Monday, 30 May 2011

Orders of Knights on Toutus

The Empire of Toutus had similarities to Medieval Europe, including a well-developed form of Feudalism, a penchant for grand castles and a powerful lawful church that supported the nobility and Emperor. Orders of Knights, noble warriors who fought in heavy armour on horseback, were renowned across the Empire of Toutus and feared and respected by the soldiers of other nations. These orders of knights were often outside the conventional army structure, and their loyalty was quite specific and narrow - to the Emperor of Toutus, or to a specific deity, or to a powerful patron noble. Occasionally they swore loyalty to an ideal they all wished to uphold. 

During the wars between the Empires a lot of knights were killed in battle, and a few orders were destroyed as enemies from other empires beseiged and destroyed their castle headquarters. Despite these losses, the orders acquitted themselves well. But in the Summoning, the knights often found themselves fighting against supernatural creatures that they could not kill, or that had special powers that the knights had no effective defence against. Further losses ensued. 

These days, fifty years after the summoning, the original knights who fought against the armies of Telthus, Bellenos and Bursia have all died or become so old they can no longer lift their greatswords. Nonetheless, those that survived have recruited newer knights, and the orders that have survived are more adaptable, both to the newer political situation and also to the variety of dangerous, monstrous (and occasionally human) foes they face. 

The Knight-Protectors of Toutus
This order is scattered across the remains of the Toutus Empire. In its heyday about a hundred years ago the order could count on about 1200 full knights and another 3500-4000 men-at-arms. Their role was (as their name suggests) to fight the enemies of the Toutus Empire. Since the collapse of the Toutus Empire those that survived have gone two separate ways - some have declared the order a failure and have abandoned it in shame. Others have admitted defeat on one level but seek to rebuild the Empire of Toutus. They seek to reclaim the ruined capital, Jaroketh and establish a new Imperial lineage. They also seek coordination and consent from the former provinces and duchies of the Empire. There is a small cell of 5 knights in Thaldion (the capital of Teiglin) but the King of Teiglin is not impressed with the knights' plan. 
The Knight-Protectors are known to be snobbish and elitist - no demihumans, and only human fighters of at least 5th level and of noble birth (no peasants alllowed!). Although technically women are allowed, there is enough chauvinism in the male members that women feel distinctly uncomfortable. These prejudices have not helped them in rallying support for their cause. 

The Shining Blades
The Shining Blades are a relatively new order affiliated with the Church of Adonor - they have made it their sacred duty to hunt down and kill as many creatures of chaos and mortal followers of Chaos as possible. They recognise that cold steel may not always be effective against their foes, so they will often bring along clerics of Adonor and occasionally an elven spellsword or human magic-user. There is a contingent of 15 knights and 25 men-at-arms in the town of Bauglir, and they will often foray out into the borderlands (particularly Castellan Keep and its surrounds) to seek out chaotic foes. There are also another 40 knights around Ironmarket and the surrounding forts and villages, with their headquarters in Adonor Fort.
The Shining Blades consists mainly of human fighters but also includes dwarven warriors, human and dwarven clerics, and halfling defenders. Magic-users and elven spellswords are not considered actual members, but allies and friends of the order. All members and allies, regardless of class, are required to be lawful in alignment and at least 3rd level. The Shining Blades all wear white surcoats or tabards with crimson swords crossed with crimson hammers (the hammer being the symbol of Adonor).

The Order of the Battleaxe
This order is based around the Confederacy of the Ten Peaks. It is a dwarven order of knights, and its loyalty is to the Confederacy as a whole, promising not to take sides with any one particular clan. The order does its best to avoid getting dragged into the politics between the clans, but it is not easy to stay above the bickering. Although clan chiefs prefer to keep their troops under their own direct control, they have been known to send squads or companies to temporarily serve under the Order of the Battleaxe as gestures of goodwill or if the Order is fighting some cause that is in the clan chief's interests. 
The Order has 100 dwarf warriors and 10 dwarven clerics, all at or above 3rd level, none of them chaotic. The order has its own fort, just on the edge of the Weatherwatcher Stronghold. In battle the dwarf knights prefer to use battleaxes, but have also adopted from humans the tactics of charging with a lance into a fight first, if the terrain allows it. The emblem is a silver or white battleaxe on a black background, which they have on their tabards, shields and flags. 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Kaynor Islands

These small islands off the south-west of Teiglin are notorious for the human pirates who have established a base in the ruined fort now known as Pirates Keep. However, the rest of the islands have scattered bands of bugbears who travel around in large sea-going canoes. The islands are riddled with limestone caves, and both troglodytes and giant bats live there. The troglodytes rarely emerge from the caves, but the giant bats are the main predators on the islands, emerging from the caves at night, feeding on the elk, deer and boar and careless humanoids they find in the open at night.

Pirates Keep was originally Vettrel Keep, but it was abandoned early in the Wars between the Empires when its defence was clearly not economical. It was taken over by pirates soon after the summoning. The surface is a large square keep and a curtain wall on a cliff top, and underneath includes a large sea-cave into which ships can sail and anchor. However, there are tunnels linking this sea cave to the territory of a band of troglodytes, and there have been skirmishes between the pirates and the troglodytes in the tunnels and the sea cave. 

Although the troglodytes will not say, the pirates believe that the caves go far deeper and further than any human has gone before, forming an underground realm with its own ecology and geography, including creatures and minerals the surface world has not seen.  This realm stretches underneath the sea bed between the islands, so the troglodytes can move from island to island without ever seeing the sea. 

