As a first time DM by a spark of what may have been creativity or insanity, I decided to fabricate my own world. So with this, Astu Fides, and other cities and locales I hope to post, it's all pretty heavily flavored with the world I've created. So in every likelihood you'll want to reflavor things a bit.
The Bleached Hills (Point of Darkness)
South of the river Des in Where Angels Fear to Tread lies the sight of the battle which finally turned the tide of the onslaught of the Nine Hells, known as The Bleached Hills. The area is a lifeless, bleach white expanse; earning its name and appearance from the bones of fallen warriors that stretch for miles. The bones of men, elves, and dragonborn lie amongst the skeletons of devils and other abominations. Tattered banners, dulled swords, and lusterless breast plates lie amongst the bones.
As you approach it and walk amongst the bones of fallen warriors, you cannot help but grasp the immensity of the sacrifice that has been made, and the enormity of the danger that lies toward the heart of the Fallen Kingdom of Caelum. For the nearest cities Des Nekketh and Astu Fides, it is sacred ground. A yearly pilgrimage is made by the soldiers of these cities to this place where the bones of their forbears in blood and in arms lay in the endless expanse. A small shrine to Bahamut lies at the edge of this place, and for more than an acre around the small shrine are family crests and heirlooms left by the survivors to honor the fallen.
Yet there is a darker side to this place. Although the ancient bones have not stirred for centuries, a necromancer might look upon this place and see endless opportunity...
In a tower just north of the expanse is a tower that once housed the sister organization of the Wizards College in Des Nekketh. Opposed to the building in the Eastern part of the city, this is similar in size, yet it's stonework is much more bold, and it possesses a moat, arrow slits, and reventments. Through any menagerie of sources, it can be discerned that this was a group that, although annihalated in the battle of the Bleached Hills, was concerned with some of magics... practical applications. The direction I've taken with this tower contains three combat encounters. Several Des Nekketh soldiers turned to wights and possessing the tell tale signs of being harvested by a cadaver collector, guard the tower outside, and serve as a first line, expendable defense. Inside is the aforementioned cadaver collector, swayed to serve the evil that now inhabits the tower. At the top is a stone golem, controlled by a minion of one of Orcus' servants. The Nine Hells still hold sway in Caelum, and this evidencing itself at the battle that so long ago turned the tide is cause for alarm.
Goblins also scavenge among the bones, arming themselves with daggers, shortswords, and axes found amongst the dead. Though ill fitting, they will also take helmets and greaves in order to armor themselves. Though in their most grisly act, they will wear the bones. With leather strips they will tie leg bones to serve as greaves, skulls of larger creatures become helmets, their rib cages breatplates. These goblins are not particularly organized, though one abnormally large goblin identified by his 'armor' fashioned from the skeleton of a dragonborn does maintain a loose grip on a band of goblins. Yet, ultimately, even this group is small. It is not so much the threat they pose to Des Nekketh and Astu Fides, but that they so defile this holy place.
Necromancy seems to me an almost too good to pass up opportunity with something like this. More than a mile wide expanse of bones that is hallowed ground to nearby cities? The possibility for a necromancer to reanimate a massive army? Groups that would be outraged at this unholy act? That's almost D&D 101.
In 'Threats to the Nentir Vale' I found the Cadaver Collector and the daggerburg goblins (a good template for the goblins mentioned earlier). With regards to the possessed stone golem, effectively this minion has now power beyond what it can command the stone it inhabits to do; and destroying the golem will destroy this minion. I essentially took the Stone Golem found in the monster vault, made appropriate adjustments to AC, health, etc., added ongoing 5 necortic to any physical attack, and a few other powers that played off the fact that it is bound to the tower it inhabits.
I would like to stress that this is the direction I took, and I post this in hopes you can get ideas and inspiration. I post the location itself, however, with the intention that it might spark your own creativity and serve as an encounter area for your own campaigns.
http://thedailydungeon.blogspot.com/ My Daily D&D blog - cities, dungeons, NPC's, and more
A location meant for heroic tier, or to start off a campaign.
