Blackmarsh lies on the fringe of civilization, located around a large bay on the western edge of the Grey Sea. For a brief time, the frontiers of the great empires encompassed the region, but they retreated centuries ago. Only a few outposts of civilization remain amid the dangers of the encroaching wilderness.
The bay that dominates Blackmarsh was created two millennia ago by the disaster known as The Mountain That Fell. After The Mountain That Fell, strange and terrible monsters appeared in the surrounding wasteland. The elves arrived in Blackmarsh, drove the fell creatures into hiding, and healed the land. However, after two and a half millennia, their power is waning and the monsters have crept back into the dark corners of the wilderness.
A thousand years ago, the Bright Empire settled Castle Blackmarsh and for a brief time the races were united in an alliance and pushed back the monsters. Then eight hundred years ago, the Bright Empire collapsed after being defeated by the barbarians in the cataclysmic battle known as The Shattering. Blackmarsh was one of the first regions to be abandoned. Left in the wake of the empire’s retreat was a patchwork of realms ruled by petty kings and tyrants
Since the Shattering, the frontier has slowly retreated. In place of the ordered safety of the Bright Empire, monsters, barbarians, and others increasingly roamed without restraint. In the present day, those who come to Blackmarsh are more interested in Numen, killing monsters, or the strange artifacts left by The Mountain That Fell than establishing new settlements. The only force that stands against the wilderness is the Blackmarsh Rangers. Anyone who is willing to defend the land and its people are welcomed into their ranks.
The Mountain That Fell
In the days when man knew only the working of stone and fought for their existence against the orc and the goblin, the sky turned to ash and down fell the fiery mountain onto the land. The world tore open and the grey waters rushed in. Those who survived the impact were lost as boiling clouds rushed out in all directions leaving a wasteland in its wake.
The Mountain That Fell left a gift; magic. Near and far, those of learning and strong of heart discovered new powers to shape the world. In the desolation around the Smoking Bay the adventurous found Numen, magic in physical form. And there was more, scattered amid the landscape were strange artifacts and stranger creatures that survived The Mountain That Fell. For a time men, dwarves, orc, goblins, and other races braved the dangers and fought each other in the wastelands. Then the elves came into Blackmarsh, expelled the feuding races, drove the monsters out, and healed the land.
History and Time
Time in Blackmarsh is reckoned as it is in the real world- 12 months to a year and 7 days to a week. The Vassan method of naming the days of the week is used (Sun, mon, tue, wed, thur, fri, sat), and the calendar of Valcondor is used to mark the months (Jan, feb, mar, apr, may, june, july, aug, sept, oct, nov, dec). The abbreviation P.E. (Pre-Empire) is used to denote the years prior to the founding of Valcondor. The abbreviation B.E. (Bright Empire) is used from the founding to the Empires fall. The abbreviation K.E. (Kingdom Era) is used to mark time from the point of the Bright Empires collapse, to the present. At the beginning of the campaign, the year is assumed to be 813 K.E. Month and date will correspond to the real world calendar, in order to facilitate east time keeping.
Numen is raw magical essence. It infuses the earth and all living things. When captured and held within certain rare gems, called Starstones, numen can be used in the casting of spells or the creation of magic items.
Starstones are beautiful, faintly glowing gemstones that contain a bright, star-shaped inclusion in the center. Found exclusively in the hills and mountains surrounding Black Marsh, they are believed to be stones that were locked inside The Mountain That Fell, when it struck the earth. These stones, when carefully worked into cabochon cut jewels, can be used by trained magic-users to capture and store numen. A properly shaped Starstone will generally absorb 1 point of numen per day, from the magical energy permeating the world. There are certain areas on the earth (deep below ground, at holy sites, faerie glades, ancient forests or The Mountain that Fell) where the numen is far more concentrated. In such areas, Starstones may recharge much more quickly (as often as 1 point per hour or even 1 point per turn). The various types of Starstones, their value in gp and capacity for holding numen, are listed as follows:
Numen allows a magic user to cast a spell without losing it from memory. The numen is consumed in the process; one numen for a first level spell, two numen for a second level spell, three for a 3rd level spell and so on. One numen is worth 100 GP towards the creation of a magic item. Starstones typically recharge at a rate of 1 point per day. In areas strongly infused with numen, they can recharge as quickly as 1 point per hour. In certain, extremely rare locations (the Wizards and Sorceresses Isle and a handful of others) they will recharge at the astonishing rate of 1 point per round. A spellcaster may also manually recharge a starstone by casting any memorized spell into the stone. The stone is charged with 1 point of numen for every level of the spell so expended.
