Note: In my campaign world, the Dragonborn are seafarers that worship Pelor as their creator and Bahamut or Tiamat as their spiritual guide.
The very first whalers to go deep into the Great Moonlit Sea reported a pillar of smoke that could be seen for hundreds of miles. It was used as a reference for navigation long before anyone was able to reach the source. What they discovered came to be called the Tiateld Spew (tiateld means “fire-ash” in Draconic), a series of islands formed from lava flows and volcanic ash. It would have been dismissed out of hand, had a sailor not found a ruby the size of his fist just sitting on the beach.
No crops worth mentioning grow on the Spew and very few fish can be caught from the shores. A few small-scale expeditions were mounted, but it wasn’t until Grand Admiral Ald’Isse decided to use the islands as a “humane” prison that there was much of a presence. His idea was to stockpile magic items that generated food and water and give them to the prisoners, who could eventually buy their freedom with the gems scattered around the islands. Certainly they weren’t going to be making boats, weapons or much of anything else. This practice continued for more than thirty years until the northern captains realized that children were being born on the Spew, children who were innocent of their parents’ crimes. The great families of the Bright Isles gathered together to drive off Ald’Isse’s fleets and free the prisoners.(AP Photo/Arnar Thorisson/Helicopter.is)
The current situation is the result of 150 years of treaties, betrayals and fighting. The balance of power has remained as it is for so long because it displeases everyone equally.
Ightiss is the most stable of the islands, though that isn’t saying much. None of the factions have been able to explore much of it, as it is infested with free-roaming elementals. The island is named after Ightiss Scaleshatter, a direct descendent of Ald’Isse. Ightiss was so hated that they sealed him in a cask filled with glass shards and dragged him behind a horse for a couple of days, then buried him alive in the path of a fresh lava flow. When the Dragonborn commander was asked about concerns that Ightiss might reincarnate or rise as a vengeful spirit, he is said to have replied, “Nothing will come of this but good. Bahamut has eaten his black soul.”
There is a rumor that a crypt containing a powerful lich lies at the heart of Ightiss, deep within what the locals call the Nightsand Sea. Ightiss is also the best source of Brightcandle Wisps, tiny fire elementals that are kept as exotic pets by the wealthy. A Wisp can sell for thousands of gold.
Agetas and Ird’ Alee are controlled by the Elves and Eladrin, respectively. Those races prefer to lease out their holdings for a cut of the profits. The northern half of Agetas is directly downwind from the volcano, so it is often shrouded in clouds of ash.(Sorry about the quality of this image. Fractal Mapper hates the CRAP out of me. The original is in color.)
Omora is used as a base of operations by a consortium of arcanists, mostly Human and Tiefling, looking to explore the volcano itself. The ash fields have been picked clean.
Raknal has been made into a prison for Humans, Dwarves, Tieflings and Dragonborn, though the sexes are kept separate out of respect for Dragonborn morals. It is not as brutal as Ald’Isse’s camps, but being sent there is still considered a death sentence. The western shoreline is dotted with cages containing the corpses of prisoners who were caught trying to swim the straits to Omora. Every new inmate spends his or her first few weeks on the island building a cage as a way of discouraging these attempts.
Sybek and Samkal are held by competing Dwarven clans, though both are open to “prospector’s leases,” where the Dwarves charge a percentage of the gems found (These differ from the Elven leases in that they rent out specific territory, whereas the Elves don’t care about fighting out in the gem fields as long as they get paid). In a way, both islands are just as much a prison as Raknal, as those who cannot repay the Dwarves become indentured servants and are leased the same as tools and guides. Many a starry-eyed fool has ended up finding the gem that made someone else wealthy.
Achvor is controlled by the Tieflings, who maintain strict control over access to the island. Little is known about what goes on there, but the rumors are always dire.
Using the Tiateld Spew
- Elementals!: The Spew is an excellent place to hold elemental themed combats.
- Prison Break: The characters might have to get someone out of prison or they might need to escape themselves.
- Gateway to the Beyond: The barriers to otherworldly realms might be especially thin, meaning that the characters can get to some interesting places, assuming they can survive the Spew.
- Lost and Found: People and things disappear into the Spew all the time. The characters might be tasked with finding something.
- Blood upon the Seas: a shipment of gems has gone missing. Perhaps pirates are to blame, a sea creature could have eaten the fleet or maybe the gems weren’t shipped out at all…
One of the nice things about places like the Spew are that they’re interesting and unique, yet can be adapted to serve whatever story purpose you might have.
Arrellu, the Burning Lich
Arrellu is often mistaken for male, but actually was originally a Dragonborn woman. She appears as a seven-foot tall obsidian skeleton wreathed in orange-red flames. Not much is known of her history, though there is speculation that she was badly wounded and retreated to the Spew to heal. Her “crypt” is nothing more than a few ramshackle huts guarded by the efreet that never seem to leave her side. She keeps a limited number of humanoid slaves, mostly as household staff.
Design Theory: I’ll be honest, sometimes I get a little tired of having to include “stunproofing” on my elites and solos. Arrellu should be able to hold her own without needing that type of protection, because since she’ll always have allies. Once the players realize this, expect them to focus entirely on Arrellu. This is expected and why I made her a Brute, rather than another monster type. Unlimited summons on a soldier frame would probably be a bad idea.
The difficulty of the encounter can be tuned fairly closely with terrain features (fire-based gas vents come to mind) and the type and number of her allies. You can also tune with how you use Legion of Flames. It is possible for her to teleport her allies out of the radius so as to trigger the recharge. How aggressively you do this can vary over the course of the combat, just be careful not to let it get out of hand.
Kindlefetch is a sizable “gotcha” and I don’t know how I feel about it. I’ve built the fire wizard that ignored resists and immunity altogether and wasn’t impressed. It feels like more of a thought exercise than a viable and enjoyable character. Kindlefetch accomplishes the goal of creating tactical choices, but I suspect that someone who has built their character around a tight theme like that might be upset that his cool doesn’t always work.