Monday, January 11, 2021

Baddenach: A Hive of Scum and Villainy

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.

Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

The Goblin Market is a shabby flea market where scrounge, stolen, or locally made goods are traded. Surprisingly good leather (lizard hide) items an Llama-wool textiles are for sale. Most standard items are available at 70-160% of listed price.

Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

While most of their pride is gone, the Kadol still have a few Dwarves that still ply the old crafts. A deep mine called The Brooding hosts a smelter, iron mine, and forges worked by bitter, joyless Dwarves, who might do the work, if you don't give them a reason to gut you first. 

Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

A necromancer called Therion lives in a petrified skull of an elder dragon on the cavern wall overlooking the burial towers of the city. These towers of silence attract crows that he has the power to converse with.

Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Nobody who has challenged Tarthic has lived. But the outcast tribe of human barbarians, the Ice Wolves have a champion named Lana who many think could take him, were it not for his magic.

Who is the richest person in the land?

Braznak, a Goblin king in exile sits corpulenly upon a heap of treasure, slowly becoming more like a dragon. His toadies get both a take from every transaction in the Goblin Market, but also run the Toothgrinders, the local Thieves Guild on his behalf.

Layla Amplecups, the alewidow of The Grey Drake makes a fortune on savory fare hunted and gathered by her three daughters, and her Alehouse is full of goods she's taken in hoc to pay tabs that she will sell.

Then there is Louis Doucette, a merchant that throws around valuable goods enough to have friends in every faction in Baddenach. Both to protect his partially underground caravan route to Inferno ftom raids, and to support his secret-to-the-government-of-Alban Emerald and Alexandrite Mines in a nearby marsh.

Where can we go to get some magical healing?

If you don't mind being expected to participate in stupid dates, orgies, or ritual combat, the shrine of Faria might be a good bet. There is also a hag, Urmah, who will offer cures, but her prices are sinister favours.

Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? 

Poison: Urmah, Therion, Regna, or the Hellebore, the chief shamaness of the Ice Wolves;  Disease: The shrine of Faria, The Brotherhood of Chaos; Curse: The Brotherhood of Chaos, Hellebore; Level Drain: you're screwed; Lycanthropy: Hellebore or the Shrine of Faria; Polymorph: Therion; Alignment Change: Not around here; Death: The Shrine of Faria or Theron, bur both with catches; Undeath: Better get used to it... 

Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Magic is not regulated here. Therion, Urmah, Tarthic, or the Goblin Hedge Magi at the Shrine of the Master all might teach spells. There are no organizations. 

Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Lots of the shamans of the Ice Wolves and Cultists of Faria know their alchemy, and Urmah and the Kadol wise women are fair herbalists. Sages are in tragically short supply. A few other experts can be found in the Leaning District; buildings built high up and away from the lake. But getting in touch with them will involve getting well-informed at The Grey Drake Alehouse or the Chain, a local Bordello.

Where can I hire mercenaries?

The Ice Wolves are always ready to test new braves for gold and glory.  If you want someone whacked, a building burned down, or something valuable acquired, the Toothgrinders will take commissions. 

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Johnny Law is a 1200lb. Ogre Magus called Tarthic. He only cares about people disturbing the balance of power, outsiders drawing witch hunters, and people breaking deals. Things like regulating who carries swords interests him not at all.

Which way to the nearest tavern?

The Grey Drake Alehouse is as close as you are going to get to civilized. If you are looking for spicier entertainment, the Chain is a bordello with fine drinks. If you are not above drinking a local sludge called Nhazrhak in the company of Goblins and monsters there is Azkall., the Goblin ratskellar.

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

There are a trio if paladins called The Hearth who are determined to crush Urmah's  influence. They are famed for their wholesale Goblin slaughter.

Goblin cultists believe that the archmage Torg is creating a barrier to the return of their master,

The White Dragon Chilltongue is a menace to everyone around.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

It is a time of horrendous peace. 

How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

The Toothgrinders run an arena called the Serpent's Coil. They host rat- and dog-fights, ritual battles, and pit fights. Sometimes Tarthic gives particularly obnoxious offenders to the Area to be torn apart by creatures from his menagerie.

The Ice Wolves have a Domhring for duels, ritual combat, and ordeals. The winner of a duel can demand ransom from the loser, or a share of the wealth of someone killed. One can make a lot by dueling influential Ice Wolves, but betting on events within the ring is considered poor taste.

Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

You are in the right place!

