d100 Truths about Vethin's Hold

d100 – Truths About Vethin’s Hold

“Vethin’s Hold can’t be as bad as people make out, can it? What’s it really like?”

Few honest folks have been to The Hold and lived to tell the tale, so information about the place and its residents is disingenuous at best and downright dishonest at worst. The leaders of Vethin’s Hold like to cultivate an air of threat about the settlement. Those who do manage to visit The Hold and survive long enough to leave describe an unrivaled hive of scum and depravity.

However, some facts have emerged over time, and although they sound “frankly amazing” what’s here is essentially true. Players can gain these bits of information by speaking with other Underworld residents or intelligent creatures they meet on the way to The Hold itself. As GM, use them to add flavor to any encounters at any point in the adventure.

However, many of the truths, while accurate, refer simply to “the authorities” or “the leaders” of The Hold. Those in charge of the settlement tend to be shadowy figures to most of the residents. As GM, this means you can adapt the way Vethin’s Hold is run, and who is actually running it, as best fits your game.

  1. Long-term residents and those who pretend to have been visitors often state that “Anyone who hasn’t seen The Hold simply hasn’t lived,” while most of those who have been there say under their breath, “Anyone who HAS seen The Hold and got out is lucky to have lived!”
  2. Put straightforwardly, Vethin’s Hold is not a safe place to live. In fact, it is downright deadly. But many residents have lived there for years because they take precautions, learn the ropes and don’t bring themselves to the attention of potential rivals, area supervisors or the main leaders.
  3. The place is almost certainly unlike any other you have visited, even if you have seen the Abyss, because its air of lawlessness feels tinged with a frantic desire to live as if every day is your last. But this is misleading, as you may well draw your last breath in The Hold many years after you arrive if you owe someone a significant debt.
  4. At first glance, one senses a complete lack of city planning. But after wandering the settlement’s winding alleys and sprawling streets you begin to suspect a menacing design to Vethin’s Hold. It experiences booms and busts depending on how other Underworld dwellers view it, and it ebbs and flows accordingly, as does the relative safety of an area.
  5. Vethin’s Hold is an excellent place to hide or make someone disappear. The myriad depths of the settlement hide many people who are permanently “lost” to those who know them.
  6. About 1% of known residents have no right to be as wealthy as they are in a settlement of this size; their net worth is more suited to a very large city or even metropolis. Never ask where it came from or how it is maintained. As for the rest of the population, they get by in a manner.
  7. Maps are almost worthless. On any given visit you’re lucky to find even two streets counted as main thoroughfares. Otherwise, depending on what various people use them for, passages are given different names and are never signposted
  8. It’s best to be prepared to become lost in Vethin’s Hold at least once or twice during your time there. If you do, you’ll do well to try and get back to the edge of the settlement and then hunt out a gate that you recognize. As a consolation, so long as you look confident to ward off rogues, you will learn a lot about the place you might not otherwise discover.
  9. A strange experience in Vethin’s Hold is that the further you go toward its rooves or the cavern ceiling, the harder it becomes to breath. The sensation can be similar to being a great distance above sea level. It is rumored that many years ago the rulers instructed the owner of every high point in the settlement to install a bottle of air that works in reverse – i.e., it takes air in rather than breathes it out – in any pinnacle for which they were responsible as part of The Hold’s defenses.
  10. It is best to get an overview of The Hold by viewing it from above, either from the cavern ceiling or the roof of a tall building, if you can gain admittance. But this will almost certainly make you are target for someone or something.
  11. The Hold is a “cultural” free-for-all. Much that takes place is held as entirely reprehensible by the vast majority of those who don’t live in the place. Tolerance is vital to not attracting attention to oneself.
  12. Don’t be surprised to find a bar or business that looks as if it has been lifted entirely from a different city. There are always one or two establishments that try to be mirror-images of what one race or culture calls home. However, they are designed to fleece the gullible and soon disappear.
  13. Learn quickly which places are set up for visitors and which for residents. It takes at least a year for most visitors to switch to being a resident when they choose to stay in The Hold. It takes a mere month for a resident to become a visitor after traveling abroad.
