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Swords and Wizardry Web Site

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The beginnings of a website for the new 0e retroclone Swords & Wizardry is up at http://www.swordsandwizardry.com/. There's not a lot there yet, but there are some interesting (cover??) illos and the new S&W messageboards.

1KM1KT Retro RPG Find: Tunnel Quest

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Here is another interesting game I discovered yesterday on my first visit to the 1km1kt web site in several months. Tunnel Quest is a short (14 page) and simple fantasy RPG that has a very retro feel to it. It was designed by Paul Elliot (of Zenobia fame) and further developed by Mike Hill, who says this of the game:

The system favours a quick and easy style of play with limited bookkeeping for the GM - a single dice roll for combat determines whether the character hits or gets hit - no rolling for the GM!

NPCs can be described with a single number or detailed with unique abilities - examples are of both styles are included in the text.

This is a low-power low-fantasy game which uses small numbers and only 2 six-sided dice. Paul originally conceived the game to appeal to his young children but my players range from 21 to 48.
Here is a sample of the rules:
The Basics

When the result of a character’s action is in doubt, the Game Master (GM) asks for a dice roll to determine the outcome. The player rolls 2-dice and must get equal to or greater than the Difficulty umber. In a fight the Target Number is the Rating of the Foe. Most tasks can be rated in this way (climb portcullis might be 6). A Difficulty Number of 8 would be a typical challenge; 10 or more would be difficult and 13 or more would be formidable for starting characters, at any rate.

In many circumstances, the character may possess a Skill applicable to the situation; in which case, the player may add the Skill level to the dice roll. The character’s Experience Level is usually added to the roll but only if the GM feels the task warrants it, given the character’s calling.

Example: Yuon the Barbarian is hunting small game with a bow and arrow. Yuon has Archery at +1 and the GM allows his player to add the character’s Level (+2, for a total of +3), as the activity seems like the sort of thing Barbarians get up to. Later, Yuon attempts to use his Repair Skill (+2) to fix the hem on Maid Morron’s court gown. Yuon does not get to add his Level in this particularly un-Barbarian-like activity!
From reading the rules, I really like this little game. It's not quite as simple as Dungeon Squad, but it has a lot more for the GM and players to work with.

Download a free copy of Tunnel Quest.

1KM1KT RPG Find: Sovereign

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I visited the 1km1kt web site for the first time in several months and found a few interesting-looking free RPGs. The first is an interesting riff on the corps of heroes that support a monarch fantasy world, think Lackey's Heralds here, but the world seems a bit more gritty. This is a large game with a 50 page player's book and a 25+ page GM's Guide. It looks somewhat promising, at least as a campaign setting. I haven't looked at the rules closely enough yet to form a solid opinion.

Abandoned

Your parents left you, left you to fend for yourself in the harsh world. Destined for a life of destitution and despair, you had little hope for survival.

The Emperor Rescued You

His servants found you and recognized the faintest sliver of greatness you held. They rescued you, gave you a new home and a new family.

All He Asks for in Return is Loyalty

Trained to be a warrior, to uphold the glory of the Empire. Your discipline is unmatched. Your skills unquestionable. Your word is law, backed by the Emperor himself. All he asks for in return is your unquestioning loyalty. All he asks for in return is that you serve him as a Sovereign.

Sovereign is a low-fantasy game centered on the themes of duty, loyalty, and power. Players take on the roles of Sovereigns. Orphans rescued by the known world’s greatest power, the Empire, Sovereigns are warriors beyond match. They are entrusted with the most dangerous duty in the world, protecting the people from evil and corrupt sorcery, as well as carrying out the will of the Emperor.

Sovereign uses a system that puts the focus and discipline of these warriors at the forefront and contains a setting with a rich backstory. Players should not read the Gamemaster’s Guide as this has the potential to spoil some of the more interesting setting elements.
Download a free copy of Sovereign.

Hidden Valley Towns I (Hidden Valley Setting, Part IX)

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Cities and Towns in the Hidden Valley

Goldcrest (pop 3500, Irillion)

A large town serving as a base and rest and recreation area for a large number of mining camps in the mountains. It has a very "wild west" flavor. The town is governed by a council of mining company representatives.

