Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

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Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Cromstar » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:36 am

I've come back to some work on the Council of Wyrms setting after taking a break from my Planescape projects. Ever since I discovered the setting, I've really liked the concepts and ideas that went into the setting, so working on it has always been fun (and makes it easier to get through some of the more monotonous parts of world-building). I'm sort of looking at using this thread to collect and collate ideas for feedback and suggestions, as well as a bit of a repository for little thoughts I sometimes have that I don't really have a good way to keep track of (plus I've had to start cutting back on my usage of digital desktop post-it notes).

There are two main parts to this: expanding on the Io's Blood Isles and surrounding areas (ideas so far: expanded dragon types and clans, giants, linnorms, dragon society, other races) and expanding on areas far beyond the Isles (ideas so far: lungs, xoatls [Mayan-Aztec themed dragons], elemental dragons, the land where the Dragon Slayers come from, the Iospace crystal sphere).

A little background on where this comes from might help make some sense. One of the previous projects I've worked on (with my father, who started it) was to compile and make use of the broader set of dragons that had been created over the years and posted across various sources (MMs, MCs, magazines, box sets, adventures, etc). Ultimately this was used to spread out dragons across our homebrew world, generally by category (so, for example, the main portion of the world has metallics and chromatics, but there's a subcontinent that is home to the greater gem dragons and another for the ferrous dragons, etc). I wanted to apply this work to Council of Wyrms because I honestly felt that it allowed more freedom and more interesting aspects (as some of the dragon species introduced offer a vastly different approach to the core 15 races).

My first step was porting the regular dragon species and getting some of the basics. I haven't done up the stats (stats tend to be the last thing I do in these kinds of projects where they don't have a gigantic effect until I actually play a campaign), but I did end up doing the work to port the races in and provide clans and the general ideas about how each new species fits into the Isles. Across the metallic, chromatic, greater gem, lesser gem, ferrous, and lesser dragon types, I ended up with 50 species and 222 clans. I also realized that for my purposes the Isles would need some changes (not just because of the number of clans but also because some of the dragon species would require terrain features not really suited to adding into the existing isles).

That project is still ongoing (in part because I suck at using CC2 and we've just started making the change to CC3), but I have what I consider most of the basics plotted for now, at least until I start to fill things in and decide to add or change stuff. Luckily most of the existing isles from the map made the transition without change. I mutilated the southern isles when I did it though, mostly because the original design left a lot to be desired IMO (there's just something about how the topology and terrain types are laid out that rubs me the wrong way a little bit).

I've started working on fleshing out at least the main points for each species and clan, and at some point I might post some of those. Tomorrow though (maybe), I think I'll note my ideas for the lungs (oriental dragons) and how I'm thinking about incorporating them into this world in a way that I think fits with the general feel of the setting but is still its own unique take(s) on it.

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Coronoides » Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:46 am

I’m very curious about your take on the lands beyond the map. Looking forward to seeing more!
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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Big Mac » Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:16 am

Which way are you going with this?

Are you adding new types of dragons to Io's Blood Islands?

Or are you building new lands, for the other types of dragons? If you built new lands for the lung dragons, would you use the races from Oriental Adventures, to go with them? If so, how many of those races actually live long enough to be viable as playable in a CoW game? (OA did seem fairly human-centric.)
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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Cromstar » Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:55 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:16 am
Which way are you going with this?

Are you adding new types of dragons to Io's Blood Islands?

Or are you building new lands, for the other types of dragons? If you built new lands for the lung dragons, would you use the races from Oriental Adventures, to go with them?
For the rest of the western style dragons, I've added them into the (expanded) Isles. I had reviewed the (super-barebones) idea in the Dragon article on the Wyrms of the West, but ultimately decided I didn't care for the set up, mostly due to the lack of any actual set up. So I ported those back to the isles and threw in the other 'normal' dragons into the isles because they all fit the feel of the isles and helped fill out some otherwise empty ecological niches.

