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Smokefire Bay (Randall Walker)



Randall Walker, here.  I usually post as Dead Orcs, and I write for Initiative or What?, one of the newer blogs in the RPG Blogger family. 

Here are the areas I'll be detailing in my little part of the world.  These territories all exist together in hex 0803.  In addition to detailing the general area here, I'll be detailing the following areas:

Smokefire Island:  Technically a peninsula, the island (cut off by volcanic mountains) is run by the enigmatic bard, Caruso.  The bard is not a native of the island, but the native islanders owe him for his protection and are fiercely loyal.

Free City of Helmsport:
  Set on the western slope of the northeastern continent, Helmsport lies nearly directly east of Smokefire Island.  The city is known for its tiered structure, the inhabitants utilizing the high winds of the region to propel wind carts up the rails that link one layer of the city to another.  Well known for its independent nature, the city lays claim to a few miles of mainland and serves as a buffer to potential invaders from the south.

Mosswind Caverns:  Set within the northern coast of Smokefire Bay, the Mosswind Caverns are an area of karst topography that has linked to the sea.  The area is home to at least one dragon, a dangerous covey of harpies, and a couple of warring tribes of humanoids.  Adventurers flock to the place in hopes to find the treasure of a lost merman kingdom rumored to have existed in the area centuries past.  The rare goods dealers in Helmsport aren't going begging for rare artifacts, so some of rumors just might be true.

BOOK I:

THE BAY REGION

 Watching the tanned islanders scour his ship for valuables, Captain Sorensen struggled with the rope bonds tying him to the mast of his own ship.  He could hear his First Mate, Johansson, muttering under her breath.

            “Damned barbarians.  Caruso has no right keeping the elixir to himself.”

            “Save your breath, Johansson.  We only took a small sample, and you have that well hidden.  Once they’ve searched the ship and found nothing, they’ll let us be on our way.”

            “I hope you’re right, Captain.  These ropes are starting to chafe.”  Captain Sorensen felt the ropes move slightly as Johansson continued to struggle.

            After a several minutes, one of the larger islanders approached the Captain.  Sweating heavily, the islander’s ebony hair hung about his shoulders matted with sea salt and blood.  Pointing his sword at Sorensen, the islander spoke,  “Return what you have stolen and King Caruso will let you live.”

 Sorensen had figured the islanders would be easy dupes – disorganized, superstitious, and unobservant.  To his discomfort, he had been dead wrong.  Whatever Caruso was producing on the island, it was making him money.  The islanders were decked out in fancy leather armor and carrying steel cutlasses.  They were also skilled in shipboard combat and had managed to shadow his exploration party all the way into the interior of the island.  As a final affront, the islanders turned out to be well spoken and extremely loyal to their king.  It was now clear that he had been the one that had been duped.

 Eying the steel pointing dangerously close to his face, Sorensen cleared his throat.

“Look, I’ve already told you.  You’ve massacred most of my men, or taken them captive.  You’ve scoured my ship and liberated everything that wasn’t nailed down.  I don’t have anything else!”

Captain Sorensen hoped his face was sincere.  Eying the man tied to the mast, the large islander grunted.

“Okay then.”  Looking up, he gestured to two of his men, “Kill them both and search the bodies.”

Two nearby islanders drew their weapons and approached the mast.  Captain Sorensen and First Mate Johansson struggled.

“Wait, wait!”  Sorensen kicked out with his feet for emphasis.  The large islander gave a quick gesture, and the others halted.

“Johansson, we’re done.  Give them the vial.  They’re not gonna let us go without it.”

“But, Captain.  Everything we’ve worked for.  What will the Syndicate say?”

“Damn the Syndicate, Johansson.  Just give them the vial.”

The large islander gestured again and one of his men moved toward First Mate Johansson.  Leaning in close, the man sneered and ripped open the bodice of her shirt.  Thrusting his hand rudely into her cleavage, the man grasped at something and shouted in triumph.

“I’ve found it, Boss!”

As the groping islander removed his hand, Johansson spit into his face.  Laughing, he tossed a small glass vial to the larger islander.  Catching it easily, the large islander held it up to the light of the setting sun.

“Excellent!  King Caruso will be pleased.  Thank you for returning what is not yours.”  Gesturing once again to his men, the larger islander added, “Kill them.”

Paling, Captain Sorensen and First Mate Johansson waited for the blows to come.  Interrupting their doom, a low rumble rolled over the ship.  Looking to the south, they could see the sky filling with smoke and fire. 

Glancing about each other excitedly, the islanders dropped what they were doing and headed to the numerous outrigger canoes tied to the ship.  Sheathing his own cutlass, the large islander looked to the south and smiled grimly.

“It seems one of our Sisters would like to have a word with you, Captain Sorensen.”  Running to the rail of the ship, the large islander vaulted over and landed in a waiting outrigger canoe.  Watching the canoes paddle hurriedly away, Sorensen felt a warm rain of ash begin to fall; and heard the rattle of small smoldering stones bouncing on to the deck of the ship.  As small fires began to ignite portions of the deck, Sorensen and Johansson could hear the islander shout,

“No one steals the Elixir of Eternity!”

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Smokefire Bay!  My name is Randall (Dead Orcs) Walker and I write a blog called, “Initiative or What?”.  As part of the RPG Blogger’s Network, I feel privileged to take part in this shared campaign setting, tentatively called, “Blogaria”.  Please allow me to be your guide to Hex 0803, otherwise known as, “Smokefire Bay”.

Before we dive into the wealth of adventuring opportunity that can be found in Smokefire Bay, I’d like to get a little housekeeping out of the way.  For you other collaborators out there, whenever you see something in brackets like this [like this], it means I need your input.  Those brackets mean that I have referred to a portion of the world map for which I don’t have information.  As you read this part of the campaign setting, please watch for these, and send me an email if you can fill in the requisite information. 

