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D&D 5E Ideas For a World of Islands? (+thread)

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
@doctorbadwolf what is the largest island you are considering? England, Ireland, Honshu (Japan), Taiwan, Sumatra, Borneo, Madagascar - these are all pretty large islands, wherein most of the time, you don't actually feel like you are on an island. Comparitively, Shikoku, Guam, Hong Kong are small enough that you can walk their perimeter in a week or less, in some cases a day. Have you considered an upper bound on island size? (Heck, some may say that Australia or Antarctica are "islands", since they are not connected to another landmass).
In the OP I used Indonesia as the largest island. Most are smaller, though there is probably a chain somewhere of “huge” mountainous islands that have a mountain rain shadow and look a bit like a drowned California Central Valley.
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Cool idea, though for it to work either the islands would need to be pretty close together or that syndicate is gonna have to have an awful lot of boats. :)

(I'm assuming "boat-bridge" to mean the boats are rafted together such that the army or caravan walks across from one island to another)

Yeah, I had in mind a ridiculously long bridge made of boats or rafted. No really possible in real life, but with the help of the goo'old ''because magic'', I think it would be cool. But yeah, its more to move from one island to the one next to it.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Yeah, I had in mind a ridiculously long bridge made of boats or rafted. No really possible in real life, but with the help of the goo'old ''because magic'', I think it would be cool. But yeah, its more to move from one island to the one next to it.
Would be cool to have a super long bridge supported by some sort of magic (that is now starting to fail), such that the two island people have had very friendly and profitable relations over the years. Now that the bridge is failing, how will they continue to work together? (I'm thinking of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, although there are no doubt many other bridges of similar span).
 


Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Hey - how many moons will your world have? Depending on the answer, maybe you can play with Tides in some way? Perhaps when the moons all align, there are terrible tsunamis planet wide, and this is something that only happens once every 1000 years. The longer lived folk (elves for example) remember, vaguely, the last time this happened. But the more rapid lived folk pooh pooh such a thing...
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Floating cities. Check out Buckminster Fuller.
Undersea cities (like just below the surface). Or super deep cities, but populated by modified surface folk. I'm thinking of the novel Starfish by Peter Watts. It's an SF novel, but anything technological can be hand waved with Magic...

 


Undersea cities (like just below the surface). Or super deep cities, but populated by modified surface folk. I'm thinking of the novel Starfish by Peter Watts. It's an SF novel, but anything technological can be hand waved with Magic...

Magic rituals to switch between water and air can be routine.

Some water species have an alternate form. A particular species might have three, humanoid, aquatic beast, and living water. It resembles reallife folklore.
 

Aldarc

Legend
In the OP I used Indonesia as the largest island. Most are smaller, though there is probably a chain somewhere of “huge” mountainous islands that have a mountain rain shadow and look a bit like a drowned California Central Valley.
So New Guinea or Borneo sized? Keep in mind that New Guinea is almost twice the size of California, and Borneo is slightly bigger than Texas.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So New Guinea or Borneo sized? Keep in mind that New Guinea is almost twice the size of California, and Borneo is slightly bigger than Texas.
Sure. Again, we’re talking about the largest land masses in the world. I suspect that to have recognizable ocean currents and the like, you’re gonna want a couple archipelagos made up of larger islands, and having islands that big helps have room for stuff like larger stretches of desert, plains, massive jungles, etc, but you still have those peoples immediate neighbors in a coastal region.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The Solomon Islands and "The Slot" of WWII fame - two parallel chains of islands that shelter the channel between them, making navigation easier / safer through there than it would be to go along the outside shores.

Legends and Stories

"Ironbottom Sound" - nobody remembers just what happened here but it sank a fleet of ships. It might have been a sea battle or it might have been a storm or it might have been an 'act of the gods' incident that sank a famous / infamous metal-plated ship.

The Atocha - a treasure ship was fully loaded with vast wealth, set sail, but was caught in a horrible storm after leaving sight of land and never seen again.

Titanic - a prestige / pleasure ship for the very wealthy and upper class, sinks with lots of VIPs on board.

Andrea Doria - this ship sinks due to collision damage, not far from a port. The drama here is the rescue effort to save passengers and crew.

Bermuda Triangle - ships disappear here. Nobody knows why. The PCs get to find out ... but will they survive to tell the secret?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The Solomon Islands and "The Slot" of WWII fame - two parallel chains of islands that shelter the channel between them, making navigation easier / safer through there than it would be to go along the outside shores.