Cultures and RacesThe Beast Cults: Over the past two decades, or so, several cults have arisen around the worship of sacred beasts. Except for those inducted into their mysteries, very little is known about these secretive cults. They are believed to have originated either in the south or the far east, across the grey sea and the Sunrise sea. If you choose to worship one of the beast gods, you must choose Animal as your first domain and either Strength or Trickery as your second domain. Followers of the Beast gods do not get chosen weapons. The known Beast gods (there may well be more) are as follows:
The Ape god
The Bull god
The Crow god
The Snake god
The Rat god
The Race of Man
There are five distinct cultures of men in Blackmarsh: The Ostrobards, the Vassans, the Rurasins, the Cammorians, and the Acherites.
The Cammorians: These are the men of the Grand Kingdom; the descendants of the Bright Empire of Valcondor. Cammorians are of average height and build, with olive complexions, dark hair and eyes, and aquiline features, though a few manifest auburn hair and green eyes and are a shade taller and heavier than their peers. This is due to the admixture of blood from the barbarians who conquered their ancestors. Their culture is reminiscent of the Byzantine Empire on earth, retaining the religious structure of ancient rome, along with the romans love for chariot racing, gladiatorial combats, along with a rather greek predilection for the discussion of philosophy.
The Pantheon of the Grand Kingdom: The gods of the Grand Kingdom are the gods of the Bright Empire of Valcondor; from which the men of the Grand Kingdom are descendants. This large, powerful pantheon of gods and goddesses are referred to as the Emperials. The Emperials are worshiped almost exclusively in the Grand Kingdom and its provinces, and are not as strong as they were in the days of the Bright Empire, but none-the-less remain a power to be reckoned with. The deities of this pantheon are:
Apollo: The god of youth and the sun.
Bacchus: The god of wine and revelry.
Diana: The goddess of the moon.
Janus: Father of Jupiter and god of portals and magic.
Jupiter: Son of Janus and Emperor of the gods.
Juno: Wife of Jupiter and goddess of wealth.
Justicia: The blind goddess of justice.
Mars: The god of war.
Mercury: The god of wind, rogues and healers.
Neptune: The god of the sea.
Pluto: The god of death and the underworld.
Venus: The goddess of love and beauty.
Vulcan: The god of smiths, craftsmen and artificers.
Holy Symbol: Laurel wreath
Chosen Weapons: Shortsword and can use Tower shields.
The Ostrobards: The Ostrobards are a barbarian culture that has civilized in just the last two hundred years. When the Cammorians finally threw off the yoke of their barbarian conquerers, these savages retreated north to resume their former lifestyle of internecine tribal conflict. When the Cammorians began pushing north to consolidate their new kingdom, they encountered the Ostrobard once more. This time, diplomacy prevailed over saber rattling, and the two cultures began a relationship of trade. Eventually the Ostrobards recognized the many advantages of living in a civilized culture, and became absorbed into the Grand Kingdom. The Ostrobards resemble a mixture of the Anglo-Saxons and Germans of the early middle ages. They are a husky folk, of slightly above average height, with hair ranging from blonde to brown and eyes of brown, green, or grey. Despite their recent foray into civilization, they remain a superstitious, tradition bound, easily offended people.
The Ostrobard Pantheon: The Ostrobards have become a bit more civilized over the past couple of centuries, but they still swear by their old gods, which they call the Tuatha De’ Dannan. Some halflings, gnomes, half elves and even ogres worship the Tuatha, as well, and this pantheon is thought to have ancient ties to the Wild Host. They are:
Mac Og: The god of love.
Balor: The god of monsters and wrath.
Danu: The goddess of fertility.
Dagda: The god of war and feasting.
Mac Lir: The god of storm and sea.
Ogma: The god of bards and poets.
Arawn: The god of cruel death.
Morrigan: The goddess of heroic death.
Holy Symbol: Torc
Chosen weapons: Hand axe, throwing axe, and great club.
The Vassans: The Vassans are a large, hardy race of sea faring adventurers and raiders. For a thousand years or more, their longships have prowled the waters of the grey sea and beyond, making war upon Ostrobard, Cammorian, and Acherite alike. A near perfect analog of the Vikings of ancient earth, they have none-the-less civilized a bit in the last hundred years, as their depredations have been curbed by the strong swords of the Grand Kingdom of Cammoria, as it begins to expand into the Black marsh region. Vassan men and women are of heroic proportions; they tend to stand well over six feet in height, with brawny shoulders and muscular frames. Their hair is usually blonde or red with eyes ranging from green, to blue to grey.
