Last Time …
In a previous post I outlined the concept for an OSR D&D world. To summarize:
As in older versions of D&D there are only three alignments: Law, Balance, and Chaos, plus the great Unaligned masses.
Humans dominate the world, with surviving enclaves of “Elder Peoples”1: Elves, Dwarves, and (technically) Halflings. Other Elder Peoples and demi-human species may participate in human society, e.g. the rare Antediluvians, the intimidating Lizardkin, and the unsettling “planetouched” or Planars for short (a.k.a. “Tieflings” and “Asmimar”).
The Great Continental Empire rules, well, most of the continent, but it (and its rival the Eastern Hegemony) are in turmoil. Part of the problem is the rise of monsters in rural and even civilized lands, and recently discovered artifacts and ruins belonging to no known historical period.
To combat the monsters, a provincial governor (of a yet to be named province) created the Adventurers’ Guild, with moderately strict requirements and very clear enforcement of the Guild’s monopoly on what used to be the preserve of mercenaries, bounty hunters, monster hunters, and odd-jobbers.
Technology generally conforms to late Iron Age and early Medieval norms, with the inevitable anachronisms. Magic is dangerous, so not widely used.
Upon Further Thought …
I’m going to walk back a few things I said last time:
While the lack of concrete sailing ship and airship rules irks me, the current campaign will take place on dry (or irrigated) land, and somewhat under it. So I have neither time nor need to concern myself with Skycrawl, airships, etherships, or even sailing ships bigger than a small skiff.
I’m definitely moving away from D&D 5e. I’m going to design this setting and campaign around DCC, but if Into the Unknown clicks with hypothetical players I may switch to that. But I’m really liking DCC now, over and above the other B/X-derivatives I considered last time.
That said, I may also want to consider Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and even Old-School Essentials (which I’ve yet to read) as there’s a lot of supplements for each of those. Less so Low Fantasy Gaming and Crypts & Things, which I Kickstarted, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which is an OK ruleset but attracts mainly negadungeons and shock-your-parents supplements.
I may also declare this a human-only campaign. Honestly the only nonhumans I’m explicitly including are the dwarves, and they make better NPCs than PCs.
Onto this week’s task, quoting The Gygax 75 Challenge:
Get a sheet of hex paper. Draw the following items on it. Name anything worthy of a name.
- One large settlement (define large however you like)
- Two other settlements (camps, larger or smaller towns, a keep, the home base of a fantasy race, etc.)
- One major terrain feature (covering at least three hexes)
- One mysterious site for exploration
- One dungeon entrance – at least!
Key your map. The easiest way to do this is probably to number the hex rows and letter the columns. This will give you coordinates to reference. Note down the names of places and terrain types using these coordinates or write them directly on the map.
Rather than start with a map, I’ll start with the aforementioned items and then decide how they fit on a map.
The Town of Knight’s Haven
Near the center of the map sits the walled town of Knight’s Haven. It’s approximately two miles wide and two and a half miles long, with a thick outer wall. An inner wall surrounds the castle where the Earl, his family, and his retainers live.
Knight’s Haven supplies the forts along the Imperial Road. It receives gold from the Dwarves in the mountains to pay soldiers, various minerals from the pit mine to make weapons, and produce, meat, wood, and leather from the surrounding farms and villages.
The mostly self-sufficient community has craftsmen to turn raw products into usable goods, overseen by powerful craft guilds and merchant guilds. Knight’s Haven even has its own chapter of the Adventurers’ Guild, due to the monsters that have been sighted in the woods beyond the villages.
Just another fort a few decades ago, Knight’s Haven prospered thanks to the hero Gareth ap Geraint wagering his fame and fortune on building a walled city in an unnamed wilderness along the Imperial Road. Some say “Gareth’s folly” may become a major province of the Empire in another few decades … once the monster problems have been solved.
Castle Hill is the neighbordhood around the Earl’s castle, once a simple hill fort overlooking the Imperial Road. Today it harbors the residences of the Earl’s advisory council, many knightly and noble families, and the servants and shopkeepers who cater to them.
Dwarftown began as a small, squat building on the river where Dwarves lived and worked as dock workers, builders, and skilled laborers. The few dozen who first settled there sent for their wives and families from Baradzur, and traveling Dwarves from elsewhere chose to stay permanently. Other, larger buildings joined the first. As Knight’s Haven grew, the town’s outer walls surrounded Dwarftown as well. Today, the Dwarves of “Dwarftown” provide weapons, armor, jewelry, and whiskey to the rest of Knight’s Haven. Human residents in surrounding neighborhoods supplement or complement the Dwarves ever-growing list of industries.
The most recent immigrants into Dwarftown proper – defectors from Baradzur and adventuring Dwarves and Halflings – have begun to cause unrest in Dwarftown. Not only is Dwarftown running out of room for the new immigrants, the newcomers perturb the sober, hard-working first settlers with their drinking, gambling, carousing, and occasional fights. Neighborhoods around Dwarftown, once almost as exclusive as those of Castle Hill, have dropped in value. Travelers and adventurers can find cheap lodgings there, but the streets around Dwarftown have become increasingly lawless. Prominent Dwarftown residents have proposed patrolling the old walls and guarding the old gates, like a town within a town.