For the other dragon types, such as the lungs, I figured that new lands worked better. This would enable them to have their own take on the dragon-ruled-land idea without conflicting too much with the Council of Wyrms proper. For the lung areas, yes, I'd draw from the OA/Kara-Tur sources for races and monsters as a start. Sadly, the official sources for OA and Kara-Tur, while good, were rare and contained relatively few creatures and races for the setting (the 2nd Edition MC conversion contains maybe 60 entries), so it probably needs some more fleshing out with a selection of new creatures and imported creatures from other settings that wouldn't be egregiously out of place. Luckily the internet makes digging into global cultures and mythologies much easier these days, and I know there's a wealth of creatures to draw on.
If so, how many of those races actually live long enough to be viable as playable in a CoW game? (OA did seem fairly human-centric.)
This is where things get trickier. Even among the creatures officially published for OA/KT, very few of them were given lifespan details (this also holds true across other D&D settings as well, to be honest). Korobokoru were given lifespan information in the 2e MC entry (average 400 years), but neither the hengeyokai or spirit folk (the only two other new PC races for OA/KT AFAIK) ever did that I can find.

The age thing is honestly only an issue in the context of kindred and I've done some thoughts on this over all (since I've also been looking into expanding the list of potential kindred in the Io's Blood Isles too), but don't have a lot of hard answers on this yet. My initial reaction has been to just set appropriate age ranges, though I've toyed with the idea of modifying or even removing the kindred set up for other regions. Just as an example, while lizardmen have a max of 130 (110+2d10) years normally, spelljamming lizardmen were given 350+2d10, so there's precedent to mix things up a bit. While it probably wouldn't make sense to give orcs or goblins a lifespan of centuries, there are other races that could fit in various places with some changes.

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Cromstar » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:01 am

For the land of the lungs:

I don't yet have a name for this region in general, but personally I want to place it west across the Coral Sea from the Io's Blood Isles (largely because the dragonslayers came across the Blood Sea from the east). Like the Io's Blood Isles, humans are rare and generally unwelcome in these lands (with one exception I'll get to in a follow up post). I envision this land to have two main landmasses: the smaller one is the eastern most (closest to the CoW) and serves as the center piece of a sizable archipelago that runs mostly north-south. The larger landmass lies further west, across a decently sized 'inner sea' and serves as the centerpiece of this land.

The central concern with the lungs is what to do with the Celestial Bureaucracy, as unfortunately the OA/Kara-Tur did a weird thing and made the CB a pan-region set up. This never made much sense to me, as the CB is based almost entirely on Chinese mythos and does not particularly draw from other cultures. In the case of lungs, this always struck me as weird because this pan-region reach of the CB meant that the lungs were never given their own existence outside of the Celestial Bureaucracy, although the MC entries stated that not all lungs were a part of the CB. After pondering on the nature of the Council of Wyrms setting, I decided the Celestial Bureaucracy simply had to go: its a human religion that's humanocentric and has no real reason to exist in a world where dragons rule and humans are rare. I might even tie this into the reason that humans are rare in the lands of the lungs: perhaps in the distant past, early humans held a belief similar to this, viewing the dragons as servants of powerful gods. The lungs, in return, found this insulting to their station, that lowly humans would consider them subservient to human gods, and thus banished the humans from their lands.

With the Celestial Bureaucracy out of the way, I decided, however, to keep the bureaucracy idea and forming the center of these lands around an empire of lungs. I've generally modeled this empire off of the real world Chinese Empires (especially the Qing, Ming, and Yuan). The dragon clans rule this empire top-to-bottom: the imperial dynasty, all the noble families, the bureaucrats, the temple heads, commanding generals, etc are all lungs. They rule over an empire of spirits, monsters, demi-humans, and humanoids, who make up the rank-and-file citizenry and the lowest levels of the bureaucracies. This empire would also serve as the defacto religion of this land, with the current emperor lung being viewed essentially as the deity of the religion (this helps set up factions within the empire, as the temples and bureaucracy are parallel structures both reporting to the same leader at the very top). The various clans of the lungs serve in these various roles in the empire, carrying out the will of the emperor. I am provisionally referring to this as the Dragon Empire, though I basically have an idea what the actual name will be (it'll be a created dynasty name). The main foci of play in this area would be similar to the Io's Blood Isles: some external threats (described below), internal politics and conflict among the different factions, and the normal 'house-keeping' work of keeping the empire safe and functioning.

