Set Design - Location, Location, Location

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Set Design - Location, Location, Location

Post by AGradine on Tue Jun 21, 2016 2:57 am

Most adventure modules of the size and style of "Fortress of Bazarax" read out more like a travel book than a deliberately plotted novel. The document in general is separated and organized by location, while the connective tissue (NPCs, activities, clues) that make up the "story" elements of the adventure are generally sprinkled throughout. The "action", such as it is, mostly consists of describing what activities take place if the adventurers don't interfere with them, and how different actors might react to adventurer interference. But the bulk of it is setting the scene.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of my prep work has centered on developing the setting and locations. I wanted to share a list of my locations. Feel free to share yours as well!

The Valley of Surin
The adventure takes place in the northern tip of the Valley of Surin, a mostly uninhabited stretch of marshland and forest nestled in the shadow of a towering, impenetrable mountain range. Recent efforts have been made from the South Valley and parts beyond to reclaim the land, as rumors of vast resources and dwindling goblin populations have made the region attractive for settlement. An ancient goblin empire once ruled most of this land before its destruction at the hands of an army of aberrations, terrifying creatures of madness and un-reality that were ultimately driven back into the Deep.

The Deep
The Deep is a vast network of underground caverns that form a direct link to the realms of madness and chaos. The Deep is home to demons and aberrations and the evil and monstrous creatures who worship them. Adventurers do not visit the Deep in "Fortress of Bazarax" but its presence below the surface provides tension as smaller and weaker aberrations begin to make their way to the surface.

The Fortress of Bazarax - Main Keep
Once the seat of power for the goblinoid empire in the region, the fortress has long fallen in disarray and disrepair has the swamps threaten to swallow the keep whole. Equal parts fortress and manor, it was the last holdout in the long-forgotten war with the aberrations. The keep's basement levels were sealed off during this war when aberrations invaded through a connected mine. The keep is now home to the Fleshweaver, a mad wizard and aberrant worshiper who has been experimenting on the local goblin and wolf populations. The Mad Wizard un-sealed the basement and converted it into his laboratory, releasing his failed creations to patrol the main keep's halls. He recently re-sealed himself in his basement when he discovered goblin scouts from the Wolf Clan nosing around the complex.

Deepwatch Inn
The Deepwatch Inn rests on the only road north into the region, and it is where the adventure begins. The adventurers arrive in the aftermath of an attack by goblins. Kaeli, the inn's proprietor, is an old and experienced druid and was able to chase them off, but not before they steal her cash box and keys. With the wine cellar and guest rooms locked, Kaeli offers the adventurer's a free night's stay and drink if they agree to reclaim her stolen goods. She has captured a goblin for interrogation; the goblin can reveal that they are members of a Rat Clan that was recently overtaken by a Wererat, and the former clan boss and his allies were exiled. The goblins attacked the inn out of desperation, and were planning on re-grouping in a nearby cave before fleeing further south.

Goblin Cave
This is a fairly short and basic dungeon meant to introduce new players to dungeon-crawling. There are crude and rudimentary traps left by the goblin and a few sentries to deal with. In the back of the cave, the goblin boss is attacked by a minor aberration (Gatherer), which now stands in the way of reclaiming Kaeli's stolen property. This encounter provides multiple solutions for parties willing to explore them, as the goblin boss is more than happy to part with the stolen goods in exchange for saving and sparing its life. It also introduces the concept of encounters with different factions of enemies fighting each other, a common theme throughout the adventure. The aberration troubles Kaeli if they tell her about it; she belongs to ancient circle of druids dedicated to protecting the realm from another aberrant incursion, and she asks the party to investigate the region for more signs of a return of aberrations.

Berg
A medium-sized prospecting village and main center of civilization and commerce in the North Valley. Only a few years old, it is still reliant on hunting and trapping, though small farms have begun to dot the village's outskirts. Several competing businesses and guilds have sent teams of prospectors (a possible hook for the party as well) chasing rumors of the Rabax Mine, said to be the source of the old goblin empire's wealth and prowess. Poachers have arrived, as the region's native elk have seen a population explosion as the wolf population has, in turn, mysteriously dwindled. The Onvoi Diaspora has also recently arrived in Berg; an off-shoot of lizardfolk that have hoped to reclaim their ancient home, the Lost City of Surin, from which the Valley gets its name. They seek aid as their city has been overrun by an undead scourge.
The village in general serves as a base of operations for the party, where they will receive clues and seeds for quests, and can return for rest, re-supply and to report on their activities.

