Chronicles of the Shadow Company
The World of Korreld
Unless and until the Game Master tells you differently, players may assume that all of the following information known to be is true (at least by scholars).
Between the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos lies the World, as well as the World’s two reflections. The bright reflection is called the Feywild. The Dark Reflection is called the Shadowfell. The World itself is called by many names, including the Natural World, the Middle World, and the First Work. In Supernal, the language of the immortals, it is called “Korreld”.
A Dark World: The current age has no all-encompassing empire. The world is shrouded in a dark age, between the collapse of the last great empire and the rise of the next, which might be centuries away. Minor kingdoms prosper, to be sure: baronies, holdings, city-states. But each settlement appears as a point of light in the widespread darkness, a haven, an island of civilization in the wilderness that covers the world. Adventurers can rest and recuperate in settlements between adventures. No settlement is entirely safe, however, and adventures often break out within (or under) cities and towns.
The World Is a Fantastic Place: Magic works, servants of the gods wield divine power, and fire giants build strongholds in active volcanoes. The world might be based on reality, but it’s a blend of real-world physics, cultures, and history with a heavy dose of fantasy. For the game’s purposes, it does not matter what historical paladins were like; it cares about what paladins are like in the fantasy world. Adventurers visit the most fantastic locations: wide cavern passages cut by rivers of lava, towers held aloft in the sky by ancient magic, and forests of twisted trees draped in shimmering fog.
The World Is Ancient: Empires rise and empires crumble, leaving few places that have not been touched by their grandeur. Ruin, time, and natural forces eventually claim all, leaving the game world rich with places of adventure and mystery. Ancient civilizations and their knowledge survive in legends, artifacts, and the ruins they left behind, but chaos and darkness inevitably follow an empire’s collapse. Each new realm must carve a place out of the world rather than build on the efforts of past civilizations.
The World Is Mysterious: Wild, uncontrolled regions abound and cover most of the world. City-states of various races dot the darkness, bastions in the wilderness built amid the ruins of the past. Some of these settlements are “points of light” where adventurers can expect peaceful interaction with the inhabitants, but many more are dangerous. No one race lords over the world, and vast kingdoms are rare. People know the area they live in well, and they’ve heard stories of other places from merchants and travelers, but few know what lies beyond the mountains or in the depth of the great forest unless they’ve been there personally.
Monsters Are Everywhere: Most monsters of the world are as natural as bears or horses are on Earth, and monsters inhabit civilized parts of the world and the wilderness alike. Griffon riders patrol the skies over dwarf cities, domesticated behemoths carry trade goods over long distances, a yuan-ti empire holds sway just a few hundred miles from a human kingdom, and a troop of ice archons from the Elemental Chaos might suddenly appear in the mountains near a major city.
Adventurers Are Exceptional: Player characters are the pioneers, explorers, trailblazers, thrill seekers, and heroes of the game world. Although nonplayer characters might have a class and gain power, they do not necessarily advance as adventurers do, and they exist for a different purpose. Not everyone in the world gains levels as adventurers do. An NPC might be a veteran of numerous battles and still not become a 3rd-level fighter; an army of elves is made up of soldiers, not fighters.
The Civilized Races Band Together: The great races of the world – humans, dwarves, eladrin, elves, and halflings – drew closer together during the time of the last great empire (which was human-dominated). That’s what makes them the civilized races – they’re the ones found living together in the towns and cities of civilization. Other races, including dragonborn and tieflings, are in decline, heirs of ancient empires long forgotten. Goblins, orcs, gnolls, kobolds, and similar savage races were never part of that human empire. Some of them, such as the militaristic hobgoblins, have cities, organized societies, and kingdoms of their own. These are islands of civilization in the wilderness, but they are not “points of light.”
Magic Is Not Everyday, but it Is Natural: No one is superstitious about magic, but neither is the use of magic trivial. Practitioners of magic are as rare as fighters. People might see evidence of magic every day, but it’s usually minor – a fantastic monster, a visibly answered prayer, a wizard flying by on a griffon. However, true masters of magic are rare. Many people have access to a little magic, and such minor magic helps those living within the points of light to maintain their communities. But those who have the power to shape spells the way a blacksmith shapes metal are as rare as adventurers and appear as friends or foes to the player characters.
Gods and Primordials Shaped the World: The Primordials, elemental creatures of enormous power, shaped the world out of the Elemental Chaos. The Gods gave it permanence and warred with the Primordials for control of the new creation, in a great conflict known as the Dawn War. The Gods eventually triumphed, and Primordials now slumber in remote parts of the Elemental Chaos or rage in hidden prisons.
Gods Are Distant: At the end of the Dawn War, the mighty Primal Spirits of the world exerted their influence, forbidding Gods and Primordials alike from directly influencing the world. Now exarchs act in the world on behalf of their Gods, and angels appear to undertake missions that promote the agendas of the Gods they serve. Gods are extremely powerful, compared to mortals and monsters, but they are not omniscient or omnipotent. They provide access to the divine power source for their clerics and paladins, and their followers pray to them in hopes that they or their exarchs will hear them and bless them.
