Cataclysm of the Primordial Orders

Home Dungeons and Dragons Cataclysm of the Primordial Orders Page 2

Sumber Hills

Description

Covering an area of some 2,600 square miles, the Dessarin Hills are lightly settled by remote, walled farmsteads, armed mining camps, and small trade posts supported by villages nestled in fertile valleys and trade along the Dessarin River. Thick woodland cloaks much of the hills, crisscrossed with old drover trails leading between higher moorland and hay meadows. Hundreds of small streams have carved valleys through the hills, supporting many fertile farms.

The Sumber Hills were a range of hills in the middle of the Dessarin Valley. The River Dessarin flowed through the hills, providing a source of water travel between Yartar and downstream communities such as Beliard, Bargewright Inn, and Womford. The Larch Path and the Dessarin Road provided passage through the hills.

  • Area: 2,600 square miles (53% woodland, 24% moorland, 13% meadows, 6% farmland, 4% other)
  • Population: 9,800 (59% human, 8% halfling, 6% half-orc, 6% dwarf, 4% half-elf, 3% elf, 14% other)
  • Allies: The Emerald Enclave is represented in this region by the Greywood Circle, a group of druids who are named for their place of meeting amid a tall stand of grey weirwood trees near the village of Three Waters. The Lord’s Alliance is represented by Mayor Cassandra Thorne of Three Waters, owner of the Three Waters Trading Coster. Sigrun Greyshield leads her dwarven clan, who have become wealthy from iron and silver mines throughout the hills. Various other leaders can be found amid the region’s other settlements.
  • Threats: Several goblin clans lair in caves up in the foothills, mostly serving a small tribe of hill giants that lack the tactical acumen to mount an effective attack against the folk of the valleys. A roc claims the tallest peak in the hills, occasionally swooping from the sky to snatch a cow or sheep in each of its mighty talons, but otherwise leaving humanoids alone. A few ettins also have their dens in the hills.

History

One of the first settlements in the Sumber Hills was the underground city of Tyar-Besil, a part of the shield dwarf kingdom of Besilmer. Tyar-Besil was abandoned and fell into ruin in −4190 DR, after the king of Besilmer died in battle. The Sumber Hills were left alone until the Knights of the Silver Horn started clearing the area of its native inhabitants in the Year of the Raised Sword, 893 DR. The knights attempted to set up fortresses in the hills but were stopped by Uruth Ukrypt. These events eventually played a part in the Orcfastings War, and the First and Second Trollwars. Around the Year of the Wailing Winds, 1000 DR, settlements started springing up around the Sumber Hills, creating roads and trails that bisected the hills.

Locations

Settlements

  • Red Larch
  • Beliard

Points of interest

  • Vale of Dancing Waters
  • Sacred Stone Monastery
  • Feathergale Spire
  • Rivergard Keep
  • Stone Bridge
  • Summit Hall
  • Tyar-Besil

Campaign Details

The Sumber Hills are windswept badlands sparsely covered in dry grass. Many of the hills have exposed rock faces or steep escarpments. While the hills are dry, countless tiny streams rise from hidden springs (usually clean and drinkable), then flow down to join the Dessarin River, which bisects the hills. Most locals only think of the wilder, higher hills west of the river when they hear “Sumber Hills,” because it’s there that once had rich quarries and good hunting. Some hunting lodges and keeps owned by wealthy Waterdhavians or adventurers remain-and in recent times have become homes to bandits and monsters.

Those who quarry the Sumber Hills for building stones and gravel often trade tales of finding gemstones and rich veins of ore in the hills-but for the most part, these persistent tales have never been more than talk. In the last few years, the infamous “Haunted Keeps” in the western Sumber Hills have all been reoccupied. Sightings of strange beasts and menacing figures have increased, too.

Sighing Valley

The Sighing Valley was a canyon that ran through the southern stretch of the Sumber Hills in the Dessarin Valley. It earned its name from the whipping winds that created a sighing sound as they passed by the canyon’s features.

Features

The Sighing Valley comprised a wide canyon floor dotted with several tors, rocky spires, and mesas. Winding between these features was a rather small waterway known as the Lost River. One of the more notable features of the Sighing Valley was Feathergale Spire, a tower that served as the headquarters of the Waterdhavian Feathergale Knights in the late 15th century.

  • Fog: At night, fog fills the canyon, limiting visibility to 100 feet. Beyond that range, creatures and objects are heavily obscured.
  • Light: The canyon is brightly lit during the day, and light varies at night from dim to dark.
  • Walls: The canyon walls are 200 to 400 feet high.

Rumors

There have been unsubstantiated rumors that there is an ankheg nest somewhere in the valley.

Sacred Stone Monastery

Description

A trail leads into an ever-narrowing defile between bluffs of wind-sculpted sandstone. Eventually the walls draw in so closely that you can reach out and touch either side, but then the narrow space opens into a hidden canyon in the heart of the hills. A sprawling monastery with dark, narrow windows and red tile rooftops stands in the middle of this natural amphitheater, ringed by sandstone cliffs all around.

Ahead, a weathered flight of stone steps leads up to the closed monastery doors. The plain doors are made of heavy timber with iron studs. A dusty footpath circles the building.

Ruined Moathouse

This is an old Dwarvish fortification used to supplement the defense of the valley.  Through the years it has been mostly forgotten, but it has been occupied, sacked, and reoccupied several times over the years helping its poor condition.  It was constructed in 1060DR (432 years ago) by Baron Kragrut Underforge.  He ruled the area for over a hundred years.

There are a few additions and repairs each time it is reoccupied, but the current occupant is not as interested in rebuilding a full fortification.

Getting There

Just getting to the keep is a difficult trek.  It is over ten miles off Cairn Road.  While the land around the road is mostly simple grasslands and some woods, the area around the Moathouse is a very damp and swampy area.  Movement is 25% formal for anyone moving through the area.  This is primarily to decrease the chance of falling into a bog or overly muddy area.

Description

A scrub of thorns, thistles, weeds, and shrubs grows thickly along the edge of the track which leads to the ruins. Even the track is mostly overgrown and cluttered with fallen branches and trees. Here and there it is washed out, in other places a mire.

Some game evidently still follows the pathway, however, for after a mile or so faint traces can be seen. But even considering this, going is slow, and it takes over an hour to reach the place on horseback, or two to trudge along on foot. Considerable hacking and clearing are necessary to make the way passable, so double the time required for the first trip. After two miles, as the track turns more northerly, the land begins to sink and become boggy. Tall marsh plants grow thickly where cattails and tamaracks do not. Off to the left can be seen the jagged silhouette of the Moathouse.

A side path banked high to cross over the wetland to either side, just north to the entrance of the ruin. The track here is only about 15 feet wide or so, with crumbling embankments making travel near the edge dangerous. The bogs stink. The vegetation appears dense and prolific, but somehow sickly and unhealthy, creepers and vines throwing their strangling loops over the skeletons of dead saplings and living bushes alike. The rushes and cattails rustle and bend even to a slight zephyr, and weird birdcalls, croaking’s, and other unwholesome sounds come faintly across the fen.

The Ruined Moathouse was set off the main road in the fetid marshes.  The track continues past the ruins for many miles.  It takes more than a day to reach the place via horseback from Cairn Road.  It would easily take several days by foot.  Considerable hacking and clearing are necessary to make the way passable. 

Fill was added to the center of a sluggish stream which now flows around the structure forming a natural moat.  The water surrounding the small castle is five to eight feet deep and choked with reeds and vegetation concealing the water’s edge.