Hidden in the wild and rocky highlands lies a valley full of gurgling streams, sparse meadows, and winding caverns in the crags. Wolf packs roam the forests and griffons soar above the few open fields. This vale is only located on a few maps, and on those it is found on it is listed as nothing more than a side note.
The few villagers inside the valley or near it call it Sanguine Vale, after the red flowers that blossom there in bunches beside nightshade and wolfsbane, although that is not the only reason. According to local myth, hidden in the vale is the crumbling ruin of a keep that was the hideaway for a powerful mage that studied the dangerous art of blood magic. Stories of this mage differ, as to his intentions and ultimate fate, but most agree that his goblin servants, or test subjects, escaped the keep along with many of his other exotic subjects, and that is why goblin tribes now raid travelers and villages from their caves. Of course, it is the few and warring gnoll bands that are truly feared for their savagery, not the goblins.
Very few fey corssings are scattered about the vale, and creatures of the Feywild are sometimes spotted in the deepest parts of the forrest. A few villages are closer to these crossings, and have regular interactions with eladrin and other fey, which are normally friendly, or confused.
Halfling trading clans travel up and down the many waterways, visiting the different villagers for supplies and stories before eventually coming back to Wolfhide, a small village at least half built on the water. Because not many halflings are devoid of wanderlust, the position of Elder Patron of Wolfhide is a shifting one as one Halfling clan leaves for another to take its place.
Hope this helps
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. -Revelation 21:6
The new premise for standard D&D adventures is less on world-building, and more about building fantastic, isolated locations and points of civilization so that much of the world remains undefined, unexplored, and ripe for adventure. I'm going to periodically submit ideas for new adventurous locales that could be dropped into any 4e-friendly world, and hope others do the same. Together, a thread like this could generate limitless possibilities for danger and excitement.
The Waywood: A mobile forest of semi-sentient Oaks and Redwoods that roams the plains on animated roots traveling from place to place for reasons understood by no man. The trees seem to be driven by a host of dryads that have left the Feywild, and it is rumored that there exists a cult of dark druids near the center. Sometimes the Waywood passes civilization without incident; other times there are strange deformations, and tales of men and beasts being grafted together or transformed in ways that seem to defy nature.
Steelvein: An outdoor site sacred to the Scythrian warrior-Horsemen. A tribe of militant centaur-archers that survives by raiding and tribute from settled lands. Steelvein is a circuit of roads and racetracks where ritualistic combat and races are conducted by the Scythrians during semi-annual religious festivals. Adventurers that fall into their clutches are made to undergo grueling regimes of endurance, agility, and combat along the tracks, under the watchful eye of centaurs a match for any elf in archery. Those who sruvive are taken to the glittering aurora that shines on a mound at the center of the circuit, where they may be judged by the ancestor spirits of the Scythrians; it is whispered that death along the tracks may be the better fate.
The Singing Sea: A body of water that fades in and out of the Feywild on an erratic schedule. The waters amplify the alluring powers of a host of aquatic fey with mind-controlling abilities, and when the Singing Sea appears, travelers are lured from miles around by dreams of delight planted in their minds by Fey powers. Those that reach its shores are captured and used as playthings until the Fey tire of them, a fate that is usually fatal. But if one can travel there and resist the magical lures of the amoral fey, the waters can be used to brew any sort of magical potion with no other material components needed with an enhanced level of power. But those that drink the waters suffer a great penalty to resist charm effects.
Forest's Edge: A small village inside the start of a large forest which borders wide open plains to the west. Hills and then mountains lie north of these plains, and the rocky cliffs of the ocean are far south. South of the forest is swampland, and nobody knows just how far east it goes.
A portal lies in the plains area which brings PC's and NPC's into this world from other realms like clockwork each day at noon, which is how everyone arrived to this strange new world.
