The following are house notes for a 5e campaign set in The Outlands where Sigil, the City of Doors, remained closed after the Faction War. As a result, travel by land, air and sea across the so-called “plane of concordant opposition” became a popular necessity.
The setting emphasizes the Outlands as “a land of myths and forgotten memories” and including a bit of “scavenger time travel” to leave “future relics” scattered about – cavemen riding motorcycles, goblins living out of a defunct WWII Panzer tank, 19th-century clipper ships marooned in waterless deserts, a city block of late 20th century New York skyscrapers in the heart of an eldritch forest, and so forth. (Originally inspired by “Gamma World,” came out looking more like “Numenera” instead.)
IDEAS FOR PORTAL KEY TRIGGERS
* a brass key, a stone key
* a specific gemstone
* a part from a specific monster (bone, tooth, feather, blood, etc.)
* a color (silk draped over a lantern will work)
* a specific mold, fungus or moss
* total darkness (probably requires Darkness spell)
* holy or unholy water or symbol (Upper or Lower planes)
* holy symbol to a specific deity
* laughter, crying, shouting, dancing
* perform a specific musical song
* submerging, burning, burying an object (water, fire, earth planes)
* a feeling of joy (for Upper Planes)
* a feeling of anger or fear (for Lower Planes)
* tracing a mathematical equation (for Lawful planes)
* destroying a crafted object (for Chaotic planes)
* at night, midnight, noon, sunset, sunrise
* at the top of each hour for one minute
* spring or autumnal equinox, winter or summer solstice
* during an eclipse
* full, waxing, waning moon
* during a childbirth involving a royal bloodline (very rare happening)
* when sand runs out of an enchanted hourglass (flip to reset)
* when the local temperature rises above 100 degrees or below freezing
PLACES IN THE OUTLANDS
Given that these locations can move around in reaction to the relative philosophies of local inhabitants, there is no point in “mapping” them to fixed spots.
Tir Na Og: The “Land of Youth,” home to Celtic deities, Celtic humans, half-elves, lush woods and fields of oats, wheat and barley. No cities, only scattered towns and lone settlements.
Tir fo Thuinn: The “Land Under The Waves,” an underwater kingdom ruled by Manannan mac Lir.
The Well of Urd: Lair of the Norns within the cavern-like roots of Yggdrasil, surrounded by shades waiting their fate and settlements of Norse humans. Occasionally Norse deities visit here to consult with the three main wise giantesses to tend to the Well of Fate.
The Orchard: A relatively small realm of groves, orchards and farmland where small halfling communities thrive under the protection of the deity Sheela Peryryl.
The Dwarven Mountain: A great summit run through with dwarven cities, halls, mines and vaults, where several dwarf deities dwell. The dwarf-holds of Durinn, Dvalinn and Motsognir are found here around the mountain.
The Cave of Neidhohle: Former lair of the giant-turned-dragon Fafner, now an underground maze full of monsters and lost treasures.
The Western Fire: An enclave of fire giants that guard a portal to their homeland of Muspelheim.
The Bog: A vast mix of swamps, marshes and reedy lakes where lizardfolk tribes dwell under the watchful eye of their deity Semuanya. A few scattered outlaws also hide here.
The Caverns Of Madness: An underdark expanse where creatures fall under the thrall of either the beholder deity Gzemnid or the illithid hide mind deity Ilsensine.
The Palace of Judgement: A single giant arcology of Chinese bureaucracies, granaries, stables serving the Ten Courts of Law, the Eighteen Hells and celestials under the deity Yen-Wang-Yeh and the Chinese Celestial Bureaucracy. It is patrolled by various creatures of Asian myth: oni, foo creatures, dragons, rakshasa, spirit centipedes and stone golems.
The Laboratory: Endless technical archives and “steampunk” workshops where human workers experiment and build devices under the inspiration of Tvastar, the Vedic deity of artifice and science.
The City Of Thebestys: A metropolis along the River Ma’at that’s as much a vast library as a city, home to Egyptian scholars and their deity Thoth. Outside The Great Library and its surrounding buildings, the banks of the river are a dangerous zone of crocodiles and similar monsters.
The Mausoleum of Chronepsis: Cavern lair of the dragon deity of fate and home base to a society of dragonborn knights.
The Court Of Light: The mysterious and mystically dangerous lair of Shekinester the three-faced naga deity and a small number of nagas and snake folk. It’s three zones include the Loom of the Weaver, the Hall of Tests and the Arching Flame.
Sylvania: Gate-town to the outer plane of Arborea where eladrin courts and Olympian deities dwell. Local population mostly made up of wood elves, human Greeks and sylvan fey.
The Orc Lands: A toxic badlands of unspecific geography, where dry canyons stretch between sparse deserts and ruins that echo empires which have yet to be founded. Here, they have already fallen and been pillaged of their future glory. Rival tribes of orcs battle for turf constantly.
Automata: Gate-town to the outer plane of Mechanus, ruled by the Council of Order.
Bedlam: Gate-town to the outer plane of Pandemonium, a city of madmen.
Glorium: Gate-town to the outer plane of Ysgard, a rowdy non-stop mix of sports, drinking, and fighting over honor or insults.
Plague-Mort: Gate-town to the outer plane of The Abyss, a tumultuous place of selfish passions barely held in check by the ruling Arch-Lector and his or her Hounds. (The “ruler” is frequently killed and replaced by a usurper.)
Ribcage: Gate-town to the outer plane of Baator, aka The Nine Hells, where a Lord and the Council of the City enforce brutal order amid institutionalized corruption. Tieflings make up the majority here.
Xaos, Asxo, Sxoa, Oasx, Xsoa, and so forth: “Gate-town” of sorts to the outer plane of Limbo, an ever-changing place of mutating terrain and social anarchy. It’s only consistent feature is that “it exists,” but all other facets of its nature are in flux.
Myrkvior: “The Dark Wood,” a haunted forest that is home to outcast elves (vain high elves, paranoid wood elves and drow who have forsaken Lolth) as well as enclaves of gnomes, kobolds, trolls and ghosts.
The Iron Woods: A twisted forest around the Trollholds of Angrboda the Giantess, exiled mother of the Norse deity Loki.
The Giant-Hold of Prymheimr: An enclave of frost giants and stone giants.
The Giant-Old of Gastropnir: An enclave of hill giants, stone giants and ogres.
BETWEEN THE LOCALES, IN THE OUTLANDS WILDS
Bariaur Tribes: Roam as unaligned nomads or in vast non-exclusive grazing lands.
Goblinoid Legions: Goblin scouts and merchants, hobgoblin soldiers, bugbear assassins. To those weaker, dominate them and use up local resources before moving on and leaving scraps behind. To those weaker, petition to serve as their army to wage war in exchange for payment. (Note: They will never serve elves.) To those of matching strength, avoid.
Gnoll Raiders: Packs of these humanoids only bent on destruction and devouring other living things.
Walking Castles: Arch-mages’ construct fortresses ever on the move in search of arcane locations or avoiding enemies.
Hermitages: Isolated buildings or small settlements where disciplined or extreme believers pursue their own way of life away from strangers.
Indep Villages: Like hermitages, but with more people and families. Not welcoming to outsiders.
Blood War Armies: Thousands of fiends (either devils or demons) en route to attack their enemy’s forces. Either type is quite willing to recruit or capture cannon-fodder from the locals to be expended when contact with the rival fiendish army is made.