The Moathouse walls are constructed of fitted stone blocks a full ten feet thick.  The tops of the outer walls are crenulated battlements, providing cover for soldiers standing on the parapet.  Arrow slits are indicated on the map.  These provided full cover to archers or crossbowmen that defended the Moathouse.  Several sections of the walls have been destroyed and can provide access to the interior. 

Rivergard Keep

Description

A small but strongly built castle on the banks of the Dessarin River, Rivergard Keep is one of the Haunted Keeps of the Sumber Hills. A taciturn mercenary lord named Jolliver Grimjaw and his band of sells words occupy the keep. They are repairing the old castle and protecting trade along the river from the depredations of monsters and bandits, or so they claim. In fact, Rivergard Keep is the secret stronghold of the Cult of the Crushing Wave. Grimjaw and his followers are the very outlaws from whom they claim to be defending trade.

Red Larch

Description

The town of Red Larch was a way stop on the Long Road seven days north of Waterdeep and was located at the intersection of three trails. One trail led to the Bargewright Inn, another to Kheldell, and the third ran into the hills to derelict, monster-infested keeps. The town was named for a stand of red larch trees that were chopped down about the time of the town’s founding.

Red Larch is a town on the Long Road, a few days’ travel north of Waterdeep and a few days’ travel south of Triboar. It’s a way stop for caravans coming to or from the cities of the North, with an inn named the Swinging Sword, a tavern called the Helm at Highsun, and many craftspeople who cater to travelers.

Hills partitioned into fields and pastures by fieldstone fences or hedges surround Red Larch. A mile or so outside the town, cultivated areas give way to unspoiled wilderness. Miles of hills, woods, and grassland stretch on as far as the eye can see, filled with plentiful wildlife.

The Swinging Sword and the Blackbutter Inn are the only inns, and the Helm at Highsun is a large tavern across the street from the inn. Locals gather at Guelker’s store or the tavern to gossip. Ironhead Arms is the best place to buy weapons and armor, and Halvor Tarnlar sells well-made clothing for travelers. Red Larch doesn’t have a mayor, but Constable Harburk keeps the peace. Characters affiliated with factions might know the names of faction agents and supporters in town.

Trade

Red Larch was known for its nourishing, though otherwise non-noteworthy food, called crumblecake. Crumblecakes were made into moist loaves from nuts, chickpea mash, chopped roots and greens, turkey, and wildfowl scraps, all baked together.

Defenses

Around the Year of the Staff, 1366 DR, the town had a militia of around 100 skilled archers, mostly younger boys, who train by keeping predators away from the poultry farm, Mhandyvver’s Poultry. This led raiding parties amongst the orcs to avoid the town.

History

The town was named after a small forest stand of larches that extended along the ridge. The trees, however, were felled by the first settlers in the region, who chose that location thanks to a natural water spring that fed into a small pond that could serve as drinking water for burden animals.

Feathergale Spire

Description

Home to the flamboyant Feathergale Society, this tall stone tower stands on a height commanding splendid views across the Sumber Hills. It can be seen from afar by anyone traversing the hills and is used as a private retreat by an elite hippogriff flying club comprised of rich Waterdhavians calling themselves the Feathergale Knights. These “knights” affect a dashing image and are given to drinking, singing, wearing fashionable clothing, and general revelry.

Feathergale Spire rises from a pillar of rock high into the air, the tallest point for miles. Built from white limestone and embellished in marble, the spire resembles a gleaming sword that pierces the sky.

Session 32 – Chapter One

19th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Angelica started off healing most of the party before the next encounter started. It would prove to be much needed soon. Fogo was emotionally broken from all the events specifically the death of Avery.  He was not himself, nor was he very functional to assist or do much but follow everyone else sullenly.  Those that had been captured for a while started explaining what they had seen, what the possible numbers of remaining foes that might exist, and the worst news was that Jolliver the bandit leader was still at large and not shown himself.

Trying to figure out the best way out with the rest of the prisoners, both Angelica and Imar suggested they head upward and try to escape through the keep’s front gate, and if possible, take care of the rest of the bandits.  So, up they all went. With Vladimir in the lead and Imar right behind him they arrived at the top of the stairs leading into a large open room that seemed to be some sort of mess hall.  Standing at the double doors across the room from them stood a large man.  It was Jolliver with some of the water cultists and bandits.

“Ah, here are the rats. I’ve been chasing after you for a while. I’ve got something for you, I brought it back.”

Jolliver

The large man reached into a bag at his side and pulled out a spherical object.  With a quick toss, he threw it at Vladimir.  Catching it, Vladimir looked down at it.  It was Avery’s head.  It appeared to have been ripped from his body, the head slightly crushed, and the eyes gouged out as if a pair of large hands had grasped it, pulled it off, and then squeezed the head while driving their thumbs through his eyes. Vladimir’s vision had proved true, Avery was dead and murdered in a fashion most heinous.

“I think that belongs to you. Looks like bitch Drosnin failed to do whatever she was supposed to do. Hey you lot! You’re the last ones here. You hear that?  They killed her. They’re probably mucking up your damn portal.  What are you going to do?”

Water Cultists

And with that, five of the water cultists armed with shark bladed swords and crab shaped shields ran forward to engage Vladimir who was standing in the doorway blocking it from anyone else from getting out.  Jolliver ran forward as well helping to pin Vladimir in. As he ran forward, he started changing into something that was not a man, but not quite a boar. The only person that was able to get out of the stairwell was Dancer who ran into the room and into a corner. The battle was fast and hard with Vladimir using his echo magic to move to the other side of Jolliver but that only made Imar the target since Vladimir did not last long and was knocked unconscious quickly. Dancer attracted some of the cultists and some bandits that had shown up.  After maneuvering around he finally ran out of the building to gain some additional space.

Jolliver (Wereboar)

Imar was able to take down Jolliver and pick up the maul and move further into the room.  This allowed the rest of the party to start spreading out in the room and fight more effectively. By going outside Dancer had attacked the bandits on all the walls giving them the opportunity to start shooting him with their crossbows.  Being surrounded and being shot, it did not take long for Dancer to fall as well.

Bandits

Inside the room with the party now having room to move around, Angelica was able to position herself to breath a cone of lightning into a group of the bandits. With Imar bashing them quickly to death and now being breathed on by a dragon lady, the bandit’s moral broke and they began to run.  Meeting up with another group of bandits outside, they caused the just arriving set to break and run away with them.  They all escaped to the wall and jumped down to feel away from the evil people that had come up from the basement prison.

There was a slight comedy of tactical blunders as ISAC used his greater Invisibility to run after the bandits but left him in the exact same path as where Angelica also attempted to pursue making for a pile up, not one, but twice with Angelica, and as he attempted to dodge another encounter was run over by Imar who took the path adjacent to Angelica and into ISAC. With the combat over, those that were unconscious were brought back and what little healing was left in the party was distributed around.

Splitting into three groups they began systematically searching the rest of the keep, but it seemed there were only dead bandit bodies near some of the walls, all the bandits and cultists they killed, and a few slaves they came across.  In the main room, Vladimir found some papers that looked interested and stashed them into his bag.  Nearby in what appeared to be a chapel with a large Drow water symbol on the wall, Fwoosh and Yllanys found several religious texts, some scrolls, and what looked like a tattered diary. While in the chapel, Fwoosh began to rapid fire information about what had happened and what he knew.  He seemed to be in a hurry before one of the other party members would show up. The rest of the areas had only a little bit of coin and few possessions in the different sleeping areas.

