Friday, February 1, 2013

"The Story So Far" - Prologue

Waaaaay back in December 2001 me and my circle of friends ventured to the theater to see The Fellowship of the Ring.  After all of us were summarily blown away by the film, I was inspired to start up a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  And who best to invite into the game but the people I'd just seen the movie with?  After all, they all seemed to be predisposed to orcs, rangers, elves and, halflings, so I had absolutely no qualms about approaching them with this proposal.

As it turns out, it was a great idea.  Dean said "yes" right away since, like me, he was a lapsed D&D player and really wanted to get back into it.  The same could be said for Thomas.  Sabina, who I'd never known to turn down a geeky pursuit, was also quick to throw her helm into the ring.  But the person who surprised me the most was my infinitely better half Cheryl.  Although she'd always been patient and understanding when it came to my dorky hobbies, I wasn't sure if she'd be willing to sit around a table for hours, rolling weird dice and pretending to smite kobolds for imaginary phat lootz.

"Sure I'll play!" she declared to my pleasant surprise.  "I remember seeing the boxed sets in stores when I was a kid and I thought it looked interesting.  I was always kind of a sucker for adventure stories about dragons and elves and stuff.  Unfortunately everyone I knew who played the game back then was a complete and total freak show so I never bothered to get into it."

And people wonder why there's such a stigma surrounding our illustrious hobby.  Sheesh.

After procuring a handful of willing participants I set about creating the foundations for a campaign.  Even though I hadn't played D&D for years, I was still picking up the odd boxed set that came down the pike.  Since I had no idea how the game was going to go over, I didn't want to invest a bunch of time into designing a bunch of detailed and elaborate adventures.  So I decided to use the starting quests included in the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game which I'd purchased the prior year. 

With a bunch of potential adventure hooks now lined up, all I had to do was figure out how weave all of these disparate quests together into some sort of cohesive campaign.  In order to do that, I had to come up with the very basic foundations of a setting.  Purely motivated by laziness, I envisioned a completely wild environment in which the PC's home town *slash* base of operations is literally the second settlement established on a completely wild continent.  It would be a frontier town hastily cobbled together from the bones of some long-extinct civilization.  Since the environs surrounding this hamlet were still completely and totally wild, the town would constantly find itself besieged by both external and internal forces.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you...

The Town of Castebridge

Castebridge is a small settlement four days ride northwest of the coastal city of Footholde.  It's been an incorporated town for just under twenty years and was originally called "Bastion".  The name was changed by the first Mayor, Baron Gilles de Vrias, who wanted something that sounded more inviting to potential settlers.  "Caste" is the Alamenian word for "alliance", partly referring to the varied nationalities of the human residents, but more specifically to the close ties with the dwarven settlers who constructed the bridge connecting the two halves of the town divided by the River Swift.

The East Bank is the older section of town and boasts the Town Hall, the Strongholde Inn, the Barracks, the Armory and a few ancient landmarks that were long since abandoned before the first settlers arrived.  These pre-existing structures include an Abbey which has been consecrated in the service of Pelor, a nearby series of crypts and a mysterious spire that has since been dubbed "Legacy Tower".  Rumor has it that an odd cult of curiosity seekers from Footholde moved into the Tower a few years back and are now using it as a focal point for the study of sorcery, much to the chagrin of the superstitious locals.

The southeastern portion of this section of town is often referred to as "seedy".  It's here that the woodsmen from the logging camp to the east come to carouse after sending their wares down river via Magda's Ferry Service.  This area features the Lost Souls Tavern, the Grey Haven Inn, a gaming den, a fortune tellers hut and a building that is reputed to be a thieves guild.  Between the natural moat that is the River Swift and the huge defensive ramparts built around this section, the north east half of Castebridge is well protected against the many threats that menace the surrounding countryside.  This does little to stem the tide of crime within town limits, however, and wise residents are well advised to keep a hand on their coin purse while traversing this area of town.

Across the river towards the south west, several farms have sprung up to take advantage of the regions rich soil.  This area also features an expansive marketplace where industrious folk sell their wares, a huge general store and a top notch bakery.  The Mayor has long promised to extend the defensive perimeter around this newer section of town, but recent developments have made this project impractical, at least for the time being.

The problem stems from the undeniable fact that this area is completely and totally wild.  The town's original name of "Bastion" may not have sounded inviting, but it was certainly more accurate.  The merchant caravans coming north from Footholde often run a dangerous gauntlet between the River Swift and the canyons to the south.  This ravine is a warren for mongrel orcs who's only purpose seems to be to raid and kill.  This region is given a wide berth by even the bravest of adventurers.

The dense forests of Tanglewood lie to the east, and the town guard are constantly defending the lumber camps against incursions by goblins or even graver threats.  To make matters worse, the daring dwarven settlements to the north have done nothing to stem the tide of these raids.  In fact the presence of the dwarves seems to have raised the ire of every mongrel race within a hundred  miles.

Although the town of Castebridge has its share of challenges, those brave of heart may find ample reward for their ventures.  There is no shortage of fertile soil, minerals to mine, and trees to cut.  But if this should fail, always remember that the town militia is constantly in want for a swift sword and a potential hero...


Now, we all know that a setting is nothing without awesome characters to populate it!  Next time out: my incredibly creative peeps come up with some brilliant avatars, answer a cryptic invitation and then venture out on their first quest! 

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