Twenty Questions About The Eleven Pillars
I was perusing RPG blogs a few weeks ago and I came across this gem over on Blog of Holding. I read hundreds of blog posts about RPGs a month and I occasionally come across a post that really gets my creative juices flowing and sticks with me for more than a couple of weeks. The linked Blog of Holding page is one such post and I have been letting it percolate in my brain for weeks now. I am finally sitting down to write up the beginnings of what this new setting world will be.
This is a setting in which the civilized folk have moved up to the mountainlands (the tops of mountains above the cloud-line) because the lowerlands have been over-run with all sorts of vile creatures. The cities and settlements in the lowerlands have fallen to ruin. I am tentatively calling this setting The Eleven Pillars, but that is likely to change (and when it does, I will come back and add a note to each post that mentions it).
I intend this to be the first in a series of posts detailing the creation of a new campaign setting step by step, from initial inception to fully described campaign world. This first post is following the example set forth in Jeff’s Gameblog’s Twenty Questions Post. The post lists twenty questions that are of direct significance to the PCs, and which the GM should be able to answer from day one. These are things that could impact character creation and they set forth the broad foundation of the setting. I think this is a fantastic way to provide meaningful information to the players so I decided to answer these questions as my first setting creation activity. It is amazing how much setting information is actually provided by answering these twenty simple questions. So, without further ado, here are the answers to Twenty Questions About The Eleven Pillars!
1. What is the deal with my cleric’s religion? The civilized races have gone through a relatively recent religious transformation. Beliefs and deities are split into two segments, the old world and the new world. The old world religion contains the deities that were worshiped in ancient times, when the majority of the civilized folk lived near sea level. At that time it was believed that the gods lived ‘up in the clouds’ (much like the ancient Greeks believed that the gods lived on Mt. Olympus). The gods were believed to have direct control over some parts of the world and the power to intervene in the affairs of mortals if they so chose.
The shift into the new world religion began with the movement of people up the mountains. The lowerlands were becoming overcome with phantasmal corruption and evil creatures. Believers in the old deities thought the lowerland chaos was a punishment since the gods did not come to the mortals’ aid. When no godly palaces were found on the tops of even the highest mountains a paradigm shift started to occur and the new world religion was born (or took hold, depending on who you ask). The new world religion is the result of that shift in beliefs and consists of more ‘modern’ deities worshiped by most of the civilized peoples of the mountainlands (a.k.a. the Pillars). There are still pockets of old world believers, but they do not advertise their presence as they are either laughed at or persecuted (or both).
2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? The Pillars referred to in the name The Eleven Pillars are the main cities of the mountainlands. They are the population centers that thrive on the mountains above the cloud-line. Each of the Pillars has a large enough population to support at least one general store, smithy, armor-smith, and toolmaker/weaponsmith. Around the Pillars and above the cloud-line are outlying small settlements consisting mostly of herders and farmers.
3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? Hopefully one such as yourself will not be foolish enough to bring your new friend into the Pillar with you, since it will probably be killed on sight. However, if you could meet the right people, say a member of the Blue Shroud (the faction that controls the black market in several of the Pillars), you could probably find someone to build a set of platemail for your strangely proportioned friend.
4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? You aren’t experienced enough to really know this first hand, but rumors have it that Erazem the Sceptor, Grand Vizier to Lord Thoas, Regent of the Viridian Pillar, is the mightiest wizard in the mountainlands. As far as you know, there are no mighty wizards in the lowerlands.
5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? Ronade the Daunting, of the Chalybeus Pillar, was granted High Master status at the last Stanchion Tournament.
6. Who is the richest person in the land? Lord Thoas, Regent of the Viridian Pillar is rumored to control the vast wealth of four of the Eleven Pillars… but he is part of the nobility, of course. The richest non-royal that you have heard of is Clancy Sharar, Merchant Extraordinaire and purveyor of fine Lowerland goods for all ages. Clancy contracts with all manner of mercenary and treasure hunter to gather goods from the Lowerlands so that he can sell them to the highest bidder.
7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? There are several temples in each Pillar and many of them have chaplains capable of basic healing skills, herbology, and wound dressing. These services can be purchased or bartered (i.e. if you have no money, you can do community works to pay off the debt). Some outlying mountainland communities also contain residents skilled in basic healing arts (or more).
8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? These types of afflictions are also treated in the Pillar Temples, but not every temple will have a priest with enough skill to care for these diseases. It will take some exploration and investigation to find out which ones can offer these convocations.
9. Is there a magic guild my Magic User belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? Those with magical talents (arcane and divine) are sent either to one of the 2 main arcane academies, or to a monastery to hone their skills in magical arts. These are prestigious institutions and are therefore very expensive and/or very choosy – it is hard to get a place there and even harder to keep it.