The Toothgrinders were once a Goblin tfibe that was devastated by the rebellion against Baron Harkin. They fled to Baddenach to lick their wounds. Their chieftain at the time, Braznak was shrewd, and ruthless... Not to mention desperate to save face and hold a high position in the local Goblin culture. He turned his tribe into an organized crime syndicate doing dirty deeds for local power groups. In time he managed to become the de-facto crime boss of the Goblin Market, a racketeer, and master of assassins. One of his brighter moves was to open the Toothgrinders to non-goblins and move away from traditional Goblin power structures and cultural practices. Now the Toothgrinders are 49% non-goblin, and a powerhouse across Inferno, Alban, Harkin, Morlay and the Barbarian lands,

The Cult of Mother Hydra are an order that stewards the life under the lake and the underground rivers. They perform strange pilgrimages into the deeps and come back changed. Particularly devout cultists develop strange powers and grotesque but beneficial mutations,

If that is not to your taste, The Brotherhood of Chaos is  interested in recovering lost weapons of a great war of centuries past to prepare for a cataclysm they see on the horizon. They will offer to be intermediaries to help others become clerics of several dark gods.

The Ice Wolves were exiled from the Barbarian Lands by an alliance of Stone Tooth, White Crow, Igni, and Coldhearth tribes... A reprisal for the Wolves' occasional ritual cannibalism, and out of horror at thr religious lunacy rhat had nearly Shattered the Wolves a few generations back. The Ice Wolves are too few to claim revenge through steel, but work in the shadows to pit the other tribes against each other.

Urmah has a plan for the high houses of Morlay that she keeps close to the breast, but seeks ruthless agents to help her realize.

What is there to eat around here?

If you are poor: Dwarvish roasted mushrooms and tubers, Rat salad, roast glowcrab, fish chowder, beetle flesh, glazed crickets. 

If you are doing well: wild mountain goat, stewed cave octopus, venison, salt fish.

At Azkall: grilled dire rat, Goblin pickles, goat cheese, goat milk, fish and chips, grilled mushrooms and onion..

At The Chain: Albani wines, Black bread, gruyere cheese fondue, bacon, grilled deep fish on hash, ratatouille.

At the Grey Drake: stone-ground while grain bread, butter, mixed nuts, buttermilk biscuits, eldar cheese,  roast venison in herbs, pheasant stew, rabbit hsunch, roast mountain goat, roast tomato and herbs, an assortment of beers.

Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

The Goblins' lost master once possessed a selection of Wizard Flowers: coral-like growths that can contain spells like a spellbook does, They were last known to belong the the archmage  Torg.

The Dwarf Smiths of the Broiding are looking for a sacred hammer in the ruins along a river that is currently cut off. 

Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

That would be Chilltongue, a large white dragon that stalks the nearby mountain range.

The  Seven NPCs Tool

This is a recent tool I have been using from the YouTube channel How to be a Great GM. I found it handy for game planning.


Suli is the shrunken head of a potent Goblin witch-doctor that can be consulted on many matters by waking him with the right offerings. He can even perform auguries. A gift from Urmah early on. 


The hag Urmah in particular will take an interest in using the PCs to bring devastation and despair on her enemies. 


Tyrainne Red-lip, Ice Wolf brave. A mistress if bushcraft, Tyrainne will begin as a prisoner alongside the PCs and help them escape the Albani witch-hunters and flee to Baddenach. 


Bruxi Smokewhisker, a rating hench-rat without a mistress who will instantly identify with the party's fellow hench-rat. He is a tinkerer and gadgeteer who is willing to help the PCs out with gossip, loading and maintaining firearms loading pack beetles, etc. His own peg leg and blinded eye keeps him from being an adventurer. 

Long Term



Hercule d'Mogge, a head-hunter and mercenary that operates out of Baddenach, he has made much of his reputation by poaching treasure, kills, and glory from others. A master of the bec-de-corbin. Has a rotating cast of compatriots. 

Comic Reflection 

Grok, son of Braznak is a young Goblin adventure who wants an actual trine rather than a position in his father's Toothgrinder crime syndicate. Grok seeks a means to excavate the collapsed caves of the original Toothgrinder tribe and name himself Chief of the lost tribe with the sacred stones they once had.

Want More? 

If people want more, I will expand on this setting w/ maps, districts, etc... 

1 comment:

  1. Love it! The idea of a run down den of evil as the base of an evil campaign has never occurred to me before, but makes perfect sense. I especially like the ogre magus, though if I ever run something like this, I might steal him and just call him 'Johnny Law.' Do expand on it!