Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Bladed Earth: Twenty Questions (Part IV)

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
In Port Canciare, far to the east, there are several such arenas, and they are as brutal and horrific as one might expect.

Eremites, the supposedly accursed inhabitants of Lesserton and the surrounding environs, are well-known for their love of gambling and bizarre spectacle, including giant centipede racing and owlbear-baiting. There is no literal arena in Lesserton, but it seems likely that there would be bloodsport available to those who know where to look and how to ask.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
There are undoubtedly hidden cults and factions with foul designs upon the free lands of Cosk, but they are hidden. However, it is fashionable among the mercenary companies and delving crews of the northwest to behave as if they were secret societies, complete with strange standards, secret hand gestures, and cryptic slogans. They generally choose gloomy or grandiose titles for themselves. Their supposedly elite status is compromised by the fact that the majority of their members will generally work for anyone that will pay well enough. Among their steadily growing ranks are the aforementioned Adherents of Mandoom, the Order of Eight Demons, the Brotherhood of the Broken Crescent, the Lords of Decay, the Chartermen, the Whisperwood Consortium, the Scourge, the Bloody Ones, the Rack, the Wings of the Red Falcon, the Great Volunteers, the Council of Dying Embers, and the Wrong Men.

18. What is there to eat around here?
Northwestern Cosk is -- for now at least -- still a bountiful land, with fertile soil and abundant game. The most popular dish among the types that frequent Fulcrum is luskbread, a chewy, starchy roll filled with salted meat, most often pork or blood sausage. Though few realize it, most "Coskar" staples are local variations on Eremite and Ersisan dishes. The traditional Coskar cuisine of the region, with its odorous goat stews and bitter wines, is not widely favored by those not raised eating it.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
Bledspar's Folly, a lost settlement located deep in the Spires of Sloine, is reputed to be filled with gems and riches the dwarfs abandoned in their haste to escape the plague or curse that struck its halls. Sailors have reported seeing a mist-shrouded, glittering castle in the deadly rocks off the southwestern shores. The Tower of Pride, from which Zaar either ascended or fell, supposedly contains great treasures, but the region surrounding it is still very much in the grip of the hobgoblins, widely known as the deadliest warriors in the isle. The ruins of the ancient city of Mor, at the base of which sits Lesserton, likewise contain untold wealth, and similar ruins are said to lie scattered throughout the Forest of Mothomb, awaiting discovery. The dungeons of Stonehell have only begun to yield their once-secret riches. The entire isle of Cosk is a treasure trove for those brave or mad enough to seek it out.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
As mentioned previously, there are reports of a dragon and its minions terrorizing the villages on the other side of the mountains to the east, but Stonehell assuredly holds threats (and potential rewards) as great.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Bladed Earth: Twenty Questions (Part III)

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
Many new mercenary companies were founded from the remnants of those that accompanied Zaar during his Grand Excursion. Notorious among them are the golden-armored Adherents of Mandoom, ostentatious seekers of gold and glory who have recently begun exploring the ruins of Stonehell on their own accord, rather than in the employ of a particular master. Other, more unassuming bands of warriors-for-hire and solitary "free lances" are easily found in northwestern Cosk, particularly in Fulcrum. Many end up raiding the farming communities of the region or serving in the Mountain Wars, ceaseless feuds waged between the hill-dwelling elfin clans.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed, or other any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Especially since the decline of Thamsh, the fall (or ascendancy) of Zaar, and the struggles in Ersis, Cosk has had a reputation as a lawless land. Among the native Coskar people, particularly the herders of the Plains of Healoth, it is considered respectable, even customary, for adult men to carry the kolsh, a combination of walking-stick and pick-axe. More heavily armed individuals are generally turned away from the gates of the port city of Glygon, but freely wander the streets of places like Fulcrum. Magic is not explicitly proscribed, but the use of manipulative or destructive spells is swiftly punished.

Today, there is no overarching legal authority in Cosk. The Iconess' forces of Law have begun to establish a sort of beachhead in the south, at the city of Cradoun, and enforce a stricter form of order there. Further east, the state of affairs is much more barbarous, as exemplified in the piratical Port Canciare and among the wretched peoples of the Wastes of Sphaurg. The Eremites, who call blighted Lesserton their home, have their own bureaucratic, codified system of laws with very specific penalties and punishments. In the northwest, however, laws are most often enforced by village headmen, according to need and old Coskar customs.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
Fulcrum has fine drinking establishments and foul watering holes aplenty. The Old Den, which is run by Beras Hurrow and falls somewhere between those two extremes, is a popular haunt for those that delve Stonehell.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
Sligs, whose territory was previously believed to be limited to the western lands across the Sea of Unthicor, have recently appeared on the shores of Cosk. Orcs spill forth from the Cystlands, pillaging mindlessly. Stonehell is filled to the brim with malevolent creatures. Removing any of these threats would certainly be appreciated, but would likely be temporary at best and thus might not bring instant fame. There is, however, word of a black-winged dragon (and, if rumors are to be believed, "dragon-men") menacing the villages on the other side of the Spires of Sloine.

15. Are there any wars brewing that I could go fight?
Cosk has more than its share of conflict, but if it is war one seeks, they need only sail to the rapidly splintering realm of Ersis, where King Stervak struggles to keep the throne he wrested from the grip of Thamsh decades prior, amid endless challenges from rivals, peasant uprisings, and slig raids.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Bladed Earth: Twenty Questions (Part II)

Continuing Jeff Rients' "twenty questions" approach to fleshing out the Bladed Earth campaign:

6. Who is the richest person in the land?
Magner Vokensivian, guildmaster of the Loyal Company of Money-Lenders, based in Glygon, is reputed to be the richest man in Cosk. Indeed, his name is often used as a synonym for unimaginable wealth, as in the phrase "rich as old Magner".

