Sunday, June 2, 2019

Village of Prolge

I sketched up a small motte-and-bailey concept to fill with a small Norse-inspired population.  But, of course - there are others who draw better maps than me, so that sketch stays in the notebook...

But the population, that I can do....

Welcome to Prolge, a village out on the cold grasslands.

Original Map

The motte and bailey settlement of Prolge sits as a small redoubt out on the plains of the Southern Steppe. The settlement is a close-knit community, as is necessary for success and sustenance out in these unpredictable climes. While the village is not equipped for visitors, neither are they inhospitable, for the plains can be a harsh place, and those who travel with good intent are sheltered.

Ringed by a stout wooden palisade and dug moat, Prolge is surrounded by the croplands of the thegns to the local headman.  Local crops include barley, squash, and potatoes.

Within and without the walls are longhouses occupied by extended families (4-12 individuals), many with their livestock and larders. Craftsfolk have set up their shops to support the citizens and those few travelers who come this way to the end of the road.

The headsman's longhouse (1) is the core of the village, and is butted up against a large stone granary (2), which acts as a communal food store.

The local temple, the Church of the Harvest God (3) is the only other predominantly stone building in town.  The rectangular, flat-roofed building is topped by an iron lightning rod and the building's facade bears the carven image of a "wicker man."

There is no formal inn - travelers may hope to find their way into the community's good graces and seek shelter at the temple or with hospitable families for some coin or trade goods. If local supplies are sufficient, and the village is not enduring a famine or 'hungry gap,' individual villagers may have bread, potatoes, pork, small beer ('childrens' drink') and ale for barter.

For physical threats and self-policing, the town is protected by its rotating home-militia of able-bodied men (and some women).  They are typically arrayed in leather/shield, and armed with spear, axe and/or bow. The palisade walls are protected with a few scorpions facing the four cardinal directions.

Dramatis personae:

  1. Milka Huttunen ("Headman") - The village leader receives this title regardless of sex and she is well respected by her charges. Milka wears the blessed bear cloak of her office (+1 protection, resist cold), and wields a silvered spear in addition to the community's symbolic relic sword. This sword (The Sword of the Fathers) is useless as weapon, with a rusted, brittle blade, and is wielded simply as a symbol of the headman. However, through its long heritage it has absorbed protective magics for the clans (Protection from Lightning, Cure Disease (plants and animals only), once per day each), and is used to protect the village and its food production.
  2. Arvo Kaup ("Keeper of Grain") manages the weights and measures of the communal granary.  He is charged with tracking individual households' contributions and debits, as well as the thankless task of rationing grain during famine times. His position is sacrosanct and he will not betray village trust or accept bribes on pain of death.  Kaup also raises locally renowned, fierce rat terriers to keep vermin at bay.
  3. Lumi Haapala ("Touched by the Storm") ministers at the Church of the Harvest God. She is a local seer/shaman who was struck by lightning as a child. She suffers partial paralysis from the event, but was gifted with a number of spell abilities (Locate Animals, Predict Weather, Purify Water, Locate Plants, Speak with Animals, Plant Growth) as a result of the incident. She may cast up to three spells a day. Haapala is aided by an assistant who supports her if she is required outside of the chapel.
  4. Hann Häkkin, the smith/farrier, maintains his forge for local needs, fabricating arrowheads, axe heads, and other tools for the village.  He is practical, and not amicable to wanderers demanding goods and repairs.
  5. Matteus Oll, the town carpenter, directs construction and maintenance of the walls and longhouses.  He carved the six "story-poles" lining the entrance inside of the village gate that document local genealogy and lore.
  6. Hilla Kemppain, the apothecary, keeps a cluttered, stinking shop in the eastern part of the palisade. She is eager to trade for components that she may not be able to procure locally.  Among her stocks, she may have: 1) lesser potion of healing (1d4+1 hp), 2) unguent when spread on body act as resist cold for one day, 3) potion of +2 saves vs disease (effect lasts 1d3+CON bonus days), 4) a solution that acts as purify food or drink (1d6 'servings').

Reasons to be there:

  1. Old barrows of interest are in the area (these likely include village ancestors, potentially leading to serious animosity)
  2. Scouting a threat to the lands to the north, chaos, hairy horsemen, beasts...
  3. Investigate why the village and surrounding area avoids lightning strikes, and seems to have avoided a recent famine
  4. Heretics! Root them out, follow a rumor, or be fleeing for your own damn lives...
  5. Weird flying things have been spotted on the horizon, never a good sign.
  6. Migration of rare beasts (stony-skinned tripod beasts on their centenary journey across the south latitudes)
  7. The annual burning straw-man/effigy/wicker man festival is lit!
  8. Purchase ratters bred in the village for dungeon vermin patrol.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mini-Review: The Year 1000

A couple months back, Colin Green mentioned picking up some new reading material of history for adding flavor and verisimilitude to one of his campaigns.

I recommended The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, An Englishman's World.

It had been several years since I read the book, so I took a quick burn through to remember its high points.

So here we go ...

As I've groused about before - history is taught poorly, so finding a well-written, entertaining history book is of value. The Year 1000 definitely meets this criteria.