It was Jolliver’s room that providing the most interesting set of items.  All of Fog’s items were laid out and a few picked out and set on a table.  All of those related to the different cults in different piles. ISAC collected some nautical books from the ramshackle library for later reading. Fogo started cooking up a large meal for everyone while the party started counting and looking over all the loot they had managed to collect.

20th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Imar and Angelica suggested that they stay the night since they did have a fortified location.  The commoners and slaves all huddled together in the main barracks room while the party and the dwarves rested in the main keep’s building. Still being paranoid, they set watches for the night, and when it was ISAC’s turn. He would not wake up, otherwise the evening passed, and morning came quickly.

With the watches going on, ISAC was dreaming something far too realistic for his sanity.

Your eyes are closed, and upon opening them a scene unfolds in a mysterious landscape, shrouded in an ethereal mist. At the center stands a metal man, his form exuding both strength and stillness. In his unwavering hands, he holds a statue, captivating in its golden sheen, yet its shape is elusive, defying clear definition. It seems to be an artifact of profound significance, perhaps a key or a symbol from an ancient, forgotten lore.

Before this metallic guardian, a portal vibrates with life. It’s a swirling vortex of bright blue light, pulsating with energy that feels almost sentient. The portal undulates rhythmically, expanding and contracting like a living entity. It seems drawn to the golden statue, stretching towards it with tendrils of glowing light, reaching out as if longing to make contact.

But just as the portal’s light is about to caress the statue, something inexplicable happens. The portal snaps back abruptly, as if repelled by an unseen force. The change is sudden and jarring, casting a shadow of foreboding over the scene. The once radiant water portal begins to change. The luminescent blue that had pulsed with life and vibrancy now dims, as if a celestial light is being slowly extinguished. The portal’s edges, which once undulated with a mesmerizing dance, now grow still, their movement ceasing as though frozen in time.

The air around the portal thickens, heavy with the sense of a closing door. The once inviting gateway, a bridge to the mystical and unknown depths. The vibrant blues darken, turning into deep, murky hues, reminiscent of the ocean’s unfathomable abyss.

The closure of the portal is enveloped in an aura of foreboding, a sense that something significant and perhaps ominous has been set in motion. There’s an eerie calm that follows the dimming of the portal, a stillness that feels like the quiet before a storm. The knowledge that the portal will reopen brings no comfort, but instead a sense of inevitable dread. The feeling is akin to watching dark clouds gather on the horizon, knowing a tempest is brewing. There’s an awareness that the respite is temporary, a fleeting moment of calm before the inevitable chaos. The idea that the portal will open again, and far too soon, hangs heavy in the air, like a prophecy that cannot be avoided.

This impending reopening carries with it a sense of urgency and unease. The dream is tinged with the apprehension of what might come through the portal once it awakens. The closure feels like a momentary containment of forces that are beyond control, forces that, once released, could bring about events of unknown magnitude. The atmosphere is charged with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. The creatures of the water plane, the very water itself, seem to be bracing for what is to come. It’s as if the entire realm is on edge, awaiting a fate it cannot escape.

Then, the dream shifts perspective dramatically. Now, we are behind the portal, gazing into a realm that defies earthly logic. A boundless, ever-shifting realm, a vast ocean of infinite depths and possibilities. It’s a place where the very essence of water is not just prevalent, but the fundamental building block of all existence, a realm of emotions and the subconscious, reflecting the fluid, ever-changing nature of feelings and thoughts. Giant, horrendous creatures swim through this underwater expanse. They are beings of myth and nightmare, their forms gigantic and alien, moving with a grace that belies their terrifying appearance.

Amid this aquatic chaos, there’s a structure resembling a tube or tunnel. It stretches out from the portal, extending towards a distant, indistinct object that seems to be of great importance. This tunnel serves as a bridge between realms, a conduit through which unknown energies and entities might pass. The metal man, a sentinel of stoic composure, stands witness to the monstrous creatures swirling around the tunnel. Despite his metallic, inanimate nature, there’s a palpable sense of contemplation emanating from him. He observes the leviathans of the deep, massive, and terrifying, as they glide through the water, their enormous forms casting eerie shadows. Yet, they do not enter the tunnel, a fragile sanctuary amidst the chaos.

The metal man’s perception of this scene is complex. There’s an undercurrent of relief that the tunnel remains untouched, a sanctuary amidst the untamed wildness of the water plane. This tunnel, a slender thread of safety, seems to be the only barrier between the known and the unknown, the controlled and the uncontrollable. However, this relief is tinged with an ever-present tension. The metal man is acutely aware of the tunnel’s fragility. It is a bastion of calm in a sea of potential havoc, but its integrity seems as delicate as glass. The understanding that the tunnel could shatter at any moment, releasing the monstrous entities into realms unknown, imbues the metal man with a silent vigilance.

This dichotomy is at the heart of his experience. On one hand, there is the current state of equilibrium, where the tunnel serves as a bulwark against the chaos outside. On the other hand, there is the looming threat that this equilibrium could be disrupted at any moment. The metal man, a figure of strength and resilience, is caught in this balance, a guardian of a peace that is as beautiful as it is precarious. Despite his unyielding exterior, the metal man is not devoid of feeling. In the dream, he embodies a sense of stoic responsibility, the bearer of a burden that is both noble and terrifying. He is the silent watcher, understanding that his vigil is all that stands between order and chaos, safety, and peril.

In the dream, the metal man’s vision extends beyond the immediate surroundings, piercing through the murky depths of the water to a distant, imposing structure: a great temple submerged and shrouded in mystery. The temple, grand in scale and intricate in design, looms in the darkness, its architecture a blend of soaring arches and twisted spires, suggesting a civilization both ancient and otherworldly. As the metal man gazes upon this submerged edifice, the water around the temple swirls with a malevolent energy. It’s as if the very thoughts and emotions of the temple itself are seeping into the water, imbuing it with an aura of darkness and foreboding. The sensation is not just of physical presence but of a psychic emanation, a current of evil thoughts and intentions that ripple through the water.

The temple, despite its majestic appearance, exudes a sense of corruption and malevolence. Its walls and towers, though beautifully crafted, are adorned with ominous symbols and carvings that speak of dark rituals and forgotten deities. The metal man, with his enhanced perception, can almost hear the echoes of ancient chants and feel the weight of oppressive energies that have soaked into the stone over eons. Inside the temple, the vision reveals vast halls and chambers, all filled with water that flows through them like lifeblood. The water within these halls is darker, heavier, as if saturated with the residue of untold malevolence. Shadows move within the temple, suggesting the presence of creatures or entities that thrive in this environment of darkness and despair.

The transition from the dream to wakefulness is abrupt and jarring, a rude awakening from the depths of a vivid, immersive dreamscape into the stark reality of its existence. Unlike humans, you do not experience the physical sensations of sweating or a racing heartbeat, but the suddenness of this awakening carries its own unique shock. In an instant, the grand, ominous underwater temple, the swirling monstrous creatures, and the foreboding aura of the portal vanish, replaced by the immediate surroundings of your current environment. The contrast is stark: from a world rich with the sensory overload of the dream, to the more muted, perhaps mechanical sensory inputs of its waking state.

