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D&D 5E Need ideas for my setting/ story

Hex_Toliver

Villager
Hi everyone, I’ve recently got back into dming 5e and I’m having a blast. One of the players is a friend of mine and the others are randos I met through discord, but I must say, I feel extremely lucky as they are engaged, thoughtful, and like to role play.

I sort of had a vague idea for this setting that just sort of sparked in my mind. I don’t have everything flushed out by any-means but I wanted to share what I had and get some feed back/ ideas on the setting.

All of the player characters hail from nations that had a summit, and at this summit among other things, they discussed a location of the world called The Vents. The Vents is a massive drained oceans made into a valley, the depth of this ocean was great so the cliffs are huge and it’s several hundred miles to get to the sea bed proper. The Vents are extremely hot, filled with a constant steam that fills the air from geysers and (once) underwater volcanos. Extreme weather occurs in The Vents like soot storms, acid rain, and treacherous wind. I wanted to make the denizens of The Vents very hardened by the land and give it a bit of a frontier feel with overtones of the primordial. The gods in the vents are different from the “abovers” ( what the people of The Vents call those from up above their valley) as they are just features of this majestic drained sea, like the cliff sides, resting mineral springs, earthquakes, etc. I’ve been having fun interpreting how the different races would survive down here and adapt.

The party has been tasked with establishing contact and learn about the Vents as they are unmapped and little is known about them in the nations up above. They found out that these 9 major cities have these communication devices called whisperfires, but 1 month ago before the party arrived to The Vents a great earthquake happened knocking much into chaos in The Vents, disconnecting the whisperfires. Creatures born of the elements have been whispered fantastical powers by a god sleeping in the earth, driving some mad with new power, towns are in recovery mode, change is on the horizon. So far the party has secured one whisperfire at the first town the came across, scaling down the cliff side ( which was in the thralls of mass agitation from a salt and steam mephit that kept two feuding groups hot under the collar with their new found power) and are now at the second town, which is a gnomish/ dwarven town. It’s called Progenitor, and it’s a mechanized city that can scale the sides of the cliff but has been too damaged to move by the great earthquake, and is currently going through some racial tensions as one of the main ruling dwarven family’s wants to abandon the mechanized city ( along with the gnomes) and tunnel into the cliff proper. The party is currently investigating the ruins of a destroyed part of the city, overrun by burrowing beasts,trying to find the whisper fire there.

Sorry for the info dump but I guess I wanted a sketch of the things happening right now and translate a feel for things. Does anyone have any cool ideas for the setting or storyline? Any ideas for the 7 other towns and how the fantastical people have adapted there or are currently going through it because of the current catastrophe. Any ideas for monsters, items, or Magic’s that would be unique to this hot land?
 

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MarkB

Legend
How long ago was the ocean drained, and were there civilisations already existing at the time?

I'm picturing all sorts of things having been uncovered once the waters receded - shipwrecks, lost cities, etc. Presumably all thoroughly explored by now, but could still be very interesting in descriptive terms.

One thing that came to mind was maybe an underwater civilisation that used to live there however many centuries ago, before it was drained - sahuagin, for instance - and people think they were all tragically killed when the ocean went away, and other races have since set up shop in the ruins of their great city.

But actually, they didn't all die. A portion of them retreated underground, to great networks of caverns that still remain flooded to this day, forming an undercity in which the aquatic race still survives, and it's only recently that the sealed-off passageways to this area have been breached, whether from above or below, and the descendants of the city's former inhabitants are starting to make their presence known.
 

Hex_Toliver

Villager
How long ago was the ocean drained, and were there civilizations already existing at the time?
I'm thinking it was drained from something (still haven't settled on what), probably like 2000 years ago or so. I think there definitely were civilizations there, not only using this ocean but living in this ocean.
I'm picturing all sorts of things having been uncovered once the waters receded - shipwrecks, lost cities, etc. Presumably all thoroughly explored by now, but could still be very interesting in descriptive terms.
Yes! In fact I have planned one of the cities, Shipyard, to be a city millions of broken ships from different past cultures. Thank you though, because as I'm dming this I need to remind myself this was once an ocean, and I should add more texture into it's description with that in mind.
One thing that came to mind was maybe an underwater civilisation that used to live there however many centuries ago, before it was drained - sahuagin, for instance - and people think they were all tragically killed when the ocean went away, and other races have since set up shop in the ruins of their great city.