The main external conflict of this empire is with the lungs living on the smaller landmass across the 'inner sea'. This land I envision being loosely based on the Sengoku period of Japanese history: there's no true central authority and the various clans of this land are engaged in a slow, protracted, but no less deadly conflict to expand their territories and unite the land under their rulership. However, I see two large factors that make this land different (from Io's Blood Isles and from the Dragon Empire). First, the clans are not themselves unified and any clan that begins to gain enough power and status ends up suffering from internal disputes that see it splitting off into smaller clans that begin the process again. Secondly, the clans here are not purely familial: rogue and unaffiliated lungs may move about between clans (ronin dragons, just throwing that out there!) and can even become full-fledged members of clans they have joined with. Both of these mean that clans are fluid and can be made up of different species of lungs, and also that mercenaries and ronin contribute to keeping any clan from actually unifying the region.

The Dragon Empire looks across the 'inner sea' and sees a land of chaos, with lungs living in savage, bloody conflict with each other and finds the entire situation distasteful and an insult to the inherent superiority of dragons: lesser races squabble and murder each other, but dragons are too civilized and refined for such brutish behavior. Thus, the Dragon Empire looks to invade and conquer these realms to bring civilization, civility and law to the lawless, childish lungs. Naturally, the lungs inhabiting the eastern landmass (let's call it Sengoku for now) find this insulting, demeaning, intrusive, and tyrannical, and so they all resist attempts by the Dragon Empire to gain any foothold on the islands or central landmass. Some of these clans even view the larger landmass as a place to establish a foothold and grow their power (so they can use it to conquer the Sengoku area), and so minor incursions along the coast and around the borders of the Dragon Empire are constantly being thwarted. Both sides nip at each other, but the conflict is normally low key due to the 'inner sea' region.

The 'inner sea' is naturally a turbulent, stormy sea, and the heavy presence of typhoon dragons on both sides helps keep this sea excessively hard to cross en masse, even for dragons. Anything less than a full invasion with the totality of forces is likely to end in failure, so full scale conflict is not normally found. However, about once every few thousand(?) years, a period of surprising and near total calm spreads across the 'inner sea'. Even the typhoon dragons can do nothing to stir up storms in this time, which can last for a few months or even a small number of years. Naturally, when these calm periods arise, inevitably one side attempts a full scale invasion of the other, who naturally spends the time attempting to defend themselves or even prevent the invasion from starting.

I've some more ideas for this region, but this is all I'm going to leave in this post to try and keep these manageable. Much like the Io's Blood Isles, much of the focus here is preventing the spread of further conflict (or at least full-scale conflicts), but this land is aligned more strongly on the law v. chaos spectrum.

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Cromstar » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:17 am

Good grief, 2 whole months since I did this? I thought it had been, like, 1 month, since I posted. Ugh.

So further expanding on the land of the lungs, I've come up with the outline for a 3rd 'region', albeit one that serves as a foil and source of campaign conflicts and not one for PCs to actually play in. Much like real life China, the Dragon Empire is plagued on its land borders to the north and west by horde lands. Normally these lands are no threat to the great empire, as they are full of rogue dragons and pitiful hordes of humans and demihumans who barely have anything resembling a civilization. However, every now and again, some strong and charismatic leader comes along and manages to begin the process of pulling together and uniting a Great Horde, some of which can rival the power of the Dragon Empire. Often, these Great Hordes seek to overthrow the ruling dynasty of the Dragon Empire and establish a new dynasty headed by the khan of the horde. Sometimes they succeed (the dynasty prior to the current dynasty came from such a horde). This provides a more regular source for conflict and adventure, as the Empire has a vested interest in the politics and people located beyond its borders in the horde lands.

Incidentally, these horde lands are one of the places where humans exist, and in fact thrive: the horde lands respect strength and are not interested in the kind of political machinations that are involved in driving a race away or to extinction.

This provides 3 major 'regions' to this land: the Dragon Empire, the horde lands, and the Sengoku archipelago. I'd love to have more lands in this area based on other places IRL like Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, etc, but I honestly don't really see a way to make them interesting and unique with the constraints of the Council of Wyrms setting and aesthetic.