The world occupies a special place at the center of the universe. It’s the middle ground where the conflicts between gods and primordials, and among the gods themselves, play out through their servants both mortal and immortal. But other planes of existence surround the world, nearby dimensions where some power sources are said to originate and powerful creatures reside, including demons, devils, and the gods.
Before the world existed, the universe was divided into two parts: the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Some legends say that those two were once one realm, but even the gods can’t know that for certain, for they had their origin in the Astral Sea.
The Astral Sea
The Astral Sea floats above the world, an ocean of silvery liquid with the stars visible beneath the shallow sea. Sheets of shimmering starlight like gossamer veils part to reveal the dominions, the homes of the gods, like islands floating in the Astral Sea. Not all the gods live in dominions—the Raven Queen’s palace of Letherna stands in the Shadowfell, and Lolth’s home, the Demonweb Pits, is located in the Abyss. Avandra, Melora, and Torog wander the world, and both Sehanine and Vecna wander the whole cosmos.
Arvandor is a realm of natural beauty and arcane energy that echoes the Feywild. It’s the home of Corellon and sometimes of Sehanine. Arvandor seems to be as much a part of the Feywild as of the Astral Sea, and travelers claim to have reached it through both planes.
The Bright City of Hestavar, as its title suggests, is a vast metropolis where Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor make their homes. Powerful residents of all the planes make their way to the Bright City to buy and sell exotic goods.
Tytherion, called the Endless Night, is the dark domain that Tiamat and Zehir share. No light can pierce its darkest depths, and both serpents and dragons haunt its otherworldly wilderness.
The Iron Fortress of Chernoggar is Bane’s stronghold in the Astral Sea. As its name suggests, it’s a mighty stronghold of rust-pitted iron, said to be impregnable to attack. Even so, Gruumsh makes his home on an eternal battlefield outside the fortress’s walls, determined to raze it to the ground one day. Immortal warriors fight and die on both sides of this conflict, returning to life with every nightfall.
Celestia is the heavenly realm of Bahamut and Moradin. Kord also spends a good deal of time on its mountainous slopes because of an old friendship with the other gods, but his tempestuous nature keeps him from calling it home. Upon parting a veil to enter Celestia, a traveler arrives on the lower reaches of a great mountain. Behind him, the mountains disappear into silvery mist far below.
The Nine Hells is the home of Asmodeus and the devils. This plane is a dark, fiery world of continent sized caverns ruled by warring princelings, though all are ultimately under the iron fist of Asmodeus.
The Elemental Chaos and the Abyss
At the foundation of the world, the Elemental Chaos churns like an ever-changing tempest of clashing elements— fire and lightning, earth and water, whirlwinds and living thunder. Just as the gods originated in the Astral Sea, the first inhabitants of the Elemental Chaos were the primordials, creatures of raw elemental power. They shaped the world from the raw material of the Elemental Chaos, and if they had their way, the world would be torn back down and returned to raw materials. The gods have given the world permanence utterly alien to the primordials’ nature.
The Elemental Chaos approximates a level plane on which travelers can move, but the landscape is broken up by rivers of lightning, seas of fire, floating earthbergs, ice mountains, and other formations of raw elemental forces. However, it is possible to make one’s way slowly down into lower layers of the Elemental Chaos. At its bottom, it turns into a swirling maelstrom that grows darker and deadlier as it descends. At the bottom of that maelstrom is the Abyss, the home of demons. The Chained God, planted a shard of pure evil in the heart of the Elemental Chaos before the world was finished, and the gods imprisoned him for this act of blasphemy. (This story is told in more detail in the “Demon” entry of the Monster Manual.) The Abyss is as entropic as the Elemental Chaos where it was planted, but it is actively malevolent, where the rest of the Elemental Chaos is simply untamed.
The World and its Echoes
The world has no proper name, but it bears a wide variety of prosaic and poetic names among those people who ever find need to call it anything but “The World.” It’s the Creation, the Middle World, the Natural World, the Created World, or even the First Work.
The primordials formed the world from the raw materials of the Elemental Chaos. Looking down on this work from the Astral Sea, the gods were fascinated with the world. Creatures of thought and ideal, the gods saw endless room for improvement in the primordials’ work, and their imaginings took form and substance from the abundance of creation-stuff still drifting in the cosmos. Life spread across the face of the world, the churning elements resolved into oceans and landmasses, diffuse light became a sun and moon and stars. The gods drew astral essence and mixed it with the tiniest bits of creation-stuff to create mortals to populate the world and worship them. Elves, dwarves, humans, and others appeared in this period of spontaneous creation. Resentful of the gods’ meddling in their work, the primordials began a war that shook the universe, but the gods emerged victorious and the world remains as they have shaped it.