The bugbear tribes of the islands have been around for centuries and have not come from any Chaos Portal. They are fiercely territorial and will battle any intruders including pirates or troglodytes that enter their forests. They are the main reason the islands had not been taken over by the Toutus Empire earlier. They have been spotted travelling from island to island in large canoes made from hollowed-out tree trunks, the larger ones carrying 10 or so bugbears. Although they probably could reach the Teiglin mainland if they wanted, they do not venture far from the Kaynor Islands. They used to have 4 villages, one on each island but the pirates destroyed the Crabclaw village on Ildriss Island (the same island as Pirate Keep) and the surviving bugbears fled in their canoes. 
The remaining three villages (Boarhoof, Elkskull and Batwing) are fortified against pirate attack though many bugbears live outside the villages in bands roaming the forests of the islands - although the pirates may have destroyed Crabclaw Village, they did not wipe out the bugbears on Ildriss island. 

There is a band of pixies that have made their home in the forest but they only come out during the day. They enjoy teasing and stealing food from the bugbears. At night their invisibility is useless against the giant bats - they are picked up by echo-location and are snatched and devoured on the wing like moths are by normal bats. 

Most folks in Teiglin are not interested in the Kaynor Islands, but a few situations might bring them there. Firstly the pirates occasionally kidnap people and hold them to ransom. A few weeks ago the pirates captured a wealthy merchant visiting a coastal village. Ransom negotiations started but clerical divination revealed that the merchant has escaped and is currently hiding in the woods. His family are desperately looking for adventurers willing to find and rescue him before the pirates, bugbears, troglodytes or giant bats get him. 
Secondly a sage who specialises in gems and minerals has speculated that the caverns underneath the islands hold some very valuable gems, such as Aquamarine, Jade and Bloodstone. He has mentioned this to a gem merchant, and both he and the merchant want to travel to the islands and into the caves to find out if this is true. They realise that they are going to need protection, so they are looking for adventurers willing to escort them. The rewards could be a share in mining profits. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Different Adventuring Styles on Kaelaross

So far I have concentrated on ruins as the primary type of adventure. This is perfectly normal as far as I'm concerned - the name of the game is Dungeons and Dragons after all (unless you're playing a retro-clone, but that's another matter...) The ruined cities and towns ravaged and abandoned 50 years ago during the Wars between the Empires and the Summoning can be treated as above-ground dungeons, with quite a few underground areas attached. The basic dungeon-crawl is still the same, except there is a chance of getting rained or snowed on. There are plenty of ruins and dungeons, for example around Teiglin. For a more conventional (underground) megadungeon, I would suggest Seaview Keep.

Wilderness adventures have been part of D&D since they were looked at in the Expert rulebook. Travelling to and from towns or ruins and dungeons is the simplest sort, but there is much more - exploring virgin territory, seeking out and fighting foes in the wilderness, looking for resources such as rare herbs or unusual animal products can all prompt adventurers to step out into the great outdoors. Currently the major wildernesses detailed so far are forests, hills and seas - the Shorgan Forest, the smaller patches dotted around Teiglin, the Saltwater Forest, the Godsblood Hills and the seas around the areas described which have not been detailed yet. I intend to add a wider variety of wilderness soon (swamps, deserts, proper mountain ranges). 

Wars and battles are on the periphery of D&D - the combat in D&D rarely exceeds more than 20 on each side, but in the stories and backgrounds there are great and terrible battles, mighty armies tens of thousands strong and ravenous hordes of monsters brought together under diabolical leadership. In Kaelaross the most obvious clashes are between surviving humans (and demihumans) against the forces of Chaos that have poured out of the Chaos Portals. The borderlands of Teiglin are just such an area, as are the deity-named forts dotted around Ironmarket. Different military clashes are possible but not so obvious - the dwarves of the Confederacy of the Ten Peaks deciding to stamp their authority on the humans of Ironmarket, or the elves and centaurs of the Shorgan forest repelling an overzealous Teiglin army, or maybe Baron Delphinius of Tredgor decides to raise an army to overthrow King Thestor II of Teiglin. 

Political Intrigue is another possibility which I want to leave open even if it is not high on my priorities. The rulers of Teiglin all have different agendas, as do the dwarves of the Confederacy of the Ten Peaks. The politics may not be at a national/regional level, but could be at a local level, at least for newer adventurers. Who will be on the town council? Who is the next captain of the Town Guard? Does somebody have leverage over that wealthy merchant? The intensity of the intrigue may have declined since the Empires and much of society collapsed, but it is still there if you look for it, and these days the stakes are often just as high. 

Crime has only been touched on. Assuming that the PCs are on the side of Law and are fighting crime, the big bad guy here is probably the Red Hand. They are intended to be a cross between the mafia and the Illuminati - they have fingers in many criminal pies, but are quick to withdraw before any spotlight can be shone on them or any evidence point to them. I am currently looking at adding a large city that is suited more to thieves than to any other adventuring class.

If, however, the PCs intend to become criminals themselves, that is quite a different set of adventures. Of course, the Red Hand could still be involved - first trying to influence and control the PCs, or secondly as rivals who view the PCs as unwanted competition. The forces of Law will not tolerate the PCs' crimes, but the resources the law can use to stop the PCs will vary, particularly if greater threats from chaotic creatures detract from efforts to catch and stop the PCs. 

Planar adventures are possible, but there is still much to be written about this on this blog. The Planes of Existence are accessible to those with powerful magic, either spells or items. The planes that have the most obvious impact on the material plane are the Planes of Chaos. These can be reached by stepping through a Chaos Portal, but reaching one is no easy feat in itself. The reasons for going  through may be for exploration, to prevent a terrible scheme or to rescue somebody stranded on a plane. 

Finally trade and diplomacy involves travelling around Kaelaross and making peaceful contact with other communities. This overlaps with both wilderness adventures and political intrigue. The shattered, isolated and besieged state of many human and demihuman areas makes this sort of adventure difficult but rewarding - bringing news of recent developments in Teiglin to Ironmarket or maybe demihuman clans in other regions could have interesting effects on the campaign. As I said before, as the blog progresses, I intend to add more regions.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Seaview Keep

Seaview Keep was built hundreds of years ago on the western edge of the Duchy of Uldus by an ambitious nobleman from the Empire of Toutus. He had been sent to pacify the human tribes and demihuman clans of the Teiglin Peninsula & bring them under Toutian influence. It was built to hold a substantial garrison and enough stores for the garrison to survive at least a month under siege.

