I’ve been running a D&D 5e game on and off again ever since I stumbled across Luka Rejec’s excellent Ultraviolet Grasslands and realized I’d find D&D much more palatable if it was more like Destiny or Horizon Zero Dawn or Masters of the Universe or Brütal Legend than Lord of the Rings. It’s coalesced a bit over time – I drew a halfhearted map after the last session and I still feel a little dirty. The basic idea was “what if we started east of the Ultraviolet Grasslands? What does that place look like?”
I liberally riff on offhand comments from UVG, import Trilemma Adventures (the Incursion Egg is a favorite), and use a lot of ideas from OSR modules like Gardens of Ynn or Deep Carbon Observatory. That said, I think the world’s come into its own as we play in the sandbox.
A Brief History
Long, long ago, the goddess Ursul cursed the ancient peoples with the gift of magic and Nof tricked them into using it. It was an age of wonders, then it was an age of horrors, then it was an age of ignorance and rebellion, then the sorcerers and witches retreated ever farther to secret bunkers and remote towers, then the whole thing repeated a few times, and here we are.
This prismatic world is formed from the idea of magic given form. Given enough power, things can pass between realms into this one, and thus have all the peoples from everywhen come to settle the world. But what is done by magic can be undone by magic, and there is no magic more powerful than what lies at the center of the Black City on the edge of the Ultraviolet Grasslands.
The world is the Worldmother’s egg, and when the time is right it will hatch. We are the dreams made flesh of what sleeps within.
The Worldmother is a gas giant, and this world one of its many moons upon which sufficiently advanced people built sufficiently advanced civilizations and then got themselves sufficiently blown up. Only a handful of wizards claim they can prove this, and everyone knows wizards are consummate liars.
The known world is a Moebius strip ringworld. There is only east and west, and east and west meet where the Infradark’s shadowed waters become the walls of the Black City.
The Red District
The brave peoples of the Red District form the tireless wall against which horrors from the Infradark threaten to breach. To finish a tour against the denizens of those black seas is to earn any price you care to name as a mercenary in more civilized lands.
Desperate for trade and vice, the top of the District is anarchy. Anything and anyone can be bought. Below, Red dwarves forge the best wargear for the delvers who stand against the darkness.
Stargaze into vantablack waters, become hopelessly lost in surreal shifting corridors, fight aberrant entities from beyond known dimensions. Something about this realm pushes out into others, and it must be held off.
The Titian Islands
Nobody’s been from this archipelago yet. When you’re from here you get to decide some of it! There are probably pirates and Odysseus type shenanigans happening.
The Incursion Egg
A dome of chipped black crystal containing an island from another place. Trilemma Adventures’ one-page module fit perfectly here amongst the other islands.
The Gold Coast
It’s where the decadent high-level sorcerer-kings and witch-queens live. Resplendent with wealth, home to marvels of arcane might, rife with politicking and infighting.
Those who dare to cross the Coppertops and traverse the nightless Bleached Sea come to Saffranj, the Land of Wonders. The gigantic corpses of dead godlings and tombs of ancient rulers who would imitate their repose litter the soft horizon. It is a dry realm, heavy with oases as well as rogue magics. The sorcerer-kings and witch-queens control trade and policy from their post-decadent monument-palaces on the Gold Coast.
A caravan of centisteeds scuttles past the high sun-baked walls of Edex; A hooded killer escapes into the crowded marketplace, scattering illusionary coins to cover her tracks; A polygnome breaks bread with a hated metrognome in an open-air cafe while their hired tiefling thugs finger their glassrifles anxiously.
One of the largest cities in Saffranj, built in the shadow of a colossal floating sphere inscribed with the Final Spell. A shadow war brews between gangs of scribes racing to decipher the arcane script.
When the Slow Lord trod across the desert, it left oases in its wake. Greensteps grew up from these massive footfalls. It is a bustling caravan stop between Edex and the badlands to the north, exporting its own exotic crops.
The Night Trail
An underground passage through the badlands, wide enough for a wagon train. Despite the risk of banditry, it remains the fastest route through the dangerous wilds.
Tir Na Uruk, Home of the Free
Once a city of the highest elves, before the Crennellion rose up and broke free. Now a thin veneer of civilization smeared across liberty at its worst. Beyond it lies cold wastes or rough waters. Exports exotica from the Titian islands and smuggles Red District artifacts and lifeforms.
Crennellion, the Wandering Fortress
A castle that walks. Once a citadel of Tir Na Uruk, it meanders across the Rainbowlands towards an unknown destination.