As the world took shape, the primordials found some pieces too vivid and bright, and hurled them away. They found other pieces too murky and dark, and flung them away as well. These discarded bits of creation clustered and merged, and formed together in echoes of the shaping of the world. As the gods joined in the act of creation, more ripples spread out into the Feywild and the Shadowfell, bringing creatures to life there as echoes of the world’s mortals. Thus the world was born with two siblings: the bright Feywild and the dark Shadowfell.
The Shadowfell is a dark echo of the world. It touches the world in places of deep shadow, sometimes spilling out into the world, and other times drawing hapless travelers into its dark embrace. It is not wholly evil, but everything in the Shadowfell has its dark and sinister side. When mortal creatures die, their spirits travel first to the Shadowfell before moving on to their final fate.
The Feywild is an enchanted reflection of the world. Arcane energy flows through it like streams of crystal water. Its beauty and majesty is unparalleled in the world, and every creature of the wild is imbued with a measure of fantastic power.
Scholars claim that the universe described here is not all there is—that something else exists beyond the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Evidence for this idea appears in the form of the most alien creatures known, aberrant monsters such as the aboleth and gibbering orb. These creatures don’t seem to be a part of the world or any known realm, and where they live in the world, reality alters around them. This fact has led sages to postulate the existence of a place they call the Far Realm, a place where the laws of reality work differently than in the known universe. In addition, the souls of the dead—though they travel first to the Shadowfell—pass beyond it after a time. Some souls are claimed by the gods and carried to the divine dominions, but others pass to another realm beyond the knowledge of any living being.
Sigil – The City of Doors
Somewhere between the planes, neither adrift in the Astral Sea nor rooted in the Elemental Chaos, spins the City of Doors, the bustling metropolis of Sigil. Planar trade flows freely through its streets, facilitated by a bewildering number of portals leading to and from every known corner of the universe—and all the corners yet to be explored. The ruler of the City of Doors is the enigmatic Lady of Pain, whose nature is the subject of endless speculation.
Deity Alignment Areas of Influence
Asmodeus Evil Power, domination, tyranny
Avandra Good Change, luck, trade, travel
Bahamut Lawful Good Justice, honor, nobility, protection
Bane Evil War, conquest
The Chained God Chaotic Evil Annihilation, madness
Corellon Unaligned Arcane magic, spring, beauty, the arts
Erathis Unaligned Civilization, invention, laws
Gruumsh Chaotic Evil Turmoil, destruction
Ioun Unaligned Knowledge, prophecy, skill
Kord Unaligned Storms, strength, battle
Lolth Chaotic Evil Spiders, shadows, lies
Melora Unaligned Wilderness, sea
Moradin Lawful Good Creation, artisans, family
Pelor Good Sun, summer, agriculture, time
The Raven Queen Unaligned Death, fate, winter
Sehanine Unaligned Trickery, moon, love, autumn
Tiamat Evil Wealth, greed, vengeance
Torog Evil Underdark, imprisonment
Vecna Evil Undeath, secrets
Zehir Evil Darkness, poison, serpents
The deities of the D&D world are powerful but not omnipotent, knowledgeable but not omniscient, widely traveled but not omnipresent. They alone of all creatures in the universe consist only of astral essence. The gods are creatures of thought and ideal, not bound by the same limitations as beings of flesh.
Because of their astral nature, the gods can perform deeds that physical creatures cannot. They can appear in the minds of other creatures, speaking to them in dreams or visions, without being present in physical form. They can appear in multiple places at once. They can listen to the prayers of their followers (but they don’t always). But they can also make physical forms for themselves with a moment’s effort, and they do when the need arises—when presumptuous epic-level mortal adventurers dare to challenge them in their own dominions, for example. In these forms, they can fight and be fought, and they can suffer terrible consequences as a result. However, to destroy a god requires more than merely striking its physical form down with spell or sword. Gods have killed other gods (Asmodeus being the first to do so), and the primordials killed many gods during their great war. For a mortal to accomplish this deed would require rituals of awesome power to bind a god to its physical form—and then a truly epic battle to defeat that form.
Some deities are good or lawful good, some are evil or chaotic evil, and many are unaligned. Each deity has a vision of how the world should be, and the agents of the deities seek to bring that vision to life in the world. Even the agents and worshipers of deities who share an alignment can come into conflict. Except for the chaotic evil gods (Gruumsh, Lolth, and The Chained God) however, all deities are enemies of the demons, which would rather destroy the world than govern it.
The most powerful servants of the gods are their exarchs. Some exarchs are angels whose faithful service has earned them this exalted status. Others were once mortal servants who won the station through their mighty deeds. Asmodeus has devils as exarchs, and both Bahamut and Tiamat have granted that status to powerful dragons. Every exarch is a unique example of its kind, empowered with capabilities far beyond those of other angels, mortals, or monsters.
