January 25, 2017

The Dwarves of Ghem

Ghem isn't labeled on the Minaria map, so no XP bonus for entering their territory. Each of the clans has a labeled fortress though, so characters can get 500xp for their first visit inside each of those. I wanted to use published modules (or free stuff from rpg blogs and such) to populate the labeled hexes on the map, but I seem to have a severe shortage of dwarf strongholds so no maps yet. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has ideas. So far I'm mostly just borrowing stuff from the Dwarf Fortress computer game, and adding in my own variety of weirdness. Special thanks to Jeff for some much needed inspiration about non-human clan relations. I steal from his blog endlessly.

Anyhow, this is what I have so far...
GHEM - Ghem is the kingdom of the Dwarves, it’s legendary lost capital was founded ages ago deep in the darkness of the underworld. The Dwarves now dwell near the surface in scattered mining colonies around Minaria. Each of the seven clans prefers to tend to their own business, but will rally to each other’s aid if called. Sadly though, the dwarves suffer due to a web of feuds and rivalries that prevent them from ever truly uniting together. Two of the clans each claim that their fortress is the new capitol of Ghem, and honestly it just gets worse from there. It has been said that the dwarves never forget, and never forgive. Despite their faults, the dwarves are given at least grudging respect by the other kingdoms. Dwarven craftsmanship is unsurpassed, and their airships help to facilitate trade throughout Minaria.

The Kingdom of Ghem is made up of those seven scattered areas of light green

The Loss of Dwarven History 

Ghem's legendary capital was lost ages ago, back when the Ancients waged a war of genocide against both dwarves and elves. Zion was hidden deep in the bowels of the world, but even this great stronghold was eventually overrun by the Ancients' war machines and mutant monsters. There are none now living who remember how to find it.  After the fall of Zion the resistance was broken. The remaining dwarves and elves scattered and hid throughout the underdark, hunted relentlessly for generations.

Then, one day, the Ancients suddenly ascended from the world and the reinforcements of hunter droids and mutant horrors abruptly stopped. Some of the survivors eventually returned to the surface, but found that it was now overrun by humans and the other slave races created to serve the whims of the ancient ones. Those first encounters were fraught with anger and retribution. Hundreds of years of guerrilla warfare followed, but eventually these hostilities subsided and the dwarves and elves now live in relative peace with humanity; though some tensions certainly remain.

The dwarven population has never truly recovered.

Today, Ghem is comprised of seven clans of mountain dwarves who dwell in scattered territories around Minaria. Each clan has their own customs and laws, especially now that the kingship is contested. One of the only Laws of Ghem that is still universal is the ban on the sale or gift of dwarven military technology to outsiders, because of the worry that airships and repeating crossbows might someday be used against dwarfkind.

Dwarven society is rather strict and steeped in tradition. Dwarves who break their oaths or defy the clan chiefs risk banishment, and no clan would welcome such a dishonorable dwarf. Any child born to a clanless dwarf is then also clanless, and so their numbers grow. These are sometimes called "Hill Dwarves", and they are the ones who are sometimes found living and working within human communities. Most adventuring dwarves are hill dwarves. There are rumors that an eighth clan (or more?) never returned to the surface world. They remained in the deep darkness below and have grown twisted and strange over time, but most dwarves refuse to speak of such things.

English:Dwarven Translator

"Which clan are you from?"
1. Knuckles' Folk - the McStabby Clan (I couldn't think of a good one that started with A)
2. B)ogbeard
3. C)oalfist
4. D)oomhammer
5. E)lectrumeye
6. F)rorefoot
7. G)ristlegut
8. H)ill Dwarf (clan-less)

The feuds are between the clans who are near each other alphabetically.   The McStabby Clan is the alphabetical oddball, feuding with the Bogbeards and the Gristleguts.  Oh, and all the clans treat the clanless hill dwarves like untrustworthy bags of crap.  It's possible that a clanless dwarf might distinguish themselves in such a way as to be accepted back into a clan, but this is so rare that any such tale would have to be the stuff of legend.

The McStabby Clan - Alzak

Deep in the Barriorr mountains stands the fortress Alzak, ancestral home to the legendary dwarf hero, Knuckles McStabby. The clan who lives there all claim to be his descendants, and are known as Knuckles' Folk or the McStabby Clan. Alzak is an imposing fortress, bristling with various armaments and hidden traps, but most impressive of all is the glowing moat of lava constantly being replenished and pumped up from the depths.

The McStabbys are the most volatile of the dwarf clans. They are famous for being moody and aggressive. The other clans have long suspected that Knuckles' Folk are all prone to fits of paranoia and madness. The McStabbys are known to be overly prepared and suspicious (even by dwarf standards), but also bold and fearless. They seem willing to take unnecessary risks and leave their fate to chance so long as it might help their clan.  Most of them have red hair which they keep in a tall mohawk.

