Coldforged: The Other Realms

Each Thursday this year, I focus on a different aspect of the world I’ve created and played D&D in for over 20 years, in the hopes of honing the ideas and cementing enough in place to settle the world in my own mind. This week, I’m taking a look at some of the less standard environments.

We’re moving right along here, into the world I’ve built and have finalized a ton of details as cannon, which feels really great. I’ve gone over the basic foundation,Cosmologythe land itselfthe PeopleRegions, and even the non-god divine beings. Now, I’ve started to get into the meat of it. While there has been significant development of people on the land, there has been little mention of the other domains that are incredibly important to maintaining a fleshed out world: underground, underwater, and in the sky.

First, let me start off with the fact that I’m not really into Drow, and by not into them, i actively hate them. I don’t find them a compelling enemy, and I don’t enjoy their astetic within the confines of my world. As a players, I’m fine with them – I’ll happily kill as many as the DM puts in front of me, always happy to rid the world of an ever greater number of their ilk. My world, though, doesn’t have them. That is a bit of a retcon, though, because when I was a younger DM, not only was one of the coolest characters in the setting a drow, there were attempts to make them fit in and make them make sense. Now, though, I’ve just dropped all pretense and now they aren’t around. So, let’s get into it, shall we!

Underground

The underworld of my campaign setting is not the Underdark. it can’t be, because the Underdark is the specific name taken within the Forgotten Realms setting but used pretty much everywhere – Its like Kleenex. My campaign does have an underworld, however, that is all its own.

in the deep and dark caverns beneath the world, within the warm confines of the underground hot springs, the great warm oceans and the steam vents that struggle to warm the world below the surface with topside freezes, there are three successive layers of civilization, each waring with the one above and the one below.

First, the top most layer of primitive caves and caverns are populated by troglodytes. These creatures are not the primitive brutes of other worlds but are tool wielding, armor wearing, culturally adept creatures. They stake a strong claim to their upper realms, with outposts, towns, and even a few small cities under the earth. They do not trade, but live on raiding and farming, with raiding holding a particularly honored spot in their culture with no thought given to if they are raiding topside, below them, or even each other. The Troglodytes are not a single, massive civilization, but dozens of different, conflicting cultures in an uneasy and fairly brutal state of constant conflict.

Below the Troglodytes is a layer of even more foul and disgusting creatures, the Accursed-worshiping Kou-Toa. These vile slavers are constantly raiding the trogs above them for beings to subjugate to their wills. This theocratic dictatorship occupies the caverns and shores surrounding massive underground lakes, seas, and ponds, building slime covered and hideous towns surrounding great idols of their accursed deities. While these creatures are a danger to anything that they encounter, either eating or enslaving them, they themselves are assaulted on both sides. The Troglodgytes constantly raid their outposts and undefended settlements, and they are considered food to the layer beneath them, the Illithids.

The last layer is that of the Illitihids, a vast and sprawling civilization beneath the surface. They once controlled an above ground empire but were defeated and fled underground before recorded history. Their underground cities are massive edifices to their gods, great underground structures to rival the cities of the surface. They enslave all the Kuo-Toa that they encounter, and hold chattel stock of a number of surface races, from elves to humans to halflings to troglodytes, using them as warriors, food sources, and entertainment.

Each of these civilizations generally keeps within its given level, but they also have outposts up and down the depths, though these are very rarely more than outposts and exploratory areas. This leads with, from time to time, conflict with the topside world for all three different civilizations, who generally remain blissfully unaware of the threats from beneath them.

Underwater

While the underworld is separated into various different levels, the underwater realms are strongly separated, both by their locals and their habitats, as saltwater creatures and freshwater creatures tend not to interact. There are, very broadly, 6 different underwater regions: Udine Bay, Bloodhunger Bay, River Sorinin, Arasur River, Killbar River, and the Open Ocean.

The bays are each deep enough and wide enough to harbor multiple settlements of different types of creatures, but each has its own dominant population. Udine bay, in the center of Killbar, has a relatively stable population of aquatic elves, who live in the briny deeps of the bay. They are generally peaceful but powerful people who leave well enough alone until, as long as they are left alone. Every once in a while, there will be powerful Raider-kings who drive ashore and assault the landlings, but that is an uncommon occurrence.

Bloodhunger bay is a completely different situation. Therein lies a violent, warlike group of Triton who vigorously defends their underwater realm. Many navigators of the area carry extra tribute to toss overboard at designated locations to appease the underwater raiders. It is always a tense ride out of the bay and into the ocean, but it is often the only way for many of the traders to get their wares to other destinations around the continent.

of the Rivers, the Arasur, heading down the center of the continent and emptying into Jets Swamp is the most placid. It is fairly shallow for most of its length, which leads to many and varied Turtle folk(Yortan) and Frog Folk (Saldi) to live along its banks and below its surface. These folk, like many across the continent, vary from warlike to peaceful and are generally amenable to trade. They rarely care who rules their lands, and refuse to pay taxes or tithes, often simply vanishing beneath the surface of the water when kingsmen come around.

A bit deeper and a bit more crowded, is the Sorinin River, splitting the length of Tyndaria, a great deep river with much travel on it. It is home to a fairly strong population of river merfolk, who live in the deepest sections of the river in small huts completely underwater. There, they generally stay away from both the landbound and the scattered communities of other aquatic or semi-aquatic creatures. They rarely engage in trade, and have a generally cautious attitude towards landbound beings, so gaining their trust is difficult in even the best circumstances.

Lastly, the Killbar river is, for most of its length, a deep and treacherous route. Within lives the terrifying and mysterious Locutare, crustacean people who rarely show themselves, but vary between completely, brutal hostility and neutral curiosity. Though they don’t often show themselves, they are a well known, though mysterious, presence.

The open ocean is the most dangerous of the watery domains, as it is the home to the vilolent, perpetually hungry, and destructive Shauagian

The Sky

Above the continent is significantly less populated than the last two locations. There are no large, flying civilizations that cover the air and hold dominion over the skies. instead, many of the landbound civilizations have trained flying mounts, though they are precious few as the flying creatures are tenaciously difficult to train and have a hard time holding the weight of others as they fly. Tyndaria has an extremely small Griffon Contingent, Thraxians have their Ice Drakes, and Levishans have their Pegasus Cavalry. Killbarans have trained their small population of Western Wyverns to take riders and have a small but dedicated force.

Dragons are generally unknown, outside of Jet, but Elemental Drakes abound, with Fire Drakes in the south, Earth drakes in the north, and Ice and Air drakes populating the high mountains and plateaus throughout the continent. Outside of the slow tempered Ice Drakes of Thrax, they are generally ill-tempered, violent and prone to attack any creature they see. Thankfully, they are extremely rare such that many people confuse the elemental drakes with Dragons.

Its important to pay attention to all the aspects of a campaign setting, and I want to make sure that these portions are as fleshed out as they can be for the amount of work that they will see. While I won’t likely go as deep as I do with the portions of the world that the players will regularly interact with, the detail will be there.

Until Next time,

Jonathon