A discussion explaining the background and my thinking on locations in my Southern Reaches campaign.
The Iron Hills
The Iron Keep
In a West Marches-style game, town is just the place where the PCs return to after each outing and where the map is. So when I started this, it was just “the Keep” on a hilly peninsula with an unnamed tavern in it. Near the end of the first session, with the players really understanding what the campaign is about (and after I had reminded them about the 40% markup on purchasing goods), one of the players suggested that the keep be a company town based on iron mines, allowing adventurers to work in the mines between outings for basically room and board.
I liked this idea. It explained why there was this outpost on the fringe of a continent and why there was not a push to expand the domain – the duke was solely interested in the profit from the mines and not spending money beyond that. It also suggested a name for the hills, the Iron Hills, which had no name up until then and did the same for the Keep, now the Iron Keep. It did have the downside of creating the “Iron Duke”, but that will do until I actually need to give him a name. The PCs will not be significant enough for him to notice until they reach 5th level or so or bring back a truly noteworthy haul.
As to Spider’s Bar, I had a list of random tavern names that I was going to use in my 4E game. As that game went back on the shelf until I find players for it, I saw no reason not to borrow from it for this game. “The Spider’s Bar” fit for several reasons, none of which I’m going to explore right now, but suffice to say, I have plans here. Naming the owner Spider was almost a no-brainer, but giving it some thought, I realized I needed him to be an elf. That would give him the lifespan necessary to have been active the last time adventurers were active here. He might even be one of them, now retired.
(Side note: I discovered that the players were not reading this site when Spider came up in conversation on FaceBook and they had no idea who he was. Live and learn.)
The Table-Map is an idea borrowed from the West Marches campaign and a darn useful tool, both in game and out. In game it provides a loose tie between the adventurers and a central repository for knowledge of the area. Out of game, allowing the players to mark up the hard copy with their own notes gives them a sense of investment in the campaign, plus a form of bragging rights and story-telling. The buy-in is well worth the effort of creating the map.
I lifted the name of this forest from Gabe at Penny Arcade (scroll down to find the photos). It is a wood, on the edge of the known area of the map. Edge + wood = Edgewood. Ta-da!
I did decide that this forest would have the more natural monsters for this terrain type. I put tigers as apex predators here and owlbears across the (unnamed) river in Eastern Edgewood for flavor difference. Considering decisions I’ve made about the Three Peaks Hills and the Tower of Raan (yes, I’m being cryptic), I think I should have reversed that. I’d do it now except the PCs were actually attacked by a tiger as a random encounter, establishing them in this part of the forest. I may jettison the owlbears for this forest and put them in a different one. In fact, that seems much more likely.
I wanted a tower in the forest as the first adventure location. I decided that this was the location that the previous adventuring group used to stash things when they were not ready to return to town. This made it a forward supply depot and loot stash for longer outings. It also made it something that would be specifically mentioned in a journal years later. A journal Agnes became privy to at some point and “borrowed” the relevant page, starting off this round of adventurers.
Having cleared out the above ground levels and rigged up new doors to keep the vermin out, the PCs have a sense that this is now theirs, which is cool. At some point I imagine they too will start stashing supplies here to support their longer excursions into the wilderness. Perhaps once they get a feeling for how large Under DOT is...
[More Next Week!]