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Question of the Week: What's the coolest world feature you've seen or created?

Name something memorable from a setting your played or GM'd.

For example, the default setting in Blades of the Dark is the soot & swords city of Duskvol.

One cool unique feature about it is the dozens of micro thieves' guilds it has. These are called Crews. Crews have a reputation (based on capability) and heat (how wanted they are by authorities). Crews also get unique Boons.

This world feature makes for awesome faction play.
 
The coolest world feature I remember was in one of my wife's campaign worlds. The landscape was riddled with ancient ruins, all adventures in themselves, but most memorable were shining columns that transported characters into parallel worlds. Sadly we did not get to investigate those more deeply.
 
I have a forest known for it's massive carpets of encroaching moss. Seems innocent at first, but if your characters enjoy a long rest there, you'll awaken when the moss has slowly grown over you and rooted into your armor or skin. Tribal races living high in the trees are fairly common and will take advantage of the less prepared wanderers.
 
Spontaneously coming to mind was a country named Motaru, consisting mostly of desert, where the people believed in a sort of inverted Ancient Egyptian death cult: A soul could only enter the afterlife when every bit of the corpse's flesh was gone. They collected their dead on a flat tower roof and once a week flooded the roof with oil and set it on fire.
The worst punishment in Motaru was the death penalty, followed by mummification of the body, forever trapping your spirit.
And there was an order of people who had made it their task to search the desert for the bodies of travelers who had died and were mummified by the environment, so as to destroy the bodies and free the souls of their unlucky owners.
Oh, and there was a small tribe of desert dwellers who lived in a gigantic turtle shell. It has nothing to do with the death cult, but I think my players actually liked this one the most of all things they encountered in Motaru.
 
Played in Lanhkmar - which to me, was one of the first fantasy settings that I read as a teen. We played in a city-based campaign for over 2 years and my players loved the place. Heck, even though they were all money-grubbing 'anti-heroes' they saved the city multiple times.
Best part of a city or town campaign is the connections that the players make with the locals. I really like some tools I've found to make everyone that they encounter more 3 dimensional - and I keep track of who they meet and what they said or did with that person. The players did as well and used their connections quiet often.
Savage Worlds has an Edge "Connections" which some players took when they advanced - with the Edge I had their connection give them more information, quests, and help. It really paid off as it also gave me hooks to drag them into things. Now that same group is playing in 1892 London - and guess what? They are making 'connections' as fast as they can.
 
Leiber's books are were in my top 10 too. Fantastic adventures. The underground city story is my favourite, I think.

Would you be interested in sharing the tools you use? Would love to check them out.
 
My adventurers stumbled across a “Mr Li’s 3-Legged Chicken Farm”. The chickens were guarded by cockatrices. It was totally out of place in the setting but a complete hoot. (3-legged chickens save a lot of arguments around the dinner table.)
 
Similar to Jochen's post, I have iterated two campaigns with a world featuring a 'world grid' based loosely on the idea of the Becker Hagen's Grid in which the world contains an inter-connected network of energetic power-points.
The grid intersections focus at a series of significant points, whether a geologic/geographic feature (lake, island, granite butte, crystal cave etc.), sometimes with an architectural construct (megalith, temple, tower etc) or other significant place marker located at the 'epicentre'
The construct has some aspect that functions as a portal - complete with a 'keyed' activation - that allows instantaneous transit to the next connected point on the grid. The keys have been variously lost, stolen or hidden and the power-points variously hidden, corrupted, closed, or lost in legend. One plot arc had the players globe-trotting to various 'corrupted' portals in order to rid the surrounding areas of the tainted chaos energy they had been channeling into the environment and populace, discovering the various lost keys and 're-opening/connecting' the portals.
My new campaign (post-apocalyptic Star Wars setting) will develop this world grid feature as the source of an ancient planetary shield system to form the central plot arc.
 