OVERVIEW

On the Northeastern Continent, where the southern edge of the land cuts north into the interior, lies a strange fish-shaped island and a region of Blogaria known as Smokefire Bay. Distant from more settled lands to the south and west, Smokefire Bay is the home of the immortal bard, Caruso; and also the independent traders and whalers that live in the Free City of Helmsport. 

Lying at middle latitudes as it does, Smokefire Bay sees its share of the four seasons.  Ocean breezes keep summers cool along the coast; but can create hot and dry conditions south and east of the Anchor Mountains.  Prevailing winds blow in from the west; winter storms dumping a fair share of snow on everything the Five Sisters can’t reach.  Spring rains come warm, however, and most snows have melted into the Norn and Little Rivers by the end of the fourth month.  Summer storms are intense, but brief; rarely lasting more than a few hours.  Rain is at its most intense in the autumn months, with frequent gales raking the coast.  However, the mountainous terrain of Smokefire Island prevents the worst of the storms originating in the Earendal from having much impact further north.  Still, those gales and hurricanes that do manage to strike the southern end of Smokefire Island are brutal; and when a storm sets its eye on the Cauldron, creatures of all types go to ground and await their fate.

The area referred to as “Smokefire Bay” encompasses not only the coast of the bay itself; but also the odd peninsula known as Smokefire Island.  Here, five large volcanoes spew smoke and lava into the sky.  These Five Sisters, as the natives of the island refer to them, give the area its name.

Almost directly east of Smokefire Island and across the Cauldron, is the trading city of Helmsport.  A free city with independent status, Helmsport also claims several miles of land to the north and east of its location.  The city does a brisk trade in all goods related to sea-going pursuits; but also trades in artifacts recovered from the other big attraction to the area, Mosswind Caverns.

While Smokefire Island, The Free City of Helmsport, and Mosswind Caverns represent the largest attractions to visitors and adventurers in the area; Smokefire Bay also contains other regions ripe for exploration and adventure.  Smokefire Bay is sparsely settled, and strange creatures and rich treasures from forgotten ages can still be found amid the wilderness.

GEOGRAPHY

Bodies of Water

While there is ample land making up the area of Smokefire Bay, the waters that surround the place are the very reason most people live and work here.  Detailed below are the major bodies of water found in the region.

 Earendal Sea

The saline waters that flow between the Northeastern and Southeastern Continents go by many names.  To the peoples and creatures of Smokefire Bay, it is known as the Earendal Sea.  Deep currents carry ships with ease from western lands and deposit them in places such as [Hex 0704, 0905, and 1004].  Of course, a major destination for ships plying the deep seas is the City of Helmsport. 

Hurricanes and gales whip up in the autumn months to wreak havoc along the coasts of both continents that border the sea.  At other times of the year, deep rolling waves churn the stomachs of those that would travel these waters.

Fishing is poor within the sea itself, but whale boats and monster hunters have frequent targets for their barbed harpoons.  Of course, more than one ship has met its doom while trying to haul in a prized kraken or famed leviathan. 

Smokefire Bay

The body of water for which this area is named, Smokefire Bay is relatively calm compared to the rolling currents of the Earendal.  Ringed nearly completely by massive cliff faces, Smokefire Bay provides shelter for ships and creatures alike.

A seemingly endless supply of herring, cod, and snapper make fishing the bread and butter of most of the inhabitants of this region.  Seasonably available lobster and oyster complete the aquatic bounty.  Fishermen compete eagerly for the best spots, but avoid approaching the territories claimed by King Caruso, lest they run afoul of the islanders.

When the Five Sisters are speaking, the southeastern limb of the bay can be shrouded in thick (and sometimes poisonous) fog, and is to be avoided by all but the most desperate (or foolhardy).  Thanks to the volcanism of the area, the bay stays unfrozen; even in the depths of winter.  This fact makes it attractive to those wishing to wait out the season in the relative safe ports of the region.

At least one settlement of locathah are known to dwell at the bottom of the bay.  In general, they avoid conflict and prefer to frighten errant fishermen off, as opposed to openly attacking them.  It is rumored that the oldest of these people remember the ancient merfolk settlement that used to lay claim to the lower reaches of the Mosswind Caverns.

The Cauldron

In stark contrast to the calm waters of Smokefire Bay, The Cauldron is a small bay formed by the southern coast of Smokefire Island and the opposite coast of the mainland.  While the waters up to the point of Helmsport are relatively safe, traveling further north is to risk certain imperilment. 

The northern waters of the bay are rife with volcanism.  Steam vents under the bay erupt at random, sending boiling water shooting hundreds of feet into the sky.  In addition, gaseous “sitz” emissions can foam the water and cause it to lose its buoyancy, sinking instantly any ship that strays into the affected area.  These dangers, as well as volcanic eruptions from the Sisters or seismic waves that can sink ships and devastate shorelines, make the region entirely too hazardous.  Only the high cliff walls and mountainous terrain that surround the bay prevent these dangers from spilling out and effecting the entire region.

While it is thought that normal sea life is scarce here, things terrible and aberrant do live beneath the waves.  Creatures of an elemental nature; used to the scalding heat and tortured earth are known to inhabit the region.  These creatures come forth periodically to terrorize Helmsport and the surrounding area.

Forests

The majority of the land surrounding Smokefire Bay is dry grassland or steppe.  However, in those places where the water table comes closer to the surface, forests of varying sizes have sprouted.  Small copses of trees and small woods dot the countryside.  The larger and more notable of such areas are detailed below.

Delson’s Woods

Lying approximate thirty miles off the western coast of the bay, Delson’s Woods is named for the small stone marker that can be found by the side of the only southern road that leads into the forest from Westbay.  The marker is like many found in the region, save for the inscription that is carved on the stone in the Common tongue:  “This Be Delson’s Woods”.

The stone is only about three feet tall, and worn smooth by the constant leaning of passersby.  However, the age and design of the script show that the stone is at least 2400 years old.  There being no other authority to date the forest, the stone is considered by locals to state the truth.  As a result, the name stuck.  Whoever Delson is, these are apparently his woods.