Feud #1 - McStabby vs. Gristlegut
"They said that they could find Zion if we combined our collected lore, but it was a lie! They were just tricking us into letting their historians look though our sacred texts. Now they're telling everyone that Knuckles McStabby wasn't real! They've always been jealous of our noble forefather, and now they want to wipe away his memory! This insult will not stand!"

Feud #2 - McStabby vs. Bogbeard
"When the Bogbeards lost their home at Winter Rest, we were the only ones gracious enough to invite the lot of 'em to stay with us.  For over a decade we set 'em up with plenty of food and nice hard beds down in our mines for rather reasonable rates, but all those ingrates did was complain the whole time.  Then one of those doofuses pulled the wrong lever and flooded the lower mines with magma. We told 'em all to get the hell out before they ruined our home too.  Cheap, smelly bastards still haven't paid the rent money they owe us."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
Aws Noir
The Shunned Vale
Walled City of Adeese - Shucassam
Port Lork - Hothior

Bogbeard Clan - The Gathering

The Bogbeards were driven from their home at Winter Rest by the forces of Zorn.  They lost many soldiers, sacred texts, and much of their wealth. They traveled as scattered refuges for a while, until they were invited to live in Alzak by the McStabbys. When relations there soured, they set out wandering once more. The clan has coalesced at last at The Gathering, a collection of substandard caves on the north end of the Worn Downs (which isn't even a proper mountain range anymore, but it's best not to mention that to them).

The Bogbeards pride themselves on having the most elaborately styled and spiky beards of all the clans thanks to their continued use of the traditional recipe for Old Sage Fuzzworthy's Beard Balm, which is mostly rancid butter and curdled bat's milk.  If you can withstand the smell long enough to have a conversation with them, you'll find that they are a friendly and jovial people (though there is always a certain sadness in their eyes).  They definitely aren't embarrassed about the smell, and are quick to make jokes whenever someone mentions it. "That's the price of beauty, love!" and similar comments are said with a smile and a wink.  They will absolutely resist any attempt to wash the stuff out of their hair.

Feud #2 - Bogbeard vs. McStabby
"Oh sure, they invited us in with open arms.  Then they started demanding rent money that they knew we didn't have.  They basically forced us into indentured servitude down in their mines in order to pay the debt.  Can you believe it?  They used us as slaves and then expected us to pay them rent for the privilege! That wasn't even the worst of it. Those crazy bastards don't have any safety regulations at all, and they work with MAGMA! We warned them about the unsafe working conditions constantly, but when the magma flood happened they blamed it on us.  They can take their generosity and shove it!"

Feud #3 - Bogbeard vs. Coalfist
"We pleaded with the Coalfists to come help us defend Winter Home, but those good for nothings wouldn't lift a finger to help.  You notice how Zorn never attacks their home? Those backstabbers have probably got some kind of backdoor alliance with the gobos. Those Coalfists would have gotten us all killed if the Electrumeyes hadn't of been there to cover our retreat."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
Aws Noir
Mines of Rosengg
Fortress Marzarbol - Pon

Coalfist Clan - The Crag

The Crag is a fortress built within a massive plateau that was split by some titanic force in the ancient past. The entrances are dug into the cliff sides of these split canyons. Some of these cave mouths are joined by bridges that span the gap, while others have landing docks for the airships. The tops and sides of the plateau are riddled with traps and secret hatches. The bottom of the canyons are often slick and wet.  Some of the smaller caves in the cliff walls can be used by the dwarves to shoot bursts of water or steam as defense against aerial attacks.

The Coalfists are a hardy bunch with dark hair and skin, though it is hard to tell how much of that might be soot and grime.  They live precarious lives, not only because of the cliffs, but also due to their location between the goblin armies of Zorn and the undead armies of the Black Hand.  It is an open secret (and the Coalfists greatest shame) that they have sullied themselves by signing tentative treaties with both of these groups and they are continually forced to pay tributes in exchange for peace.

Feud #3 - Coalfist vs. Bogbeard
"They refused to uphold their end of the Treaty of Blackanvil and support our troops during Goblin War VII.  It's their fault that we signed those treaties with Zorn and had to start paying tributes.  Then afterward those Bogbeards expected us to rush over and save Winter Rest? Saving them was a fool's errand that would have cost us our home as well."

Feud #4 - Coalfist vs. Doomhammer
"Those bastards don't know when to keep their mouths shut. It's easy to talk big when you have hundreds of miles of desert protecting you, but we've got whole goblin armies camped outside our doors. We do what we have to in order to survive.  Calling us goblin kissers and zombie lovers is WAY out of line. They need to shut up, or we will shut them up!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Stone Face
Mines of Rosengg
Tower of Zards - The Black Hand (tribute)
The Pits - Zorn (tribute)

Doomhammer Clan - The Shunned Vale

Near the southern end of the Dry Mountains lies The Shunned Vale, so-named because it is home to a spiteful and miserable clan of dwarves named the Doomhammers.  No one is quite sure exactly where the entrance to their fortress is, and they like it that way. The small city of Jipols sits just 100 miles to the east of the vale, but the people there do their best to pretend that the dwarves of Doomhammer are much further away. Traders there like to tell the story of a man who was separated from his caravan during a sandstorm and was forced to wander the desert, slowly dying of thirst. He eventually saw a band of Doomhammers riding camels and rushed over to them, begging for a drink.  One of them spit in his face and said "You're welcome" before riding on.

