Need a location to add a little spice to that long wilderness trek, or a change of scenery for your next dungeon delve? Try one of these!
D&D games, like real estate, are all about location, location, location. Albeit one involves a lot more slaying of monsters, hoarding of gold, and explanations to the City Guard. But we’re not here to dunk on RedFin’s business practice, we’re here to talk about D&D. Your party has already been through a forest (and if they haven’t, they should), a desert, a mountain, a snow version of those three, and even gone out on (or under) the sea. Will you, like Alexander, weep for there are no more worlds left to conquer? Hold those tears in, and throw these exotic locations at your party instead and make them think you’re a fantasy genius.
We found most of these from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but also pulled a few from the excellent Ghosts of Saltmarsh to bring you our five favorite exotic locales in D&D.
Canyon containing a Dragon’s Graveyard
There’s something about powerful creatures dying that feels ominous–their giant bones speak of ages past and the fact that you’re in among the bones of a beast bigger than you immediately creates this menacing, forlorn tone. And that’s just looking at the Elephant Graveyard scene from the Lion King. Add in a dash of magic to reflect the fact that these are the biggest and baddest beasts–you can imagine what kind of creatures might make their homes in a Dragon’s boneyard.
Kobolds, certainly, if you want that Marrowak feeling, but it could also be scavenging creatures like a Bulette or more powerful undead–whatever you put here should feel… sinister.
Wrecked ship, nowhere near the water
Don’t have time to populate a whole wilderness location full of monsters? Take a shipwreck and put it on land somewhere. You may find yourself wondering, well, how did it get here? Best to have an answer for your players in mind though–but you already have a start. It could be a crashed airship, a sunken ship in an area that was once home to an underground lake. Mysterious otherworldly ship from another plane–whatever the reason is fine.
And you can pack it full of creatures that have moved in over the years–or with creatures that feel similarly out of place, like ghostly sharks swimming through an unseen ocean that haunt (and hunt) the land-locked wreck.
A crystal cavern on an Alien Island
Alien islands are a concept introduced in Ghosts of Saltmarsh. These are islands that have been inhabited and changed (corrupted some say) by aberrations. So things like an Aboleth’s secret warren, or a bunch of kraken cultists, or starspawn worshippers. It’s already full of that bizarre, Far Realm kind of feeling.
Add to that a glowing mosaic of pink, purple, and blue crystals that glow with an ethereal radiance. In the midst of this giant natural cavern, you can imagine all manner of things, wondrous and strange and terrifying taking effect. But specifically we recommend giving your players a chance to experience a forboding vision. Alien creatures are normally tied to knowing things that we don’t or can’t. So throw in a vision of an upcoming villain, or the characters in distress (or even dying) and then, using a few guidelines from the Ghosts of Saltmarsh, have them succeed a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or gain a random form short-term madness out of the DMG.
On the back of a Gargantuan Creature
With this exotic locale it’ll be turtles all the way down. This is a classic trope but how often have you used it? Go truly massive. In D&D Gargantuan is the upper limit of creature size, but there’s no restriction on how big a creature can be. Make the dungeon the dragon, in a way. Take a cue from Avatar the Last Airbender and have a secret temple hidden away that’s tied to the creature’s power. Or go the Exalted route and have the massive creature be a beast of war as well as the site of whatever terrible redoubt the characters need to delve into.
In the midst of a Kraken’s Grave
Much like the Dragon’s Graveyard but with a more sinister bent to it. A Kraken’s grave is packed with powerful supernatural energy; the area surrounding is left with a dark stain in the shape of the Kraken’s body. You can already imagine the strange creatures that might lair there–but there’s also a foul magic that haunts this place. As described in Ghosts of Saltmarsh:
When a creature moves within 30 feet of a kraken’s grave or starts its turn there, that creature must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity (Stealth) check or it disturbs the grave.
If you disturb the grave, a ghostly electrical tendril (mirroring one of the Kraken’s tentacles) will stretch up from the ground and attack the target for lightning damage and possibly blind you for hours.
These are just five samples of exotic locales. Hopefully it’s inspired you to create your own magical locations or sinister sites your players won’t soon forget.