The halfling looked out over the railing at the lump of blackness in the shimmering moonlit sea. He could see no lights to suggest the isle was inhabited. He moved back to the cook fire near the center of the deck. The night was cold enough that he found comfort in the heat of the flames. "It doesn't look like much," he observed, holding his hands up to the heat. "I don't think anyone lives there now: minotaur or otherwise."
The old dwarven sailor took a sip from his mug. "They're still there, believe you me. They just don't make much fire. Some say it's because they burned all the lumber on the isle centuries ago, others say they can see in the dark. Either way, they're still there."
The halfling looked doubtful. "Supposing they are there, how did they get stuck on that island."
The dwarf smiled, eager to tell the story. "They didn't get stuck there. It's there home. All of this was theirs." The dwarf made a sweeping motion with his free hand, indicating the surrounding sea. "All the isles of the Serpentine Sea, and most of the coastal settlements. This was all once a great empire, and they were the masters. And that island there," the dwarf paused to point in the direction of the dark isle to starboard, "was the center of their civilization. Taurvalis, they called it, Taurvalis the Island of Gold. Legends say the entire island was one huge city, a city of gold--because that's where they took all the spoils of their conquests."
The halfling was interested. He'd heard about the ancient empire of Taurvalis before, but he suspected that only part of the legend was true. "Minotaurs on ships? Great big bull men with little hooves for feet? How would they manage a ship? How would they climb the rigging to raise or lower sail?"
The dwarf took another sip. "They weren't always minotaurs, that was before the curse."
"The curse?" The halfling asked.
"Yes. They were cursed," the dwarf replied, continuing the tale in a practiced manner. "In the days of their conquests, they were men; but they were cursed by their own cruel god. You see, it was their god that gave them the victories, the conquests, the slaves, the treasure. But he demanded of them in return. But the legends say they grew proud of their glorious empire, felt they no longer needed their cruel god. They discontinued the sacrifices and observances he demanded. And so, he cursed them. On their highest holy day, they all woke up and found they had been transformed: half man, half bull. They were too large for their ships, too clumsy for their riggings, too heavy to float in water. Having lost their mastery of the Sea, they soon lost everything, everything except their great island city of Taurvalis."
The halfling looked back into the night. The dark spot of land was still slowly moving out of sight. He found himself relieved to see that the ship was putting some distance between him and the isle. "So they just live there, they never leave?"
"Mostly," the dwarf replied. "Sure, every now and then one leaves the isle for some reason, but most of them are afraid of the water, terrified of the idea of sea travel."
"But how do they live? What do they eat?" The halfling knew some of the story must be true, but he still wondered how much was just sailor's tales.
"Oh, they still have their wealth, or at least some of their wealth. There are captains in these waters who'll go anywhere for gold. Slaves is mostly what the minotaurs want, and they've got plenty of gold to buy them." The dwarf paused to take a sip. "Slavers, pirates, and worse still lower anchor at Taurvalis. They keep the minotaurs supplied with all the slaves they need. The Taurvals were always a warrior race, you see: conquerors who lived off of the work of others. They've got slaves on that island to raise their crops and herds... and to provide them with sport."
"Sport?" The halfling was not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
The dwarf shook his head, as if not sure he wanted to tell the tale. "Some sort of game they play with the strongest and fastest of their slaves. I don't know all the details, but they play it in the great maze." The dwarf took another sip, letting the tension build.
"Legends say the Taurvals built a huge maze underneath the city, to guard their greatest treasures in the golden age of their empire. Soon after the curse, raiders came to search the maze for hidden treasures and the minotaurs would enter the maze to stop them. Over time, it turned into some sort of sport. Now, they throw slaves into the maze and allow them relative freedom if they can find the treasure and escape with their lives. I suppose it's like their own version of gladiator games."
The dwarf nodded. "I once met a dragonborn who'd survived the maze to win his freedom. He claimed they let him keep the treasure he found, and they let him leave the island on the next slaver ship."
"Really?" The halfling again wondered about old sailor's tales, but there was something in the old dwarf's eyes and the tone of this voice that said otherwise.
"By all reports, they are not without honor. They respect strength, skill in combat. If a slave can show such strength and skill, he is no longer a slave. He is free to leave, or even remain on the island as one of their equals." The dwarf drained the rest of his cup and let out a yawn. "Well, that's enough talk for me." He turned and made his way to the passengers' quarters below deck.
