Mazetown stands right around the entrance to the Maze, and its whole economy depends on the people coming to visit the ever-changing and apparently sentient dungeon. They don't get all that many visitors, but the ones that do come tend to be rather generous in their spending; after all, if anything you take inside vanishes as soon as you go in, and everyone who manages to come out usually does so with fabulous treasures in tow, why not spend your coin on R&R before getting started?
In a new town for the first time, the White Raccoon Lodge looks like a comfortable place to spend the night. The owner, however, makes sure to explain to you that there is a curfew after sundown and the door will be locked... from the outside. "We don't want anyone being caught out on the streets after dark," he says.
Now that you think of it, all the doors in this small town did have a crossbar on the outside rather than the inside... You wonder what goes on at night...
Castoria was once a thriving and prosperous nation, a rich trade center for the surrounding lands. This all changed when, on one fateful night nearly a century ago, the Mist of Eternity rolled in and surrounded the land, obscuring more of the outside world as days and nights passed.
By the time the Mist blocked out the sun, a new light shone during what was assumed to be daytime: The Starpoint Spire, a mysterious place atop Castoria's highest peak in the northern-central region. Some say that there is some sort of building atop the mountain shining the dim "sunlight" onto the land, but it is only ever too bright or too dark to fully make out any structure, not to mention the mountain's immense height.
Not a month after the Spire's light lit up, the stars fell. Flaming rocks and debris from far-flung edges of space plummeted downward onto the eastern region of Castoria. Once the shower subsided, a strange energy from within the fallen stars transformed the eastern lands in what are now known as The Voidwastes, a barren gray land littered with craters and strange alien creatures (these can vary, but I had Pathfinder's Akatas in mind).
To the south, strange mechanism of eldritch origin are again at work after aeons of rest in the Ruins of Kchuthngnl, an ancient city of non-human creation that is estimated by scholars to be no less that five millennia old.
To the west, the once peaceful and serene forest, now known as The Plagued Woods, has been experiencing corruptions of the wildlife and humanoids living there. Some humans have reported creatures that appear not unlike a halfling, except that they can open their mouths to massive proportions to swallow creatures the size of an ogre.
When adventurers and citizens alike try to make an escape from Castoria, they are never seen again, and it is utterly unknown whether they found hopeful sanctuary or agonizing death withing the Mist's depths.
What is unknown to all residents of Castoria is that all of these events occurred because of the actions of a secret but powerful cult loyal to the Elder Gods who call the space between the planes their abhorrent home. The cult still lives on, larger than ever, and their plan is for the alien horrors to incubate and thrive within the dome of mist that now envelops Castoria, so that when the Elder Gods return as the cult's prophecy foretells, they will have an army of blasphemous creation at their disposal that they will use to make war with and enslave the denizens of the Material Plane.
If it was a castle, it was the strangest one he had ever seen.
He of course saw the main tower - taller than anything he had seen outside of Stoneholt, the spire looked fragile and was topped by a glassed-in chamber.
The outer wall was so gently sloped that it would have only stopped a horde of hobbling old men, an able-bodied soldier could stride up to its crest with little effort. Within one saw a huge, nearly perfect bowl-shaped area with the base of the tower in the centre, covered in hundreds of mirrors.
This structure is a massive solar collector designed by the Wizard-King Aardwal in centuries past. He used the concentrated light in his investigations into the magic of light, and in the fashioning of flash crystals.
Wytchwolde-Under-Ash, once a great Thorpe, was razed to the ground by the ruthless, and truth told more than slightly deranged, Porcelain Princess and her henchmen, the Purifiers. When the flames had at last subsided, and a kaleidoscope of swirling, dull-gray ash choked the sky, nine hundred acres of old growth iron spruce, black larch and weeping birch, was burned to utter cinders, along with the entire coven of witches comprising the Sisterhood of the Silver Teat.
Now, centuries later, the forests are somewhat re-grown, and the town of Foolswater stands where Wytchwolde-Under-Ash once did. It is said that even to this day, one can still find ashes in the otherwise potable well-water of this village. Once a year during the Winter Solstice, the “Ash-Wind” comes to Foolswater, a suffocating black cloud that passes quickly but leaves dead birds and animals in its wake, darkening the trees, and staining the sky with black snow. The inhabitants of the village know better than to be caught outside during the day-long Ash-Wind. Everyone is locked snugly inside, singing old hymns that curse and re-curse the burned witches who once called this place home.
The PCs come across a town with a strange curse: Every morning, those who have grown up here wake up with the memories of someone else. They do not find this strange and have no idea it is happening. They calmly wake up and start these new lives as though they have always been that way.
The cause: A wizard who lived there was spurned by a maiden he was infatuated with. His attempt to manipulate her memories into believing they were already together and that she loved him went horribly awry.
The multiple-worlds theory of cosmology allows room for every religion's Heaven and Hell and other planes to coexist, with the similar planes of all the sapient beings of all the worlds in all the galaxies...How often do the wires get crossed, as it were, leaving your paladin in a Hell for hedonistic lizards, for example.
The party has found the source of the strange creatures roaming the countryside. The rift in this reality glows with a silver hue, rippling with the wind but never moving. They step through and are immediately assaulted with the scent of rotting meat, some have to muster all their strength not to vomit. Strange cries similar to the beasts the party had faced before can be heard in the distance. Looking around, they see they are in a forest of grey and red rather than the normal brown and green. The trees are sticky to the touch and writhe, perhaps to get away or perhaps as a warning.
