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Hey I Can Chan

The Valley, Part 1: The World

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At the conclusion of The Islands, I gave players a list of campaigns I' be willing to run. This campaign, in which PCs are advisers to the royalty of an isolated fantasy kingdom, beat out PCs as students attending fantasy magic college, PCs fighting crime in fantasy Gotham City, and PCs as revolutionaries against the crown in fantasy colonial America.

As the campaign approaches its 1st birthday (and as PCs near level 9), we find ourselves with an open seat after the amicable departure of the Prince's player, leaving the Mutt, the Smith, the Spy, and the Surgeon to adventure on their own. As the queen's brother,
the Smith has assumed some of the prince's duties.

Were you to join the campaign, you'd get a map, and this blog entry would make a lot more sense.

To the north are the Ichtaca Mountains, beginning as hills in the west at the Sea of Sorrow, becoming the region’s highest mountains as they extend deep into the deserts of the Tenoch Empire, and eventually terminating in dust, sandstorms, and lonely, howling desert. North of the Ichtaca Mountains the Sea of Sorrow continues, but the mountains present an impassable barrier: no citizen of the Tenoch Empire has seen the Sea by scaling the Ichtaca Mountains.

To the northeast then extending east is the Tenoch Empire, which begins in the valley as fertile plains then stretches into seemingly endless desert dotted with tiny thorps then suddenly blotted by the massive pyramidal capital. The Tenoch Empire is ruled by the land’s most blessed—the Sun Emperor (sometimes Empress), the land’s luckiest and most valiant warrior, a position gained through bloody gladiatorial combat. The Tenoch Empire has but three settlements in the valley.

Deep beneath the eastern Fiery Peaks squats the vast drow city Quavlochar, home to the major powers House Hlarett, House Iimoraste, and House Beldor Seldvrae, and numerous minor houses which could disappear in an instant were any to earn a major House’s ire. Although impressive in scope and scale and with a population greater than the major settlements of the valley combined, infighting between drow Houses in Quavlochar keep the drow out of most of the valley’s affairs.

Over the eastern Fiery Peaks the deserts of the Tenoch Empire continue.

To the south and spreading east to west through scrubby, thorny moors and the shadows of the Fiery and Frozen Peaks is Tepest, a thickly-forested land populated by superstitious folk who occupy cozy villages and are oppressed by an unforgiving, brutal religious inquisition that seeks to extinguish the region’s fey influence. Rumors speak of witches who amuse themselves by sending the fey to plague the villagers, but the inquisition dismisses this as nonsense spread by those hoping to escape punishment.

To the west, both over and through the Frozen Peaks, is the Dominion of Kalju, dangerous mountains enclosing cold steppes populated by drunken, genial peasants overseen by barons who are themselves ruled by the Withered Crone, the demon-tsarina who forces the peasants into pointless wars with the minotaur herds even further west. Kalju has only a pair of settlements in the valley.

To the northwest is the Sea of Sorrows whose balmy coasts are dotted by the ironwood-fortified Free Cities of Cresencia which are populated by mighty lion-wrestling barbarians and powerful shamans who keep constant watch for the evil beneath the waves. A popularly elected council leads each city, and the Free Cities’ political direction is determined during a once-yearly meeting in Regta.

The northern central valley is dominated first by the Whitewood, the long forest that runs from the Free Cities of Cresencia to the Tenoch Empire that’s home to a variety of strange creatures that prevent the exploration of the ruins sometimes glimpsed in the Ichtaca Mountains. South of the Whitewood is swampland cut by rivers then fertile plains. The central valley is the Graywood, the elf homeland, and the southern valley is the Kingdom of Marchand. South until Tepest a large swamp separates the Western Blackwood from the Eastern Blackwood.

If one could ride straight through the valley, it’d take one a little under two-and-one-half weeks from east to west and a little under a month from north to south.

As a PC must be from Marchand, descriptions that follow are primarily from the Marchander point of view. No attempt has been made to make these descriptions neutral, fair, or balanced. Numbers indicate map locations on a map you don't have. You'd also have an extremely useful pronunciation key.

