Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Twenty questions

A continuation from here, twenty questions (and answers), the format ripped off from Jeff's Gameblog, with information about the nation of Gheron, specific to the city of Blacksand (where the PC's currently are) and Amaltha (the nation's capital).

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

The worship of Sarus is one of the few things that can be said to unify Gheron with its immediate neighbors.  Sarus is a demi-god who ascended to divinity several hundred years ago after stealing the hidden sources of power from each of the Elder Gods (who were worshiped during the early days of the Kahmish Empire - their faiths are now publicly outlawed) and then defeating them in combat.  Her priests say that she was a mortal reincarnation of the original creation goddess Aru.

There are also the Druids, who are said to channel the last remnants of Aru's essence, as well as call upon various animal and elemental spirits.  The Druidic faith is relatively strong in Gheron, but far less so in the other neighboring nations.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

In Blacksand, you want to go to Jillith's Tradery, at the Marketplace.  Pretty much anything that isn't armor, weaponry, or transport, you can probably get from her (and if she doesn't have it, you'll need to hunt down a specialist craftsman, most likely).  She also buys used gear - some say she will also buy and fence stolen materials, but then, some people will say anything, won't they?

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

The best armorer in the land would be the dwarf Korrin in Amaltha, but he works primarily for King Thomas, so good luck being able to get him to work for you.  In Blacksand, the city's best armorer would be  Robert the Redbeard, but he is said to be rather particular about who he works for.  The city's second-best armorer, the half-orc Larst, is said to be much less choosy about such matters.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Without a doubt, that would be Brisen, confidante and adviser to King Thomas. In Blacksand, Thomas' younger sister Princess Yasmin is said to be the greatest magician of that city.  If you want to actually hire a wizard's services while in Blacksand, the man known as Morgath is probably your best bet.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Most will say that King Thomas, no chessboard ruler, is the mightiest warrior of the realm... he did essentially unify what us now Gheron through the armies he led in battle.  Only one of his knights, Sir Logan, was said to be a greater swordsman, but Logan was killed by the King after the knight was revealed to be having an affair with Thomas's second wife, Katherine.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Besides the King, you mean?  Marguerite of House Starling controls the largest mercantile operation in all of Amaltha, and indeed in all of Gheron.  However, in Blacksand it is House Frehald, led by Davros Frehald, that controls the largest slice of the city's economic pie.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Why, the temple(s) of Sarus, of course!  You do attend regular services, yes?  You have been making regular donations, one hopes?  Ahh... well, you can make a suitable donation to the temple's coffers, hopefully?

The Druids will also heal those who participate in their rites, of course.  They might heal outsiders, but gold is less likely to sway them - rather , certain 'favors' (to be determined by the Druids) would be required... either at time of payment, or as a marker to be called at a later time when the Druids deem it necessary.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

All but the smallest of towns will usually have a cleric of Sarus who can cure disease (including lycanthropy, but only within the first 28 days of infection) and remove curses. Larger towns will have clerics who are also capable of neutralizing poison or restoring lost levels due to level drain.  Only in the cities of Amaltha and Blacksand are there clerics who can reverse involuntary alignment change or raise the dead.  In Blacksand, Sister Pegmull is the one you would try to reach for the greatest of healing magics.  In Amaltha, Sister Flybold is the one you want.

Most major Druidic circles will have someone who can negate poison and cure disease (including lycanthropy, as above).  Only the greatest of Druids can negate an involuntary alignment change, or reincarnate your dead body into another form.

The greatest of clerics and druids can also probably reverse you having been polymorphed, but a wizard of equivalent skill could also pull of such a feat, as well.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

No such order exists within Gheron, where arcane spellcasters are somewhat rare.  They have to find any new spells on their own, although sometimes wizards will trade spells with each other if they feel that they can trust the other party (and vice versa).  Some young apprentice wizards will try to stick with a master for as long as possible so they can have access to their master's spell library.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

In Blacksand, both Varlass the alchemist and Keorwyn the half-elven sage have residences that straddle between the Marketplace and the upper-class residential area.  Other such experts? You'll need to ask around, probably spending some coin in the process.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Certain seedy taverns, such as the Saucy Sphinx in Blacksand, might be a good place to start. If you've got lots of money, you might be able to purchase some of the gladiator-slaves from the arena area.  And finally, while the city's leaders wouldn't appreciate you poaching in their domain, if you buy some of the guardsmen from the local barracks a few drinks, they might tell you who would be will to go the sell-sword route.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Weaponry being restricted is more a matter of certain specific buildings within a city or town (no bearing arms in the temple or within the royal palace, obviously), or by individual social status (serfs won't be allowed to own a sword, but rather expected to use more common weaponry if needed, such as spears), than overall geographical limitations thereof. As for magic, it isn't outlawed, and the cities are more open about that sort of thing... but arcane magic isn't exactly popular either, so many people will be quick to assume the worst about a traveling wizard staying overnight in their village or town.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