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A curse a player wants. For a mage that rescued a demon heart without knowing and that always tried to protect her fiance, I devised a simple curse. Every time she decided she wanted to, one die from a spell would be fixed in max damage. Every time she did that I did a little mark, and she was going to get more small bonuses that slowly corrupted her soul by tempting her to use a power she actually perceived as demonic.

Because not all curses are immediately detrimental
 
I just accumulated them till they were enough for the next small bonus that required more demonic energy coursing through her. The second step is also where the color of her clothes changed, and she could no longer wear cheerful colors. Then in the next step, another bonus and her aura started to feel non human for those able to perceive it. It was an upwards way for power while a downward spiral for herself. So in the end she lost her fiance, who abandoned her because she no longer felt human, losing the capacity to love at that point,
 
It was totally out of place in the setting but a complete hoot. (3-legged chickens save a lot of arguments around the dinner table.)
I positively love things like this. Gives everyone a laugh, but also anchors the setting as something beyond hand-wave Fantasy. Reminds me of The Adventure Zone having a wine-and-pottery cafe--no, TWO wine-and-pottery cafes. The second one is for people who like to party.
 
I only listened to a few Adventure Zones. I need to cue more up for listening during commutes.
It can at times be a rough listen for experienced DMs or even players (5e specifically), because sometimes really questionable rulings are made, but these are usually in service of the listening experience. Others don't enjoy it because of how loose they are with a Fantasy setting (see: wine and pottery cafe). It helps to remember that these guys are professional podcasters and comedians first. The reason I recommend The Adventure Zone is that the first campaign has some genuine storytelling magic to it. Not only do we see the characters develop, but the players develop. As they say near the end of their first campaign, "this is a story about three brothers and their dad, who played D&D so hard they cried."
 
Two things come to mind:
First, my uncle's homebrewed AD&D campaign continent had a homebase town called Freee which was very lawless and crooked.
The city council was really a thieve's guild.
The stablekeep would happily sell your warhorse to the highest bidder once you'd stabled them.
Even the bartender was ... well ... he was gifted with a ring of contrariness. Just let that sink in.

The second that comes to mind is the overarching story arc of the RPG Living Steel - at a quick glance its just a sci-fi post-apoc alien invasion story.
What made it special was the Rhand: 2349 atlas which included 400 one-line city entries, entire planetary populations on the move.... etc.
But the best part was a reasonable system of mechanics for how the players could *save the world*
Basically, your team was reinforced with first responders - but the idea was to gather and save refugees.
Organize them into food production and find refugees with the right skills - that got you a "stage 1 civilization" capable of feeding itself, and a surplus.
Add in more folks with more schools like civil engineering and you can grow it to a stage 2 civilzation.
Even more - stage 3 and you were well on your way to having a home-base city you'd earned / saved through missions.
Living Steel overall got a bad rap because of the seriously crunched firearms - but the setting and story tools were something special - much like role-playing Sid Meier's Civilization - but with power armor and stuff.
Much of the stuff I see in the adventure building workshop I can see framed up and outlined in Living Steel, its KViSR Rocks module, and the Rhand: 2349 atlas.
 
Ars Magica's "Vis" - magical power in tangible form.

The magic apples from an ancient tree. The first melt water from a mountain stream in spring. The scales from a basilisk.

Rather than being magic items themselves, these were the fuel for magic, often tied to a particular flavour / school of magic. These were the ingredients to make magic items from or to enable powerful ritual magics.

Many were things that occurred at a predictable time and place, so there might be competition to collect it.

Made for a very different form of treasure or resource and opened up a lot of potential stories.

Very easily transferable to any system with the concept of magical crafting.
 
Ah yes, Vis an excellent one. So was their mechanic for layers or dimensions of reality. Can't remember what it's called. Do you @JulianW?
Auras were the basic background levels - so a church might have divine (that hampered spells - a little bit in the village church, a lot in a cathedral), faerie auras that boosted magic but made it more risky etc.

Regio was their term for being in a different reality - you're no longer in a wood that is home to a few fae, you're now in faerieland and reality plays by different rules
 
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