Due north of Forest's Edge, a similar portal spits out vile and nasty monsters each night at midnight, so many so that the village has already started a cemetery not far south.
A ways south of the PC portal lies a circle of standing stones with a ritual altar in the center, a meeting place of druids long-past.
Far to the southeast, in a clearing in the woods, there was found by an adventuring party the ruins of an ages-old temple. Two vampires named Glim and Loyola skulk among its broken stone walls and an adult black dragon lives nearby in a marshy area to the southwest of it.
Upon making it inside, the PC's found that the furniture was topsy-turvy, with the floor and ceiling reversed. Searching the rooms after killing many strange monsters, miniature handheld devices were found, along with a book near a statue of an elven druid named Valanthe Stacialo, who will one day build this very temple in the future-past, before it is defiled by evil and taken over by the sands of time. The funny thing is that "Valan" is back at Forest's Edge, a young druid who is studying the standing stones and learning about this new world along with the rest of the PC's.
Having one of these devices will allow a single PC to enter the stargate portals, and only 5 or so were found. The book further explained that key devices could be found in special locations throughout many worlds, and that each key added to a handheld activator would further allow a PC to more specifically direct when and where the portal would take him or her next.
Time and planar travel have never been so easy, hopping between worlds and settings, but the only problem is that no keys were found here, but at least they can jump into a portal and end up in some random location to start with. Maybe they'll find a key in another world if none are found in this one! And with these devices, one might eventually find his way back home! Another such portal was found 2 levels below the surface after killing the ogre mage who was holed up nearby. Nobody jumped in just yet, but instead found a secret underground passage which ended up bringing them to the surface due south of the circle of standing stones. Too bad some of them were bitten and scratched by werewolves before their return, but at least they managed to kill the mummies-torches are a good thing to have!
As the days go by and more people arrive from other worlds, the village grows, but so do the threats from the monsters. The local seers have suggested that some of the townfolk leave and go settle elsewhere to make it safer to live in Forest's Edge.
Many dwarves and halflings did just that, heading north to settle the hills and mountains if they can make it that far. Little do they know that upon their arrival, similar portals will appear nearby their new settlements as well.
Notable PC's in this game world my friends and I played who can be your NPC's are
Ferrick Vennadho, half fighter 1/rogue 2/wizard 1/vampire 2/werewolf 1 (chaotic and indecisive, flips a coin or rolls a die to make even the most important decisions) Valanthe Stacialo a.k.a. Valan, elven druid 5, vampire 2 Pharon-Heit a.k.a. Pheit, dwarf fighter 4/barbarian 1/vampire 1/werewolf 1 (noble tactician) Ravenwing, gnome wizard (illusionist) 5/vampire 2 (keeps forgetting which spells are in his spellbook from day to day) Melfina Starrione human bard 5/vampire 2 (leather-loving prostitute)
We used the templates that allow for gaining abilities and powers of a vampire or werewolf by split levels, a variant I found online, and I allowed both templates to be applied because I wanted to be a vampire AND a werewolf!
Former mayor of Forest's Edge, elven ranger Heavianal Myloric a.k.a. Loric, who turned evil and skulked off into the woods to the east, where he is amassing an army of whatever humanoids he can persuade to join him which come through the monster portal and aren't killed but wander off into the woods instead.
Jonas Windler a.k.a. Jonah Swindler, the first banker of Forest's Edge, who accepted deposits of all the village's valuables and then promptly ran off with them into the woods to the north.
Above-mentioned monsters which weren't killed, such as Glim and Loyola, who are now befriended by the new PC's they turned, as well as the adult black dragon, which of course didn't get killed yet.
Forest's Edge Mayor's Amulet-Necklace worn by the former mayor, and before that, by Ferrick, the former leader of the inhabitants. This necklace grants +1 to Bluff, Diplomacy, and Gather Information checks when used locally, due to the esteem associated with wearing the moniker of power.
A glowing sword was seen in the hands of an undead warrior heading into the woods to the north of the monster portal one night. No one has tracked it down and killed it yet to see what it actually is.