10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? Many people with specialized skills or knowledge are found within each of the Pillars. There is an alchemy guild in the Russet Pillar, but their membership list is guarded and they do not readily identify themselves as such. Sages are seemingly found everywhere, but it is said that all true sages reside in the Aureate Pillar.
11. Where can I hire mercenaries? Every Pillar has a standing guard and a volunteer militia – mercenaries can be hired from the ranks of either; the militia for cheaper, the guard much more costly
12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? Each Pillar has their own set of rules and laws, but the majority of them allow citizens to carry weapons without penalty. In the larger Pillars casting magic in the open is illegal unless a permit has been issued. This is a great source of revenue for the Cinereal Pillar, which is close to one of the arcane academies and has a steady influx of young arcane talent attempting to show off their skills to be noticed by academy officials.
13. Which way to the nearest tavern? Taverns are always on the lower floors of multi-story Pillars. Not all Pillars have multiple stories above ground, and in that case, the taverns are on ground level.
14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? Sky Frogs are extremely dangerous and they breed quickly so have become a danger to Pillar residents. They attack in mobs (an army of Sky Frogs) and have been known to destroy stone with their powerful tongues. Killing a Sky Frog Queen and thereby dispersing the hive would make you a local hero. Mountain Ropers often set up next to well traveled passages just outside of the Pillars – once again providing a chance to become a local hero. Bringing evidence of slaying powerful creatures from the Lowerlands always brings great prestige.
15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? Relationships between Pillars are generally amicable at this time, with most Pillars ruled by a royal family with generations of power behind the Regent. Most of the trouble is due to shrinking real estate. Many citizens are clamoring for land of their own or better conditions within the overcrowded Pillar. There is a movement of people who believe that the Lowerlands can be retaken and the poor of the Pillars can move back to their ancient homelands. This doesn’t sit well with the nobles and rich merchants because the economies of the Pillars are built on the backs of the poor and unskilled. If the cheap labor leaves the power of the Regents may falter. This conflict brews just below the surface and the Pillars have beefed up the guard force a great deal in the past few months. Are the Lowerlands really safe?
16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? Each Pillar has a local tournament and once every 3 years local champions (up to 5 from each Pillar) compete in the Stanchion Tournament. The notoriety is great, but the cash prizes come with strings attached.
17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? The Blue Shroud controls the black market of goods and information. The Penny Guild is a loose organization of poor beggars (i.e. thieves and fighters) trying to beg their way to power and influence. The Gem Reavers are a guild of miners that purportedly have ties to Faris Siv, an evil necromancer held in the Pit of Loathing, a former mine turned prison complex located just below the cloud-line near the Cinereal Pillar.
18. What is there to eat around here? Most meals contain meat in the form of High Goat or Cloud Boar. Several vegetables and edible plants grow just above or in the cloud-line of the mountainland communities. High end taverns and inns will also serve Lowerland flora and fauna, which sell for a much higher price due to the dangerous nature of obtaining the goods and the rate at which they spoil.
19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? There are 3 ancient places that house untold riches and magical artifacts. These are Hagran Rockdale, the Spire of Kradnick Hills, and the Ruins of Fraywood. These locations are located in the Lowerlands and are said to contain vast treasure hoards. Each of these locations contains at least one storied artifact.
Hargran Rockdale is an ancient gnomish craft workshop next to the city of Timid Fork, a gnome settlement now in ruins. It is rumored to house great treasure including the Bark of Logan – an artifact that is said to have properties similar to the fabled fountain of youth.
The Spire of Kradnick Hills is a ruined temple that sunk into the ground when the hills finally succumbed to the encroaching swamp. The temple was a proving ground for the Hands of Justice, a group of paladins who followed the teachings of Brindalia the Wise, a devout paladin of Nedenoe (Bringer of Light; one of the old gods). Within the temple ruin is said to rest the Ring of Mitya, a powerful magical piece said to bring flight to deserving wearers.
Historians believe that the Ruins of Fraywood are the remnants of the fabled Seminary of Saint Abdar and that the Mask of Hamman can be found deep within the rubble. The Mask can only be found and worn by the chosen one. Many an adventurer has sought the mask and never returned; scholars shrug and conclude that the seeker must not have been the chosen one. Speculation abounds regarding the actual power of the mask, but many believe it to grant the power to control dragons.
20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? In this case type H is a true treasure hoard with piles of coinage and abundant magical items. It’s not exactly close, but the Lowerlands contain a place called Lonely Fall in the Quilted Hills. It is said to be the home of Gundisalvis, a huge Brass Dragon of indeterminate age. Since Brass Dragons are so greedy and this one is so old (you presume, due to its size), one would expect to find a vast hoard in its lair.
That’s it – what do you think of how this setting is shaping up? I didn’t mention the pirates nor how people travel from one Pillar to the next because, honestly, I haven’t figured out those elements yet. So what’s next? A map I am working on right now and a basic description of the setting, which I will post up here as soon as I get them done.
Until next time, I wish you good gaming!