"D&D Distillery" is a thought experiment where Sebby finds a specific quirk or rule from the D&D Books (usually Fifth Edition), runs with it, expand it and then uses it as the linchpin for a game setup. This helps (at least in theory) create a memorable setting that is intrinsic to Dungeons and Dragons by leveraging unique elements of the license rather than resorting to generic fantasy tropes.
In today's incarnation, Sebby latches on to the Brass Dragon in D&D Fifth edition's Monster Manual. They are good dragons obsessed with having meaningful chit chat with every creature and divide their hoard into small secret stashes hidden across their realms. Expanding upon the concept, Sebby created a setup where a particularly driven Brass Dragon forced the races around her into a large open forum for discussion and slowly acquired all the valuables and magic items of the land, secreting them away like a manic metal squirrel. Now, to spice it up, let's see what happens when the good tyrant dies of old age...
"Without the loving gaze of its venerable Brass Dragon ruler Grüze The Softspoken, a formerly harmonious empire is at the cusp of a bloody revolution..."
"What is this all about?"
A peerless diplomat, the venerable Brass Dragon Grüze the Softspoken has supervised and protected all the species and civilizations in her territory for the better part of her life. In return, when powerful external forces marched in, these nations would unite under her leadership. During the hundred of years this relative harmony lasted, the realm lived a prodigious golden age. Using engineering knowledge traded from the Dwarves, the shorter-lived humans and goblinoid worked together to create vast farms, gardens and mines to feed their exponential growth. Grüze had even successfully converted a handful of Kobold to her cause, who endlessly debated with the elves on theological matters.
But nothing lasts forever, and age caught up with the beast...
It did not take long after the dragon's death for petty disputes to emerge. Each nation and each race convinced themselves that they were her favorites, and that the hoard was theirs. The first generation born never knowing the dragon came to see her as a divine figure, seeing the boons, gifts and lasting effects of her actions but never really understanding the reasons behind them. The Kobolds were quick to forget, and the will of Tiamat was felt stronger with each new broods. The elves noticed this and many worked with the Kobold noble bloodlines to retain their academic ways. Some saw the new zeal of these fresh broods and saw this is an opportunity, becoming demagogues and tyrants; turning the younger generations of Kobolds into fanatical henchmen seeking new draconic masters. At the same time, adventurers sponsored by noble families of all type sets out to seek out the secret stashes of the Brass Dragon's hoard with the hope to find the ancient sentient artifacts and powerful genies that she cherished so much.
The amassed power, the tensions and the various ideological factions are on the cusp of shattering the remnants of the old empire and go back to the feudal warlords ways from before the dragon's reign.
But as the hoard is slowly unearthed, and the artifacts and genies of various disposition reveal new knowledge about their previous master, a mystery emerges; "Why did Grüze go out of it's way to elevate us in the first place?" Testimonies are all over the place, from Handsome Merell the djinn claims that it was simply Grüze's draconic inflated ego to Thousand Reasons to Bleed the Ettin-forged axe's prophecies of uniting the races as a gambit against the inevitable incursion from a threat originating in the Infinite Layers of the Abyss. The latest theory is that Grüze was trying to achieve immortality by ascending to godhood through the worship of the younger races after her death...
"What does this setup bring to the table?"
A localized empire that can be added as a new region to any pre-existing setting.
A subversive map of racial tensions for a fresh roleplaying perspective:
The humans and goblinoids are unified under a banner with alliances forged through a long history of marriages and industrial cooperation.
You could even go the way of eugenism to enforce a social class system where the members are selectively bred to bring out the most appropriate traits of each race for the job.
This is also a setting where other races raids the orc farms for food, rather than the other way around.
Elves and Kobolds acting together as the religious authority
Fanatical and zealous Kobolds as both the old-guard police and the new rebellious groups.
Perfect setup for elven conspiracies.
Smug opportunist dwarven merchants and looters profiteering from both the old peace and the new turmoil.
Dragonborns certainly are in a special situation... I'll leave that to the imagination of the GM.
A powerful empire at the brink of imploding on itself is a gold mine for plot hooks and devices.
Alternatively, fast forward a few years in the future and you have a disintegrated empire now composed of warring city-states and competing ideologies.
Endless opportunities for dungeon crawls or exploration to find the Brass Dragon's hidden stashes of treasure.
Assuming the Brass Dragon had monopoly on magic items, it can give a handy justification for the game masters to control distribution of magic items exactly the way they wants for their game.
Regardless, the game master can in fact add secret rooms filled with treasure to any area and be perfectly justified to so. (Why is Excalibur at the bottom of that pond? Because Dragon stash, that's why.)
Information (from talkative treasures) can be valuable loots well.
An open-ended mystery that the game master can play with.
As usual, feel free to use, modify and customize the ideas within these pages.
If you do so, Sebby would love to hear about it! Send him an email at email@example.com