  14. It is said that when first established, Vethin’s Hold was a fiendish monastic tent settlement where those who wished to dedicate themselves to the selfish structure of devilish activity could spend time developing their skills. Today the same is true, although the range of fiends has grown, as have those creatures’ tastes in payment.
  15. Many newcomers live on the edge of Vethin’s Hold in tent camps. They are vicious places too, undergoing frequent “clean ups” by “authorities”. These sites are almost impossible to navigate and soon disappear under the guise of “disease control.”
  16. Learn to communicate in grunts and gestures. The lingua franca is a variant of Undercommon spoken at twice the speed with every other word missed out. Those who speak at least four Underworld languages may just about get by.
  17. There are three small permanent shrines to evil beliefs, one for each of chaos, law and neutrality , but they are not easy to find. Establishments following any belief can be found, but the honesty of those dedicated to good should be treated with a pinch of salt, however earnest and obliging the clergy appear to be.
  18. There are regular and frequent religious purges, more to dispose of clerics who are getting above their station and to disband their followers than to remove the religion. But like weeds with deep roots, new clandestine centers of worship soon pop up, and the cycle starts again.
  19. The most enduring religion in Vethin’s Hold is devil worship. More than two centuries ago, a gitwerc clan sought refuge here, trading engineering and craftwork for rapid resident status; much of the city still reflects their architecture and many residents have adopted their ways, but the dwarves themselves are seldom seen.
  20. A little-known subterranean site is the “Underworld Elimination Exhibit,” a museum of sorts dedicated to the gnome assassin Poistan Iku-Inen. There is a diorama for each of his 100 rumored assassinations. Some displays move thanks to magic. It is said that once you see the museum, you become a target for Ik-Inen.
  21. In order to ensure that people don’t skip off with any down payment for a job without completing it, the fee is often handed over within a “Vethin’s Puzzle Box.” Carved from granite, they contain a complex set of interconnecting rods and studs, along with a devious lock or two, that guarantee it takes longer to undo the box than it does to complete the task.
  22. Embrace the violet fugus vodka, dare the canker grub gin, brave the rast rum; life in The Hold can be short enough; may as well live to the full what time you do have there. Sharing a drink may gain you an ally for an hour or two. But do make sure the first measure is always swallowed at exactly the same time as at least two other drinkers, in case of poison.
  23. Only the most stalwart and storied of merchants are considered permanent members of Vethin’s Hold. Even the leaders aren’t necessarily held up as stable or long-lasting residents. Any that has existed for less than 100 years is usually classed as temporary.
  24. Taking in something mildly toxic – alcohol, fungi, the flesh of aberrations, other drugs or worse – is the mainstay of relaxation and camaraderie in The Hold and before long you will find yourself in one establishment or another that asks “What’s your poison?” To refuse to take anything is frowned upon, so develop an adamantine constitution.
  25. There is somewhere for every opinion and belief, but expressing those thoughts is seldom a sensible thing, even in supposed privacy. Even thoughts can become currency in Vethin’s Hold.
  26. If you are new to Vethin’s Hold, everyone will know and you will be cheated by even the kindest-seeming people: rooms, food and everyday items will cost you a premium. Try to find where those most closely aligned to you live and breathe, and try to stay with them. It helps to be able to share a few words in the same language, otherwise you’ll be ignored mostly.
  27. As you go about your business over time, be prepared to move frequently but irregularly, in order to try and stay hidden. This will be difficult as word of your will slowly spread even if you adopt a level of caution best suited to the totally paranoid.
  28. Don’t expect anything to happen quickly. If it does, someone is trying to get rid of you, possibly murderously as well as for convenience. If you can guarantee your safety, sometimes it is worth “acting the tourist” while you wait, in order to make you appear less of a threat.
  29. Be prepared for few-people-to-nobody making any real effort to do what you ask of them, let alone actually help you. Anyone in The Hold is expected to be able to take care of themself; other residents can’t afford to be thought of as “a friend” in case you become a target.
  30. In theory, only the leaders of Vethin’s Hold own anything outright; everyone else just rents whatever they “own” for as long as it is convenient. This means you will occasionally find empty buildings and choose to use them. You’ll have a day at most before a rent collector calls.
  31. Your best option may be to find somewhere to stay that is just outside The Hold until you become familiar with it. However, there is an optimum range at which to “shack up”: too close, and someone will come looking for you; too far, and some “thing” will appear.
