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Story Locale (Uralicans Uncut): Uralicans of Heim

Image_Portfolio_107_Fantasy Jason Walton 61As the PCs explore Uklonjen, the likelihood of an encounter with the dwellers on this plane is inevitable. The Uralicans (denizens of this demiplane) are keeping close tabs on the PCs to determine if they are friend or foe. They have scouts, both physical and psionic, watching everything the adventurers do. As such, in any initial encounter, the Uralicans should be treated as Indifferent. If the party defeated Varg, the Uralicans’ reaction to the party is upgraded to Friendly.

The PCs, however, have another problem: their ship is losing power and they are going to either drift aimlessly or be forced to land soon—given the previous encounters, the wise move is to land. When they do so they are immediately encountered by a small party of Uralicans. If they stay airborne, a short time after they lose power and start to drift, a small Uralican craft comes up alongside them, asking permission to board. They are eager for news and gladly assist the PCs so long as the party is talking, divulging the history of their arrival to Uklonjen in return.

Distant descendants of the Vikmordere, their direct ancestors were cosmic explorers, masters of psionic energy that traveled the planes extending their once proud, great civilization. Others returned with artifacts, knowledge, or wealth, but the Uralicans found instead a portal to an “in-between” plane, Uklonjen, a place that allowed for the creation of gateways to an unlimited number of other planes. The promise of what was to come ended as abruptly as it began as portals quickly began to close, including the portal back home. Years of research to re-establish their link with civilization led nowhere and the Uralicans eventually accepted that they were completely cut off.

Though stranded, their psionic powers and magical abilities gained power, allowing the Uralicans to survive. Before long they found the source of this newfound power—regenerating xyrx crystals, naturally occurring psionic gems that bolstered their impressive talents of the mind.

Image_Portfolio_107_Fantasy Jason Walton 79Uralicans began to open up new gateways in hopes of finding a way home, but these new portals proved to be less predictable than their predecessors. Nearly half of their population were lost to interplanar accidents before they stopped their activate exploration program, working instead to map the connections between worlds. New gateways could be opened but only to be tested, left unexplored and swiftly closed once they discovered that the more portals opened to Uklonjen, the less stable each became—their elders finally agreed that no more than three of these planar egresses should remain open at one time.

After closing Varg’s gateway to HEL only three are open, one of which refuses to be closed—the Uralicans attempted to open a portal to the Plane of Mud in hopes to gain backdoor access to the Plane of Water, but instead they opened an entryway to a plane filled with oozes, jellies, and strange plant life brimming with psionic energies—so strong, in fact, that they actively stop any attempts to close the gateway. Two giant oozes passed through the portal into Uklonjen and several Uralicans were lost before the creatures were driven back and fearing more incursions, the cave complex containing the portal was sealed; the last known visit to it was more than 5 years ago.

The Uralicans take notice that the PCs ship is out of power and if the party allows them to examine the vessel, the natives come up with a solution that may work. Xyrx crystals often change properties when placed in other planes, and from the research done on the Plane of Ooze, the Uralicans believe that three crystals can power the adventurers’ ship, so long as they are attuned to the strange Plane of Ooze. In order to do this, the xyrx crystals must be placed through the portal. The Uralicans hope that the PCs, being psionically far inferior to the Uralicans, won’t draw the attention of the oozes and can complete the task; they also hope that the gateway will close when the crystals are withdrawn, allowing the Uralicans to continue their search for a way to their ancestral home.

Gathering xyrx crystals is very similar to mining; treat xyrx crystals like steel for purposes of Hardness (10) and Hit Points (30/inch). The PCs require at least three of the psionic gems, each of them Medium size.

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Story Locale (Macabre Manses): Hensley’s Mansion

fantasy -architecture-2A high hill overlooks the sleepy mining town of Selton, surrounded by a bent and rusted metal fence at its top. From a distance, it looks like an overgrown cemetery or vineyard—locals, however, avoid the hill entirely and tell a different story.