The Vassan Pantheon: The large Vassan pantheon is known as the Aesir, and is worshipped by men of the north (most notably, the famed Vassan Vikings but also, the men of the Rurasin city-states) and is also the pantheon followed by the dwarves and many orc (Garm) and bugbear (Garm and Hel) tribes. They are:
Baldur: The god of youth and beauty.
Garm: The god of monsters and fear.
Freya: The goddess of love and fertility.
Hel: The goddess of death.
Heimdall: The god of duty and vigilance.
Loki: The god of lies and trickery.
Mimir: The god of memory and wisdom.
Odin: King of the Aesir. The god of rulership and magic.
Sif: The goddess of beauty and valor (Thors wife).
Thor: The god of strength, storms and thunder.
Tyr: The god of war.
Holy Symbol: A carved amulet with an image of the earth being split by a thunderbolt (the symbol of Ragnarok).
Chosen Weapons: Long sword, battle axe and great axe.
The Rurasins: Even farther north than the Ostrobards and the Vassans, dwell the men of the Rurasin Wastes. There they dwell in harsh, glittering cities carved from ice which never melts and the sun is but a fuzzy, feeble thing that barely manifests in the grim, grey sky. The Rurasins are a mixture of Ostobard and Vassan features. In fact, both races are descended from them-; ancestors who slowly migrated south over time, to seek more mild climates and abundant resources. Despite the fact that they dwell in great cities made of ice, the Rurasin are mostly a hunting and gathering culture; surviving through fishing and by culling the vast herds of mammoth and Aurochs that roam the wastes of the frozen north. Rurasins might be likened to a mixture of the medieval Rus, mixed with eskimo and early Neolithic hunter cultures.
The Rurasin Pantheon: Though they once followed numerous beast cults, the Rurasins have largely adopted the Vassan pantheon. A few Rurasins, dwelling in isolated settlements of the wastes, still worship the Bull god, however.
The Acherites: Dwelling in the hot, sweltering lands of the far south, the men of the Ochre Empire of Acheron had attained a sophisticated civilization a thousand years before even the Bright Empire of Valcondor had begun to take its first, faltering steps. Named for the orange-brown dye the Acherites favor (which tends to reflect the colors of the desert that is their natural environment) for their fabrics, Acheron is a land of astonishing beauty, filled with harsh landscapes and awe-inspiring architecture that rivals that of the Capitol of the Grand Kingdom. The Acherites are great traders, explorers and conquerors, and have an ancient and powerful tradition of sorcery. As Cammoria has continued to spread south and Acheron has begun reaching north, these two great peoples have begun to come into conflict. It seems only a matter of time before a full scale war between empires erupts. Acherites might be thought of as a mixture of the Sumerian, Egyptian, Arab, Indian and Kushite cultures of earth. They are a morphologically diverse people, widely ranging in height and build. Their hair and eyes are universally dark, and their skin ranges from a deep tan, to dark mahogany, to a rich, lustrous black. They are a handsome people that are very fond of jewelry and fine clothing (particularly gold, pearls, lapis and fine silk), and strong, sweet wines.
The Pantheon of the Ochre Empire: This strange pantheon is worshipped by the men of the Ochre Empire of Acheron, far to the south, and also by goblins, gnolls and demons (who tend to revere the black goddess Kali, in particular). Ganesha, Laskshmi and Indra are revered by some dwarves of the south. Indra is also given reverence by some hobgoblin tribes. As Acheron explores northward and the Grand Kingdom of Cammoria spreads to the south, the pantheons of these two mighty powers are beginning to come into conflict. The gods of Acheron (called, the Enlightened, by their Acherite worshippers) are listed as follows:
Arjuna: The god of courage, nobility and exploration (a favorite of Acherite adventurers).
Vishnu: The god of life, growth and protection.
Shiva: The god of death, destruction and rebirth.
Gayatri: The goddess of music and meditation.
Ganesh: The god of labor, merchants and artisans.
Lakshmi: The goddess of wealth and jewels and precious metals.
Indra: The god of war.
Agni: The goddess of love and fire.
Vayu: The sky god.
Varuna: The god of the sea and stars.
Kali: The black goddess of murder and death (more feared, than worshiped).