  32. Like anywhere that is renowned for smuggling or illicit trade, there seems to be nothing that you can’t find in Vethin’s Hold. That is until you really need something, in which case it’ll either be so expensive you can’t afford it or it won’t be available anywhere until “the next caravan arrives.”
  33. It pays to be neither too squeamish or overly questioning about what goods in The Hold are made from. Very little of anything is wasted, to which the lack of a cemetery or waste dump gives testimony.
  34. Of all the creatures that dwell in and around Vethin’s Hold, chokers seem to hold a special place in the hearts and minds of its citizens. Meat, jewelry, clothing and weapons are just a few items made from the beasts. A few are even kept in servitude as guards.
  35. However you look and dress on a day-to-day basis, there is a time and place for every level of style and sophistication. The settlement’s hierarchy expects citizens to know how to appear when they interact with those above and below them, so “order” is maintained. Errors lead invariably to slights, arguments, or worse.
  36. Everything is taxed in Vethin’s Hold. Which means there is a black market even in a den of vice such as this. But beware someone offering you a “good price” because they may be checking to see if you are cheating the leaders of their due.
  37. In a manner that’s unlike anywhere else in the Underworld, Vethin’s Hold appears to have distinct seasons on occasions, particularly winter, and not just changes dictated by the effects of surface activity. Unbeknown to almost all residents, the settlement leaders call on a powerful dwarf druid to bring about these demoralizing meteorological effects.
  38. Because The Hold attempts to cater for every taste, artisans and experts can thrive even here. But the trades and crafts at which they excel are often those that no sane citizen or reliable ruler would ever contemplate participating in in civilized society.
  39. Like many remote settlements above or below the surface, Vethin’s Hold has its tales of mystery and dread. In particular, stories of the wraith wyrm persist. This malevolent spirit seeks to take everything from lone residents, from the least of material possessions to the being’s very soul!
  40. Although the routes around Vethin’s Hold are like a maze, there are a handful of paths that are more straightforward to remember and are viewed as relatively safer than most. It is best to learn at least two of these, especially places along them in which to hide.
  41. Don’t be surprised to discover bodies hidden in and around The Hold. The best advice is to leave them where they are, even if they still have something useful or interesting on them. It’s almost certain that a point is being made by where they have been placed, or that they are a trap.
  42. Building within the settlement are frequently daubed with numbers that don’t seem to make sense, and these numbers change in an equally confusing manner. It’s takes a little while to realize they reflect standing in the eyes of the leaders rather than, say, position on a street. The lower the number, the higher the standing.
  43. Because so many languages are spoken, and the lingua franca does not have a consistent written form, there are few signs to tell you where you are in Vethin’s Hold. Some of the more elitist or species-orientated establishments may have written names, but most have images.
  44. The appearance of an establishment is no guide as to the price it will charge for its services. Some of the most wretched sites found deep in the shadows are venues that charge the most for whatever can be bought from within it, thanks to its rarity.
  45. There is a time and a place for luxury. While it can be found in Vethin’s Hold, availing yourself of it will mark you out as someone with ideas above their station. The exception is when an event is being celebrated; then everyone is expected to “spend, spend, spend!”
  46. It’s unlikely you will have ever experienced anything like one of The Hold’s “squalorum”. They are damp, dark, grimy, uninviting buildings where those who are entirely down on their luck end up living. Often you can stay without paying at the time, but on leaving your bill will be huge.
  47. Avoid anyone who is wildly and heavily intoxicated by anything. They will quickly either become a target or will turn abusive at the least contact, whether you are pleasant or not. Their extreme condition is possibly deliberate on someone else’s behalf, usually designed to get them killed.
  48. You may well be offered a tour of The Hold within the first couple of days – even hours – of being there, but any guide worth their salt will be being paid more regularly, frequently and rewardingly than you are likely to do. Invariably they are a spy for some greater villain.
  49. Travel as lightly as you can. It is best to always have all your possession on you rather than leaving them in any dwelling you take up. That way at least you have the best chance of retaining what you own at the end of the day.
  50. Find time to sit and watch the world of Vethin’s Hold go by. But do so openly; if you stay in what you believe are the shadows, someone will demonstrate that even deeper gloom exists and can hide the most unpleasant of experiences.