Legends and Stories

"Ironbottom Sound" - nobody remembers just what happened here but it sank a fleet of ships. It might have been a sea battle or it might have been a storm or it might have been an 'act of the gods' incident that sank a famous / infamous metal-plated ship.

The Atocha - a treasure ship was fully loaded with vast wealth, set sail, but was caught in a horrible storm after leaving sight of land and never seen again.

Titanic - a prestige / pleasure ship for the very wealthy and upper class, sinks with lots of VIPs on board.

Andrea Doria - this ship sinks due to collision damage, not far from a port. The drama here is the rescue effort to save passengers and crew.

Bermuda Triangle - ships disappear here. Nobody knows why. The PCs get to find out ... but will they survive to tell the secret?
Nice! I like all of these.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Is the realm of the Dead underwater, or is it in the sky?

Perhaps The Raven Queen has a lover and consort, perhaps even an equal, who is a more Kelemvor style god of death. Give them different aspects of death and the dead, but both oppose undeath, which is patronized only by fiends and such. Perhaps she planned to steal Death from him, but found a kindred spirit instead, and he helped her and her sisters figure out the secret to becoming gods, so they could save their people, and now they and a couple lesser deities make up the Court of The Unseen Sea, complete with goth Valkyries like Neil Gaiman's Death but with a spear, Osiris-esque ferryman, etc. Perhaps he judges the dead, and she rules over the cycle of death, etc.

If it wasn't clear, I really strongly dislike dnd's too-clean cosmology with it's symmetry and it's exclusive gods with little overlap. I also really don't like gods require worship to have power.

I also love the way that having multiple gods of something creates explorations of aspects of that thing, like the two gods of war in Greece and also in Theros.


How did the world begin? Well, in the main region focused on/where the campaign is centered, The Sea (personified as a feminine deity of the deep, currents, life, and chaos) was impregnated by either; The Sun (a masculine deity of logic or technology or...no, I hate it. ), the Sky, or the Stars.
Their first children were the Moons, and some say that the Sea also begat children with The Void, for fiends come up into the world from the Deep, from fissures in the ocean floor when sulfur and heat and magma are belched into the ocean.

The first mortals were the Vyras Shadar*, and the Dragons, and the Sahuagin, who each represented the Land, Sky, and Sea, respectively. The children of the Mother and Father made their own children, bringing elves and gnomes and tabaxi and every other sort of thinking creature into the world, though it is said that halflings arose of their own will into the world, from lesser creatures, and stole the gift of inspiration from the gods to become one of The People. (ie, halflings are believed to have evolved naturally, more or less)

I'm tempted to allow Humans, but only the Dragonmarked subraces from Eberron, and give each it's own origin and themes and story in the world.

*Who are the Vyras Shadar? They are the race comprised of the Shadar-kai variant that is it's own race, and the two subraces of Vryloka I use in my games. The Mistborn Vryloka are 2cha/1str and can turn into mist, while the Wolfblood Vryloka are 2str/1cha and can turn into wolves. The shadar-kai are 2dex/1int, and can teleport and become insubstantial 1/SR. They are the ancient race from which arose the Raven Queen, Red Witch, and Silver Knight (Lady of The White Well).
 

squibbles

Adventurer
I strongly suggest checking out the Malaysian OSR goodness that is A Thousand Thousand Islands, which contains such things as a coastal civilization ruled by crocodiles--not anthropomorphic crocodiles, just crocodiles.

Also this:
pc6HOF.jpg

For other inspiration, I would also recommend watching the movie Life of Pi (to steal ideas for visuals) and Planet Earth's "Islands" episode.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, couple ideas I had about specific societies in such a world!

  • A classic forest kingdom with a history of Good Queens who are blessed by the fey Lady of Silver Mist and who is supported by her Knight Herald (also nearly always a woman) who is given a magic sword that makes her near invisible in combat. The common folk are treated "fairly", but are still very much the common folk. Leaving a saucer of milk out for the brownies here has a tangible benefit, much like the relationship of Rashemeni with the domovoi there, and nobles must take care to not become too arrogant or abuse their power, lest the fey play less than merciful "pranks" on them as a result.
  • A nation-state nestled in a frozen fjord, where a council of guild elders governs by turns over a loosely organized commune. Magic is taught to every citizen of the city and it's protected environs, as is math, reading, and the philosophy of governance. Personal property is limited to household and personal goods, while the means of production is owned by all those who operate and/or benefit from them. Trade is handled by the guilds, and no one person is allowed to dominate any given position in trade, lest they gain power they can hold over others.
  • A despotic empire that neighbors both, ruled by an Archmagus chosen by some sort of wang-measuring contest disguised as something relevant to magical power and understanding, that insists that the most intelligent peoples of the world should rule those who are less intelligent, but define and redefine thsoe terms as it suits them (for instance, no love for gnomes, even though gnomes are noticeably faster of cognition, and have an easier time actively grasping complex ideas and making use of them). Probably patriarchal, but doesn't have to be.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Alternate islands:
A small continent is situated over the north / south pole. Of course it is glacier-covered ... except for a few bits and pieces here and there around the edges, and just inland some hills / mountains stick out of the ice fields. There are Aleut-, Inuit-, Eskimo- analogue peoples / cultures living on these "islands". They fish and track sea animals.
Land animals - especially large ones - are too scarce to rely on for the base of your diet. Unless you want a tundra peninsula and Leader Of The Many Families arrives in style riding atop a wooly mammoth / mastodon - bareback !