Used-up Necklace of Fireballs, used to obliterate an army of ettins and orcs. A reminder of a good story to tell around a campfire.
And of course the handful of handheld stargate activators, 5 or 6 at the most. Getting them from the vampires who plan to use them soon would prove quite a feat!
The townfolk have completed digging a 30 ft. pit in front of the monster portal and armed it with spikes, making the area much safer.
There is a captured otyugh in a makeshift cage due east of the village, and it is well-fed, eating all of the town's garbage.
A few other captured minor humanoid monsters were kept alive in order to lower the number of creatures spit out each night by the monster portal (1 encounter was rolled for every 2-4 PC's and classed NPC's in the area; if a good/neutral part of adventures or such was rolled, I made them come out of the PC portal the next day instead).
A small white wyrmling flew out of the portal one night, away over the treetops, heading north.
A small group of hobgoblins headed off to the ne of the monster portal one night and are building a settlement somewhere in the woods in that direction.
A few other encounters are lurking out in the woods which weren't killed immediately by the PC's who found the portal and came to slaughter beasts each night. Roll your own if you want to add them.
Also they did at one point venture south to the cliffs of the sea, found caves down the cliff face, and explored them a bit. The monk who was with them made a sacrifice to some unidentified altar and began to grow claws and fangs. He was promptly abandoned and still lurks in those caves.
Beyond the cliff wall lies a whirlpool and on the other side of it, an island, where Ferrick will at some point in the future-past build something special, but as you know by now, it's already there. Maybe a crystal palace would be nice, with many aquariums filled with sea life, and of course an island cove with waterfalls and rocks where he can sit and converse with the mermaids who live nearby in their undersea kingdom.
None of the other players yet made up what they wanted to build, so make up your own for your players to discover-something that each of them will work towards building in the future, once they time travel out of this place and get back here long before any of this ever happened, so that it's here waiting on you now to be discovered.
It should be winter in the region as well, as only a few weeks have gone by and the world started on 1/1/00.
Re this note from above: Due north of Forest's Edge, a similar portal spits out vile and nasty monsters each night at midnight, so many so that the village has already started a cemetery not far south.
This is a cemetery south of the village for the people who have been killed from the few monster raids on the town that overwhelmed the hunters at the portal on some nights. Instead of heading off into the woods, they headed south and slaughtered folks in the village. Many peasants and a few other lower-level NPC's like warriors and such were killed. I always use the mass combat generator by Farland found online to run these and it's AMAZING!
The Concealing Mists This is a unique location. Want to present your party with a magical item, but they keep wanting to do their own thing? This is perfect for that. The Mists are formed around a powerful magic item, and they devour anyone who enter, never letting them leave. The terrain within the Mists are twisted from their original forms, and dangerous monsters of all kinds find their way here. The only way to disperse the Mist is to find the item in the center that the Mists have formed around, and to claim it.
The Mists: The Mists are not unique to each item. It is a sort of entity that forms around objects of great power, and brings anything that is within it to that item. Because of this, the terrain is warped and twisted when the Mist comes and goes. However, sometimes in deposites things it has within it when it leaves, anything from monsters trapped within the Mists to hidden treasures. Anyone not within the general vicinity of the item when it is removed is claimed by the Mists and lost to them forever, forced to serve as its guardian until they are slain in combat.
As a Plot Device: This can be used to introduce new villains, a new breed of monster, ancient treasures, new PCs that have been within the Mists for eons or years, the possiblities are endless. Anything near the item is also brought into the real world when the Mists disappear, and random spots all through the Mists manifest. Also, you can use this to alter familiar terrain, turning mountains into fields and decimating towns, or bringing a lake into existance, and because of the Mists unique qualities, it changes every time you enter it, so it can be incredibly different from one encounter to another. It can also sometimes move people, and players, to another part of the world.