The halfling looked out at the lump of blackness still receding in the shimmering moonlit sea, thinking of monsters and mazes and hidden treasures. "Taurvalis," he muttered under his breath.
This is how I plan to start my campaign. And although I call it the center of the world, its only important that the residents think its the center of the world.
Oh, and I'd really like to be able to present some art with this when I start. If you draw me something it will probably be worth some XP. (Asumming XP bribes are still in 4E)
After the fall of the Human Empire, the center of civilization’s remains is ironically a mid-sized Halfling town. Lingston is located on an island near the center of a placid sea. Surrounding the sea are three regions that were once important administratium. These are named for the rivers that run through them, Heltarg, Fimedu, and Paraisal. Lingston, the major center of inter-administratium trade, is filled with shipyards and markets. Also, due to the constant flow of traffic, it’s the center of news, message services, and paying jobs for souls with a taste for exploration and danger. Lingston is the unlikely center of the world and yet something apart.
Lingston proper covers the eastern half of the island. The town was originally built by humans and has all the usual architectural conceits of a Heltarg town: a market square, streets radiating in the eight directions, and a skyline dominated by a large temple. The shipyards are clustered around the northern coast, and on the southern coast, the overwhelming occupation is trade. Some ships come in and some sell items right off the boat while most have their goods unloaded on to carts and taken to the market square or one of the city’s many warehouses.
The character of Lingston is undeniable The Halflings keep the city well maintained, but in their own camp philosophy. For example, each “owner” of an apartment (squatting is a recognized institution in Lingston), will put an ingenious but temporary fix to any damage. The next owner insufficiently impressed with the ingenuity of the previous owner makes her own fix. The end result is that bits of wood, worn out pole-arms, and even kitchen utensils have come to intermix with marble shipped in from ancient and distant quarries. Any drunk no matter how blitzed he was would recognize his location the instant he woke up in a Lingston gutter.
The western half of the island has wide beaches and a small forest. Also, the island is dotted with Halfling camps. Here the Halflings can be close to nature and far from the unfortunate necessity of adventurers. There are also roving bands of Halfling hunter-fishers made up of Halflings and Eladrian. These hardy souls patrol the whole island and make sure no raiders can make a landing and no beast can crawl up from the sea and through the earth. Lingston Island is probably the safest place in the world, if you’re a Halfling.
Hiring Sword and Dagger, Hiring Bow and Wand
The role of the adventurer in Lingston is very peculiar. The Halflings would much rather to have the island to themselves to better keep their affairs private, but passage over the sea is difficult and the long stretches of uninhabited land along the river are even more treacherous. Far too many crews were dying. Boat leaders starting hiring adventures to protect the cargo and crew during their journeys, but they are and always will be considered an unfortunate necessity.
This is based off a unique take of something said in an EN world post.
The Caravan of Ang Harpin Not all Points of Light are stationary. Some survive best while on the move. The elaborate, fantastic Caravan of Ang Harpin is like a moving town. A jumble of circus performances, merchant traders, scouts, mercenaries and even nobles, thieves and assassins. Those who are visited by the caravan see it in mixed lights. It brings exotic spices, much needed goods such as gold, silver, steel and lumber in addition to bringing a hope through entertainments such as strange, enormous creatures with single tentacles drooping from their tusked faces and large lizards with sharp claws to fire-breathers and sword-swallowers.
But at the same time, Ang Harpin is a moving political mess. Moving guilds such as the famed Ang Harpin Assassin's guild and the infamous De'muvie Guild of Burglary can bring all new threats to a place. Even the noble families that travel and rule the caravan can upset the local authorites with their extravagant requests, odd behavior and foreign attitudes. Parents fear the caravan for children often run off to join the crowd as it walks away into the distance, perhaps never to be seen or heard from again.
South of the placid town of St. Clarice is a forest shrouded in a gossamer mist. This is a fell place, where the wind seems to whisper blasphemous secrets in a long-forgotten tongue, and screaming, tormented faces form in the fog, only to vanish just as quickly. Local rumor links the appearance of the mist to the discovery of a series of linked tunnels known as the Halls of Nightmare, for anyone who enters them returns haggard and unable to sleep properly. These unfortunates shriek and moan in their sleep about eldritch horrors, the likes of which men cannot comprehend...
