I was wondering if you’d be able to help me flesh out a loose idea I had for a location that I’d like to include in my homebrew setting at some point.
It’s a theocratical city-state with a heavy bell aesthetic. Like, the city is absolutely littered with bell towers, and whichever divinity is worshipped here uses bell as their holy symbol. Aside from being situated in a seemingly peaceful stretch of grasslands, and world itself being somewhat high-magic… that’s all I have so far.
Any ideas as to what this place could be beyond the vague idea I’m sitting on? And what sort of adventures do you think could be had here?
I’d appreciate any help you’re willing to offer with this! Thank you!
Setting: The Plains of Stormgraven
"Leave it to fanatics to build their home in the one place the gods seem intent on wiping off all the maps.”
Setup: Once the sight of a great transgression against the divine, the grand pastoral realms now known as Stormgraven are today an expanse of calm, rolling fields, tempest haunted badlands, and expansive, half buried ruins that only hint at the calamity still echoing through the plains to this day.
There are three sorts of people who live in the region:
Scavengers looking to pick through ancient ruins, (which can be sorted into “academic” or “tomb raiding” types respectively) There’ve been ruins so long in the plains that this group has solidified into it’s own ethnicity with cultural rites, festivals, and a nomadic, adventurous flair.
Simple farmers wanting to make good use of land despite the rustlers looking to steal their livestock and the cyclones looking to steel their houses, mostly made up of descendants from a long fallen empire.
The Resoundant, a community of religious exiles from a neighboring kingdom who fled to the plains after they lost a generations long civil war that they also started. Fleeing a “decadent and ungodly” homeland some two centuries ago, they’ve built themselves a great polis warded from the region’s hostile weather by it’s innumerable sacred bells.
These three groups push against eachother with varying levels of hostility: The Resoundant hire the scavengers to clear out ruins for them to ensure the land is safe for settling, but believe the treasures pulled from deep undergorund belong to them by divine right. The Farmers are happy to feed the holyfolk in exchange for warding against the storms, but chafe under the increasingly restrictive religious duties that are added to their lives. The scavengers bring plenty of outside coin into the region with their trade, but seem more than happy to turn bandit when times are lean.
Hallowtoll, the great city-state of the plains is where all these peoples and conflicts mingle together, a turbulent place in the otherwise peaceful plains, or the only calm eye when storms sour the countryside.
Hired by outsiders to delve a particular ruin, the party finds themselves at odds with a scavenger-band who’s been exploring the region for generations. Does the party clash with the locals, or make their way past their initial foux-pas to work with them? How about sharing their wealth with the band, rather than some outside historian who decided to lay claim to it?
Forced to stop their travels by a windstorm that threatened to blow them off the road, the party shelters alongside a farmer-enclave built partially under/into a hill. it’d be a fine, folksy time getting to know the families and townsfolk sheltering there with them, if not for the quarrelsome Resoundant preacher who’s seems intent on finding fault with everything and every one. On the fourth night in, and with no signs of the storm clearing up anytime soon, The preacher is murdered, leaving the party with an Agatha-Chrsitie style mystery to solve. There’s also the added threat that if the culprit isn’t found and the Resoundant find out, there’s a good chance that the enclave will come under threat of some more retributive members of the faith.
The belltowers of Hallowtoll are a wonder all unto themselves, with families and priests alike competing to see who can built the biggest, grandest, and loudest tower in their region. Older towers are often left to crumble as newer projects capture the attention of their patrons, creating a warren of urban dungeons rife for exploration. Likewise, all this fevered building is likely to attract the attention of certain strange forces of architecture that come to dwell within the abandoned geometries.
History: The source of the gods ire is the Olgracian dominion, a state over two millennia gone that none the less managed to offend the gods so bad that the heavens still havent forgiven them. The Olgrac were a proud people who worshiped a god of forge and field, and so had a surging, well armed populace that they used to subdue their neighbors into vassaldom. This was typical for just about any empire through history, but what made the Olgrac different was their habit of taking home the statues and idols of their neighbor’s gods in chains to represent their defeat, and throwing the priests of defeated nations into their forges to create weapons infused with divine magic.
Needless to say, the other gods didn’t like this, and collectively summoned a windstorm of such magnitude that it leveled the Olgracian capital, blew out the priest-eating forges like a candle, and ripped the mostly-innocent forgegod into so many pieces that not even their name is remembered to this day. The storm raged for a century, scouring the dominion from the earth and providing such a good deterant that just about everyone stayed away from the Stormgraven plains until a few centuries prior to the present day.
The forge-god is not dead, but scattered, ripped asunder into a number of aspects that subtly long to be reunited. Once contemplative and mostly peiceful, the forge-god now has a desire to revenge himself on the other gods, and will seek to rebuild the Olgrac dominion using the Resoundant as their new chosen people, coopting their faith and their resentment against their exile for its own ends.
Here’s some idea for some aspects:
An ever-burning ember of creativity and skill, which has come into the possession of the master of one of the Hallowtoll Bellfoundes. the master’s mind is now full of ambition and drive, and bells worked in fire of this ember whisper the forgegod’s influence to those that hear them. The forgemaster also has cannons on the brain, and is testing out various designs.
A mummified hand and forearm found in a ruin. which points the way towards great treasures of the old empire. Currently in possession of a scavenger band that’s gone full bandit, gathering other outlaws to itself and following the “relic’s” direction for even greater plunder. Unbekonwsned to any of them, they also happen to be gathering weapons and artifacts of the old empire that are important for the forgegod.
A scarred stone, sheer enough on one side to be used as a grand table, that gives the lands surrounding it bounty and fertility. A secret circle of elders among the surrounding farmer enclaves know the secret of the stone, and meet to sacrifice troublesome members of their groups or unmissed outsiders upon it to ensure its gifts, buring the bodies in the earth around it. On this makeshift altar the other aspects must be gathered, at which point it will crack, and the forgegod’s new body will walk free.
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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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