Byrny (pop 1600, Irillion)

This town at the edge of the Arlynn Fens was originally a fortification separating the Irillion controlled area of the valley from the Empire. A market town grew up around it and remained long after the need for the fortification ended. The fort is in ruins, its stones used to built the town's excellent walls.

Wood Edge (pop 2000, Irillion)

This is a sleepy town on the edge of the Thornewood. It's the main staging area for merchants heading from Irillion to the Empire by way of the Thornewood. It is governed by the decendants of Ejay Buckwood who founded the town.

Thornhold (pop 5700, Girwyllan)

This thriving town is called the Gateway to Irillion and is the staging center for merchants heading to Irillion. Taxes on merchants are heavy, but only apply to good actually brought into or through the town. Unfortunately, bandits can make it hard on merchants to do not avail themselves of the town's walls (and pay the heavy taxes). Some think some of the bandits are actually in the employ of the Empire, or at least the Imperial Baron Eden who rules the town.

Forverol (pop 4300, Girwyllan)

This town is agricultural center serving farms and villages in this part of the Goodlands. The town is governed by Imperial Baron Forverol whose family has governed here for hundreds of years. Villages in the Goodlands closer to Forverol than to any other major town serve under the Baron -- who has appointed them directly since the death of the last Tribune. The current Baron pays necessary lip service to the vacant Imperial throne, but otherwise ignores it.

City of Irillion (Hidden Valley Setting, Part VIII)

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Cities and Towns in the Hidden Valley

Irillion

This is a large, independent city located south of The Ring on the banks of the Long River. Irillion is currently home to some 55,000 people, barely half of its population before the Kinstrife.

Irillion was founded after the Great Exodus by more independent-minded refugees from the Sack of Girwyllan who did not like the very structured life of the Girwyllan Empire. For many years, it remained little more than a collection of hovels beside a ford on the Long River. Then the Hero Wray discovered a fortune in gems on the Shelf. Irillion grew rapidly to over 100,000 citizens. It attracted many adventures and explorers, those few of whom who survived their expeditions to the Doompit founded the great merchant houses which dominated Irillion life until the Kinstrife. The growth of the city also attracted the attention of the large orc and goblin tribes in the Outer Mountains to the north. They repeatedly tried to sack the fledgling city before being finally all but wiped out in "Bscyan's Fist", a great battle that was the final triumph in a 15 year war against the humanoid tribes. Irillion maintained its grandeur and power until the Kinstrife. The Great Plague introduced by the Priests of Celaeno wiped out three-quarters of the city's population, including virtually all of the great merchant houses -- and with them died the secret locations of the gem beds.

With the exception of the six-year reign of the Tyrant Mendelous a generation ago, Irillion (and the Hills of Choth and northwestern portion of Thornewood) has been ruled by a Council composed of 8 elected Aldermen and the current Guild representative and the Guard Commander, one of whom is selected by lot each New Year to serve as Mayor. One Alderman is elected each year at Midsummer for an eight-year term. Any resident of Irillion may vote by paying a 5 silver fee. In the past, each Major House (a merchant house worth more than 1 million silvers) had a representative on the Council and each Great House (a merchant house worth more than 5 million silvers) had a representative on the Council who had veto power. However, there has not been a Major House, let alone a Great House, since before the Kinstrife. The Guilds vote on their representative every third year. The Guard Commander is appointed by vote of the Council. Due to an agreement with the Sorceress Diane dating from the revolt that removed Mendelous from power, Diane has a permanent seat on the Council with veto power. She seldom attends council meetings and has only vetoed one action of the council, an exile/pardon for Mendelous.