The deeper the party goes, the more the forest seems to slither and move underfoot. The cries get closer and more numerous. Creatures lurk in the shadows, all the same color of their surroundings. Whatever the party came in here for, they had better do it fast.
The forest of flesh is waking up, and it is so very hungry.
The Petty Kingdoms is a region consisting of hundreds of small states. Some are kingdoms, some are city states, some are large farming communities, some are duchesses and baronies and so on and so forth. Within a few miles the PCs might reach a new "country" with completely different rules and norms than the one they left behind. "What do you eat here? Humans ye say? Lets turn around fellas."
The old clock tower stands tall, but the bulk of the uppermost storey is crumbling and unsafe, with gaping cracks in the walls. The metal struts and girders supporting the great bronze bells are still intact, though, and the bells survive. The grotesque gargoyles and arabesques which decorated the original design have either fallen into the street (once or twice a year more bricks fall from the tower, prompting calls for its demolition) or have been defaced, but the main doors to the clock tower are still intact and show signs of being kept in working order. This is the home of The Captains, clad in raggedy clothes, with sooty faces, and perpetually runny noses. But behind each set of eyes is the look of a survivor. They live to stick together and make it through each day. Older than their years in many ways, the friendship they share with each other and Wims ghost keeps the core of a childs innocence and hope alive in each. But they are still very suspicious of outsiders. They are a group of street children who live in the clock tower. Some are orphans, some runaways, and some nomads who occasionally return to their homes. But they’re all poor, dirty and perpetually hungry, as well as being wily, unscrupulous and mischievous in a fairly brutal way. Enough of them have suffered at the hands of adults for all of them to be wary of any grown-ups, particularly ones who ask too many questions, although with hard work and a lot of food it might be possible to win the confidence or even the trust of a few of them.
The Lost March is a large collection of elephant rafts. The lost march never reached its destination and instead was pulled out to sea. The elephants on the raft eventually starved to death, littering the large wooden carpet with their bones and bird picked hides. While sailors with an eye for gold can salvage the tusks of the bull elephant for a hefty price, the raft is haunted by the spectral ghosts of the pod of elephants and they appear after nightfall and attack and kill anyone trespassing on their raft
Whale's Jaw is a crumbling stone monument that was once in the form of a skeletal whale. Many years have past since the construction of Whale's Jaw and these days all that can be seen in the "jaw" jutting from the earth as if it is yearning for a final glimpse of sunlight before taking a plunge into the earth.
All around The Jaw are remains of oddly formed and weathered structures. They seem to have been smoothed and tumbled by severe rain or ocean currents. Most say it is just another Wonder of The World, a mystery we will never know the answer to, but some know differently... I know differently...
A world where there is a finite amount of magic present in the world, and it's almost used up. With the winds of magic being weak and unstable, how will nations built on the heavy use of magic survive?
A world where, instead of aging in years, the people age in knowledge. So, instead of dying once a general age was reached, they die once they achieve a certain amount of knowledge. A man could live forever if he never learned anything, or could die after reading a few choice books. Of course, the knowledge of the land would be regulated, like medical drugs.
In the far reaches of a long-lost wilderness, there stands a forgotten town inhabited only by children. Though they appear normal enough, their eyes burn with madness, and they speak in a foreign, archaic tongue. Nearly a millenia ago, a powerful spell had gone awry, or maybe it had succeeded - in any case, it ended up blessing, or cursing, an entire generation of children with agelessness. However, as the centuries passed, the children's parents grew old and died, the buildings of the town crumbled to earth, and even the civilization itself faded into history, becoming lost to time. All that remained were the children, driven mad by the psychological toll of living for hundreds of years beyond their age. In time, most children died, killed off by fighting amongst themselves, while many others were driven to suicide. Only a small handful remain, and they are a strange people indeed.
"Look, lad! You see the streak of glowing green off the larboard bow? Them's the bright waters!"
While the lad peered intently at the eerie glow, the old salt continued. "Entire ships have been lost to the Bright, lad, for once you let it surround you, you'll never touch land again!"
Along the sluggish Vanne River, the banks are lined with thick stands of tall bulrushes. These areas of wetland are considered ill-omened by the locals, for they hide the skeletal remains of thousands of grazing animals, washed downriver in a terrible flood decades before.
Adding to the uncanny reputation of the place is the occasional undead cow or goat that lurks there. The product of a necromancer's experiments some years before, these relatively harmless undead wander the area at night, startling livestock as they attempt to graze with them.
The runoff from Mount "Evil Volcano" has turned an area of small lakes below into a vision of hell. The mixture of acids in the lakes is of such strength that virtually any organic material touching is quickly dissolved. It is a melange of sulfuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids.
However, the place does harbor life, and its very strange, and very dangerous....
In an area albinos are considered to be evil mystics and locals ward themselves against them by turning their backs to them to avoid being mesmerized. Suddenly the angeliclly pale loner with white hair and violet hued-eyes is suddenly an outcast, and his companions are treated as if they have been mystically bonded into his service, and could be treated with attempts to intervene or given the same stony treatment. Expect poor quarters, no hospitality and to pay twice as much for everything.
Game Cliche 3.
Every country in the world will have exactly one town in it, except for the main country, which will have three.
Surnames: The Chinese were among the very first cultures to adopt the use of hereditary surnames (around 2800 BC). But the custom didn't quite catch on in Europe - at least not until the Venetian aristocracy made it popular sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries AD. What culture made it popular in your setting and why?