The Witch’s Tower
A few hours walk from Knight’s Haven, hidden by the forest, stands the Tower of the Witch.
The tower itself looks old, built centuries before the Empire discovered this region by some unknown people. The Witch is even more mysterious, a purveyor of potions and magical services unbound by the restrictions of the Adventurers’ Guild or laws regarding magic established by the Earl’s wizard advisor.
The dirt path to and from the tower is relatively safe in daylight. Anyone who does not return to the town before curfew must spend the night camped in front of the gates.
The Imperial Road
The Empire built a number of roads to facilitate travel, trade, and troop movements. This section of the road is the most remote, meant as a shortcut between the provincial capitol and the Inner Sea.
The road cuts through some damgerous and lawless territory. The Empire therefore built a number of forts along the road, effectively defining the border between the Empire and the wilderness. Most of these forts are little more than barracks and a pallisade. A few have supporting villages. One, Knight’s Haven, became a large town unto itself.
The Open Pit Mine of Radovol
Up a long, winding dirt path lies the open pit mine of Radovol.
Once the region’s major supplier of cheap copper and other metals, and a source of stone for expanding a small outpost into Knight’s Haven, the metal veins ran out and the need for stone lessened considerably.
The village fell on hard times … until they foune the door.
The Village of Radovol
The village arose first to support the open pit mine that developed after the accidental discovery of copper. It was a small but thriving community for twenty years until the veins of copper and trace metals ran out. It saw a brief resurgence as a quarry during the building of Knight’s Haven. After the Earl’s gold stopped flowing so freely, most of the former miners became masons in Knight’s Haven or its surrounding villages, leaving only a few stubborn families digging in the pit for scraps of metal.
It was one of these miners that discovered the Door.
The Door In The Pit
The Door lies flush with the bottom of the mine, set in a dark stone square that turns away picks, dents shovels, and damages any other mining tool used against it. The door itself is a single piece of smooth black metal, with no apparent latch or knob, and is even tougher than the stone in which it’s set.
Many have tried to open the door, mainly through force, but none have yet deduced what mechanism, if any, releases it.
The Bergarus Mountains
The Cetina River
The source of the Cetina lies high in the Bergarus mountains. The Dwarves of Baradzar diverted it to supply their underground home water. Unlike some humans, however, the Dwarves ensure the runoff from their industrial and biological activities does not contaminate the main stream.
The Cetina continues for about ten miles before it supplies Knight’s Haven with water. Via the Dwarves boats, it also supplies the city with gold and other minerals in return for foodstuffs and other agricultural products, which Dwarves must carry overland and back up the mountain.
The Cetina continues through the town, somewhat murkier upon exit, past the Witch’s Tower and onward into the western woods. It forks into the Greater Cetina and a smaller, unnamed stream which continues almost straight south.
The Dwarf Enclave of Baradzar
Up in the mountains dwell the Dwarves of the Baradzar Clan.
Fargrim, ruler of Baradzar and King2 of the Bergarus Mountains, maintains a cordial but purely businesslike relationship with the Earl of Bergarus Vale. The Earl sends foods and other goods the Dwarves cannot easily create themselves, and the Dwarves send gold, iron, and other essential minerals.
Every year, more and more Dwarves accompany shipments to Knight’s Haven and simply stay. These defector Dwarves have become a problem not only for King Fargrim but for the unofficial leaders of Knight’s Haven’s Dwarftown.
Beyond Knight’s Haven, Radovol, and scattered farms and villages, Bergarus Vale consists mainly of untamed wilderness. Anything may lie in that wilderness, including monsters and mysterious ruins.
The Impossible Keep
Villagers and scholars have dubbed a mysterious structure in the woods the “Impossible Keep”. Here are it’s alleged impossibilities:
- What’s left of it resembles no known architectural style: not modern, nor Fourth Age, nor First Empire, nor Dwarvish, nor Eastern.
- No other civilization has ever existed in this region, according to scholarly records.
- Under the ruins lies a network of catacombs. However, multiple attempts to map the catacombs have yielded wildly different results.
- Those who have camped near it or within it have reported voices speaking in an unknown language during the night. A few have even reported shadowy figures that appear only out of the corners of one’s eyes.
- On moonless nights some have glimpsed an iridescent tower or keep standing amidst the ruins. The structure disappears as soon as someone approaches.
Scale is 1 mile per hex. This makes all of Knight’s Haven 2-3 miles long and about 2 miles wide.
I left a lot of blank space for future points of interest and/or dungeon entrances, but I may want to widen the map at some point.
So there we have:
- A major settlement: Knight’s Haven.
- Two smaller settlements: Radovol and Baradzar.
- Three multi-hex features:
- One mysterious site: The Impossible Keep
- One dungeon entrance: The Radovol Door
Elves and Dwarves (and sometimes Halflings) are called the “elder races” or “elder peoples”, because they existed in these lands before humans. ↩︎
The actual Dwarvish title means “highest chief” or perhaps “general manager”. “Kings” are elected from among the richest and most powerful families, and can lose their position if a critical mass of Dwarves simply refuse to acknowledge them. Unlike the human world, these rebellions are mostly peaceful. Mostly. ↩︎