The city of Irillion can be a dangerous place to live. Much of the city stands abandoned and empty and the city has a very narrow definition of crime. Murder, tax evasion, breach of House contract, and major theft or property damage are dealt with swiftly and surely. Most other matters are left up to the persons involved to settle as any "fair fight" resulting in death or injury will not bring criminal penalties, although duels and blood feuds are likely results. Justice is administered by ten Magistrates (two for each major portion of Irillion) appointed by the Council to ten year terms. One term expires each year and once appointed, a Magistrate may not be removed from office until his term expires. As each Magistrate is allowed to establish his own court procedures and requirements, which Magistrate hears a case can be a major factor. Cases are assigned by casting lots, but rumor says that an appropriate donation can often affect the way the lots fall. In practice, the entire system is corrupt, from the rawest recruit on the Watch to the Magistrates themselves. One gets what justice one can pay for.

Irillion is divided into five major sections (plus the large open air market): The Commons, Hightown, Old Town, Riverside, and The Warrens. Each section has its own flavor.

THE COMMONS
The Commons is an older section of Irillion, filled with small private houses, boarding houses, shops, and the occasional tavern and inn. It is also the home of most of the city's temples and religious institutions. Of course, many of the buildings here are vacant. The Watch patrols this section once or twice a day.

HIGHTOWN
Hightown is a large park-like setting dotted with the declining and abandoned multi-acre estates of Irillion's merchant houses. Before the Kinstrife, it was beautiful and well-maintained. Now it is, for the most part, overgrown and decaying. Most of the estates were confiscated for unpaid taxes long ago and are rented out by the city to almost anyone who can afford to pay. House Eric, House Arabella, and House Norton (the three largest merchant Houses in Irillion) have directly purchased estates from the city, as has the Wizard Lyndon. The deposed Tyrant has a small estate here, watched and guarded 24 hours a day by elite members of the City Guard. The City Guard also patrols the other inhabited areas of Hightown regularly, but seldom make more than a show of patrolling the uninhabited portions.

OLD TOWN
Old Town is the commercial center of the city. Businesses ranging from the lavish on Gold Walk Way to the money changers on Coin Street to the small, packed shop/residences of the North End can be found here. Many of the buildings seem as old as the city and, like most of the rest of the city, fully 50% are vacant. It's well-lit at night by expensive magic lamps at intervals along the major streets. Most of Irillion's Guilds have their Guildhouses in this section of the city. Old Town is the only part of the city that is actually well-patrolled by the Watch, partly because they are paid well to do so by the Guilds and partly because the Guard Barracks are in this section of town. The Council Hall, the courthouse and the Saucy Sorceress Inn are also located in Old Town. The Saucy Sorceress is Irillion's most popular dining establishment and its largest Inn. Due to the same agreement with the inn's owner, the Sorceress Diane, that gives Diane a seat on the Irillion Council, Diane's rules are the sole law on the grounds of her inn.

RIVERSIDE
This section of Irillion includes the commercial docks on Long River and is mainly warehouses and businesses catering to the river boats and their crews. While the Watch makes its presence felt in this section, they mainly patrol the warehouse areas and leave the sailors and other river rats to their own devices -- unless called in because a major crime has been committed and reported. The area around the southern outer gate is the low rent district: mainly tenements and seedier businesses. The watch makes a token effort to patrol by day, but is never seen at night.

THE WARRENS
A sprawling area of tightly packed buildings that overhang narrow, dark streets, the Warrens are Irillion's ghetto . Only those with no other choice live or work deep in the Warrens -- the smell alone is enough to drive most away. The Watch never enters this part of the city. The outer edges of the Warrens are the home of brothels, feasthouses, and other darker outlets of hedonism run rampant.

THE MARKET
Irillion has a large open air market (big enough for two football fields side by side). While some stalls are permanently owned or leased for a long term, space can also be rented by the day or week. The market is open 24 hours a day, although many (if not most) of the businesses are only open in during the daylight hours. If it isn't sold in the market, it probably isn't for sale. The Guard is present here in small numbers, but well paid to keep its eyes closed. The Market is a paradise for pickpockets and other petty thieves.

