Cross Tree Isometric

This weekend I jumped in on the early release of Symbol Set 6: Isometric Cities for Campaign Cartographer, with artwork by Mike Schley. I didn’t have much time to play around but managed at whip up first draft of an isometric version of my starting town of Cross Tree.

By design, Cross Tree is just a tiny outpost. I think this symbol set would really shine with producing larger city maps (I’ve already seen some from the community and they look fantastic). That said, it was fun to play around a bit and perhaps I’ll have more time to explore more over the holiday weekend. I hope you all have a great week. Cheers!

Odd Loot Items

Whether you run a heroic fantasy campaign or prefer something gritty and dark, it’s likely that your players will look forward to the moment when their foes finally drop. Early in the career of any adventuring party, PCs start rummaging through the belongs of fallen opponents in search of loot.

As a GM, it’s fun to watch your players get excited to discover what treasures they have found. However, it can be a bit of a slippery slope. Gold and gems can feel too mundane to be satisfying, while too many magical goodies can throw your game into an unpredictable state.

I like to keep my players on their toes with unusual items that they are not expecting. By sprinkling in occasional pieces of unique loot I’m often able to spark the imaginations of my players, while also creating a reason for them to buy into the story at large.

This week I have compiled a list of 25 different items that your party might discover while looking for loot. Hopefully you can drop some of these into your game. You may roll a d100 and let fate take its course or peruse through and see if something strikes your fancy.

A looted diary might contain all sorts of useful information. Art by © Sławek Mietła

01-04 Treasure Map: This is straightforward. The map can be for something you already have planned or you can wait to see if they ever pursue it. Either way, their foe was carrying a map that marked the way to some great treasure. Will they become treasure hunters?

05-08 Mag of Marbles: A simple bag of marbles. The question here becomes “what will the party do with them?” Enterprising adventurers might use them as simple baubles to trade with creatures they meat, or perhaps they throw them to the ground while making a desperate escape. It’s fun to see what they will come up with.

9-12 Love Letter: Somehow the villain your party just dispatched came into possession of a rather steamy love letter. Who was it from? Has the author or the intended recipient met their final fate or are they simply locked away somewhere? Will the party try to find out or will they simply move on?

Finding a wanted poster can lead a party off in another direction altogether. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

13-16 Wanted Poster: Rifling through the belongings of the fallen foe, the party discovers a wanted poster. The posted might feature a notorious villain, a “harmless” NPC that the party encountered a couple sessions ago, or even one of the PCs themselves.

17-20 Spyglass: If the system you’re using doesn’t happen to have specific rules for such an item, it’s easy enough to come up with something. Make it a worthwhile little trinket for your party.

21-24 Invitation: The party discovers an invitation for x number of people to a masquerade ball. There’s a lot you can do with this one. Perhaps the fallen opponent had been the invitee or perhaps they had simply come into possession of the invitation. Who is throwing the party? It could be the BBEG, an influential NPC, or perhaps the person who owns some MacGuffin that the party needs to acquire.

25-28 Key: An ornate key is found. There may be documentation included as to what the key unlocks, or not. The key might be useful in an upcoming adventure or perhaps it would give them access to unexplored areas that they had to pass by during a previous engagement. Alternatively, it may be a fragile skeleton key that would give them a percentage change to open any lock but likely break once used.

How did this lightly scented love letter end up in the hands of a villain? Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

29-32 Bag of Toys: The party discovers a bag of finely made handmade toys. While they might fetch a decent price on their own, the party might gift them to the child of a landed lord, to gain favor. Perhaps they give them to the local street urchins who will then thankfully be their eyes and ears in the city.

33-36 Diary: A carefully wrapped diary is found. Who did it belong to and what secrets does it hold? Does the party use it for blackmail, sell it to the highest bidder, or return it quietly to the rightful owner?

37-40 Bag of Bones: Is this just a grisly discovery or does it give the party some valuable insight into something? What type of creature are the bones from? Do they carry any value with local alchemists?

41-44 Peculiar Coins: The party has never seen coins like these. Possibly they are oddly shaped or forged from strange new metal. Perhaps they are stamped with the visage of some horrible abomination.

45-48 Mislabeled Potion: This is the only item on the list that is magical. It has magical properties; it just doesn’t do what it says it does.