Point a finger in a random direction, and start walking, you shouldn't have to go very far.  In Blacksand, the Saucy Sphinx is favored by adventurers and other low-lifes, the sort of dive where you can drink yourself into enough of a stupor that the idea of risking death and dismemberment in hopes of acquiring gold and glory sounds entirely reasonable.  In a better part of town you can find the Silver Sylph, where by comparison to the Saucy Sphinx the risk of getting your throat slit in an evening bar brawl is significantly lower.  If you need a place to sleep overnight, the Green Dragon Inn* just off of Marketplace isn't a bad bet  (only half the chance of getting bedbugs while you sleep, compared to other similarly priced inns... such a deal!).

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Well, there's that Red Dragon that is said to live in the Deadwood.  Then there are the giants of the Ikol hills, who occasionally make raids into the nearby villages.  Oh, and there's also that Night Hag who is said to ride from village to village on a Nightmare steed.  Hey, good luck with any of those, okay?

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

No actual wars at the moment - the last proper war was with the nation of Theros, about 15 years ago - there's been an uneasy peace ever since.  That said, there is an uptick in monstrous activity stemming from the borderlands to the West, and military garrisons along the borderlands are trying to recruit extra men-at-arms to help keep Gheron's borders safe.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

Slavery is still legal in Gheron (as well as Gheron's nearby neighbors), a carryover from the days of the Kahmish Empire, so both the cities of Amaltha and Blacksand have gladiator arenas where slaves are forced to fight - free men may also volunteer to join these contests, in the hopes of winning gold and glory.  The various towns don't have arenas proper, but they will usually have walled and/or pit areas where such fighting can occur.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

If you knew about them, they wouldn't be very secret, now would they?  That said, there are rumblings of discontent against the King and his rule, and there may well be an organized faction (or factions) plotting against him.

18. What is there to eat around here?

Lots of fish and other seafood along the coastline and waterways, of course.  When the non-wealthy eat any other meat, it's usually either pork or chicken.  Eggs and cheese are fairly common, as are potatoes, onions and carrots.  The porridge and gruel common to the lower classes are usually derived from barley, oats and rye, and bread tends to be of the dark (rye) variety.   Stews and potages are fairly common, especially in the colder months.  Wine is rare and has to be imported, but beers, ales, and ciders are all quite common.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

There's a huge dungeon said to exist at the southeastern foot of the Kron Hills, a few miles east of the town of Oakhill, that is said to contain all sorts of fabulous treasures.  Also, in the forests of the western borderlands are said to be lost cities that were one part of the Kahmish Empire, now abandoned... what treasures and wonders might they still contain?

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

Besides the aforementioned Red Dragon that is said to live in the Deadwood, there's also a Green Dragon - supposedly the same one that killed King Thomas's first wife, the half-elf Salanthala, along with their son - that still supposedly resides in the Buckwood near Amaltha.  It's also rumored that there is a Black Dragon residing somewhere in the marshes just south of the Grandwood.  If dragons aren't your thing, there is said to be a Guardian Naga at the lowest levels of the aforementioned dungeon near the Kron Hills.

*all fantasy universes have a Green Dragon inn or tavern - it's actually part of a multiversal chain

Monday, February 25, 2013

Music Monday: "Gimme Shelter"

In the eternal debate of Stones vs Beatles, I have to give the nod to the Rolling Stones, simply because there is something about their music that seems to inspire other artists to make some truly excellent covers of their tunes.  As an example, here is rock/blues/gospel singer Ashley Cleveland giving us a smokin' cover of "Gimme Shelter".

Sunday, February 24, 2013


(not dead, just lazy)

Here's some background for the setting of my C&C campaign, should I ever get the chance to run it again...

Gheron is a fairly small country - at about 7,855 sq. miles, it is somewhere between Connecticut and New Jersey in terms of overall land mass.  It is a land of mild summers and harsh winters.  The terrain is varied -  there are no mountains, but there are several rolling hills, as well as several lakes and multiple interconnecting rivers.  There are also several scattered forests, as well as the occasional marsh or moor, and there are several stretches of area that can best be described as shrubland.  For all that, about roughly 55% of Gheron is arable farmland, a far higher percentage than any of its immediate neighbors (most 'clear' hexes will have a village in it, somewhere between 100 and 1,000 people, usually averaging around 600 or so - 1 in 12 such hexes will instead have a thorp, with somewhere between 20 and 100 residents).  Gheron has two cities - the capital city of Amaltha, and the port city Blacksand (also occasionally referred to as Highport, an older name for the coastal city) - as well as ten towns of varying size.  Its overall population is somewhere around 778,000.