Holy Symbol: Vajra (a sort of metal scepter that functions as a light mace)
Chosen Weapons: Chakram, scimitar, urumi
Elves: The elves are a long lived and ancient race, hailing from the realm of faerie. The favored children of Queen Titania, they are the people who founded the order of druids and taught the younger race of man to revere nature and pay respect to the powers of The Wild Host. Men soon clove to their own gods, however, and all but a handful has turned from their devotion to the Host. Now they have spread their empires over the length and breadth of the world, forcing the elves to remote hold-fasts, far from the hungry eyes of man. The elves have read the handwriting on the wall; centuries ago, they realized their time on this planet was coming to a close. Most of them have returned to the realm of faerie, from whence they came, and the few that remain strive only to be a civilizing influence on the humans taking their place; hoping, at least, to leave a legacy of reverence among the race of men for the wild places they love so dearly, and to keep them from self-destructing with the awesome magical powers they are only now beginning to master.
The Elven religion: The ancient powers of the Wild Host reside in the realm of faerie- a timeless, primordial place of mist shrouded glades and endless twilight. From here, rule Queen Titania and King Oberon; alien, inscrutable beings who rule over nature and all their faerie kin. Their agents in the mortal realm, are the Druids; those men and women tasked with keeping the natural world safe against the depredations of man and orc. Other than their devotion to the Wild Host, druids function normally- as per the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.
Dwarves: The dwarves are possible the eldest race on the face of the world. When the elves arrived from faerie, the dwarves were already here, mining, smithing and tunneling their holdfasts, deep beneath the earth and trading with the savage humans that roamed the surface, whom they taught to forge iron and shared the worship of their gods. The dwarven kingdom of Bolzak is one of the mightiest on earth, stretching far and wide beneath the surface of the land. The dwarven settlement of Olden Hold, is the only such outpost of the dwarves in the Blackmarsh region. It was founded as a base for the search of numen by the Ironmasters of Bolzak. It’s become an entrepôt where merchants all over Blackmarsh come and trade with the dwarves. In terms of personality and appearance, dwarves are precisely as described in the Pathfinder RPG.
Dwarven religion: Dwarves usually follow the Vassan Pantheon. Mimir, Odin and Thor are particularly respected among them.
Gnomes: Believed to be exiles of the realm of faerie who mated with dwarves, gnomes get along well with both the fair and stout folk. They do not build empires and kingdoms, but found fortified hill settlements, well concealed with illusionary magic. Many gnomes also dwell among and have assimilated into the cultures of men. With their friendly deameanors and sharp minds, they often gain positions of influence among human kind.
Gnomish religion: Most gnomes revere The Wild Host, but those dwelling among mankind often swear by the gods of men.
Halflings: The origins of halflings are mysterious, though they have many qualities in common with gnomes, dwarves and men. They do not often form communities of their own, more frequently dwelling among dwarves or humans and adopting the cultural peculiarities of their chosen people. While they tend to have a great love of eating and drinking and are somewhat averse to fighting, halflings can still make brave, loyal and steadfast adventuring companions. And many adventuring companies seek out a Halfling companion, just for their skills at cooking!
Halfling religion: Halflings have no gods of their own; they adopt the pantheon of whatever culture they happen to dwell amongst.
Half Bloods: Blackmarsh is filled with people of mixed ancestry. Humans are fecund and diverse, with the ability to produce viable offspring with numerous species. In the Blackmarsh campaign, there exist half-elves, half-orcs, and half-blood demons called Tieflings. Though some small prejudice may exist for these beings, such mixed heritage is common enough that they are generally accepted. Tieflings are, of course, an exception. But they are sufficiently rare and unheard of, that unless the tieflings physical characteristics are overtly demonic, they can likely pass themselves off as human. Half-bloods typically worship the same gods as the folk the dwell with, though some half-bloods, embittered by their heritage, are too cynical to pay reverence to the gods at all.
Other races specific to the Blackmarsh campaign setting
Boggards- Also called Droadlings, or Toad men, Boggards are man-sized, anthropomorphic toads that dwell in the festering heart of Blackmarsh. A savage and malevolent species, they worship strange gods of chaos, kill, eat and enslave other species, and are often ruled by grotesque Slaad overlords that they summon through dark magic. The boggards are a danger to overland travel and boating that passes through the marsh, and the Blackmarsh Rangers offer a bounty of 5 gp per boggard head to anyone who can help cull the marsh of its fell inhabitants.