The Doomhammers have a deep seated belief in dwarven superiority, and seek to elevate Ghem by pushing down everyone else. They won't trust anyone who isn't a dwarf, and dwarves with friendly ties to non-dwarves are also suspect.  It's rumored that the Doomhammers have built long underground roads that help them to avoid the blistering sun of the nearby deserts.  Their airships travel all over Minaria and make brief stops at friendly dwarven fortresses for repairs and supplies, but they rarely do any bulk trading.  Instead they raid and pillage their way across the lands and seas, and any non-dwarven groups are potential targets.

Feud #4 - Doomhammer vs. Coalfist
"These backstabbers have turned against their kin. The traitors are collaborating with the gobs of Zorn AND that necromancer called the Black Hand! They spend their days now kissing goblin ass and stroking bones.  Those aren't true dwarves anymore, and I'm not sure if they ever were."

Feud #5 - Doomhammer vs. Electrumeye
"These flower-picking peacemongers are gonna be the death of us. Those traitors are already collaborating with the elves of Neuth, and now they're looking to cut deals with the humans too. Their trying to take away our weapons and make us all kowtow to the elves. They can have our repeating crossbows when they pry them from our cold, dead hands!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Stone Face
Anywhere really

Electrumeye Clan - Aws Noir

The impressive fortress Aws Noir sits atop of the Spires of the Eternal, deep within the great forest Neuth. It is here that the Electrumeye clan consolidates their power and wealth.  They have the smallest standing army of all the clans.  Instead they exert their influence through trade and political deals.  When diplomacy fails they will use highly specialized strike teams to accomplish their goals.  These teams can drop down from airship at night to perform quick missions with surgical precision. By the time the enemy becomes aware of the strike, they are already gone.

The Electrumeyes are the most cosmopolitan of the dwarf clans.  They have a mutually beneficial alliance with the elves of Neuth and allow the elvish ambassadors to charter airships for diplomacy and trade within the human kingdoms. The Electrumeyes are both savvy and amicable.  They are working hard to make similar deals with many of the human kingdoms.

Feud #5 - Electrumeye vs. Doomhammer
"They expect us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the rest of the world doesn't matter. Well, guess what? It does. They're willful ignorance is not only an embarrassment, but absolutely dangerous. Dwarven prosperity depends upon trade and diplomacy, but these Doomhammer fanatics refuse to listen to reason and take every opportunity to undermine our diplomatic efforts. Now they've started raiding and pillaging our friends?! We need to take away their airships before they start a war. If they don't drop this rhetoric about dwarven superiority we might all end up on the wrong side of a vast human alliance."

Feud #6 - Electrumeye vs. Frorefoot
"They're stole our plans for the airships and shared them with the others clans.  We'd have a trade monopoly if it wasn't for them.  Those airships would have been useless without our airbladder designs.

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Gathering
Ider Bolis - Neuth
Castle Altarr - Immer
Anywhere that profit might be found

Frorefoot Clan - Mines of Rosengg

Far within the treacherous Mountians of Ice live the dwarves of clan Frorefoot. There are scattered mines and villages, but the Frorefoot leaders rule from the old Mines of Rosengg. The Mines of Rosengg run deep, for they've been producing precious metals and gemstones for generations. Queen Brynhilvieg Frorefoot now sits upon the throne here, and claims to rule over all of Ghem; though her rule is disputed.

It is an unfortunate tale.  Long ago, when the kind and elderly King Hrodolfr died, the clans all came together as was their custom to negotiate deals and make concessions until a majority of the clan chiefs could agree upon a new king.  Deals were struck, and it was agreed that Einarr Gristlegut would marry Dagmaeri Frorefoot and they would then rule as king and queen.  All seemed well during the ceremony, but the reception soon fell to ruin when it was made public that Einarr had long been having an affair with Gunnhildr, who was Hrodolfr's young queen. When Einarr publicly denied their relations she cursed him in such a way that he could not consummate his new marriage. Dagmaeri was outraged by all of this and quickly divorced him, but Einarr retained the dowry by challenging Dagmaeri's father to trail by combat. Her father refused the fight as he knew of Einarr's reputation as a warrior. Thus Einarr kept the dowry (and the crown!) in accordance with the laws of Ghem, but this was such an offense to both honor and justice that many dwarves refused to accept Einarr's rule and instead swore their loyalties to Queen Dagmaeri.  The matter has never been resolved. The appointment of a new monarch can only happen during a great assembly of the seven clan chiefs, and most of them refuse to speak to each other due to the great tangle of feuds.  Until then, the Frorefoots and Gristleguts both claim rulership over Ghem, and each disputes the legitimacy of the other. The Frorefoots have been passing down Dagmaeri's crown from mother to daughter for generations now. Thus, the queen's crown is now worn by Queen Brynhilvieg.

