World Building: The Fires Below

Two generations past, the Grand Mage Karl led his storied companions into the depths of the world to seek the ancient heart of a long-dead primordial. The primordial’s name has been lost in antiquity, but Karl’s former allies in the Cult of Kelvin claimed that it had the power to destroy the world and they have preceded the Famed Four into the hollow earth to unleash its power.

The goal of this race to destiny lay so far beneath the earth that the journey would take months—if not years—to complete. Though swallowed by the earth and never to be seen under an open sky again, new tales of Karl’s exploits occasionally surfaced during dealings with underground dwellers. These rumors dwindled over the decades and faded altogether just before the terrors began.

In the center of the earth, a terrible storm has been unleashed. Cold, dead stone has begun to move in the depths. impenetrable vaults of obsidian have cracked and splintered, spewing their contents into the abyss. From within the deeps, foul worms and indescribable horrors have been freed to taste the earth. Searing heat has begun to render the foundations of the earth plastic or even fluid.

As an infection from within, the alien invaders have multiplied and expanded. They move ever upward, toward the surface. Behind them, comes the rising tide of molten magma and the blast of noxious gasses choke the life out of any that withstood the vanguard of the elemental horde.


Apart from the evidence of Karl’s failure, there is no reliable record of what happened beneath the earth so many years ago. When the earliest rumor of war reach the surface, scholars and curious adventurers may seek the source of them in hopes of profit or adventure.

As the elemental chaos advances, underground races will seek refuge in the shallows and, finally, the surface. Some race can exercise thier alliances and treaties to gain refuge. Most will mobilize their armies to carve new empires for themselves as they go.

When the fires reach the surface, aberrations and elementals will roam the earth. Great worms will emerge from the earth like maggots from rotting meat and score the land with their passing. In every land, heroes seek objects of legend with the power to beat back the scourge and to heal the lands. Perhaps the temples established by the Kelvinites hold the answers to these mysteries?


The idea first came to me when I read about underground coal fires.

I thought that these fires would make for a unique and under-utilized terrain hazard. Just add an elemental threat and you have an instant adventure! Furthermore, it seemed to be a great ‘unintended consequence’ to spring on the adventurers after unleashing some mass, fiery destruction in an underground lair.

With a Heroes of the Element Chaos on the horizon, I dusted off the setting again and sought a new spin to it.



~ by Hunter Rose on January 26, 2012.

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