But actually, they didn't all die. A portion of them retreated underground, to great networks of caverns that still remain flooded to this day, forming an undercity in which the aquatic race still survives, and it's only recently that the sealed-off passageways to this area have been breached, whether from above or below, and the descendants of the city's former inhabitants are starting to make their presence known.
Loooove this. I think this can be a fun detail that the party get to explore. The passageways could've opened up a month ago from that great quake. I've been thinking about bigger threats for this campaign, and this could be something interesting to explore...
 

hopeless

Explorer
How about they don't know what drained the area and their means to get down there is a gnomish invention basically a steam powered lift that feels like its falling apart?
The authorities at the top keep this a secret as their efforts to investigate have been stymied making some suspect the previous recruits they sent down there turned against them.
So the real question might be what are their intentions towards that area, are your PCs former prisoners sent Suicide Squad style?
Are any of them related to members of the previous groups sent down there?
Perhaps there is some eldritch horror down there responsible for creating this area sucking down the residents from the surface who were thought killed in the process but are very much alive and unaware what caused this situation?
Perhaps they're dealing with the Princes of Elemental Evil and this is just the set up for their latest plan to release their deity?
 

Hex_Toliver

Villager
How about they don't know what drained the area and their means to get down there is a gnomish invention basically a steam powered lift that feels like its falling apart?
The authorities at the top keep this a secret as their efforts to investigate have been stymied making some suspect the previous recruits they sent down there turned against them.
So the real question might be what are their intentions towards that area, are your PCs former prisoners sent Suicide Squad style?
That would be such a cool start! Unfortunately we are 6 sessions in, and how they have gotten down, and were assigned to go here was much more of their own volition as agents of the human, dwarven, elven nations. I will say though, they are at this dwarven/ gnomish city, which is super steam punk. They are going through all these problems at the moment, but the idea of this lift to make travel more accessible and easier, maybe even move forces around could be something interesting to explore with these inventors later.
Are any of them related to members of the previous groups sent down there?
I'm not sure if they will be related, maybe if a PC wants to do that, that would be cool. This has got me to start thinking about previous partys/ groups from up above, even other teams of agents sent out at the same time as the party. I'm sure there are fun tensions and scenarios to explore there.
Perhaps they're dealing with the Princes of Elemental Evil and this is just the set up for their latest plan to release their deity?
I think something in that vein will be a part of the story. I mention the god below, which the people of the Vents say causes the earthquakes, and since the great earthquake a month ago that messed everything up, elemental magics have been leaking out of the earth infusing beings with new powers. I could easily form some sort of cult based around the worship of this new power/ god.
 

ART!

Hero
I love what you're doing here, @Hex_Toliver - this sounds like a unique setting, and you've thought through a lot of implications.

I just have a couple thoughts/questions:

How was the ocean drained? Why? By whom? Did all that water and ocean life go somewhere else? Are any of the former denizens trying to get back there?

Ocean floor magma vents would make great power sources for...something.

IRL, extremophiles live around ocean floor magma vents - what kind of bizarre creatures lived around them before the draining, and did any survive and remain.

It may be that one or more races or lineages of monsters survived the draining by magically altering themselves - but at a price! That price could be that their un-altered relatives who left with the waters would no longer recognize them.

Removing the waters could have revealed long-guarded secret entrances to subterranean realms!
 

Hex_Toliver

Villager
I love what you're doing here, @Hex_Toliver - this sounds like a unique setting, and you've thought through a lot of implications.
Thank you! I think as a DM I really like making up fun stylized settings that stray away from tolkein-esque settings. Nothing wrong with those settings, I just like to make things a little more fantastical, and then adapt the material given to me from 5e and see where I land.
How was the ocean drained? Why? By whom? Did all that water and ocean life go somewhere else? Are any of the former denizens trying to get back there?
Ocean floor magma vents would make great power sources for...something.
That is one detail that I have yet to settle on, there is so many ways to go with it and I haven't thought of anything that I like enough. I do think though, the idea some ocean life surviving and adapting in some strange way is cool. Possibly the water is underneath, or in pocket caves, and that's where the surviving ocean life lives.
As to the magma vents powering something, something magical, something technological? There is a lot to do with that.
IRL, extremophiles live around ocean floor magma vents - what kind of bizarre creatures lived around them before the draining, and did any survive and remain.

