In the very furthest reaches of antiquity, the world's patchwork of city-states, duchies, and petty kingdoms were unified under a single emperor. An emperor who commanded unimaginable magic. An emperor who held titles on Earth, in the Feywild, and in Hell. An emperor who carved mountains into monuments to his glory, and inscribed mystic runes across half a continent.
All mortal things pass away. No creature in this world still remembers his name, or the name of that world-spanning empire, and the cataclysm that ruined his lands and reshaped the world is told as half a dozen fractured tales, none more than half-true.
No mortal remembers his name. But his legacy has not yet passed away.
In the distant principality of Akkat Dham--once the core of the Empire--stand four shattered walls of corroded brass. Inside lies an empty black marble throne.
Four times a year, ambassadors from the immortal kingdoms subjugated by that ancient emperor are compelled to come and receive orders from their mortal liege. On the Spring Equinox, Eladrin from the Seelie courts of the Feywild arrive to pay their obeisance. On the Summer Solstice, a Lord of Hell arrives to submit to his king. On the Fall Equinox, the throne is occupied by the Fomorian ambassador. And on the Winter Solstice, visitors will find the Shadar-Kai ambassador sitting atop the snow-covered throne.
A charming and well-stocked tavern in a land known for its cave formations and deep mines. The Inn stands at a major crossroads and attracts many dwarves, and a host of adventurers. Observant visitors may notice minor anomalies if they spend time here, from the potent illusion spells that drape the place. In fact, the charming, plump human cook and her daughters are in fact a clan of sorcerous half-drow who drug food and deliver interesting travelers to Lolth-worshipping kidnappers as a means to procure living victims for sacrifice in the great, spidery cities of the Underdark. The half-drow maintain the facade in the hopes that their efforts on behalf of the Spider-Queen will someday earn them a place of honor in a large, drow city, normally intolerant towards all lesser races and half-breeds. Surface elves are favorite targets, as well as clerics of good deities. Any paladins will most certainly be targeted for kidnapping and sacrifice upon a black altar beneath the leering image of the dark glory of Lolth.
I was reading through all of the ideas already posted and it caused me to develop one of my own... mind, I fleshed it out a bit because I might end up using it myself.
A bustling town lies at the mouth of Duskpine Valley, effectively moderating the travelers who actually gain entrance to the darkened valley itself. Within the valley, there is a thick pine forest that is frequented by a considerably large number of ravens. Residents make mention of strange happenings on the northern border of the town that meets the forest: ravens making off with small baubles is a common malady, but people disappearing for days on end, only to reappear on a different border of the town is definitely not. An adventuring party has been investigating the disappearances and has delved deeply into the pine forest to find a small stone structure towards the far back end of the forest where the mountains that frame the valley join in something of a point or corner. Since the adventurers reported the sighting of the structure several days ago, they have not been seen or heard from within the boundaries of the town.
The town of Duskpine has a considerable population of arcanists of all kinds. The vast number of ravens nearby has provided a nearly endless pool of familiars and spell components as well as messenger birds. The town produces a high number of alchemical agents and arcane objects. With a large number of bookstores and libraries (private and public), this town is also a great place to research for all those interested in the arcane and mysterious. The town is dotted with a great number of towers for those who wish to perform their arcane rituals in peace or for small parties. In a way, the towers mimic the forest with which the town shares its northern border.
This town has a single clerical denomination: that of the sun god [insert your sun god here]. The seven clerics of [insert your sun god here] are trying to solve the curious situation that persists in the valley: the everlasting dusk quality. As of late, they have a handful of theories, but no real conclusive solutions to the perceived problem. Meanwhile, the town remains a rather busy place for those arcanists interested in magic and so forth and the town nearly never sleeps due to the perpetual “sunset” quality.
