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8093 No. 8093 ID: d09277
Hey, so I'm going to be DMing a 3.5 game with some friends soon. I've never DMed before, played infrequently, and their experience ranges from nil to minimal, so we're overall pretty inexperienced. Using a preexisting setting doesn't appeal to me at all, and I'm sort of gestating a setting in my head. I thought it might be nice to have a place to throw down some of the ideas I'm chewing on here, both because writing things down helps me flesh them out better, and because I really like bouncing ideas off of people who think differently than me.

So, I kind of liked the flavor of a couple of the little tidbits I've read from the Dark Sun setting, where the true power of civilization is centered around a few shadowy cabals of magic-users. I don't know that psionics should necessarily replace it among the masses, though; I think the general propaganda of the ruling elite would be that only they have the know-how and discipline to use any sort of supernatural power.

I also don't like deserts very much. I'd like a setting that seems just alien enough from anything in reality to make the players uneasy (we live in Texas, a desert is not too far-fetched). What I've been tossing around is the idea of a massive global forest. The trees of this world have lots of thickly-woven, far-reaching branches atop massive, otherwise-bare trunks, which I could explain as natural competition for sunlight in a thick, jungly environment. The result is that most people live in the canopy, atop what is essentially a mass of thick, interwoven branches and leaves. Separated from the streams and wells below, many commoners are moisture harvesters, who find ways to extract water from the trees and other vegetation.

This canopy is so thick, that the ground level receives basically 0 sunlight, and terrible creatures thrive in the darkness below, perhaps with the occasional patch of bioluminescent fungus. But, there are also ruins, stone structures from before the trees dominated everything. Actually, maybe one of the ruling elites live in a stone castle that was pried from the ground whole, and held aloft in the tree canopy.

Something about living in this kind of environment is that horses and wheeled carts aren't possible. Lots of the wildlife flies, and there are also tall, branch-grasping insectoid creatures that people ride. As for carrying cargo, a wagon isn't going to work, so people will probably lash together nets between buoyant gas-bag plants and haul things that way.

Actually, those buoyant plants could be a significant part of life here. I am picturing massive leafy things, like green clouds, drifting through the sky above. Sky-piracy is a very real possibility, with brigands making a nest inside a large buoyant plant and steering it with flocks of larger flying creatures on reins.

It's obvious to me now that the ruling class should have Fey ancestry. Their natural affinity for magic is what gives them claim to being the only beings who should wield it, and they probably have court-sanctioned assassins to stamp out any rogue magical practitioners. They shouldn't just be wizards and sorcerers, I'd say druids are probably a significant chunk of their population. A dystopian Fey magocracy.

Not sure where the clerics and other divine magic practitioners would fit in. Any ideas, about that or anything else?
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No. 8096 ID: 4407a2
I crossposted this to 4chan's tg, and I think I'm adding in a sort of underclass of dirtwalkers, including some barbaric hedge-magicians, trying to live "off the grid" amongst the various monsters in the darkness. While most of the poor peasantry can scrape by atop the canopy, some of the more barbaric folks live underneath.

I'm also picturing some clearings or beaches where there is a wall of buildings coming down from the treetops to the ground level, where some of the tougher farming takes place and some limited contact takes place between the tree-dwellers and the dirtwalkers in the form of a black market.

While some of the dirtwalkers are just hiding out or trying to fend for themselves down there, a significant amount of others feel displaced and actively seek to destroy the forest.
No. 8101 ID: b6edd6
The setting sounds pretty neat to me. I quite like unusual settings.

Ideas to you might consider:

- Fire. Unless the trees are much more fire resistant than normal trees, fire would be very serious threat, especially in regions dry enough to need moisture farmers. If a wildfire can take out entire cities, fire would probably be viewed with as much fear as some settings have for demons.
Preventing and stopping fires (using magic or otherwise) could be one of the elites' justifications for their privilege and authority.
Dangerous fire would also make smithing much more troublesome (unless they have non-heat-based magic for that), and would increase the need for ground settlements. (If the ground monsters are troublesome enough, it might be easier for people to dig tunnels downwards through the trunk than to establish a non-tree settlement.)

- Do the trees get parasite infestations like normal trees do (like pine beetles)? Giant vermin (or vast swarms of smaller ones) would also be a huge threat to tree-cities. While not as fast moving as forest fire, they can be harder to get rid of, especially the non-giant type.

- Climates? Generally (though not necessarily due to magic and such), planets have quite different climates in different locations, such as tropics or poles. If there are different climate areas, that would likely have effects like different branch density or amount of available moisture (so, for example, particularly wet areas might have little or no need for moisture harvesters).

- When you say shadowy cabals, how overt are their conflicts? (I am unfamiliar with the Dark Sun setting.) Do they have actual battles using soldiers, or is it mostly espionage in what is nominally a single nation? How likely are the cabals to back rebel groups (with or without the rebel's knowledge) as tools against other cabals.
Would the cabals secretly recruit certain non-elite mags as agents rather than doing their 'duty' of killing them?