The forest isn’t especially dense, so it makes an ideal habitat for small antelope and deer.  Predators such as bear and wolf feed on this bounty, as well as the smaller prey that scurry about the forest’s light undergrowth.  Composed of large oaks and elms, with a scattering of maples and birches; the trees here stand tall, and are very old indeed.  Heavily harvested in the south, the town of Westbay uses the larger oaks as shipbuilding material.  The famed “Delson’s Cogs” are stoutly built ships, made from the timber harvested from this area.

Stranger creatures prowl the forest as well.  Responsible folk do not travel the forest at night unless accompanied by skilled woodsmen or rangers.  Skilled guides can be hired in Westbay for a silver a night; but be warned, not all guides are what they seem.  The road through Delson’s Woods is generally quiet; but away from the road, giant spiders and small tribes of kobolds can menace travelers not keeping to the path.

Druids and others with some knowledge of nature note that the forest was once much larger than it is today.  Based on the terrain and existing plant life, these sources guess that the western edge of the forest once lay over sixty miles further north.  Whether its sized was reduced by forestry or natural means, is unknown.

South Forest

This unimaginatively named forest lies approximately 150 miles directly east of  Helmsport, and a little less than 60 miles north of the town of Southend.  The forest is no less dense than Delson’s Woods, but contains a good deal more maple and birch than does the former.

With few settlements in the area, the forest is rarely harvested, except to provide for the occasional building in Southend or Helmsport.  The forest has been spared the depredations of a ship-building city, as the trees here do not grow tall or straight enough to make good masts.  Hence, the ship-building industry never really took hold in Helmsport.  However, the maples here provide an excellent sap for syrup, and many of the trees are marked by established sugar farms in the area.  These trees are almost always located along the southern edge of the forest, no further than two miles into the interior.

Deeper within the forest, a gnome settlement known as “Tinkers Dam” lives and thrives in the seclusion provided by the trees.  These gnomes trade eagerly with the humans and humanoids living in Southend, providing crude technological solutions to common problems such as irrigation, transportation, and basic building construction.   It is not uncommon to find wagons in this area branded with the letters “TD” (for Tinkers Dam), indicating the device is of gnomish construction.  In addition, many of the gnomes here are hard at work within the town of Southend on a major construction project (see Southend for more details).  It should be noted that Tinkers Dam is a closed city.  Visitors (usually traders) are required to stay in a specially constructed compound designed for larger folk.  The gnomes insist that no segregation is implied, they simply like their larger folk where they can be more comfortable.

The Thicket

Although the forest known as “The Thicket” is the smallest of the major wooded areas in the region, it is by far the most dense.  Enormous oak and elona trees stand no more than an outstretched arms length from each other in most parts of the forest.  Walking no further than fifty yards into the woods, the traveler is cast into an eternal twilight, as the dense foliage shuts out nearly all light, even on the brightest day. 

Even under normal conditions, such a forest would be foreboding.  Lending a heavier air to the place is the fact that nearly seventy percent of the trees here are treants.  Why the tree-men have chosen this particular spot on the continent to congregate is anyone’s guess; but even the oldest elves place their duration here to be over six thousand years.

For obvious reasons, logging is non-existent here.  First, it’s nearly impossible to determine what is simply an old tree, and what is a treant.  Second, as cutting into a treant is usually a fatal experience for the logger, such endeavors are doomed to fail from the start.  The rare fallen tree is occasionally allowed to be carted out of the forest, but only if it can be done without wielding axe or flame.  If the fallen tree turns out to be a deceased treant, then a boon is gained for the lucky axe man.  Dead treant wood or treanis, is rare and easily enchanted to form magical bows, staves, and a variety of other magical items.  It’s value is at least ten times that of ordinary wood used for similar purposes.

Deep within the center of The Thicket, there lies an enormous orchard.  At least, this is what is believed to be there.  Once a year, at a time locally called, “The Harvest”; huge mounds of apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and nuts of various kinds appear around the edge of the forest.  This event is assumed to happen overnight, although it’s likely it takes place over several days.  It would seem the treants themselves harvest this bounty and transport it to the edge of the forest.  The food is free to take (and seems invulnerable to rot) for at least a fortnight.  Visitors are warned to make off with their prizes quickly, however.  After a time, huge swarms of giant insects; wasps, ants, and beetles of all kinds, swarm out of the forest to remove the rest of the rotting fruit.  Anyone standing in their way is consumed horribly, and mechanically; as the treants do not intervene.  While the few Druids that live in the area hesitate to speculate as to the nature of this yearly event; it’s as likely as not to be just a natural process for the maintenance of the forest.  The treants are mostly silent on the subject.  Those that might speak, speak so slowly as to make such inquires impractical at best.

Mountains

While most of the land that comprises Smokefire Bay can be characterized as high plains, the eastern portion of the land is mountainous, having formed from a hot spot deep below the planet’s crust.  While most of the mountains in the area could be considered as one continuous chain, portions of the highlands are unique enough to warrant separate description.

Anchor Peaks

Forming the backbone of the mountainous region that leads from the volcanic peaks of Smokefire Island and northeast up into the continent; the Anchor Peaks are a fifty some mile wide chain of extinct volcanoes.  This area has been a volcanic hotspot for millions of years, and it is thought that whatever process is currently driving the Five Sisters probably created this chain of mountains as well.

Snow covers the tallest peaks year round, while the rest of the range is well blanketed throughout the winter months.  Even in the lower elevations, snow can be found for at least six months out of the year.  Spring melts come swiftly, and flash floods are common on the eastern slopes of this range, especially when the melt water overfills the banks of the Little River.

Other than a few stout villages nestled at the base of these peaks, civilized communities are rare for good reason.  Unfortunately, the empty magma chambers and ancient lava tunnels tend to make excellent lairs for a variety of horrible creatures.  Even the Obsidian Clan dwarves face constant incursions from nightmares that periodically break into their ancient and well established mines and halls.

