rival nation. As an emergency retreat it was useful, but they 'taxed' us to the point of poverty. We eventually set up our own base deeper in the nebula.

    The Sulphur Planet was memorable, as was the Dead Planet, which needed a better marketing scheme to attract more visitors to their zombie-infested marshes. (A vampire stole our ship, but we found a crashed one, fixed it, found the vampire, and gave him a long trip home as a gas-cloud. Then we had two ships...)

    Anyway, the setting was created by Eric B. so if you read this I'm not taking credit for your creation. Thanks for all the fun. Now I'll be going, at bottle-speed!

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    Laserlight's Avatar

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Elves (such as in Pratchett's Lords and Ladies) and vampires are the same thing. Long life span, aversion to daylight and holy symbols, covered with glamor, soulless.
    Junior, half orc paladin of the Order of St Dale the Intimidator: "Ah cain't abide no murderin' scoundrel."

    Tactical Precepts: 1) Cause chaos, then exploit it; 2) No plan survives contact with...(sigh)...my subordinates.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Bohandas's Avatar

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    Feb 2016

    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Blood as a utility. Drained out of animals at a central power station and pumped out to every building in the city to power magical devices.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morphic tide View Post
    Can you find me even one example of it being explicitly stated that some singular means or motive at least as broad as slavery is actually defined (literally just forced labor) is something belonging to a corner?
    IIRC, Unearthed Arcana (3.5e) and/or Oriental Adventures associated the concept of honor with Lawful Good
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2021-08-18 at 11:26 PM.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Telok's Avatar

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Well, I suppose if we want off-beat...

    In my Dungeons the Dragoning setting we have:

    Yeti are mute, communicating through wiggly hair twitches. For talking yo non-yeti they use talking datapads they type on. You will find two sorts of yeti on the wheel, cyber-juicer bodyguards and tye-dye rastafarian mining enclaves. One type has money, the other won't usually try to kill you, they're all flying higher than kites 25/8.

    The Cocaine Wizard Guild has door prizes at their meetings. Like a six-legged blue furred ursine semi-promethian exalt beast with chain-swords for legs. The current major guild project is a (small) moon sized automated factory that will breed, raise, weld, and train cyber-ninja tyrannosaurus rexs. The current major debate is over storage of the finished product. Specifically if they should teleport them randomly to passing ships or use drop pods aimed at nearby planets.

    The Pan-Great Wheel Ultralympics held once a decade in Sigil features such games as: lethal punning, ork baby punting, Elvis impersonation, synchronized chainsaw swimming, elfaboo hunting, and a circum Sigil motorcycle death-rally with strict limits on how big the vehicle mounted guns can be.
    "And this, too, shall pass away."

    DtD40k7e rewrite complete.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What's Your Most Off-Beat Setting Detail?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Elvis impersonation
    I first read that as "Elvis interpretation," which I suppose would also fit your setting.

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