The Kingdom of Marchand

Marchand is beacon of hope in the valley. It is a nation ruled by a kind, generous king who puts his people before himself. Its cottage industries make handcrafted items of great beauty and durability. Its monarchy is stable, unencumbered by political infighting. Its volunteer military is deadly and famous for defeating the Walking Worm. There is nothing the Kingdom of Marchand can’t do if its ruler is strong and its people motivated. The Kingdom of Marchand is the only nation whose borders are entirely inside the valley.

Marchand commoners work from sunrise until sunset five days a week, the majority on their own farms. One day a week—usually Saturday—is set aside as a market day during which local farmers sell their wares in nearby towns. Another day—usually Sunday—is set aside as a day of worship at the local religious gathering place and a day of rest. The monotony of normal commoner life in Marchand is broken by seasonal festivals, monthly feast days, religious holidays and rites, birth celebrations, christenings, parties welcoming children to adulthood, weddings, and funerals. This monotony is also sometimes broken by curses, diseases, famines, magical disasters, monster incursions, natural disasters, raids, and wars.

Marchand aristocrats spend most days enjoying the trappings of power and wealth, gossiping, inculcating in their young a healthy hunger for more power and wealth, jockeying for royal favor, making deals with other aristocrats, managing their estates, mentoring apprentices, partying on both grand and small scales, securing their wealth, shopping, and—if they must because a position or profession demands it—working. Aristocratic monotony is broken by the same things as commoner monotony plus assassination attempts, business ups and downs, reputation management, thievery, and the host of other troubles that come with power and wealth in a land that contemporary viewers would see as, overall, pretty shitty.

1. Fort Gaston. Hamlet (population 331). Construction of Fort Gaston has slowed because of rumors of beholders in the woods to the north. To the south, after miles of moors and bogs when the way is not barred by the mists, is Tepest, a ragtag theocracy of drunken ginger folk plagued by cruel, inscrutable fey.

2. Diodore. Small town (population 1,310). Dwarves and gnomes clash with goblins and kobolds over the rich mithral and silver mines here. The orc chieftain Benoît Blanc and his tribe lair nearby.

3. Eligius. Village (population 659). Orcs do most of the logging while the grippli (Dragon #324 84-7) dig peat. The wood elves in the forest to the southwest maintain an uneasy peace with the folk of Eligius, but in the swamps to the east the bullywugs (Mon 25) aren’t as accommodating.

4. Onésime. Village (population 465). Tortles (Dragon #315 72, 74) make up the majority here, living as tortles have for as long as any can remember. Those who dislike the commotion of Ptarmigan Roost and the rambunctiousness of Eligius sometimes find relief in the peace and quiet of Onésime.

5. Ptarmigan Roost (formerly Padrig). Large Town (population 4,035). This is the capital of the kingdom of Marchand, ruled by King Gaston.

6. Roselle. Large town (population 2,890). Roselle is Marchand’s fishing and shipping hub. More cosmopolitan than Ptarmigan Roost, it’s also dirtier, more dangerous, and much more low-class.

7. Ségolène. Small city (population 5,453). Much of the non-dwarf population of Ségolène has relocated to Ptarmigan Roost, but it remains vital as the nearest entrance to the Underdark beneath the valley. The dwarves bear no ill will toward the humans who have put the southern valley under their protection. The ruins of the halfling hamlet Theirn, destroyed 20 years ago by Zundaeoloth, sit in the hills to the west.

The Dominion of Kalju

The Dominion of Kalju is a land of endless winter ruled by the Withered Crone. Kalju folk are usually fatalistic, genial, and good-natured but become paranoid and uncommunicative under duress. They drink to stave off the cold, and it’s always cold. There is something hard yet fearful behind the eyes of Kalju folk, and despite their dancing, drinking, and love of family, something deeply sad.
The Dominion of Kalju intrudes only slightly into the valley but sufficiently to curse the valley’s coldest months with bitter frost and snow.

8. Terje. Village (population 814). This small settlement concerns itself primarily with mining and shipping the results off to Paavo.

9. Paavo. Small City (population 10,833). This is the gateway to the Dominion of Kalju and a trading post for the fiercely independent folk who mine the Frozen Peaks. As it sits on the valley’s edge, movement between the Dominion and the valley is often inhibited by the mists.

Unaligned Settlements

10. Sírdhemben. Village (population 706). Composed primarily of elf outcasts from Cullaspen, Sírdhemben is a frequent stopover for river traffic between the Free Cities of Cresencia to the north and the Kingdom of Marchand to the south. It’s a rough-and-tumble border town, often facing incursions by monsters from the hills to the west.

