I've been putting together more resources for my players and fleshing out the area of the campaign world where they have been adventuring. To help frame some of the information that has been wandering around my desk on scraps of paper and note cards, I decided to answer Jeff Rients' twenty quick questions.
These questions are a great way to help organize your thinking if you're designing a campaign, and they help answer the most common questions you will get from players. They're also a great springboard. I insert references to particular people, places, and things that I haven't yet developed in depth. If the players pick out those bits to ask about, I flesh them out in play, take a lot of notes, and add that information into my campaign material. Over time, I flesh out the things that have grabbed the players' interest without wasting a lot of time on what doesn't.
Here are the basic answers to the questions for the Barony of North Reach in the West Kingdoms.
1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
There are a variety of religions in the West Kingdoms. The indigenous people and the northern barbarians worship ancestral spirits and deities. Most of these gods have minimal power and are associated with an animal or a very particular place, such as a well, a particular hill or mountain, a grove of trees, and so on. Each family also has a god or gods that they revere.
The settlers are usually members of the Church or the Faith. This is a monotheistic religion similar to the old Roman Catholic Church. The deity of the Faith is called God, the Father, Holy Mother, the Spirit, and other names, depending on the circumstance and context. There are militant and pacifist branches of the Faith. Obviously, most adventuring clerics follow the militant branch. Most clerics of the Faith venerate particular saints as well as the deity. Followers of the Faith also believe in angels, demons, devils, and spirits. The Faith views all other religions' deities as spirits, lesser beings either operating in concert or in opposition to their god.
Native druids are panentheistic in belief and shamanistic in practice. They see divine power as being in and part of everything in the natural world. They draw on animal and other spirits for inspiration and guidance. Some foreign druids tend toward the same belief in the permeation of nature by divine spirit, but they believe this manifests in a small pantheon of deities.
Elves are pantheistic and worship a small, highly conceptualized family of gods. Dwarves worship a single god with two aspects - creator and destroyer. They generally seek to glorify the one and pacify the other. Halflings generally follow the faith of the native druids. Gnomes generally combine the faiths and religious practices of the races near them, if they display any religion at all. Most gnomes are pragmatic agnostics at most. Orcs and half-orcs that favor their orcish heritage tend to be totemistic. Some orc tribes led by half-orcs worship Gruumsh, who is described as a warrior devil in the Faith.
There are a handful of cults that worship evil or chaotic powers, older pantheons, or individual powers. Followers of these sects tend to be human or humanoids, with the occasional demi-human filling the ranks.
Regardless of the faith, adventurers tend to be more like biblical prophets than established clergy. They operate outside of the traditional heirarchy or organization of the faith and have more independence and self-determination than other clergy in their religion.
2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
You can get most standard equipment at the castles and fortresses, the villages, the town of Coldsprings, or imported from outside the barony. Some small hamlets have limited selections of basic equipment available, as do the tinkers and traders that move between the villages, the fortresses, and Coldsprings.
3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Specialist armorers are most available in Coldsprings. In a pinch, you may be able to find someone less skilled that could do the work in one of the villages or castles. For particularly exotic or unusual armor, you would need to travel to one of the cities in the south.
4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Anaril Blueraven, Maurglym the Red, or the Lich-Lords of the Ash Waste, if any of them are still alive. Otherwise, the Faceless Mage in New Harbor is the most powerful wizard in the West Kingdoms. In North Reach, a few wizards compete to be the most powerful - Fergus Blackmantle, Llyn the White, and Hugh Grisly. Fergus and Hugh are traveling wizards and contract with the knights and lordlings in the area between adventures. Llyn lives and does research in Coldsprings.
5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
There are a large number of lordlings, knights, barbarian chiefs, and bandit kings that compete for being the greatest warrior in the North Reach. Lord Calvert earned a name for himself in the Wars of the Reach as both a skilled fighter and an able commander. The King of Bottle Peak is a notorious bandit lord that claims to have killed hundreds of men. The orc warlord Strongtooth is feared by many of the savage tribes along the fort line as well as the villagers in the Reach. The current Baron of the Reach, Frederick, is definitely not a contender for this particular honor.
6. Who is the richest person in the land?
Frederick, Baron of North Reach, is the richest person in the North Reach. He is descended from, St. Tilian the Meek, the Paladin who settled the area following the Conquest. His family manages an estate in Coldsprings and a pair of castles on the fort line. He also controls a banking house and numerous trade ventures. Rumors say that he even manages concerns that trade for whale oil, mammoth ivory, and other goods with the northern barbarians.