Asmodeus: Asmodeus is the evil god of tyranny and domination. He rules the Nine Hells with an iron fist and a silver tongue. Aside from devils, evil creatures such as rakshasas pay him homage, and evil tieflings and warlocks are drawn to his dark cults. His rules are strict and his punishments harsh:
• Seek power over others, that you might rule with strength as the Lord of Hell does.
• Repay evil with evil. If others are kind to you, exploit their weakness for your own gain.
• Show neither pity nor mercy to those who are caught underfoot as you climb your way to power. The weak do not deserve compassion.
Avandra: The good goddess of change, Avandra delights in freedom, trade, travel, adventure, and the frontier. Her temples are few in civilized lands, but her wayside shrines appear throughout the world. Halflings, merchants, and all types of adventurers are drawn to her worship, and many people raise a glass in her honor, viewing her as the goddess of luck. Her commandments are few:
• Luck favors the bold. Take your fate into your own hands, and Avandra smiles upon you.
• Strike back against those who would rob you of your freedom and urge others to fight for their own liberty.
• Change is inevitable, but it takes the work of the faithful to ensure that change is for the better.
Bahamut: Called the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut is the lawful good god of justice, protection, nobility, and honor. Lawful good paladins often revere him, and metallic dragons worship him as the first of their kind. Monarchs are crowned in his name. He commands his followers thus:
• Uphold the highest ideals of honor and justice.
• Be constantly vigilant against evil and oppose it on all fronts.
• Protect the weak, liberate the oppressed, and defend just order.
Bane: Bane is the evil god of war and conquest. Militaristic nations of humans and goblins serve him and conquer in his name. Evil fighters and paladins serve him. He commands his worshipers to:
• Never allow your fear to gain mastery over you, but drive it into the hearts of your foes.
• Punish insubordination and disorder.
• Hone your combat skills to perfection, whether you are a mighty general or a lone mercenary.
The Chained God: The Chained God is the chaotic evil god who created the Abyss. His original name is rarely spoken and even the fact of his existence is not widely known. A few scattered cults of demented followers revere him. The Chained God does not speak to his followers, so his commands are unknown, but his cults teach their members to:
• Channel power to the Chained God, so he can break his chains.
• Retrieve lost relics and shrines to the Chained God.
• Pursue the obliteration of the world, in anticipation of the Chained God’s liberation.
Corellon: The unaligned god of spring, beauty, and the arts, Corellon is the patron of arcane magic and the fey. He seeded the world with arcane magic and planted the most ancient forests. Artists and musicians worship him, as do those who view their spellcasting as an art, and his shrines can be found throughout the Feywild. He despises Lolth and her priestesses for leading the drow astray. He urges his followers thus:
• Cultivate beauty in all that you do, whether you’re casting a spell, composing a saga, strumming a lute, or practicing the arts of war.
• Seek out lost magic items, forgotten rituals, and ancient works of art. CorelIon might have inspired them in the world ’s first days.
• Thwart the followers of Lolth at every opportunity.
Erathis: Erathis is the unaligned goddess of civilization. She is the muse of great invention, founder of cities, and author of laws. Rulers, judges, pioneers, and devoted citizens revere her, and her temples hold prominent places in most of the world’s major cities. Her laws are many, but their purpose is straightforward:
• Work with others to achieve your goals. Community and order are always stronger than the disjointed efforts of lone individuals.
• Tame the wilderness to make it fit for habitation, and defend the light of civilization against the encroaching darkness.
• Seek out new ideas, new inventions, new lands to inhabit, new wilderness to conquer. Build machines, build cities, build empires.
Gruumsh: Gruumsh is the chaotic evil god of destruction, lord of marauding barbarian hordes. Where Bane commands conquest, Gruumsh exhorts his followers to slaughter and
pillage. Orcs are his fervent followers, and they bear a particular hatred for elves and eladrin because Corellon put out one of Gruumsh’s eyes. The One-Eyed God gives simple
orders to his followers:
• Conquer and destroy.
• Let your strength crush the weak.
• Do as you will, and let no one stop you.
Ioun: loun is the unaligned goddess of knowledge, skill, and prophecy. Sages, seers, and tacticians revere her, as do all who live by their knowledge and mental power. Corellon is the patron of arcane magic, but loun is the patron of its study. Libraries and wizard academies are built in her name. Her commands are also teachings:
• Seek the perfection of your mind by bringing reason, perception, and emotion into balance with one another.
• Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore.
• Be watchful at all times for the followers of Vecna, who seek to control knowledge and keep secrets. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and blind them with the light of truth and reason.
Kord: Kord is the unaligned storm god and the lord of battle. He revels in strength, battlefield prowess, and thunder. Fighters and athletes revere him. He is a mercurial god, unbridled
and wild, who summons storms over land and sea; those who hope for better weather appease him with prayers and spirited toasts. He gives few commands:
• Be strong, but do not use your strength for wanton destruction.
• Be brave and scorn cowardice in any form.
• Prove your might in battle to win glory and renown.