11. Cullaspen. Large city (population 13,544). The great city of the elves sits in the high treetops of the Graywood. Having gone beyond scarcity via their magic, the elves have plunged deeper and deeper into magical research, developing strange theories that sometimes make their ways to other nearby settlements.

12. Brethilbes. Large town (population 4,441). This is the gateway to the Free Cities of Cresencia and a future Free Cities member. Brethilbes’s leaders are trying desperately to bring its population in line with the culture of Cresencia so the town can be better protected from river pirates, sea monsters, and swamp creatures.

13. Quavlochar. Metropolis (population 48,902). Although other drow enclaves exist in the valley, they all owe that existence to Quavlochar (friendly spider in Undercommon), the primary home to the drow, their allies, and their slaves. Although Quavlochar’s population nearly equals the population of the valleys’ important towns, the drow tendency toward infighting and betrayal has kept their expansion to a minimum.

14. Swampers’ Haven. Small town (population 1,349). A small but thriving community of outcasts from nearby tribes, the city-state of Quavlochar, and the nations of Cresencia, Kalju, Marchand, and Tenoch, Swampers’ Haven could be the valley’s next great power. The town is surrounded by natural resources and populated by open-minded, industrious, optimistic folk who only want a better life.

The Free Cities of Cresencia

This collection of fortified city-states banded together for mutual protection against the horrors of the sea. The peoples of Cresencia are greedy, ruthless backstabbers who think nothing of stealing a creature’s belongings, money, and spouse. They ply the Sea of Sorrow in catamarans, wearing skins and wielding spears. Rumors speak of a great evil imprisoned in the Sea’s center that anxiously awaits its freedom.

15. Asterio. Small city (population 9,203). A flood in Drender a decade ago saw many flee from there to Asterio, doubling its size, and engendering a bitter rivalry between Drender and Asterio (and between longtime residents and newcomers) that puts the twin cities nearly at each other’s throats. Luckily, new ore veins in the hills northwest of Asterio have kept the population busy, employed, and distracted.

16. Drender. Small city (population 5,366). It was expected that the Drender flood of a decade ago would ruin the surrounding farmland for a generation, but a new city council that included an archdruid has quickly moved to rectify this, nearly returning the Free Cities’ breadbasket to its former glory, but the other free cities grow wary of the archdruid’s motivations and increasingly bizarre demands.

17. Regta. Large town (population 3,557). The island town and fishing capitol, Regta is a naval power that must defend itself from the pirates of the sea in which the island sits. It is the gateway town from the distant free cities that sit along the coasts to the north and west.

The Tenoch Empire

The Tenoch Empire is a primitive, bloodthirsty nation whose rich landowners live on the backs of multitudes of peasants. Everyone in the Tenoch Empire is a soldier. Everyone in the Tenoch Empire is ambitious and power-hungry. Most folks in the Tenoch Empire are little more than slaves, barely eking out an existence from the desert. The Tenoch Empire takes; trade is beneath it.

18. Zyanya. Small town (population 1,982). The slaves of the Tenoch Empire mine the hills in this well-fortified settlement on the Empire’s edge.

19. Ohtli. Village (population 668). The floating pyramid high above the Ichtaca Mountains and rarely visible through the clouds except on the brightest days is rumored to be the haven of the Empire’s most powerful and vicious conjurer.

20. Nenetl. Large town (population 2,326). Brutal overseers monitor chained slaves who labor far into fields that eventually reach the desert.

The Mists

Dense, obscuring mist sometimes seeps from the valley’s geography, turning around travelers and sending them back into the valley… or causing them to disappear within the mists forever.

The mists are most common on the valley’s borders. They glide from the hills, cutting off Paavo from Kalju or cutting off the valley from Kalju; the mists roll in from the ocean, sealing off the three Free Cities from the others, or from the beaches to seal off the valley from the Free Cities; the mists arise from the deserts of the Tenoch Empire and separate overseers from their distant masters, or from the huge lake and create a barrier that prevents those of the valley from crossing into the Empire.

No one knows what causes the mists or how to control them. They just are and the population deals with it. The mists have always cleared eventually, and usually any mist that seals away something disperses within a few days or, at most, weeks.

Next: The History of the valley and Marchand and things to do.

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