Gripplis- Smaller than boggards, but distantly related, gripplis are a peaceful, benign race of hunter/gatherers that dwell in Blackmarsh. A shy and reclusive race, they follow their own primitive beast gods and rarely venture close to the realms of men, though small bands (3 to 6) of them sometimes come to Castle Blackmarsh to trade. Some unscrupulous individuals attempt to murder Grippli and pass them off to the rangers as boggards, in order to collect the bounty. The rangers are well aware of the difference, however, and the individual attempting this will swiftly find their head displayed along side the gripplis. Gripplis are sometimes preyed upon by Slaadi and Boggards.
Rat folk- Also called Ratlings, or (derogatively) sewer-get, Rat folk are a race of anthropomorphic rodents about the height and weight of a slender dwarf or exceptionally tall gnome. Much like the pack rats they resemble, ratfolk are tinkerers and hoarders by nature, and as a whole are masters of commerce, especially when it comes to acquiring and repairing mechanical or magical devices. Though some are shrewd merchants who carefully navigate the shifting alliances of black markets and bazaars, many ratfolk love their stockpiles of interesting items far more than money, and would rather trade for more such prizes to add to their hoards over mere coins. It’s common to see a successful crew of ratfolk traders rolling out of town with an even larger bundle than they entered with, the whole mess piled precariously high on a cart drawn by giant rats. Rat folk are believed to have been created by the ancient sorcerers of Valcondor, who made them to act as intelligent servants and familiars, perform household chores, and to tend the cities sewers. The Rat folk are often not well loved, being considered by most Blackmarsh folk as seedy and unclean and somewhat untrustworthy by nature. Rat folk often pray to a Beast god called, aptly enough, the Rat god, although some follow the pantheons of men.
Tengu- Tengus are crow men from the great southern empire of Acheron. Sometimes called Rook-men or Magpies, the crowlike tengus are known as a race of scavengers and irrepressible thieves. Covetous creatures predominantly motivated by greed, they are vain and easily won over with flattery. Deceptive, duplicitous, and cunning, tengus seek circumstances in which they can take advantage of the situation, often at the expense of others, including their own kind. They can be highly competitive, but impulsive and rash. Some claim their behavior is innate, while others believe their selfish mannerisms are cultural and developed as a learned adaptation that has enabled their people to endure through centuries of oppression. Tengus and Rat folk are often competitors, and there are two active thieves guilds in Blackmarsh; the Jackdaws (lead by a Tengu) and the Gnashers (led by a Ratling), which frequently but heads. Lately, the rancor between the two guilds has increased for unknown reasons, and many merchants and other innocent folk are getting caught in the crossfire. Tengu worship the Crow god, but many of them also follow the Acherite pantheon.
Places of Interest
Blackmarsh is a frontier land, filled with trackless wilderness, remote settleements, and the ruins of ancient civilizations. All of the following information would be familiar to your characters, assuming that they’ve been living in Blackmarsh for a reasonable amount of time…
The Grey Sea: The Grey Sea is known for its storms, strong currents, treacherous reefs, and superb fishing grounds. After the collapse of the Bright Empire reavers, vikings and pirates dominated the waters, but the rise of the Grand Kingdom has largely brought peace to the Grey Sea. Only the Vasan Vikings and a few pirate ships remain to challenge the might of the Grand Kingdom’s navy, though Acherite war ships and traders are beginning to make their presence felt.
Sheltered Bay: A chain of islands absorbs the brunt of any storm sweeping in from the Grey Sea.
It is also the only entrance into the Smoking Bay and the rest of Blackmarsh. There
is a 1 in 3 chance per day of encountering a ship entering or leaving the Smoking
Smoking Bay: The Mountain That Fell created the Smoking Bay and for a century afterwards,
pillars of steam rose from the waters and were seen for hundreds of miles away.
The pillars of steam have since subsided, but the name remains. The sea bottom is
a confusing maze of rubble with many areas unexplored. Many sea creatures
have moved in to take advantage of the chaotic terrain to hide.
The Black Marshes: The impact of The Mountain That Fell fractured this region forming the marshes that give the area its name. The marshes are fifteen miles north-south and over fifty miles east-west. The impact left several large lakes connected by a confusing maze of waterways and bogs. It offers a convenient place to hide for those who want keep their activities away from prying eyes. The water is black in color caused by the minerals leeching from the surrounding soil and vegetation, and tends to be highly acidic, corroding leather and metal swiftly, unless it is properly cared for. The swamps are filled with boggards, slaad, huge crocodiles and other horrors. It is also said to be the home of three ancient marsh hags; Gristla, Rancilla, and Thagriss. If none of these horrors claim you, the many diseases which infest its black waters very well might.