Races of the lungs

Originally (or at least as early as I could find), the Fiend Folio for 1st Edition had 6 species of lungs:

-Carp dragon (Yu lung)
-Celestial dragon (Ti'en lung)
-Coiled dragon (Pan lung)
-Earth dragon (Li lung)
-Spirit dragon (Shen lung)
-Sea dragon (Wang lung)

In the 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms Monstrous Compendium Volume III, this was changed up to include 2 more:

-River dragon (Chiang lung)
-Typhoon dragon (Tun Mi lung)

As part of this shake-up, spirit dragons got demoted from being the main river dragon to being servants of the chiang lungs themselves. This gets extra confusing when you consider that shen lungs are most closely related to pan lungs and that shen lungs have the worst swimming ability of all lungs (being tied with li lungs).

In addition to the above, Dragon Magazine 146 had some new dragon types for 1st Edition, the only one of which I've used was made with the lungs in mind:

-Cobra dragon (Shetu lung)

Thinking on the above, I noticed that the lungs had left a rather significant gap in their coverage: specifically the vast majority of open land had no associated dragons. When it comes to land, they cover swamps and marshes (coiled), mountain tops (celestial) and...that's it. The sea, river, spirit, carp, and typhoon dragons are all water-based, while the earth and cobra dragons lived underground (the cobra also lives in surface level caves sometimes). This needed some fixing, so I shook things up a bit to reduce redundancy and spread the coverage out:

-Celestial, Coiled, Earth, Sea, River, and Typhoon dragons were left as written in the 2e MC3

-The Cobra dragon was edited slightly to prefer ruins and the like instead of just being mostly a copy of the Earth*

-The Spirit dragon, in light of its redundancy with the creation of the River and its terrible swimming stats for a river-dwelling creature, was changed to live in forests and jungles (including bamboo forests) where its lizard-like body style makes it well-suited for climbing and moving on the ground, in the tree tops, or slinking through the thick bamboo*

-I created a new race of lung, the Wind dragon (Feng lung) that lives on the flat open grounds of the plains, grasslands, and deserts. The Feng lung can fly, but actually prefers running or burrowing just beneath the surface at great speeds. For its look, I basically picture a grey-hound-like dog and then give it a more lung-style aesthetic*

-Carp dragons are a special thing I'll take about later, as they exist differently than the other lungs and aren't for players characters

This ended up providing 9 races of lung for player characters to pick from: Celestial, Coiled, Earth, Sea, River, Spirit, Cobra, Typhoon, and Wind.

*Footnote - I've also decided to use the changes to the spirit and cobra dragon and the new wind dragon in my own world to round out the lungs there as well, so they aren't meant to be specific to this setting

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Coronoides » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:59 am

Just so you know. I’m reading this and curious to see what you come up with. :)
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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by talsine » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:20 am

Also reading this, Council of Wyrms is one of those mini settings I love to read about knowing i will probably never run it. I really like what you have done so far, please keep going!

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by Cromstar » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:34 am

Coronoides wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:59 am
Just so you know. I’m reading this and curious to see what you come up with. :)
talsine wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:20 am
Also reading this, Council of Wyrms is one of those mini settings I love to read about knowing i will probably never run it. I really like what you have done so far, please keep going!
Thanks, folks, I am glad to hear it. Feel free to ask any questions you might have or make comments if you have them. It really helps me fill in gaps and details I overlook or haven't thought about. (No pressure though if you don't have any or don't want to.)

----------

Apologies in advance, this turns into a mini stream-of-consciousness in some parts b/c I've been writing it on and off for half the day and I'm super unfocused today for some reason.

For the Sengoku region, I'm looking at using the term 竜戦 (ryū-sen) as both a regional name and to describe the conflict (it should translate out as Dragon War if the internet hasn't let me down). So the Dragon Empire and the Ryū-sen are the two major player bases in this 'land of the lungs'. Actually, this brings up a thought I've had before on terminology and culture. OA & Kara-Tur were built much more strongly on Chinese influence than other East Asian cultures, which leads to some issues on terminology. The perfectly example is 'lung' itself, which is a transliteration of one of the Chinese dialects (I'm not sure which one to be perfectly honest). While Chinese mythology is replete with the classic oriental dragons, they are also common in Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and other myths in the region. So I'll be using 'lung' interchangeable with 'dragon' in these posts, but I'm probably going to do up some translations for, at a minimum, Japanese and Mongol for use in the other areas.