Queen Brynhilvieg pursues a policy of openness and trade, not only between the clans but throughout the kingdoms of Minaria.  She also advocates for social justice, and wants the wealthier clans (like Frorefoot and Electrumeye) to help provide for those who have fallen upon hard times (like Bogbeard and Coalfist), so that they might spur development and thus improve the economic growth of all the clans. These new policies are a break from the longstanding traditions of competition, and reactions among the clans have been mixed.

Feud #6 - Frorefoot vs. Electrumeye
"Those greedy Electrumeyes wanted to keep the plans for the airships and all that trade wealth to themselves. It's selfish and despicable that they'd let other dwarves suffer while they're living the good life.  The airships are vital for the prosperity of all the clans, and they should have been happy to hand over the plans. Besides, those airships would have been useless without our designs for the sails and repeating bellows.  We had every right to share them."

Feud #7 - Frorefoot vs. Gristlegut
"If those Gristleguts had any honor they would have give up their misbegotten crown and admitted that Einarr was wrong to keep it. You can't just scream that a deal's a deal and snatch the crown away. A true king would know that."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Gathering
The Crag
Pennol on the Lake - Muetar
Colist - Mivior

Gristlegut Clan - The Stone Face

At the northern end of the Shaker Mountains, deep within the foreboding Trollwood, stands a mountain with a great stone face. The Gristlegut dwarves live within.  The Stone Face is a natural formation, though it has been reinforced and augmented by dwarven engineers over time. The Gristleguts are currently in an uneasy truce with the nearby nations of Hothior and Mivior. The fighting started when the Gristleguts took control of the region around Serpent Bay and cut off Mivior's northern holdings.  Mivior has a fearsome navy, but their army was not prepared to repel fortified dwarves who were quickly trapping every roadway into the region. Hothior eventually got involved after Mivior agreed to pay a large sum. The whole thing became a quagmire on all sides. The Gristleguts lost some of their mountain forts to Hothior, but still retain the territory west of Serpent Bay. The Gristleguts make regular patrols through their territory, and skirmishes are not uncommon.  The roadways, mountain trails, and much of the Trollwood are now riddled with traps.

The Gristleguts are hardy and stubborn folk who revere history and tradition. They claim to have the most complete and detailed sacred texts of all the clans. They still contend that the kingship of Ghem is theirs according to the law, and Einarr's crown has been passed down from father to son for generations. They recognize that simply stating the legal facts are not enough for some dwarves, and they've been working hard to make some grand gesture that might unite the clans behind them. Their efforts to find the lost city of Zion seemed promising at first.  They spent much of their treasure and political capital in order to convince the other clans to allow Gristlegut historians to look through their sacred texts in an attempt to decipher secret codes within that might lead them to Zion, but those promises quickly became an embarrassment due to the forgeries that led to the whole Knuckles McStabby debacle. Now the king's crown is worn by King Ortwin Gristlegut, and he hopes to unite the clans against a common enemy.  He would prefer to turn them all against Hothior somehow as the Gristleguts want to take back their mountains and also because Hothior would not fare well versus the combined might of Ghem, but many clans balk at the thought of attacking humans.  Uniting the clans against the goblins of Zorn might be easier, but that war would be far more risky.  For now King Ortwin watches and waits for any opportunity to begin his great war.

Feud #7 - Gristlegut vs. Frorefoot
"We'd be living the good life if those Frorefoots would obey the law and give up their ridiculous claims to the crown."

Feud #1 - Gristlegut vs. McStabby
"We were about to unite the clans until those loons and their forgeries ruined everything. It's their fault that Zion is still lost. If they had bothered to keep proper records then we'd have found it by now!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Crag
The Shunned Vale
The Golkus - Rombune

Fondle Rock
In the hills west of the Well of Lered a new fortress has been constructed. It's entrance is set back into a ledge on a large stony hill, protected in front by a deep gorge.  The dwarves who live here call it Geshud Gatizid, which (to the amusement of many humans) roughly translates to "Fondle Rock Fortress".

The dwarves here are all hill dwarves, exiled from their clans (or the children of such exiles). They've been brought here together by their charismatic leader King Micah Ludovidicus.  He claims that the clans have become corrupt and outdated institutions, and that he is the true king of Ghem and all dwarfkind.  The clans of course ignore him and dismiss all such claims, but many are drawn to the promise of a new dwarven society, free of the rigid clan structures.

