Campaign Background – Elsir Vale
Elsir Vale is a thinly populated predominantly human frontier surrounded by wilderlands in the western part of Klarn. The vale stretches almost 250 miles east to west and averages about 70 miles north to south. Several small mountain ranges and dense forests form the vale’s borders. North of the vale once one passes through the WyvernWatch Mountains is the floating island of Klarn itself. Summers are hot and dry, punctuated by the occasional thunderstorm, winters are mild and rainy. The heroes’ tale starts in the middle of a hot, dry summer. A number of human towns and villages lie scattered across the vale, most of them along the Dawn Way, an important east-west traderoute ultimately connecting the Central Plain to the Sea of Eternity.
1000 years ago it was just a part of a mighty dwarven kingdom which spanned all of the mountain ranges around the vale. Now all that remains of the dwarfs’ works are a few bridges, cisterns and the Dawn Way, called the Dwarf Road on older maps, a flagstone paved road that runs the length of the vale and beyond. The Dawn Way is the trade link of the Vale, both within its borders, and linking it to areas beyond. Hundreds of years passed before a human kingdom, Rhest, grew up out of the remains of that land. That was 500 years ago. But it too fell, some 200 years ago, leaving the villages and towns to fend for themselves. That state has continued to this day…
Elsir River A broad, slow-moving river fed by a number of tributaries, It is generally 200-400 yards wide. A bridge crosses it at Brindol, and ferries operate at Drellin’s Ferry and Talar.
Rhestwash River Joins Lake Rhestin with the Elsir
Lake Rhestin A shallow, marshy lake almost 100 miles long north to south (think something the size of Champlain, Simcoe , even Lake of the Woods-ish). Its shores are dotted with the ruins of abandoned villages and manors.
The Blackfens A marsh along the eastern shores of Lake Rhestin. It holds the ruins of Rhest.
The Witchwood A lush, wet woodland, interspersed with swampy stretches. Said to be haunted by restless spirits of ancient druids.
Wyvernwatch Mountains A forbidding range of high, steep mountains to the north.
Giantshield Mountains A low range of arid, well-weathered peaks to the south with a number of mining and farming settlements in its foothills.
Wyrmsmoke Mountains A rugged set of hills and low mountains featuring several active volcanoes. Plumes of smoke and ash can be seen arising from the region’s interior. Home to a number of goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear tribes.
The Thornwaste A vast barren land featuring mazes of broken hills, briar-choked ravines, and dry, dusty scrubland giving way to true desert terrain deeper in. Home to savage man-eating lions, sphinxes, and other hungry monsters.
Along the Dwarfroad
Overlook The city of Overlook stands on the eastern slopes of the Stonehome Mountains, a hoary range of crumbling peaks as old as the world. The city’s founding lies sometime far back in the mists of time, at a point after the dwarves in this region threw off the shackles of slavery and chased the giants and orcs west across the mountains at the end of the Age of Chains. Overlook, and the fastness of Bordrin’s Watch, were raised to safeguard the liberated dwarf peoples and to be the first line of defense should their ancient enemies forget their defeat and seek to enslave the dwarves once more.
Armistice Purported to be the site of victory of the giants and orcs, here the freed dwarves signed a compact of peace that would bind them into one nation. Now the kingdom is no more, so Armistice is just a relic of the past filled with old codgers who think back on better days.
Bordrin’s Watch Straddling the old Dwarfroad is a mighty fortress that was raised to control traffic across the mountains and protect the Elsir Vale from attack. Bordrin’s Watch contains one of the three access points to the tunnels beneath the mountains. The stronghold consists of a long wall, which is 150-feet tall and over 80 feet thick at the base, and it is punctuated with steep towers fitted with arrowslits. Battlements cap the wall, allowing sentries to watch the pass and defend the fortress from attack. Atop each tower is a pair of catapults. Ballistae and scorpions are positioned every 40 feet along the wall’s length. In the center of the pass is a massive gate. Its doors stand 100-feet tall, and it takes 40 aurochs (prehistoric bulls) to pull them open. The gatehouse surrounding the doors consists of two towers, each as tall as the wall and wider than three standing towers together. Bordrin’s Watch can accommodate 3,000 soldiers on the walls and in the towers, but the grounds on the eastern side of the pass can hold up to 100 times this number if need be. Granaries are replenished each season, fed by towns, hamlets, and communities all under Overlook’s protection. The stores can keep a modest-sized force fed and watered for up to six months without needing to resupply. Like the Monastery, the Watch contains a secret staircase that winds down into the mountain and connects at a large room called the Nexus. There, soldiers at the Watch could move beneath the feet of their enemy and strike them from behind. This passage hasn’t been used in centuries and only a scant few know of its existence.
Elsir River The headwaters of the Elsire River flow in a series of waterfalls that drain the mountains back into the valley to the east. West of Sodden (see below), the river is too rough and hides too many rocks for boats to navigate, though from Sodden, one can travel across the valley, going as far as Brindol.
Feud Two dwarf families dominate this tiny hamlet and, as their name indicated, they are prone to violence. The only thing they can’t stand more than one another is outsiders.