Shadowglen: This dark, ancient wood is a place of danger and mystery. The great stands of oak, ash and willow create a canopy that blocks out the light of the sun, turning the heart of this mighty forest into a shadowy maze of thickets and glow-fungus. Sane folk steer well clear of it, knowing it to be a haunting ground of dark fae and worse. Loggers tend to seek the more mundane timber of the Brackenwood, instead.
The Brackenwood: A rich source of oak and beech, this forest is often harvested by loggers from all over Blackmarsh. While it holds few dangers of the supernatural type, it is rumored to have become the hideout of a band of outlaws that plague the surrounding countryside.
0217 Oldan Hold, Pop: 342, Dwarf; Align L; Ruler: Lord Mazardan, Ftr6, L, Dwarf; Resource: Market.
Oldan Hold is the northernmost outpost of the Dwarven Kingdom of Bolzak. It was founded as a base for the search of numen by the Ironmasters of Bolzak. It’s become an entrepôt where merchants all over Blackmarsh come and trade with the dwarves. There are 5d10 foreign merchants (human, elf, halflings) with their guards present.
Lord Mazardan was one of the most successful explorers and appointed as Lord of Oldan Hold two decades ago. He is also High Captain of the Northern Company of Adventurers- an association of explorers looking for sources of numen. Every year he hosts a grand banquet in the company hall where members and their friends eat and tell tales of their discoveries.
0309 The Sundered Keep; This crumbling wizard’s keep dates back a thousand years to the time of the Bright Empire. At the behest of the Blackmarsh rangers, several adventuring companies have forayed into its depths. None have ever emerged from them.
0407 Blackoak Castle; Sinerian, Ftr4/Mu6 L, Elf; 50 elves, 60 men, 40 dwarves, 20 halflings.
This castle is the headquarters of the Blackmarsh Rangers, an organization dedicated to preserving peace between the races and keeping Blackmarsh free from the depredations of monsters. They consider the Brotherhood of the Raven their mortal enemy (see 1807). The Temple of Thor at Castle Blackmarsh is an ally especially when monsters are involved.
The Blackmarsh Rangers were founded by the legendary Geran Blackoak fifteen centuries ago during the invasion of the Ostrobard barbarians. Geran Blackoak was instrumental in restoring the peace. While he failed to unite them politically, a tradition of mutual assistance took hold among the races.
The castle serves as the primary training ground for new rangers recruits as well as a meeting place for the biannual gathering of the captains. It contains workshops and stores to supply the various ranger circles wandering throughout Blackmarsh. Druids of the Wild Host, are traditionally stationed at the castle to provide aid and support. Thanks to the elves, one of the finest schools of magic in the Blackmarsh region is found here. The school tends to study the practical rather than theoretical aspects of magic.
0409 Strangeholms, Pop: 292, Halfling; Align L; Ruler: Mayor Holbein Redleaf, 0-lvl, L; Resource: Farm.
Strangeholms is a halfling village that surrounds a large hill south of the Holms Water. The region around the village has rich soil for farming and the halflings supply much of the food needed by Castle Blackoak (see 0407).
Mayor Holbein, along with his constable, keeps the peace, but struggles when the occasional monster emerges from the ruined wizard keep (see 0309) to the northwest. In addition to being mayor, Holbein is a skilled painter and has had his work commissioned several times by the wealthy and nobles of Blackmarsh.
0608 Ashdown, Pop: 121, Mixed; Align L; Ruler: Councilor Neera Dane, Ftr6, L; Resource: Market.
Ashdown is home to many retired rangers as well as the spouses and children of rangers currently on duty. Neera Dane, a retired ranger captain, leads the village council and operates under the authority of the high captain of the rangers. She and the villagers will gladly aid any friend and ally of the rangers. Halflings, men, dwarves, and elves can be found living here.
0610 Greenton, Pop: 642, Halfling, human, dwarf, gnome; Align L; Ruler: Ealdorman Paddock Ryburn, L; Resource: Farm.
Greenton is the chief agricultural settlement of the Blackmarsh region and an important market for the surrounding farms. Here merchants from across Blackmarsh flock to purchase grain and other produce to export back to their home regions. When in residence, the merchants stay in a hamlet just outside of Greenton known as Sack. So named from the stuffed woolsacks the merchants sit on while bidding or negotiating prices. Ealdorman Paddock maintains a large contingent of 20 constables led by Sherriff Barris Ironoak to keep the merchants in their place.