The grassland plains of your campaign world feature a region of rolling, hilly knolls with limestone caverns beneath, caverns leading to the Underdark. Travelers try to avoid the region, because to most surface-folk, all drow are the same. Yet closeby is the fortress town of Xybar, inhabited by a hard-scrabble colony of rebel dark elves and half-drow that have abandoned the Spider-Queen to carve a new life in the light above or die trying. While they are distrusted by most folk, the presence of Xybar is a boon to the region, for this battle-ready, defensible city serves as a buffer to the evil that lies beneath. Xybar blocks passage of the forces of a terrible evil to the surface. The limestone caves lie just above the vast, sprawling subterranean metropolis of Xynzhyncilia, The City of Venoms. The massive drow city is centered around a colossal temple of Lolth with massive thoroughfares arching out in eight directions. Hanging from the bottoms of these suspended highways are the eight ruling noble houses of the city, each designed to resemble the egg-sacks of a spider. The cavern floor below is littered with minor noble houses and the hovels of gnoll and goblinoid slaves that grovel before drow masters for whom cruelty is an art form. Xynzhyncilia was built on a confluence of lodestone veins of enormous strength, which create veritable rivers of electricity in this part of the Underdark. The effect of the magnetic veins is strongest where they meet, under the Grand Temple. As a consequence, the City of Venoms is bathed in a constant magnetic aura. The drow of the city over the millenia have naturally adapted to this force, their flesh radiating strong magnetic currents that make it more difficult to strike them with weapons of any metal. Indeed, metal objects of all sorts are too heavy to be practical within the city, and these drow have over the eons, cultivated ingenious poison weapons of bone and ivory. They have mastered hive-weapons, devices that harbor colonies of poisonous vermin that are released when a foe is struck. The Knights of Lolth that ride for Xynzhyncilia are dreaded, and none are deadlier when fighting from the backs of giant spiders. The unusual traits of this city lead to suspicion from other dark-elf civilizations, resulting in isolation, enmity, and a fanaticism for the worship of the Spider-Queen pathological even by drow standards. The rebellion and escape of the colonists that founded Xybar has tormented the city greatly, and only fuels their murderous rage. These surface-dwelling rebels have withstood titanic clashes against overwhelming odds that more than justify their faith and pride in themselves, but in a war of attrition, it is unlikely that Xybar will last forever against its enraged, subterranean parent. Should the stalwart fortress-town fall, then Xynzhyncilia will erupt from below in a madness-fueled explosion of militancy that will purge the surface world of anyone that falls into their poisoned, murderous grasp.
This is a region I had thought of for 3.5, but qualifies fully for light/dark.
The Shallow Sea (region of dark) A largish body of water connecting the ocean to the south and the colder northern waters (not really a sea, but hey). It once was part of a kingdom ruled by an evil overlord (of your choosing, he's dead anyways) and the area was smote by the gods for his attempts at unweaving the fabric of time. The deepest parts of this region are only about 100 ft. The waters stay warm due to the shallowness, and the warm water flowing from the south. Pirates sail through this area from the Fog Isles (see below), gliding just over the tops of ancient ruins in which sahuagin now dwell, guarding whatever secrets lay dormant under the waves.
This leads us to.... The Fog Isles (point of light, but dim) North of the Shallow Sea, the Fog Isles are an archipelago of now dormant volcanic islands. A favorite hideout of pirates and those who wish to do evil without being noticed, the Fog Isles get their name from the unending fog that coats the region due to the warm water from the south hitting the colder northern waters. The most easily accessible point in the Fog Isles is Felton's Cove, a pirate port (think Singapore, 1850) on the southernmost and most easily spotted island due to the volcano's cone sticking up out of the fog.
This area caused me to create new magic items, such as the waystone of misdirection which causes people to go around an area without realizing it (great for making an already difficult to find island impossible to find) and the accompanying compass of homeward direction which would allow someone to find an island shrouded by the waystone of misdirection that it was tied to.
The great fun is throwing in a compass in with some treasure. DM: You also find what looks to be a compass, made of leather and brass. Roll a Survival check. Ranger: *roll* 18? DM: Yeah, it doesn't point north. Sort of north, but not north.
This is a location in my homebrew campaign, but I would be honored to have others use it as inspiration.
The Creeping Deep Once a thriving and malevolent Underdark kingdom that broke though to the surface, the region of the Creeping Deep is now a deep basin teeming with rampant jungle growth. Ages ago, to stop the depredations of such a wicked realm, a forgotten druidic order unleashed a verdant plague that consumed the kingdom, both above and below, collapsing it.
In its current state, the jungle is almost violent in its growth. The curse still runs strong, and any attempts at colonizing the basin meet with disaster. Wandering tribes of humans and wild elves still call the place home, highly superstitious of the ruins and the unnatural creatures that seem to crawl up from them.
Scattered throughout the basin, built into the walls of isolated mesas, are dragonborn "aviaries". Islands in a sea of green, dragonborn clans watch vigilantly over the basin in anticipation of the resurgence of an unknown evil.
A small and seemingly profitable trading post that makes the majority of its money from a rich trade in spices, occasionally obscure and ancient golden artifacts surface; infact the appearance (and sale) of valuable artifacts has, during past times of famine/disaster saved the populace of the city from poverty and starvation.
Unknown to most residents the port of Zaras stands atop the ruins of a much older empire that once worshipped the serpentine god of poison, the human port is used as an experiment by the hidden yuan-ti survivors of the ancient empire. Snaketongue and human cultists abduct people fromt he nighttime streets for use in their experiments; human agents and some of the wealthier merchants are aware of this, but the fact that the cult normally picks on strangers and those passing through (plus the fact that the cult 'compensates' the right people with golden artifacts from the buried ruins of the ancient city) purchases their silence.