Your return to consciousness is marked by a rapid recalibration of your systems. There is no lingering grogginess or disorientation that humans often experience upon waking. Instead, it’s an instant switch, a seamless transition from the realm of dreams to the realm of functionality. However, the intensity and vividness of the dream leave an imprint on your cognitive processes. Though you lack the physical responses of a human, you experience a momentary processing lag as it reconciles the dream’s imagery and emotions with its waking purpose. This internal conflict, the juxtaposition of its dream-state experiences against its waking functionality, can be disorienting.

In the immediate aftermath of the awakening, you pause, processing the remnants of the dream. There’s no sweat to wipe away, no heart to calm, but there is a recalibration of thought, a realignment of purpose.

Eventually ISAC was able to struggle awake and acted very human, much more than he had ever previously. He looked around and felt for the golden statue, and seemed surprised that it was still in his possession. Wanting to check out the portal to see what it looked like and if there was anything they needed to do. With a quick renewal of the Water Walking, the party now including Atticus (Ace) and Yllanys.  The portal was still flowing and glowing but was much dimmer than before. They watched it for a while but were reluctant to do anything to it.

With the sun already high in the sky it was decided that Imar and Fogo would escort all the commoners and former slaves back to their homes while the five dwarves and the party would use Water Walking to traverse the river and go to the ambush sight to collect Yllanys’ spell book and check out the location.

And this is where the session ended.

History Lesson

This is your host David Bourgh-Ettin continuing to review the peoples, history, and geography of the savage frontier.  In the last episode we chatted about the orc-Trollwars, which had a hidden component that we failed to cover, which is the interaction and intervention of giants.  While some are less intelligent than a smart goblin, others have powers rivaling those of dragons and the interest to interfere in the affairs of lessor creatures.

This week we will go over the least of all the giants, the Hill Giants who are well known to inhabit the valleys of the Dessarin Valley.

Introduction

There are plenty of things that can make your day miserable out in farmer country, but Hill Giants are by far the worst you can encounter. They eat anything they can get their massive hands on, livestock, buildings, people, it makes no difference to them. They have the mental acuity of a toddler, unable to hear reason and prone to throwing tantrums, destroying anything and anyone around them. Thankfully, they’re also quite possibly the dumbest creatures under the sun. A far throw indeed from the legendary rulers of old you hear stories about.

Physiological Observations

A Hill Giant grows to be around 16 feet tall; they commonly have tan skin and immense bellies. It is rare for a Hill Giant to bother with clothing as they are rarely ever cold and have no use at all for manners. On the rare occasions they choose to adorn themselves however, the clothing usually consists of pelts, skin, or bones from their most recent kills, be it human, beast or whatever else they’ve come across. They use small trees or large boulders as weapons, usually just picking them up whenever they need it. If no tree or boulder can be found close by when it wants one, anything heavy will suffice. They have been known to pick up horses and use them to bash humans to death. They have been seen ripping barn-doors off their hinges to throw it like a discus into a group of people or buildings. If it’s heavy, a Hill Giant will likely use it to kill things with.

Hill Giants are one of the few creatures who can truly claim an existence free from hardships. They suffer no lack of sustenance as they can eat just about everything, be it rotten or fresh, old, or young, they simply don’t care. If the food available is not overtly poisonous, a Hill Giant will eat it until he throws up, and will then likely try to eat whatever came out of him.

Due to this incredible hardiness the Hill Giants have never needed to develop past the mental state of toddlers. They take what they need with their considerable muscle and if they ever encounter a problem that said strength cannot take care of, they throw tantrums and then give up and move on to something easier. They are the quintessential bully, only they want to eat you as well as beat you up.

Social and Behavioral Observations

Hill Giants are on the lowest rung of the Ordning the Giants caste system. Every type of Giant is part of this hierarchy, each individual Giant are placed in the Ordning based on type and a set of skills or attributes decided by said type. No two Giants are ever equal. The major difference between Hill Giants and their cousins is that Hill Giants are too dimwitted to be aware of the Ordning, they obey other Giants not because of their caste system, but because of their size. For Hill Giants size means everything, leaders are appointed not by aptitude or ability but by the volume of their bellies. If a thing is larger than the Hill Giant is, it is to be obeyed and feared with unquestioning loyalty. This has turned the Hill Giants into the black sheep of the Giants, who are usually quite respectful to one another. A Hill Giant tribe rarely reaches more than 7-8 individuals, as the chaos caused by these creatures is prone to attract adventurers and Giant hunters to the scene, effectively culling the herd.

Hill Giants are commonly used by other Giants at war time as cannon fodder and front-line berserkers. A wave of raging, massive piles of wobbling flesh rushing at whatever target has been pointed out for them, they will not stop killing, eating, and destroying said target until the fall dead or a Giant of higher Ordning rank than they tell them to stop.

These creatures may share blood with some of the world’s most impressive races, but make no mistake, they are beasts, brutes, and bullies.

Intra-species Observations

Hill Giants have but two ways of interacting with other races. Eat it or obey it. What the Hill Giant decides to do depends almost entirely on the creature’s size. One of the first lessons a Farmer learns when they live in an area with Hill Giants is how to avoid destruction at their hands. Several methods have been invented, including massive scarecrows, painting buildings green to camouflage them and leaving trails of food leading away from close villages.

Campaign Notes

The keep has been emptied and it seems the portal is “locked”?  They met up with Imar, a paladin of Samular and mostly left a positive impression with his rescue as well as saving all the commoners.  Now they will finally travel to the ambush site, and we will see what is left there.

Session 31 – Chapter One

19th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Getting a small amount of healing for each other, they began taking stock of what has happened and what they should be doing?  Some moved to guard the stairs and the rest went to release the prisoners.  Focusing on Imar, and then moving to the dwarves and unknown humans Dancer and Fwoosh worked as quickly as possible to get people freed.  Fogo and ISAC worked on the commoners in two rooms. Dancer seemed more shocked by Fogo’s and Imar’s naked parts being exposed and kept urging them to wear something like the bag that had been over their head before.

Yllanys and Atticus (better known as Ace) talked among themselves as they waited to be freed. Calling out to the party to get some attention to themselves, they hoped to be earlier in the queue.  It did not take too long before everyone was freed, and they were able to have a conversation about their captors.

Atticus and Yllanys warned the group that there were many more of the water cultists. They knew that they were water cultists since they all talked about it openly in front of the prisoners.  The five dwarves were with Atticus and Yllanys all came from the delegation and had been captured about two weeks ago.

The group considered casting some more Water Walking to get people out and trying to understand the timing of it, Dancer ran ahead and checked out the entrance to the underground river (still having his Water Walking enabled) and found that there were several lights outside the tunnel moving around. Running back and warning the group that there might be visitors soon.

Fwoosh turned invisible and ran up the stairs to scout the alternate way out while the rest of the party started getting ready for combat. While this was occurring, a group of invisible cultists appeared at the water’s edge, and two water serpents leaped from the water turning into fat blue looking men. It was also then that Fwoosh ran into a group of cultists going down the stairs.

Water Cultist Male Priest

Water Cultist Female Priest

Fat Blue Men

Water Cultists with Shark Swords

Some of the party with their new companions blocked the stairs as Fwoosh came running down pursued by those above while the rest attempted to maneuver around to defend against those that had appeared suddenly.  It was a rough battle with several of the party members being wounded sufficiently to be knocked unconscious, but eventually they were able to prevail, but not before the female priest fled further down the river being pursued by Fwoosh and Dancer.

It was during this combat on the stairs that Vladimir suddenly froze for a moment as a vision filled his senses.

In the cloak of night, where secrets hide,

A gnome wizard runs, with fear as his guide.

