Friday, March 31, 2017

Vault and Valley

A new setting for ACKS is brewing in my head. It is much smaller than Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu and far more "traditional" in D&D terms.

This is a "micro" setting. Its focus is a mid-sized dungeon which was once a dwarven Vault owned by a Duke on the Borderlands of a dwarven realm. That kingdom crumbled, the Vault fell, and the Duchy became uninhabited Wilderness.

According to the core ACKS rulebook, this means a value of approximately 115,000gp for the stronghold, at least 75% of it are underground. That will give me the exact measurement for the dungeon in 10'x10' squares! This means 86,500gp invested underground. According to ACKS p.126, that's 173 10x10x10 cubes of excavation, not including mines (which are not part of the stronghold itself).

The Vault also had mines both beneath and around it mining high-quality iron deposits. There were natural caves beneath the mines. The deepest cavern had an underground lake, in which an ancient Aboleth dwelled. When the dwarven miners eventually tunneled into its layer, all hell broke loose.

After a century and a half, human settlers arrived in the nearby valley which was once the dwarven Duke's domain. They named their village Oathbridge after the legend that a Dwarven lord once swore an oath to one day return to the ruined bridge located upstream from the village. The settlers were led by a petty nobleman who became the new village's Castellan. He belongs to the Empire, but the Empire is weak and crumbling. The Emperor rules this village in name only. In practice, the Castellan is loyal only to the local Tribune. No Imperial Legionnaires were seen in these parts for many decades.

Seventy years later, the current domain, ruled by the original Castellan's grand-grandson, is still Wilderness - even the Tribune's castle stands on Borderlands. The Castellan rules over 150 peasant families. As the area is risky, slightly more than half of these - 80 families - huddle close to the Castellan's fortified manor in a small village (Class-VI Market). Most are miners working in a few reclaimed mines. Others raise sheep or barley.

The Castellan has a powerful stronghold for his title - at 30,000gp - as he rules a Wilderness domain of about one 6-mile hex. This includes a small tower, some walls, a gatehouse, and a courtyard with several buildings, build on a local hill.

The ruined dwarven Vault is in the next 6-mile hex to that of the Castellan's seat and village.

The current Castellan - a Lawful level 4 Fighter - is young and inexperienced. He was enthroned rather than his older sister, who left in anger. He is not a bad man himself, but is not very competent as a ruler and is being manipulated by his majordomo - who also serves as a court wizard - and things in the village are quite sordid.

There are various monstrous threats to the village, not least of which are lizard-men and goblins. Lizard-men - typically primitive and Neutral - have dwelled in a nearby swamp for eons. Once, their tribe paid tribute to the dwarven lords. Since very recently, there is a second tribe of Lizardmen, which hails from the ruined Vault. So do the goblins - the two tribes are in constant war over the upper levels of the Vault. This new tribe, unlike its swamp-dwelling cousins, is surprisingly well-organized. It is also equipped with far better equipment than anything usually seen in the hands of lizard-men. Unknown to the Oathbridge residents, they had advice and help from the Aboleth, whom they worship as a god. They are slowly winning their war against the goblins and are also raiding human settlements from time to time.

Another threat is that of the bandits, led by the legendary Bandit Queen - who is somewhat of a folk heroine. The common story whispered among peasants, is that she fights for the common man and will eventually oust the current Castellan and his advisor, to install herself as a just ruler over the village.

She is, in fact, the Castellan's older sister - a Lawful level 5 Explorer - who slowly builds her power towards a comeback for revenge and for claiming what she sees as justly her own...

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