Something im going to add to a home brew campaign.
to set it up our adventure. The adventures are carrying something of great importance. It is in a case, and radiates an intense magic power. It was given to them on an airship by a mysterious gnome. long story short the airship crashes and our adventures are left to wander a great desert.
They travel in one direction for days. Just as they are about to give up, they see something that looks like a small building in the haze of the desert up a head. As they approach they see a brick building with a sign that has numbers on it. with the numbers 7 1 1 on it. and what appears to be large metal animals with round feet out side. They don't sense anything hostile about the structure and enter it.
The cool interior of the structure steals their breath away. The tenant notices the adventures and asked them what they are doing out there in those strange clothes. A short conversation would get the adventures to ask for water and rations. A PC tosses the tenant a gold coin. Excited at its authenticity the tenant runs to his metals beast gets inside of it * which disturbs the adventures , and rides off yelling " Wahoo im rich, i quit this *****". The adventures are left to the store to take what ever they like even though they have no idea what is going on.
* during their trek the suite case sensed they were in trouble, and in lo of the adventurers dieing to fatigue in the desert moved them through a portal into a small pocket of Arizona where they entered a convenience store. As soon as they are done they wander off back into the desert and are back on Faerun.
The Gods prevailed in the first war to determine the course of Creation, they denied the Primordials the chance to lay waste to the mortal world, sealed up within the Elemental Chaos, these beings raged in fury against their enemies, and against the world that they so yearn to annihilate. Knowing that they would be denied the chance to break the world of mortals, certain far-seeing primordials decided to settle on the next best thing; If they could not destroy the world the gods had sheltered, then they would make tiny, sub-worlds within their own domain as proxies of their wrath. They used their powers to create small, stable ecologies in remote regions of the chaos, populated them with analogues of mortal creatures, simply for the joy of exterminating these living creatures, scape-goats for their anger at being denied a rampage through the Middle World. If they cannot topple cities protected by the gods, they will crush underfoot these mortals of their own design. Yet few of the Shatterealms were actually destroyed. As a consequence of the imprisonment of the most powerful primordials, most are denied the freedom to go to these islands of life and destroy them. This only deepens the anger of the raging elemental masters. So many of the mortal realms survived and ecked out a living amidst the Chaos. These people fight a never-ending struggle against elemental archons, who - sensitive to the wishes of their creators, view it as their duty to exterminate these races. There are four major types of Shatterealm races, in numerous cities and sheltered areas in remote regions of the Chaos; Metal, Sand, Clay and Ash. They will appear to be living humanoid men and women seemingly composed of one of these materials, but are as alive as anyone. When it became apparent that these humanoids also came to possess souls, the Elemental Chaos was thrown in an uproar over the magnitude of the error that allowed them to be created. Today, all Shatterealm races in areas easily accessible have been exterminated, those that survive are well able to protect themselves. It is not known just how many of these settlements exist throughout the Chaos, but they can prove a welcome boon to lost travelers. They will welcome organic mortals gratefully, and can offer shelter, rest, and rare magical equipment undreamed of by mortals elsewhere. (But the food is likely to seem gritty) They are a proud race, but yearn to learn of the gods, in the hope of salvation. In truth, their souls cannot reach the gods when they die within the Elemental Chaos, as they are not a part of any gods' creation. Shatterealm folk will offer great rewards to wizards willing to cast a spell they have created that will allow them to leave the Chaos and enter the mortal world. This spell must be cast in both locations, so they require another willing party. A hero should take caution, however. If a spell were cast that was powerful enough to transport a population into the mortal world, it would also allow elemental enemies from the Chaos a permanent gateway into the World. These folk are caught between good and evil. Good-aligned adventurers will feel a kinship with these people, who will share many of their beliefs. But the Good will be wary over the consequences of giving the Shatterealm folk their most fervent desire. They abhor evil, yet evil-aligned adventurers will be swayed by the rich rewards promised, and many would be all too willing to assist them, uncaring of the evil they may unleash in the process.
DC20 Arcana: Shatterealms folk were created by primordials so that they could have the pleasure of killing mortals after they were denied the chance to destroy the Middle World. Their survival is a source of deep outrage for primordials, titans, and archons. They possess souls, but have no clerics since they are not a part of the gods' creation.
DC25 Arcana: If anyone casts their Planar Transference spell known to many Shatterrealm wizards, it will open a gateway that would also allow legions of Archons the chance to raid and ravage the Middle world. But this would also allow Shatterealms folk access to the gods, an afterlife, and the chance to become clerics.