As the Armies of the Nine Hells cut down Caelum's sons by the thousands, it was a losing battle. Where the Hells were met in pitched combat, it was most often a delay tactic to give those retreating North time to reach and cross the Des. The Great Exodus, thousands perished as sick, injured, or dying though many were, Hell was not far behind them, and husbands and fathers were laying down their lives to give them precious time. Though their pursuers were finally stopped at what are now the Bleached Hills, the thousands newly displaced had to make their home a new. Some settled near Des Nekketh, some sought refuge beyond the cliffs and walls of Astu Fides, but a great many continued Northward to the Citadel of Fastigium.
Once the Northernmost Citadel of the Great Kingdom of Caelum, it is now the largest human city of the Surviving Kingdoms. When the mass of refugees came to the gates from the Great Exodus, no home was left to returned to. In the coming years, the massive open fields that surrounded the hill of the Citadel gave way to at first wooden buildings, but as the years wore on streets, markets, and solid stone homes encompassed the entirety of the great stone edifice. Now, so many centuries later, the Citadel dominates the center of the city and serves as the seat of the government and the Army.
Given its existing military strength, the city naturally became new sort of capitol. While no one true kingdom exists any longer, the other human cities do respect the word of the High King, if not in any official way. The Armies of Fastigium also journey beyond the Citadel and the green fields visible from its walls, offering protection to those far from Des Nekketh and Astu Fides, but providing support to these cities as well. Of late, however, there have been skirmishes with the Dragonborn and there is talk of war with Dythan's Legion.
A city carved from the basaltic rock of a dormant volcano, it stands at the edge of the Great Arkhosian Desert. Once the seat of power for the Kingdom of the warrior-like Dragonborn, for centuries it was the gem of the Tiefling Empire of Bael Turath before its fall. Now it serves as the home of Dythan’s Legion as he seeks to restore the Dragonborn race to what he sees as their birthright.
The eternal stone of the city has seen many ambitious men, Dythan not the first. His Legions have tattooed upon their arm the Turathi slave symbol as a reminder of the indignation their race suffered for so long. From the hub of Incendium they search the ruins long lost to the sands for relics of an Empire that was in hopes of rebuilding it. Siege Engines and other machinations of war are taken from the rubble along with ancient and powerful relics that have waited patiently in the oceans of sand, and cities begin to again rise from the desert. His Army, too, every day more and more resembles the lost glory of the Arkhosian Empire. Each soldier is a tower of steel, great siege engines are dotted amongst the legions, and the elite of the army ride upon Drakes from the far reaches of the Arkhosian Desert, and it would seem that Dythan is not simply rebuilding an Empire, but preparing for War. Already skirmishes have occurred with the legions of Fastigium, and tension grows every day. While all out war has not yet occurred, one must wonder how one as ambitious as Dythan will play his hand.
It is a military society; every aspect of daily life is fixated upon the military machine that every day seems to grow larger. The small city states that lie to the South between the desert and the Des have become fiefdoms. Not by conquest, but by necessity; being so scattered and so far from Fastigium, the Lords of the various city states have turned to Dythan for protection from Where Angels Fear to Tread, and in return they provide food to the Desert Kingdom so as to feed the Legion.
Incendium is the only true city, as it is the only one that has been fully rebuilt. The government is a small Senate formed from the top ranking in the military, and so of course Dythan holds the greatest sway. With the exception of emissaries, none are allowed passage, so to safely reach the city one must obtain permission or use deception. Any who are caught, however, are taken and put to work restoring the ruins of the ancient cities in the vastness of the desert. So while Dythan’s Legion fights in Where Angels Fear to Tread for the sake of the Southern Fiefdoms, the possible war with Fastigium makes aid in the coming conflict from the Dragonborn seem a near impossibility.
My own homebrew campaign centers around the resurgence of the powers of the Nine Hells trying to conquer what remains of a world called Caelum. And these two cities in the Surviving Kingdoms will of course be a major feature. I certainly hope others are able to adapt them for use in their own campaigns.