Warrior & Wizard Retroclone Playtest Release Available

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Chris Goodwin has been working on a retroclone of Metagaming's old In The Labyrinth RPG system. He has a playtest version ready for people to look at and comment on:
My retro clone game, Warrior & Wizard, has reached what I consider minimally complete for playtesting. There are rules for creating characters, fighting using magic or weapons, and building them up through experience. There's also a minimal bestiary containing every type of creature capable of being summoned by the included spells, plus a few extra (stats may or may not match those in the original game). There's an experience point section that doesn't match the original game.

There's not any rigorous setting building information, and information on noncombat Skill use is a little light aside from what is provided in the description of the Skills themselves.
You can find the playtest draft on Google Docs here and comment on this playtest version in this thread on the RetroRoleplaying Forum.

Pathfinder RPG Beta PDF Available (Free)

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The Beta version of the new Pathfinder RPG from Paizo is now available, for free in PDF format or for $25 in softcover. Pathfinder is Paizo's attempt to pick up the 3.5 mantle for those WOTC D&D players who have decided to join other groups of grognards by continuing to play an out-of-print and out-of-style edition of D&D.

If you get a PDF copy, you can get the game in either of two formats: a single PDF file or a PDF file for each chapter. Better yet, you do not have to choose between them as you can get both. The single DF is a 27 meg download while the per-chapter version is a 32 meg download.

Paizo describes the beta as follows:

This complete stand-alone fantasy RPG takes your fantasy campaigns to new heights of adventure! Backward-compatible with the 3.5 fantasy rules but offering new solutions and options that place it firmly on the cutting edge, the Pathfinder RPG Beta release is the result of the largest open public playtest in RPG history.

* The Pathfinder RPG includes: Revised rules for the seven classic fantasy RPG races
* Updated options for the 11 core classe
* A streamlined skill system that makes things easier for players and GMs
* A host of new and familiar feats, including innovative combat feats and item creation rules
* New equipment
* New and revised combat options aimed at dispelling confusion at the game table without sacrificing versatility
* Overhauled rules for domains, familiars, bonded items, specialty schools, and more
* Dozens of new and revised spells
* Updated rules for NPCs, including quick-generation rules
* New rules for curses, diseases, and poisons
* A completely overhauled experience system with options for slow, medium, and fast advancement
* Hundreds and hundreds of magic items
* AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!

The Pathfinder RPG Beta release is available as a free PDF download and as a 408-page full-color softcover print edition.

I've just downloaded a copy. However, as I'm not a D&D 3.5 fan, I can't comment intelligently on what I've seen other than to say the production values on this beta edition are very high, higher than the production values on fully released games. $25 for a softcover copy would probably not be money wasted for some who wants to seriously playtest the game.

I did notice this note at the end of the Patherfinder Beta PDF:
Although this is the Beta release of the Pathfinder RPG, there are a few rules that are still undergoing significant revision. Here is just a taste of what you can expect to see in the coming months. All of these revisions will be available for free as a PDF at paizo.com.

Prestige Classes

A fresh look at these exciting character options, from the arcane trickster to the shadowdancer.

Cursed and Intelligent Items

A complete overhaul of these classic magic items.

Game Master Rules

An expanded selection of curses, diseases, and poisons, as well as additional rules to enhance the environment.

Even though I'm not a 3.5 fan, I'm following Pathfinder RPG fairly closely as it seems to be the most interesting use of the OGL I've seen: creating an improved version of the OGL fantasy rules with lots of actual player input -- instead of with input only from carefully selected and screened playtest groups playtesting under NDA. As Pathfinder has evolved through three alpha releases to this beta release, it is obvious that Paizo and their main designer Jason Bulmahn are actually listening to feedback and changing things that many players have problems with or even simply do not like. I think that is the right way to design new editions of popular game systems: designer vision tempered by open playtesting and serious consideration of player input.

Hard Core M20

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Alex Schroeder has his "Hard Core" variant of Microlite 20 up available on the web. It uses some of the ideas from my Microlite74 which makes it an interesting mash up of old school and new school. Alex lists the changes he's made to M20 and M74 in this entry on his wiki. There's a link to download a pdf of Hard Core M20 on the same page. I'm glad to see that Microlite74 is inspiring others.

