The city of Nausopol is built on stilts. Lots of very sturdy stilts and butresses, of course, because it rises about five hundred feet from the ocean. Even the most terrific of storms is only heard in the city as a distant cacophony of blasts as waves strike the solid stonework fathoms below. It has never been attacked because of its isolation and impregnability.
It's not a place for the faint-hearted: vertigo and sea-sickness are not desirable traits. But when you are standing in the middle of the city there is no way you could tell that you were standing above an ocean, separated only by a gulf of air and a few stones.
A thousand steps lead down from Nausopol to the floating docks. These docks are pitch-coated wooden and can be raised by winches during squalls. Trade with other cities and countries is good: Nausopol is built over a sunken atoll whose minerals are still mined by divers, and it was from this that it originally derived its wealth.
But the principal method of getting to and from the city is by riding the giant sea-eagles which have been captured and bred for that very reason.
The cliff-hunters ride sheer-stalkers vertically down the cliff faces to reach the nests of birds and steal their eggs for sport. Sheer-stalkers are vicious agile lizards about the size of large komodo dragons. They must be muzzled and harnessed, but even so there have been some nasty incidents...
The village sits on the edge of the deep fjord, often engulfed in mist or rain. Its people are fishermen, who work even through the sea-ravaging winter. And they pray to the gods of the deep.
At the beginning of every winter they hold a summoning ceremony. Three boats are taken out into the fjord, a hornsman on each. The mournful horns are blown in the language of the whales, the gods of the deep. The whales sometimes appear in answer to these calls, and it is taken as a good omen when they do.
To a party of PCs wandering the misty hills and valleys nearby however, the doleful whalesong of the horns can be disturbing and misinterpreted...
Diseased people, (leprosy or any other such fear inducing disease) when traveling, will often times wear a cloak that entirely covers their body and ring a bell as they travel, used as a warning for any others to stay away. Could be used for a disguise or safe passage.
A large vertical cave has a constant, strong wind blowing out of it from the bowels of the earth. If one was to jump into the currents they would have a controlled ascent on the winds till they reached a height where their weight and the winds force reached equilibrium. Impossible to climb down naturally. What is it? Natural winds from the earth or a complex magical protection for an underground lair?
With regard to the plot "Sleeping Mines of Elathon":
You manage to get the water wheel in the mine working which operates a pump to clear the flooded lower levels. As you explore the dank tunnels of the lower galleries, you can hear the creaking of the wheel above. You enter a low-ceilinged passage and are crawling on your backs, when the creaking stops. The water starts seeping wetly around the back of your head...
Finally got the idea for an orcish currency:
A cold-hammered piece of raw iron, resembling some kind of a dagger. The Dagger is easy to carry, hard to forge, may be used as a crude weapon in case of emergency AND the iron being a valuable resource... may be used directly for weapon-making. May be carried openly on the belt of a mighty Orc. A new insult: 'to beat someone with someones money' . Self-explanatory.
Mining in a certain area turns all exposed skin (maybe just parts that are actively disturbing the chemicals that cause the reaction) of the those doing the mining to a dark blue color. Will wear off taking as many years/days spent in the mine.
Custom among pirates to yearly vote for their leader. If a majority believed the leader was doing poorly they could hold another vote. Democratic except in times of battle and danger at sea. Could bleed that over to some 'honorable' bandits.
A comet flies through the sky every so many years. During this time no fire is able to be lit anywhere the comet is visible.
The Black Forest- actually a part of another forest, is said to be cursed by the presence of some horrific monster, which burns the very earth with its body!
No one has yet seen it and lived to tell, so be warned!(see NPC Aurelius Blackfoot for details)
Sword sharpness is equal to the status and skill of its wielder.
A people who believe it is incredibly impolite to speak to anybody they meet for the first time. They believe their actions should speak for them until they are comfortable in each others presence and can then trust each other. Only then would converstation be appropriate.
During battle/war the heads of all slain are decapitated and collected by the slayer. The slayer will clean them up and put them on display for inspection by the commander. Depending on the deads name, rank, and expression on the face held by the death blow-the slayer will be rewarded by gold and/or status.
Archers never waste arrows in a volley. Always aim for something. To waste an arrow is a great dishonor and if caught will be shamed.
As a new member of a magical organization you get 1-3 magical scrolls to do with them whatever you want. They are unmarked and contain spells you dont know and will only find out at the moment of reading=casting.
A culture has it forbidden to say their rulers name under penalty of death. Anybody in power must be referred to as their title. Comes from the fact that the rule or position can be taken over by anybody from any level in society. To use the title elevates them or brings them down from whatever level they were originally at before they took the position. Respect and authority comes from the position, not from previous life.
City, group, religion; every time a significant event happens to the city/person a new name will be given to signify the event. Could add the names to previous ones like a list of titles or could just be completely changed every time.
THE GNOMES OF UDNALOR: Part II
Having left the hush of the upper halls, and crossed the depths of the Braeth (an underground river, which is not all that deep because bear in mind we're talking about gnomes here), you would find yourself in Wattling Street, the main road through Udnalor. It's actually a long, well-worn passageway which opens out eventually into the City Centre. The gnome-buildings branch off Wattling Street as small burrows or caverns with boulder-blocked doorways for privacy. You can find armourers and smiths (though their armour tends to be on the small side for humans to buy) and many other types of trader.
There are many streets, ginnels and cooies which run off Wattling Street, the most famous probably being Smell Street, the domain of the infamous gnomish alchemists, the eponymous smell being very distinctive: the stench of cooking fungus, the aroma of subterranean spices, the pungent reek of rotting carcasses (used in some of the more notorious experiments). An encounter with an alchemist can really be spiced up (excuse the pun) if you have a well-stocked herb cupboard, and actually make up the potions, elixirs and draughts as they are ordered by characters.
THE GNOMES OF UDNALOR: Part I
Upon entering the deep underrealm of Udnalor, one must first pass through the upper halls, which were the residences of the gnomes in days of past glories. Now they have abandoned the fading tapestries to the worms and moles, and an uncanny silence reigns, laid over the oaken tables like the thick layers of dust and humus.
There may be creatures which now inhabit these areas: nests livid with giant maggots, rats and other vermin.
The watchtowers and passageways which lead to the Overground are frequently trodden, however. After all it takes a great many small humanoids to hoist a single giant rabbit corpse back through the fathoms of earth.
The gnomes primarily hunt giant rabbits with bows and arrows tipped with the subterranean poisons concocted by their best alchemists.
A religious group has a vow of poverty. They have nothing except what is donated to them. Once a day the group walks through the town holding small baskets for offerings. Main purpose is to recieve their food for the day. Most families believe it is good luck to give the group small foods that they can spare. The group is very grateful for the donations and all bow in unison to each that gives a donation much to the amusement of many kids that enjoy giving the donation.