Feud #8 - Hill Dwarves vs. All the other Clans
"They're so mean and unfair!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
"They won't even sell us an airship!"
Some overland trading with Unseen University at the city of Mezmer and the town of Hardingham deep in the Forest of the Lurking.

Dwarven Religion

The human gods, demons, and devils are mostly uninterested in dwarves (and vice versa), for there is little to be gained. A dwarf can neither pledge their soul in service nor trade their soul away. All dwarven souls are the exclusive property of Armok, and Armok does not negotiate. Many humans think that Armok is a deity worshipped by the dwarves. They're wrong. Armok isn't a god they pray to. Armok is the god they serve. It is not a matter of faith or devotion, they simply cannot help but to obey the divine will. The various dwarven clans each have their saints and legendary ancestors whom they pray to for aid and intervention, but no one really expects much. Armok is rarely swayed by the pitiful pleas of demigods.

The dwarves see Armok as the one true god. The one who created the world. The one who compels them to build their greatest monuments. The one whose whims can turn paupers into kings, but also leads wandering adventurers to raise armies of the dead and slaughter entire towns of men, women, and children. The one whose lust for the rarest of metals provides great prosperity, or can also cause them to unleash untold suffering on the world.

The dwarves do not worship Armok, no. They are slaves to Armok the God of Blood.

An individual dwarf can expect to be touched by Armok at least once during their lifetime, perhaps many times. They will fall into a strange mood, withdraw from society, and then be compelled to craft an object or to complete some strange task or quest. During this time they know only the next step in the process, but never to what end they are striving for. If they are to craft an item for example they might know which raw materials are needed (they must find and acquire these on their own), but once the components are collected they will work as if possessed and create objects that they themselves may not know how to build. Clever dwarves will carefully watch their quick moving hands for this is how the dwarves have learned many secrets of crafting, stoneworking, machinery, and more. Being touched by Armok is not always a boon however. Sometimes the materials needed are impossible to find or the destination too far or dangerous to reach quickly enough. Those who fail to complete their assigned task will become increasingly agitated over time, eventually falling into a manic madness which makes them a danger to themselves and others. Occasionally, the madness may pass if Armok is satiated by a significant amount of bloodletting and death.... occasionally. Usually the other dwarves will simply work together to surround and morosely kill the poor mad bastard before he murders his friends and family or pulls that one lever that fills the entire fortress with magma.

Humans and others will sometimes choose to worship Armok. They receive nothing. The dwarves roll their eyes at such naivety.

January 18, 2017

The Mountains of Ice

The Mountains of Ice are clustered tightly, as if huddling together for warmth.  Their peaks and shoulders are covered in snow.  You can see why the primitive tribesmen who live among them claim that these mountains are alive, and blame the frequent avalanches on their shivering.  Perhaps deep in the granite there do live spirits of the rock, thinking in ways that timeless creatures must; no concept of time or what it must be to hurry.  The trail ahead winds between the peaks and along the mountainsides, navigating it's way though the labyrinthine mountain range.

+500xp for each character who enters the Mountains of Ice for the first time.

Our campaign moves on.  The Dragon Pope has sent the newly revived (and Quest spell induced) Wingard the Wizard on a mission to find a lost artifact of the ancients, Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn.  He'll have the help of his comrades, and a few paladins that the pope is sending along with them.  There are at least 2 other groups searching for the Lanthorn though.  The Eaters of Wisdom and the nation of Pon are both keen to acquire the artifact, and they both have a head start.  I'm using S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth as the basis for this quest, and placing this module within The Mountains of Ice on the Minaria map.

I'm imagining that this module is set in the border region between Muetar (yellow) and Pon (blue), probably that blue mountain hex just south of the river and those two adjacent mountain hexes with the river flowing through them.  The center of the module map will be near the vertex where those three hexes meet.

Many of these old D&D modules are new to me.  I've never run, played, or even read through a lot of them before now.  This exercise of filling all the labels on the Minaria map will have the side benefit of forcing me to take a closer look at all of these adventures that I have sitting on my shelves.

S4 seems to have a lot going for it.  I see a lot of imagination and many details that I'm going to use, but there are some other things that I'll cut out completely.  I'll also be making a few changes so that the module is a better fit within my existing setting.  I've got some work to do.

My favorite sentence so far is on page 2.
"As Dungeon Master you should enliven the module with as much creativity as you wish, and then add your personality to interpret the cold lines of print and make them come alive."
It's nice that the designers give explicit permission for this sort of thing.  Important advice for DMs everywhere.  Keep this in mind for every module, every time.

Later on however, the module irritates me a bit by advising me to trick my players and use some underhanded tactics.  I call these "Douchebag DM Tips", and I'm always disappointed when I see them in printed adventures.  Stuff like... when you give the PCs 3 levers to pull, but it doesn't really matter which they choose because it will always be the last lever pulled that opens the door.  I've come to hate that stuff.  I understand that you want to ramp up the tension and whatnot (and I've pulled some of these moves in the past), but it's always just dirty, and false; and just don't.  It's more fun for everyone if you don't.  Promise.