Despite the creatures that lurk in the dark beneath the mountains, a few hardy folk brave the dangers and manage to eke out an existence mining the mineral wealth of the range.  The past volcanism here has left behind heavy veins of gold and copper ore.  In addition, gemstones are common if you go deep enough.  The dwarves here know this, and guard the richest sites with an unhealthy fervor.

Delver Hills

Worn into high rounded hills by the ravages of time, the Delver Hills are the eroded remnants of the northeastern terminus of the Anchor Peaks. 

Although the majority of the region can be characterized as wind-swept grassy hillocks, the Delver Hills are broken periodically by ancient volcanic remnants known as demon towers.  Despite the fierce name, demon towers are simply the basaltic remains of an ancient volcano’s main magma column.  Occasionally, one wall of such a column will collapse, forming a box canyon.  Such areas are ideal for hideouts and defense, as the remaining three walls of such a place are near impenetrable.  The trading town of Leander’s Rest is built into such a canyon and enjoys its sheltered location to this day.

The great deal of the mineral wealth that once enriched the Delver Hills, has likely been mined away by civilizations predating the current one.  Abandoned mines dot the region, and children are warned in fireside tales to avoid strange caves and openings in the ground. 

Smoke Ring Mountains

The ring of mountains that nearly encircles the whole of Smokefire Island are enigmatic to say the least.  While maps make the mountains appear as though they are related to the Anchor Peaks and the Five Sisters; scholars of the earth sciences believe the two areas to be unrelated in their formation.

Regardless of how they were formed, the Smoke Ring Mountains create a considerable barrier to the full exploration of Smokefire Island.  The mountains themselves are a combination of extinct volcanoes and ordinary mountain peaks.  The mountains end abruptly at the shoreline, and can reach some 12,000 feet into the sky. 

While the exterior slopes of these mountains are bare and intimidating, the interior slope of the range is said to be thick with lush vegetation.  Somewhere deep within this hidden verdant paradise is said to lie the secret of immortality.  Unfortunately, Fellini Caruso, the self-appointed king of the land, has sealed off all legitimate access to the place.  Only the very well prepared, or the extremely foolhardy, dare to challenge the range and the secrets it holds.

The Five Sisters

The indigenous people of Smokefire Island tell the following story:

Many lifetimes ago, even before Caruso King became boss in the land, there lived five beautiful sisters.  With raven hair and flashing eyes, each sister was generous and kind; and they spent all of their time together exploring the land.  One day, the sisters came upon an old crone sitting dejectedly in a pond.  When the sisters saw the old crone, they were curious and called out, “Why do you sit in the water, mother crone?  Your clothes are all wet!”

The old crone replied, “I was trying to wash my hair, when I slipped in the mud.  I am old and weak, and I cannot regain my feet.”

The five sisters took pity on the old crone and helped her out of the pond.  After they cleaned the old crone and brushed the weeds out of her hair, they set about making her more comfortable; for this was their way of treating the unfortunate.  The first sister, Lua Ahi, set about cooking a delicious meal for the old crone.  The second sister, Noevahi, showed the woman an exercise to make her bones stronger.  The third sister, Halalu, praised the old crone on her beauty and made her shake with laughter.  The fourth sister, Hiamoe, said little, and fell asleep in the old crone’s lap.  Finally, the fifth sister, Pahoehoe, found some stone and built the old crone a small shelter.

After a time, the old crone revealed to the five sisters that she was none other than Gaiamehu, the goddess of the earth.  Surprised and awed, the five sisters knelt at the goddess’s feet in reverence.  Bidding them rise, Gaiamehu spoke, “At long last the five sisters of Mohonokai have come to my home.  I did not believe the tales of your kindness and generosity; but you have proven the stories to be true.  For the kindness you have shown me, I will grant you each a special gift.”

She went to the first sister and said, “Lua Ahi, you cooked me a delicious meal and were the last to eat.  For this gift, I will give you mastery over the hearth.  Your food will forever be delicious and the ash from your hearth will make a clay stronger than any have seen.

Next Gaiamehu went to the second sister.  “Noevahi, you have the strength of a warrior, and have generously shared your strength with me.  For this gift, I will make you like smoke before those that would harm you.  You will defend your people from all enemies and will be a proud and fierce warrior”.

After Noevahi, she went to the third sister.  “Halalu, your clever wit and unwavering voice made me shake with laughter.  For this gift, I will make you a great leader.  Your voice will be heard over the din of confusion, and you will lead your people to build a great civilization.” 

Next, Gaiamehu spoke to the fourth sister,  “Hiamoe, although you did nothing but slumber in my lap, you gave me great comfort with your trust.  For this gift, I will grant you wisdom as you slumber.  Whenever you awaken, you will give wise council to your people.”

Finally, Gaiamehu spoke to the last remaining sister,  “Pahoehoe, where no shelter was to be found, you dug out the very rocks and built me a sturdy house.  For this gift, I will make you a master mason, and your grand buildings will house a safe and confident people.”

And so with their gifts, the five sisters parted from Gaiamehu.  True to their nature, the five sisters used their gifts generously and helped build the people’s land into a great civilization.  After many long years, the sisters grew aged, and knew they would not be able to work much longer.  Taking one final journey, they once again passed the pond where they had found the old crone; who was the goddess Gaiamehu.  Remembering their fortune, the five sisters made a sacrifice to Gaiamehu.  Relaxing by the fire, they soon  fell asleep.  Done with their days, the sisters crossed over into the spirit lands.

Seeing their great works at last come to pass, Gaiamehu took pity on the five sisters and granted each of them a permanent place around her pond.  To this day, the five mountains we know as Lua Ahi, Noevahi, Halalu, Hiamoe, and Pahoehoe watch over us and protect us from harm. 

            --The Tale of the Five Sisters, carved into a relief found in a cave near Menhwaii. 