A long time ago the butte was home to a frugal mage, Alfred Hensley. Inside the fence were gardens, workshops, and Hensley’s Mansion—a large stone structure with 35 rooms. Even though the house was a marvelous edifice to behold, the few that visited told stories of the emptiness of the estate. The mage Hensley was a notorious cheapskate; he had no servants and little in the way of furnishings or luxuries. Those that got close to the grounds would sometimes see him outside in the garden, tending a large patch of gourds, sometimes taking a few inside. At night there would be strange lights coming from the windows; more than one account detailed seeing jack-o’-lanterns lit up on the front porch, and what could only be described as a floating, disembodied pumpkin head inside the house, peering out through a window.

On the rare occasions when Alfred left his home to travel to town, the more curious folk would sometimes venture closer to the house. One such lad actually entered the mansion; when he returned, he was never quite the same. He could recount little—the house was mostly empty of furnishings, but the basement was full of arcane gear. He remembered that a shadow seemed to follow him until he ran into a living pumpkin-man in the observatory atop the house, with flames jetting out of its eyes and mouth. Terrified, he fled. Where this lad had once been strong and stout, he was now weak and delicate, the slightest surprise sending him into painful convulsions and tremors.

A virtual recluse before, Alfred became even more isolated as time wore on. Rumor had it that Alfred, despising company and reluctant to part with money, was dabbling in new magics to cheaply create servants to care for his house and tend to his needs. The occasional sighting of strange, human-like beings inside the estate gave credence to these rumors.

One very dark Hallow’s Eve, on the day of the new moon, a sickly yellow glowing fog enveloped the house on the hill. This fog lifted into the sky, revealing a full harvest moon where there should have been nothing but stars and darkness. After the fog lifted, Hensley’s Mansion had simply vanished—there was no trace of the house, and even the cellars has been filled in with dirt and grass.
Only the steel fence ringing the grounds was left behind.

Time passed. The elements and plants took over the grounds where the mansion used to be, until one day, on a Hallow’s Eve, the moon rose in the sky, red and full. The townsfolk looked at the moon and underneath it, outlined by the great red orb, Hensley’s Mansion stood once more—until the setting of the moon, when the fog came and took the house away again.

Now, every Hallow’s Eve, the moon appears blood red in the sky and Hensley’s Mansion reappears for a few short hours.

What secrets lie within?

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Story Locale (Banlan Backlash): Nyamo Wall

Underground_tunnel_RCW_02Nyamo is a walled city; years of outside threats necessitated the construction of a sturdy barrier hundreds of years ago. Originally designed to repel intruders, it now serves a slightly different purpose—as the settlement became a center of commerce, traders from all over the world arrived in Nyamo to sell their wares and exchange ideas.
While the goods and money were welcome, the ideas were not.

The visiting merchants and migrants were mostly housed in the migrant district, which was composed of most of the northern half of the city. Construction began on a new section of the Nyamo Wall that effectively split the city in half, running down the middle and connecting each end to the original outer wall. Taller and thicker than the original wall, the huge gatehouse built into its center gave each side of the barrier its own portcullis.

Traffic between the sections of the Nyamo Wall is strictly regulated—in order to pass, the person must provide an acceptable reason, a gate tax must be paid, and a stamp issued. Those wishing to stay overnight must obtain permission and purchase a special permit to do so. Guards from the Order of the Staff search each and every person that passes through the gate, ensuring that no contraband makes its way into Nyamo (normal magic items are not illegal, but may not pass through the gate; these items must be surrendered or passage is also prohibited.) Usually, traveler are given the option of simply turning around and not passing through the Nyamo Wall if they do not wish to surrender their items—in this city of Timeaus, this is just the cost of doing business. Those that pass through the gate are often followed by a member of the Order of the Staff, who make careful notes on interactions they make and often follow up questioning where searches occur (often using Nyamo scribe orbs).

Those that wish to enter the city from outside must go to the Migrants’ Gate on the outer wall (unless they are a Timerian citizen) where they are still subject to search and seizure, declaring all of their enchanted items; undeclared magic items are subject to confiscation. Those that wish to stay more than 24 hours must apply at the gate or at a Timerian embassy for a permit, and anyone found entering the city under false pretenses are subject to expulsion or arrest.

Only Timerian citizens are allowed entry through the Timerian Gate. They must present the proper papers and declare any magic or valuable items obtained outside of Timeaus. Generally speaking, most citizens comply and seizures at this gate are rare.