P.S. Dythan's Legion is from Threats to the Nentir Vale, yet the city is something of my own design.
http://thedailydungeon.blogspot.com/ My Daily D&D blog - cities, dungeons, NPC's, and more
The Eye of Alethernea Located deep in the Feywild, this enormous cave flowing with life and pulsing with magic gives birth to the Waterfall of Alethernea, the magical flow intertwined with the water to make it travel upwards, launching the liquid to the sky of the forest around it. Permanent rain (called Alethernea's Cry by the locals) makes travel difficult, and the strange vegetation has changed to make the most of its weather. A traveler can easily encounter various new species there, who happen to emerge spontaneously from the Eye. Very few travelers would suspect they're standing in a place who exists both in the Far Realm and the Feywild, mixing the endless madness of the first with the infinite spark of life from the other, and giving birth to all kinds of creatures both beautiful and dangerous. Whether the planar juxtaposition happened naturally or was created by some unfathomable power is a question that no sage has answered yet, but from time to time a strange shadow can be seen lurking in the water... *Sorry if i made grammar mistakes (not english-speaker), i'd be very grateful if you could point them to me, so i can correct those and learn proper grammar*
Love the idea of combining the Far Realm and Fey Wild!
There was once a small circle of wizards who wished to study the arcane and occult, away from the troubles of civilized lands. So they picked a clearing in a seemingly forgotten forest and built a tower where they would pursue their research. All was well for many months - the wizards could study in peace and quiet, and even experiment their theories of new spells without fear of hurting people.
However, with the passing of time, eventually a lone merchant caravan passed the tower by chance, and ended up making a business with the owners: the merchants would bring the wizards much needed supplies from a city, and in exchange the wizards would protect the caravans that passed by their tower. What started with one caravan eventually grew to many others who began hearing about the wizards' tower, and sought their protection in the wild as they made their journeys by the lone tower.
Even though the wizards' had desired solitude, slowly but surely they allowed more and more merchants to stay a night or two by the tower's area, as a mutual agreement from both parties. In time, the caravans went from nomadic to sedentary, and formed a little village of sorts with the arcane tower at its center. By this point the wizards didn't mind, used as they were by the merchants' company.
A peaceful year passed until the bandits arrived. These were the armed and dangerous type, not easily threatened even by masters of the arcane. Still, they were cunning as they were deadly, and began asking for a "protection tax" from the people of the hamlet. The wizards couldn't well start fighting them, for there were too many, and they feared harming the people of the village by accident with their powerful magics.
And so the wizards allowed the bandits to stay around, but secretly planning to dispose of them quietly. They gathered their resources and minds into crafting a spell that would kill the bandits, silent like death itself, and no one else. But as the bandits' grew confident in their presence, they began injuring villagers, taking the women on "trips", and "borrowing" items they wanted. The wizards hastened their research, unwilling to let the travesty continue any longer, and managed to hurriedly finish their spell in a month, unleashing it on the bandits.
On that fateful night a violet mist spread from the tower and into the surrounding village. One by one the bandits began to scream, then choke, convulse, and finally fall down to the ground. But it didn't stop there; the villagers were halfway through their victory cries when they, too, began to fall to the mist. The wizards stared from the top of their tower, unable to believe how foolish they had been in releasing an unfinished magic upon the village. And then they fell to the mist as well.
Unfortunately, that's not where the story ends. The next night the bodies of everyone in the tower's area, villagers, bandits, and even the wizards, rose, animated by the violet mist, which returned to the area under the cover of the night. Not dead, but not truly alive either, they regained different amounts of their minds, and stayed where they had been turned. Some attacked each other. Others did nothing. And yet another group regained enough sanity to organize themselves and begin attacking the caravans that were inevitably coming their way. During daytime they would hide, but at night, when the mist returned, so would they, the Wretched.
This is the story of the Wretched Tower.
Whew! That took longer than I thought. I realized that it was 90% story/background and 10% actual stuff that's in the point of dark, but oh well, there you have it, the whole thing.