Lolth: Lolth is the chaotic evil goddess of shadow. lies, and spiders. Scheming and treachery are her commands, and her priests are a constant force of disruption in the otherwise stable society of the evil drow. Though she is properly a god and not a demon, she is called Demon Queen of Spiders. She demands that her followers:
• Do whatever it takes to gain and hold power.
• Rely on stealth and slander in preference to outright confrontation.
• Seek the death of elves and eladrin at every opportunity.
Melora: Melora is the unaligned goddess of the wilderness and the sea. She is both the wild beast and the peaceful forest, the raging whirlpool and the quiet desert. Rangers. hunters, and elves revere her, and sailors make offerings to her before beginning their voyages. Her strictures are these:
• Protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. Oppose the rampant spread of cities and empires.
• Hunt aberrant monsters and other abominations of nature.
• Do not fear or condemn the savagery of nature. Live in harmony with the wild.
Moradin: Moradin is the lawful good god of creation and patron of artisans, especially miners and smiths. He carved the mountains from primordial earth and is the guardian and protector of the hearth and the family. Dwarves from all walks of life follow him. He demands these behaviors of his followers:
• Meet adversity with stoicism and tenacity.
• Demonstrate loyalty to your family, your clan, your leaders, and your people.
• Strive to make a mark on the world, a lasting legacy. To make something that lasts is the highest good, whether you are a smith working at a forge or a ruler building a dynasty.
Pelor: The good god of the sun and summer, Pelor is the keeper of time. He supports those in need and opposes all that is evil. As the lord of agriculture and the bountiful harvest,
he is the deity most commonly worshiped by ordinary humans, and his priests are well received wherever they go. Paladins and rangers are found among his worshipers. He directs his followers thus:
• Alleviate suffering wherever you find it.
• Bring Pelor’s light into places of darkness, showing kindness, mercy, and compassion.
• Be watchful against evil.
The Raven Queen: The name of the unaligned goddess of death is long forgotten, but
she is called the Raven Queen. She is the spinner of fate and the patron of winter. She marks the end of each mortal life, and mourners call upon her during funeral rites, in the hope that she will guard the departed from the curse of undeath. She expects her followers to abide by these commandments:
• Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
• Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. Punish hubris where you find it.
• Watch for the cults of Orcus and stamp them out whenever they arise. The Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen’s throne.
Sehanine: The unaligned goddess of the moon and autumn, Sehanine is the patron of trickery and illusions. She has close ties to Corellon and Melora and is a favorite deity among elves and haIflings. She is also the goddess of love, who sends shadows to cloak lovers’ trysts. Scouts and thieves ask for her blessing on their work. Her teachings are simple:
• Follow your goals and seek your own destiny.
• Keep to the shadows, avoiding the blazing light of zealous good and the utter darkness of evil.
• Seek new horizons and new experiences, and let nothing tie you down.
Tiamat: Tiamat is the evil goddess of wealth, greed, and envy. She is the patron of chromatic dragons, and those whose lust for wealth overrides any other goal or concern. She commands her followers to:
• Hoard wealth, acquiring much and spending little. Wealth is its own reward.
• Forgive no slight and leave no wrong unpunished.
• Take what you desire from others. Those who lack the strength to defend their possessions are not worthy to own them.
Torog: Torog is the evil god of the Underdark, patron of jailers and torturers. Common superstition holds that if his name is spoken, the King that Crawls burrows up from below and drags the hapless speaker underground to an eternity of imprisonment and torture. Jailers and torturers pray to him in deep caves and cellars, and creatures of the Underdark revere him as well. He teaches his worshipers to:
• Seek out and revere the deep places beneath the earth.
• Delight in the giving of pain, and consider pain you receive as homage to Torog.
• Bind tightly what is in your charge, and restrain those who wander free.
Vecna: Vecna is the evil god of undead, necromancy, and secrets. He rules that which is not meant to be known and that which people wish to keep secret. Evil spellcasters and conspirators pay him homage. He commands them to:
• Never reveal all you know.
• Find the seed of darkness in your heart and nourish it; find it in others and exploit it to your advantage.
• Oppose the followers of all other deities so that Vecna alone can rule the world.
Zehir: Zehir is the evil god of darkness, poison, and assassins. Snakes are his favored creation, and the yuan-ti revere him above an other gods, offering sacrifice to him in pits full of writhing serpents. He urges his followers to:
• Hide under the cloak of night, that your deeds might be kept in secret.
• Kill in Zehir’s name and offer each murder as a sacrifice.
• Delight in poison, and surround yourself with snakes.
THE TOWN OF FALLCREST
Fallcrest stands amid the Moon Hills at the falls of the Nentir River. Here travelers and traders using the old King’s Road that runs north and south, the dwarven Trade Road from the east, and the river all meet. The surrounding ridges shelter several small valleys where farmers and woodsfolk live; few are more than six or seven miles from the town. In general the people outside Fallcrest’s walls earn their living by farming or keeping livestock, and the people inside the walls are artisans, laborers, or merchants. People with no other prospects can make a hard living as porters, carrying cargo from the Lower Quays to the Upper Quays (or vice versa).