Anyhow, let's focus on the good stuff.  I'm keeping the outdoor area map.  The module map uses 3.5 mile hexes, so the page fits within those big honking Minaria 50 mile hexes pretty snugly.  The river shown on the Minaria map above is unnamed, but conveniently the river shown in the module is named the Velverdyva River so I'll just use that.  The module assumes that the PCs will enter the map from the southwest, but I think it makes more sense in my story for Wingard and company to enter from the northwest (Muetar) to begin their search.  Wingard could potentially use his contacts at Unseen University for a one way teleport straight into the lost caverns, but then they would all have to wander aimlessly to find the way back home.

Besides the titular Lost Caverns there are 2 other detailed locations on the module map and 21 other spots that the DM is told to populate using the 20 listed random wilderness encounters.  In addition to all of these static encounters, the DM is advised to roll a d10 each morning and night to determine if any random encounters occur (10% chance twice per day).  I'll do all of that, but I'm going to be making changes to most of the listed encounters first.  Then, after I randomly place the encounters, I'll add more details and try to link some of them together.  If the PCs come across a border patrol, then they might be able to learn about other encounters nearby.  If a border patrol from Muetar is near a border patrol from Pon, then maybe they've had a recent battle.  If the dragon is near a rock slide or avalanche encounter then maybe the dragon caused those things in order create an ambush site that makes it difficult for prey to flee.  Stuff like that.

Let me run you through the list of encounters and tell you about some of the changes I'm planning.

1. Border Patrols
These patrols are from Muetar and Pon now.  Regular mounted patrols are sent into this disputed region of dangerous rugged mountains.  They watch for smugglers and brigands, prevent raids by tribes of goblinoids, and give advance warning in case of incursion by enemy troops.  Muetaren patrols each have a chaplain with a pair of paladin bodyguards, all sworn to the Church of the Gold Dragon and the Dragon Pope.  Ponese patrols each have a supporting mage and some rangers used as scouts.  Each nation also has a fortress near their respective ends of the mountain trails.

2. Avalanche
I'm not going to take the module's advice and describe some faint cracking sound and then silently count to 10 and make any PCs who haven't moved out of the way by then save vs. death.  That seems like a dick move.  I will happily kill NPCs though, and let PCs risk their lives trying to rescue them.  That sounds more fun.

3. Rockslide
Piles of rock upon the trail that slows movement through the hex.  If people try to rush over the rocks quickly, then there is a chance that the character and/or their horse slip, fall, and plunge to their doom.  It's a keeper.

4. Bears, brown
These are grizzly bears now.  I'll probably also mention that scene from The Revenant.

5. Gnoll Raiding Band
Nah, goblinoids.  Mixed group of orcs and goblins.

6. Eagles, giant
Yes.  Keeping this.

7. Mountain Tribesmen
Ok, so these are cavemen/neanderthals now.  These guys are on my character creation chart as an option if someone rolls up a character with low intelligence, so I want to sprinkle some tribes throughout the wilder places on the map.

8. Snake, giant
The module says that these are giant venomous snakes covered in fur.  Yes please.

9. Goblin band
Same as #5 above.  I have plans for the gobs.  Take a look below at Encounter Area A.

10. Hill Giants
Sure, why not?  Unchanged.

11. Wolf pack (with wolfwere)
Interesting.  It's a keeper.

12. Mountain Dwarf Band
Ah, ok.  These will be dwarves of clan Frorefoot from the nearby Mines of Rosengg.  They probably got dropped off by airship.  They believe that something is stirring up the orcs and goblins and are looking for the source of the problem (Encounter Area A), but will settle for just killing some gobs.

13. Hermit
This guy reminds me of those unkillable questgivers in online rpgs.  I feel like I should change this, but nothing springs to mind.  He is one of the only useful sources of information available to the PCs, so I suppose I'll keep him?

14. Trolls
I'm gonna go full on Texas Chainsaw Massacre here.  Creepy cabin in the mountains.  Masked Sawyer family with regeneration.  Hooks, chains, knives, bear traps.  No chainsaws, but some nice jagged obsidian edged macuahuitl instead.  Good times.

15. Wyverns
Poison filled mini-dragons.  Hell yeah.

16. Hobgoblin War Party
See, now this is just too many faceless mobs of baddies.  Hmm.  The others are "bands" of gobs, so maybe I'll use this one as a literal "party".  Band of goblinoids as #5 above, but these guys are celebrating a victory or successful hunt.  PCs could catch them by surprise or might even be able to sneak past unnoticed.

17. Ogres
Sure, yeah.  Ogres... fine.

18.  Elven Warders Band
Nah, no reason for a big band of elves this far from Neuth.  I'll just increase the chance of human border patrols instead.  Use #1 above.