During his final years, the nobleman took on Zelchus, a wizard of some renown, as the mage-in-residence. When the nobleman died without an heir, Zelchus took over the keep without delay, expelling those who protested and bringing in his own allies. However, he also met Toutian Imperial officials and promised to toe the Imperial line and to fight against the foes of Toutus.
The Imperial officials agred, so long as Zelchus relinquished any claims over the nascent province of Teiglin. He agreed, reluctantly. Although on the boundary between the duchies of Uldus and Teiglin, Seaview Keep was placed under the lordship of Teiglin.

Zelchus kept the above-surface areas of the castle working as normal. Down below he initiated construction of a large dungeon network of no less than three main levels and numerous sub-levels where he kept his laboratories, enslaved monsters, cunning traps and animated undead troops. He also took on four apprentices who assisted him in his strange work.

When Zelchus died one apprentice simply left of her own accord, another died of poisoning while working with alchemical substances (accident or foul play?) and the other two gathered their respective forces and did battle for the control of the dungeons, using summoned and charmed monsters, traps and hired mercenaries (both human and otherwise). Many humans fled from the surface buildings as monsters sometimes erupted from beneath the keep. After several months of fighting the two apprentices were killed by each other's monstrous troops on the same day.

Human troops from Erkhart came and retook the surface buildings and a Toutian wizard used a wizard-lock spell on the trap door leading into the dungeons. During the Wars between the Empires the surface garrison saw action against Bursian raiders on several occasions but survived. However, it could not withstand the horde of chaotic monsters that attacked when Bhael created the Chaos Portal in Erkhart. Someone or something has undone the Wizard-lock spell and the chaotic creatures from the portal are mixing and sometimes fighting with the creatures that remain from the apprentices' battle all those years ago.

 Normal, sane folk would not ever wish to go near Seaview Keep as it is today. It is on the wrong side of Teiglin, looking out over the Godsblood Straits. It is isolated from civilisation, infested with monsters from both inside the dungeons and from outside. There are rumoured to be a number of deadly traps to slay unwary intruders. 
However, there are great rewards for the intrepid and capable. The original nobleman and the dark magic user Zelchus were both very wealthy and brought in considerable amounts of silver and gold. In addition, Zelchus was an avid collector of magic, including spellbooks, magic weapons and miscellaneous trinkets of power, while at least one of his students was adept at creating magical potions. 

Seaview Keep is large on the surface (most of the walls and towers and some of the outbuildings are intact), and vast once underground. It has been suggested that it is impossible to actually clear out the dungeons of Seaview Keep, but is best explored in short, sharp expeditions with particular goals or limits in mind.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Chaos Portals

Chaos Portals are links, gateways between the Material Plane and the Planes of Chaos. They are only created by powerful magic, and before the Summoning they were very rare. It was said that those who tried to create Chaos Portals wanted to bring about the end of the world. They were not far wrong as Bhael demonstrated.

When Bhael was initially summoned he started causing death and destruction around him with his own personal power. However, within the first day of his avatar walking the surface of Kaelaross, he decided it was much easier for him to unleash his minions of Chaos to do the killing and wrecking for him. Thus he began to create Chaos Portals in each city he visited. Each portal connected that city to a plane of Chaos. The portals appear as glowing upright discs of mystical energy. The size of a Chaos Portal varies, but is usually between 6' and 12' in diameter. Some are large enough for adult red dragons, cloud giants and other huge creatures to pass through. They are two-way, so anyone brave or foolish enough to step through a Chaos Portal can find himself on the other side, in a Plane of Chaos. As long as they survive the experience, they can use the Chaos Portal to step back into the Material Plane. However, they are not windows - you cannot see what is on the other side without passing through.

Creatures on the Plane of Chaos are attracted to the Chaos Portal and will pass through more readily than expected - it is possible there is some sort of Sympathy spell involved. Thus when the Chaos Portals were first created there were initial floods of invading chaotic creatures, attacking and overwhelming the inhabitants of the cities. Those Chaos Portals created during the Summoning have been open for 50 years, and although there are still some chaotic creatures still emerging, they are far less frequent and more sporadic than back during the Summoning.

Both creating and closing a Chaos Portal is difficult and requires a great deal of magical power. Generally speaking opening a Chaos Portal involves a Gate spell, combined with Permanence and a carefully worded Wish spell. Bhael either demonstrated an unfathomable level of magical power, or else some sort of innate ability, as he seems to have created dozens, maybe hundreds, of Chaos Portals in a matter of weeks.

Closing a Chaos Portal is just as difficult, and requires a high-level cleric (at least 15th level) casting Dispel Chaos (or Dispel Evil if you don't use that variant) while a very powerful magic user casts Close Gate (the reversed version of a Gate spell) and either the Cleric or the Magic user casting a Wish spell, wishing the Chaos Portal to be closed permanently. Not many people in Kaelaross know this, and the problem was highlighted in BY1590 when forces from Teiglin tried to liberate Erkhart, but they found they could not close the Chaos Portal, so they had to retreat.

The exact number and location of Chaos Portals is unknown to anyone except the gods. However, there is a list of known Chaos Portals that may be added to. All of these have been created by Bhael during the Summoning and most were created in crowded cities for maximum death and disruption.
  • Erkhart, former capital of Teiglin, has a Chaos Portal connected to Hestoris
  • Urdus, former capital of the Duchy of Urdus, now underwater, has a Chaos Portal to Toldaar
  • Aerisport, in the Godsblood Straits, has a Chaos Portal connected to Carceros
  • Maquosmouth, in the Godsblood Straits, has a Chaos Portal connected to Hestoris
  • There is probably a chaos portal in the Twisted Hills, but its location is unknown. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

NPCs of Luthien

These NPCs are all found in and around the town of Luthien. The Baron is described elsewhere.

