This thread is about minor terrain features. They are not settings or even whole areas, these are things you can "drop" into the world to add color and verisimilitude. These are going to be one to three line listings, so I expect a couple of these per post.
Don’t include things that need to be fleshed out to be useful (such as where do the doors that lead to the underground city go, floating cities, and somesuch), their presence requires a scenario to resolve (why is that riot happening?), things that are just so darn odd that there has to be some historical or mythical backstory behind it (pools of cool lava, places where gravity works in reverse), or things who’s existence will seriously impact the world (Apple Trees that make real Golden Apples).
Note: things that might serve as a minor plothook are okay.
Additional Ideas (21)
2* A giant carve head. A left over from a previous civilization.
3* A huge column of rock, with an equally huge arch at the top, supporting an enormous bell, which is operated by machinery inside the column and tolls once per hour, with the sound audible for miles around.
4* A tree with a trunk so thick it would take six grown men linking hands to span the radius.
5* A sun-baked mud flat with giant foot prints.
6* A tribe of barbarian lived in caves dug into the sides of these "cliffs". They left carved hand holds and stairs to reach them.
7* A rocky desert area which is, one day a year, covered in a particular flower that grows nowhere else, and that is bare rock the rest of the year.
8* A field of bright red flowers.
9* A river that twists through the landscape in such a way that, when you climb to the top of a nearby mountain and look down, it traces the exact same shape as one of the constellations.
10* A salt flat -- a great bay whose "neck" to the ocean is above high tide and below low tide, so an area of hundreds of acres spends half the day underwater and half of it dry (well, moist), and the interesting plant and animal life that lives there.
11* Series of islands in an east-west line; the east end of each is a gentle, sandy slope into the sea, and the west end of each is a harsh rocky cliff dropping off into the sea.
12* A hall of paintings, showing dignified men and women dressed in an antique style. Every so often, when no-one is looking, certain figures will move from one painting to another.
12*Updated: There is a cliff that would lead down to the river. A good distance away, you see a cliff on the other side. There is only a tiny ribbon of water between these two cliffs.
14* A plain studded with great grassy mounds.
15* A large crater, about 100 feet across.
16* A line of pillars that stretches straight across the plains and through the ocean to the other side of the world.
17* A region of small hills and valleys. Each hill is topped with a ruined fort. Each valley is filled with the remains of ancient battles.
18* A huge rock carved to look like a clenched fist.
19* A small copse of trees that grow in a perfect circle.
20* A huge stone platform made from massive stone blocks. The blocks are so closely fit that a knife-blade cannot be inserted between them.
21* A mountain with a massive staircase cut into the side.
23* A forest where Dryads walk from tree to tree
24* A road that winds amongst great barrows
25* A stone gate that marks the entrance to an underground city
26* A great wall made of fool's gold
27* A range of mountains where the mountains seem to lower themselves every night like waves in the sea, but a lot slower
29* A recent landslide has exposed a fossil.
30* Ruins of a castle/monastery on a local prominence. (No current storyline significance.)
31* An old forest fire site: Burn-scarred tree trunks, some dead snags and lots of noticeably younger, smaller growth than has been seen for the last several days travel.
32* From a high vantage point, a distant column of smoke from an ongoing forest fire (beware that your players will go off to investigate).
33* A village that uses an unusual roofing material or dominant color nearly exclusively: E.g., iridescent green tile roofs, or vivid goldenrod-colored walls. Explanation is nothing other than local resource or custom.
34* A small, elaborately eroded pocket canyon.
35* An isolated serpentine rock wall that appears to separate nothing and have no obvious purpose (check out Andy Goldsworthy's environmental sculptures for a dozen more such ideas).
37* A natural spring bubbles quietly, bringing water and the stink of sulphur to the surface. The soil around is colored from brown to red to yellow and even white.
38* An old tree carries a construction resembling a bed on its top, open to the winds and sky. Local tribes use it for their dead, or shamanic dream voyages.
39* There is a strong invisibility spell still in function here; some twenty feet in radius, a sphere that hides bushes, grass, and parts of trees, looking like a hole in the ground. Anything inside is invisible.
40* The wind has eroded a stone boulder, its underside now a pillar, carrying a nicely formed wing of great size.
41* A large group of barren trees stands here. From afar, they look very much like tall spears pointed to the heavens.
43* The foundation of a burned out manor sized home. It has been decades and the forest is reclaiming the space.
44* Graveyard with markerstones. The locals are quite artistic, so many are more elaborate than you have ever seen.