Lemmings are a popular character in their folk tales. Migratory animals (arriving for the summer) are seen as a sign of good fortune. Their tales of monsters include Swarms of Mosquitos.

The population could be Neanderthals (playable race in 3e) or the Yak-men from Storm King's Thunder or anything else that is well-insulated against cold.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Alternate islands:
A small continent is situated over the north / south pole. Of course it is glacier-covered ... except for a few bits and pieces here and there around the edges, and just inland some hills / mountains stick out of the ice fields. There are Aleut-, Inuit-, Eskimo- analogue peoples / cultures living on these "islands". They fish and track sea animals.
Land animals - especially large ones - are too scarce to rely on for the base of your diet. Unless you want a tundra peninsula and Leader Of The Many Families arrives in style riding atop a wooly mammoth / mastodon - bareback !

Lemmings are a popular character in their folk tales. Migratory animals (arriving for the summer) are seen as a sign of good fortune. Their tales of monsters include Swarms of Mosquitos.

The population could be Neanderthals (playable race in 3e) or the Yak-men from Storm King's Thunder or anything else that is well-insulated against cold.
My wife and I were discussing the other day having Goliaths in a tundra landscape, hunting seals and whales, hunting or befriending polar bears, etc.

I could also see a great arctic steppe with mammoths, giant elk, and other megafauna, connecting many arctic islands with the appearance of one landmass.

SInce my group already uses the optional level-1 feat rule in Theros (and have for some time, but it was a houserule origionally), having some enviromental adaptation feats might be a good idea. Stuff like "Coastal Nomadic Ancestry" and "Arctic Ancestry" are things that could be applied to nearly any people, so having it live outside of the race stats works for me.

Coastal Nomads would have a swim speed, the ability to hold their breath 3 times as long as they otherwise would, proficiency with spears and tridents, and acclimation to deep waters for diving? Maybe have the ability is water to ignore low light and hide while only lightly obscured?

Arctic Peoples would have cold resistance, acclimation to extreme cold, but what else?
 

My wife and I were discussing the other day having Goliaths in a tundra landscape, hunting seals and whales, hunting or befriending polar bears, etc.

I could also see a great arctic steppe with mammoths, giant elk, and other megafauna, connecting many arctic islands with the appearance of one landmass.

SInce my group already uses the optional level-1 feat rule in Theros (and have for some time, but it was a houserule origionally), having some enviromental adaptation feats might be a good idea. Stuff like "Coastal Nomadic Ancestry" and "Arctic Ancestry" are things that could be applied to nearly any people, so having it live outside of the race stats works for me.

Coastal Nomads would have a swim speed, the ability to hold their breath 3 times as long as they otherwise would, proficiency with spears and tridents, and acclimation to deep waters for diving? Maybe have the ability is water to ignore low light and hide while only lightly obscured?

Arctic Peoples would have cold resistance, acclimation to extreme cold, but what else?
Arctic peoples would also have skills in navigating snowy terrain - in game terms, ignoring difficult terrain form regular snow and ice, knowing how to avoid ice blindness, etc.

In addition, if you feel the outlander background feature is too good, you could impose terrain restrictions.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Arctic peoples would also have skills in navigating snowy terrain - in game terms, ignoring difficult terrain form regular snow and ice, knowing how to avoid ice blindness, etc.

In addition, if you feel the outlander background feature is too good, you could impose terrain restrictions.
I like the navigation idea. Might also include ability to hide while only lightly obscured by snow, or hide from creatures who are partially blinded by snow glare.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, coatls.

Underused celestials that I'd love to use more in a world like this. Also other weird celestials.

Any ideas?

Yuan-ti purebloods reflavored as coatl blessed humanoids?
 

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