Harbin Stormbrewer, Mayor of Luthien
3rd level Fighter, align Lawful, age 55, gender Male
Str 10, Int 12, Wis 10, Dex 12, Con 8, Cha 14
AC 5 or 9, Move 120', HP 11, THAC0 18, Dam 1d8+1
Equipment: Sword +1, Chainmail, chains of office, smart town clothes
Harbin is the Mayor of Luthien. He is more of a bureaucrat than a soldier and is concerned about keeping the nobles and merchants happy. He does not like adventurers ("roguish ne'er-do-wells") but knows they can occasionally be useful.
Description: Harbin is quite tall (6'4") and mild-looking with iron-grey hair, balding on top. He is soft-spoken, but when excited or angry he talks very fast and starts to stutter. He rarely wears armour (kept only for emergencies), and instead is usually found in smart town-clothes and his chains of office. 

Derrobar Emeraldeye, Mage of Luthien
12th level Magic User, align Neutral, age 43, gender Male
Str 10, Int 16, Wis 12, Dex 13, Con 8, Cha 10
AC 7, Move 120', hp 20, THAC0 15, dam 1d6+1
Equipment: Wand of Illusion (10 charges), Quarterstaff +1, Ring of Protection +2
Spells memorised:  Move Earth, Project Image, Passwall, Transmute Rock to Mud, Conjure Elemental, Polymorph Self, Dimension Door, Confusion, Fireball, Protection from Chaos 10' radius, Clairvoyance (other 1st and 2nd level spells up to DM)
Derrobar is the most powerful character in Luthien, but he keeps to himself and keeps a low profile. Other people say that he's mad, but he has made powerful enemies among the forces of Chaos beyond Teiglin and is in hiding. He is particularly interested in reports of chaotic clerics of notable power. Derrobar uses his spells to help with town construction - Move Earth, Disintegrate and Transmute Rock to Mud (and reverse) are all useful for civil engineering, but used on the understanding that his reputation does not go beyond this town.
Description: Derrobar is tall (6'2") and saturnine, with a hooked nose and deep black eyes and heavy eyebrows. He has a well-groomed mustach and sideburns and keeps his brown hair shoulder-length. He has stopped wearing wizard robes and now wears a tunic and breaches like an artisan or workman so he is less likely to be spotted by his enemies.

Corporal Mermivar
1st level fighter, align Neutral, age 33, gender Female
Str 14, Int 12, Wis 8, Dex 10, Con 10, Cha 10
AC 4, Move 90', hp 5, THAC0 18, dam 1d8+1
Equipment: chain mail, sword, shield, lantern, 10 flasks of oil, flint and steel, backpack.
Mermivar is supposedly in charge of keeping the sewers in good condition but is currently caught up in other business (family, town watch duties, baby-sitting for friends, charity functions and other duties). She has an unofficial policy of "don't ask, don't tell, don't cause trouble" for the sewers, and has only recently taken notice of the current situation.
Description: Mermivar is 5' 10" with blonde hair and a plain face that usually has a worried expression on it. She goes about her duties in town guard standard uniform and is surprisingly clean and odourless considering where her duties should take her.  

Reverend Sorillos
5th level cleric, align Lawful, age 47, gender Male
Str 10, Int 13, Wis 16, Dex 10, Con 10, Cha 13
AC 9 or 3, Move 90', hp 20, THAC0 17, Dam 1d6+1
Equipment: Plate mail, Mace +1, Holy Symbol, Potion of Levitation
Spells Memorised: Dispel Magic, Hold Person, Speak with Animal, Light, Cure Light Wounds x2
Devout, aloof and often unrealistic, Reverend Sorillos is the Chief Cleric of Rhondus in Luthien. He is the principal authority on spiritual matters, which does not sit well with many people. He dislikes Trosker the constable, considering him a drunken mercenary, and expects other people to be as righteous as he is. He often delivers impromptu sermons.
Description: Reverend Sorillos is a small man with a big voice. He is only 5'3" and is physically unimposing with grey hair and wrinkly, clean-shaven face. His voice is loud and powerful, and it can be heard across Luthien when the Reverend is roused by something, either denouncing a sinner or exhorting the faithful to ever greater works. He only wears his plate armour in emergencies, preferring his clerical cassock.

Trosker Fireforge
4th level dwarf warrior, align Neutral, age 92, gender Male
Str 13, Int 10, Wis 14, Dex 10, Con 16, Cha 8 
AC 4, Move 90', hp 36, THAC0 17, Dam 1d6+2
Equipment: Chain mail, shield, handaxe +1, shortbow, quiver + 20 arrows
Trosker is the Constable of Luthien and head of the town guard. He is a tough, no-nonsense dwarf who is determined to keep the town peaceful and under control. He may not be popular (he has certainly ruffled some feathers) but he doesn't care. He is partial to ale, and can be found propping up the bar at the local taverns when off-duty.
Description: Trosker is a typical dwarf with reddish-brown hair and big beard. He has a bulky frame, even for a dwarf, but a lot of that is muscle, so few people dare to call him fat. He is 4'2" tall, and is nearly always found in his town guard regulation uniform (chain mail and shield included).

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Optional NPC Class: the Goblin Warrior

These two classes are not intended for players but as NPCs, particularly villains  and enemy leaders. The progression starts with the basic goblin from the Basic D&D but deviates from the goblin kings and bodyguards described in the same entry.

