I’ve been pondering a fantasy setting where there’s no shortcut for detecting good or evil and conflict arises from consistent motivations. Going through the 5e and Pathfinder source material, there is a whole lot of “they’re just wired that way and don’t really have free will in the matter” or “a god told them to do it” in there. Lots of room for inventing more interesting motivations.

I figure it starts out with fleshing out the ecology. Where do all these top-level predators come from? Gotta invent some magic-infused ecologies that live on volcanoes and glaciers, and in the Underdark.

Lava clover, emberberries, and ifrit peppers can sink roots even into igneous rock, where they are pollinated by sparkbees and eaten by pyroguanas, igneous turtles, pumice voles, and volcano goats (some of whom can reach 800 pounds). Lava ants are a form of army ant; their venom causes burns, and can be harvested for an assassin’s use to cause a body to burst into flames, making the target extremely difficult to resurrect. Intermediate predators include salamanders and obsidian owls.

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Now we have a clue as to what fire giants eat when they’re at home. And now you don’t just have to worry about giants throwing boulders at you, you have to worry about volcano goats head-butting you into the lava. THE WIZARD BACK IN TOWN HIRED YOU TO GET SPARKBEE HONEY AND NOW YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE TRADE DEALS WITH FIRE GIANTS.

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