19.  Dragon
F*** yeah!  That's the name of the game yo!

20. Stone Giants
Module says that they are playing catch with boulders.  They're in a good mood.  PCs could parley with them.  I like it.

Encounter Area A: Gnome Vale
This is an Andorian outpost now.  Blue skin, a pair of tubular antennae on top of their head; you know the type.  Andorians are my stand-in for hobgoblins in Minaria, a race of "others" competing against humanity for territory and resources.  Andorians have old alliances with the goblinoid races, and they pretty much run the nation of Zorn.  (Campaign Secret: They are descendants from the survivors of a crashed spaceship back in the ancient past.)  They've retained a few bits of EMP tech that can nullify arcane magic, but by now they're mostly stuck using bows, polearms, and studded leather.  They are a cautious and suspicious people who prefer to send out the orcs and goblins under their command to do their fighting for them.  They are rather intelligent though, and can certainly be reasoned with.  Diplomacy might be a good option, if you can get close enough to talk to one.  FYI, I totally stole the using Andorians as Hobgoblins idea from Jeff's Gameblog.

This particular outpost is busy gathering the gobinoids in this mountain region and sending them in large groups up to Zorn.  They might also be trying to call down a spaceship that will then get shot down by one of the orbital weapons platforms left by the ancients and crash into the relatively nearby Barriorr Mountains (S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).  The andorians would be loath to travel there since it is so close to Alzak, home to the dwarves of clan McStabby (descendants of the legendary dwarf hero Knuckles McStabby).  That opens up the possibility of andorians approaching the PCs to investigate the crash site.  Unlikely, but not impossible.

Encounter Area B: The Craggy Dells
I'm going to keep this mostly unchanged except that the group of hippogriff poacher/wranglers are now andorians and goblinoids from the outpost.

Edge of the mountains (northwest): Boltengate Keep
Base of operations for the Meutaren border patrols who roam the mountains.  One patrol group is always left resting here and guarding the keep.  They will go out on patrol again once another group returns.  In addition to the patrol group acting as sentry there are a few stable hands, cooks, cleaning staff, and officers who run the keep.
*General Zusman Rao - Fighter 8th
*Chaplain Leonard Ansgar - Cleric 6th
* 4 Bodyguards sworn to protect the general and chaplain - Paladin 4th

     Muetaren Border Patrol #1
     Captain Florus Wob - Fighter 5th; Str13, Con8
     Chaplain Eudis Favager - Cleric 4th
     Sergent Sheona Mikha'el - Fighter 3rd
     6 Lancers - Fighter 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

     Muetaren Border Patrol #2
     Captain Gilbert Etxebarria - Fighter 5th; Dex15, Con17
     Chaplain Petar Meyer - Cleric 4th
     Sergent Sunder Harrish - Fighter 3rd
     6 Lancers - Fighter 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

     Muetaren Border Patrol #3
     Captain Abraham Gael - Fighter 5th; Str14, Con15
     Chaplain Mamadou Gelens - Cleric 4th
     Sergent Jasper Ritter - Fighter 3rd
     6 Lancers - Fighter 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

Edge of the mountains (southwest): Howler's Hold
Base of operations for the Ponese border patrols who roam the mountains.  One patrol group is always left resting here and guarding the hold.  They will go out on patrol again once another group returns.  In addition to the patrol group acting as sentry there are a few stable hands, cooks, cleaning staff, and officers who run the hold.
*Commander Om Penzak - Fighter 8th
*Magurion Colette Makana - Magic User 5th (Magic Missile, Sleep/Mirror Image, Web/Fireball)
* 4 Sentries who protect the commander and magurion - Fighter 4th

     Ponese Border Patrol #1
     Captain Luvenalis Tyr - Fighter 6th; Str13, Dex14
     Squad Mage Soremoh Bhatair - Magic-User 3rd
     Lieutenant Hubert Benscoter - Fighter 4th
     4 Scouts - Ranger 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

     Ponese Border Patrol #2
     Captain Vincent Bristlesnort - Dwarf 6th; Con16, Dex8
     Squad Mage Jace Baar - Magic-User 3rd
     Lieutenant Austen Cruyssen - Fighter 4th
     4 Scouts - Ranger 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

     Ponese Border Patrol #1
     Captain Theresa Zhihao - Fighter 6th; Dex16
     Squad Mage Arntzenius Kiar - Magic-User 3rd
     Lieutenant Jehoshaphat Aishwarya - Fighter 4th
     4 Scouts - Ranger 1st
     12 Horse Archers - Fighter 1st

That's enough for now I think.  I'll be making some changes to the caverns too, but I'll keep those to myself.  Anyhow, I'm short on time and I should go get ready for the game this Thursday.