Tarantis, Capital of the Girwyllan Empire (Hidden Valley Setting, Part VII)

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Cities and Towns in the Hidden Valley

Tarantis

[Note: This Tarantis has nothing in common with the Judge's Guild city-state other than the name.]

Tarantis is a large city (about 100,000 people, although there is room for over three times that many -- the city population before the Kinstrife) on the north shore of Unicorn Lake at the mouth of Swithan's River. This city has been the capital of the Girwyllan Empire since the horrors from the Doompit overran the mighty city of Girwyllan itself over 600 years ago. The Girwyllan Empire has always had strict laws and a harsh caste system, but in the smallest towns and the countryside they are often ignored. Not so in the city of Tarantis, the laws are enforced brutally and it seems every other citizen is an informant for the dread Silent Guard. This makes Tarantis one of the cleanest and safest cities on the continent, but comes at the cost of almost all personal freedom. A permit is required to for almost everything, even dying. Conversely, if one has enough silver and clout, one can obtain a permit to do almost anything.

The main reason the system has become so overwhelming and brutal is that while all power and justice flows from the Tribune of the Empire (i.e. the emperor), no Tribune has sat on the Shell Throne since the days of the Kinstrife when the Tribune Marick the Tyrant had his only child, Crown Princess Brandon, assassinated and allowed the outsider Priests of Celaeno into the valley. For the last 160 years the Girwyllan Empire has been ruled by a secretive five member Council of State. In theory, of course, they are only holding power until a suitable Tribune can be found. The Council is so secretive, that only a handful of citizens know who even one of its members are. The Council members are apparently completely out of touch with the citizens of the city or the empire.

One area of Tarantis is different, however. The short, dark twisted streets and alleys of the Jakes is not really under the control of the government. The City Guard will not enter this area except in massive force (and even then only at great need) and few informants for the Silent Guard live long enough to give useful information. The Jakes is ruled by the mysterious Deathless Hand, a criminal wizard whose early crimes are said to have been one of the prime causes of the Kinstrife. His hand is thought to be behind most, if not all, truly major crimes in the Girwyllan Empire. While no one has seen the Deathless Hand in over 100 years, he may be contacted through his agents at The Severed Head, a popular tavern in the Jakes built on the site where executions were performed in the early days of the city.

Magic is barely tolerated by the government of Tarantis. Permits for any type of spell-casting are expensive. For many more powerful magical operations, a permit is only valid for one casting in a particular location on a particular day, often a day that has past before the permit is actually issued, unless heavy bribes are paid. Magic is still available in Tarantis, it simply isn't openly displayed and used in the city as it is in the rest of the valley.

The are many vacant buildings in the city, many of them vacant since the Kinstrife. Unfortunately, all vacant buildings are taken by the city for back taxes and city buildings can only be rented or sold with the personal approval of the Taran. As there is no Taran, none can be sold or rented. For a large enough fee, however, a long-term permit to use a vacant city building can be issued -- although the permit-holder has fewer legal rights than a renter or owner.

Marketing and Management Genius at WOTC

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I've got to love the marketing and management geniuses at WOTC. After one of the worst marketing campaigns I've ever seen a major company mount for their new fourth edition of D&D, they've managed to top themselves. Their online service, D&D Insider, was supposed to be ready to go when the fourth edition of D&D released in early June. Of course, none of the promised features were really ready, except for their online only versions of Dungeon and Dragon magazine -- and a very incomplete rules compendium. Missing were all the major (and interesting features) like the character builder, the character visualizer, the dungeon builder, and the all-important central feature of D&D Insider -- the online gaming table.

It has been an additional two months now and WOTC has made a big announcement about D&D Insider. It's a new feature. No, not a beta version of online gaming table or even the character builder or the character visualizer. The new feature is WOTC is now ready to charge you for what little there is available. No more freebies, it's time to pay them a monthly fee for their lackluster efforts. Admittedly, their post 4e online-only versions of Dungeon and Dragon magazine haven't been bad, but the monthly fee for two PDF magazines and access to the very incomplete rules compendium is just a bit less than I used to be able to get the Dragon and the Dungeon magazine in print for. Pay more, get less.