Goblin Warrior

Level  HD     THAC0    Notes

1      1d8-1   20      As basic goblin from Basic D&D/LL
2      2d8-1   19      Set Spear vs Charge & use lance
3      3d8-2   18      Junior Commander
4      4d8-2   17      Inspire Courage
5      5d8-3   16      2-Weapon Fighting
6      6d8-3   15      Middle Commander
7      7d8-4   14      Monstrous Mount
8      8d8-4   13      Inspire Zeal
9      9d8-5   12      Senior Commander
10     9d8-3   11      Two-Weapon Mastery

Set Spear versus Charge and Use Lance are the same as for human fighters. 

Junior Commander - a goblin warrior of level 3 or higher can reliably command up to 5 1st level goblin warriors or ordinary goblins per level of the commander.

Inspire Courage - Allies within 30' get +2 to morale checks and saves vs fear.

2-weapon Fighting - The goblin warrior can use 2 one-handed weapons, at -2 to hit penalty for both. 

Middle Commander -  The goblin warrior can reliably command 1 junior commander per level. 

Monstrous Mount - The warrior can tame and ride a monster larger than himself, which must have HD equal to or lower than the warrrior and be suitable for riding. Dire wolves are a well-known favourite, but  more powerful goblins  have been known to ride manticores, wyverns and griffons.

Inspire Zeal - Allies within 30' get +2 to hit and damage and +4 to morale and saves vs fear, usable 1 encounter per day. 

Senior Commander - reliably command 1 middle commander per two levels. 

Two-Weapon Mastery - As per two-weapon fighting, but the goblin warrior suffers no penalty to hit. 

Saving throws - As per human fighters

Armour and Weapons - any, including shield. However, goblins cannot use oversized weapons, and suffer the same restrictions as dwarves (no polearms, longbows or two-handed swords)

As with any NPC, common sense and context should be used when equipping goblin warrior NPCs. An 8th level commander of a clan than has raided several large towns and defeated a human regiment will probably have plate mail armour and maybe magic weapons, whereas a 1st level warrior from barren hills will be lucky to have a club and leather armour.  Underground goblin tribes will use arthropod chitin for armour (treat as scale mail) while those in cold climates will use lots of animal skins. (leather armour).  When scavenging armour, goblins can usually fit into either dwarf-sized armour or halfling-sized armour. However, they often make their own adjustments to make oversized armour fit.

The leather armour and shield (AC 6) and hand-axe (1d6 damage) used by normal goblins is a good starting point for 1st level goblin warriors.

As goblins, goblin warriors get 60' infravision and 90' base movement. 
Goblin warriors suffer -1 to hit in sunlight. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sterin Barony

Sterin Barony is now part of the Godsblood Strait region, and is an island just to the southwest of the actual straits. It used to be part of the Duchy of Urdus until the Summoning and the terrible destruction that happened when the gods fought over Urdus.
Today the Barony still continues, with a total population of 18,000 folk (mostly human but with 2000 halflings).
The island was hit hard by a tidal wave when the battle between the gods sank the isthmus and pushed up the Island of Lost Souls. The Village of Estian suffered the worst, and lost half of its people (350 killed out of an original 600). However, since the Summoning the island has been isolated from most monsters. Only those that swim, fly or use boats can threated Sterin, so these days Sterin Barony is one of the safer, more stable places in Toutus.

Sterinport has always been the most important settlement on the island and today with 4500 inhabitants, it is the capital where the baron resides.
There is always an interesting mix of people on the streets, and merchants from Teiglin and other regions beyond the Godsblood Straits will visit.

Ivanell is a fishing port of 440 people. Its people mostly survived the tidal wave, because about an hour before the wave hit, a cleric of Vought and a cleric of Sturnornel both had warnings from their deities, and they urged the villagers to seek high ground inland. The lord of the manor believed the clerics (particularly as they were both giving the same warnings) and gave the order to evacuate. Many villagers followed and were saved even though buildings and other structures were wrecked. A few villagers refused, saying they would never abandon their homes. They and their homes were washed away. Today the buildings have all been rebuilt, and prominent in the village are two shrines, one to Vought, and one to Sturnornel.

In contrast the village of Estian had no warning and both the buildings and the people were hit by the tidal wave. Those who survived were in the fields nearby or in boats out at sea. The village these days is only partially rebuilt, and there are many smashed and damaged homes and shops in between the new ones. The village might have been completely abandoned but for two merchant ships overloaded with 240 refugees that arrived at the village a week after the disaster. The ships had been setting sail from Ermish when the land, including the town of Ermish, sank. The ships picked up as many people floating in the sea as possible and then made its way to the Sterin Barony, making landfall at Estian.

Termial is a farming village of 200 folk, mostly shepherds and cowherds. They  provide a lot of food for the rest of the barony. Mercifully Termial was not seriously damaged during the wars, and was safely inland during the tidal wave. There is the problem of the hills just to the northwest, which have become the home of some flying creatures that emerged from the Chaos Portals in Maquosmouth and Erkhart - harpies, wyverns and the occasional manticore are unwelcome visitors who mostly prey on the livestock, but a few villagers have also fallen prey to these creatures.

Wervis, like Termial, is a farming village with a population of 230. Most of the fields around Wervis are for wheat, barley and oats, and Wervis is noted for its interesting range of breads and biscuits. Wervis would be a very boring place except that the local miller who runs a  windmill just outside the village is an associate of the Red Hand (but not a full member). He charges a heavy price for grinding farmers' grain and occasionally steals some grain as well. This is not exactly villainy worthy of epic heroes, but he knows contacts in other towns and villages that know other people in the Red Hand.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Warlock Harbour

The island off the coast of the Barony of Luthien is actually called Kellix Island, but because Warlock Harbour is the most famous thing about it, some call it Warlock Island.
Kellix island has a population of goats (2HD herd animals), wild boar, oversized wildcats (same stats as mountain lions but looking more like lynxes or bobcats) and a colony of gnomes who avoid larger folk such as humans. The terrain is hilly and rocky with many short trees and shrubs, and patches of grass on the relatively flat areas.