With the dragons of this region set out, we turn to the other part: their vassals. To be honest, I don't see the dragons of this land going the route of having kindred the way the regular Council of Wyrms setting does, but the kindred exist for gameplay purposes, so I'm probably going to have to have something similar. The more bureaucratic nature of the Dragon Empire makes it easier to justify having each dragon have a demi-human companion, but I'm thinking of describing them as basically retainers. So every dragon PC in the Dragon Empire and the Ryu-sen have a personal retainer that functions in the role of the kindred in the CoW with some changes to reflect the differences.

So what races make up these retainers and vassals of the lungs? This ties back into a pretty classic problem with OA/Kara-Tur: the lack of a lot of supplements and accessories. As far as I can tell, only three PC races were ever created explicitly for these settings: the hengeyokai, the spirit folk, and the korobokuru. Now, looking at it from face value, there's really nothing about these three that rules them out as retainer races. Technically spirit folk are supposed to be a mix of human and spirit blood, but its not hard to replace that with something else (more on that below). So that's 3 races, which ties with the CoW, but I've been looking into expanding that setting so I wanted to do the same here.

So what other races are available?

Well, the Complete Book of Humanoids included Ogre Mages for PCs. There's some issues with that book in this context (it treats all humanoids in the book as less 'civilized' which really makes no sense since ogre mages are specifically said to be pretty advanced), but it provides enough of a basis. Honestly, though, I feel they need a bit of a touch up. For starters, since they are based on traditional depictions of Japanese oni (or at least a specific kind of oni), which has been compared to the European ogre, we can look there for inspiration. Depending on which tales you look at, such oni usually were either the brutish violent kind or the sneaky, tricky kind. Using both actually gives us a nice duo here, that I'm tentatively calling the oni and the oni magi, which are essentially comparable to the ogre and ogre mage: one is the dumber more violent kind, the other is the smarter, smaller kind. The regular oni would be fighters and priests, the oni magi likely mages and thieves.

Another possibility I like, especially because it adds some nice flavor to the river dragon set-up, is the kappa. The MC entry for the kappa lists them as chaotic evil malevolent creatures, and while this is the most common depiction in myth, kappas actually range from helpful to tricksters to malevolent beings. Thus I feel they could be modified to serve as a vassal/retainer race, especially for river dragons. They would likely be limited to roles as priests, thieves, and maybe low level fighters.

Tengu, both the more avian and the more humanoid versions, would also work for possible races. I think tengu in D&D stats were shorter-lived but as protectors of wilderness forest and mountains the tengu of myth were clearly much longer-lived. Fighters, thieves, and probably priests (why pirests? Harking back to their origins, myths, and roles as protectors for a classic triple-threat!)

For vassal races for in the seas, there are the ningyo, hai nu, spirit folk, and the tako at a minimum. Only the spirit folk variant is good for out-of-sea adventures (and thus PC races for a 'normal' CoW campaign). Incidentally, sea dragons are the only lung without flight, which annoyed me so I've gone ahead and given it to them (super slow, super bad maneuverability) because if the fat coiled dragon and the wingless-lizard spirit dragon can fly, why can't the sea turtle-esque dragon? It also meant I did not have to cut out the sea dragon as a PC race.

Finally (at least for now) I've actually toyed around with elves as an idea. I especially look at them in an interesting way because in some ways, inserting them into a place based on OA/Kara-Tur puts them kind of out of place on the opposite side where they would often be in a 'standard' fantasy world. In a standard world, elves are among the closest to nature and the plants and animals. In an OA setting, where many of the creatures and races are some form of nature spirit or related to nature spirits, elves actually stand out as being FURTHER from nature than many races. Spirit creatures and people are much more in tune with nature in its more natural and wild forms. Elves on the other hand (much like humans) adapt and use nature for their own ends (they just tend to be non-destructive and in cooperation with nature as they shape it to their need). This would make them a bit of an outlier in this kind of campaign setting, and I like the thought of elves being seen by many of the spirit creatures as unnatural agents that 'ruin' and 'destroy' the wild nature of the world on behalf of the dragons.

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Re: Expanding on the world of the Io's Blood Isles

Post by talsine » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:59 am

i love the idea of the 2 different Oni and Tengu, and I've always been partial to the Kappa. I would really try and bring in the Hengiokai if you can, maybe pick one animal that is known to pair with each lung type?

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