- Do the trees have fruit, nuts, or flowers, and if so, are they enormous?
No. 8102 ID: 275917
>ruling class

Might be a large organisation of druids pulling a catholic church setup with where the nobles need them for legitimacy...
If not that, then treejumping druidic avengers with shapeshifted insect legs jumping from tree to tree after people that walk too hard on the leaves...
Something else you might consider is that DSun has a few significant dangers on just using magic. If the trees don't like the arcane...
No. 8105 ID: d09277
So, I did post this on 4chan's /tg/ because I was at the lab and wanted distractions from my long render times. I'm going to conglomerate everything that was tentatively decided on in that thread, and we can go from there. Though, if you have a cool idea that contradicts something, feel free to post it, because I haven't set anything in stone yet. I'm also going to give my players a synopsis of the setting based on this list, minus whatever I decide might be spoilery.

There's one main continent and a few smaller islands. There may be other continents as well, but they're either too far away to matter or else are waiting to be developed. The main continent had some undetermined past including stone dwellings and standard D&D tech levels, but it's now overgrown by trees.

The central continent is dominated by one main tree, with many smaller trunks and sprouts. This tree's true origin point is one massive tree holding aloft and ancient stonecastle entwined in its branches. This tree is the host tree of a dryad, whose love affair with a god of nature grants her and her tree immunity to aging and disease as well as immense personal power. The tree's branches are thick and interwoven at the top, with massive trunks below ranging from 20-500 feet arcross. While some individual portions of the tree might die, the entire conglomerate is almost indestructible. The rest of the continent is made up of a forest of other, slightly less massive trees, loosely maintained by a cabal of druids.

These druids are part of a larger empire of which the dryad is a key member, but perhaps not the only significant ruler. This empire's elite members include all overt practitioners of magic. While there are a few exceptions, most of the elites of society are of fey, elven, or gnomish origin, with a non-negligible population of humans and a smattering of members of other races who have proven themselves trustworthy.

A much larger population of poor low-class citizens lives on the treetops, harvesting edible growths and fungus, distilling water from massive leaf-basins, taming and ranching the various useful (largely insectoid or reptilian) wildlife, and performing other mundane duties in relative squalor. Almost all are born into debt to the state and do not escape a lifetime of essentially indentured servitude. These are largely humans, elves, the various half-breeds, some orcs and halflings, and various others. This group is the most populous and quite diverse.

Below the trees are a variety of nasty monsters that thrive in the darkness. Also, a significant population of orcs, goblins, halflings, and those from above who want to live "off the grid", or who were exiled or are fleeing punishment. These people tend to be more "uncivilized", and are hardier due to the dangers of living in the darkness. The orcs have vaguely racist overtones, and as a general rule despise the tree-dwellers. Some form groups dedicated to destroying the trees, but they form many competing splinter factions and lack cohesive leadership, with varying views on membership for non-orcs, sparing the civilians, and other issues. Others simply wish to eke out an existence there, and are likely more tolerant of forming societies with creatures of other races. The goblins trend towards being brigands, but some are members of the other groups, and some even live in the canopy. Halflings are pale and quick, with hidden tunnels under the trees.

The trees are not all-encompassing. There are a few clearings here and there, and a few larger lakes that the branches haven't been able to completely overreach. At some of the more populous areas, massive walls of treebound dwellings rise from the ground to the treetops. These vertical cities are the most diverse, containing a mix of creatures from both sides of the canopy line. This area is home to craftsmen and merchants, and is where most metal is made and distributed. It is also home to a sizeable black market. Giant gas sac plants that have been converted into airships tend to be launched from here, including a few pirates (largely goblins).

Those who pursue magical power through avenues not sanctioned by the state, or who develop magical abilities without seeking employment with the state, soon disappear mysteriously. Additionally, metallurgists skilled enough to create cold iron tools also disappear. Those who evade the magocracy's secret assassins flee into the darkness and mingle with the barbarians there, where a few of the rebellious mages have taught their magical secrets to the rest of the underclass.

The lack of skilled metalworkers makes metal a bit rarer than usual. Things like mithral and adamantine are unheard-of, and metal armor is a rare commodity. Aspiring warriors instead make the tools of their trade from bone, chitin, leather, wood, and spider thread. Additionally, the queen of a race of vicious insects produces a shellac-like substance that hardens in air and has similar properties to mithral. Samples harvested from their nests can be chipped into weapons, and harvesting the glands from the dead queen herself allows craftsmen to pour the substance into molds and make armor.

Contrasting with the lack of metal above, the dwarves living below still maintain their craft. However, their subterranean lairs are nigh-impenetrable, and they rarely leave. Few above have actually seen anything of them besides metal-encased, unspeaking defenders, and most would not know what one was if they saw it. Still, a few individuals have been known to, on occasion, leave or be exiled from their homes.