What I find most frustrating about 4E is that I can see it includes the D&D game I've always wanted to play, but the game is so lathered in tatical combat rules that I have thus far been unable to coax the game I want out.
One hundred years ago, the insane rebel druid Voranix The Maw decided to put into practice his fanatical belief that the highest spiritual purpose for any creature was carnivory and predation. With a distortion of druidic magic, he raped from the Earth a plague of locusts that ruined all arable cropland for hundreds of miles; in a gruesome bid to force the farming peasants to 'realize their potential' and turn to lives of carnivory and cannibalism out of desperation. Those that perished in this madness deserved to be weeded out of nature; Voranix believed. The consequences of his murderous magic were mollified by a circle of benevolent druids known as the Summer Sisters; who permanently imprisoned the spirit of Voranix in a great old Oak, then attempting to heal the land. But the Spirit of Voranix The Maw cannot rest. The nearby forests are home to deers, songbirds, and other unnassuming creatures that have been magically mutated into terrible carnivores. The bite of these creatures can inflict a cannibalistic madness (Will save 15-20 at DM's discretion) similar to a Confusion spell as though cast by a 17th level Sorceror, those afflicted will use physical force to kill and consume anyone in their path. The Tree of the Maw is easy to spot from afar, through the mild forestation and flat country, but the traps laid by lycanthropic cannibal cults are less so. Those that persist to the Tree of the Maw have the option of sacrificing living flesh to the gory, gaping mouth with thorns for teeth - in gratitude the spirit in the tree willl cast beneficial druidic magic, and even award magic treasures from the stockpile of Voranix. The greatest treasures will be awarded if the tree is fed the living body of a sentient being that has cannibalized his own kind.
The Enclave: Deep within the August Wood lies a safe-haven for travelers simply referred to as The Enclave. It was founded many hundreds of years ago by an elf named Leon, who has not been seen in many years. It is managed quite well however by a venerable elf by the name of Vithrias. A hearty meal and a brief respit from travel can be found here, though most are encouraged to leave if they stay more than a few days. While a rather peaceful place, it has taken upon itself the duty of policing the rest of the forest. This has infuriated the residents of the nearby town of Thornvale which aspires to increase its influence in the region.
I have developed a community based around an escarpment. This escarpment runs east/west for as far as the eye can see and is quite arid. (Think what the area around the Grand Canyon looks like.) There is a major river that runs through the center of it, running roughly North/South, and this river cascades down the escarpment in a series of fantastic waterfalls. (Guess where the Dwarven kingdom is based.) Below this escarpment is a lake formed by the waterfalls, and a fast moving river. This river is surrounded by a largely unexplored forest which will be home to the Elves and Fey. The PC's will be from a largish farming community, the village of Dunlop, that is south of this escarpment/waterfall, is along the banks of this swift flowing river. There will also be a few hamlets and thorps surrounding this town, but nothing else is nearby, human wise. The major city/capitol is more than 300 miles away.
The village of Dunlop- named after the family that settled the area with their kinsmen- is comprised mostly humans, with elves and halflings the next most populous, followed by half-elves, dwarves, gnomes- I guess you could supplant gnomes for tieflings but in my world the tiefling race has been blamed for the shadow that fell on the world-, and then misc races. The Dunlop's settled here over 200 years ago as a land grant given to people who would brave the wilderness, clear the forest, start farming, and live there for 7 years being productive . They were more than successful and were made lords after 10 years. To this day, their family spends more time working the fields than they do playing at lord. There are also 2 other important family's in this village, one family deals with all sorts of livestock and the other deals with orchards and vineyards. (These 3 families make up the ruling class, with the Dunlops as the Lords of the land. The Dunlops are the ones that eventually answer to the Baron of the city 300+ miles away. There are other people that comprise the ruling board but the 3 original families are the ones with the most influence.) There are also other professions present here and need to be detailed as of yet. But first and foremost the roots of this village are in various farming aspects. I still need to create names for all the geographical areas.