0712 The Lanis Lighthouse; This ruined tower was once used as a lighthouse. It guided ships to the mouth of the Lanis River. Built during the Bright Empire it was abandoned several centuries ago. Since then, a succession of leaders of chaos expanded the complex beneath the tower to create a base to be used against Castle Blackmarsh (see 0913). Currently, it’s believed to be empty, having been cleared by adventurers over forty years ago after the killing of Sardamadax, an undead vampire magic-user.
0913 Castle Blackmarsh, Pop: 5,294, Men; Align N; Ruler: Governor Tyrilas, Elf, Ftr4/Mu2, L; Resource: Market.Castle Blackmarsh is the largest settlement in the Blackmarsh region. It was originally founded by the Bright Empire over a thousand years ago and served as the main port for various settlements and conclaves of magic-users. It was ruled by a governor appointed by the emperor and advised by a council of magic-users and merchants.
It survived the fall of the Bright Empire and became an independent city-state dominating the settlements along the southern shore of the Smoking Bay. The economic decline caused most of the outlying settlements to be abandoned a century after the empire’s collapse. The mages established themselves in Castle Blackmarsh, forming a conclave in the castle.
They dominated the city-state for several centuries occasionally allying with the other races to defeat common threats. In that time the population of the town stabilized and found a small amount of prosperity as adventurers entered Blackmarsh searching for numen.
A century ago, an ambitious magic-user named Sardamadax maneuvered his way into control of the council. He seized absolute control of Castle Blackmarsh and ruled as a tyrant for several decades. It is rumored that he accomplished this through a strange helmet capable of mind control. His attempt at empire building was thwarted. The rangers retook Castle Blackmarsh with a combined force of different races and Blackmarsh exiles.
The elves took control of the settlement and appointed a governor at the head of the reformed council. Castle Blackmarsh, the home of the wizard’s conclave, was the site of many of Sardamadax’s experiments and magical researches. Even after a century of rule, not all of the levels that Sardamadax created have been explored.
Forty years ago, Sardamadax reappeared as a vampire magic-user and attempted to retake Castle Blackmarsh. He was destroyed, supposedly, by a band of adventurers and his base at the old Lanis Lighthouse (see 0712) was purged.
Castle Blackmarsh Establishments
1) Blackmarsh Castle
The castle is currently under occupation by the Greywood Elves. They maintain sole control to prevent former allies of Sardamadax from gaining access to the lower levels. They do not have the manpower to clear the dungeons. They will allow adventuring parties who have the recommendation of the Blackmarsh Rangers or the Temple of Thor to enter. The elves have an arrangement with the Temple of Thor to provide healing at good rates for those that require it.
2) Temple of Janus
This once glorious temple to the God of Magic has fallen into decay. The near destruction of the society of magic-users and scholars by Sardamadax has left little for donations to maintain the grounds and buildings. Much of their income comes from charging for access to their extensive library of magic, legend, and lore.
3) Temple of Thor
This temple was established soon after the fall of Sardamadax. With their allies, the Blackmarsh Rangers, they rid the town of the many magical traps, devices, and creatures left behind. Since then they have been the most popular temple with the hall packed on holy days. They actively seek out newcomers and encourage them to form adventuring parties. They will either send them to the elves to explore Castle Blackmarsh or into the surrounding countryside to respond to the many requests for aid.
4) Merry Legs Banquet Hall
This is the largest banquet hall in Castle Blackmarsh. Unlike the Numen Club it is not exclusive and any adventuring party that is willing to pay its fees may make use of the main hall and the many private dining rooms. It also makes suites of 3 to 4 rooms available to rent for parties needing a place to stay. During the evening hours, merchants, caravan masters, and ship captains dine and drink in the main hall seeking business opportunities. Starting an hour after sunset the floor show starts, it features singing bards, dancing wenches, and juggling dwarves.
5) The Scholar’s Inn
This is the largest inn in town. It has an extensive library that is open to patrons. It doesn’t have the depth of the library at the Temple of Janus, but it has more current material. Nearly half of the rooms are rented to what remains of the Blackmarsh Guild of Wizards. Survivors of Sardamadax’s reign and the elven takeover have congregated here to restart the guild. However, the town’s mistrust has hindered their recovery.
6) The Numen Club
This is a banquet hall open to members only. Only elite explorers and adventurers are invited and the yearly fees are said to be ruinous. However, membership gives access to information and lore found nowhere else. The few that are invited gladly pay.