Offshore from the main continent, an assemblage of psionic and ascetic beings make their homes on the backs of colossal plated jellyfish-like creatures, each actually composed of thousands of individual jellyfish creatures whose minds are linked into a massive neural network. These floating islands are inherently psionic and send those on their backs to bring creatures with potential to them. They are frequent targets of aquatic fey, who fail to recognize the inherent hypocrisy. Additionally, these giant jelly-brains can add new jellyfish to their mass by consuming and converting the brain of a living sapient creature. They can also split off segments and mutate theminto illithids, sending them out to consume other brains and return and reabsorb. The cultures on the jelly-brains' backs vary in knowledge and acceptance of this fact, with only the groups psionically proven to be trustworthy knowing about the ability to create illithids, which remains the greatest-guarded secret of their race.

Also, the coasts are increasingly plagued by a population of drakes and seafaring kobolds riding crocodile-like creatures and hailing from the islands. These islands are home to dragons, who were killed or driven away from the main continent centuries prior.

That's where I stand so far.
No. 8128 ID: d09277
I dunno, I think if you tried to burn down a 200-foot-wide tree you would have a very hard time of it. It's mostly dead trees and undergrowth that is flammable, I think, and the undergrowth is all fungus. I wouldn't consider the normal, thick branches around the cities to be any more flammable than, say, dirt. But, it could be cool to have an area supported by a dead tree, and have it catch fire for some reason while the PCs are on it.

Tree parasites are a cool idea, and fits nicely with my mostly-bugs-and-reptiles theme. Done.

They might even be dromites or thri-kreen or something, that could be cool.

Good point about the climate. Since I limited the tree growth to one continent I've only really been thinking about one climate area, but that continent could have a foot in the desert, or a foot in the arctic.

Actually, I like the idea of using the arctic better, consider that added. Maybe ice sheets could occasionally link the mainland with one of the dragon islands.

I was thinking it's usually espoinage in what is otherwise a unified nation. Remember, these are basically all of the casters, and also most of the high-level NPCs. Unfortunately I don't have the nature of that conflict sorted out yet, maybe someone could help?

The trees grow several varieties of edible fungus, and fruit is certainly a possibility. I had an idea that maybe the lighter-than-air gasbag plants are actually the fruit or seeds of the trees, which float around, land somewhere on the canopy, then start dropping roots from there. The downside is that if they're the fruit, then the sky-pirates driving them around with a swarm of giant flying bugs are basically James of "Giant Peach" fame.

I like all of it, consider it added, except maybe the "trees don't like magic" part. I'm not sure how to punish magic-users, but i don't think "suddenly, more monsters!" or "the trees tell the ruling class what you did, prepare to be curbstomped by wizards in 5" is the way to do it. if anyone has some other ideas, lay them on me.
No. 8131 ID: e3aff6
>I dunno, I think if you tried to burn down a 200-foot-wide tree you would have a very hard time of it. It's mostly dead trees and undergrowth that is flammable, I think, and the undergrowth is all fungus.
I think you are right about giant trees being too thick to burn down easily, but from looking up forest fires a bit more I found that canopy fires (also known as crown fires) do exist, and giant leaves would have to still be relatively thin in order to not weight down the branches they are on.
Much less directly dangerous to buildings closer to or inside the trunk, but the shower of flaming or burnt debris combined with the damage to the tree would still be troublesome.

The question of leaf fires brings up another issue. Is there a season in which the trees shed their leaves? (This is not necessary for canopy fires, but would make them much more likely when the leaves are dead and about to be shed.)

>Unfortunately I don't have the nature of that conflict sorted out yet, maybe someone could help?
I think the nature of the conflict hinges largely on how their government functions. The three general types of short-term political goals I can think of (control of an office, control of the public, and control of resources) are weighed differently in significance depending on the system of government. For example, a powerful emperor would make control of office more significant. Descriptions of the various goals:
-Control of an office involves becoming, influencing, gaining the favor of, or eliminating the holder of a specific position (emperor, council member, general) in order to gain access to the powers and privileges of the position, or at least deny them to rivals.
-Control of the public involves being liked, trusted, or sometimes feared by most of some large group of people who collectively have political authority. This is more about reputation and propaganda than individually influencing the members. In dystopian settings, the general public rarely has much clout, but other groups that can fit this category include minor nobility (if they are both numerous and not collectively trivial), high society (often tied into nobles, but thievery rich can be influential too), or the military (when the military has an active role in society).
-Control of resources involves acquiring money, physical resources, or information. This is usually regarded by the organization as a tool to further the previous two goals, which are in turn tools to further the group's political agenda and/or their status and control of society.
No. 8137 ID: 79c2fc
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Well, druids or shenanigans with nature spirits that come down on unregulated magic?
Presumably the rulers don't have a straight-up monopoly on all magic, that could end badly. No reason they shouldn't be striving for that, though.
Also, giant flightless, eyeless, limbless dragonspawn called Iormungandr that gnaw at the roots of the trees, necessitating well-lit hunting parties of druids and the rulers to destroy the pests and heal the damage done.
Also, nostalgia bomb when someone mentioned giant dead trees.
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