The only other place I have started work on is a hamlet which will be composed of mostly orcs and half-orcs. The constant wars with the humans have taught this tribe one thing, they will never beat the human race. Years ago, the leader of this tribe decided that they would be better off trying to live in peace with the humans and the other races than constantly warring over land, food, pretties, etc... So he came bearing the flag of truce and proposed his plan to the leaders of Dunlop. In exchange for knowledge on farming techniques and other necessary professions, they would patrol the outlying areas and protect those who live there. The leaders of Dunlop agreed and since that time have lived peacefully with the tribe. (I'm figuring this happened about 100 years ago roughly.) There were some misgivings on both sides but now there is a mutual and strong bond there. (Though there are still prejudices.) This is definitely not the norm for the other nonhuman tribes in the area. This has obviously caused some interesting reactions from the other orcs/ nonhuman tribes in the area that are not quite as peaceful.
My heavy influence for this town is coming from Jack Whyte's The Camulod Chronicles.
What I may possibly do for gods in my campaign:
... and it came to pass that the gods from above fought the gods from below for supremacy of the world of Eiliath. In all their zealous ferocity, they forgot about that which they fought over and the wrath visited on each other spilled over onto this world and sent Eiliath into darkness...
Basically a meteor hit the world, which then caused earthquakes, tidal waves, huge dust cloud which then cause a new ice age, mass death, plagues, etc... Pretty much a bunch of natural disasters. The gods are the stars and their light going out from the dust cloud was considered their life force dying. By the end, only the moon and the sun was even faintly visible. (Luckily they are the 2 main deities.)
This way every race is affected by the same thing and it would take many, many years to recover from such a disaster.
This is the event that caused the Age of Darkness. Before this, there is an Age of Myth and Legend, but little is known from that era. I will be starting up the characters as they will hopefully be going from the end of the Age of Darkness into the Age of Enlightenment. Well actually the age of darkness has been over for awhile, the races have been expanding, rediscovering each other, the world, and that which is in it. It is still a dangerous place, and many places stay secluded.
Not every area got hit really bad, though some areas were completely laid to waste. It was these pockets that were not as bad off where life survived and then eventually thrived again. These pockets are where the gods protected their children from the worst of their "war."
I am placing the town, Dunlop, where the players will be coming from near an escarpment. This escarpment was caused when one of the gods from below tried to force his way to the above. I also have a large forest where the elves , fey, and eldarin can come from. The escarpment is where the dwarves will be found. I can also place any other creature needed in the area and come up with logical reasons as to why they would be there. I really haven't figured out what to do with the Tieflings yet, though I probably won't start them out as a pc race. The thing I am thinking about doing with them is that they were the last great race that had a world empire before the darkness came. Since they had become pretty nihilistic, hedonistic, etc... Their race gets blamed for what happened especially since they seemed to be aligned with the powers from below.
Most people will see the war of the gods as a cleansing of the world by the good gods to get rid of the evil that was taking over the world. A kill them all and let the gods sort out their own type of thing.
Well, this is just a beginning thought process. I am still not 100% sure on what I will be doing. I think there may be a few trains of thought.
I still need to work on my gods for this realm but this is what I have so far:
I would have a patron deity for each "point of light". There could still be other deities worshiped at each point, but only one main god(dess). For example, a farming community producing corn, wheat, veggies, etc.. would have a major deity that would probably be a nature/fertility aspect, say Elhonna. But maybe the next town, still a farming community grows grapes and makes wine. Their patron would then be an aspect more like Dionysus. A city might have a patron dedicated to law and good, where the Orc tribe has an aspect dedicated to chaos and evil.
Of course there may be more popular deities that reside over more than just one point of light. There would also be clerics of other deities trying to get a foothold into different places that they do not have control or influence. Makes for some really fun intrigue for the cleric, monk, paladin, holy person, etc.. This can also lead to secret societies, with all sorts of hidden sanctuaries, ways to recognize each other, and other fun things along that nature. (Illuminati)
You would be more likely to find multiple aspects in cities, but small shrines could be found just about anywhere, especially if there is a god(dess) of travel, luck, the brave and the foolish, etc...
In my campaign I will have a pantheon, but they are just aspects- or multiple personalities- of one divine being. The fracturing of this divine being happened so long ago, that the races of the land no longer remember that at one time there was only one divine being.
The interesting thing is that if I go with the war of the gods causing the darkness and the single god theory with the multiple personality disorder it basically means the god had a fight with himself. (Think the Narrator and Tyler Durden from Fight Club.)