When the Nyamo Wall was constructed, the sewers under the city were modified, blocking passages with bars and grates, and in some cases blocking tunnels altogether. Over the years enterprising smugglers and other criminal elements have reopened some of these sealed passages to facilitate the burgeoning black market in Nyamo. While some goods are sold, it is most often news of the outside world that is traded, as well as books and other forms of publication. Several competing guilds operate underneath the Nyamo Wall, including those that support revolution; simple thievery and smuggling are often overlooked, with the occasional blatant offender caught and made an example of. However, the revolutionaries that deal in information and subterfuge are almost always put to the death when caught.

Entry into the tunnels that connect the two sides of the cities is a closely guarded secret. A select few safe houses on each side contain concealed entrances to the underground labyrinth—these are moved on a regular basis, the old entrances sealed up. Few people know of the existence of more than one way into the network under the Nyamo Wall, and even some of the guild masters do not know every entrance under their control.

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Story Locale (Destiny Derailed): Railcar City

654px-Catlett's_Station_VA_with_US_military_railroad_boxcars_and_soldiersRailcar City is the name given to the 2-3 spurs of track that lead off the main track on the construction side of Steamtown. This area is home to the several on-site high ranking officials, as well as the jail car and payroll car. At any given time there are half a dozen or more railcars inhabiting Railcar City. Besides the above, any official visitors that arrive by train also use this area. As of right now, the following cars are in Railcar City.

 

Spur #1 (closest to main track, starting at the end)
Presop’s car and Boss Myers‘ car.

Yigfet’s car – Yigfet (CG Male gnome wizard 5/artificer 4) is a gnome wizard and artificer from Samsara. His car contains a small but well appointed chamber with a bed, desk, and sofa; the rest is devoted to his mobile workshop, complete with a small forge and bellows. Yigfet was brought here by Borys to help investigate the relationship between alligotonium and the demons that have been cropping up from time to time. His car is filled with a king’s ransom of the ore, and several unfinished magical items (made from alligotonium) are on the workbenches in various states of completion. He has nothing for sale and offers no services, although he does have knowledge of the strange material’s properties. [Showcased in an upcoming blog entry! – RT]

 

Spur #2 (between the other spurs
The PCs car, guest car, and jail car

PC’s car – If the PCs acquired the car as living quarters, it is here.

Guest car – This car has 2 separate cabins in it, each with its own external entrance. Guests or important specialists (such as alchemists or specialty engineers) are housed here when they are needed.

Jail car – The jail car is nothing more than a normal boxcar with several iron rungs bolted into the floor. Long term prisoners are not kept in Steamtown—they are either killed or banished, left to fend for themselves in the cold. However, the car is used to hold prisoners, either temporarily before the final punishment is meted out or for short sentences. They are bound in hand and foot shackles, secured to one of the iron rungs in the car. It requires a DC 35 Escape Artist or Strength check to break these bonds by pulling the rung from the wood.

 

Spur #3 (furthest from track, starting at end)
Borys’ car [see his entry for more information], guard car, payroll car

Payroll car – This car is reinforced with iron bands and is made of extra thick wooden planks. At anytime, the payroll for the entire workforce is inside. Only the higher officials get paid in actual coin. Most get paid in company credit, which the quartermaster keeps track of in a logbook (kept inside this car when not in use). There is also a chest that contains 1,100 gp, 768 sp, and 10,000 cp. It is a DC 40 Break/Disable Device  DC to get into the car.

Joshua Gullion the WarriorGuard car – Four guard sergeants (LN Male human fighter 4) are in or near this car at all times. Their job is to watch both the payroll car (just ahead of them), and the next car down the line behind the guard car—the jail car.

 

Other than Borys, the residents of Railcar City tend to not socialize with the other parts of Steamtown (although the PCs are more than welcome to do so). For the normal worker in Steamtown—human, goblin or otherwise—Railcar City is off-limits. Unless they have specific business there, they are run off by the 4 guards who are in the guard car. If the adventurers wish to forge relationships or to meet with the residents of Steamtown, they are more than likely to do it outside of their Railcar City residence—Borys controls who is welcome and who is not, and he’s not about to consult the party on the matter.
Also, at any time, one of the guards keeps an eye on the PC’s car, and reports the comings and goings to Borys; a DC 20 Perception check reveals which guard is keeping tabs on the PC.