7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Coldsprings has several temples of the faith that will provide healing for a fee. The villages and castles often have a local cleric, hedge healer, or alchemist that can provide some healing, but their abilities are normally less than could be found in the larger villages and towns. Some druids will also provide healing with appropriate offerings or payment.
8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Poison and most diseases can be cured by priests at the cathedral in Coldsprings. Some hedge wizards, druids, or local wise women could also provide antidotes to most natural poisons or cures for common diseases. Magical diseases like mummy rot can generally only be cured in the cities in the south.
Curses can normally be removed at the cathedral in Coldsprings.
Restoration for level drain, reversing polymorph or alignment changes, restoring lost limbs or raising the dead can normally only be done in the cities in the south, unless a bishop or other high-ranking clergy member travels through the area.
9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
There are no guilds or associations of magic-users in North Reach. The province is too isolated and unsettled for such an organization to flourish here. There are some such organizations in the cities to the south. Most magic-users rely on found scrolls and other items or a particular tutor to gain more spells.
10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Alchemists and sages are generally only found in Coldsprings unless specifically recruited by a lord at a castle. Most experts can be found in Coldsprings as well. Some of the local villages may have an expert in a particular specialty.
11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
Mercenaries and adventuring henchmen can be found in all of the castles, Coldsprings, and most of the smaller villages. The area is still mostly unsettled, so mercenaries and people willing to join adventurers are fairly common.
12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Open weaponry is generally discouraged in Coldsprings, but there are no laws against going armed. Most people will carry at least a dagger, but this is typically used for cutting meat or general tasks rather than fighting.
13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
Almost every settlement in North Reach has somewhere to get a drink and bed down for the night. If nothing else, most farmers will share a bit of their private stock for a story or two from the road.
14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
There are at least two known dragons in North Reach. Both of them are old and mostly inactive. There are always orc and barbarian raiders in the area. Killing a strong chieftain of one of these tribes would gain a character some fame or notoriety. Hunting griffons or giants in the mountains might also work.
15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
The number of orcs and barbarians raiding into the Reach seems to be increasing. Other northern provinces have similar problems with raiders. The southern provinces are always feuding with pirates, and their navies are very active in the Neck and Silversword Bay.
16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
There are rumors of black market gladiatorial combats in some cities and towns in the West Kingdoms, including Coldsprings. Most of the larger villages and all of the larger towns have boxing and other non-lethal combat venues. Some villages will have animal fights and other blood sports.
17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
There are a variety of chaotic and evil cults. There are rumors that Ralthi'iz the Death King, his Undead Guard, and the Lich-Lords are still ruling in the Ash Waste and recruiting living followers to infiltrate the lands outside the Waste. The Dark Brotherhood is a shadowy band of assassins and thieves that operates in the West Kingdoms.
18. What is there to eat around here?
The meat animals in North Reach are mostly sheep, poultry, and wild game. There is a reasonable amount of farming, and the soil is rich enough to produce well, provided the population is enough to farm the land. Wheat, barley, rye, and a little corn are the staple grains. Root vegetables and greens are also common. Fruit tends to be either apples, pears, or pitted fruits.
19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
There are stories that St. Tilian's axe and mail are buried in a barrow in the area. These stories are disputed by the ruling barons of the Reach, who claim to have these items as part of their traditional regalia. Other relics are purported to be in the area as well, including the robe of St. Herald.
There are stories of a lost dwarven mine in the hills north of the fort line. Stories say the mine contained deposits of several valuable minerals. It was supposedly overwhelmed by demons from deep within the earth. The dwarves that mined there are said to live on in undeath, constantly digging deeper and deeper for their demonic masters.
Stories tell of a city in the mountains that is decorated with gold, gems, and other precious materials. The people there live in perpetual ease, tended by magical servants.
20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Miniature dragons, drakes, and wardragons are fairly common throughout the area. There are at least two elder dragons still living in the Reach. A great black dragon lives in a cave under a ruin on the northern coast. An elderly green dragon lives in a forest in the southwest of the province. People say that she is an oracle and speaks with the spirits of dead faeries to learn their secrets. Sailors tell tales of sea dragons that live in the waters off of the coast as well.
Ralthi'iz and his minions supposedly still hold the wealth of their lost kingdom in the Waste.