The Bleached Sea
The sun never sets here. The landscape is vast, featureless, lifeless – unless you know where to look. Even here, life, uh, finds a way. Strange humpbacked beasts wade in the silt shallows, insects and reptiles thrive, and sand giants stride across the deeps using great snorkels fashioned in the blind depths of the silt sea or simply poking their heads out.
The tribes and villages who live in this big nothing mimic the creatures around them, fashioning siltstilts to stride across the cloying dust and wheeled skimmers to “sail” the silt.
Along the silt floor of the Bleached Sea, where the endless sun is only a lighter shade of orange from above, sand giants make their homes in great glass towers, perfect in their geometry. Static lightning illuminates the great edifices in reds and purples. The earth and air elements are strong here, and the giants sing songs so low only stones can hear.
The Bleached Sea is clearly an homage to Dark Sun.
The Coppertop Mountains
These lonely peaks separate Patinia from distant Saffranj and keep the rains that feed Patinia’s fields from the Bleached Sea. Home to dwarves, dragons, arcane bunkers ancient and newly-built, stone fortresses, and countless underground menaces.
Tallest peak in the Coppertops, rumored to be the ancestral home of the warforged.
The World Crack
A great abyss underneath the Coppertops. The neighboring caverns are home to warring tribes of troglodytes, grimlocks, kuo-toa, and possibly more. The Infradark may bubble up here, threaded out by ancient experiments to form logic-defying bunker complexes with a malevolent and nonsensical sense of interior design.
The Throneland of Patinia is a pastoral realm grounded in a rich history of agriculture, trade, oppression, small-mindedness, and generations-long feuds between aristocratic clans, a lot like the Middle Ages.
Rolling green hills; tents and pennants snapping in the wind as knights ride horses, dire birds, wargs, and whatever else can be trained to carry a rider at a joust; a family of peons working fields that will be burned a few weeks from now in some shortsighted raid by a neighboring fiefdom; a lone owlbear prowls the edge of a feytouched glade; The Jade Emperor, haggard but still dangerous, sits in a copper throne while ambassadors from far Saffranj supplicate.
Fiefdoms and keeps are conquered by strong warriors who don’t have the knowledge to keep them running, and are displaced by cunning magisters who are then murdered when the next high-level fighter rolls through town and decides they’ve earned a castle.
It’s a small village in the Foghats, misty foothills west of the Coppertops. The single tavern in town is Belle’s Hell, tended by a retired hellborn adventurer who still has many connections.
The Emerald City
Some say the City grew from the earth after a cataclysm. Others believe it is the still-beating heart of a dead world. For some it is a prison; for others, a refuge, for no spell works within its jagged crystal halls. It is rumored the Jade Emperor himself cannot leave, and rules Patinia through an unreliable network of nobility, favors, and graft.
There is a sickness with no cure that sometimes strikes down those who live within the Emerald City. Because spells don’t work inside it, pilgrims come to the City to cure magical diseases, rid themselves of curses, or reverse petrification, polymorph, or other long-term effects. They figure the chance of catching the Green Death is worth freeing themselves from whatever ails them.
Bluegarden, ever wild, ever fruitful, ever creeping. The sorcerers of long ago honed their arts in glorious academies and, when those failed, retired to hidden bunkers and secret holes in spacetime to continue their forbidden craft. A thousand thousand mistakes given flesh lurk in Bluegarden’s lush canyons and craters.
Pick a random page from the Monster Manual. If it doesn’t say “monstrosity”, try again. It’s probably in a tree right now waiting to drop on you. Bluegarden is high-magic, high-risk, high-reward. It’s STALKER/Roadside Picnic.
To the north lies the bitter, rugged land of Cherenkovia, its ice sheets cracked and gouged by ancient fires. Impossible citadels dot its swaths of inhospitable dead forests, looming over the superstitious, anxious villages huddled in mountain passes and at the feet of glaciers. This is The North from Game of Thrones plus Ravenloft.
The Violent City
All roads end here, at the edge of the Ultraviolet Grasslands and the eternal sunset of the Black City that lies beyond its wastes. The deep purple haze that wreaths this land slows the sunrise and prevents aerial travel. Despite the dangers from multiple worlds dumped here like picnic trash, caravans greedy for the unique and wondrous still hurry through the streets to the steppes beyond.
The crowd parts before a ceramic-faced hazemage walking as if entranced, idly feeding candied mice to her horned cat; A halfling merchant with near-bearded feet reluctantly hands over payment as several of his guards tote away one of their dead in three separate sacks; Doppleganger psi-prostitutes lurk in the lotus-den doorways, offering a night with anyone you can think of.
Seriously, check out UVG. It’s bananas.