January 12, 2017

Exploring Minaria

I'm still in awe of this map.  Not only is it beautifully drawn by David A. Tampier, but all the labeled areas are evocative and inspire my imagination.  Honestly, my imagination can use the help.  It's gotten a bit sluggish after years of neglect.  Just having this map out on the table while we are gaming seems to give me occasional flashes of inspiration.

Minaria is pretty big.  At 50 miles per hex it's going to take a few weeks to get from one end to another.  Heck, a 50 mile hex is a lot of hex just on it's own.  I could run a whole campaign in an area that size.  In the past year, the PCs have only left their hex of origin 2 or 3 times.

The PCs don't know it yet, but I think they are about to take a long journey.  Wingard the Wizard died recently (runes with Frost Trap) and his corpscicle was taken to Pennol on the Lake in the hopes that someone from the Church of the Gold Dragon would be willing to revive him.  I rolled reaction rolls as Wingard's petition for revival traveled up the church hierarchy, and everything was going well until the reaction roll for the Dragon Pope came up as "Immediate Attack" (yikes).  I couldn't think of a reason why the pope would want to block Wingard's revival (especially since it had such broad support otherwise), so I interpreted the pope's reaction roll to mean "Use Wingard to Attack Enemies".  Wingard was revived in a huge ceremony open to the public (and it only cost the PCs 3,000gp), but the Dragon Pope cast a quest spell on Wingard immediately afterward in the recuperation room while he was still at 1hp.  So far, Wingard's player is the only who knows about it (unless they read this).  We'll see what happens next at the game later tonight.

Anyhow, this got me thinking about how I want to encourage the group to explore more of the world, but at the same time I'm not going to use Quest spells and the like to railroad them into traveling to specific places (well... not often).  Then I remembered this post on Jeff's Gameblog about eXPloration, and I think it'll be perfect.  I'm going to simplify the hell out of it though.

New House Rule
Each character receives a 500xp bonus for their first encounter in each labeled area.

Nations, cities, anything with a label.  Ideally, I'd give different bonuses to different areas and write up flavor text for each one and switch up the requirements a bit as detailed in Jeff's post.  In reality though, I've got a game tonight and time is a factor.  I still have to figure out which quest the Dragon Pope tasked to Wingard.

Next I want to fill each of these labels with adventures by assigning/adapting the D&D modules I have sitting on my shelves.  I have about 15 or 20 in mind already, but I'm going to need to come up with a lot more.  I'm open to suggestions if anyone feels like helping out, especially free stuff as I am not a wealthy DM.  In the days ahead I'll be posting about each label and hex as I fill them.

Below is a list of all the labels on the map.  First are the nations and their cities.  Then the others are arranged by terrain type.

The Black Hand
*Tower of Zards

*Mines of Rosengg
*The Stone Face
Aws Noir
The Craig
The Gathering
The Shunned Vale
Kazadrad Thurahthume (Fondle Rock)

*Port Lork
Tadafat on the River
Castle Lapspell

Unseen University

*Castle Altarr
Lone Wirzor
The Gap Castle

*The Pits

*Ider Bolis

Addat at Surf’s End
The Shining Isle Boliske
Borak on the Moor

*Pennol on the Lake
Plibba on the Plain
Beolon on the Downs

*Fortress Marzarbol
Crow’s Nest
Heap in the Hills

*The Gulkus
Thores on the Rock
The Sunken City of Parros

*Walled City of Adeese
Zefnar on the Sea

Shards of Lor
Nithmere Mountains
Winter Rest
Ozerg Mountaineers
Choked in Snow Pass
The Mouth Pass
Shaker Mts.
Spires of the Eternal
Split Rock Pass
Mountains of Ice
Dry Mountains
Barriorr Mts.

High Marches
Frosted Downs
Wind Swept Downs
The Breaking
Waterless Downs
Worn Downs

Field of the Laughing Dead
Field of White Bones
The Unknown Army
The Wasted Dead
Lost City of Khos

Bad Axe
Wild Wood
The Cursed Forest
Tangle Root
The Great Forest Neuth
Border Forest
Shadow Wood
The Creeping Forest
Forest of the Lurking
Gorpin Woodsmen

Yando Rivermen
Mires of the Sinking Kind

Scrub Forest
Shrieker’s Scrub
The Scab
Thorn Flats

Wild Reaches
The Banished Lands
Blasted Heath
Waste of Vah-Ka-Ka
The Withering

The Ebbing
Flood Water
Well of Lered*
The River Sullen
The Deep River
Lake Carth*
The Wanderer
Melting Star*
River Rapid

Farnot Seafolk
Serpent Bay
The Sea of Drowning Men
Faces to the Sea
Sea of Zett

Stump Hole
Crater of the Punishing Star
Sacred Stones
The Temple of Kings
Witches’ Kitchen
Huts of the Scum
Isle of Fright
Tombs of Olde
Haunts of the Lepers
Stubstaff Keep
Forbidden Oasis
Spires of the Sun
Altars of Grey Staff