(click to enlarge, of course - larger red hexes = 12 miles, smaller black hexes = 2 miles)

Along with its neighbors, it was once part of the Northeastern Marches of the Great Empire of Kahm.  The Kahmish empire lasted for a little over six centuries, but eventually disintegrated under a combination of plague and internal dissent.  The plague destroyed most of what could be called civilization, with only a few city-states here and there keeping the proverbial torch lit against the darkness for the better part of a century.  A holdover of the Empire's legacy is that Gheron, like all the other current nations that are descended from what was once the Empire's domain, still speak the Kahman Tongue.*

About 40 years ago, one of the many petty barons in the area, Thomas of Amaltha, began expanding his realm, consolidating the other nearby lands under his expansionistic rule.  He unified what is now called the nation of Gheron, only being stopped by the borderlands to the west, and the also-expanding nations of Theros to the Northeast and Arradonia to the Southeast.  These days, some quietly refer to King Thomas as "the Cursed"; he has had four wives during his rule, but all are now dead, and he has no living heirs.  His younger sister, Princess Yasmin, in next in line for the throne. 

That vast majority of the population of Gheron is human.  About 3% of the overall populace is halfling - more so in the villages, somewhat less so in the towns and cities, although the town of Lillton is notable for actually having a majority population of halflings.  The various other demi-humans (dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves and half-orcs) combined consist of about half of one percent of the nation's populace.

The worship of Sarus is the main faith within the land of Gheron (as well as the other nearby nations).  In more rural areas, the Druidic faith is fairly strong (in the early days of consolidating power, Thomas made an alliance with the Druids to help strengthen his power base).  Because of the political power the Druids have, Gheron is not able to fully utilize the forests within its lands, a sore point for some of Gheron's nobility and military personnel.  Relations between the priests of Sarus and the Druids are cordial enough, if somewhat cool and distant. 

Recently, there has been an increase in monstrous activity coming from the borderlands.  As a result, the King has recently raised taxes throughout the land, in hopes of increasing the military presence along the borderlands.  As one might expect, this has not went over well with all of Gheron's citizens.

(same map, minus the smaller hex lines - makes it easier to make out the various rivers)

To the Southeast, Arradonia is about twice as large as Gheron, but due to less overall arable land, has only about half-again the population.  There are huge forests within Arradonia's borders, and unlike Gheron the Druids have little political sway here, so the rulers of Arradonia can utilize those forests more effectively - among other things, Arradonia has the largest and finest navy in the area.  South of Arradonia the land mainly consists of hard plains and deserts, and the various horse nomad tribes that dwell in said lands occasionally raid into Arradonia's nearby villages and towns.

Northeast of Gheron is Theros, a mountainous land that is about three times as large as Gheron, but due to a dearth of arable land, its population is about halfway inbetween that of Gheron and Arradonia.  The mountains of Theros host a wealth of various precious metals, such as silver and gold, as well as no small amount of iron ores.  As a result, the armies of Theros are very, very well armed - even the lowly commoner footsoldier will often wear metal armor as they march into battle.  To the frigid north of Theros' borders, Viking-style barbarians live, occasionally raiding into the nearby settlements, despite the martial prowess of Theros' citizens.

Gheron has pacts with both Arradonia and Theros.  Both of the neighboring countries would love to conquer Gheron and claim the rich farmlands found within, but both nations also know that any invasion on their part would trigger a response of war from Gheron's other neighbor-country.  The last actual war in the area ended 15 years ago, the forces of Gheron and Theros clashing to a relative standstill.  There has been an uneasy peace ever since.

About a hundred or so miles East of Gheron (not shown on the map) is the island nation of Shalza, which is about 2/3 the overall size of Gheron, and has about 1/3 of the latter's population.  Shalza is heavily dependent on trade with its nearby neighbors, which is aided by the wealth of valuable gems that can be mined on the island.  As with Gheron, both Arradonia and Theros would love to conquer and claim the island nation as their own, both for its wealth and its strategic value due to its location.   Like Gheron, Shalza has pacts drawn up with the two larger nations, designed to keep them both at bay.

*yes, I'm shameless