45* A herd of wild horses. These escaped from some invaders decades ago, and now run free.
47* An abandoned farming village, complete with overgrown cropfields or a rice paddy that is turning into a swamp.
48* A series of alkali-water ponds in a very dry area. The ponds are littered with the bones of a couple oxen or other animals.
49* A ghost-town.
50* A beautiful beach containing the ruins of an old lighthouse.
51* Crumbling walls half-buried in sand dunes.
52* A forest of petrified trees.
54* A tapped spring that sends water up a narrow pipe structure and then flows down a gutter 9 feet off the ground into another stone sculpture like a rain cloud that spreads the falling water like rain. (shower) Near a village and a well used path.
55* On a steep, smooth hill (that can be used for a good lookout point) there is a series of knotted ropes going all the way to the top just laying on the hill. The hill isn't that difficult to climb though. In the winter time locals from many areas come around to climb the hill to go sledding. They left the ropes from last winter.
56* A flat corridor between mountain passes has many many windmills dotting the landscape due to the constant and unvarying wind flow.
57* When the tide is out a series of reef walkways lead to a small circular reef of bright colors. In the center is a fresh water spring that pools during low tide and creates the odd but beautiful reef.
58* A series of trees drop super spiny seeds to the ground. Only the most durable shoes can keep the spines from stabbing through.
59* A section of the plains they are crossing crack and snap as they walk across. Digging down it is the result of a few different kind of loose rocks scraping and pushing against each other.
60* A section of the plains, if they stand still, sinks when weight is placed on it and gathers water. Footsteps fill with water until the land slowly rises back to normal. Not sure how far they may sink if they camp.
61* Reeds in a nearby pool clatter together in a mystic harmony and when the wind blows across them strong enough an eerie chorus seems to sing.
62* A lone tree in a meadow not too far from a small town. All around the tree the grass is trampled dirt in odd radii. The tree is basically made out of a rubbery substance. Cannot be cut or destroyed in any way. The dirt is from where the kids from the local village can swing on the rubbery branches like rope and spin themselves around. Any number of branches give a number of different swings.
63* An area where sudden winds of extreme cold and extreme hot wave across in bursts of wind.
64* A large, deep depression in the ground that appears to be covered in smooth, gray-black glass. If one slips and falls in, it is very difficult to get out. At the edges, it fades into the soil, and there is grass growing in cracks in it. If broken, it is very sharp. There are several animal skeletons at the bottom.
65* An ancient set of foundations. A town once stood here. There is an open well that still works at the back of the ruins. The water of the well tastes strangely metallic.
66* A forest with interesting karst caves and clay tunnels. In some places, the ground is very ready to collapse and dump the heroes into the wet clay pits below.
67* A cenote so deep that the water appears black. On an underwater shelf on the edge of visible depth, there are bundled skeletons. Sacrafices were made to a water god here.
68* A field of nodding sunflowers. The blossoms conceal the body of a dead traveller.
69* A gallows-tree, with a dead man hanging from it's branches.
70* An open field with small regions of spongy, soft ground. When heroes step on it, a soft, downy dust arises.
71* A little village where there are no adult men.
72* A large donut-shaped stone. Frequently, priests of the God of Travel can be found praying within this "Earth Wheel".
74* Bunnies with horns can be seen in the grassy fields.
75* Tall vertical tube like insect hives are seen just off the road. The reddish wasp like insects have never been seen before. (The insects are "invigorated" in the presence of magic and they can sting something fierce).
76* A herd of deer rumble across the tree lined forest roadway at a full run.
77* The full moon has an icy halo abound it. It is a time of magic.
78* A boarded up manor house can be seen a distance off the road. The grounds look like they have fallen to seed.
79* The foundation stones and a few burned support beams are all that remain of a waystation.
81* A temple that has been burned down quite a while ago.
82* Potholes in the roadway. Lots of them.
83* A magnificent sun rise, a corona of reds, oranges, yellow, and a flash of green.
84* Clothes strewn about the path/ road. It looks like someone's chest of clothes was leaking.
85* A gallows away from the city. It is currently empty.
86* A headstone where someone had died off the main road.
88* A poster of a local ruler, put up in the *middle of nowhere*
89* A sign that says "Do not throw things at this sign", which bears the marks from many stones thrown at it.
91* 200 yards from the road, in the middle of a field, a *giant* cross/sun sigil/ironwork ankh/other religious symbol.
