Friday, March 20, 2009

From the Attic: The Majestic Wilderlands: The City-State of Warwick

Scum and Villains the lot of them. Bastard Sons of Sea Dogs and Horse Lovers they are a boil on the face of the Wilderlands.
- Lanarius of Clan Dolnar, Marshal of the City-State.

The City-State of Warwick is a human pirate city on the northern shore of the Padizan Peninsula. Formed from the fusion of four different cultures it is one of the most dynamic places in the Wilderlands. It dominates the Carolyn Peninsula to the east; ruthlessly exploiting it's inhabitants and resources for the gain of the Lords of the city. The rovers prey throughout the Winedark Sea, battling through the convoys of the Pokantril Merchants, and against their rivals the Vikings of the Skandians. Above they hate the Tharians Overlords of the City-State. With the aid of the old dragon Ancelgorn and dark god Set their revenge may be soon at hand.

After the end of the Crystal Wars a multi-racial expedition left the ruins of the Founders Empire to found a new home. A home that restored harmony between the races. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Gnomes, and Humans sailed to the northwest of the Padizan Peninsula.

After they landed they drove out the Orcs and carved out new realms. The Majestic Fastness of the Dwarves, the deep forest Silverwood for the Elves, the green hills of Limerick for the Halflings, the woods of Lightelf for the Gnomes, and the humans settled Merdain at the mouth of the Roglaroon Estuary, and Carolyn, the peninsula to the east of present day Warwick.

For nearly five thousand years the races lived in peace. Aside from the occasional expedition to quell the orcs little disturbed their peace until the Elessarians arrived. Having been heavily influence by the elves in their homeland of Dunador, there was little conflict between the newcomers and the older realms. Trade flourished and the winds of change were felt throughout both realms. When the Elessarian Civil wars began and their empire split, the disruption of trade, badly impacted the older realms. Tensions rose among former friends as each realm backed a different faction in the Civil War. In the end, war was averted but tight knit community of races was no more as each retreated behind their borders.

This proved fatal to the humans of Merdain and Carolyn when the Ghinorians arrived from across the Sea several hundred years later. Seeking new lands to rule, they came ashore and conquered the Merdain and founded the colony of Modron. Of the older realms only Carolyn came to Merdain's aid. In a few decades it also fell to the Ghinorians.

Although the Ghinorian conquered they were not tyrants. As long as their new subject accepted Mitra as their goddess they could become full citizen of the Ghinorian Empire. In Modron the Ghinorian and the native Merdain quickly assimilated. In Carolyn the war left bitter memories and the Carolyn continued to resist where they can. This continued even after the fall of the Ghinorian Empire and Modron became an independent principality.

A century later Modron joined with several other northern Ghinorian Colonies to found the Restored Ghinorian Empire. However unlike the original each member of the empire kept it's distinct identity and much of their independence. The empire became rife with factionalism and
was little more than words on paper. Then four hundred years ago the hammer of the Vikings fell.

The Skandians lived in the ice choked northern regions of the Wilderlands for hundred of years. Two hundred years ago in the 43rd century an expanding population was fast running out of land. Within a decade the Skadian exploded out their icy homeland, through the Iceblue Strait [1] to ravage the lands around the Winedark Sea. As first they came to raid and then to conquer. Valon, Tarsh, Ossary, Tarantis, Croy, and Warwick were established as Viking Kingdoms.

Sotur and the Restored Ghinorian Empire took the main brunt of the attack. Sotur founded the Merchant League of Pokrantril as a defensive alliance and within a few decades managed to stop the Vikings in the western Winedark Sea. In the east the Restored Empire did not fare so well.

The conquest of Kalnala, the nominal capital shattered the empire. The Viking renamed the city Tarantis and created a new kingdom out of the ashes of the Ghinorian Colony. The remaining colonies attempted to continue to fight. In the north Nome lost half of it's territory when Tarsh was sacked. Nomar was pushed way from it's coast when Ossary was founded. The islands of Croy and Brezal were conquered and settled by Skandians.