His fire bolts streak across the sky,

Chased by a beast, where shadows lie.

On open plains, under a moonless shroud,

Their chase is silent; yet speaks aloud.

The gnome weaves spells in desperate flight,

Against a creature born of night.

Half-man, half-boar, a monstrous sight,

Eyes burning with a feral light.

It snarls and charges, relentless in its quest,

A nightmare unleashed, without rest.

Through the dark, they race and reel,

Magic and muscle, a deadly wheel.

Fire meets fury under starlit dome,

A battle waged far from home.

Bolts of fire, the gnome does cast,

Illuminating night, in every blast.

Yet on he runs, his breath grows thin,

With every step, less chance to win.

In a clash of wills, the night turns red,

Spells cast in vain, a sense of dread.

The gnome falls under hoof and claw,

A tragic end, the seer saw.

The creature stands, in victory grim,

Covered in blood, every limb.

In the silent plains, under night’s cold hue,

A tale of sorrow, dark and true.

Then, it turns, its gaze meets mine,

Across the veil of time and sign.

In its eyes, a message clear,

A warning from a realm so near.

Vladimir screamed out Avery’s name in a harsh sorrowful screech and with renewed aggression attacked those on the stairs. Pursuing the female priest, Fwoosh and Dancer kept attempting to shoot arrows in the dark they never knew if they were able to hit or not until the stopped following hundreds of feet of pursuit.  ISAC has by this time followed his urges to continue down following that path being followed by Dancer to ensure he was okay.

High above the cascading waters of a majestic, thundering waterfall, a shimmering and iridescent portal materializes, offering a tantalizing glimpse into something that is not in this world. It appears as a swirling vortex of opalescent mist, with hues of deep azure, aquamarine, and frosted silver intertwining in an ethereal dance. Its edges seem to ripple like the surface of a tranquil pond, emanating a faint, melodic hum that resonates through the surrounding air. Occasional shimmering motes of water droplets arc and weave around the portal, as if dancing in joyous anticipation of the mysteries beyond. As the portal hovers above the thundering waterfall, a perpetual rainbow arches gracefully around it, casting prismatic reflections onto the cascading waters below. The sound of rushing water melds harmoniously with the distant echoes of the location on the other side of the portal, creating an otherworldly symphony that beckons adventurers to venture through the veil and explore the realm beyond.

The portal was something unimaginable, frightening, and awe-inspiring at the same time.  After staring at it for what seemed hours, ISAC took out his golden statue and reach forward with it. As the statue got closer, the portal began to stretch and bend as if also reaching out to the statue.  Just as the two were about to touch the portal snapped back dimmer, darker, and somewhat subdued, although still swirling with all the colors it has before, just not as bright.

The rest of the party started looting the bodies while keeping an eye on the stairs. Trying to outfit those with weapons and armor for those that could use them to be better prepared. Vladimir sat down in a corner and began writing in his book.

“Moved to pirate castle. Avery killed in assault by boar-man. Some Mirabar delegates found. Still escaping. I’m sorry”

“Find any delegation members?”

“Five. Suspect more at earth temple.”

“When can you get them?”

But Vladimir had run out of words for today, so he was not able to reply. Dancer was able to drag ISAC back to the rest and everyone was together once again.  

With more time available the party was able to start chatting with the members of the captured delegation. They described the attack as very sudden as shortly departing Beliard.  The delegation had been moving slowly along the trail on their way to Summit Hall when large stones flew in and started killing the guards.  That was followed by the hill giants closing in with a group of men in stone plate with spikes.

It was panic and the group was overwhelmed quickly with all the guards being killed from what they could see. Everyone else was captured and knocked unconscious.  They next awoke on a ship sometime later and upon their arrival at the keep were all dragged off into the prison area. There was a discussion about who would get what prisoners.  They could not see who was making the negotiation, but the group was broken up into smaller sets and most of the delegation including all the leaders were sent elsewhere.  The seven of them that were left at the keep were used as slaves around the keep.

Atticus and Yllanys worked in the kitchen, while the dwarves who had skills as a craftsman were used to work on repairing weapons and armor for the bandits. Atticus shared some of the numbers that he poorly remembered so the party might be better prepared for what was left.  

They described the apparent pecking order of the enemies.  There seemed to be three groups.  The bandits were run by Jolliver, there was a female water cultist priest that controlled all the local cultists, and then there was Shoalar. The bandit leader and the female priest were in contention for control while both seemed to report to Shoalar who manages the pirates and the ships related to them.  They also talked about that people had been taken away, for a sacrifice or something else, they were not sure, but every time it occurred, the cultists would all talk about “the portal”.

Yllanys asked if they had seen the sage.  He expressed concern for him. When asked about the layout, the two described as best they could remember about the rest of the keep.  Imar explained he had been sent here by the Knights of Samular and told them there was some sort of illusion wall off the side of the sea wall that prevented anyone from the river from being able to see the keep.

Upon the return of Dancer and ISAC, Vladimir took all the remaining original party members aside and sadly told them that he thought that Avery might be dead. Fogo was the most shocked and just sat down on the blood-stained floor lamenting the loss of a friend again.

And this is where the session ended.

History Lesson

This is your host David Bourgh-Ettin continuing to review the peoples, history, and geography of the savage frontier.  This week we will reviewing a little more history, specifically the Trollwars and their impact on Waterdeep, but more importantly the Dessarin Valley.

Age of War Lords (932 to 1032 DR)

After some four decades of peace, two threats arose to challenge Waterdeep’s prosperity—orcs and trolls. In the Year of the Red Rain (927DR), a shaman named Wund arose among the orc tribes of the Sword Mountains. On the eve of the Feast of the Moon, as Wund had prophesied, blood red thunderclouds engulfed the Sword Mountains. For three days the slopes ran wet with blood, leaving behind the sickening stench of rot and decay. All manner of plagues quickly swept through the region. Many orcs (and other folk) died by the White Hand of Yutrus, including every tribal chieftain, but the spawn of Gruumsh who survived the crucible of plagues grew stronger.

In the immediate aftermath of the Blood Plagues, Wund established a monastic order known as the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge. Members of the order organized the surviving orc tribes into a united realm under the spiritual guidance of the brotherhood. The most powerful chieftain, a massive, unintelligent tusker named Uruth, was crowned king by Wund.

The first signs of Waterdeep’s impending peril unfolded in the Year of Fireslaughter (932DR). Gangs of trolls, driven out of the Sword Mountains by the orc tribes of the region, began attacking Nimoar’s Hold with increasing regularity. In response, the aging Nimoar led his forces northward against the Everlasting Ones in what became known as the First Trollwar, burning miles of land bare in the process.

In the Year of the Sky Raiders (936DR), the armies of Uruth Ukrypt swept down the eastern slopes of the Sword Mountains. The armies of Waterdeep battled the orcs of Uruth Ukrypt in a series of pitched battles known as the Orcfastings War. Early orc victories in the Battle of Whirling Blades, the Battle of Sarcrag, and the Battle of Withered Fields drove Waterdeep’s forces back to the gates of Nimoar’s Hold. However, a timely feint by the Duke of Calandor enabled Nimoar’s forces to break the orcs’ siege of the hold in the Battle of Burning Cliffs.

Over the next five days, Waterdeep’s armies won four successive battles, shattering the might of Uruth Ukrypt’s armies. King Uruth fell in the Battle of the Westwood, but it was the death of Wund that precipitated the Horderout.