Regardless of the stock taken in ancient legend, the Five Sisters are known to this day as volcanoes by the same name.  Oddly enough, their individual names are characteristic to the nature of each of the mountains; which the following table illustrates:

Map Legend

Sister’s Name

Translation in Common Tongue

Volcanic Characteristic

1

Lua Ahi

Fire and Ash

Erupts constantly with flashy pyrotechnics and ash.  Anyone in the hex immediate north of the volcano can be swallowed and cooked alive by the pyroclastic floes emanating from this volcano.

2

Noevahi

Smoky One

Gives Smokefire Bay its name.  A large pillar of smoke constantly pours from this peak, keeping the northern end of the Cauldron in a constant haze.

3

Halalu

Rumble (Deep Sound)

Earthquakes originate frequently from this volcano, and it is known to make deep rumbling sounds that can be heard all the way across the Cauldron.

4

Hiamoe

Sleeping One

This volcano has been dormant for hundreds of years. Legends speak of a great cataclysm that will occur if the mountain awakens; the wisdom of Hiamoe judging all.

5

Pahoehoe

Lava

A never ending flow of liquid magma rises to the surface of the volcano to flow over the sides as lava.  Most of the land in the hex immediately to the north of the mountain was created by the volcano.


All sorts of magical features are attributed to the various earthen products the Five Sisters spew forth.  It is thought that weapons forged in the lava of these volcanoes hold their edge, even under the worst of conditions.

Travel in this region is nearly impossible, and more often than not, incredibly dangerous.  Regardless, from time to time, some tradesman in Helmsport can be found selling ash or pumice stone reputed to be from the area.  Whether or not these materials have special powers, is unknown. 

Rivers

The arid land surrounding Smokefire Bay sees little in the way of freshwater lakes and streams, but two major waterways do run their courses through the land.  These areas are detailed below.

Little River

This river gets its name from the relatively short distance it travels; no more than 200 miles at the most.  The headwaters of the river can be sourced to Pearl Glacier, one of the few year-round glaciers in the Anchor Peaks. 

The river’s banks overflow frequently in the spring, when additional glacial runoff feeds the river.  Most of these floods take place in the first 120 miles or so of the river.  Helmsport remains spared from these yearly floods as the river has deeper banks further downstream to contain the flow.  The river ends its journey south and east of Helmsport, pouring directly into the outer limb of the bay.

The river is navigable by large craft up to the point where it runs near Helmsport.  Further north, however, and the river becomes too shallow to be navigated by anything other than canoes and flat-bottomed rafts.

The River Norn

Originating from deep within the continent [insert territory, region, or hex name here], the Norn river is an ancient meandering waterway that cuts across the continent and eventually into Smokefire Bay.

The Norn is a wide, slow-moving river; it’s banks over 300 feet apart for most of its length.  This fact makes the river ideal for travel.  Brave souls seeking adventure in the Mosswind Caverns, use the river as their main route when traveling from the interior of the continent.

River folk (usually halflings, but occasional humans and gnomes as well) ply the river delivering goods and services to the small towns and villages that dot the river’s length.  A mere ten gold pieces will carry you most of the way down the river, but specialty services such as security guards, dangerous cargo, or live animals will cost you more.

Less than a mile from its terminus at the Tall Pour, there is an enormous stone and wood beam bridge that spans the length of the river.  “Porter’s Crossing”, as the  bridge is known, contains a number of tie-off points, designed to keep boats from traveling the remaining length of the river and disappearing over the falls.  More than one cargo (and crew) have been lost, when lazy captains fail to secure their vessel in the proper manner.

Special Features

Opportunity for adventure abounds in Smokefire Bay.  While the areas listed above certainly hold promise for novices and heroes alike; the special features listed below defy classification and attract the truly courageous.  Many who adventure in these areas never return, but for those that do; true celebrity awaits. 

Mosswind Caverns

The area directly east of where the Norn tumbles off the continent and into Smokefire Bay, has for ages been known as an area of significant karst topography.  The vast caverns here boggle the mind, and play hosts to hundreds of different creatures.  While most of the time the terrible monstrosities that live in these caves keep busy fighting amongst themselves; there are times when an occasional horror escapes the region and has to be destroyed.  

Adventures from around the world come to this location to seek their fortunes.  A few occasionally succeed.  Great wealth can be found in the caverns, but the cost of its recovery is often very high.

Mosswind Caverns is a dynamic, active place.  So much goes on here, that it has been given its own dedicated section, in order to adequate describe its surrounds.  See the section entitled “Mosswind Caverns” for additional information.

Seaview Canyon

Without a doubt, the explorer who named this place had an ironic sense of humor.  While it is true that Seaview Canyon is but a few miles from the coastline; once inside, you can hardly view the sea.  Located just east of Mosswind Caverns, Seaview Canyon (or simply, “the Canyon” as it is often called) lies in the same area of karst topography as the former.

Beginning as a simple sinkhole some ten thousand years before, the Canyon has expanded considerably since.  Today, the Canyon is over fifty miles long and over a mile wide.  The bulk of it’s size is derived from enormous caverns that used to exist below the surface.  A large number of these great caverns have collapsed; and as the weight of such debris collects on the bottom of the hole, it in turn collapses the roof below it. Today, the Canyon floor is relatively stable.  It’s depths have been plumbed to over two miles in some places, and there are explorers that claim even deeper reaches exist. 

The Canyon walls are steep and unforgiving in most places, but the southeastern terminus ends in a reasonably gentle slope.  The path allows for relatively easy egress to the Canyon by explorers and adventurers.  It is well known that caves at the opposite end of the Canyon lead to locations within Mosswind Caverns.  Maps of these routes circulate freely about Helmsport; but are even more frequent in the town of Canyon’s End, where many such expeditions get their start. 

Explorers should note that braving the Canyon is not without its risks.  At least two warring tribes of kenku vie for control of the Canyon’s walls.  Each tribe covets the other side’s territory and guards its own with tenacious ferocity.  Safe passage can be had; but stealthy movement, limited fires, and coin for bribes are almost always a requirement for such journeys.