Warlock Harbour was built in BY1221 by Daclune the Archmage at the request of Fernandis, Duke of Teiglin. The central part, the Repairing Dock, is surrounded by three towers. At the top of each tower is a gem that projects a magical beam onto any ship that is left in the repairing dock. The gems' effects are Woodform, Clothform and Ropeform respectively, and the enchantments were such that the gems required only a minimum of concentration and instruction to repair damaged ships.

Only a mid-level mage would be required to activate and control the repairing magic - in the beginning Daclune would leave this to his apprentices, but later the dukes would appoint succesive "Warlocks of the Harbour", hence the name of the place. The harbour was of great important to the Duchy and of note to the Toutus Empire - it was a very quick way of repairing ships damaged in battle or storms, and both the navy and merchants appreciated this. The Duke took the opportunity to charge a fee to anyone else seeking to repair their ship in Warlock Harbour, and it was a source of steady income until war broke out.

During the wars it was attacked and sacked by a force of marines from Telthus. Several ships in the harbour were sunk, the garrison was defeated, and the gems from each tower were seized and put onto the Telthian ship. However, they did not get far, as the mage who had been the warlock of the harbour emerged from hiding as the enemy ship left, and first cast a fireball into the rigging, setting the sails and mast on fire. Then he conjured a water elemental which promptly sank the Telthian ship not far from the mouth of the harbour, with the gems onboard.

The harbour has been abandoned since the wars, and one scouting mission revealed that the harbour had been taken over by gnolls, while in the waters of the harbour the shipwrecks, both Toutian and Telthian, are said to be infested with undead sailors. Retrieving the gems from the sunken ship (and finding the right sunken ship) is not going to be easy, especially if there is no magical way of breathing underwater.

Both the King of Teiglin and the Baron of Luthien would like to see the harbour restored to its former glory and usefulness, and would look kindly upon anyone who did so. There is the problem that both assume that the harbour would come under their own direct control, but that is for the rulers to decide.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Chaos Cults in Kaelaross

Who would want to join the forces of Chaos, the hordes of monsters that threaten humanity with enslavement and extinction? The simple answer is the mad, the desperate, the greedy and the sociopathic - these are the sorts of humans and demihumans who actively embrace the worship of the Chaos gods. The Chaos Gods offer rewards of sorts, but few sane people would accept the terrible price that goes with them. The Chaos gods have been known to offer power, fighting prowess, forbidden magical lore, influence over others and wealth, but in exchange for their new followers' souls and even their humanity.

The worship of Chaos gods was generally outlawed in civilised lands before the Wars between the Empires. Today it is still outlawed where there is any law, but most of the world of Kaelaross has fallen into ruin and anarchy - not only is there no authority to stamp out chaos worship, but the very desolation and collapse of lawful civilisation has encouraged and hastened the re-emergence and rise of Chaos cults.

Chaos cultists usually follow one of the deities of Chaos, but there are some who worship Chaos as a whole philosophy and do not focus on any one specific deity. The philosophy of each chaos god will often determine how their followers operate.

Since they are outlawed, the chaos cultists practice their degenerate worship either in secret within civilised lands, or in the ruins or wilderness far from lawful authority. Those who operate within civilised lands can be very subtle and cunning, quietly extending their influence and recruiting members within towns and cities. Those who dwell outside of civilization will act as barbaric warlords where might makes right, the strong prosper and the weak are enslaved or killed.

The Red Hand is a prime example of a chaos cult within civilisation. It has several branches within the Kingdom of Teiglin that are mentioned in the descriptions of towns and baronies, but there are probably other branches and agents not mentioned. Somewhere in between the two types is White Stag Keep - the chaos cultists of Havoc there infiltrated a legitimate order of clerics and then overthrew them, becoming open worshipers of chaos in the process. They now control the keep and are too far away from the forces of Law to be ousted.

The relations between chaos cultists and the chaotic creatures that came through the Chaos Portals during the Summoning is very variable. Sometimes the monsters will attack and kill cultists as they would with any other humans or demihumans. At other times arrangements or bargains can be made - intelligent creatures will act as guards or enforcers in return for wealth or food. Chaos Cultists are sometimes dominated by powerful creatures of Chaos (such as vampires, medusae, chaotic dragons and fire or frost giants) who treat them as expendable slaves. Occasionally a chaos god will grant their followers, particularly the leaders of cults, control (or at least influence) over useful chaotic creatures.

Chaos cults always involve one or more cleric - like other deities, the Chaos gods appoint clerics as their emmissaries and intermediaries to mortals. These clerics of chaos are occasionally granted special spells that they can learn in place of standard clerical spells, but this is on a case-by-case basis (so chaotic cleric player characters should not automatically expect these spells). Other classes are found as well - fighters, magic-users, thieves and demihumans can all serve the gods of Chaos one way or another. Magic-users are sometimes guided towards grimoires of foul magics, and this can be a powerful lure to bring otherwise sensible wizards under the influence of Chaos - ambition and power can overrule common sense and decency in more magic-users than you might think. Thieves are, by their nature, unlikely to care for law or order - a chaos cult may well offer a thief a refuge from zealous watchmen and the cult won't care that the thief had just killed someone in a robbery - they will still offer healing and support in return for the thief's quiet loyalty. Fighters can be persuaded to aid the forces of Chaos with the offer of chaotically aligned magical weapons and armour that will make the fighter an unstoppable warrior. And many fighters acquire a taste for killing, and the chaos cult offers them a motive to kill.

Monday, 9 May 2011

A History of the Godsblood Strait

This entry refers to the map of the Godsblood Straits.
The Urdus Ismuth was colonised by settlers from the Toutus Empire about 820 BY and the town of Urdus was founded soon afterwards. There were clashes with indigenous humanoids and demihumans as the humans of Toutus took over the rich plains that would form fertile farmlands. 