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Some adherents of Law, including priestesses, paladins, and clerics, are capable of magically healing others. The ranks of the Lawful in Cosk are fairly small, but growing, as increasing numbers are drawn to lance the boil of Chaos swelling there. Some are dispatched directly from the island of Ghoor-Ampava, the so-called Throne City of the Iconess, but these warriors have no set base of operations on the isle of Cosk as of yet. Thus, it is expedient to be on friendly terms with the Lawful.

For those who have sworn themselves to Chaos, or who are otherwise refused aid from the clerics and their brethren, there are other sources of healing. Cultists of Chaos are said to be able to heal the Chaotic. Shamans, most of whom dwell east of the Spires of Sloine or south in the Shandawood, are known to be capable healers as well. It is also rumored that there are old gods and master spirits that can impart knowledge of healing magic to mages, but the location of such patrons is not freely given. Finally, alchemists are able to brew healing draughts, but these often come at a hefty price.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Poison and disease are relatively easily managed by practitioners of the trades mentioned previously, but reversing many of these magical afflictions requires powerful cures that are beyond the ability of most. Clerics, shamans, and the like that are capable of such restorations are difficult to come by. Often, those seeking such aid must travel deep into the untamed mountains or forests, or to the Throne City itself.

9. Is there a magic guild my magic-user belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
The mages of Thamsh once had colleges in which the secrets they wrested from their slain gods and spirits were taught to those found worthy. Today, mages more often share knowledge in exchange for rare items or complex favors (or, very rarely, simple coin). Though now often reduced to little more than hedge witches and cunning-men, some of the Coskar priesthoods share old spells once learned directly from the master spirits among each other. Mages may seek out these supernatural patrons themselves, and attempt to convince (or perhaps even force) these creatures to personally instruct them in their sorcerous ways -- indeed, this is said to be one of the purposes of Zaar's Grand Excursion. One might also seek to gain knowledge of charms from the hill-dwelling elfin clans (or even the arts of illusion from the twisted creatures called gnomes) but these are risky propositions in many more ways than one.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Adventurers seeking a skilled alchemist in Fulcrum are well-advised to employ the services of Culmoush & Thrayseeder, who find the availability of otherwise obscure ingredients due to their proximity to Stonehell a boon to their practice. The pair are not as risk-averse as many of their colleagues, which can occasionally yield unpredictable results, but often at bargain prices.

The interests of sages in Fulcrum tend to be of somewhat narrow focus, specifically on the local lore of the region and the history of Cosk. Experts in other disciplines are more easily found in Glygon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Bladed Earth: Twenty Questions (Part I)

A little over a year ago, Jeff Rients posted a list of questions that DMs should be able to answer about their settings, ideally before play starts. In the interest of actually getting my campaign ready to roll, I figured I'd start answering them, five at a time:

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
Clerics are adherents of Law, of which the enigmatic figure known as the Iconess is the mouthpiece. The forces of Law, among whom clerics are only part, stand against the forces of Chaos, which they see as a malignant cancer upon the world. Strictly speaking, as the Iconess is not a god, clerics are not religious. The devotion many of the Lawful have for the Iconess has been interpreted by some as worship, but this is not the case. (Usually.)

There are ancient spirits, fell beasts, and other beings in the world that are known as gods, but they are more often propitiated, bargained with, or invoked in blessings and curses than worshiped. These gods keep secrets that men call magic, and those that seek out the gods' patronage and traffic in their knowledge are known as mages.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Fulcrum, a rough-and-tumble shantytown, is located near the old dungeons of Stonehell, and counts catering to the vulgar needs of those mad enough to delve its accursed depths as its primary industry. Practical (and impractical) exploring equipment is readily available there, though often at inflated prices. The gaudily painted sandwich-boards worn by the vagrants wandering the streets of Fulcrum suggest buying from Chenty Greggene, promising that she tends to charge slightly less than her competitors, with what is assured to be no more than a modest compromise of quality.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Neffus Newyed, said to be the most skilled armorer in the entire isle of Cosk, would no doubt be willing to undertake such an effort, provided the compensation were adequate. His smithy, the Sign of the Rhinoceros, is located in the port city of Glygon, not far from Fulcrum.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Since the downfall of Zaar, the so-called "Sterling Potentate" of Thamsh that invaded Cosk, ordered the construction of Stonehell, and either died, disappeared, or underwent apotheosis at the Tower of Pride, dozens of would-be archmages have claimed to be the mightiest. None have achieved the terrible heights of power reached by the line of Zaar, however. On the isle of Cosk, the man called Father Adavon Hexember, described as a "wizard-priest", is said to be the greatest magician, but he has not been seen in years. 

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Unknown. Once, it may have been Cymbion Stervak, but he grows old, and his sword-arm has grown weak since he took the throne of Ersis. Some of the hobgoblin warmasters that accompanied Zaar in his Grand Excursion still live in the Wastes of Sphaurg, ever loyal to their old, vanished master, but surely time has taken its toll upon even them by now. In a world with as much bitter conflict as this one, there are scores of great warriors, but few survive long enough to make their names known.