It may be that one or more races or lineages of monsters survived the draining by magically altering themselves - but at a price! That price could be that their un-altered relatives who left with the waters would no longer recognize them.

Removing the waters could have revealed long-guarded secret entrances to subterranean realms!
That's a horrifying idea, that super deep sea creatures, adapted to this new way of life and now are stalking the seabed... Giving kind of aberration/ alien vibes.

Oooh, that's cool. This sounds pretty silly, but I like the idea of surviving merfolk that are now malformed and terrible to behold. Maybe they're nice, maybe they're not :devilish:

Yes, an ecosystem underneath an ecosystem! Not sure how I want that to manifest, but I hadn't though about that, so you go the gears a spinnin'
 

Stormonu

Legend
How about having one of the towns built around a mud kraken? A semi-amphibious version that sometimes ventures out of its muddy pool to devour the faithless. Perhaps a cult of worshippers of this kraken dwell in a towering, former coral bed overlooking the pool and they send out "missionaries" to other areas to collect tribute - or sacrifices from the unwilling. Maybe the cultists are led by Kopru, with a great temple half-buried in the mud from which they rule?
 

Stormonu

Legend
Also, ghost shoals. Areas where large schools of fish died en masse. The former sea floor is littered with the fossilized/sun-dried remains of fish and other sea creatures. At sundown, the ghosts of the former shoal residents float in great, multi-colored schools throughout the area, sometimes sweeping up mortals in the phantom currents. But the deceptively bewitching area is also laced with ghost sharks, lacedons or other terrors as well.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I'm getting a vaguely Wild West vibe. I guess because a drained ocean might have poor soil and thus the whole area should have scrappy plants (grasses, scrub brush, pine trees, etc.). So you could do a lot with bounties, bandits, land disputes, and maybe a gold/oil/astral-diamond rush.
 

hopeless

Explorer
Perhaps the water was largely present due to a portal to the plane of water and that's been stoppered allowing the area to be sealed off and kept in its current state?
That would suggest there might be an adventure involving locating and perhaps trying to prevent that portal from being unplugged drowning the area in the returning water...
That would make an interesting devastating event the discovery why the area has been deprived of the water it should be holding!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Hi everyone, I’ve recently got back into dming 5e and I’m having a blast. One of the players is a friend of mine and the others are randos I met through discord, but I must say, I feel extremely lucky as they are engaged, thoughtful, and like to role play.

I sort of had a vague idea for this setting that just sort of sparked in my mind. I don’t have everything flushed out by any-means but I wanted to share what I had and get some feed back/ ideas on the setting.

All of the player characters hail from nations that had a summit, and at this summit among other things, they discussed a location of the world called The Vents. The Vents is a massive drained oceans made into a valley, the depth of this ocean was great so the cliffs are huge and it’s several hundred miles to get to the sea bed proper. The Vents are extremely hot, filled with a constant steam that fills the air from geysers and (once) underwater volcanos. Extreme weather occurs in The Vents like soot storms, acid rain, and treacherous wind. I wanted to make the denizens of The Vents very hardened by the land and give it a bit of a frontier feel with overtones of the primordial. The gods in the vents are different from the “abovers” ( what the people of The Vents call those from up above their valley) as they are just features of this majestic drained sea, like the cliff sides, resting mineral springs, earthquakes, etc. I’ve been having fun interpreting how the different races would survive down here and adapt.

The party has been tasked with establishing contact and learn about the Vents as they are unmapped and little is known about them in the nations up above. They found out that these 9 major cities have these communication devices called whisperfires, but 1 month ago before the party arrived to The Vents a great earthquake happened knocking much into chaos in The Vents, disconnecting the whisperfires. Creatures born of the elements have been whispered fantastical powers by a god sleeping in the earth, driving some mad with new power, towns are in recovery mode, change is on the horizon. So far the party has secured one whisperfire at the first town the came across, scaling down the cliff side ( which was in the thralls of mass agitation from a salt and steam mephit that kept two feuding groups hot under the collar with their new found power) and are now at the second town, which is a gnomish/ dwarven town. It’s called Progenitor, and it’s a mechanized city that can scale the sides of the cliff but has been too damaged to move by the great earthquake, and is currently going through some racial tensions as one of the main ruling dwarven family’s wants to abandon the mechanized city ( along with the gnomes) and tunnel into the cliff proper. The party is currently investigating the ruins of a destroyed part of the city, overrun by burrowing beasts,trying to find the whisper fire there.