  51. At least twice a year Vethin’s Hold acts as a recruitment fair for a vast area of the Underworld. Creatures of more kinds than you can imagine have 48 hours of unhindered freedom to find employees or employment and then leave. Boss and worker both have to pay a fee for this.
  52. It pays to have forged documents of various types on you at all times. Although these are often spotted, when they are accompanied by an appropriate “levy” they can mean the difference between a guard demanding a large bribe or one that allows them to “blame the paperwork” for any errors uncovered later on.
  53. As is fitting for a place where you can seemingly purchase anything, it’s possible (but extremely taxing) to “buy rank” on entering The Hold. However, the tokens that signify this are often more trouble than they are worth; “respect” given to wearers is usually barely concealed contempt, plus they are the target for many pickpockets.
  54. At least twice a year The Hold’s leaders sanction settlement-wide “runs” where a particular type of beast is released in significant numbers to roam the place and go after any who are foolish, reckless or desperate enough to try for the prize on offer.
  55. It’s often best to visit The Hold when nothing much is going on. At times when it is busy, many of the least reputable long-term residents are emboldened to take greater advantage of visitors’ naivety and vulnerability, even if this just means stealing from them.
  56. The paranoia of the leaders of Vethin’s Hold means that on occasions simply getting into the place is very difficult. At various times each member of the ruling council becomes notoriously picky about entry policy and instructs their supporters to reject requests that don’t follow some maze-like protocol precisely.
  57. Just occasionally, senior figures in Vethin’s Hold fall out openly and the settlement becomes divided. At these times, crossing from one quarter to another becomes difficult, expensive, or both. The leaders usually step in after a few days, often finding scapegoats to blame.
  58. Despite there being plenty of water in most areas of The Hold, it’s best not to drink anything that you can’t guarantee is potable. The owners of most structures, natural or otherwise, will coat them in poison to deter thieves, so dripping water is best avoided, or at least boiled or mixed with strong alcohol.
  59. It’s worth investing in either enough basic food to last your time in Vethin’s Hold or something enchanted that feeds you as required. So long as you keep an eye on what you have, it’s the best way to ensure what you eat hasn’t been tampered with.
  60. Hawkers selling what seem to be colorful, exotic foodstuffs can be found in most parts of The Hold, but it’s easy to be taken in. Despite appearances much of what most of them sell is bulked out with fungi of unknown quality or toxicity.
  61. A good barometer of how The Hold is faring is what the commonly-available food is. If there are plenty of places selling a wide variety of meals, the settlement is doing well and confidence is high. If “toad-in-the-whole” – a thick paste of toadstool cap served in an entire barbequed rat or bat – predominates, times aren’t so good.
  62. If you end up sharing food with anyone, there are two basic rules: never pass anything using just your fingers, because of the fear of poison; never pass anything using a knife or other blade; if you point the tip at someone, they may take it as a challenge to fight.
  63. Be extremely wary of any game of chance that you see being played on the streets. As in all towns or cities these are ALWAYS run by the worst criminal types, and that is truly saying something in Vethin’s Hold. You may well lose more than your coin if you play them!
  64. Despite being deep underground, on the night of every other new moon all of Vethin’s Hold’s streets are swept clean by a “whelming” of huge gelatinous cubes. In absolute darkness, the specially-bred oozes are goaded forward by attendants in alkali-producing, face-hiding fungi suits. No one questions what is thrown into the path of the cubes.
  65. It is best not to use divination spells or evocation spells such as sending when in Vethin’s Hold. The transfer of such information somehow always seems to go via the leaders, so that your curiosity or decision to share what you know leads you into difficult, dangerous or deadly situations. If you do use them, expect a visit from the settlement’s guardians in a few days.
  66. Once you feel established in Vethin’s Hold, you will find that you are almost certainly going to get a better deal for whatever it is you are buying or selling if you move away from the main areas and try the less-frequented establishments. But you MUST be confident, and able to back that up if challenged.
  67. Periodically the leaders decree that The Hold will only accept its own currency. On entry, all other methods of payment have to be exchanged for whatever is chosen. You can swap back to traditional coins and gems on leaving, but there is an exchange tax of at least 10%. When this happens, budgeting for your visit precisely is important.
