Saturday, June 9, 2018

High Level: My Seaward Campaign

  In 1979, as I recall right after the 4th of July, I showed my players a map that had a pirate's cove, a wizard's tower, and a town named Seaward.
  I am still running that campaign.

  When you play the setting comes out in notes and during play. When you read about it on the blog you miss a lot of context. So I will give a high-level summary.

Mild edits (more needed) and some expansion.




Geography and Weather


1 hex = 10 miles

  Seaward the city lies on the northern bank of the Freshet River. The Kingdom as a whole stretches from the steep, rugged Stone Hills (similar to the Black Hills in America - rugged, rocky, virtually impassible to armies) in the west  to the Dawn Sea in the east. From the thick forests in the north to the Graywall Mountains to the south. The plains of the east give way to gently rolling hills in the west. In the southwest the Briars (an area of increasingly steep, rocky hills covered with thorns, briars, locusts trees, and swarming with monsters) is largely unexplored although the periphery is exploited for game and charcoal. 
  The weather in Seaward is very similar to that of Baltimore. As elevation increases in the west and near the mountains the temperature drops. 
  To the north are the Four Counties, a loose alliance of Southern Halflings (Riverhearth), Dell Gnomes (Gladdenstone), Granite and Iron Dwarves (Karag), and Forest Elves (Greenbough); the Mariner Elf nation of Tirgalen; and far north the Mithril Dwark city-state of Khuzdun and the Mountain Elf nation of Ciradan. 
  Along the coast in the independent city-state of Eastford, a bitter, if much weaker, rival to Seaward.
  To the South are the human nations of Banath, High Morath, and Kath.
  To the west are the five orcish city-states.
  Further west are the Plains of the Horse Kesh and further south are the Forests of the Dog Kesh, both human barbarian groups. Far to the north are the barbarians of Alba and Eiru, the island home of barbarians known as fierce fighters and great singers.
  Long and long over the Dawn Sea is the Land of the Half-horse, then, extremely far away, Yashima, Goryeo, and eventually Liung Diguo, the land of the Yellow Emperor.

Demographics
  The kingdom, and the majority of its people, live between the White River and the Galen River with most living along the Freshet River, the coast, the North Road, and the Mountain Road.
  Because of the origins of the kingdom (described later) most rural people are Kesh that mainly speak the Kesh language, most people in the main towns and city are Robians that speak the Robian tongue for legal and political matters, and the villagers (i.e., most) are a racial admixture that speak Selwyn, a creole of Robian and Kesh with a smattering of Quarosh (Mariner Elven) vocabulary. Selwyn is effectively the "common tongue" of Seaward.
  The only true city is Seaward with the towns of Timberlake (seat of the Duchy of Timberlake), Ekull (seat of the County of Ekull), and Adrian (a royally-chartered freetown ruled by a Lord Mayor).
  The total population of the Kingdom of Seaward is about 780,000 people with the overwhelming majority living in scattered villages of about 200-300 people. 


The Founding
Originally Seaward was the home to the Hawk Kesh, a tribe of human barbarians (Banath, High Morath, and Kath are also Hawk Keshi). Centuries ago a fleet of rebels fleeing from a failed coup in the Great City of Robias, landed on the islands at the mouth of the Freshet River. They established a strong fortress there and began trading with the Kesh. 
  The Robians were smaller in number but had heavy armor, heavy horses, and were cavalry as opposed too the skirmishers and archers of the Kesh. The Kesh had lived in a cycle of wars with the orcs of the west with the orcs raiding off and on for many years, then a fierce war, then more raids, etc. in a never ending cycle. When Alhamric, leader of the Robians, heard of a new orc war just 9 years after the Robians landed he quickly overcame the clan and sept differences of the Kesh and led a unified Keshi-Robian force west eventually crushing the orcs on the plains with his heavy cavalry.
  The Kesh, a very practical people, realized that the Robians had finally united them. Within a generation all of the clans had sworn fealty to Alhamric as king, beginning the Kingdom. In the centuries since the two groups have heavily intermarried until the people of Seaward are, effectively, a new people. 

Places
The Demon's Eye - about 100 miles east of the city of seaward an active volcano juts from the ocean. On clear night the rim is just visible on the horizon, appearing as a red eye staring at the city. The island is seldom visited and shrouded in dread legend.

The Monastery of the Order of the Way - A day's ride north of Seaward on the Coast Road on a cliff is a monastery founded generations ago by a group of men and women from Liung Diguo shipwrecked after a magical storm. Since then other practitioners of unusual fighting from east, west, and beyond have traveled to and from the monastery and no few locals have learned their arts. They rule all the land within 5 miles of the monastery by royal charter.

The Pirate Isles - Between the city and the Demon's Eye are scores of small islands, many of which harbor pirates, strange cults, goblinoid war parties, and worse.

Wyvern Keep - Before Alhamric I the massive granite spire that marks the eastern edge of the Stone Hills was called Wyvern Rock and its summit was a humanoid stronghold. Alhamric seized the area in his wars and his grandson, King Alain I, began the construction of a fortress at its base. Now, generations later, there is a strong keep atop the spire and a fully walled village at the base, a royal stronghold in the west.