Sorry for the info dump but I guess I wanted a sketch of the things happening right now and translate a feel for things. Does anyone have any cool ideas for the setting or storyline? Any ideas for the 7 other towns and how the fantastical people have adapted there or are currently going through it because of the current catastrophe. Any ideas for monsters, items, or Magic’s that would be unique to this hot land?

Lost Lofius – This town was once inhabited by sea elves (who could only survive out of water for short periods) who fell to internal corruption thanks to malenti (a type of sahuagin appearing mostly like a sea elf) manipulation within their ranks. However, when the sea elves foresaw the coming devastation with a powerful divination ritual, the malenti spied on them. The sea elves planned to conjure a portion of the Plane of Water to spare themselves the coming devastation. And the sahuagin planned to lay siege and claim the sea elven town as their own. Instead, the malenti betrayed both sides, breaking the ritual and causing many water elementals to enter existence bond to the will of the malentis. The sea elves and sahuagin perished, but the minority malenti survived by immersing themselves inside the water elementals. Over time, the malenti bred true and this strange bond developed into a type of psychic symbiosis – the malenti are kept immersed by the elementals, while the elementals are bestowed with greater individual consciousness by the malenti (usually elementals on Inner Planes are little more than beasts). The malenti, which appear as deformed sea elves with nictating membranes over milky or black eyes, with two sets of teeth and elongated smiles, and atrophied legs, travel in undulating masses of water that are the water elementals. They speak a hybrid language of (Aquan) Primordial, Sahuagin, and Elven. Several have developed psionic powers, and continue to try to unlock the secrets of the sea elves which remain confounding to the wicked malenti.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Lost Lofius – This town was once inhabited by sea elves (who could only survive out of water for short periods) who fell to internal corruption thanks to malenti (a type of sahuagin appearing mostly like a sea elf) manipulation within their ranks. However, when the sea elves foresaw the coming devastation with a powerful divination ritual, the malenti spied on them. The sea elves planned to conjure a portion of the Plane of Water to spare themselves the coming devastation. And the sahuagin planned to lay siege and claim the sea elven town as their own. Instead, the malenti betrayed both sides, breaking the ritual and causing many water elementals to enter existence bond to the will of the malentis. The sea elves and sahuagin perished, but the minority malenti survived by immersing themselves inside the water elementals. Over time, the malenti bred true and this strange bond developed into a type of psychic symbiosis – the malenti are kept immersed by the elementals, while the elementals are bestowed with greater individual consciousness by the malenti (usually elementals on Inner Planes are little more than beasts). The malenti, which appear as deformed sea elves with nictating membranes over milky or black eyes, with two sets of teeth and elongated smiles, and atrophied legs, travel in undulating masses of water that are the water elementals. They speak a hybrid language of (Aquan) Primordial, Sahuagin, and Elven. Several have developed psionic powers, and continue to try to unlock the secrets of the sea elves which remain confounding to the wicked malenti.

o_O

Now you are just showing off.
 

ART!

Hero
Perhaps the water was largely present due to a portal to the plane of water and that's been stoppered allowing the area to be sealed off and kept in its current state?
That would suggest there might be an adventure involving locating and perhaps trying to prevent that portal from being unplugged drowning the area in the returning water...
That would make an interesting devastating event the discovery why the area has been deprived of the water it should be holding!
I like the drama inherent in this. Some people in the Vents (and adjacent environs) will very much want the water back, and some very much like things the way they are. There's good drama in the dynamics of just trying to limit who knows about where the water is.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Some crazy gnome with a dwarven salvage crew has found a trove of Apparatus of Kwalish (a magical barrel that becomes an lobster construct) in a forgotten sector. He’s making coin by repairing and selling the devices to traveling merchants, who use the devices to run goods across the seabed in the armored devices. The devices are expensive and rare, but the gnome might give PCs a discount if they do some spelunking in the nearby caverns where the gnome suspects the original factory might exist. Who knows what other bizarre creatures or constructs may be protecting the ruins of the ancient factory?
 

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