Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brainstorming Natural Resources of the Weird

Coughing fits have silenced me—literally—for going on three straight days (I know, come join me at my pity party). With no outlet to run my mouth in the real world I am back at filling out the back-end rules bits of the Domain Game.

One of the key areas being developed right now is the area of natural resources. With the notable exception of the Mentzer Companion D&D set—and a too-short table in EPT—it's been a world-building area given the shaft in domain-level play.

Which come to think of it is a big hole really since it's exactly the kind of granular detail that can breathe life into bland wilderness hexes on a campaign map. Knowing that those grasslands are roamed by a vast herd of three-horned bison or that the gnarled hulking trees of that old growth forest drop enormous, fibrous seed pods gives real pop to exploration of an outdoor environ—and extra dimensions to the would-be warlord looking to harness them.

That in mind I have been drawing up longish charts that already provide hundreds of natural resources (I may post the top-level charts that I use to fill out the five-mile hexes of Nowhere with them sometime soon).

They mostly work on three levels so far in my game. On one level, you have “mundane” resources—the run-of-the-mill things you can typically expect to gather from the land with a minimum of imagination—soil for crops, trees for lumber, clay for pots, etc. These I have indexed to terrain, given some numbers for quality/quantity, and mostly been done with it.

On the second level, you have the rarer “special” resources. Most of these are still somewhat commonplace, or rather less fantastical, such as gems, rare metals, spice plants, etc.

But the third level I have reserved for the real fun: “magical” resources. Here are the strange and wonderful: ley lines, magic “fertile” areas, other-worldly energies, strange beasts, and so on.

If you are still with me seven paragraphs in, here's the Ask for the collective internet brain trust: what kinds of weird and wonderful resources can you think of? Are there mundane resources that can still drip outrageous fantasy? What strange marvels can you throw at the aspiring world-tamers?

Note that any and all smoking-hot suggestions that make it into the final print publication of this mess will be attributed—and possibly even named after it's creator in an oblique, fun way.


  1. I think that there are certain places and features in our own world which certainly can drip with fantasy. For example, Yosemite Valley with its huge exposed granite faces and towering water falls, Yellowstone with it sulfurous pools of elementally heated water and spouting geysers, Death Valley with its roaming boulders, and so on.

    A mountain meadow on a warm spring day, or a volcano spewing forth an oozing mass of molten rock, natural cave systems that plunge miles underground, etc.

    I'm not sure that this helps you all that much, but it is what I first thought of when you mentioned magic places/resources in the mundane world.

  2. How about giant furry catterpillars that can be skinned for clothing or magic stones that can mined that give off special powers?

  3. Salt mines are something to look at, seriously.
    So are such things as papyrus & hemp for making extremely durable materials that go a bit further than just rope or a writing substrate.

    Have you seen our post on Ley Lines over at Old School Heretic?

    Resins for incense and spices are a perennial favorite and a lot of those same substances can go into cooking, embalming mummies, and temple offerings...not to mention food preservation, pest elimination, or driving off demons or miasmic vapors.

    Dye-making, glass-making and the glazes used in pottery can be good stuff to look into as well.

    That ought to give you some food for thought...

  4. ... I have a thing in my game that equates something like the blood of the earth, it is the long forgotten and cogealed life force of the slain primordial on which the mortal realm rests...

    TLDR: oil, but reskinned for fantasy.

  5. also fallen stars and moondust. gotta get that in there as well.

  6. I was wondering if Ley-Lines would be used for Domain Level Spells (spells that affect the whole realm or an entire Hex).

    I was wondering similar things for Divine spells, and if it would be "worth it" to have priests pray and do other religious actions, and if those actions would have any game results, other than inspiring the faith of the people.

    Crystals that have magical energy in them, that would essentially give extra spell slots to casters? Perhaps different types of crystals and gems have magical effects that change depending on what you use them for (in the hilt of a sword for example).

    Maybe magical plants, that when fed to animals affect them in weird ways. Natural/magical healing Herbs might be good. Plants that only grow where something has died. Parasite plants.

    Perhaps there are substances that have no real world equivalent, such as minerals that have a consistency of rubber with flecks of rocks in the mix. Maybe there are different types of water? Areas that produce strange alien gasses?

  7. Post and response alike have this imagination started. I suggest dirt clams, like the ash clams of Necromunda; dormant giants sleeping long years in groups as the creepers and grass grow over them, not unlike the Quentin Blake take in The BFG; saps being powerful glues or unguents, or apparent hallucinogens which actually allow contact with the astral planes; rifts in the earth drawing heat down, to be refrigerators or deep freezers; firebats drawn to strange fruits, lured to circle camps in the terror-filled night.

  8. The ancient Thujan seers Khuunz and Whart wrote of many such things.

    One may take cuttings from vampire vines and fever trees (at great peril) and plant these in gardens around the citadel walls to thwart one's enemies. If the wood of a vampire tree is burned and any man present has murder in his heart, it will bleed and this fluid may be used as the base for several deadly poisons and magical elixirs.

    There are meadows where one may find floating white stalked puffballs and black earthstars. Seers may control these magical fungi in the manner of controlling a cloudkill. The stalked puffballs disintegrate that which they touch and the earthstars will imprison a man within a cyst deep inside the earth.

    Deserts of red rust are known to result from the rotting cold iron bones of some ancient dead gods and dragons. Consumption or inhalation of the dust may result in death or visions of great power.

    A fortunate one may find a preserved bone of cold iron. Arcane weapons may be forged from this ore and such weapons cause terrible gaping wounds that bleed endlessly.

    One should look for the flowers of the black lotus in marshes where the sun never reaches them. Such flowers are a hundred times or more potent than the ordinary black lotus, a pinch of the dust will bring deep sleep and strange dreams, anymore brings death.

    There are certain animals that are reincarnated deities, demigods, or heroes. Such beasts may be highly magical. It is written that rubbing the wool of a sheep that was once a great wizard will summon a flock of sheep of such great size that it might feed and clothe an army.

    Few have read that if one finds a gargoyle with a red shadow and slays it the shadow may be enslaved and will act as a loyal spy, but even the goblins know that eating the testicles of mountain apes will bestow great strength and courage on warriors.

  9. One of the most satisfying moments in blogging is when you find the commentary more crazy inspired than the post you wrote.

    Perhaps more fever reasoning but I want a chart that has them all...moon dust, dirt clams, mountain ape cojones and all.