Lost City of Surin
An ancient lizardfolk city that became the seat of power for a group of mind flayers, an insidious type of aberration whose experiments created the Onvoi. While the mind flayers were destroyed and the Onvoi freed, they were still forced to flee their home as angry and powerful undead spirits took over the city. The wererat who recently took over her own clan of goblins has unwittingly led her charges here to use as a base of operations before launching an assault on the Fortress of Bazarax. The party arrives to find the Rat Clan in over their heads, battling an undead army that grows larger with each goblin slain. The Wererat will ask for assistance in clearing out the undead, and will glad leave the city themselves for the Onvoi once they are able to reclaim Bazarax and their hated rivals, the Wolf Clan, are destroyed.

Wolf Clan Camp
A camp for goblins of the Wolf Clan sent to scout out and, if possible, reclaim the Fortress of Bazarax for themselves. The camp's leader, Girix, is a direct descendant of the ancient leaders of the fortress and knows about the hidden entrance/exit in the Governor's chambers as well as the entrance through the mine, but she has not yet discovered the mine's location, as her forces are spread thin due to losses against the Fleshweaver's creations. She bears no ill will towards the other settlers of the region, and will assist the party in clearing out the Fortress if they help her deal with her rivals in the far-more numerous Rat Clan.

Shuttered Door
This well-concealed shuttered door will be difficult for the party to find if they do not know about it. It leads to an escape tunnel that leads directly to the panic room in the Governor's chambers in the Fortress. If Girix is currently inside Bazarax it is locked from the inside; otherwise it locked from the outside.

Inverted Tower
A tower built by a long-forgotten wizard, it has been warped and twisted due to its connection with a cult of aberration-worshipers. Spiral stairs twist in on themselves creating nearly in-perceptual loops that seems impossible to those creatures bound by the laws of reality. The tower is home to the cult's leader and only surviving members, as the cult was purged by the Fleshweaver's treachery. The party can learn some background on the aberrations and the Fleshweaver here. The top (bottom) of the tower houses The Gazer, the cult leader, who has given his own eyes in tribute to a weaker beholder known as a Spectator, which calls itself the Baron of Eyes. In return the Gazer has been granted a magic eye, which he can detach and send to scout ahead and reform on any part of his body. The lower levels (top) of the tower house a menagerie of lesser aberrant creatures raised by the Gazer, and a secret entrance into Rabax Mine.

Rabax Mine
Rabax Mine was once home of the goblin's powerful mining operations. Filled with rare and precious metals, including a special metal that repels aberrations, it was the first target of aberration army during the ancient war. The mine connects to the fortress's basement levels, which the aberrations were able to invade. From there they slowly drove the goblin inhabitants mad with terrible nightmares, leading to the collapse of the fortress from within. The mine houses several sealed portals to The Deep. It is currently the lair of the Baron of Eyes, a spectator whom the party must contend with. The beast has no particular loyalty to the Fleshweaver but it allows his creations to pass through unmolested because they amuse it. The party can also find the original entrance to the mine, now buried, and reveal its location to any interested party.

Fortress Basement
The basement levels of the Fortress were home to the keep's barracks, as well as the forge and refinery, though the Fleshweaver has converted them into his own personal living quarters and laboratory. The basement levels are protected by his more dangerous creations, whom he sometimes entrusts with errands by sending them through the Rabax Mine. This mine is likely how adventurers will ultimately enter the basement to confront the Fleshweaver at the adventure's climax.

There are a few, even more minor locations I intend to include eventually, including the beginnings of a small fishing village on the coast (to expand upon in future adventures set in the region) as well as a Druid Circle where the Watchers (Kaeli's druid circle) operate from and a smaller lizardfolk village (not Onvoi), but I'd want to fill these locations with at least one relevant and interesting encounter before fleshing them out or including them.

What locations are you working on for your projects?

AGradine

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