  68. One sure way of knowing that the leaders of The Hold are looking for someone is when getting in or out of the place goes from taking minutes to hours. Although this inconvenience affects everyone, you can be certain it is all to do with just one or two creatures.
  69. Take care to understand which coins are acceptable and which are not at any given point in time. For example, if a Drow city is besieging a dwarven stronghold, it’s likely dwarven coins won’t be accepted in case the settlement falls and its currency melted down.
  70. Before visiting Vethin’s Hold it is a good idea to try and find out what is popular, either because of fashion or shortage, and stock up. When you arrive, use the rare item to barter for what you want rather than simply sell it. This will help maintain its value.
  71. If there seems to be more food stalls selling a particular item than seems reasonable, it is probably because a senior leader has expressed a preference for whatever it is. Merchants and those who control areas of The Hold want to ensure they won’t be caught out if the leader makes a surprise visit.
  72. If you want to attract positive attention, the best way is to be very good at something: archery, singing, wrestling, memory feats, sleight of hand, and so on. The more unusual your skill is, the more likely someone will want to employ you because of the novelty factor.
  73. Don’t behave in too surprised a manner if an establishment changes in a short period between your visits to it. When debts are called it, particularly if the previous owner pays with their life, then any record of their existence is quickly eradicated.
  74. Adjust you understanding of how the space in a settlement can rapidly change. Mushroom- board buildings come and go at a rapid rate, filling available room at a rapid before being dismantled equally quickly by rivals who want the pitch.
  75. The Hold is a multi-level settlement in the way any dwarven or gnome town is. People live on the top of buildings (even the ceiling if a hidden crevice can be found), in rooms crammed into new floors that appear overnight, in tents, under bridges, and in the cellars (and more) below ground. The whole place should be viewed as cuboid rather than buildings on street level.
  76. Considering it’s not a large settlement, Vethin’s Hold is one of the Underworld’s most crowded, with the crammed-in citizens flowing like an ocean most days. Having said that, at times it can feel deserted. When it does, be very wary; the residents are hiding away for a good reason, whatever it may be!
  77. It’s best to look busy and focused all of the time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself roped into holding, moving, watching, helping with or buying something at best, or becoming the victim, or supposed perpetrator, of a crime at worst.
  78. Vethin’s Hold never closes unless the leaders have ordered it to shut down. As a result, many residents fuel themselves with substances that reduce, or even eliminate for a few days, the need for sleep. This can lead to violent crashes as doses lose effectiveness.
  79. If you have ways to improve your senses, use them whenever you can as you move around The Hold. While sharpened blades take lives, sharpened senses save them. Plus, you may pick up an unexpectedly helpful piece of information or two along the way. Some long-term residents go to great lengths to increase the efficiency of their eyes, ears, nose, tongue or fingers.
  80. As leaders have had their time in charge, calls to rename The Hold have gained and lost ground. The proposed amendments have invariably been more about divisive self-aggrandizement, and therefore heatedly and violently knocked back, while most residents regard “Vethin’s Hold” as a title that suggests “welcoming” urbanity.
  81. Rather counter-intuitively, public displays of what takes place behind the unmarked and locked doors of The Hold are discouraged. While absolutely nothing is forbidden in a licensed or black-market venue, the leaders tend to want extreme examples to only occur when they say so.
  82. Don’t be on time for any meeting – in the chaos of The Hold, nobody really believes you will be so – unless it is at a building owned by the instigator. Then arrive early but don’t expect to see your “host” until they are ready, which may be a minute, but equally could be a month.
  83. If there hasn’t been anything to communally “let off steam” for a while, the entire settlement can work itself into one heaving with beings, commotion, irritation and anger, and delays to get in, around and out of The Hold. Effective leaders invariably turn this against an opponent.
  84. It can be good practice to become a regular at a handful of establishments so you have places to which you can dart into if you think you are being followed. But don’t make visits too frequent, otherwise the owner will think you are spying on them and may well deal with you.
  85. Don’t stare, or even seem to be staring, when something you believe is wrong takes place. Vethin’s Hold statute currently declares that a resident may defend themselves from scurrilously perverse curiosity or inappropriately grotesque gawping. It is often cited by gangs when a fight looks suspiciously like an assassination.