7) Dax Brothers Outfitters
Founded by two brothers five decades ago, this is the premier shop to buy equipment in the Blackmarsh region. They import the best from the Grand Kingdom and beyond. Their prices are 20% higher than normal, but the equipment’s quality gives a +1 or +5% bonus to dice rolls involving their use. The Dax Brothers passed away long ago and currently a large group of cousins are involved in running the store. Many of them are overseas or scattered throughout the Blackmarsh region looking for the latest goods to bring back to the shop.
8) Emporium of the Strange and Arcane
Not all magic-users in Blackmarsh struggled after the fall of Sardamadax and the takeover by the Elves. Thil the Cowled proved himself an ally of the elves and the Blackmarsh Rangers and became one of the first adventurers to become rich from exploring the dungeons beneath the castle. After retiring from adventuring, he established the emporium to buy and trade magic items. Now 102 years old, he leaves the day-to-day operation to his apprentices, but will still participate in negotiations for high value items.
Adventurers will find that there is an 80% chance that magic items worth 1,000 GP or lower can be found in stock. For items up to 5,000 GP value there is a 20% chance of being in stock. For more valuable items, these are auctioned off every quarter at the Numen Club. For non-members there is a 1,000 GP entrance fee.
9) The Abrams Company
John Abrams is the most successful ship magnate in the Blackmarsh region and one of the leading trading companies on the Grey Sea. He owns over two dozen ships of various sizes, ranging from one-mast coasters to caravels capable of crossing the vast distances to the Golden Shore beyond the Sunrise Sea. With a recommendation, he will let an adventuring party charter one of his ships.
10) The Blackmarsh Company of Adventurers
The Company of Adventurers is largest company of caravanmasters in the Blackmarsh region. They organize overland caravans to Greywood, the Duchy of the Ostrobards, and into Southland. Matthew Thanes is the latest Captain General to lead the company and is always on the lookout for new members to join as merchants, scouts, or guards.
1113 Inuacus Keep; Sir Causari, Ftr10, L; 50 men.
This keep is an outpost of Castle Blackmarsh and protects the surrounding farms from monsters moving north from the Black Marshes, as well as Sardamadax loyalists located in Jorvik. Sir Causari is the leader of a faction that wants to see the elves leave Castle Blackmarsh and restore human rule.
1213 Ramat; Located on Witch Hill are the foundations of Ramat, an old ruined monastery of Janus, from the time of the Bright Empire. It was home to a potent holy artifact known as the Spear of Jupiter. All records on the monastery were lost after the empire’s retreat.
1307 Sorceresses Isle; This forested island lies unspoiled in the middle of the Smoking Bay. The sorcereress Narcissa (Mu9) ensures that it stays that way. She relies on several dryads (HD 2, charm) for aid. She was once the lover of the Wizard of the Isle, (see 1309) but he spurned her several centuries ago. Because of this any male interlopers will stay as the guest of the dryads for a long, long time. Females will just experience memory loss and put adrift to sea.
1309 Wizards Isle; like its sister island, Sorceresses Isle, this island is all that remains of The Mountain That Fell. It is incredibly rich in numen although the lack of any beach and the steep slopes make it difficult to get around. Any who managed to brave the island not only has to contend with the ire of the Wizard of the Isle but the numerous flyers dwelling around the slopes. There have been reports of gargoyles, wyverns, griffons, hippogriffs, pegasi, chimerae, manticores, and even rocs nesting near the summit.
The smaller island off the southwest shore is home to the mysterious Wizard of the Isle (Mu18). His presence goes back centuries and all anybody knows of him is that he is the self-appointed guardian of what remains of The Mountain That Fell.
1316 Jorvik, Pop: 481, Man; Align N; Ruler: Lord Maracan, Ftr11, C; Resource: Market.
Jorvik was once one of the small villages allied with Castle Blackmarsh until a century ago. When Sardamadax’s rule was overthrown, several of his supporters fled to Jorvik and fortified the village. They attempted several plots to retake Castle Blackmarsh, but failed. Their aid of Sardamadax’s last failed attempt (see 0712) nearly ruined them and they were forced to pay tribute to Castle Blackmarsh.
1518 Norbury Castle; Sir Dennis Langre, Ftr9, L; 120 men.
This is the northernmost outpost of the Vasa Province of the Grand Kingdom. Completed only five years ago, it is hoped that the castle will serve as a gateway for merchants and explorers from the Grand Kingdom into Blackmarsh. Sir Dennis Langre served on the frontier with Grand Kingdom’s rival the Ochre Empire, in his youth. His skills so impressed the Cammorian Empress, she wooed the young mercenary away from his employers, knighted him, and put him in command of this newly built castle.