I hope people stay way in droves, but I'm sure enough people will be happy to pay for PDF only copies of Dungeon and Dragon magazines that the bean counters controlling corporate decision making will see this as a win for the all-important short term investors in Hasbro stock. When will the core features promised for D&D insider arrive? WOTC apparently doesn't know. Nor do they know how much they'll up the price when they do. I'm just not impressed.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part VI

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Places in the Hidden Valley, Continued

Twin Peaks

A twin peaked mountain that separates the Vale of Girwyllan from the the Black Forest. There are no truly reliable reports of the southernmost peak ever being successfully scaled.

Unicorn Lake

This large icy lake is fed by Swithan's River and drains into an underground river. The entrance to the latter was partially closed in the earthquake which ended the reign of Tribune Glisa over 280 years ago, which resulted in the lake expanding to its present size. Large water serpents are sometimes seen in the deeper sections (sometimes with blue-skinned humanoid riders) and an old legend tells of a gate somewhere in its depths to the Plane of Elemental Water.

Unicorn's Horn Mountain

This mountain is so named because its high peak resembles a unicorn's horn when seen from the south. According to legend, the "tip of the horn" is the home of a minor godling. No one has ever been able to reach the peak as the winds and weather prevent climbing or safe flight and the peak itself somehow prevents magical attempts like teleport or even scrying.

Vale of Girwyllan

Before the Great Exodus, this was the best farmland in the valley and is the former heart of the Girwyllan Empire. Currently, the soil seems poisoned and it is overrun by goblins, orcs, trolls, and other nasty humanoids under the control of a powerful being known only as the Shade. A line of small forts separates the Vale of Girwyllan from the rest of the Hidden Valley. This have not been completely occupied (or even maintained in some cases) since the Kinstrife.

Vale of Morin

This valley is a large high manna region within the Thornewood. It is very hard to find and once found, even harder to leave -- or so it is said. According to the writings of the Archmage Irisinholm, it is always summer in the Vale of Morin and strange magical plants and animals are abundant (most of which will not survive long outside of the Vale). It is the home of an aloof tribe (or tribes? or ancient civilization?) of amazons, the Nyghteen People, who have a culture and religion alien to the rest of the valley and who, like other living things in the Vale of Morin, often manifest strange powers.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part V

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Places in the Hidden Valley, Continued

The Ring

This is a large, tall plateau shaped somewhat like an elongated ring. The top is barren and broken. Due to the creatures that live within it, the lower central section is thought to have some underground connection with the Doompit. Flying above the open central section of the Ring, approximately level with the top of the plateau) are four of the Hidden Valley's famous "flying mountains". The writings of Irisinholm report five flying mountains, no one knows what happened to the fifth one. Before the Kinstrife and the plagues, Irillion maintained a large fortress on the south edge of the Ring overlooking the city below for a unit of hippogriff cavalry. The haunted ruins of this fortress still remain.

Ruins of Girwyllan

Also called Old Girwyllan, this is the ruins of the former capital of the Girwyllan Empire. It was attacked and destroyed during the Great Exodus from the Doompit -- and some of the invading humanoids made it their new home. Treasure hunters with more greed than common sense still head for Old Girwyllan to loot its fabled riches. Fewer than 1 in 20 return, but most of those who do return bring with them enough wealth to keep the flow of treasure seekers coming.

Spider Mountain

This small mountain in Kestral is named for the semi-intelligent giant white spiders that supposedly lived in tribes on its lower slopes in ages past. There is no sign of them today.