Fallcrest imports finished goods from the larger cities downriver and ironwork from the dwarf town of Hammerfast, and exports timber, leather, fruit, and grain. It also trades with the nearby town of Winterhaven. The surrounding hills hold several marble quarries that once produced a good deal of stone, but the area has little demand for ornamental stone these days, and only a few stonecutters still practice their trade.
A small town built from the ruins of a larger city, Fallcrest is the crossroads of the Nentir Vale.
Population: 1,350; another 900 or so live in the countryside within a few miles of the town. The people of Fallcrest are mostly humans, halflings, and dwarves. No dragonborn or eladrin are permanent residents, but travelers of all [civilized] races pass through on occasion.
Government: The human noble Lord Faren Markelhay is the hereditary lord of the town. He is in charge of the town’s defense, laws, and justice. At heart a military man, Lord Markelhay appoints a town council to look after more routine commerce and public projects.
Defense: The Fallcrest Guard numbers sixty well trained warriors, who also serve as constables. Moonstone Keep is their barracks. Lord Markelhay can call up 350 militia at need.
Inns: Nentir Inn; Silver Unicorn. The Silver Unicorn is pricier and offers better service; the Nentir Inn sees a more interesting clientele.
Taverns: Blue Moon Alehouse; Lucky Gnome Taphouse; Nentir Inn taproom.
Supplies: Halfmoon Trading House; Sandercot Provisioners.
Temples: Temple of Erathis; Moonsong Temple (Sehanine); House of the Sun (Pelor).
Up until four centuries or so ago, the Moon Hills and the surrounding Nentir Vale were thinly settled borderlands, home to quarrelsome human hill-chieftains and remote realms of nonhumans such as dwarves and elves. Giants, minotaurs, orcs, ogres, and goblins plagued the area. Ruins such as those on the Gray Downs or the ring-forts atop the Old Hills date back to these days, as do stories of the hero Vendar and the dragon of the Nentir.
With the rise of the empire of Nerath to the south, human settlers began to move up the Nentir, establishing towns such as Fastormel, Harkenwold, and Winterhaven. A Nerathan hero named Aranda Markelhay obtained a charter to build a keep at the portage of the Nentir Falls. She raised a simple tower at the site of Moonstone Keep three hundred ten years ago, and under its protection the town of Fallcrest began to grow.
Over the next two centuries, Fallcrest grew into a small and prosperous city. It was a natural crossroads for trade, and the Markelhays ruled it well. When the empire of Nerath began to crumble about a century ago, Fallcrest continued to flourish—for a time.
Ninety years ago, a fierce horde of orcs known as the Bloodspears descended from the Stonemarch and swept over the vale. Fallcrest’s army was defeated in a rash attempt to halt the Bloodspears out on Gardbury Downs. The Bloodspears burned and pillaged Fallcrest and went on to wreak havoc all across the Nentir Vale.
In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and down the river these days. The countryside for scores of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few folk live. This is a place in need of a few heroes.
Fallcrest is divided into two districts by a steep bluff [150 to 250 feet high] that cuts across the town. The area north of the bluff is known locally as Hightown. This district survived the city’s fall in relatively good shape, and it was the first area resettled. To the south of the bluff lies Lowtown, which tends to be newer and poorer. In the event of a serious threat, people retreat up to Hightown—the bluff and the town walls completely ring this part of Fallcrest, making it highly defensible.
THE NENTIR VALE
Fallcrest lies near the middle of the broad borderland region known as the Nentir Vale. The vale is now mostly empty, with a handful of living villages and towns scattered over this wide area. Abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps litter the countryside. Bandits, wild animals, and monsters roam freely throughout the vale, threatening anyone who fares more than few miles away from one of the surviving settlements. Travel along the roads or river is usually safe—usually. But every now and then, travelers come to bad ends between towns.
The Nentir Vale is a northern land, but it sees relatively little snow—winters are windy and bitterly cold. The Nentir River is too big to freeze except for a few weeks in the coldest part of the year. Summers are cool and mild.
The “clear” parts of the map are covered in mixed terrain—large stretches of open meadowland, copses of light forest, gently rolling hills, and the occasional thicket of dense woodland and heavy undergrowth. The downs marked on the map are hilly grassland, with little tree cover. The hills are steeper and more rugged, and include light forest in the valleys and saddles between the hilltops. Interesting locales in the Nentir Vale are described below.
This small mountain range provides a sheltering barrier between the Nentir Vale and the savage monsters of the Stonemarch. Kobolds and goblins infest the eastern part of the mountains, enjoying the same protection from the more terrible monsters of the western reaches.
