Help me flesh out a campaign area

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Background: I don't have a lot of time to DM. I want to run a series of adventures based in a desert region similar to the Sonoran desert, featuring rough scrub, mesas, and canyons.

IMAGE(http://www.lasr.net/images/park/main_img/AZ06sp001.jpg)

I've hit upon a few things that I think would spice up a desert setting, to keep it from being "mummy in the pyramid" predictable.

I know I want to feature the following monster groups. Drow, a Vampire, several types of undead, and a medusa.

Nestled between 2 mountain ranges the vast expanse of the Arrawa Desert stretches out as far as the eye can see. Large and small cacti store water between the sudden angry storms that sometimes douse the area. Nestled near the base of one of the mountain ranges is the large town of Goldfast and the once lost dwarven hold now named Golden Deep. Explorers found gold in the small streams near the town, and during the exploration uncovered the entrance to a lost dwarven city. Since then dwarves have resettled the hold, sharing the work and the bounty with the humans outside. Trade with the outside world through the southern pass allows food and other commodities in, while dwarven and human good travel out. But deep in the desert ancient ruins still stand unexplored. Great treasures wait for those who are brave enough to come claim them.

That's really about all I have at this point. So, let's brain storm some ideas and who knows, maybe you'll get something you can use in your campaign!
I_Roll_20s @twitter. Not always SFW. I may prefer 4e, but I will play and enjoy almost any edition, and indeed almost any table top RPG, with my friends. Down with Edition Wars. Shut up and roll your dice. :P
Far View Ruins and Combe Ridge ruin are good for your game.

http://randm4corners.wordpress.com/

You could use it as is with monsters or as it was with roofs and paint and more civilized monsters.

There's an underground area for storing grains, a temple, and even room to ride out a raid. Not sure if it's at that site or another.

So cool:
IMAGE(http://randm4corners.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/mv-cliff-palace-t12-a.jpg)
IMAGE(http://www.trailmonkey.com/USpages/jpg/co_cliffpalace1across.JPG)
those gave me an idea for a renegade drow tribe who hide in the deep shade there. Hrm...
I_Roll_20s @twitter. Not always SFW. I may prefer 4e, but I will play and enjoy almost any edition, and indeed almost any table top RPG, with my friends. Down with Edition Wars. Shut up and roll your dice. :P
Secret trails which would allow an army to cross the desert and attack a fortess from behind. Players could take part in this enterprise - they would have to find the wells - think Lawrence of Arabia.

Could also add bits of Dune - a secret army may be hiding in the desert. The players might have to find it and persuade them to fight for them.
Here is my idea for the drow in the area.

2 main outposts. The first being the ones living under the cliff. This outpost is a city of free drow, made up of low born and others who, en mass, rebelled and fled from their former lives generations ago. Now, they live an existence free from Llolth. They have adopted a shamanistic/primal lifestyle, although a few arcane types still exist. Unaligned community.

The second is a cruel drow citedel ruled by a vampire/warlock. They have learned of the 1st group and have set their sites on slaughter and slavery. This fortress would have a Tower on the top of a mesa, with the main bulk of the drow being inside the mesa.
I_Roll_20s @twitter. Not always SFW. I may prefer 4e, but I will play and enjoy almost any edition, and indeed almost any table top RPG, with my friends. Down with Edition Wars. Shut up and roll your dice. :P
I recommended this to another DM the other day and it sounds like it would help you too:

Don't try and fill in the campaign map yourself. Draw a really rough map and bring it to your next session. Then go around the table, point at each player, and ask them to draw something on the map and explain why that location is important to their character in some way.

Go around the table three times like this, until you've got about 10 to 15 locations on the map. Congratulations! You've got a campaign world that your players care about and are invested in, and you're assured that every place that your players can possibly go is meaningful.
... and a medusa.

Ancient feywild forest...
...powerful and/or accursed medusa moves in...
...it's now a 'petrified forest'...?...
My first thoughts;

the Medusa was a male, disgraced and driven from his brood.
He fled to Arrawa for it's remoteness. There he uncovered a powerful artifact, built a harem, and assaulted a blasphemous Vampiric Drow who had lead his house to the surface.
Now he has medusa and drow warriors, stone grimlocks, and a stone drow vampire, reanimated despite petrification by the power of the artifact.

Some later thoughts:


Uncovering an ancient structure of some sort, he took a powerful living artifact from a Basilisk easily, being immune to it's gaze. It was an Eidelon -imprinting upon the first humanoid creature it saw, believing that it must be his master. It increased his power tenfold. Under the strange boon of the Eidelon, His gaze could even affect females if he desired, and he built a harem.

He led an assault on the Drow that had rebuffed him so easily, and in the chaos of the fighting, his most bitter rival - a blesphemous vampiric Drow, leading his house to the freedom of the surface, was petrified. He was not satisfied with such an outcome, and so, testing the Eidelon's bizarre and wondrous power, managed to reanimate the vampiric drow. Now he is some sort of strange mix between dark elf, vampire, and stone golem. He is able to travel during the day for a few hours, but is bound to the will of the Eidelon's master.
Ancient feywild forest...
...powerful and/or accursed medusa moves in...
...it's now a 'petrified forest'...?...

Nice.

The Sonoran Desert is fascinating - good choice. You have bats pollinating giant saguaro cacti at night, flash floods during the rain season, and some pretty complicated water politics.

Some thoughts...
* what if the medusa is an oracle/advisor to both enclaves of drow and the occasional human pilgrim?
* what if the drow ride giant bats between enclaves? maybe the bats are so light they can only climb/jump with a rider and only fly unburdened?
* what if the evil drow's tunnels in the mesa go all the way down to the aquifer which their rituals are slowly poisoning?
* lightning storms on the top of the mesa are said to be spirits dancing for revenge against the warlock vampire
Nice.


* what if the evil drow's tunnels in the mesa go all the way down to the aquifer which their rituals are slowly poisoning?

this I like, I may have to use this at some point. These are all really good ideas though.
I_Roll_20s @twitter. Not always SFW. I may prefer 4e, but I will play and enjoy almost any edition, and indeed almost any table top RPG, with my friends. Down with Edition Wars. Shut up and roll your dice. :P
a small bit of an update:

One of my players is wanting to play a shaman, and I plan on using that to tie into the first "hook" of the campaign, the more primal drow culture hiding in the desert. Also, another player is planning on playing a paladin or cleric, so depending on his characters god, that will also be used as a hook.

The hook - For the Shaman: The shamans spirit companion looks to the northeast, and whines/mewls/or otherwise makes a distressed sound. There are spirits there who seek aid and warn of danger and unnatural death.

For the Divine Character: You stand facing the northeast at dusk, your vision blurs and you see a dark skinned elf, a drow, helpless slowly turning to stone and screaming in pain. You awake, your holy symbol cold against your skin.

To the northeast the Drow community has lived for many centuries, undisturbed. Their darker kin have found their way to the surface, and seek to bring them back into Llolth's dark embrace as either her loyal children, or as screaming sacrifices. They have found an ally in a medusa and her gargoyle minions.
I_Roll_20s @twitter. Not always SFW. I may prefer 4e, but I will play and enjoy almost any edition, and indeed almost any table top RPG, with my friends. Down with Edition Wars. Shut up and roll your dice. :P
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