92* A road running along the foothills of a mountain chain: the smell of smoke hangs in the air and ahead the hillside is clearly blackened by recently/currently active fires.
93* Two perfectly ordinary cities are connected by a well-maintained road. However, both sides of this road are saturated with sparsely occupied, recently-built, and sadly similar small houses.
94* A cranberry bog: farmers with rakes harvest the berries and fill small rafts dragged by water buffalo.
95* Though the ocean view is lovely to behold, it is low tide and a hundred yards of mudflats are exposed: the pungent stench of decomposing vegetation and rotting fish nauseates the unfamiliar traveler.
97* The bridge crossing a moderate creek/ small river is an elaborate stone affair, with smooth carved stone and has elaborate artistic reliefs carved in the arched sides and supports.
98* A burned out stone buildings is a crumbling due to plants nd weathers.
99* A field of beautiful orange flowers that you have never seen anwywhere else.
100* The neighborhood has an glyphic identity. Every lamp post and many buildings all carry a banner, streamer, or pennant of green and white, with a gryphon on them. A local park in its center, has a low wall around it. Each entry point is flanked by two gryphons.
101*A length of road is flanked by alternating shade and fruit trees. A gift to travelers from someone long gone.
102*Not far from the road is a massive sink hole. The hole is nearly twenty feet (8m) deep.
103*The local field grass is "stinky". Anything that has tramped through the grass will smell as well.
104*The local birds are loud singers (and might be from far away)
105*Off on the horizon is a dark, dark cloud. It is practically purple. The lightning is striking the ground 30-50 miles (50-75kms) away.
106*The rain is excessive and windy, even by local standards, this season.
108* The endless winds of the desert have sanded the stones upon this baked plain into psychedelic forms, huge spiny stone heads balanced upon tiny pillars of scoured rock standing periodically in enigmatic rows and clusters.
109* Winter has come to this northerly wasteland, and the hills of rocky sand and flat stony scrubs have been dressed in a thin coating of hard icy snow. Bitter winds skirl across the open expanses, lashing grit and snow into swirling columns that rise into the empty vault of the blue sky.
110* The vagaries of the rising and sinking oceans have revealed a lonely sandbar, crowned with worn boulders, here in the midst of the open ocean. One of the stones, toppled in three pieces, seems almost to resemble a carven idol, but alas, it is too smoothworn to say if this is anything more than fancy.
111* The road here is lined with the deadhouses of the locals, squat stone structures where corpses are stacked, with their spines broken so that they can be folded to fit neatly.
112* At this crossroads, a statue of eerie and unsettling aspect has been erected, resembling both a robed death, a bent crone, and some kind of snaky tentacled creature, rolled into one hunched form. Someone has left for this strange waygod an offering of a raw haunch of deer, dry and odorous and pecked by birds but new enough to be untouched by wolves or other creatures.
113* Some old bloodcult lurked in the cave that can be seen above this mountain path, and when they departed or where driven out, their gruesome rack of skulls and the pylons they built from stacked human thighbones were left untouched, grim sentinels along either side of the traverse.
114* Small copses of cacti stand like watchmen in the narrow defiles above the road that runs along a brackish desert lake. Groups of llamas and huanacos wander amongst the spiny towers eating the damp blossoms from their tops.
115* Across this blinding-white polar wasteland, black nunataks seem almost to burn, so sharply are they visible against the empty icescape and the infinite clear sky. The sound of the wind that shrieks through their peaks makes out of this white flatness an otherworldly domain of lost souls.
116* Though the land is tropical, the ungodly heat of the dry season has caused this parched forest to shed its leaves in great brown drifts. Far off the path amongst the naked trunks, a group of deer lurch to the escape and bellow as a spotted leopard slams down on one of their number, an animal drama beyond which the heroes pass unnoticed.
118* An old road, the pavement/ stones broken by weeds and such, veers off the current road into the thicket.
119* A small store (mini-inn/ common house/ trading post) on the side of the road here in the middle of no where. It is an odd, but welcome relief to a traveler.
120* The pieces of a giant wood siege engine is in the ditch at the side of the road. It looks like it fell over into the ditch and they were unable to get it out. Now it is falling apart.
121* In the thawing snow a face down traveller begins to appear.
122* A burned tree, seeingly lit afire stands apart from the other trees.
123* A grave marker is on the side of the road
124* A raptor is picking on a road kill in the middle of the road. It has one eye upon you as your approach, ready to fly off.