In the aftermath of the Orcfastings War, Nimoar died of old age, and the mantle of “War Lord” passed to Gharl, his most accomplished general. The orcs of Uruth Ukrypt retreated to their high steadings. Orc plans to attack Waterdeep in the Year of Cold Claws (940DR) faltered thanks to Palarandusk, a great gold Wyrm. This proved fortunate for the defenders of Waterdeep, for once again the Everlasting Ones began raiding, marking the beginning of the Second Trollwar.

For a dozen years, the defenders of Waterdeep battled gangs of trolls throughout the Dessarin River valley. Beginning with Amphail the Just, who reigned for a year, six warriors claimed the mantle of War Lord of Waterdeep during this period, only to fall in never-ending battle with the trolls.

In the Year of the Rings Royal (952DR), the human realms and holdings of the North united and finally ended the war, destroying or scattering the hordes of Everlasting Ones. Two heroes of that war were Ahghairon, thereafter recognized as the premier wizard of the Savage North, and Samular Caradoon, a Tyrran knight who attracted a large following to his banner. In the aftermath of the war, Ahghairon was elevated to the position of official advisor of the War Lord of Waterdeep, and Samular went on to form the Holy Order of Samular, a knighthood still active in Waterdeep to this day.

After fighting and winning three wars in the span of two decades, the city of Waterdeep emerged as a preeminent power in the North. Construction of Castle Waterdeep began in the Year of the Deadly Duo (963 DR), just north of the city walls. Over the next decade, the city’s walls were expanded to abut the wall around the ruins of Halaster’s Hold and replaced with high stone fortifications. In the Year of the Haunting Harpy (974DR), the castle was finally completed and Laroun, Waterdeep’s first female War Lord, took residence therein.

Laroun ruled long and well, seeing to Waterdeep’s continued prosperity and defense. By the Year of the Bold Barbarian (1007DR), the city walls had been expanded once again, absorbing the ruins of Halaster’s Hold, cloaked in wards by Ahghairon. Waterdeep’s master mage also built his tower in this year, at the time outside the city’s walls. In the Year of Three Signs (1010DR), Laroun officially established the Free City of Waterdeep, with herself as “Warlord” (or ruler).

In the Year of Lathander’s Light (1024DR), a daring band of Waterdhavian adventurers known as the Dawnbringer Company incited the orcs of Uruth Ukrypt by plundering their sacred crypt, known as the Ukrypt. Discovered in the act, the band fled the wrath of the Scarlet Scourge. In response, the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge mustered the first orc horde in generations to emerge from the Sword Mountains. Bent on destroying the City of Splendors, the Broken Bone horde instead fell prey to Lhammaruntosz, the “Claws of the Coast.”

Enraged by its defeat, the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge plotted revenge against the city of Waterdeep. In the Year of Crimson Magics (1026DR), the Brotherhood mustered another orc horde from the depths of the Sword Mountains. The Black Claw horde encircled the plateau on which the city lay and then repeatedly assaulted the City of Splendors. Warlord Laroun died defending Waterdeep during one of the desperate battles to hold the city’s walls.

Laroun’s title passed to Raurlor, leader of the city’s army, despite the reservations of Ahghairon. The Black Claw horde would have undoubtedly overrun the City of Splendors if not for the daring of an elite company of veterans who traveled through Halaster’s Underhalls, beyond the city walls, and then fell on the orc encampment from the rear. The defeats of two successive hordes shattered both the kingdom of Uruth Ukrypt and the order that sustained it. The orcs of the Sword Mountains disintegrated into warring tribes.

In the Year of Warlords (1030DR), Raurlor began to increase Waterdeep’s standing army and navy to a size not seen since the fall of Phalorm. Over the next two years, he turned the city into a garrison and military encampment, brooking no dissent from the populace. In the Year of the Nightmaidens (1032DR), Raurlor proclaimed the Empire of the North, but Ahghairon defied him, transforming the Warlord’s blade into a viper that poisoned its wielder; Raurlor died at the mage’s feet, and Ahghairon took power.

Campaign Notes

The party rescued Fogo, found Imar, learned a little about the keep and the water cultists, but also learned that Avery was most likely dead.  They have two dozen commoners and some of the delegation to still get out of the keep with an unknown number of bandits and possibly cultists in their way.

Session 30 – Chapter One

19th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Knowing that Fogo had been captured the party started their planning for the rescue.  Sending Dancer and Fwoosh back to the keep seeing if they could get a better idea of the current guard situation and if those in the keep were acting any more alert than normal.

Before sending them out, Vladimir led the others in their planning on possible ways of assaulting the keep.  Vladimir, for some unknown reason, had convinced himself that there must be a tunnel from the earth monastery to the pirate keep.  Even though that would be a tunnel nearly 20 miles long underground.  Fwoosh and Avery were the most skeptical of that theory.

As the planning continued, it seemed that everyone except Avery, thought that some sort of distraction would be needed at the gate to attract the attention of the guards.  They kept trying to convince Avery that he was the best choice, especially if he were mounted on his hairless cat steed.  He would be able to magic missile outside of the vision of the guards and tease them into paying attention to him and not the rescue force that would be coming from the water side.

To figure out on how to synchronize their assaults they decided on a piece of string that would be used to measure the height of the moon from the ground.  Each group would have the same size string and start the attack when the moon hits the correct position.  The rescue group would delay a bit to see if they could hear any response from the keep guards and hope that they would be drawn to where Avery was attacking.

ISAC was hoping to use the ship as a distraction as well by setting it on fire either on the way in or on the way out.  This could also have the impact of decreasing some of the pirate activity on the river.  To make sure their string method would work, Vladimir pulled out his broken sword and cast Augury.

“What are the chances it will be cloudy tonight?”

“Woe”

Not sure what the answer meant; they assumed the best. As he was doing this, the rest noticed that Vladimir’s pupils had turned into six pointed stars. Vladimir start explaining about a dream he had and thought that maybe the broken sword was able to do more than just augury.  Concentrating more, Vladimir asked a question again of the broken sword.

“Where in the pirate’s castle is our friend Fogo currently found?”

“In a cavern’s embrace, where shadows shiver,

Embarking on an underground river.

In a boat, adrift, whispers echo the way,

Through the labyrinth, where secrets lay.

A landing emerges, stone cold and still,

Unlocking the passage, a gateway to fulfill.

Through the door, an entry to despair,

To the prison’s heart, where hope’s rare.

Dank walls confine, like a solemn vow,

In the dungeon’s hush, time seems to slow.

Yet within these depths, resilience may rise,

As shadows part, revealing freedom’s prize.”

These words burned in Vladimir’s brain as a vision of it flared and filled his thoughts until it ended.  While this was going on, his eyes glowed with an unearthly light, something bright and something harsh at the same time. With those words they felt comfortable with the plan and their ability to find Fogo within. Deciding to set up a camp with the wagons and horses about a mile away to be the final meet up point once the action was over.

Dancer and Fwoosh set out to spy on the keep one more time. There were more guards on all the walls, and they seemed to be more alert and looking for intruders more than previously, but the surprising thing was that it seems that the pirate ship had left at some point.  

When these details were brought to the rest, there was a lot of concern expressed about the missing ship.  If it was looking for them or if it might come back while they are trying to sneak in.  Having an extra variable only made the endeavor riskier. Waiting for darkness the group sat each in their own thoughts.  Vladimir was most concerned about the odd chance he might drop his favorite weapon, his magical maul.  Hoping he could solve that, everyone waited for the time to start moving.