Like many histories, the challenge of the time period is the general lack of surviving documents - either from lack of initial documentation, preservation, or destruction by later regimes.  As the book denotes, the surviving direct documentation for the time period in England may fill a bankers' box.

The book itself is themed around the Julius Works Calendar, one of the few surviving written works of that time period, and describes passage of a year at the approximate turn of the millennia, near the end of the period of Anglo-Saxon rule in England.

Each chapter is inspired by the month's calendar page, and describes both common life and activities for the month, as well as a larger theme for overall English culture or leadership. And, as the book looks at the turn of the millennium, it also uses the calendar as a tool to illustrate the transitions that England underwent during that era, such as unifying from four kingdoms into one under a centralized monarchy, progressions of strong and weak leadership (Alfred the Great vs Aethelred the Unready), the conflict and partial rule by the Danes, and the impending succession conflict between Harold Godwinson, Harald Hardrada, and William of Normandy...

For instance, the July chapter begins with a description of the 'hungry gap,' the annual period between spring and the harvest of the first crops where food stores were exceedingly low, before segueing into a discussion of the evolution and spread of monastic worship and life in the latter part of the first millennia. The chapter then expands on the monarchy (under King Edgar) using the church to legitimize the rule, and the church's role as a repository and distributor of the written word.

Overall, the format make for a fun, easy read, with informative chapters that don't drag.  By combining common life and greater culture, the book builds a whole world, not simply a collection of dates and events.

And for the aforementioned gaming verisimilitude, the book provides much color for background as the players encounter or interact with both commoners and notables in their travels. The monthly format can provide fun "what's going on in the background" descriptions depending on local seasons and activities.  And, of course, the "real history" of invasions, bickering fiefdoms, successions, and growing and waning cultural influences may provide much grist for adventue or campaign seeds. 


(I discovered thru Anchor/MeWe that at least three other people also bought or were considering the book, so I hope that they are enjoying it as well...)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mad March Map - "Town"

Mad March Map the 27th - "Town"

Another tiny scene...

Explorers find the neighborhood ruined by cataclysm. Disconcerting energies cause their normally stalwart wardog to whimper. A metallic smell of dust and bones permeates everything.

For when wizards duel, the collateral damage lingers, even after these long years passed..

The district is characterized by blast craters, shattered, tottering walls, the remains of buildings barely standing...  The streets and shattered buildings echo with traces of majical fallout, and the place reeks of necromantic energies

Shuffling golems and zombies animate, the remnants and remains of the town's inhabitants, they still operate in a grotesque pantomime of their former lives, play-acting as shopkeepers, a smith at a cold forge, a skeletal maid sweeping before an empty, blasted inn.

No one in their right mind goes there anymore...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Voices in the Chapel - revising an old map

Hi all - here's a brief setting built from an old Dungeon magazine map that popped up.  Set in a rural chapel, the locals are frightened by their local priests increasingly chaotic messages and behavior.

The map was found in Issue 2 of the magazine, as part of the 'Caermor' adventure published within.  The map itself is a simple, clean design, easily re-interpreted for a campaign location, such as this one.

So what is going on in Father Aldo's church?

Edit: quick revision to the thing in the cellar...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Torches and pitchforks

Blame Jackson for posting a quick map of a small tomb on Easter. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

A heretic was recently executed, their body placed within a tomb outside of town. As insurance against their meddlesome followers, the tomb entrance was barricaded and manned with guards to warn the curious away. This morning, the guards' replacements found the barricades dropped and the guards missing.

1. Tomb Entrance - Barricades placed across the opening have been removed/displaced. A smell of death, greater than what would be expected, permeates the area.

2. Signs of Death - Scattered bones are strewn on the floor. Remnants of armor and weaponry indicate that these were once the tomb guards, left to keep watch over the barrow. Secreted away under a boulder emerging from the north wall is an urn containing 190 gp and a few ambers (9, 10, and 20 gp).

3. Ghoul! - A ghoul has found its way into the tomb, and has been picking clean the bones of the dead guards. It will attack anyone investigating the tomb.

4. Pool! - A seep has created a pool in the center of the room.The water has absorbed some divine characteristics, and is the equivalent of holy water. It will cause damage (1d8) to the undead in Area 5. Drowning the being will prevent its regeneration. Remains of another unfortunate tomb guard are in the corridor to the tomb (+1 hammer, purse with 41 gp).

5. Heretic’s Tomb - The tomb houses a stone sarcophagus containing the restless remains of the martyred prophet - an undead still containing a ‘spark’ of life - unfamiliar necromantic energies have imbued the corpse with regenerative abilities, and it becomes "less dead" with each passing day.

Revenant: 5 HD; AC 4/15; Atk touch (1d6+ level drain); Effects: Undead resistances, may cast charm and fear once per day, level drain. Holy water, magic or magic weapons are required to hit and damage. Regenerates 1HP/round during combat. The 'Revenant' becomes more resistant to turning each day by 25%. Roll 1d3 for days "dead." After 4 or more days, the being is immune to cleric turning abilities.

The alter at the north side of the room is that of a protective god, placed as a ward against potential reanimations. The alter grants resistance against the Revenant's spell and level drain attacks to anyone within 5 feet.