Gnolls and orcs were slaughtered, with only a few survivors fleeing to the Talloak forest to the north. They have never been removed from the Talloak forest, and from those early days, through the height of the Toutus Empire, the Wars Between the Empires, The Summoning and the present day (1610 BY) the north of the region has fended off orc and gnoll raids and banditry. 

The dwarves of the Ten Peaks were treated with a little more respect - they were conquered but not slaughtered by the Toutian troops. For the first two hundred years they had to pay fealty to the Duke of Urdus. However, in 1050 BY the Duke of Urdus treated the dwarves so badly that they revolted. They fought and defeated several human armies sent by the Duke. Then the Emperor of Toutus sent several legions of his own Imperial Army and beseiged all ten clans simultaneously. Rather than fight to the death, the dwarves offered surrender as long as they swore loyalty to the Emperor himself and did not have to answer to the Duke of Urdus. The Emperor Justinius IV himself came along and visited each of the ten clans, accepting their allegience and also requiring them to provide troops and weapons for his army. 

The Duchy of Urdus developed and grew, and by the start of the Wars between the Empires, the duchy boasted a number of impressive trading ports - Harielport, Maquosmouth, Ermish and  Aerisport. These not only traded within the Toutus Empire, they also received ships from other Empires, particularly Bellenos, while inter-imperial relations were good. The relations turned bad in a big way in 1550 BY. 

During the Wars Between the Empires, the Duchy of Urdus was hit hard several times - the city of Maquosmouth was besieged and sacked by Bellenosian troops, the town of Ermish was sacked when enemy ships from Bursia sailed straight into the port and unloaded Bursian troops straight into the heart of the town, the capital Urdus was beseiged, though this was relieved by a column of Toutian Imperial Army troops. The town of Harielport was attacked and almost flattened by rampaging elementals summoned by war-wizards of Bursia. The wars between the Empires was also a major drain on manpower and production - a lot of the food produced in the Duchy of Urdus and the metal from the dwarves of the Ten Peaks went straight to the war effort, impoverishing the normally wealthy region. Tragic and bloody though these wars were, they paled in significance compared to the wrath of a God of Chaos. 

Whereas Teiglin lost its capital when Bhael briefly appeared and created a Chaos Portal, during the initial phase of the Summoning, Bhael created three Chaos Portals in the Duchy of Urdus - one in Urdus itself, one in Aerisport and one in Maquosmouth. These were the major population and trade centres of Urdus - maximum disruption with just three Chaos Portals. This would have brought the Duchy of Urdus close to collapse.
The second part of the Summoning was the battle between the three gods - the Chaos god Bhael on the one hand, and two gods of Law, Adonor and Rhondus on the other trying to stop his apocalyptic rampage. During this titanic battle Bhael appeared about a mile above the city of Urdus. Adonor and Rhondus caught up with him there and they battled there for three hours before Bhael teleported to somewhere else in Kaelaross and the two gods of Law followed him. The effects of the battle ripped apart the very land over which they fought. The City of Urdus, the town of Ermish and much of the land of the Isthmus was pushed beneath the sea, and the waves came crashing over the towns, farmland and thousands of helpless people. 
Like some sort of tectonic seasaw, as the isthmus sank, the Island of Lost Souls and the Godsblood Hills were both pushed up out of the sea, with whales, sharks, shoals of fish and one hapless dragon turtle all being stranded on newly created land. 
The City of Aerisport, already infested with Chaotic monsters from the Chaos Portal, became landlocked, and its inhabitants quickly fled eastwards.
The town of Maquosmouth was abandoned to the forces of Chaos, although physically not as damaged or geographically altered as Aerisport. 
A tidal wave hit Sterin Island, causing death and damage to the village of Estian. 

In the wake of this cataclysm, the survivors of Urdus tried to find shelter where they could and to rebuild as best they knew how.
The Barony of Sterin, hit hard by the tidalwave, but mostly unaffected by chaotic monsters, has become independent, and is one of the safer areas in the region.
The town of Ironmarket, previously a trading post with the dwarves, has become the centre of humanity in the west of the region. To defend against chaotic monsters and the resurgent threat of humanoids of the Talloak forest, a string of forts has been constructed since the Summoning, each named after a lawful deity. These forts are still being improved and developed, but the arc they form is considered the current line of defence against the chaotic hordes from the chaos portals.
The dwarves of the Confederacy of the Ten Peaks now find themselves as the most powerful nation in the area. Some feel they should exercise their new power, and make Ironmarket a vassal, a reversal of fortune for dwarves and humans.
The coastal region on the east side of the straits are now abandoned to the forces of Chaos until the humans and dwarves can work out how to close the Chaos Portals created by Bhael.
The west side of the straits have also been abandoned. The ruined town of Harielport and Seaview Keep were previously on the border between Urdus and Teiglin - now nobody except monsters of chaos from Erkhart claim them.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Towns and Baronies of Teiglin - Stelmit and Tredgor

See the map of Teiglin for the context of this post

Stelmit Barony is unusual in that there are more dwarves than humans (11,000 inhabitants, of which 8500 are dwarves and 2000 humans). The barony is mostly covered by the Voina Hills, with only the southern edge and the Wirrian valley being flat. Most humans are found around the Wirrian Riiver or the coast and help the dwarves with exporting minerals and importing food.

Stelmit Town (pop 5000) is mostly above ground but is built on top of a network of mines. A number of dwarves have chosen to live underground in the mines though within easy reach of the shops and market above. The Stelmit Market is renowned for the high quality arms and armour on sale, and this attracts merchants, soldiers, knights and adventurers from across Teiglin.