Smokefire Island

The most prominent feature in Smokefire Bay; Smokefire Island is technically a peninsula jutting out from the east coast of the bay.  Early explorers were stymied by the volcanic activity at the northeastern end of the island, and made an inaccurate guess that the waters of Smokefire Bay proper and those of the Caldron were combined.  Thinking the land an island, it was so named.  The name persists today despite more accurate maps to the contrary.

Smokefire Island is the domain of King Caruso.  Not unlike the Mosswind Caverns, this brief overview is insufficient to fully describe the numerous features of the island.  As a result, it has been given its own section.  For further reading, please see the section entitled, “Smokefire Island”.

The Tall Pour

The dwarves of the Anchor Peaks refer to glasses of mead as “short pours”, for the short round glasses in which such beverages are served.  Similarly, they refer to glasses of ale as “tall pours”, for the tall slender glasses in which that beverage is imbibed.  It is not too surprising then, that the falls that end the River Norn’s journey are referred to as “The Tall Pour”; not only for the height of the falls (which is formidable), but for the amber hue the river water gives the falls when seen in direct sunlight.

Flowing straight off the northern cliff face of Smokefire Bay, the Tall Pour are falls of unsurpassed beauty.  The cliff face here reaches an elevation of some 1200 feet above sea level, making them the tallest continuous falls on the continent, and likely some of the tallest falls in all of Blogaria.

The Tall Pour has claimed more than one ship failing to secure itself safely to the terminus bridge near the end of the Norn (see The River Norn for more details).  As a result, the locathah of the bay often visit the rocky area and pick up treasures from smashed and destroyed ships.  Very rarely, a survivor of such a horrific crash will be found.  These unfortunates are usually tended to and set adrift towards the nearest shore.  The rest too easily become food for the sharks and other predators in the bay. 

The Tall Pour is famous for a band of pirates and smugglers known at the “Gliding Guvners”.  These brigands will rob ships on the Norn and take flight down the river in small skiffs.  Just prior to going over the falls, the crews of these skiffs deploy enormous sheets of silk; catching the wind and allowing the skiff to glide through the air to land in the bay below.  From there, a larger ship relieves the skiff of its cargo.  How the skiffs manage to make their way back to the Norn is a bit of a mystery.  It is thought that a hidden cave route through the Mosswind Caverns might be the method; but no one has gotten close enough to the pirates to find out the truth.

The Gliding Guvners would be relegated to legend if not for the ample evidence of wrecked skiffs at the bottom of the falls.  While certainly daring, the methods of the Guvners are dangerous; one out of ten skiffs meets a disastrous end.

SETTLEMENTS

The land about Smokefire Bay is generally considered wilderness; being sparsely settled and containing little in the way of roads or infrastructure.  However, pockets of civilization do thrive here; each of the listed communities making some use of the resources of the bay area and providing themselves a decent living.

Author’s Note:  The community statistics listed here were generated using an Excel spreadsheet utilizing the formulas set out in the Dungeons and Dragons® Dungeon Master’s Guide (3.5 Edition) by Wizards of the Coast®.  I used this method to maintain some mathematical consistency when designing the communities.  As this is a “system-less” campaign setting, I have made every effort to avoid entries that might be specific to the above mentioned game system.

City insert maps courtesy of Rolepying City Map Generator 5.00

 Westbay

Community Type

Large Town

Demographic

Isolated

Dominate Race

Human

Population

2,224

Commoners

2,100

Low Level NPCs

118

Mid-Level NPCs

6

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Lumber, Shipping, Fish

This hardworking walled community, located in the western bay region, is a major center for logging and shipbuilding.  Throughout much of the year, the air smells of sawdust and resin as various mills compete to produce lumber for the shipwrights in town.  Westbay shipwrights produce the regionally famous “Delson’s Cogs”, a stout trading vessel in high demand.  

An artesian well provides freshwater to the community, and the stream that results from its flow, becomes the town’s means for disposing of waste, as well.  The latter use is strictly controlled, however, and dumping waste in an inappropriate spot results in severe punishment.

Four gates allow egress to the town.  The two gates to the north, open up to roads that lead to Delson’s Woods.  The eastern gate opens to a road that leads further down the coast.  Finally, the south gate leads directly to the shipping yards that inhabit the shore line.  Isolated as the community is, it is understandably protective of its security.  At sunset, the gates are closed and locked, and entry can only be gained by payment of a considerable fee (“security pass”).

Westbay is ruled by His Royal Governor, the Mayor of Westbay.  When not officiating at various events about the town, he is otherwise known as Jack Camphor, a retired fishing magnate.  The Camphor family has been important to the region for several years, and he is the fourth Camphor to be called Mayor.  Despite appearances to the contrary, the position is far from hereditary; the Camphors’ popularity being dependent on the bounty the sea provides during any given election year.

Canyon’s End

Community Type

Village

Demographic

Isolated

Dominate Race

Human

Population

621

Commoners

531

Low Level NPCs

89

Mid-Level NPCs

1

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Gemstones, Artifacts, Exotic Goods

Located on the southeastern end of Seaview Canyon, Canyon’s End serves as a final rest stop for adventures seeking egress to the Mosswind Caverns.  Consisting of a scattered collection of hastily built structures; the village is dry, dusty, and poorly maintained.

The one bright spot in the village is the large manor home of Lars Bixby, the self-appointed “Boss” of the village.  Known as “The Canyon’s End Visitor’s Center”, Bixby runs his manor home as an inn, and charges adventurers a healthy fee for staying there.  While outward appearances are pleasant enough, the inn is known to hold dangers to novice travelers.  Pick pockets and more dangerous thieves frequent the inn, and “Boss Bixby” always gets his cut of the action.  Violence among the visitors is not tolerated, however; and disputes are often settled by Bixby’s constructs, “The Hulks”.  These lumbering automatons have the strength of several ordinary men, and hastily put an end to armed conflict.