Hard under the Cairngorms at the west end of the Nentir Vale lies the remote town of Winterhaven. Like Fallcrest, Winterhaven is a small town surrounded by a few miles of farmland and pastures.
Built during Nerath’s height, this Village stands as a feeble light at the edge of civilization.
Population: 950. Most Villagers are farmers and herders who live outside the walls, and most are human.
Government: Ernest Padraig, the Lord of Winterhaven, is descended from the noble family that ruled the area under edict of the old empire.
Defense: The Winterhaven Regulars are a core group of ten soldiers who perform guard and police functions in and around the Village. Padraig can muster a force of about fifty civilians, given a day’s notice, to supplement this tiny force if the village is threatened.
Inn and Tavern: Wrafton’s Inn serves as the public house for the region.
Supplies: Bairwin’s Grand Shoppe, market square.
Temple: Sister Linora offers sacrifices to the entire pantheon when called on to do so, but she is a devotee of Avandra and most villagers offer their prayers to the goddess of luck.
THE CLOAK WOOD
This small forest to the west of Fallcrest is infested with several tribes of koboIds – small, reptilian humanoids that live in mazelike warrens filled with deadly traps.
THE DAWNFORGE MOUNTAINS
Named for the legendary mountain at the eastern edge of the world where Moradin is said to have crafted the sun, the Dawnforge Mountains define the eastern boundary of the Nentir Vale. Beyond the mountains, the land grows quickly wilder, for only a few settlements were ever established that far from Nerath’s capital, and even fewer have lasted to the present day. The foothills to the east of the mountains are infested with goblins and orcs, making trade with those remaining towns dangerous and difficult.
A dwarven hold cut from the rock of a deep vale in the Dawnforge Mountains, Hammerfast is the largest and wealthiest town in the region. The Trade Road runs through the citadel gates and continues eastward beyond the Dawnforge Mountains. Hammerfast is governed by a council of masters, each the leaders of one of the town’s powerful guilds. The current High Master is the leader of the merchant guild, a dwarf named Marsinda Goldspinner. The dwarves of Hammerfast look to their own first and don’t give away anything for free, but they are honest and industrious.
Hammerfast is a city where the living dwell among the dead. The buildings are converted
tombs and sepulchers, cleared of rubble and refurbished to serve as homes and businesses.
Population: 11,000. Hammerfast’s population consists mostly of dwarves.
Government: Three guilds – the trade guild, the lore guild, and the craft guild – rule Hammerfast. Each guild has two representatives on the city council’, which elects the mayor. The current mayor is Marsinda Goldspinner, a representative of the trade guild.
Defense: A full-time force of about 100 warriors defends the city, manning thick, stone walls and a number of towers equipped with catapults and ballistae. In addition, outsiders are allowed only in the Gate Ward. The rest of the city is accessible only with permission from the guard.
Inns: The Arcane Star provides high quality but expensive accommodations. Rondal’s Inn offers a cheaper, though shabbier, alternative.
Taverns: The Foundation Stone is the most popular tavern for travelers in town. It offers cheap food and drink, along with entertainment such as knife throwing tournaments and a popular local game called giant’s feet.
Supplies: An open air market in Hammerfast’s Gate Ward offers a wide variety of goods, though it is difficult to predict which caravans are in town at any given time. Boltac’s Goods is a more reliable source of adventuring gear, but its owner is renowned for his greed.
Temples: The temple of Moradin, with the pool of fire that burns before it, is an important center of the faith in the Nentir Vale. The priests craft items at the Forge of life all day and night. Hammerfast also has temples to loun and Pelor. However, all three temples are in the city’s inner wards, rather than the open Gate Ward.
The site of Fallcrest’s failed attempt to hold back the Bloodspear orcs ninety years ago, Gardbury Downs is said to be haunted by the spirits of the fallen defenders of the Nentir Vale. Remains of that ancient battle litter the Downs-broken swords, shattered armor, and old bones. Travelers on the King’s Road rarely see any sign of ghosts, but the folk of Winterhaven know better than to wander out on the Downs at night. Orcs from the Stonemarch also appear in the Gardbury Downs from time to time, circling the Cairngorm Peaks to raid into the Nentir Vale.
The Gardbury Downs take their name from this striking ruin, a large monastery that has lain in ruins for almost one hundred fifty years. The abbey was dedicated to Bahamut and served as the base of a militant order of paladins who won great fame fighting in Nerath’s distant crusades. As the story goes, the paladins brought a dark artifact back from a far crusade for safekeeping, and evil forces gathered to assault the abbey and take it back. Extensive dungeons lie beneath the ruins, which might still conceal the hoarded wealth of the old crusading paladins.
This desolate region was once the home of ancient human hill-clans who lived in the Vale centuries before civilized folk settled in Fallcrest. The hill-folk are long gone, but their grim barrows remain.