Oldship (pop 550) is a fishing village and modest trading port on the north coast. It has recently suffered a number of raids from pirates, so the villagers are building defences as well as looking for volunteers to help against further attacks.

The Voina Hills are rich in minerals of all sorts, with iron and copper being the most common. Before the rise of the Toutus Empire the Voina hills were populated by orcs ruled by a powerful and mysterious mastermind. Ruins of orcish strongholds can still be found in the hills. Although there are no known orcs in the hills above ground, every now and then an underground pocket of them are discovered by mining dwarves.

Tredgor Barony is considered to be rural and quite backward. It does not have the large populations or economic drive of other baronies, but its folk are known to be tough and practical, and Tredgor Barony has produced good soldiers and successful adventurers. Tredgor Barony has a population of 16,000, of whom 1600 are elves, 1600 are dwarves and 1000 halflings - the rest are humans.

Tredgor Town (population 5100) is a fishing and trading port on the mouth of Mussel Bay – some consider it to be the only noteworthy place in the Barony. Some traders and adventurers use it as the starting point for voyages north up the coast of Toutus. Until recently there had been an infestation of wererats and giant rats, but these are believed to have been eradicated.

The Ironhammer Hills are home to scattered dwarven and human mining settlements. There are also reports of chaotic clerics teaming up with kobolds to attack the mines and settlements. There have certainly been zombies and skeletons wandering the Ironhammer Hills, and kobolds countermining and attacking dwarf miners but there is no proof yet that the two are connected.

Werden Marsh is home to a volatile family of lizardmen who occasionally attack those who enter their territory, but sometimes leave travelers alone. There are also plenty of giant lizards, giant toads and snakes in the marsh. However, brave wanderers have brought back rare herbs and flowers from the swamp, so alchemists, healers and chefs are all willing to pay for adventurers to go into the swamp to find these rare ingredients.

The Quasland Woods are an area of tension and conflict between humans and elves, as the timber is much needed for building and fuel but the elves hate to see their beloved forest being destroyed by uncaring humans. The Quasland woods include a number of bands of pixies and sprites, and these have joined the elves in harassing the wood-cutting humans in non-violent ways - turning their axeheads from steel into cheese, causing the wheels of their carts to fall off, spooking the mules that carry the timber and changing the beer the woodcutters carry into neat liquor, causing much drunkeness.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Godsblood Straits: Map and overview

Immediately to the east of the Kingdom of Teiglin is the Godsblood Straits, a channel formed 50 years ago during the Summoning. This area suffered cataclysmic disruption and transformation within a matter of hours as the avatars of three gods fought with all their might above the city of Urdus.
- The isthmus that connected Teiglin to the rest of the continent/empire of Toutus sank beneath the waves, drowning thousands of people.
- Bhael also created a number of Chaos Portals in the region, unleashing a flood of chaotic monsters, similar to the situation in Erkhart, Teiglin's capital
- A chunk of sea bed on the south of the isthmus was pushed up to form a mountainous island - the Island of Lost Souls
- The coastline to the northeast of the isthmus was pushed up and wracked to form the Godsblood Hills.
- The Duchy of Urdus, which had occupied the isthmus and the surrounding area ceased to be a political entity, and the surviving populations have made their own fate
- the forest at the eastern end of the isthmus has been partially flooded, turning it into a saltwater swamp, known as the Salty Forest.
- The River Rancor, which had met the sea at Aerisport, shifted its course and now flows into the sea next to the fishing village of Faranil

There are survivors though, and they are tough and resourceful:
The Sterin Barony, an island barony to the south of the Godsblood Straits, has survived and is now an independent realm (though a small one)
The town of Ironmarket in between the dwarven realm and the Godsblood Strait has become a bastion of humanity and turned into a city.
A number of forts and villages now surround Ironport, protecting it from threats to the west. 
The Confederacy of the Ten Peaks is the most powerful realm in the region - an alliance of 10 dwarven clans in the hills and mountains to the east of the Godsblood Straits. Militarily and economically they are relatively undamaged, and only disagreements between the clans stops them from dominating the area.

There are also wilderness areas, mostly unaffected by the disasters of recent times.
The Talloak Forest has stood for centuries just to the north.
The Howling Forest is in the southeast and is reputed to be hunting grounds for wolves and werewolves
Elkhorn Island is immediately north of the actual straits.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Appreciation of Free Resources

In Mythmere's Blog today he has talked about showing appreciation for free RPG resources. Meanwhile -C at Hack & Slash talks about deciding to charge for his stuff because folks have been downloading his hard work and not even bothering to say thank you.

I will admit that I can be quite blase' about the effort some of us bloggers put into our blogs and other pieces of work, but these posts have really struck a chord in me.

My favourite free resources include:
The free downloads at Dragonsfoot - they have a host of free stuff for a wide range of editions. Although I can find their forums a bit outspoken, that does not diminish the quality of work that is posted there.
Goblinoid Games has produced free pdfs of its games, notably Labyrinth Lord (which got me back into Basic D&D) and Mutant Future.
Two of my favourite worlds are discussed in great detail in Canonfire (for Greyhawk) and Candlekeep (for Forgotten Realms).
There are some free magazines out there, most notably Encounter and Dyson's Dodecahedron.
Although I have not seen any activity there for several years, the Vaults of Pandius still holds a huge amount of info,  a lot of which can be borrowed for your own campaign.
The forums that discuss D&D in its various forms often have some good stuff posted straight onto the boards. Quite often there will be dedicated areas for creative stuff rather than discussions and opinions, such as the Goblinoid Games Open Workshop.  
As for the stuff on blogs - you need only take a look at Cyclopeatrons's list of OSR blogs to realise the huge output of the OSR blogosphere. Some of it is opinions and discussions (which I usually don't get involved with) but a lot of it is damn good stuff.
So if you enjoy using this sort of RPG material, by all means do so. But please show a bit of manners and say thank you.