Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Darkness in the North

The Withered Lands in the north-east are where Arihmere takes a dark turn, a region of wilderness and ruins held by the deadly and enigmatic Fell Lords, servants of a usurper who many believe was slain decades ago and revived by his scheming wife. These lands are the perfect setting for a gritty, or gothic, adventure, oriented towards exploration, treasure-hunting, and avoiding (or stumbling upon) old evils. The terrain would fit the open-ended possibilities of a "West Marches" style campaign or sequence of joined adventures. One could even imagine a campaign to reclaim a ruined manor and surrounding lands, in the style of "Darkest Dungeon".

Begin with an outpost:
  • A mere cross-roads, with a broken and enigmatic sign-post
  • A ruined manor-house, haboring grim secrets, and with a view of the cursed fens
  • An embattled city, the last to be recaptured may be the first to fall to the Fell Lords
  • An outpost around a ramshackle keep

Then there is the terrain. Start building and detailing the campaign map, situating both perils and rare treasures among the moors, fens, overgrown pathways, and tangled woods:
  • Tottering watchtowers, where sly grimelocks and lumbering grolls lurk. These monsters raid the borderlands and return to hide behind a multitude of crude traps.
  • Deep ravines (ideal for hiding treasure), infested by wyrms and naggs.
  • Spider-haunted woods, the perfect retreat for a half-mad witch.
  • Battlefields, haunted by sorrowful wraiths, where every unbroken blade has a name and a story.
  • And the decaying piles that once belonged to any one of the Fell Lords...

As the characters uncover and meet more, you might introduce one of the Fell Lords as an antagonist or hovering threat. These are powerful characters, corrupted by their service to an undead tyrant, living an unnaturally extended life and warped by their service. Their ultimate number and identities are a matter of speculation, as are their plans and true powers, but the unique nature of each of the Fell Lords subtly informs his or her domain:

  • The Necromancer: a sorcerer on the threshold of life and death, served by wraiths and shadows
  • The Sword: a fearsome warrior, and the tyrant's most hated enforcer, served by faceless armored warriors
  • The Intriguer: a spy and informer, served by crows and traitors
  • The Rider: the swiftest of the Fell Lords, served by spectral horses and their swift riders
  • The Artificer: the smith and craftsman, served by strange mechanisms and guarded by subtle traps
  • The Poisoner: a master of assassination and poisons, in his service are vipers and spiders of all kinds
  • The Hunter: a stalking terror, relentless in pursuit, served by wolves and other predators, mistress of the wild places
  • The Equivocator: the Fell Lords' spiritual advisor and preacher, master of guile and deception (you will never guess who your real enemy is)
  • The Prowler: a withered dwarf, the Fell Lords' tax-collector, greedy and clever, offering bribes with one hand and stealing with the other, and served by treasure hunters and ghouls

Ready to explore? Then grab some rules of your own or try the nameless d20 adventure game, and set to it.