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Story Locale (Destiny Derailed): Steamtown

AaW_Blog_SteamTown_Map_post-size
There’s only one law in Steamtown, and that’s the company.
They have only one rule—keep working.

Now 100 miles away from Branham, Steamtown is a temporary, mobile town that provides living quarters, goods, and services for approximately 900 workers of the Pradjna Northern Express Railroad. Along with the laborers, there are approximately another 100 residents that offer goods and services to Steamtown’s residents.

The settlement is made up almost entirely of temporary buildings and tents, moving periodically as more track is laid—Steamtown is never more than 8-10 miles away from the end of the track. Most of the time, the bulk of it is on the south side of the track, with some support buildings on the northern side. Steamtown is very much the wild west; rule enforcement is quick and decisive, fights are common, and workers tend to get into trouble when they aren’t working. Racial tensions between the goblinoids and humans have also grown taut, and they are mostly kept separated, with only the humans and gnomes keeping positions of authority. Goblinoids who have come to escape their own tribes are quickly disillusioned and usually harbor great resentment—while they are technically not slaves, they are not treated well. Most of them have contracts that bind them into virtual slavery, as they would owe a monetary penalty for leaving early (which is never less than a year). Occasionally the leaving date is listed in the contract as a progress goal, replaced instead with clauses like, “after so many miles of rack has been laid”.

Goblin 18Warehouse and Loading Docks
A couple of spurs lead off the main tracks, running into loading docks on one side and several warehouses on the other; as goods are delivered, they are unloaded and stored here. One of the smaller building houses demolitions, and is always locked and well-guarded. Unlike most of Steamtown, these are generally clapboard buildings, not tents.

Train Repair
Another set of spurs leads off the main tracks to a large covered area where trains and equipment are repaired using a large, portable forge.

Goblinoid Area
Just on the other side of the warehouses are where the 600+ goblinoids live in several rows of tents, jam-packed with goblins, orcs and hobgoblins. The tents themselves are not in good repair, and many do not have floors—most are drafty and leak. A vacant field separates the living quarters from a row of squalid latrines.

Human Housing
The tents for the humans (and gnomes, the 150 overseers and foremen) are less crowded and in much better repair than the goblinoids’, and their much cleaner latrines receive far better maintenance.

Merchants’ Section
The center of Steamtown contains several tents where all kinds of goods and services are available, albeit at high prices. Just to the south is a ramshackle collection of marquees where the merchants live. Successful merchants have tents that rival nice houses, while others are little more than a lean-to in the mud—a few special traders are detailed below.

Wizard-studyingElridge’s Magical Moving Pictures
Elridge (CG Male human wizard 5; +9 Diplomacy, +9 Sense Motive, +9 Bluff) uses a mix of props and illusions to create realistic scenes of the workers’ homelands. Laborers give a detailed description of what they want to see, and he prepares a show to that effect. His tent can seat up to 20 patrons, each paying 4 silvers to see the show (which generally lasts for about 10 minutes).

Unesco’s Curious Things
Unesco (CN Female gnome wizard 3) makes small items from scrap alligotonium [detailed later this month on Magic Item Monday! -MM]. These range from magical utensils to grooming devices, knick-knacks, and all kinds of miscellaneous trinkets—while generally useful, such items can often cause minor injuries and mishaps.

Gronk’s Kitchen
Gronk (CN Male orc expert 1) specializes in preparing goblinoid food—the fare given by the company or at the saloon is rather limited for goblinoids otherwise. The orc chef exploits this gap in the marketplace with his expert care and large variety of strange cuisine.

Barn/Livestock area
This houses the foodstuffs and livestock that the company keeps on hand to feed the workers and company men; it is guarded at all times by at least four fighting men (Human fighter 2).

Common House
Just to the west of the human housing are two very large tents, the bigger one for humans and gnomes, the smaller for goblinoids. These are the public areas for the workers and simultaneously act as a cafeteria, saloon, gathering hall,  or church (and is used for any other function that requires a large space).