  86. If violence does break out it: will be vicious and bloody; probably will be short and sharp; possibly will spill out from its site of origin to another area of The Hold; might just become a grudge. If you fight anyone over anything, be aware of these.
  87. Many of Vethin’s Hold’s beggars are deeply indebted to something or someone, either financially or via a contract of long-term servitude. Often these mendicants have shrine-like displays which tell their story from their viewpoint, casting them as lost, unfortunate souls.
  88. Street entertainers abound, and not all of them are there to distract you from the crimes their accomplices commit. Actual bards tend to be loud, crude, garish, incredibly shocking and very adept at getting audiences on their side. Never challenge something a crowd’s favorite utters as its members will turn on you. However, bards that encourage sedition aren’t on the bill for long.
  89. Every three or four years, thousands of tiny young darkmantles descend on Vethin’s Hold. They appear over a few days, appearing to be stalactites in the main, and are welcomed because they rapidly reduce the rat population. However, if the numbers are too great, rest assured they will be on most menus for weeks afterwards.
  90. The leaders of The Hold are known to take extreme measures. If a breeze is blowing through the settlement, it almost always means the streets are being swept with something like insanity mist (which reduces wisdom) or wight shroom powder (which causes necrotic damage) in order to find a particular individual, although all may be affected.
  91. While many leaders have come and gone, the name “Vethin” still looms large of course, and not just because of the settlement’s moniker. Plenty of visitors arrive with the intention of proving their lineage reaches back to the original Vethin. The trouble is, nobody really knows if a being or creature with the name ever actually existed.
  92. A whim of the current leaders is that decrees occasionally go out which either plunge The Hold into total darkness or alternatively flood it with magical light that lasts for 72 hours or more. If these conditions are designed to do more than keep residents on their toes, it’s hard to tell.
  93. If you are a historian, you will find disturbing evidence in the architecture of myriad vile trades from the past and the many Underworld denizens that ran them. Most of these trades still exist in The Hold but at a much lower level, or significantly more discreetly, than they did when the buildings were erected.
  94. There is rumored to be a hellish prison somewhere beneath the leaders’ quarters, but nobody can give a firm answer as to where It is said detainees neither see how they get in when taken there, leaves it alive (which doesn’t mean they are fully dead either), nor can be contacted as souls or spirits after they have been missing for any length of time. The truth of any of this is unclear, but it’s probably best not to try and find out.
  95. Be ready for the stirges! These tiny beasts are often used for disturbing and unspeakable activities in sinister-looking establishment, but frequently escape given the chance. Many of them lurk in the darkest corners of the settlement, and swarming isn’t uncommon.
  96. In order to live for as long as possible in Vethin’s Hold it is best to: listen much more than you speak; agree much more often than you disagree; laugh at jokes whether you find them funny or not; take and shrug off insults more than you respond to them; ask if it is alright to do something more often than just doing it. If not, you will need to become very good at killing people very quickly.
  97. If you talk too loudly for even a short period about other nearby settlements, such as Embla, Stoneholme and Holoth, you’ll be treated with suspicion at best and with outright hostility as a spy at worst. Unsurprisingly however, there is more tolerance towards those from shadier communities than towns and cities that are lawful.
  98. Superstition runs riot in The Hold, and not all of it is old or traditional. The ongoing churn of races and cultures, coupled with the overall uncertainty of whether each morning will be your last, means residents create and grasp onto all manner of superstitious ideas and actions. You will ignore or make fun of them at your own peril.
  99. At times Vethin’s Hold is a true melting pot of races, beings and creatures. But sometimes, often at the least-seeming provocation, it retreats into a self-racially segregated series of ghettos and ethnic barrios. At these latter times, don’t cross borders or you will suffer.
  100. Despite the opaqueness of Vethin’s Hold, and the uncertainty of how the leaders or citizens will act on any given day, it may just be the only place in the Underworld that you can find what you want, whether that is an item, information, or being or creature. But hope for fortunate luck and don’t rock the boat or you may never leave!.


d100 Truths about Vethin’s Hold is just the latest in our long line of d100 random tables. Get in the comments and let us know if you use them!
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