125* A mudslide has blocked the roadway along the hillside. It can take a while, but you can get around it.
126* The biggest pile of crap you have ever seen is on the right hand side of the road.
127* It looks like some misc. camping gear dropped off the back of a wagon traveling the road.
128* The road is clear and smooth. It has recently been worked on.
129* There is a Cairn here. It marks a place along the side of the road with a beautiful view - if the weather is right.
131* A house with decrepit holiday decorations still up, months before the holiday is to be celebrated (left up since last year?).
132* A common house with a grand fountain in the front, though it is totally out of place for the home and area.
133* A windmill tower still slowly spinning in the wind.
134* People well dressed moving along, heading towards a wedding celebration. You can hear the sounds of the after party, just out of sight.
135* A tree that has fallen. It was once across the road, but now only partially obstructs the road, as someone has dragged it out of the way.
136* A freshly painted fence runs along the road.
137* Cows stare at you lazily as you pass by.
138* From just out of sight, you can hear the sound of Dogs fighting.
139* A house cat is in the tree. It is not distressed. In fact, it looks like it is stalking you, about to pounce on you or some other unwary traveller.
140* The trees rustle in the wind. The various shades of green dance about. Dappled sunlight shows through the shade under them.
141* You pass a bunch of people walking out to the fields. (migrant workers if you are of the appropriate era).
142* Family craft stand is set up at the end of farm by the road.
143* Besides the road is a very, very steep drainage ditch. A trickle of water still runs along the bottom.
144* Patches of snow is still found on the shady side of the hill facing the road.
145* A couple of kids are "grass sledding" using some kind of cloth sack on the rain slicked grass on the hill.
146* A building that seems out of place, designed and decorated in a "national style" from far away.
147* There are some people in various states of skimpy dress and wetness being chased towards the road by a cranky old voice. You can barely make out the pond through the trees. (You might even hear the report of a shotgun).
148* Some people are fixing a trailer on the side of the road. (be it attached to a wagon or car or somesuch). They are swearing at each other while they do it. They have all the parts.
149* The local low hills are akin to the rolling ocean. They are amber waves of grass flowing in waves in the wind.
150* There is an old well on the side of the road. It is dry. There is a smaler, newer water source just a few yards away.
152* On the meadows there are many large anthills, placed in triangles, about equally distant from others. Kids like to play here games of war.
153* It is a simple crossroads on an unimportant road as many others, beaten earth strewn with little stones to even it out. A good look will show, that the bumps on it must have belonged to the roots of a tree, a very large tree. Where the stump was, there is only stone, but some trace of the giant remains.
154* It was raining yesterday, and now you see the proof: two streams join together - one of them crystal clear, the other muddy brown. Below, people are taking the water by buckets, not caring how dirty it is.
157* An enormous hole in the ground that has clearly been dug out by shovels. It used to be a diamond mine, but has long since been abandoned.
158* A group of caravan traders stopped by the side of the road. They nod politely as you pass, sitting in a circle and smoking a hookah.
159* A finely carved wooden bridge that goes over a small creek. One could cross the creek without it, so it's probably just for show.
160* A series of small, grass-covered "hills" surrounding the road. Hundreds of years ago, this was a primitive village with earthen structures, but they've long since eroded away.
161* A walking stick laying beside the rode. It is intricately carved, wrapped with a leather handle, and unfortunately cracked in half.
162* Traveling in winter, a family of snowmen has been built by the side of the road. One of them is headless.
163* Little gusts of wind form tiny cyclones, blowing leaves and debris into a spiral before scattering them above your head.
164* A tall totem shrine carved out of wood. It appears to represent a shark, and is decorated with some shells.
165* This desert steppe is bitter cold. Pure white snow blows across sandy dunes in an odd contrast.
167-A cermetary on one side of the road.
168* Off the road, not far from the village/town, obscured by some bushes, is a good sized pond. The squeel of girls is heard as they swim there.
169* A small pack of dogs darts across your path, obviously chasing something.
170* The Humans who own the dogs are following behind tiredly.
171* The local bridge over a good sized stream is a white covered bridge. This connects two villages
172* On a hill that sticks up in the middle of a flat area, a lone tree stands.
173* The nice original road is interrupted by a huge sinkhole. There is a hastely constructed detour "road" leading around it. Yet the edges of the road are not far from the new edges of the sinkhole.
174* a pond with bright red algea in it.
175* A very broken wagon is on the side of the road deteriorating. There are ox bones in the immediate area.