This post is an experiment. I will do a second part soon. My favorite gaming supplements over the decades have been the ones with an in character commentary. This is my attempt at that sort of thing. Here is a travelogue style bit from a scholar traveling through the Kingdom of Durnam. I have included a random encounter table at the bottom, and some other game information. I also made sure there are some story hooks in there.
This is set in the post-apocalyptic setting I have written about in the past. It is hundreds of years after the giant Space Gods came and reeked enormous havoc on the world. The Hollow Mountain Library, found in what is now Cheyenne Mountain sent our narrator out to survey distant lands and see to the state of the world now that civilizations begin to reform out of barbarism.
The Kingdom of Durnam
Our journey thought Appalachian Mountains, or as the locals call them, the Smokes, is behind us. The hidden communities, warlords, and river kingdoms on the western side are behind us. These moutains are not the sharp peaks of home, stretching to snow-capped heights. Instead these are old worn down mysteries.
We as we reached the western side of the mountains, traveling the ruins of the Old Roads, we came across the signs of an outpost called The Duchy of Ash. The Duchy stretches a good distance through various valleys in the mountains. The checkpoint on the road was cautious, and well-armed, but they were not unkind. When I explained I was a chronicler from the Hollow Mountain Library they agreed to escort me and my companions to the Ducal seat of government.
The Duke of Ash, Kendry Call, lives in a pre-fall castle. The place was once named Biltmore and was miraculously lacking in damage from the walking of the gods. The years and living have damaged it over the past 800 years, but it is an old stone structure and what has been damaged has been rebuilt. I confess the sight of it was impressive and sad in equal measures. The Duke and his family lived there, with a village which shares its name that was built up around it.
Biltmore (ducal seat to the Duchy of Ash)
Composition: Primarily human, with a small number of dwarves.
Industry: Support of the Ducal staff, limited farming.
Duke Kendry is a large jovial man with the thick hands of man used to labor. He was given this Duchy due to his service in civilizing the region. This apparently involved driving out a tribe of Blight Elves, repelling attacks by bandits, and having trading posts built throughout the area. It is an interesting mix of tactics I have not seen since leaving the Hollow Mountain. Military force paired with trade influence has made the area largely civilized, by our standards at least.
Ashvale (largest city in the Duchy of Ash)
Population: 7000 (note, the surrounding country side has nearly 2000 on various homesteads)
Composition: 70% human, 25% dwarf, and the remaining 5% is a mix of races.
Industry: Mining, Farming, Logging, Scavenging
The next day the Duke and honor guard escorted us to the settlement of Ashvale. It is where the area gets its name, that and the breed of trees found in the area. Ashvale is built on the outskirts of ruins. The ruins are still somewhat dangerous with various forms of undead still wandering them, but the residents maintain a disciplined watch for such creatures. Groups will often lead expeditions in to retrieve valuable artifacts and materials.
The people of the Duchy appear to be largely human and some dwarves, though it was not unusual for me to see tiefling wanderers from the burning plains and a few odd other races. I even met a couple of elves far from their home or the sea. The trade in the area is mainly with the capital of the kingdom, though there are traders who come from many miles ways.
Mining is beginning to become a major portion of the economy. The region sports several gemstone mines, including emeralds. There is a small library in Ashvale. I found about a hundred volumes, all post-fall copies, of course. I traded a copy of our Codex of Tooling for a couple of supposed histories, The Red Book of Tolkien and something called Beowulf. Both are transcribed from the old tongue with the language largely intact. I am dubious of their historical value, but the stories are new to me. I will make a point of bringing them home for transcription.
We stayed at the The Hillfolk Inn. Caran got herself into a wrestling contest against a caravan guard named Toric. He clearly had some orcish blood in him, but I was too polite to inquire about it. He, like most, underestimated her unassuming presentation. She threw him across the room. Much cheering and drinking was had.
I do recommend the inn for future travelers. The management was kind and they have good food. While they have ale, there was also a peculiar drink native to this area called Shine. It was quite potent and reminds one of drinking fire. Apparently it is a traditional drink to the area. I cannot imagine why.
