More fantasy inspiration from real sites

The famous Hanging Temple is a feat of ancient engineering - and great inspiration for a potential D&D setting.

Creating awe-inspiring, fantastic locations for a Dungeons & Dragons game is a challenge placed before every dungeon master (DM). Fortunately, there are real sites that press upon the boundaries of fantasy which can inspire DMs.

During the months that passed since writing this first post on the topic – a post describing the Crystal Cave of the Giants, Bannerman’s Castle, The Barringer Crater and Centralia, Pennsylvania – this writer has learned of three more sites which, with modification, could make ideal settings for a D&D adventure.

The Hanging Temple of Xuankongsi

Construction of this remarkable edifice began in the Sixth Century, in the Chinese province of Shanxi. Also called the Temple in the Air and the Temple in the Void, the structure was built a third of the way up a nearly sheer cliff, roughly 75 meters above ground. Construction began with a massive excavation into the cliffside, large enough to house 40 rooms and six main halls. The subterranean portion of the complex is positioned behind a massive wooden facade extending well into the open air, supported by horizontal beams from within the excavation, wooden pillars from below and the cantilevered weight of the facade itself.

Initially built into one of four mountains sacred to Taoism, religious trappings related to the practice of Buddhism and Confucianism were since added to the temple.

The Yellow Treehouse Cafe

The Yellow Tree House in New Zealand might be suitable for a sylvan scenario.

Originally created for a reality television show, the Yellow Treehouse Cafe in New Zealand comes close to what many DMs might call elven architecture. The cafe, constructed of renewable materials around a great redwood tree, is suspended about 10 meters above ground and accessed by a walkway. Designed by Pacific Environments Architects and built in 2009, the pod-shaped treehouse is open to the air, making extensive use of natural light. It measures 10 meters wide by 12 high, and comfortably provides 18 people with dining and tavern amenities (the kitchens and privvies are located at ground level).

More images of the treehouse can be found here.

The Hotel de Glace (the Ice Hotel)

Quebec's Hotel de Glace is built from 15,500 tons of snow and ice; and it is rebuilt every winter.

The Canadian province of Quebec boasts a most unusual tourist attraction: a hotel, constructed entirely from ice, which disappears each spring and is rebuilt each winter. The Hotel de Glace offers everything a modern guest could want, but its exquisite conctruction provides ample inspiration for an acrctic-themed scenario.

As the name implies, the hotel is built from blocks of snow and ice – 15,000 tons and 5,000 tons of each respectively, which are fused together with a slush-like mortar, which subsequently freezes. The various blocks, arches, walls and columns are built in or around molds, then meticulously decorated by master ice sculptors.

The completed structure offers luxury accommodations for 88 people, a cafe that can seat 200, a courtyard that can seat 400 people, an art gallery and an ice chapel.

Have you heard about any real-life sites that can inspire  D&D adventure settings? If you have, please consider posting a comment describing those places below.

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5 comments on “More fantasy inspiration from real sites

  1. ClefJ says:

    Thanks to the first Mortal Kombat movie, one can’t forget about the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat, which has been given a lot of focus in the last decade towards restoration and discovery. The architecture I have used before in a previous campaign as a Noble’s palace devoted to Oroboros, but don’t tell the Shaolin monks I did that. ;D

  2. max.elliott says:

    The first thing I thought was “Holy smoke I have to share this with Alric.” … lol

  3. Raptyr says:

    What about the Irish ring-forts and Crannogs? Those aren’t things you see every day. Another option might be beehive burners.

    The crannog is a fortified artificial island, often inhabited by farmers. But there are tons of other uses. One could put it above fire, or air, or have it be the camp of orcs or goblins. Plus, it’s just a great idea to have them scattered about. PCs stopping by a farmhouse is onethigh, but a farmhouse-fort on a manmade island is a bit different.

    Beehive burners are giant metal cones used to burn wood scraps. One could have one over a volcano, use them as the base for a village of fire elementals, and so much more.

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