Player Home: Tolva’s Hearth
Home is where the hearth is. Be it cozy cottage, grand keep, or meager roadside fire, kindness and magnanimity will always stand against the cold and lonely dark.
Setup: With their current adventure coming to a close, the harvest brought in, and snow looming on the horizon, it’s time for the party to start thinking about where they’re going to hunker down for winter. No sense trying to delve ruins high up in the mountains and risk getting buried under an avalanche, the treasure and monsters will be there come the spring thaw.
Why not let them get used to their new home base during a restful bout of cabining, letting them warm their feet, prepare for future festivities in the village, maybe get involved in a snowball fight or two? For whatever their need, Tolva’s hearth is there to provide, built with sturdy walls to keep out the drafts and deep cellars to ensure they’re well provisioned through the darkest months.
Why was such a quaint little cottage left abandoned for the players to buy/inherit/be rewarded with? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that the valley that the home and it’s associated buildings occupies happens to be within the territory of a particularly vicious dragon by the name of Ryngale, who scared off the previous inhabitants after devouring most of their livestock. Like most adolescent dragons, Ryngale spends whole months or years hibernating, awakening to raid and gorge itself for weeks on end. Just after the players have settled into their home, Ryngale ends up being awoken by a group of local hunters and terrorizes the surrounding forest and settlements desperate to find something to feed on in the lean winter months.
There’s a door in Tolva’s hearth that just won’t stay closed, as each morning the party finds that no matter how securely they barred it, it’s always furled open, letting snow, bone-chilling wind, and once a very daring wolverine into their home. The culprit of this constant disruption is a housefey by the name of Skelter, who took up residence in the hearth after it was abandoned. Skelter is mousey and shy, and is so conflict adverse that he’d rather try and drive the party out by being a nuisance then actually introduce himself to his new housemates.
While moving themselves in to their mostly furnished new domicile, the party finds an old, weathered table in one of the basements. Long enough for an entire family to sit at, it appears to have been carved with what can only be a treasure map leading up into the mountains. Surely they can wait for the passes to clear and the soul-stealing blizards to die down before they set off in search of buried riches, right?......Right?
If you’d like to use Tolva’s Hearth as a break between major campaign arcs, consider running a small number of oneshots framed around the idea of the party and their winter visitors telling stories around the hearth, allowing you to dial in on different aspects of worldbuilding. These stories can be anything form personal flashbacks to fantastical fables to local legends, perhaps even allowing other players to run for short adventures of their own.
Features & Upgrades:
Players who explore the grounds around Tolva’s hearth will find a number of charms and bells hung between the trees, providing an already festive charm to their new home. These trinkets are however part of a now deteriorated ward that covers the entire property. If the fallen sections of trinkets are salvaged from the dirt under the snow, or replaced, the whole property becomes affected by the Hallow spell, granting resistance to cold, immunity to fear, and lessening inclement weather that falls upon the area.
The valley around Tolva’s hearth is famed for it’s hunting, providing bountiful meat and furs throughout the year. Or At least, it’s supposed to. Unsurprisingly having a dragon use the area as it’s personal buffet every other year has affected the local wildlife. Slaying Ryngale will have the area flourishing in no time, and may even lead the party into some more fantastical hunts later on
Investigating a derelict (seemingly haunted) building deep in the woods reveals a generations old attempt to set up a sugarshack, a processing house for making delicious sugar and syrup from the numerous maple trees that fill the valley. Fetching the right materials and hiring workers could take some time, but it could lead the party into a lucrative side gig and a lifetime supply of pancake toppers.
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Dungeon: The Sapphire Caverns
“ Before you lays the fortune of the earth, the cold light of the winter sun outside refracting off facets in every conceivable shade of blue”
Setup: A place of tremendous beauty, the sapphire caverns are hidden for most of the year high in the mountains behind a waterfall of glacial melt , meaning that anyone who wished to explore them would need to risk drowning, a crushing cascade, and an inevitable case of hypothermia. Ironically that makes the best time to visit the caverns during the deepest winter, when the waterfall has become a jagged portcullis and the usually surging floor of the cavern has hardened enough to walk upon.
Unique minerals within the water and the cave itself causes the ice that forms within it to take on a multitude of brilliant azure hues, giving the cave its name and concealing the location’s true treasures among innumerable chilly counterfeits. While most prospectors should be able to tell the difference between precious stones and simple ice crystals, some strange jinx on the cave causes the frozen formations to both look just like precious stones, and retain their hardness while they remain inside it, requiring a would be fortune hunter to do all the work of quarrying out their prize then cart it outside the cave to watch as their glittering prize reverts back to simple ice.
After discovering a map to the caverns and braving dangerous mountain passes, the party is faced with the challenge of exploring these frigid icy depths without succumbing to exposure. It’s miserable work with little hope of any actual rest, as the winter taxes their supplies and any camp they make outside of the caverns is vulnerable to both storm and mountainbound animal. Perhaps their map points them towards a particular wing of the caverns where a more reliable vein of crystals can be found.
Over the generations, numerous desperate souls have attempted to carve a fortune out of the sapphire caverns, and a number of them have stuck around to spite those who would try where they failed. A surfeit of undead haunt the tunnels, ranging from warmth darning specters who died of exposure to avaricious, pickaxe wielding weights to were double-crossed just as they found their prize. The party will likely need the services of an exorcist just as much as they’ll need a geologist, lets just hope the holy water doesn’t freeze stiff.
Some clever individual realized that the best way to hide treasure was to stick it in a place where everyone was looking for a DIFFERENT kind of treasure. After stashing a weighted chest over one of the frozen pools, they merely had to wait for the caverns to thaw at which point their chest sunk to the bottom of a pool of deathly cold water, inaccessible by just about anyone. Said clever individual happens to be a lich, and the treasure is their phylactery. Should the party end up discovering this hidden cache and realize what they have, they’ll be in the unique position of being able to attempt blackmail against a powerful, immortal arcanist capable of destroying them with a thought. If they don’t realize they’ll be wholly unprepared when the lich comes to collect.
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