Travelers not interested in losing their money at the Visitor’s Center, can opt to stay in “The Hovels”, instead.  The Hovels are a collection of small caves in the northeastern corner of the village that escaped the general collapses that created the Canyon.  Cave space is free, but it’s claimed on a “first come, first serve” basis; and seasoned adventurers know they had better be prepared to defend their claim to a particular cave.  Frequent visitors to the area occasionally stake a claim and then rent it out to others.  This activity is almost always a scam; the renters later being robbed blind or murdered as they sleep for the very goods on their back.

The tallest building in town, a shabbily built five-storey tower, belongs to Maryx LeBlanc.  This mage of modest repute is an expert at identifying and appraising valuables of all types.  Like all businesses in town, he charges outrageous fees for his services; but his services are beyond reproach.  If Maryx tells you that what you have is, “The Lost Amulet of Kazrumdian”, then you can be sure you have found The Lost Amulet of Kazrumdian.  Maryx is probably the only one doing business in town that doesn’t give a cut to Boss Bixby.  Whether this is the result of some previous arrangement between the two; or Bixby is just waiting for the right opportunity to take his share, is anyone’s guess.  The two are well known rivals.

Bixby, and his force of constructs are the only law in town.  More accurately, The Hulks serve as Bixby’s enforcers and informers.  How Bixby acquired the Hulks, or why they work for him is a complete and likely dangerous mystery.

Hightown

Community Type

Large Town


Demographic

Isolated

Dominate Race

Human

Population

2,831

Commoners

2,471

Low Level NPCs

355

Mid-Level NPCs

5

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Fish, Jewelry, Exotic Goods

 This community currently functions as the seat of government for King Caruso’s kingdom of Smokefire Island.  Please see the section entitled “Smokefire Island” for more details.

Menwhii

Community Type

Small Town


Demographic

Isolated

Dominate Race

Human

Population

1,066

Commoners

925

Low Level NPCs

139

Mid-Level NPCs

2

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Fish, Shellfish, Fruit, Spices

The second largest community on Smokefire Island, this town serves as the only port for King Caruso’s kingdom.  Further details can be found in the section entitled “Smokefire Island”.

Free City of Helmsport

Community Type

Small City


Demographic

Mixed

Dominate Race

Human

Population

10,193

Commoners

8,959

Low Level NPCs

1,208

Mid-Level NPCs

24

High Level NPCs

2

Major Exports

Corn, Fish, Artifacts, Exotic Goods

As the largest city in the Smokefire Bay region, a host of activity can be found here.  With so many opportunities for adventure, the area deserves its own section to fully describe the people, places, and events that can be encountered here.  Please see the section entitled “The Free City of Helmsport” for additional details.

Leander’s Rest

Community Type

Small Town


Demographic

Mixed

Dominate Race

Dwarf

Population

1,652

Commoners

1,445

Low Level NPCs

204

Mid-Level NPCs

3

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Gold, Silver, Iron, Gemstones, Basalt

Nestled within a demon tower known locally as “The Kettle”, Leander’s Rest is a trading center on the road from [interior of the continent] to Helmsport.  Run by the dwarves of the Brass Key clan, the town uses its vast mineral wealth to trade with travelers throughout the region.

Consistent with the dwarves’ need for feeling secure, the city is walled not only by the natural walls of the box canyon is sits in; but by a 10 foot wide stone wall beyond that.  Only two gates pierce these walls, and they are both located on the eastern side of the town. 

Once inside the town, however, visitors can expect a number of accommodations.  Two inns service the community; but when these are full, the large grassy field at the southern end of town is open for visitors to camp.  Every new tent is tagged by the constabulary.  Stay longer than a week, and you get charged for your stay.  Fees have varied in the past; but typically range from 1 silver piece a day, to 1 gold piece a week.

Much of the precious metals and gems mined from the Anchor Peaks ends up at Leander’s Rest in a place called “The Vault”.  Here, all kinds of monetary transactions can be made; from exchanging rare currency to having gems appraised.  Famously secure, at least two infamous thieves have ended their careers attempting to make unauthorized withdrawals from the place.

The town is rarely crowded expect during the tenth month, when the Tournament Games commence.  Travelers from all over the region converge before the first snow fall of the season in order to see champions from all over Blogaria compete in feats of sport and fitness.  During this time, the Camp Grounds become a sea of color as visitors pitch their tents and claim a space in order to view the games.

Southend

Community Type

Large Town


Demographic

Integrated

Dominate Race

Human

Population

4,912

Commoners

4,364

Low Level NPCs

544

Mid-Level NPCs

4

High Level NPCs

0

Major Exports

Lumber, Dried Fruit, Sugar, Livestock

Located down the coast from Helmsport, and about 35 miles south of South Forest, the highly organized community of Southend is the very picture of industrialization.  The gnomes from the South Forest are likely largely responsible for this state, despite being outnumbered by the local human population, 3 to 1.

A walled community, only about one-third of the enclosed space is actually inhabited.  The remainder of the community being divided by Tinker’s Creek and the Homestead Grounds.  The town’s streets and buildings are neat and have an open airy feel, as no structure over two stories tall is permitted.  Homes and buildings are well maintained and often have tidy little flower boxes in the window sills and on porch balconies.

In stark contrast to the main town, is the area cordoned off by Tinker’s Creek.  While the creek provides water to the town, it also supplies energy for the massive construction project on the town’s west side.  Virtually the entire area has been dug up, in a construction project by the gnomes of the area.  Entire acres are roped off into regularly spaced grids in some places; while strange wooden scaffolding can be seen rising up above the town in other parts of the area.  The gnomes are evasive regarding the nature of this construction project.  Questioning the average worker usually reveals answers such as, “I’m working on a tower.”, or “I’m digging a pit.”.  More intrusive questioning usually gets a polite but firm brush off, “I’m very busy, can you come back another time?”  Community leaders share a similar elusiveness, and the entire town seems perfectly happy to have the gnomes working away in what has essentially become a community project.  Opinions differ as to what the construction will end up being.  Some posit that it’s a massive temple.  Others, fearing the gnomes’ habit of creating strange machines, believe it to be a device sure to be filled with dangerous powers. 

