For this next campaign, I've moved the focus further north on my map. We are inland, sort of a combination barbaric area with dwarven kingdoms along with a host of marauding orcs just outside the fringe.
I've also told the group that this was not a very civilized area, so the charter and sponsored adventuring groups were not going to be case. Think mercenaries and you have it. So I made everyone roll up TWO characters.
First I did 4d6, drop the lowest, but rolled in order. Then the 2nd character was straight 3d6 but they could apply the scores where ever they wanted. As usual, there was a 2 points dropped for 1 point add if they wanted (nothing could be dropped below 9).
We have (everyone is either 1st level or if dual classed 1st/1st):
Grey Elven Fighter/Wizard, Distance spells, shortbow and leather armor, 5 hps, AC 13
Human Monk, Quarter staff and padded, 14 hps, AC 14
Half-orc Druid to Frey/Barbarian, Broadsword and padded, 8 hps, AC 13
Half-ogre Fighter/Cleric to Odin, Greatsword and scalemail, 21 hps, AC 15
Half-ogre Barbarian, Spears and padded, 18 hps, AC 13
Human Wizard, Necromancy and daggers, 3 hps, AC 11
Hill Dwarf Thief/Cleric to Sif, Crossbow and leather, 6 hps, AC 14
Hill Dwarf Fighter/Wizard, fire based, broadsword and ringmail, 7 hps, AC 16
Gnome Sorceror, Support and Wild magic, stick fighting, 4 hps, AC 11
Half-elf Thief/Sorceror, Personal augment spells, crossbow and studded leather, 4 hps, AC 14
Human Fighter, Slinger and ringmail, 4 hps, AC 19
Half-ogre Ranger to Tyr, Greatsword and scalemail, 20 hps, AC 15
During the campaign, they will each pick 1 character (bringing the party to 6), the other characters will be nearby but can't get into the action at this time. At some point they will have an opportunity to all group up and "swap out" to the other one if they want. Eventually we'll get to where we're going and they can then during the adventures, either concentrate on a main or go to their alternate. They CANNOT play them both at the same time.
We are back to the table this saturday. Fleshing out 12 characters, the maps, world, 1st adventure, and getting it all done in 2 weeks is a labor of love.
The background for the new campaign follows (and even a map of the area!):
The year is 190 of the 30th age as the races of dwarves, men, and elves measure time; and you are in the land known as Rand. Southern Rand specifically. The land is situated on the northern coast of the Borbuta Sea, and for the longest time was the home of four civilizations: the Ancient Mountain Dwarven Gorokian Empire to the north, the Hill Dwarven Jarlborinn Thanedom to the west, the Gnomish Nightwood Kingdom to the east, and lastly the Himaya of the Randari Orcs.
The Randari Orcs had made the mistake of going to war with the Jarlborinn and were soundly trounced, their Kaizar slain and all of his line killed with him. Without anyone of the First Orcs alive to lead the Randari, their empire collapsed and the height of orcish culture was cast into barbarism. This resulted in many of their cities being left fallow and their one time holdings and property were set free.
Their property being the human and Halfling slaves they once owned and had kept in bondage for generations. The Gorokian dwarves had no interest in supporting the now freed slaves and even less interest in “surface dweller” problems so allowed the freedmen and women to wander wherever, pitying them when their paths crossed.
The Jarlborinn and the Nightwood gnomes felt otherwise and made it their business to help the barbaric tribes to survive; bringing them some knowledge of hunting and tracking, the use of fire and smithing, music, art and oral history. The barbaric people grew proud, not only in their freedom but in their friends in the dwarves and gnomes and called themselves the Firvinr or “Friends of the People” as they referred to the dwarf and gnomes.
Time passed and as it was known to do, things changed and stayed the same. The land was filled slowly with more people. Trade made its way throughout the very open land, and the Randari orcs raided where they could but not too much where they would arouse the ire of the two dwarven kingdoms.
Almost 170 years ago, there was a migration of dwarves from far to the south. Making a long journey northward across hundreds of miles of open and unforgiving territory, the entire dwarven thane-clan of Reetersbeard had lifted themselves up from their ancestral home to escape what was portended to be the largest hatching and migration of dragons ever to be seen. They came north to the places their ancestors had left ages earlier to once more settle down and mine the deep earth they loved so much.
The Gorokian Dwarves did not want the 8,000 Reetersbeard dwarves to settle here, and they sure didn’t want the almost 10,000 followers of humans, elves, halflings, and other demi-humans that came along with them. The barbarian tribes of the Firvinr also saw these immigrants with their soft ways, odd magics, and written word as an unneeded burden that was better off somewhere else.
Tired from the long journey, and unwilling to force march past any more orcs, ogres, kobolds, hills, chasms, caves, or dangers, the Reetersbeard dwarves and their supporters arranged settling rites and trade deals with the Jarlborinn Dwarves who agreed to let the newcomers stay. Indenturing themselves to the Jarlborinn for 75 years, the newcomers to the land of Rand settled down and soon began filling in the empty spaces the Randari Orcish empire had left behind.
