Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sandbox Wonders 5

Phew, it is getting hard to come up with new ones, and that's assuming any of the ones I am coming up with evoke a sense of wonder.  I'm not giving up yet, though.  Onward:

43. Auburn Hills - Hills covered with fine, red-brown grass but oddly little wildlife.  Closer inspection reveals the "grass" is human hair.  Can be used to make rope and cloth like silk.  Do not burn.
44. Ember Showers - These blasted lands have barely any plant growth, and the few weeds and scraggly bushes are singed and blackened.  Each day a shower of embers falls here.  Legend says, if you can catch one in holy water the ember will cool and "grow" back into what it was before, and that each of these embers are the pages from some great library.
45. Well of Coals - This tavern-sized crater is filled with smoldering coals.  Removed coals are replaced by more coals that seem to push up from inside the earth.  These coals will never burn out and are tempting for merchants to take, but there is a small chance each day they will begin reproducing and filling the area they are in completely with coals.
46. The Thick Airs - In a small, hidden valley the air is so thick that moving through it is more like moving through water, or snow.  It is so thick that small items, like apples and daggers, can be placed in it and will not fall.  It is said it is so thick it can be scooped into bags and carried away.
47. The Thick Waters - The waters in this small, forgotten pool look normal in every way, but feel more like a thick mud.  A boat will sit on the surface and not sink into it.  They cannot be drunk.  It is said if they are warmed the thick water will thin itself, becoming normal and expanding in volume by 10 or 100 times.
48. The Splintered Ridges - A set of several long straight ridges.  Under the thin layer of soil and grass these hills are made entirely of wood.  And this wood is said to heal itself, prized for shields.
49. Breathing Mountain - The canyons at the base of this mountain are beset by winds every few hours.  These blow down and away and then in a few minutes and toward the mountain again.  The winds are of such force they can blow mules down the canyons and suck small children up and away.
50. Dewdrop Flowers - The petals of these small flowers are made of water droplets.  The slightest brush will release the droplets and cause the flower next to it to release its, sending glistening waves through the fields.  Greatly sought be rulers or arid realms.
51. The Smoking Lands -  Lands much like ours except that the living things are a bit paler, a bit grayer, and where our life has hair they have smoke rising off of them. Women with smoky tresses, wolves that have fur of smoky tendrils.
52. The Great Green - A vast swath of green grass that reaches heights of 12 feet.  Travel through it is risky because so many have gotten lost, or never returned.  Who knows what wonder it hides.


  1. These are really great! Have you read Invisible Cities by Calvino? The whole book is descriptions of wondrous cities about a page each.

  2. Should be giant ticks and lice in the Auburn Hills

  3. I have one. A small natural cavern in the mountains with two openings shaped in a way so that it can be used as an alpine horn. Possibly historically used by giants or dwarves or other mountain/cave dwellers. Except now that i think about it I am not sure it would work; meaning stone wouldn't resonate well.

  4. This is cool stuff. I'm recommending your work on hexes (and especially travel mini-games) on G+. I was not able to find where you collected all the mini-games, though. Could you point me to it please?

    1. Unfortunately, my memory of the revision I mentioned in my comment below was more aspirational than actual. I either lost it or never got around to it. I'll work on making this, I appreciate someone wanting to use my stuff, that's kind of the whole point of sharing on the blog. It might take me a bit to redo the challenges in 300ppi though.

  5. @Lum: I haven't but I have seen it recommended by another blogger, I'll have to check it out, thanks.

    @Darnizhan: Yeah. That entry is one that can very easily slip over into creepiness.

    @mote: I wouldn't worry too much about the actual physics. But, yeah I've been trying to think of one dealing with sound and wind going through holes in stone. What would be wondrous? Maybe if they actually make a chord, they sound like a song. Or maybe they sound like they are saying a word "dooooom". The wind based wonders are giving me the hardest time because they don't easily give souvenirs, bit that players can take away.

    @Andrew: Crap, I need to do some indexing, I couldn't find it at first on my own blog! I try to name my posts very carefully, but Blogger's search doesn't look at post titles. So, those Travel Challenges I compiled here:

    But, I know I have a revision of that on my computer at home that adds trackless wastes and planar travel. Also, I just pasted those images into that document and I think the resolution is crappy. I probably need to revisit all of them.

    Other instances of mini-games show up mostly in magic items. Some that I used in my Undertavern con game here:
    and the Liar's Broom, here:
    Which I realize now is not indexed on my Treasures page.

  6. Granted that mundane physics needn't constrain Wonders, but Wonders do raise questions about the consistency of their effects and their interactions with the mundane world.

    It's not clear to me why The Thick Waters should be undrinkable, given that people drink liquid gelatin and one could, in principle, drink liquid mud, however inadvisable it would be. The "expands when heated" characteristic could obviously make that even less advisable than drinking mud, though tiny, portable water rations might be feasible.

    Absent some special magical effect, Thick Air should be laborious and fatiguing to breathe, and particularly dangerous to asthmatics and consumptives. It might still be less dense than water, but if not it could be a useful tool for underwater exploration (like the oxygenated freon featured in Cameron's The Abyss).

  7. I've thoroughly enjoyed this series so far and have bookmarked them all for review when my spouse and I return to fantasy gaming.

    @umbrielx - I've actually done liquid breathing before (in a demonstration at Mississippi State University, of all places). It's terrifying. But I can see Thick Air being like liquid breathing. An inert "heavy gas" which is hyperoxygenated such that it's breathable? Now I'm envisioning what would lair in a cave full of the stuff and how the party would deal with exploring while feeling like they're drowning...

  8. Hey, Thanks for the comments.

    @umbrielx: You're right that the details are what players will use to guess and figure out possible uses of wondrous items. So that's important. I was just meaning don't get too hung up as a DM/maker worrying about specifics. I know I used to get overwhelmed by things like realistic weather and mapping and such and I've had to consciously loosen up a bit. I like your thoughts on the air/water. I was thinking I might make the thick water a bit like gummy candy that "melts in your mouth," is super juicy. So, you could get water from it. And the air I was thinking more like cotton candy, or cobwebs, thin fluffy stuff that turns to air. Or maybe you have to eat chunks of it to breathe. For the air I was mostly thinking of players taking the stuff somewhere else to build invisible ladders and platforms.

    @tabletopandstitches: Sweet. That's terrifying. And an interesting non-visual example of the difficulty of conveying sensory stuff to players through descriptions. If I were to try it, I might make some mini-game where players have to hold their breath for as long as they are in the room (take damage every time you breathe). Or to make it more game-like require them to repeatedly say a word (like "treasure"), so you can tell when they breathe. Isn't that how Kabaddi works?

  9. I was still getting caffeinated with the last comment. You might think, how is someone going to tell you what they are doing in said dungeon room while holding their breath, lol. Good point. We might either have them manipulate something with their hands, or better yet, team up with a partner, a caller, which will say what the duo is doing, ask and answer questions, etc, while the other partner does the breath thing. That could be fun and funny. Of course this doesn't give the sense of dread your experience sounds like it gave you tabletopandstitches, but I don't want to waterboard my players : )