Hope Another speck of a town, Hope appeared after prospectors found a vein of silver nearby. Once the vein played out, most of the miners moved north to Armistice, but a few stubborn folk live here still, working the mines in search of precious metals. Travelers have reported that something is not right with these people and there’s a feeling that the citizens of Hope are hiding something sinister.
Lantern A minuscule settlement of just fifty souls, Lantern is little more than a logging camp.
Monastery of the Sundered Chain About eighteen miles southwest of Overlook stands the old Monastery of the Sundered Chain. Raised to house an order of holy warriors in service to Moradin, the templars have largely withdrawn from Overlook, seeing the city as having lost its identity. Even though the relationship is strained, the monastery and the city remain allies. The monastery contains one of three access points to the tunnels beneath the Stonehome Mountains. The templars are reputed to be the only ones with the knowledge of how to close off the tunnels. Kalad is the only surviving templar after the recent orc assault that was ultimately repelled by the Brindol Brigade.
Myler’s Stone This town was once a large city, but years of decay, disease, and tragedy reduced the place to a handful of desperate people eking out an existence in the ruins of the past.
Old Den A trade depot used by rangers and elves alike, this site is a cluster of wooden buildings surrounded by a palisade.
Shackles Overlook’s sister, Shackles was a powerful city and was the former capital of the fallen dwarven kingdom. It fell nearly two centuries ago when the orcs sacked it before the kingdom could respond.
Sodden A small town at the headwaters of the Elsir River, this is a quaint community of farmers and fisherfolk. They work well with the elves, which is perhaps the only thing that stops the elves from erasing Lantern altogether.
The Vents Natural fissures vent steam from a superheated underground lake. The tunnels are dangerous since they are also choked with foul monsters of the Underdark, dangerous flora, and vicious fauna.
The Westdeep This dense forest grows in the narrow depression between the Stonehome and Wyrmsmoke Mountains. A dangerous place, several tribes of xenophobic elves live here, and they do not take kindly to trespassers. Conflict between the loggers at Lantern and the elves has come close to open war, and it’s known that if the elves attack, the dwarves will be forced to respond.
Settlements along the Dawn Way
Drellin’s Ferry The western gateway to the Elsir Vale, once known as Dwarfbridge. Long ago, the Elsir was spanned by dwarf bridge here, but about a hundred years ago, a great flood washed out the bridge. An enterprising man named Drellin hammered together a ferry to maintain a river-crossing here and a town eventually grew up around the enterprise. Drellin is lead by Town Speaker Wiston and caters to travellers along the Dawn Way.
Terrelton A dusty town that gets by on livestock and leather trades. Several large, foul-smelling tanneries sit in the hills east of town. The town is governed by a corrupt Merchant Council.
Nimon Gap A tiny hamlet located at the place where the Dawn Way descends out of the Nimon Hill. The folk of Nimon Gap grow apples, pears and chestnuts and keep goats up in the hills.
Talar Talar is a small town governed by Lady Nesten, a high spirited young woman who recently took over from her deceased father.
Brindol The largest settlement in the vale, after Dennowar, Brindol is a prosperous farming community and caravan stopover on the south bank of the Elsir River. Orchards and broad grain fields surround the city for miles in all directions. Brindol is ruled over by Lord Jarmaath and his small keep and the city walls are the only fortifications of note this side of Dennovar. The Lion Guard, clad in blue and white, watches over the city.
Marthton This small town thrives on woodcutting and catering to traders on the Dawn Way. Lord Rethrew lays heavy taxes on the people of Marthton. In the hills nearby lie a number of ancient barrows and stone circles of a druidic fold that lived here before humans settled these lands.
Dennovar The largest city of the vale, located at the entrance of the vale on the shores of Lake Ern. Lady Bristeir rules over Dennovar in title, but the real power lies with the Merchant’s Council. Dennovar is also noteworthy for its many temples, overlooked by the Temple Council.
North of the Dawn Way
Elsir Cross A small town at a ford of the Elsir River, known for woodcutting and papermaking. Ruled over by Baron Trask and the rest of his no-good clan of thugs.
Witchcross A large village located at the ford of the Witchstream. It is ostensibly governed by a council of elders, but they always consult a circle of Witchwood druids, the Keepers of Eth lead by Adranna the Young, before making any decisions.
Red Rock Rich copper veins in the high foothills of the Giantshield Mountains gave rise to the rough-and-tumble mining town of Red Rock. In addition to the copper mines, Red rock also serves as a trading post for trappers, hunters and prospectors who wander all over the southern flank of the mountains. A number of dwarves and half-orcs live here, with no small amount of bad blood between them.
South of the Dawn Way
Prosser A village located about halfway between Brindol and Hillwatch, Prosser is a quiet little place. Deillyr, a retired adventurer, runs the town’s taphouse and serves as head of the village.
Dauth A sleepy little hamlet halfway between Brindol and the Hammerfist Holds.
Hammerfist Holds A half-dozen dwarf clanholds that sometimes trade with the humans of the vale. Each of the holds is a hamlet or village, home to about a hundred dwarves. They are renowned for crafting weapons and armour.
Hillwatch A dusty hamlet mostly populated by shepherds and cattleherds.