This large woodland stretches from the Nentir River to the mountains and extends for miles to the south. It separates the Nentir Vale from the more populous coastal towns of the south. A strong goblin keep called Daggerburg lies somewhere in the southwest reaches, not too far from Kalton Manor; the goblins sometimes raid the river-traffic moving along the Nentir, or send small parties of marauders to Harkenwold’s borders. An elf tribe known as the Woodsinger Clan roams the eastern portions of the forest. They occasionally trade with the humans of Harkenwold and keep an eye on travelers along the old King’s Road. They have a long-standing feud with the Daggerburg goblins, and the goblins keep to the western parts of the forest to avoid swift and deadly elven arrows. However, the goblins are growing more numerous and have become bolder in recent months.
Half a dozen small villages lie along the upper vales of the White River. Together, they make up the Barony of Harkenwold—a tiny realm whose total population is not much greater than Fallcrest’s. The people of Harkenwold are farmers, woodcutters, and woodworkers; little trade comes up or down the old King’s Road. The ruler of Harkenwold is Baron Stockmer, an elderly man who was known for his strong sword arm in his youth. He is a just and compassionate ruler.
Back in the days when Nerath was settling the Nentir Vale, minor lords in search of land to call their own established manors and holds throughout the area. Kalton Manor was one of these, a small keep raised by Lord Arrol Kalton about two hundred years ago. Lord Arrol intended to settle the lower vale of the White River, but it was not to be – monsters from the Witchlight Fens drove off the tenants Arrol had brought with him. At the end, Arrol and a handful of his servants and family lived alone in a half-finished keep slowly falling into ruin until they disappeared as well. Stories tell of hidden treasure – the old Kalton fortune – hidden in secret chambers beneath the ruined keep.
The frigid waters of Lake Nen hide a mystery. On certain nights, fishers from Nenlast out too late on the lake hear singing – beautiful, ethereal music that fills them with longing. Some never return to their homes, others return forever changed, haunted by their experience.
This tiny human village lies at the east end of Lake Nen. The folk here make a meager living by trading smoked fish to the dwarves of Hammerfast. They also deal with the Tigerclaw barbarians of the Winterbole Forest. When the wild folk choose to trade, they come to Nenlast to barter their pelts and amber for good dwarven metalwork.
Ruins of Fastormel
Once a prosperous town on the shores of Lake Nen, Fastormel was destroyed by the Bloodspear orcs and was never been resettled. The town was ruled by a Lord Mage (the most powerful wizard in town claimed the ruler’s scepter), and the Mistborn Tower of the last Lord Mage still stands amid the ruins of the town. The tower is shrouded in a strange silver mist that never dissipates, no matter what the weather would otherwise dictate.
Perpetually shrouded in icy fog, Lake Wintermist provides ample supplies of fish for the Tigerclaw barbarians of the Winterbole forest and a few homesteads along its southern shore. White dragons frequently appear in the northwestern part of the lake, particularly in the dead of winter when they seek out mates.
Arrayed to the south and east of Fallcrest, the Moon Hills are fairly tame. The area closest to the town is well patrolled by the Fallcrest Guard, but goblins and human bandits are fairly common beyond that area.
These desolate hills are said to be accursed by an ancient evil. During Nerath’s height, several minor lords tried in succession to establish manors in these hills, but none lasted more than a single year.
Though the hills themselves are no older than any other geographical feature in the Vale, the Old Hills bear signs of the first human settlements in the region: ancient ring-forts built by the same hill-tribes that erected the barrows in the Gray Downs. The remains of these ancient forts appear across the entire length and breadth of the hills, from near Nenlast to the Fiveleague House, which was built atop old ruins.
Fiveleague House is a strongly built innhouse surrounded by a wooden palisade. Fiveleague House caters to travelers and merchants coming or going from Hammerfast, about a day’s journey (five leagues or seventeen miles) farther east.
This striking peak is the largest of the Old Hills. Merchants passing along the Trade Road sometimes take shelter here.
A rugged land of stony hills and deep gorges cut by white-rushing rivers, the Stonemarch is home to tribes of dangerous humanoids and giants. Orcs, ogres, giants, and trolls haunt the farther reaches of these barren lands. Fortunately for the residents of the vale, the monsters rarely come east over the Cairngorm Peaks. A great orc-warren known as the Fanged Jaws of Kulkoszar lies in the northern part of the wasteland; here the chief of the Bloodspear tribe rules over hundreds of the fierce warriors.
The vast expanse of the Winterbole Forest defines the northern border of the Nentir Vale and the limit of Nerath’s expansion at its height. The Tigerclaw barbarians, fierce humans who revere the primal spirit called the Hunter of Winter as their totem, were never brought under Nerath’s sway, and remained uneasy neighbors of the empire at its height. They trade with the people of Nenlast at times, but in harsh winters they have also been known to attack the Village and simply take the food and weapons they need.
At the confluence of the Nentir River and the White River, a great swamp stretches for miles. Savage lizard folk hunt these fens, occasionally emerging from the swamp to skirmish with the Woodsinger elves of Harken Forest.