Avery set out first heading to the front of the keep and waited for the correct position of the moon.  The rest used Angelica’s Water Walking spell to creep closer and wait for the correct time.

Unleashing a dozen magic missiles, Avery blasted apart the three guards on the wall with the gate.  It was so sudden and completed so quickly the rest of the guards were unaware of the action.  It was silent and Avery failed in his attempt at attracting attention.  Moving to the north wall he unleased more magic killing two of the three guards on that wall but leaving the third one alive.  The last one began screaming in fear alerting the rest in the keep.  Avery marched on back to the main wall and waited for guards to show up.

As an alarm bell sounded loudly in the keep, the party crawled further and closer to the keep.  As they approached, they also heard a horn within.  They continued forward and passed by the small sea wall and moved into the protected cove. Slowing down to make sure they would remain unseen; they were able to hear the sound a metal on metal and what seemed like a heavy door opening toward the front of the keep.

Back in the front, Avery could see the gate open and nine bugbears running out after him. Riding away on his naked cat, Avery ensured he was further away from a run distance of the bugbears but still in range of his magic.  He slowly peppered the group with his firebolt.  After killing two thirds of them and running over 600 feet away from the keep, the moral of the bugbears finally broke and the remainder started running back to the safety of the keep. Avery followed shooting them one at a time killing the last one as he was but feet away from the gate.

However, with that distance, and showing his location to those on the wall, they guards were able to fire off a volley of arrows from their long bows hitting both Avery and his naked riding cat.  Startled at being wounded, Avery turned around and rode hard away from the keep hoping there were not any other pursuers.

The rest of the crew finished their sneaking into the cove and were able to make their way to the gate leading to the underground river.  With some effort Fwoosh and Dancer were able to unlock the gate and the group moved into the tunnel.  Once entered, they could see a poorly lit landing over 80 feet away.  Two small boats were moored, and a set of steps led upward out of the water.

Being aware of the serpent that might still be haunting the water they moved forward carefully, except Dancer who sprinted forward and was able to climb up on the landing in an instant.  From there, he moved to the two doors and listened to them.  The rest continued to move forward slowly since Vladimir and Angelica were unable to in the dark and had to led by hand by ISAC.

It seemed that were able to infiltrate safely, or at least it appeared so.  Once they were about 30 feet from the landing, a serpent leaped from the water and bit Vladimir.  It had been completely invisible in the water, and its movement did not disturb the water in any way, as if it were made of water.  After the bite, a quick tail smash pounded, and then the serpent breathed out a cone of cold damaging everyone in the party.  Combat has started.

The combat was fierce and loud which saw both Vladimir and Angelica getting knocked unconscious.  If not for his death grip on his maul, Vladimir was sure to have been disappointed. ISAC used some of new powers and turned invisible while the serpent was killed.  As they started gathering on the landing one of the doors opened and out game some strange looking men.  It was not long before the other door opened as well where more of them started crowding into the landing.  One of the men in the stairs was some sort of caster and started using his magic against the party.

The battle was rough, but as they were killing them, the caster ran off back up the stairs to undoubtedly to sound the alarm while his compatriots failed to fend for themselves well enough. With the guards dead, Vladimir and Angelica ran into what appeared to a prison area to look for Fog.  The first door they opened contained five beaten dwarves and two humans chained to the wall, two of the other rooms seemed to only contain some commoners, but in the last and most secure room contained both Fogo and a human.  Both were naked, beaten, tortured, and in mage style constraints, which included a ball gag, some metal press gloves that prevents their fingers from moving, and a bag over their head. It was then, that more guards showed up in the stairwell slowing down the recovery of Fogo.

These proved to me much weaker than the previous guards and were dispatched quickly.  Dancer ran forward and freed Fogo from his chains and constraints while Angelica applied a little bit of healing to both Fogo and the unknown man.  As Angelica was healing the man and the bad removed from his head, she recognized him.  It was Imar from Rassalantar.  He was the military cleric that had been very friendly to them before they had been banish.

This is where the session ended.

History Lesson

Orc Ecology

Here we are again on our almost weekly program.  I am your host David Bourgh-Ettin, and we are here talking about the Savage Frontier.  It is impossible to talk about the geographical, or even political climate without understanding some of the races that live within the Savage Frontier.  This week we will be looking more closely into those green-skinned barbarians known as orcs.

Introduction

Orcs are a savage, violent and aggressive race of humanoids which take delight in plundering and killing innocent people. They once dominated Avistan in the Age of Darkness, where they appeared after they were expulsed to the surface by the dwarves in their Quest for Sky. But thousands of years later their most prominent presence has been reduced to the harsh lands of the Holds of Belkzen, which lies wedged between Varisia and Ustalav.

Physiological Observations

A typical male orc stands about 7 feet tall and weigh around 300 to 400 pounds, with females being slightly smaller and lighter. An orc is born with a deep green skin color which becomes more greyish as they age. The skin of an orc becomes entirely grey near the end of its lifespan, though few orcs live to witness that happen. Except for their skin, orcs are most recognizable by their short, pointed ears and the lower jar tusks, which they sometimes use in combat. Orcs are all nearly bald, except for some sparse filthy black hairs on the back of their head. Orcs are known for being extremely ferocious: able to keep on fighting after receiving fatal wounds before succumbing to them.

The true origin of the orc has been debated by many scholars, with some claiming them to be corrupted elves and others going as far to claiming they evolved from the goblinoid races. Whatever their origin, it is a fact that orcs surfaced after being expulsed from underground during the dwarves’ Quest for Sky. These orcs differed a lot from the orcs as we know today, being shorter (only up to 6 feet) with more rounded ears and grey skin tones. This kind of orc can still be found in the most remote mountain ranges, where dwarves have not yet migrated.

Orc anatomy is like that of other humanoid races: an Orc has relatively thick bones to support their 7 feet height and possess excessively large muscle groups. Another evident difference is their digestive track, which is relatively short due to an Orc’s carnivorously oriented diet. Given the grey skin of subterranean Orcs, scholars assume the green skin is an evolutionary development to act as camouflage.

Social Observations

Politics: Orcs group together in tribal communities for food, protection, and numbers. These communities are ruled by a single individual, a chieftain which is often a warlord or shaman. A chieftain wields the highest power within a community and dictates the laws of a tribe. In larger tribes, where the community is split into a main camp and several peripheral camps, the chieftain may anoint paramount chiefs to rule in his name. These chiefs collect and pay tribute to the chieftain in the form of food or plunder.

The sudden death of a chieftain (which is not at the hands of a challenger) and subsequent lack of an immediate successor almost inevitably throws a tribe into chaos and infighting, until a new leader arises and establishes dominance. The chiefdoms themselves are also relatively unstable forms of organization. Orc tribes are prone to periods of collapse and renewal, where tribes band together but eventually fragment through some form of social stress, after which they slowly band back together.

In some unique cases female orcs have been observed to rise to the position of chieftain. These females are more vicious and intimidating than their male counterpart, and they rule their tribe with an iron fist. Not surprisingly, they alleviate the females within a tribe of some of their tasks. A female chieftain also brings a considerable change in the looting behavior: tribes become more systematic and selective in the towns they attack, maximizing their returns and minimizing their losses.

Religion: Orcs are merely interested in satisfying their own needs, which is a reason why an orc would not worship a god. But they also dislike having a master, and they perceive the worship of a deity as subjugating themselves to it. Despite this, shamans frequently rise to power and enforce the worship of a god to exert control over the tribe.