Thorn Mountain

This steep mountain at the easternmost edge of the Thornewood is the home of dragon sage Tragaug. Tragaug is known for answering questions for anyone who will pay his high price in gems and/or magic items. He is said to affect a nasty, terrible demeanor, but to actually be fairly friendly with those who know him -- and who are careful not to annoy him. According to some legends, the Archmage Irisinholm supposedly gave him copies of every book he ever found or wrote -- including copies of his spell books.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part IV

Places in the Hidden Valley, Continued

Hidden Lake

This large lake is hidden in the arms of the Outer Mountains. Some say that the Black Abbey, the headquarters for all the thieves and assassins in the Hidden Valley is located on the far shore. Before this part of the valley was overrun by evil humanoids during the Great Exodus, the Hidden Lake supplied much of the fish sold in the old city of Girwyllan. Some brave souls mount fishing expeditions there now. Few return, but those that do often become rich selling Golden Drayfish -- a tasty fish rumored to grant amazing sexual potency and fertility -- that are only found in the Hidden Lake.

Hidden Valley

A huge mountain valley very high in the titanic Nagistii Range on the continent of Ermneda. With only one narrow and dangerous pass allowing communication with the rest of the world, the cultures of the Hidden Valley have developed in isolation from the rest of the planet.

Hills of Choth

This hills are supposedly named for a Dwarven nation who first mined the area. The Hills of Choth are very rough terrain and are inhabited by men, dwarves, halflings, and a few things that have crawled out of the Doompit. The area is rich in metals and other natural resources. Most of the humans living here are involved in mining, but some in southern areas where the hills are more rolling waves in a sea of grass farm. The most unusual feature of the area is the Ring, a high, barren plateau.

Hills of M'nor

Also known as the Black Hills and the Unclean Hills, this entire area has been claimed for years by the descendants of the Necromancer Braster. The line has dwindled in recent years, however, and now Braster House is only occupied by the necromancer's great-great-great-grandaughter, Yvonne, who has apparently returned to her ancestor's arts. At least, as in Braster's time, none who have set out to court her or ask her advice have returned, at least with their minds intact. Much of the around around immediately Braster House is known to be a high mana area. With the dwindled of the Brastor line, the area is being settled again -- just far away from Brastyer House and its undead.

Kestral

This is a land of rolling hills and light woods. Although technically a part of the Girwyllan Empire, Kestral has always been ruled by directly the Archbishop of Kestral (who is always the Archpriestess of Alturiak) from the city of Pyre. The Sisterhood of the Moon (a powerful fighting/magical/religious order following the teachings of Alinah in her aspect of Moondaughter) is based in Kestral. For the most part, however, Kestral is a pleasant land of farmers. Those living near the Outer Mountains often see and fight off humanoids and other things that come out of the mountains.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part III

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Places in the Hidden Valley, Continued

Dragonfire Flats

This is some of the best farmland in the valley. The land is generally open fields with occasional small copses of trees. Unfortunately, for most of recorded history it has been "controlled" by dragons who live high atop the Dragonhome Plateau to the west and used the DragonFire Flats as their hunting grounds. As there have been no reliable reports of dragon encounters since the Wizard Binkly's over 100 years ago, people have begun to settle and farm the land starting from the north and east. The Dragonfire Flats are the home of the fiercely independent Abodan tribe, a nomadic group of hunter-gathers who worship the dragons. The lands of the Abodans are mainly in the western and southern portions of the Dragonfire Flats so there have been few conflicts with settlers. This is likely to change if settlers push much further into the area.

Filgiso Forest

A large evergreen forest. An almost trackless wilderness, it has never been explored beyond the end of Tribune's Folly Road. The Filgiso is inhabited by elves and other sylvan beings who value their privacy (and are generally hostile to outsiders). According to an old legend, it is also the home of "the Lone Huntress", a human woman of radiant beauty who turned down the hand of Tribune Deral II and was forced to flee for her life over 325 years ago. According to Archmage Irisinholm, there are several areas of the forest that actually overlap other planes.

Frozen Lake

A large lake in the Mountains of Darkness that is generally frozen over year round. A handful of legends state that this is the home of some ancient (Lovecraftean) evil called "the Snow Lord." Other legends tell of a fierce tribe of fur-covered humanoids that live on the ice itself. There are no records of any expeditions to the Frozen Lake, at least none that ever returned.