49-52 Bag of Caltrops: It’s fun to watch what the party comes up with for these. If your system doesn’t happen to have specific rules for these, it’s easy to whip something up. Something like: “Covers a 5’ square area. Creatures not moving carefully through must save or take 1-2 damage and be immobilized for a turn.”

53-56 Troop Movements: The party finds documents detailing the upcoming troop movements in a local conflict. What will they do with this information? They might use it to sneak behind enemy lines, win the favor of a local lord, or sell to the highest bidder.

Intercepting these orders from a local conflict could allow the party to turn the tide. Art by © Sławek Mietła

57-60 Exotic Creature: The party discovers a small cage containing an exotic creature. Will it become a pet? Will the party sell it to a local noble? Does it simply become dinner?

61-64: Piece of Chalk: While perfectly mundane, I love seeing what my players will do with chalk. Are they marking subterranean passages with it, sharing with peasant children, or grinding it up into a fine powder?

65-68 Flamboyant Hat: Unbeknownst to the party, this foppish headpiece was recently stolen from a wealthy noble. Describe it as you wish. However, it will instantly be recognized in town if the party tries to sell it or wear it.

69-72 Fireworks: Party finds a bag of fireworks. This is another one where it’s just fun to sit back and see what the party finds to do with them.

73-76 Jar of Ink: This is a 1-quart jar of black ink, capable of making quite a mess. Let’s see what the party does with it.

77-80 Secret Map: This is a map of a local cave complex or building. However, all the secret entrances are labeled.

81-84 Important Missive: This piece of parchment details the most recent orders from someone. Perhaps it’s from your BBEG to one of his lieutenants. Alternately it could be from a guild leader taking action on one of their rivals.

85-88 Body: The party finds the remains of a somewhat famous person who was not known to be deceased. Will they go to the authorities, or would that risk them being blamed?

A looted tome containing lost knowledge. Art by © Sławek Mietła

89-92 Tome: This musty old tome contains lore about something specific within your world. It could pertain to history, geography, or politics. There’s no need to flesh out the whole book. Just allow your players a % chance to find a relevant bit of information if they spend time reading through the pages.

93-96 Mystery Box: This appears to be a simple wooden box with the dimensions being up to the GM. While a mundane item, characters taking time to really investigate it will discover a finely crafted hidden compartment.

97-100 Inheritance: This final one is a bit of an homage to the classic The Enemy Within campaign for WHFRP. The party finds a notarized document claiming that the bearer is entitled to a large inheritance. No need to take the Warhammer route here but it obviously creates some fun moral questions for the party.

That’s all for now. Do you have any bits of mundane loot that you’ve handed out to your players to spur their creativity or help develop your story? If so, please comment below. I would love to hear what has worked for you. Have a great weekend and good gaming!

Dwarven Outpost at Dhag Ladur

The dwarves of Khared Draz hold the Iron Mountains from Nur Badur in the south, all the way to the frosty Borean border in the north. This simple outpost found at the pass of Dhag Ladur is typical of watch posts found throughout the region.

  1. Entrance: Built into the side of the mountain, double doors reinforced with iron bands mark the entrance to the outpost. 2 sentries are always stationed at the entrance, while 2 others roam further afield.
Dwarven sentry at Dhag Ladur. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

  • Dormitory: 10 soldiers are stationed at the outpost during any given time. During each 2-week stint, this room is where they store their belongings and get their sleep. The furnishings are modest but sufficient.
  • Armory: Weapons are stored and cared for in this small room. A small forge is located on the southern wall and is vented to the outside.
  • Mess Hall: This spacious room is where you can find most of the dwarves when they are not on duty or asleep. Long benches run the length of the room and a fire is kept burning around the clock.
  • Kitchen: This isthe command center for the cook. Meals are prepared and ale is provided throughout the day for soldiers who are not on duty.
Smith making repairs. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

  • Tunnels: The tunnels can be accessed through a secret door located in the kitchen. The small cavern to the east house spare supplies and a well. In the event of an attack, the dwarves have the option of barring the entrance and retreating into the tunnels. The tunnel to the north twists around and leads to an alternate exit from the mountain.

Thanks for stopping by. This week’s map was made with Campaign Cartographer, using the “Annual Inked Dungeons” style. Hope you have a great week and manage to fit in some time to roll some dice. Good Gaming!

A Classical Xanti Tomb Complex

In ancient Xanti, there is a common belief in reincarnation. Among the worshippers of the cult of Kaa, tradition dictates that wealthy nobles be buried along with their belongings, in elaborate tombs.

