As my Southern Reaches campaign has progressed, I’ve been fleshing out bits and pieces of the Iron Keep. I’ve also done some revision of previously established fact, now that I’ve had time to think about things (and read on other people’s blogs for more inspiration and insight).
The first (and, at this point, only) revision has been changing the Iron Duke to the Iron Baron. My point of reference for the Iron Keep has been Iron Town in Princess Mononoke. I originally made the leader of the town the PCs are based in a duke based on a different campaign (that I can’t locate right now or I’d give a link), thinking that it seemed reasonable. I gave the leader of the venture the title “the Iron Duke” once I tied the base town to iron mining in the nearby hills. Easy, simple, done.
The issue I’ve had with it since then is that the whole venture is relatively small, much too small for a duke to be personally overseeing. I would expect a duke to have more land back across the sea if nothing else, which would require him to travel back and forth or lose territory “back home”. This would, realistically, lead to the duke staying home and appointing an overseer to look after the iron mines, which is not where I wanted to go, mostly because that would lead to drama (read: adventure) in town and there is supposed to be no adventure in town, a basic premise of West Marches-style campaigns.
Reading about another West Marches campaign (the Northern Marches campaign over on the Ode to Black Dougal website), I saw he had made the leader of the base town a baron and was inspired. A baron felt like a better fit for the Iron Keep as I envisioned it. I could see the Iron Hills as a barony that was developing, rather than a duchy, which has always implied vastly more land and resources to my mind. Plus, I find it more believable that a baron would be willing to risk his own life setting up a new venture on an unknown or re-discovered continent to mine iron. Dukes would have too much to lose to do such a thing.
Therefore, the top authority in the area is now the Iron Baron, not the Iron Duke. Eventually, I may even name him.
When Mog the Doomed died and the players wanted to get a raise dead cast upon him, I had to give some thought as to whether or not there was a cleric of high enough level available to cast the spell. It seems reasonable that the baron would want access to raise dead and arrange for a cleric of high enough level to be present. Now said cleric would either have to be very personally loyal to the baron to hang out in a wilderness “just in case” or see an opportunity for himself as well. Additionally, I suspect the baron would like some actual reassurance that the cleric can cast raise dead successfully, rather than wait until it was necessary for the spell to be cast upon the baron. Now the baron won’t pay to raise mine workers (they might start thinking they are valuable or something and demand pay raises), but he will let adventurers pay to have themselves raised. This puts some coin (that isn’t the baron’s) in the church coffers, confirms that the cleric can cast raise dead, and keeps some individuals who are willing to kill monsters for free active and in the area. Wins all around for the baron.
I’m allowing the PCs to purchase low-level magic items in town – nothing greater than a +1 weapon, +1 armor, potions, wands, or minor wondrous magic items (and those still need my approval). As the PCs were in the Iron Keep as mine workers, I find it reasonable that others able to create the above items would be there as well. Additionally, the baron would be interested in having his personal guards and higher-ups in the guard equipped with some magical gear, so there should be a few sources in town. Also, I suck when it comes to putting magic items in the treasure mix (especially at low levels), so this lets me off the hook for a bit.
I’ve also had the Woodcutter’s Camp become regularly occupied. Originally this was done to cut new shoring timbers for the mines, but I’m now using this to expand the number of exports the baron has under his control. This will also create conditions where bandits start becoming a realistic possibility. As long as people think death waits outside the walls, no one wants to stay out there. Once it is proven that it is possible to establish safe locations that last, some people will start thinking about how nice it would be to not live in the baron’s company town. I think this path will also lead towards smugglers and “secret” villages, but I need to work on that some more. The PCs may also need to locate the potential mines I’ve placed on the map that are sources for materials more valuable than iron. [Remember: “foreshadowing” – Your clue to quality literature.]