The Shining Keep - West of the capitol where the North Road meets the River Road is the Shining Keep, called that because of its whitewashed walls and towers. Home to the Order of the Starry Banner (a Free Company with a royal charter) the Shining Keep is a training ground for and home to paladins with a least 8 paladins living there at any given time. A full compliment of troops is also stationed here. The head of the order is titled Baron (although he is elected) and rules over the area as a vassal of the king.

The Stone Hills - these tall, rugged hills stretch between the Graywall Mountains and the Black Mountains. With only one narrow track that can support even a pony cart, they are a barrier to mass invasion. As a trackless wilderness with a million places to hide they are a source of essentially constant raids from humanoids and monsters. Rich in silver, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires the Hills are scattered with hidden, forgotten mines and lure in miners and treasure hunters from even distant lands.

Treacher's Hills - The hills east if the White River stretching to the sea are called Treacher's Hills because of the many bandits and outlaws. A narrow trail along the cliffs and rocks where the Graywalls meet the sea (called Traitor's Road) is used by renegades, smugglers, and worse from Seaward and Banath to travel between the two realms. Attempts to 'pacify' the area fail because of the rough hills and remote location.

The Briars - The periphery of the Briars, the Low Briars are "merely" hill country covered in thick brambles, briars, thorns, locusts trees, and creeping cine with few trails, little water, and swarming with large spiders and venomous snakes. The southernmost are, the High Briars, is terrain as rough as the worst parts of the Stone Hills covered in thicker brambles, briars, locust trees, thorn bused with very few trails, effectively no water, and swarming with goblins, ogres, and much, much worse. The Old Road (a stone road so old the elves say it was ancient when they found it, back before dwarves learned to make iron weapons) bisects the Briars as it drives south to Skull Mountain.

The Bramble Wood - North of Gramak Kor in the shadow of the Black Mountains between the Gramat River and the Hruth River is the Bramble Wood, rolling hills covered with briars, thorns, locusts trees, etc. very similar to the Low Briars, but over 5 times the size of the entire Briars. It is a realm of thousands of kobolds, all (at least nominally) ruled by the Bramble King, who styles himself king of all kobolds. The Bramble King's troops are perpetually skirmishing with the Mithril Dwarves of Khuzdun. The hills of the Bramble Wood contain gold and diamonds; the kobolds trade with the Orcish City-States.

Skull Mountain - If you take the Old Road for 4 to 9 days of travel, depending on weather, from the Gate (the start of the road) you pass through the Briars, into badlands around the Graywalls, and up, up to a plateau at about 2 miles in elevation. Only a mile across, this large flat place looks out over the Briars to the north and High Morath to the south. On the eastern edge rising another 1,000 feet is the entrance to Skull Mountain.
  The entrance, carved to look like a fanged humanoid skull with mouth agape, is over 160' high on a sheer cliff face. Hundreds of yards east and west of the 'mouth' are trails leading up the exterior of the mountain.  Inside the mouth is a large natural cavern with entrances that lead deeper....
  Elven legends say that when they first arrived they found and entered Skull Mountain and that is why the settled north of the Galen River. Dwarven history says that they explored Skull Mountain long, long ado and that is why they have no settlements in or near the Graywall Mountains. Gnome loremasters have a name for Skull Mountain (which translates roughly as, 'place to never go') but refuse to discuss if gnomes ever explored it. 
  At the founding of Seaward the upper levels (history can prove at least three exist; tales have named seven; legend says it is hundreds) were the home to a powerful tribe of Hobgoblins, the only Hobgoblins in the area. King Alvair I, son of Alhamric I, led an expedition that defeated them in the field and harried them back into the Briars and then a small group of knights, priests, and mages ambushed the survivors as they tried to return into Skull Mountain.
  Within a few generations a foul, evil cult had taken residence in the top of Skull Mountain. King Alain I led an army with a massive pack train up the Old Road, besieged the mountain for more than a year, executed the cultists en masse, and brought the Archbishop and a company of mages to throw down a devil altar and seal the entrances to the lower levels.
  In the generations since Skull Mountain has continued to be a magnet for evil with bandits, kobolds, evil cults, and worse occupying the entrance caves as they attempt to learn the secrets. Because of this the village of Esber, the one closest to the entrance of the Old Road, has a saying,
  "When smoke rises from the mountain, man the walls at night."

The Major Towns of Seaward
Seaward - Capitol, major seaport, population of almost 20,000! Ruled by the king, the sprawling city has an unfortunately robust underworld.

Timberlake - Ruled by the duke. Fishing, lumber, and boat building are mainstays. Known for their rangers, archers, and scouts.

Adrian - Under charter from the king the city is ruled by a Lord Mayor who is elected by a council of guildmasters from their own number. Mining, metalwork, jewelry, and trade are core industries. Full of scheming and competition between merchant houses and the various guilds. 

Ekull - Ruled by the count. Mining, wool, cloth, armor, and weapons are the most common economics.  small, heavily fortified mountain city surrounded by strongholds, fortified mines, and guard towers. Its people are well known for being stoic in the face of weather and adversity.