The following setting is actually a micro setting I made for an arc inside the shared world of a group of friends. I wanted it to be tucked away and insular from the main happenings of the shared world (which has a long and rich history of longer than a real life decade), and decided the best way to do that would be to make the figurative literal and make it an island setting.
I drew from real life sources for a lot of the setting (the main two being Southern India as well as Polynesia), as well as fictional (the main two of that being the Earthsea novels as well as the video game Chrono Cross). One big motivation for this setting was wanting to do something that was exotic, and that was also sand-boxish in that the party could travel the islands on their own little vessel. The arc didn’t last very long, but I always enjoyed what I had made, and have decided to present it to you (with additions) as a setting idea that you can hopefully take and run with. Rather than a well developed setting, I want to provide it as more a skeleton that you can add on to.
So, tucked somewhere in the subtropical zone of your campaign world, there may be a set of islands. Far away from civilized kingdoms, separated by leagues of cerulean ocean, they lay spread out like green crystals across a blue table. There are many of them, some as small as a little hill in the water. Others are large, hosting great mountains, forests, and jungles. The southern islands are rimmed with bright white sand, and throughout the whole of the kingdom the smell of spice and fruit permeates like an exotic perfume.
Here is Adosh, archipelago of the joyful fat dragon.
The Adoshen Archipelago
A Campaign Setting Idea
The islands of Adosh are a large spread of many miles, and the southern isles tend to be more tropical than the northern ones, which seem to be bigger. Geographically, the islands are subtropical and tropical to the south. The larger islands tend to have large forests and jungles as well as mountain formations in their centers, though some islands are ‘bald’. The waters around the islands maintains a very vibrant blue color that becomes almost violet during dusk and dawn.
The inhabitants of the island are exclusively from two races: the dragonborn, and kobolds. Thus, the natives of the island are primarily from draconic heritage. The kobolds tend to be subservient to the dragonborn. Culturally, the islands are loose knit group of tribes with cosmopolitan cities providing centers for trade between tribes and with other civilizations who have come by sea.
The islands and tribes are ruled over by a being that is called both a god and a king. A golden dragon, that lies among his riches in an open palace on the center island. There he is served and coddled by loving worshippers as he slumbers and mumbles in his sleep contentedly. His name is Adosh, and it is said that the islands were named from him. Their religion and laws all seem to stem from this center, and the palace acts as both seat of power and temple. The natives describe Adosh as joyful and pleasant, a being that sees his wards as children that he dotes on. Though he spends much of his time simply enjoying the pleasures of life, all of the inhabitants revere him and believe all of their happiness and fortune stem from him.
The islands are abundant in a number of resources. They host many different kinds of lumber, a large number of spices and fruits, tea, as well as an abundance of seafood. Locally made wares are also a trade a resource. All in all the islands and tribes, especially with the advent of maritime trade with the larger continents, have been very fortunate.
Their main danger lies in a confederation of trade guilds from kingdoms to the north-west. The guilds were separate trading and seafaring guilds from a number of kingdoms, but once new lands were being discovered to the east, they combined wealth and power to become a company. Due to their great sway on sea trade, they are able to operate outside of the sovereignty of any kingdom. They call themselves The Eastern Trade Confederation, or ETC. Many islands have fallen under their control, and when Adosh entered into the trade network, their eye turned toward them quite greedily. It is not easy, however, to occupy and wrest control of an island kingdom when the king is a dragon.
The Dragonborn and Kobolds of the Adoshen Archipelago live in tribes. The tribes aren’t race based, and you will find both dragonborn and kobolds all throughout the islands. The kobolds do tend to be naturally subservient to their larger cousins, though some have cunning and skill that put them on equal footing.
Islands tend to have one tribe per island, except for the very big ones with cities on them. The chieftain of the tribe thus governs the island, and pays tribute to Anderad, the main island.
The peoples of the islands dress in light and airy clothing, preferring things like silk robes, open chested vests, and turbans and veils. Priests, who are the emissaries of Adosh, wear bright yellow robes and golden bands around their heads. The poorer tribes wear whatever they can make from simple materials, and some in the south even go without due to the heat and humidity.
