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Blog #14: Designing Thornkeep

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Designing Thornkeep - by Rich Baker

The Strongest Rules
I went back home and cracked open the books, studying up on the northwest corner of the River Kingdoms. The first bit of writing I did for the project was simply assembling a timeline of what exactly was in this area, and when it existed. I discovered references to Azlanti ruins in the Echo Wood, an old goblin-kingdom known as Zog, and tribes of Kellid barbarians passing through the area to raid the lands to the south. Those elements gave me the kernels of Thornkeep's identity: After Zog was wiped off the map about four hundred years ago, an illegitimate Ustalavic lord by the name of Anton Druscor decided to establish a holding of his own on the east bank of the West Sellen. He claimed that he was clearing and settling the forest, but in truth he wanted to set himself up as a robber baron and make a comfortable living off the trade along the river. Over generations, the Druscors slowly died out, and an ambitious crusader lord passing through the area saw Thornkeep virtually undefended and decided he liked the idea of being a baron better than fighting demons in some northern waste. This established the sad tradition that survives in Thornkeep to this day: If you control the castle, you can call yourself the Baron, and you get to rule Thornkeep until the next adventurer, gang leader, or bandit prince ousts you and takes your place. The current ruler is Baron Tervin Blackshield, a mercenary captain who seized the castle from the previous baron just two years ago and is now rarely seen outside its walls.
Options for Jason Bulmahn's level:
  • Haunted Crypts: The dead do not rest easy in the crypts beneath the goblin warren. Undead prowl the ancient halls, but one lone figure moves among them, clad in scarlet robes, bearing an ancient silver lantern. What's worse, the dead seem to follow his commands.
  • etc...
Options for James Jacobs' level:
  • Caverns of the Blind God: The degenerate descendants of the wizard's apprentices live on in these tangled caverns in a way, although their lives are in fact unlives, for they have become ghouls and worse. They follow the commands of the squirming thing they know as the Blind God, a creature that dwells at the heart of the caverns and who will soon wish to spread its influence into the lands above.
  • etc...
Options for Erik Mona's level:
  • The Halls of Refuse: The malignant leakage of 100 centuries pools in this fetid ruin, smeared with ancient oozes and polluted by far more contemporary mutants. With rival adventurers seeking to plunder the halls of their remaining treasures and a bizarre intelligence fueling the amorphous inhabitants, the Halls of Refuse promise rich rewards for those willing to risk an oozy oblivion.
  • etc...


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