Goodlands

Excellent farmland that is the heart of the present Girwyllan Empire. The Goodlands are dotted with small towns and tiny, sleepy villages. The towns are usually ruled by a minor imperial noble while the villages are each ruled by an imperial knight. A few towns hold a old charter from the Tribune (the last one was granted decades before the Kinstrife) and are free of noble control. Seventy percent of the Girwyllan Empire's population live in the Goodlands. The Goodland currently provide most of the food for the civilized areas of the valley.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part II

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Places in the Hidden Valley

Arlynn Fens

This is a large, trackless swamp that is claimed by neither the Girwyllan Empire nor the Irillion City-State, although it has been claimed by both in times past. It is the home of the barbaric "Swamp Folk", a tribe of human cannibals, lizardmen, and many strange creatures and monsters -- most of whom fortunately seldom stray beyond its borders. A few legends claim that a dry island in the midst of the Arlynn Fens is the home of an impossibly ancient and powerful mage who remembers the First Wars.

Black Forest

Hundreds of years ago, the Black Forest was a pleasant wood. Now it is haunted by all manner of creatures who survived the Great Exodus (from the Doompit) lead by the Shadow-Queen. Shortly after her demise, the Shade appeared and took over her residence in an ancient volcano in the southwestern part of the Black Forest. Some scholars believe that the Shade is actually one of the five Wraithlords. It is also called the "Doom Woods".

Cliffhome

This is a palace built into the mountainside high over the Doompit by the Archmage Irisinholm to take advantage of a small area of extremely high mana. It can only be reached by flight, magic, or a narrow, dangerous trail cut into the mountainside. Until the time of the Kinstrife when the line died out, it was the residence of Irisinholm's descendants. For a few years after that, it was "owned" by a small band of adventurers. After their disappearance, the palace was abandoned until Megan. There are constant rumors that someone, or some thing, lives there now. Scholars are doubtful than anything truly evil could reside there due to the magics cast upon the locat by Irisinholm when he created it.

The Doompit

Cloaked from above (except for the area over Unknown Lake) by thick clouds of mist, this area is still largely unknown. The upper portion, called "the Shelf" in Irillion) has been partially explored and mapped by adventurous men and women who worked for the great merchant houses of Irillion in the city's heyday some two hundred years ago and were seeking their fortunes in herbs, gems, and rare woods. The terrain of the Shelf is jungle-like and the temperature is much higher than in the main part of the valley. The Shelf is separated from the rest of the valley by a sheer cliff nearly half a mile high, only a few dangerous trails are known to lead all the way down. The lower area is completely unknown, other than as the home of orcs, goblins, headhunters, and other monsters. According to legend, the Wraithhold, the lair of the five Wraithlords is hidden somewhere in the lower portion of the Doompit. Large numbers of "flying mountains" appear to be floating on the mists covering the Doompit and the towering slopes of Skydeath Mountain rise out of the mists like an island at sea.

Hidden Valley Setting, Part I

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This is the first in a series of posts about one of my two major original campaign settings, the Hidden Valley. The Hidden Valley was a huge valley high in an even larger mountain range. The valley floor was over a mile high and only one pass led into the valley. The valley itself was pretty much cut off from the rest of its world. While the chance of such a thing actually existing is probably fairly low, it made a great campaign setting. I used the basic information I'll be given in posts here in several major campaign and a large number of one-off adventures.

Here's a copy of the 1984 version of the Hidden Valley map -- the version with color. The map shows major features and larger towns and cities. There are lots of villages and small towns in populated areas that aren't shown on this 1 inch equals 100 miles map. I just created them as needed.

Here's the map. Click on it for a much larger version.


In future installments in the Hidden Valley series, I'll post the map key and some info on the deities of the valley -- basically all the information I used for general campaign background. Those used to long and detailed campaign settings will be surprised at how little information I bothered to create on the setting in advance. When I finish, I will probably release a free "Hidden Valley" pdf file with all the information.

One thing you probably need to know upfront, I borrowed the "Tarantis" name from the Judges Guild city, but the "Tarantis" on this map has little else in common with the Judges Guild Tarantis.