Today I am building the cornerstones of an evil campaign that I am running for my playtest group. I wanted them to have a chance to build characters of their choice, rather than carrying on using the pregens that I handed them last spring, figuring they would better be able to stress-test my modules.
My players decided that they wanted to play evil characters that would undo the Heroic works of their last party. The characters they came up with were monstrous and outcasts; characters that would not be welcome in the City of Alban that served as our last home base. So, I find myself needing to create a home base that will be a home for these villains. So, I have decided to share my process of building a home for the PCs.
The freaks in question.
Tone and Environment
I want the location that the PCs call home to be dismal and ruined: a place that inspires Jealousy and resentment of human lands. And a place where lots of different kinds of creatures come to meet. I like the idea of a place where peace is kept by someone who you don't want to cross, because you won't survive his solutions.
When thinking out a town, I like to make sure I know where they get food and water. Like all Medieval-esque settlements, it also should have fortifications.
I like the idea of a location at the edges of an underground lake. One lit during the day by just a few pillars if light coming down from holes in the ceiling... Maybe the caldera of an extinct volcano.
|Ogre Mage from the 3.5rd Edition |
Monster Manual, ©2003, Wizards
of the Coast
The leadership of the community is a loose council of the Dwarves, goblins, cultists, and labor leaders in the town, but mostly they just settle disputes and make large trades. Peace is kept by an Ogre Magus that slays swiftly and without hesitation anyone who causes a ruckus or disrupts the delicate balance of the settlement. He likes to make examples, and keeps offenders in gibbets or on display in tactically interesting parts of town. I think I will name him Tarthic after the Tartuthic in the film Lady in the Water, a set of cruel and evil ape-men that keep the law of the otherworld because they enjoy punishing others.
Water and Food
The lake itself is full of minerals that are mostly harmless but tastes horrible. Hot springs, snow melt-off, and condensation caught in barrels after regular geyser eruptions give better water. It is one thing that the settlement has in abundance.
I can imagine a few food sources that might be fun. I like the idea of a clan of abandoned, conquered, or outcast Dwarves that still run mushroom farms on the outskirts in the ruin of the fortress that their ancestors once relied on to keep this lake and the underground rivers it feeds free of monsters. I will call them Kadol after the Dwarf King in Boatmurdered.
I also want goblins here by the score, as they figured big in the last story. I will even make reference to the Horrors the previous heroes wrought in them as the town develops. So, I can imagine the goblins here being subservient peons from the Goblin clans our last heroes mauled. I will suggest most food is bought from a Goblin Market where root vegetables, and meat brought in from Goblin giant rat, snake, and beetle farms are the order of the day.
For the human population, less repugnant food, like locally brewed beer, wild nuts and berries, wild apples, small game and a few vegetables are available at a high price at an Alehouse in the outskirts run by the descendants of some Outlaws that fled the Barony of Harkin during the events of the last campaign. I'd imagine this place is run by a no-nonsense widow with a poisoned dagger, a crossbow under the table, and a son with a flail on the door. (I will make him the grandson of a minor villain from my first adventure with the last party.) We'll call the Alehouse the Grey Drake after the mercenary company of the villain I am referencing.
There's probably eyeless fish, bioluminescent crabs, and cave octopi on the lake carefully stewarded by a local cult to prevent over-fishing and fund their search for lost artifacts of their wriggling Goddess. We'll call them the Cult of Mother Hydra for maximum Lovecraftian silliness.
This lake has several inlets and outlets shaped by the crags, volcanic geysers, etc. Most have old Dwarven fortifications in absolute ruin along them now watched by minions of Tarthic. The lake proper once had a Dwarven stronghold, farm, and fishery in the rock walls, now tended by the Kadol Dwarf outcasts.
Above, a human castle (basically just a Peele tower) sits on the mountainside above, the monument to a failed attempt at human expansion. Human outcasts now squat in it and maintain the hoists an pulleys that hang from a tunnel in the tower basement to the cavern roof. People can be lifted up to the surface or lower goods down for a fee.
Jeff's Gameblog Questions
This article is a favourite for campaign planning. I will use it to flesh out more of the settlement. I honestly didn't know what these answers were, you are seeing here my best at-time answer by way of stream of consciousness.
What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
No clerics in this party! If they need a Cleric there are a few options. In the middle of the lake is a shrine to the cthonic Goddess Faria, whose underground shrines have appeared in the setting before. Her trans-sexual shape-shifting and often mad cultists hold revels on an island. The high priestess is a Medusa named Regna who is a mistress of mixing drugs and poisons.
The Cult of Mother Hydra listens to the waters to hear prophecies of dread, and call up lost wealth from the deep waters. They sell fish to the unbelievers, but feed the faithful freely in return for bodily fluids collected in sacred jugs.
The Gods of Chaos are tended in general in a shrine of welded iron weapons and tools. The priests there are five madmen who once adventure together in the underground until they all broke together over something they discovered. A horrible thing which is kept a secret in the inner shrine.
The Goblins still worship the sprit of the Evil Wizard that once ruled them.