Mohkba-Royal-Guard-smallCompany Housing/Buildings
The housing here is mainly for the professional workers (almost exclusively human or gnome) and the enforcers (exclusively human and gnome). There are about 50 enforcers who double as guards for build and surveying expeditions, and about 50 surveyors, demolition experts, engineers, and other skilled employees needed to build the railroad. The building serves as offices as well; the pay and quartermasters do their calculations here alongside engineers and surveyors drawing up blueprints, enforcers reviewing security measures, and company official holding meetings.

Railtown
Railtown is where the heads of the company stay, each in their own private railcar. There are three railcars that are here most of the time, while others come and go.

  1. Borys
    Also knows as “The Timerian”, Borys is the head of the enforcers. He is a short gnome with a nasty disposition who despises goblinoids and can be short with humans; he is the face of the company for the PCs [and star of an upcoming Statblock Sunday! – RT].
  2. Presop
    Presop (CG Female gnome cleric 3; +10 Heal) has 2 railcars—one is her personal residence and the other is a small chapel. Presop serves as the only priestess in Steamtown and being well versed in human, elven, and gnomish pantheons, happily performs ceremonies for the residents. Goblinoids tend to either be left on their own or can come to a goblinoid-only gnomish ceremony; not surprisingly, few attend. She also serves as doctor and healer, though her magic is limited and generally only suffices for individual cases. The cleric quickly runs out of healing during a large accident, and usually heals humans, elves, and gnomes before tending to other races.
  3. Boss Myers
    Boss Myers (LN Male human aristocrat 3) inhabits the most luxuriously appointed railcar. He is in charge of the overall project and is answerable to no one here; a board member of PNE, he has carte blanche to do whatever is needed to get the railroad built. Myers generally passes the burden along to Borys, giving the gnome free reign to enforce law throughout Steamtown—so long as progress is made, complaints about heavy-handed tactics fall on deaf ears.


STEAMTOWN
LN Small town
Corruption +3; Crime -2; Economy +3; Law -1; Lore +2; Society +0
Qualities industrial, racially intolerant (non-humans, non-gnome)
Danger +2

DEMOGRAPHICS
Government plutocracy
Population 900 (200 goblins; 300 orcs; 200 hobgoblins; 200 humans; 100 gnomes)

NOTABLE NPCS
Boss Myers (LN male human aristocrat 3)
Presop (CG female gnome cleric 3)
Borys “The Timerian” (LN male gnome inquisitor 10)

MARKETPLACE
Base Value 1,100 gp; Purchase Limit 6,000 gp; Spellcasting 3rd
Minor Items 2d4; Medium Items 1d2; Major Items none
The price of goods increases as Steamtown moves; for every 300 miles, the prices increase another 100% of the base prices below (so at 900 miles, the prices would be 300% of what they are now).

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Wonders of NaeraCull: The Stone Sentinels

The Stone Sentinels of NaeraCull are several immense figures, each standing over 50-feet tall, that appear to be large humanoids carved from the stone of the Stepping Mountain. The mountain itself draws its name from the fact that several of the Sentinels stand with heavy stone vistas hoisted upon their shoulders. These extend behind them to brace the mountainside, creating a series of outcroppings that from the distance appear to be steps up the side of the towering mountain.

stone sentinelsRepresenting both male and female humanoids, the Stone Sentinels are depicted unclothed and without accoutrements. While several elevate the stone vistas, others seem to be in various states of pose; some sitting, lying, or kneeling. One of the gigantic figures even supports an elaborate, now abandoned, structure that was long ago built upon one particularly large vista. The one thing that all of the titanic figures have in common is that each and every one of them is turned to face southwest towards the distant valley that extends from the storm-wreathed Drakesdown Mountain.

The origin and history of the Stone sentinels has been forgotten to time, and even the oldest of creatures in NaeraCull cannot recall a time before their existence. For those learned whom do delve into such historical mysteries, the Stone Sentinels of NaeraCull offer a note of interest, but little more. It seems that scholars cannot agree on the origin or purpose of the Sentinels and pursuing the matter further than, “no one really knows,” is taboo.