There seems to be a class system in place, involving usefulness to the tribe and to Adosh. Merchants and craftsmen sit near the top, whereas fisherfolk, farmers, and kobolds sit near the bottom. The class pyramid is very shallow, however, and not as oppressive as some of the feudal areas of the main kingdoms. Still, some of the lower classes are treated unfortunately by certain individuals, though kindness is one of the main teachings and tenets of Adosh the joyous.
Islands of Note
Anderad is the center island of the archipelago, and the seat of Adosh the golden dragon. It is shaped like a very fat horseshoe, and the main city of Onnadi is spread across the bottom edge. Onnadi is a large port city of many levels and sections. The levels of the city stack into step pyramid shapes, giving the city a formidable appearance.
The palace of Adosh is a huge complex of a building with very many gardens, many of them on upper levels, with the exotic plants vining down the sides of walls. Hundreds of thousands of worshippers flow into and out of the palace at all times, for to gaze upon the slumbering form of the fat dragon (as he is sometimes called informally) is considered great luck. Many of the poorer tribes of the outer island will raise funds and resources to send a designated person once a year, to ask for luck with fishing and crops. Adosh is always quick to give that luck with a slow smile, and a grunt.
Many adventures find their way here as a stopping point before going to explore the ruins and emptier islands of the archipelago.
Ma’nan is also called the island of sorcerers. It is one of the ‘bald’ islands, being grassy and rocky. It is very near the northern edge of the islands. On the island exists a group of sorcerers, generally a group of seven apprentices and one master. There are no great cities or temples on this island; only a few fishing villages and the house of the sorcerers, built atop a large rocky outcropping. They rarely receive visitors, unless it is to advise in manners arcane or to interview possible apprentices in the event that one leaves.
The waters to the south of this island are home to a large complex of ruins, much of which is said to be under the floor of the water and to hold in trapped air.
Ganshis is the largest southern island, and hosts a large city named Nadderis. Nadderis is called The City of Fountains, because it is built over a small mountain from which a wellspring of water streams out in all directions, giving the city it’s many canals and fountain structures. It rises up out of a deep jungle that is dotted with stone ruins. This is a hot spot for fortune hunters, for the island, the ruins, and even the ancient city itself is said to hold a thousand secrets. Unfortunately, the deep darkness of the jungle hides many deadly threats as well.
Melishtar is a desert island and is the island farthest to the south. There isn’t much on the island, and it is only significant because of a giant statue that sits on it. The statue seems to be that of a dragon, though it is weathered and broken with age if not some other past event. The dragon doesn’t seem to be Adosh, for it is slim, and seems to have wings (which Adosh lacks). The statue is a mystery, though many inhabitants find themselves feeling forlorn when they come near here.
Hulphet is an eastern island that is oddly donut shaped, and completely round. The middle of the island is a round lake, upon the center of which sits the great treasure of the island: a giant growth of crystal that juts right out of the placid waters. The crystal is a variety of purple hues. This is significant due to the large amount of purplish crystal that seems to permeate the islands caves and ruins. The city of Narletshef sits on the shores of the lake, and protects the crystal, which has been deemed holy by the palace of Onnadi. The ETC has taken great interest in the purple crystals of the island, especially the Hulphet stone.
Due to the close distance of the islands, travel by small vessel is the most common form. There are many well used routes, often patrolled by the Zahhakir to prevent piracy and sea monster attack. Adventurers tend to pool money to buy a small vessel, and supplement their treasure hunting gains with bringing trade to the smaller villages that happen to be near where the most ripe ruins lay.
The Emmerad is the entire temple structure of the islands; the yellow robed priests who spread the teachings of the fat dragon and perform administrative duties as is needed. They are welcome near anywhere, and usually never have to worry about paying for food and lodging. They never take positions of direct power, preferring to instead advise and act as paternal and maternal figures to the children of Adosh. There are no kobolds in the priesthood.
The islands of Adosh are not without dangers, and dangerous as well as pirates are a common occurrence especially out away from the more populated islands. A great dragonborn warrior who was also pious thus organized a group of warriors to protect traders and pilgrims who traveled to visit the palace to gain a blessing for their villages. These warriors became the Zahhakir. The Zahhakir are a well organized order of warriors who subsist on the charity of the islanders, and sail the routes to find people to escort and to root out dangers. They are said to find great joy in honorable battle, and have great hearts especially toward the poorer folk.