Well, this was long. Hope people enjoyed reading it.
Ruled from the walled city of Galvantar, this region is one of only a handful of scattered remnants of the last great human empire. Ruled by a self-appointed hereditary regent, this far-flung corner of a once-mighty empire survives only through the iron will and tenacity of its ruling class, seen by some as staunch guardians and by others as vicious power-hungry tyrants (and who is to say that both views are not in some way correct?). Located on what was once the northern borders of the empire, the terrain consists primarily of mountains, pine forests and expanses of tundra, populated with people both hardy and independent by nature.
Some threats exist, but what remains of the northern legions are tasked with protecting the province, and the regent is known for lavish rewards to those who deal with more persistent menaces.
Trade and diplomatic relations exist with Elves, Dwarves and Halflings in the region, but other races are fewer and further between.
Here's a point of shadow I worked up for my Temple of Elemental Evil game:
Moanhollow Moanhollow was once an eladrin outpost, but it was long ago abandoned. Human refugees, seeking safety from the rampaging armies of elemental evil, moved into the elegant wood and stone homes built atop a small plateau and ringed by a grove of trees.
Soon, the refugees learned this place's terrible secret. The eladrin had left the town's center, a series of temples and other marble and wood buildings, ringed by a hastily built stone wall. Within were hundreds of eladrin zombies, shuffling about in a horrid parody of their lives. The humans were too few in number to attack the zombies, and the walls kept the undead trapped, so they settled there. The alternative was death and starvation in the wilds.
Soon, the humans discovered that their dead, too, returned to unlife. The zombies could be slain, but an hour after their "death" they arose again. The people of Moanhollow, a pragmatic lot if there ever was one, simply threw their dead over the barricade.
Slowly but surely, the ranks of the walking dead grow greater. Yet, the last time orc raiders attacked, the folk of the town simply opened a gate in the barricade, let the zombies tear the orcs to pieces, and then carefully herded them back into their enclosure with long pikes and lassos, taking care to throw the dead orcs over the wall when they were done.
Adventurers sometimes slip into the walled off portion of the town, for rumors persist of great treasures hidden there, but the people of Moanhollow consider it their graveyard. They have a gallows pole in the town square reserved exclusively for grave robbers...
I have a point, but it could be a point of darkness or light, depending on the needs and tendencies of the DM.
The Tulanis River Flowing out from the woods in the east is a riverbed that is on the average day as dry and empty as the surrounding grassy countryside. On the days when the river runs, however, it is advised by the people in nearby villages to stay away. Their rightful caution of the bemagiked waters is so great that none yet have set out to build a bridge, for who would be foolish enough to cross that river while it does run?
It is said that the river is a beautiful, yet frightening, thing to behold. The river reflects the rays of sun, moon, and starlight in an almost otherworldly way, exuding a brilliant aura even when clouds obscure the sky. The babbling of the water on the rocks is entrancing, and is said to bring to mind the image of a playful whispering maiden in the night, beckoning you closer. Even up close, to the untrained or underly-cautious eye the river seems to still retain an otherworldly beauty; however, under the surface of the water, those of keen senses will notice the outlines of swimming creatures that resemble something like fish yet are completely alien to this world. More than a few unsuspecting people have had their minds trapped by the river, and were unsubstantially consumed by her ravenous river-rovers.
Loremasters familiar with the entomology of the river's name, or who are otherwise familiar with arcane workings, may notice something peculiar. The "Tulani of Singing Stars" is the name of a high ranking Eladrin noble, who's power is comparable to the Bralani or the Shiradi. Indeed, it does appear that this river is in fact the Tulani's. The Tunlani lives in a small, shining tree city on the edge of this river in the Feywild, and as the world blends with the Realm of the Wildwood, her home and her river are transported into the mortal realm, where they continue with their lives unfettered until they shift back into their world.
The Tulani of Singing Stars is both cautious and intrigued by adventurers. She is not overtly violent with those that enter her realm, and is actually quite pleasant to those who seek her wisdom or song, but those who she finds "unsatisfactory" are removed from her land by her servants. Intruders she finds particularly unsavory she will let explore her lands, while she turns her home unseeable as she partakes in one of her beloved pastimes: hunting.