When the Carolyn Pennisula was first raided the Carolyn took advantage of the confusion and revolted. They founded a short lived kingdom that was conquered a decade later by a Skandian Warlord, Ivar the Boneless. Ivar settled on the village of Warwick as his seat as it possessed a natural harbor and a rocky headland that was easily fortified. From Warwick Ivar unleashed a new wave of Viking raids across the Winedark Sea irritating Sotur and the Merchant League of Pokrantril.

At that time there were several dispossessed Tharian Lords living on the Tharian. Mostly from the Duchy of Bernost, they attempted to revolt against the Overlord of City-State and lost. The League Council gave them funding and allowed them to recruit mercenaries provided they attack Ivar the Boneless. The Tharian Lords successfully undertook a difficult march over the Majestic Mountains and surprised Ivar with an attack from the land side of Warwick. The town and castle fell into the hands of the Tharian Lords.

The next several decades were spent conquering the rest of the Carolyn Peninsula and chasing down rough Skandian chiefs. But with the destruction of Ivar complete the League withdrew their support. Angered the Tharian Lords recruited from their Skandian Prisoners and turned to piracy themselves .

By time the Tharian Lords mastered the ways of the sea, the nations surrounding the Winedark sea have begun to recover and maintaining effective naval patrols. The Skandian Kingdoms were now interested in peace and have begun to quell the Vikings in their service. The result was that Warwick became a impoverished kingdom with little interest in dealing peacefully with outsiders.

In the ruins of the Majestic Fastness lies the lair of the dragon Ancelgorn. He has grown concerned with the rise of the Tharian Overlords of City-State and their alliance with the Dwarves of Thunderhold. The old dragon knows that the desire to return to the hall of their forefathers still burns in the hearts of the dwarves.

Taking advantage of the Warwick's poverty he has forged alliances with several of the Tharian Lords. He has encouraged them to listen to the words of the priests of Set and accept their aid. The dragon intends to use the Tharians of Warwick as the anvil on which to break Thunderhold. The Overlord of City-State has noticed the increased resources of Warwick and has sent agents of the Black Lotus to discover. The Border Warders of Thunderhold keep a close watch on the frontier.

[1] In the Majestic Wilderlands, the ocean gap on the northern edge of Valon doesn't lead to a bay but rather a strait to my Wilderland's version of the Arctic Sea.


I know this is a long post and violates the old page principle I talked about before. It does illustrate how important culture is in my version of the Wilderlands. My use of culture allows me to generate conflict and to me conflict means there is adventure for my players.

Ancelgorn's aid to the Tharian Lords is one of the main plots of my campaign. While it not featured in every campaign I ran, it played an important role in several. The history of the Lords of Warwick give them plausible motivations rather then coming across as cardboard villians twirling their mustaches.

Observant players can use this type of information either for personal gain, for the Lords of Warwick, or against them. While a lot been said about the dungeon, there another side of roleplaying involved in interacting with the setting and that means dealing with the people who live there. This experience is more enjoyable by players if the NPCs are given plausible motivations. The careful player can listen to everything going on and start to put together some of the deeper plots of the campaign. The Eureka! moment is always one to savor.

Each of the other elements of the history contribute to generate adventures for the players who deal with Warwick. In no particular order;

A Rebel Band of Carolyn Patriots need aid.
A old Ghinorian Family from Modron wishes to recover a family heirloom
The Black Lotus are recruiting agents to go into Warwick.
A Skandian Lord and his men has decided to go Viking and base out of Warwick.
A ruined academy on the Carolyn Peninsula possibly holds the fifth Book of the Prophecies of the Ararond, an elven sage of Silverwood.
Master Talkron of Thunderhold thinks descendants of his cousin have hidden themselves in a ancient Dwarven Hold in the mountain just to the south of Warwik

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