When the indenturing was over the Reetersbeard dwarves settled along the northern stretch of the Passian Hills and helped to promote trade between the many dissimilar people, tribes, and fiefs that were growing around Rand. Income grew, ideas were spread, and the people moved about, further enhancing the land and those that lived in it. The Reetersbeard trade caravan makes a trip around the entirety of Rand three times per year after the mud season and frost has ended. Its arrival is heralded as a boom time for any town, fort or city that it stops in. Getting your wares on the caravan is almost guaranteed to bring prosperity to your family or mercantile when it comes back around.
But it is difficult to get a space on the caravan and there is sometimes ugly talk that the decision process is not open and is often biased. There is never any proof to this but the stories do continue. So there are oftentimes lesser caravans that follow the trade routes, often coming just after the Reetersbeard Caravan has just come through; or merchants that visit the towns that are off the main trade route. It is those caravans, those merchants and traders who have the harder time.
Three times in the past the Reetersbeard Caravan was assaulted. Once by the Gorokian Dwarves who not only refused the Caravan entrance to trade but then tried to tax and take 10% of the tradegoods as payment. This caused a massive conflict that encompassed five days of escalating fighting as Hill and Mountain dwarves assaulted one another before 2,000 Reetersbeard dwarves arrived after a forced march from Ironcamp to support their merchant brethren but also lay waste and siege the entire surface city of Gorok. It took the High Thane himself to come out and publically apologize to the Reetersbeard dwarves and pay reparations to the merchant families to some unnamed total before the conflict was ended.
Since then, the Gorokian dwarves have become even more xenophobic and filled with dislike and hatred of the “newcomer dwarves” and their ungodly ways. To combat this, the Reetersbeard Caravan often spends the least amount of time in Gorok and some merchants will either raise their prices when trading here or short their availability on requested tradegoods.
The other two times the Caravan was assaulted by Randari Orcs whose raiding parties were beaten so badly for their efforts that the Randari have a saying amongst themselves (which has spread to others who tend to agree) that goes, “It’s safer to kiss a snake and fuck a wolf than to take a dwarf’s gold.”
The cities that make up Rand are not connected by any king or overreaching authority, there isn’t a duke or central figure that rules. The Gorokian Dwarves don’t care, the Jarlborinn Dwarves have no interest in ruling the humans, The Nightwood Gnomes don’t care beyond their forest edge. It is a bit of a free for all. Erylond is ruled by a self-appointed King while the leader of Tilani refers to their land and surrounding people as Empire. The Nightwood Gnomes have grown more insular and have dropped from the Reetersbeard Caravan. Visitors have been gently turned away and those who have gone in and come out talk about a Charismatic Theocrat who has taken sway of the gnomes and others who live there.
For the average person though, there is a lot of drudgery. Without a unified system of laws and land-wise network of vassals and baronies, most everyone finds themselves a laborer or serf, bound to whatever lord, warlord, or ruler governs their lives. Randari Orcs will assault small groups if found anywhere off the main roads. Even K’Morat kobolds have become more numerous in the recent decades, stealing sheep, goats, and anything else they could cart off and devour.
About 15 years ago, north of a stretch of the Erylond River, dwarven delvers looking to expand the foundation stones of Bork Keep unexpectedly broke through a capstone of rune glyphed rock and opened the area to some subterranean dungeon. Most attempts to enter the dungeon failed as those who tried were filled with the most all-consuming terror. It took some of Lord Bork’s runesmiths to craft a handful of pendants that allowed brave souls to dare and enter the dungeon.
Most of them never returned. The few who did came back with untold wealth and magic that had not been seen in ages. Which then spurred on others to try. Again, it required more amulets to be made which Lord Bork began selling, since most of them had been lost in the first delving and he was out of their value, effort, and time to have them made. And again, others have tried to enter to dungeon and only some emerged. Some with riches, others barely alive. All reported fantastic beasts below and rooms without end. As for the horrors within escaping and attacking the surface dwellers? That hasn’t happened and according to the best runesmiths, the magic of the Terror Dungeon prevents anyone born within its depth from exiting.
It’s became a veritable goldmine for the young and foolhardy to try their luck and hand at entering the Terror Dungeon. Many a disenfranchised young adult of all races pooltheir coins together for an opportunity to purchase a runecrafted pendant, strap on a sword or armor, and try their luck. Some only go a short distance in and consider themselves lucky to escape with a few baubles, other dare further and come out with enough to purchase hundreds of acres. And some don’t come out at all. It is known though that if you want to make your riches, you make your way to New Erylond and take a 2 day trip down river to Bork Keep and plumb the uncharted depths of the Terror Dungeon.
But for too many, this is a pipe dream. Right now the best option for employment is to guard one of the many caravans of traders or transporters who work the surface lands. The pay is decent but the dangers are real. K’Morat kobolds will attack you for food, Randari Orcs will raid for misplaced glory and plunder, Firvinr barbarians will attack for weapons and gold. And brigands will take advantage of anyone foolish enough to lower their guard or dare to travel off the roads.