They tend to wear blue turbans as their uniform, and wield great scimitars in battle. They have often been compared to the knighthoods of the mainlands.
Called simply “the sorcerers”, this is a group of eight arcane magic users that live on the island of Ma’nan. They explore mysteries, and are often found exploring the ruins as well as studying the purple crystals of the archipelago. They have a tenuous relationship with the Emmerad, who find them prying and irreverent of the fat dragon.
The group consists of seven apprentices and one master. The master generally names an heir out of the apprentices in secret, giving the group his sealed decision before his death. Why they are structured like this is a mystery, as well is their origin or even point. They rarely speak with outsiders, though they do sometimes hire adventures to search the ruins. Whatever they are looking for, however, they keep quiet.
The Eastern Trade Confederation
It is no quiet rumor that the ETC greatly wants the islands of Adosh; indeed many of the islands to the east of their kingdoms have been claimed by them. However, the archipelago is a significant power, so for now the ETC has remained hands-off. They conduct trade into the islands for the main kingdoms. Indeed they command all trade to the east, so they have become a necessary evil. The inhabitants of the island dislike the ETC, and the friction is palpable in many of the port towns and cities.
The ETC is headed by a council of six guild masters, though the martial arm of the group is lead by a single admiral; a Half-Elf named Laravale Seasprite. Her naval expertise is world renowned, as well is her lack of mercy. She is said to often clash with the council of six, whom she believes over complicates things with their negotiations and bureaucracy.
Rather than merely ruling the islands, the joyous dragon Adosh is also the center of worship. According the Emmerad, he came across the islands one day while flying the newly created world. Finding them splendid, he landed upon the middle island and blessed the whole of the kingdom, bringing prosperity and happiness to all.
Where he landed is where he now lays, getting fawned over by countless admirers. He speaks very little, and only in the dragon tounge, which only the Emmerad really speaks. He does tend to smile and make appreciative noises toward his well-wishers, however, and many still speak of an incident ten years ago where he nuzzled a young dragonborn child affectionately. The child has since grown into a powerful chief.
The tenets of the Adoshi religion are based on Joy, Kindness, and Servility to others.
Art is often based around the dragon as well, with many popular carved figurines and statues depicting him being sold all of the islands. They often depict the fat dragon curled up, or laying on his back.
This setting is set up really to be a bit of a sandbox. I would find it best to give your adventurers a boat and some scraps of information, and let them use that to explore. Facilitate trade with them as well; they can buy cheaper wares in the bigger cities and bring it out to the smaller villages to trade where it will be more valuable.
Making it a true sand box setting would require significant fleshing out beyond what I’ve done here, but using the sources I’ve drawn from you might find it a rewarding experience.
The big antagonist of this setting is the trade confederation. While not evil per se, they do seek the wealth and bounty of the islands, and will eventually try to make a move toward that. Will Adosh rise from his revery to protect the islands? He has not moved from the palace in many many years. The ETC may think that he has grown old and decrepit.
Throughout the islands are found purple crystals, usually in caves or in the ruins, obviously carved and horded by whoever had settled the islands previously. They hold some signifigance, but what? The large crystal on Hulphet may provide clues. Do they have something to do with the near uncanny fortune that the natives enjoy?
The Sorcerers definitely seem to have an interest in them…
Speaking of the ruins, what are they? Who was here before the natives? Were they here before even Adosh, who the islands were named after? Maybe some intrepid adventurers can unearth some clues.
Maybe the ETC themselves seek answers to those sorts of questions, in order to gain a foothold on the islands…
The dragon statue on Melishtar is said to give anyone who looks upon a feeling of profound sadness. Who is it? Someone related to Adosh? Perhaps it is connected with the ruins, or the crystals?
I hope I’ve at least provided enough to facilitate your creativity. I really enjoy thinking about this setting, and love the idea of sailing around in a boat, looking for exotic ruins and visiting native locales.
Is there anything you think I should add? Any ideas of your own? Feel free to add to it, and tell me about it!