Due to the ongoing construction, the town is eager for new inhabitants and workers.  As a result, the entire southeast section of the community has been set aside for homesteaders.  If you can prove you have steady employment with the gnomes working on the construction project, you can build a home and take a quarter acre section of land for free.  This is a new initiative, and one that has yet to swell the community’s population much.

ADVENTURES IN SMOKEFIRE BAY

Hopefully, the details above will provide any game master with the ability to launch a grand adventure within Smokefire Bay.  However, if GM needs a little nudge, here are a dozen adventure hooks for the GM looking for a quick start to a new adventure.

Kobold Demise.  Something is killing the kobolds in Delson’s Woods.  Shan Tanter was hard at work felling a tree, when he noticed the body of a dead kobold nearby.  Examining the body, Shan was surprised to see another kobold corpse some thirty feet away beyond the first.  He then went to that body, and sure enough, thirty feet away was another.  So it was, that Shan discovered over a dozen bodies laid out in a rough line leading off to the northwest.  While the kobolds are a nuisance, whoever is killing them could be a threat to the loggers in the area.  Shan is eager to find help investigating this mystery.

Permanent Ice.  While traipsing across a glacier in the Anchor Peaks, Hans Klieg stumbled over a small block of hidden ice buried under the snow.  Curious, Hans pried the block loose.  Cold and steaming, the ice block is six inches on a side.  Placing it in an oilskin, he expected to have water by the time he returned home.  In fact, he did not.  The cube had refused to melt.  Now, random cold spots are appearing in his home in the middle of summer.  The other day, he found one of his goats knee deep in a snow drift.  Hans is pretty sure the cube is to blame, but is fearful of throwing it away.  He wants help finding out more about the cube.

Impervious Vault.  The Vault at Leander’s Rest is thought to be burglary proof.  Recently however, rare coins from the vault have been disappearing at random.  The value of the missing coins is varied, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to the thefts.  No thief has been spotted and the numerous magical guards and wards on the Vault’s various chambers are undisturbed.  The Vault managers of the Brass Key clan are asking for help investigating the disappearance of the coins.

Hulk Amok.  One of the guardians employed by Lars Bixby has run amok; killing a half-dozen of the town’s residents before collapsing into a heap of parts.  While Bixby has used the Hulks for deadly force before, these killings were random and not motivated by any command of Bixby’s.  Bixby suggests it’s the work of his rival, Maryx LeBlanc; but no magic has been detected to be at work.  Canyon’s End’s Boss, Lars Bixby, has a lot invested in the Hulks; and is eager to get to the bottom of this dangerous mystery.

Wrecking Ball.  For several decades now, the gnomes and humans of Southend have been working on an enormous construction project.  Recently, several scaffolding towers have been found collapsed.  There has been no seismic activity, and no one reports seeing anyone (or anything) near the towers.  The community’s racial leaders are pointing their fingers at each other, so investigating the cause of the towers’ collapse is of utmost importance.

Killer Bees.  Every year, the Thicket gives up its bounty of fruit and every year, the swarms of giant insects come and pick up the scraps.  These creatures never stray far from the forest – until now.  Recently giant bees have been blamed for the deaths of three villagers in the thorp of Thimble; not ten miles from the forest.  The tiny community’s citizens insist they have not disturbed the forest or violated the rules of the Harvest.  Nervously, they peek out from behind sealed homes and wonder if anyone will explain the mysterious attacks.

Beached Behemoth.  Approximately half way up the coast between Southend and Helmsport, an enormous leviathan has washed ashore.  Astoundingly, an entire fishing vessel was discovered in the beast’s gullet.  All the crew were dead save one.  This mad sailor, whose name is Quinn, babbles on about a strange land of walking mountains and singing whirlwinds.  Most think the sailor mad, but the occasional look in his eye says otherwise.

Rope Cutter.  Someone is cutting the mooring ropes to vessels anchored at Porter’s Crossing.  While angry merchants and captains are quick to blame the Gliding Guvners, others point out that the Guvners themselves, have lost an unprepared ship or two over the falls.  Teamsters up and down the river Norn are eager to find the culprits and put them to the falls.

Hiamoe Whispers.  The sleeping sister is trying to awaken.  Recently, puffs of pure white smoke have been seen emanating from Hiamoe’s peak.  Legends tell that if Hiamoe awakens, she will judge the world.  While no judgment is yet forthcoming, the odd puffs of smoke might be some kind of communication.  The smoke puffs last for about 8 hours; lingering for days when the air is still.  Strangely, the puffs repeat every 10 days.

Restless Cog.  The Delson’s Cog, Maria of the Stars, has been found abandoned.  The vessel Korgath’s Lament came upon her drifting in the middle of the bay.  Hails went unanswered, and the Lament came alongside.  Boarding cautiously, the sailors of the Lament discovered that the Maria of the Stars had sails set, and cargo intact.  The living quarters of the vessel were undisturbed as was the rest of the ship.  Towing the ship back to Westbay, Captain Weinbaug expected easy salvage rights.  However, Westbay’s Mayor, Jack Camphor, has accused Captain Weinbaug of piracy. It seems that the Mayor’s brother, Steven, was aboard the Maria of the Stars and is now missing.

Thirty-nine Stones.  About 60 miles east of the Delver Hills, is an odd patch of land that travelers and local nomads avoid.  In the middle of a high grassy plain, stands a circle of low stones approximately 100 yards in diameter.  The stones are unremarkable, although no one in the region can figure out how they got there.  Nothing grows within the circle and animals bypass it’s circumference. 

Kenku Combustion.  Recently, reports tell of mysterious disappearances of important Kenku warriors from two of the most important tribes warring in the Seaview Canyon.  Violence is suspected, but cannot be proven as the only thing left behind is a smattering of brightly colored feathers.  Tensions are high, and attacks upon travelers have increased. 

Here's my map for my entire region of Smokefire Bay: