Twenty Questions

Over on Jeff’s Gameblog, he had a cool idea for condensing the common player questions into a quick-fire, setting establishing post.  I liked the idea and thought I would answer them for my setting.

Twenty Questions

1. What is the deal with my cleric’s religion?

Gods and religions in my campaign are well defined. For a sampling, see here.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

Most towns sell the gear that is available in the rule book. Small villages may not have weapons, or the prices might be higher, but most gear can be found without too much trouble.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Difficult… nonstandard barding is just that, nonstandard. Expert smiths exist in one of three places: the west, in the heart of the Empire; the dwarven holds beneath the mountains, mostly on the eastern ranges; and in any party of pcs with several levels of Craft: Blacksmithing.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Debatable. Most say that the Principality of Ardmoor, a mageocracy, naturally contains the most skilled wizards. Among those in the Principality, the mightiest are probably Asragern Timereth and Salviath D’Amberville. These two mages are widely regarded as the most powerful and wealthy of all the Mage Princes. The Witch Queen of Gulluvia rules a city-state out with either the Empire of Old Valas or Principality of Ardmoor, and her dominion is unquestioned. In Old Valas, Xerxon the Black is the Archmage in charge of the entirety of the Mage Guild throughout the Empire. His former apprentice, Velestia the Black, is the face of the guild, maneuvering the political waters of Church and State. Both Xerxon and Velestia are said to have elven blood and are over century old.

Among the Tryshallan are many luminaries, but near the Empire’s boarder, ‘Queen’ Kelesti Shan’Riath, the ‘Soul of the Woods’, the leader of the Seth-el Vorlan, wields potent magic on behalf of her people. How it measures up to Imperial mages has yet to be tested, however. It is said that the woods themselves obey her whims, and that all the animals of the air and earth do her bidding.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Lord General Primus Valorus, high paladin of the Church of Kalen, is said to be one of, if not the, mightiest warrior of Old Valas. As he is the chosen of the God of War, that is quite likely to be true. He is the Emperor’s Warmaster, and his instructor, leading many to claim that the Emperor is the second greatest warrior of this age. Few say this to his face, however, and since none dare strike him in anger, it is hard to say exactly how good he is. Still, he has demonstrated feats of swordsmanship far beyond the capability of even the most jaded veteran.

Among the Dwarves, Underking Bracken Silverfist has personally led his people against goblins and dragons for centuries, and his skill with an axe and a hammer is unquestioned. He is a known dragon slayer, and his armor is adorned with the scales of dragons he has personally helped slay.

The woods near Seth-el Vorlan are prowled by a figure known as Cu Sith, the Black Hound. He is described (by the few to see him and live) as a dark figure with no face, and a head crowned by antlers. None beyond the Tryshallan settlement know if Cu Sith is a name or a title. But none who have fought this strange being have lived to speak of it. Only those that fled while others died have seen it at work, and they describe its actions as a symphony of death.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Without a doubt, it would be the Emperor. All wealth flows towards him. The Honorable Council Augustan Tradus is the ‘Minister of Coin’ and chief head of the treasury for the Emperor. His personal wealth is staggering.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Many temples have a few priests blessed with actual divine abilities. If you are a member of their faith, they will charge you the book prices. If you are not of their faith, they will charge double. Most priests have no mystical ability however, they are simply 0-level characters with Theology and possibly a few other useful profs like Healing, or Knowledge.

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 disease can be fixed by healers all over. Curses, polymorph, and death require powerful magic, needing western priests or mages in the heartland of the Empire (few higher level casters inhabit the borderlands). It is a couple of weeks journey to reach the heartlands where such powerful individuals dwell. Lycanthropy, as a curse, functions as above. However, eating Wolves Bane before the first transformation may, if it doesn’t kill the recipient, stop the curse (+2 to the saving throw). Alignment change is a rare state, usually self-inflicted by accruing corruption or willful acts. Since Alignment specifically represents the state of your soul rather than a philosophical outlook, most ‘changes’ merely curse you to behave in a specific way and ‘detect’ as the new alignment, rather than change your soul’s destiny (though prolonged action in the new state may well result in that regardless).

Death is difficult to overcome. Usually, only a priest who knows you or your deeds will be willing to bring you back from the dead. Failing personal knowledge, you would need peers to vouch for the deceased to speak their case for returning from the dead. Most churches are particularly hesitant to return someone from the dead without a good reason and the person being vouched for. The 500 gp cost is the minimum someone will require for resurrecting another person, usually it is 2-10 times this, depending on the target, how well they are known, and how well their case is made. The Church of Talia is the most forgiving of all churches when it comes to returning people from the dead (well, healing in general), and will treat any Lawful follower as though they are ‘of the church’. A character who returns from the dead rolls on the tampering with mortality table, and they also are automatically under the effect of a Quest spell with no saving throw, requiring them to perform some duty for the church or the god.

Energy Drain requires a Restoration ritual or a Lesser Wish. So it’s even more difficult (sort of) to get rid of than death or a curse.

Besides the heartlands, it’s said that the elven healers and Song Shapers can cure any ill. Whether this is true or not… who but they know?

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Yes. If you are in the empire, and aren’t an elf, you have no choice but belong (or suffer the consequences).

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Threshold has a few of these. But the majority of such specialized skill exists either in the heartlands or in Ardmoor.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Threshold, Dragon Mount Keep and Restwell Keep are good places for those desperate and foolish enough to seek the life of a blade. Ex-military inhabit the heartlands, and many of them, when freed of obligations, are willing to hire on with people.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

The further west you go, the more restrictive the laws. In Old Valas, for example, none but nobility and the city watch may carry weapons other than knives within city walls. Magic is restricted in the entirety of the empire, except for divine magic. On the borderlands, however, Johnny Law is usually too busy worrying about the next Beastman raid to be concerned if you carry a weapon. Most Noble districts are different, as even in Threshold, if you walk the streets of the noble quarter armed, and are not a nobles escort, you may well end up in jail.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

The Dwarf’s Beard is a rough and tumble kind of place in Threshold. The Raven’s Heart is where lower nobility and upper class merchants/skilled workers mingle. The Green Temple (to Sethi) in Threshold, while not a tavern per se, is where all manner of earthly indulgences may be experienced, where a lover’s moan, or a drunken laugh are as sacred as a psalm.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Beastmen tribes are a sad fact of life on the borderlands. However, if the recent sightings of a dragon is to be believed, then becoming a Dragon Slayer would certainly bring you fame. North of Dragon Mount, as one might expect from the name, there are many great wyrms who’s skulls would buy you recognition.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

The eastern tribes are a constant threat on the border of the empire, though they do not behave in a concerted fashion. However, there is some evidence indicating that this may change, very soon. Ardmoor and the Valasian Empire while technically hostile to each other, are more trade partners now. They unsettled land between their domains is too dangerous to warrant even an army’s incursion.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

The nearest is the Hero’s Arena in Threshold. However, most large cities in the empire host at least one, if not several, arenas. Most arenas fights are like (extremely) dangerous sport. Gladiators are (usually) well treated and develop a following. Deaths and maiming happen, but death is more often accidental. Except when prisoners or slaves fight, in which case these fights are often to the death.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

All over the place. Lift a rock and you’ll probably find some secretive order. Most are ‘old boys networks’ rather than sinister organizations, but there are quite a few of those as well.

18. What is there to eat around here?

The empire is famed for its wines, cheeses, olives and peppers. Lamb, goose, and chicken are common food crops, though in the north, cows and bison are often eaten as well.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Why, yes. I’m writing articles about those as I go. You can find them here.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type R treasure?

To the east, somewhere beyond the Caves of Chaos.  Or north, beyond Dragon Mount.  Some say, far to the north, beyond Dragon Mount and Great Waste, are the ruins of several ancient sites, Blackspire was a powerful city in the Pre-Sundering days, and beyond that lies the wreckage of one of the great flying cities of old, the Sky Fall ruins.  But to the north east, beyond even the Death Gate itself, lies a site some say predates Valasia entirely, a place of cyclopean architecture and old magic.  Few have seen it and returned sane and whole.  The tribes that shy away from its deep shadow call it the Tomb of the Gods.

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