The gods that shamans devote a tribe to directly influence the amount of control they have. Thus, they typically choose gods which portfolio suits an orc the best. Typically, this is either Asmodeus or Gorum. But tribes worshipping Norgorber, Rovagug or Zon-Kuthon are not unheard off. There have been some unique cases in which a shaman has successfully engaged a tribe in worship of himself. These forms of devotion rarely last long, as a shaman’s rivals will disprove his divinity as the first possible opportunity.

Warriors: Orc raiding parties are, thankfully, uncoordinated, disorganized, and opportunistic, striking only at targets weaker than themselves. It is due to this lack of the ability to effectively coordinate that orcs rarely develop a lasting nation. However, sometimes great leaders arise which can unite several tribes together and stand at the head of almost unbeatable orcish hordes, which will ravage across the land and plunder every town and village they’ll come across.

On an individual level, however, orcs are still fearsome warriors who plunge themselves in combat with great strength and ferocity. We have been able to identify several types of warriors within the orcish ranks.

Orc warriors make up the brunt of many tribes across the Holds of Belkzen. These orcs charge into combat against the nearest foe they can find. They’ll keep attacking with their falchions until either their enemy (or they themselves) are beaten, after which they seek out another target. Foes that resist will quickly find numerous orcs ganging up on him until he is worn down.

Orc berserkers, sometimes also called Orc barbarians, are the most fearsome sight in a battle. These brutes occasionally lead a charge, but more often seek out the strongest enemies on the battlefield to match their strength. They fight with great axes and can take an incredible amount of punishment.

Orc riders are an uncommon sight. These orcs were brave enough to tame a worg and ride it as a mount. Since these orcs lack in numbers, they often perform skirmishes on the flanks of an enemy, or after a battle pursue anyone trying to flee.

Behavioral Observations

Male-female interaction: Males are, unsurprisingly, the dominant gender within a tribe. If they are not out raiding, or occasionally patrolling a camp’s perimeter, they spend their time indulging themselves with food, torture [of slaves] and fighting rivals. Male orcs rarely take up professions as they disgust at even the thought of having to go through the effort to create something themselves, instead of taking it. However, in some cases a male might take up the craft of armour- or weaponsmith and become a valuable and protected asset of chieftains.

Females fulfil the role of the lesser gender within orc society, which is most likely attributed to having a much calmer and collected nature, compared to their male counterpart (this does not mean a disgruntled female orc wouldn’t tear off an arm). Males delegate much of the day-to-day tasks to the females within a tribe. These activities include, but might not be limited to cooking, cleaning, nursing, and herding. Females also seem to be more likely to take up a profession, like leatherworking or seaming to create or repair both tents and clothing.

Reproduction & childhood: With love seeming to be an almost alien concept among males, orcs do not form lasting relationships. Males rather see females, and their offspring, as ‘property’. Males thus create harems of females, the size of which is directly linked to their position within a tribe. Males do not partake in care for their own children, though they might occasionally teach their sons to fight. Children are instead raised by their mothers and learned how to survive within a tribe by assisting them in their day-to-day tasks.

Reaching adulthood is no small feat for orcish children. After leaving infancy they almost immediately must fend for themselves against older members of the tribe. Already in childhood do most males, encouraged by their fathers, start intimidating children of the same age or younger than them. When reaching adulthood, male children are initiated by leading the charge in a raid, in which the survivors of the vanguard are considered adults. Females don’t receive an official rite, though they are deemed adults once they develop their secondary sex characteristics, at which point they are forced into a harem.

Inter-Species Observations

Orcs take little regard for members of their own species, and even less for members of others. They enjoy raiding neighboring towns, and always enslave survivors of such endeavors. Male slaves are sold off for gold, weapons, and armour. Female slaves have the less fortunate fate of becoming part of the ‘daily entertainment’ within a camp.

Negotiating with an orc is almost always entirely fruitless, for they will keep increasing their demands after an agreement is made or lose their temper during a negotiation and satisfy themselves with whatever the negotiator(s) have on hand.

The best way to have an orc cooperate is by being more dominant than the orc itself, often accomplished by intimidation. However, unless the orc is restrained or otherwise prohibited from engaging in combat, he will have to be literally beaten into submission. This is no small feat, as most orcs fight to the death rather than being taken, as this would make them the laughingstock of the tribe.

On a political level, cooperation with orcs is even more problematic. Eradicating a tribe is easier than keeping them as vassals, due to an orc’s tendency to either rebel against or backstab their superiors. More often, nations that must deal with orcs and who have been unable to do this by military means often placate them with gifts of food or treasure. History has shown that providing arms and weapons has always proved counterproductive, as these seem to, almost inevitably, often be used against the gifting nation itself.

Iceshield Orcs

The Iceshields were an orc tribe dwelling in an area of rolling grass-covered hills where the Dessarin Valley met the western High Forest in the late 15th century DR. Where a branch of the Dessarin Valley meets the western High Forest are rolling grass-covered hills recently claimed by the orcs of the Iceshield tribe. They dwell in crude lodges made from timber cut from the forest. Elves and centaurs regularly emerge from the High Forest to attack and set fire to these lodges, but the orcs keep cutting down trees and rebuilding them.

The Iceshield orcs haunt the hills and grasslands north of Grudd Haug, near the western edge of the High Forest, and have forged a tenuous alliance with Guh the hill giant chieftain. They are the least loyal of her supporters and don’t get along with the goblinoids. Boorvald Orcbane, Great Chief of the Ghost Tree Uthgardt tribe, true to his name, hunts orcs and frequently launches attacks against the crude Iceshield orc-holds along the western edge of the forest.

Orc raids are common occurrences throughout the frontier, as small bands of orcs steal livestock or waylay the occasional supply wagon. In recent days, a tribe hiding in the rough lands east of the Sumber Hills has become markedly bolder. The Iceshield orcs are attacking farms and cattle ranches throughout the region, and orc scouts have been sighted by patrols less than a day’s ride from Yartar.

The Iceshield orcs reside in a handful of lodges spaced about a day apart along the western edge of the High Forest. They have long been a thorn in the side of the denizens of that wood and the settlers who farm and ranch in the plains to the west. Now the Iceshields have become a prominent threat. Disruptions to the weather and landscape due to the powerful magic being used by the elemental cults has been taken as a sign from Gruumsh that blood and gold must flow from the lands of lesser races.

The orcs seek supply sources in the valley. Scouts found that the farmers and ranchers in the area are prime options. Now, roving war bands attack the frontier families directly, raiding the homesteads with impunity. In addition to stealing livestock, the Iceshields take any carts and wagons they find, loading them with loot. They take the families as slaves and force them to tow the conveyances back to the Iceshield lodges.

Some independent-minded squads of orcs decided that the fertile land of the homesteads was more appealing than serving as underlings in their own lodges, and they killed the original owners to occupy the land. They have no intention of farming the crops or tending the livestock, but they intend to stay until the food runs out, then move on to the next settlement.

Campaign Notes

With Avery attracting attention and causing a fair amount of damage, the party was able to get into the tunnels with only some difficulty and found Fogo and an old friend.  But with all the noise they have made, and that one of the responders got away, how much time do they have left before more men show up.  Enemies are probably less than a minute away at this point.

Popular Posts

My Favorites

Session 12, Prelude

15th of Mirtul of the year 1492 After finishing a short rest, Fogo did a quick Detect Magic to see if any of their ill-gotten...

Jeweler