Shine (Strong Alcoholic Beverage )
cost: 1sp per glass
Effects: DC 15 con save. If the save is failed, for the next 12 hours your character is at disadvantage for all tests. At that point another save is made. If it is failed then you will be at disadvantage for the the next 12 hours, as well.
We left Ashvale after a few days. We joined a caravan headed for the capital. The caravan’s leader was named August Canwick. He was a gregarious Halfling who would talk incessantly. The trip to the capital is about a week’s travel by horse. We traveled through several small farming communities along the way. According to Master Canwick, there were occasional troubles with bandits, but the roads are largely kept safe by regular patrols by the Watch. The Watch is a semi militaristic group with a license from the King to dispense low justice.
I we met a group of the Watch on the path. They seemed a motley crew, more adventurers than soldiers. Their leader was a fellow named Robin. He has a scholarly disposition and I suspect he is one of the much respected wizards of the east. They are more common in the east than they are in the west. His party were of mixed races, including fellow from a lizard-like race I have never seen before.
Robin advised us that they make the trip about once a month and there are other groups who do the circuit, as well. They also take winding side trips, from time to time, to make sure less traveled communities have access to their services. I did ask how the group paid for its expenses. Apparently, the royal license from the kingdom allows them to claim a portion of possessions held by people who break the law. Bandits face loss of life anyway, so their possessions already forfeit, but sometimes the Watch is called upon to rule on lesser disputes. I asked how often they ran into bandits other threats. The threats were minor but they do see evidence of bandits every trip.
The advice we were given was to always travel with a large group. Small bandit bands will often avoid them. The bandits are much more likely to go after an easier small group. Robin also said that they do get large orc tribes or worse, blight elves, every few years. A decade prior they even had a small dragon come through. It never approached the capital or Ashvale, but it did reduce some smaller farming communities to smoldering ruins before being driven off. As capable as the Watch is, even they could not fell a dragon.
A note to future travelers. Given that there was a dragon seen once, and it was not killed, one should be wary of the beasts return to the region.
Our journey continued to the east. After few days we reached a swampy and marshy territory. The old road is slightly higher than the terrain due years of work to keep it so. We camped on the road. Master Canwick informed me that the swamp was simply called the Fear. It seems well named.
We were resting in shifts, so it was the guard Toric who first called out the attack. His calls turned to screams before I could fully rise. The swamp was crawling with dead things. Zombies and far fouler things were coming. Toric was already being dragged away from the road.
Caran stood nearby trying to reach him but a half dozen shambling corpses stood between her and the guard. Gustov began drawing his power. I infused power into my tools and dove into the fray.
We held the creatures at bay till the morning. We lost three caravan guards and Caran was severely injured. When the light of morning fell, the undead pulled away. The whole caravan was exhausted and the horses terrified, but we did our best to put space between us and the Fear.
Afterwards, I asked Goodman Canwick if that was common. He said that it was a first for him, but there are legends in those parts told of a legion of the dead. The tales are of a powerful mage being in command of the thousands of those who fell in the coming of the gods. This army would rise again someday to make the gods pay. Maybe such a being has awoken again? Maybe it slumbered since the time of legends.
After a full days hard driving, we found our way to hill top guard post. It was unmanned but would be used in time of war. We rested there as best we could. Gustov was finally able to cure Caran of whatever foul disease she had acquired in the fight. I looked to our west and saw no sign of pursuers. We seemed to have reached a safer distance, either that or we were determined to be not worth the effort. People braver than me can explore that swamp and discover what gives the Fear its name.
We still two more days travel before we neared the capital. It was my hope that it would be less eventful.
The Fear random encounter table (roll 1d6)
2d6 zombies chasing a separated caravan guard.
1 Pre-Fall dead (use reskinned mummy) who attacks screaming “what is my name?!”
2d4 Mad Bandits living on the fringe of the Fear come to steal wealth and eat people.
A caravan stops on the road and invites the party to join them.
A pair of Will O’Wisps
A tribe (2d6) of Bullywugs are are fleeing something more frightening in the swamp and the party is in their way.
I would appreciate feedback. Let me know what you think. Should I do more of these?