The tenets of their faith claims they will be reunited with their possessions in their next life. Whether this be truth or folly, only the gods know. However, woe to the dessert thief who tries to claim these riches for herself.

-Bhagiro Hatti, Gowandian Scholar

A Kosantian adventurer faces off with reanimated tomb guardians. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

1.    Entrance

The entrances to Xanti tombs are often built into the side of canyon walls. Purposely left open, as a welcome to the gods, they are occasionally sealed off with sand from blowing desert winds. It is believed that when a tomb is sealed off in such a manner that the inhabitants will be forsaken by their deities and lose their opportunity for everlasting life.

While not sealed, Xanti tombs are not without their protections. Necromancers place tomb guardians in the form of skeletal warriors at the entrance of the complex. This particular tomb holds 6 such guardians in niches to the left and right of the entrance.

Each armed with a khopesh, these skeletal figures will remain lifeless unless someone intrudes on the tomb. Once disturbed they will animate and seek to eliminate the threat.

2.    Dead End / Pit

This corridor halts at a dead end, with a 10’ deep pit. To the inexperienced, this may at first seem to be a very obvious trap. However, this is actually a very purposeful key to the tomb, placed by the architect.

Any who have studied ancient Xanti burial rights will know what this portends. This signals to any future caretakers that the safe pace through the tomb is to take the leftmost choice at any intersection.

3.    Offering Room

This room contains 4 ceremonial offering niches, where well-wishers could visit, prior to the tomb being sanctified. They would fill these niches with all manner of offerings for the departed, in a belief that this would curry favor for them in the next life.

In the center of the room a pool of water gives off an eldritch blue glow. The pool with radiate as magical if any with the ability to check for such things happens to do so. Exactly what its properties are is a secret lost to time. However, legends tell that supplicants leaving offerings would drink from the well to receive a boon from the gods.

The pictured tomb is that of a mid-level noblewoman. Of the present offerings, most are fairly mundane sundry items. There are sacks of old grain, olive oil, bottles of wine that have long since turned to vinegar, and bolts of linen. A close search will turn up a gold scarab pendant and a garnet ring that are both finely crafted.

4.    Shrine

This room is the shrine where priests of Kaa would give their final prayers for the departed. During these ceremonies, 4 earthen-ware vessels bearing cobras would be placed within the room as part of the invocation ritual. The reptiles are long since dead and likely nothing remains of them.

5.    Beetle Pit

Tomb beetle. Art by: gary@gdupuis.com
http://www.gdupuis.com/

This floor of this room is littered with a number of old bones. The opposite end of the room is dominated by a well that is 10’ in diameter. After crossing the threshold to this room, PCs will hear a skittering noise coming from the well. Within 2 rounds of this, 4 giant beetles will emerge from the hole and attack until slain.

If explored, the pit will be found to descend 30’, though there are numerous tunnels branching off in other directions. These other tunnels have been created by the beetles. They are not large enough to stand up in, susceptible to collapse, and parties unwise enough to venture into them should meet more beetles promptly.

6.    The Burial Chamber

This ornately decorated room is the burial chamber itself. The noblewoman’s sarcophagus dominates the center of this pillared room, while those of her 8 attendants line the northern, western, and southern walls.

These three walls are adorned with detailed paintings depicting scenes from the life of the departed. The eastern wall is reserved for images of what she hopes for in her new life.

7.    Fire Trap

Those foolish enough to cross the threshold from the burial chamber into this L-shaped hall will immediately hear an audible click. However, nothing else will happen at this time.

If anyone walks forward to the right-angle and then follows until the dead end, they will be in for a surprise. As soon more than 5 lbs. of weight is placed on the 5’ section of tile at the dead end, 7 gouts of flame with shoot out from holes on the right side of the wall.

The flames will persist until there is less than 5 lbs. of weight being applied to any of the 3 east-west floor tiles marked with flames on the map. However, after 4 rounds the mechanism will run out of fuel.

If specifically searching, perceptive characters may notice the small holes in the wall.

8.    Treasure Room

This room would contain the worldly treasures of the departed. While there would certainly be some coins and gemstones, other items dear to the individual would be here as well. Bolts of fine silk, oils, and incense would be common among such items. In addition, books of arcane knowledge might be stored here for safekeeping until the afterlife.

Final Notes

That wraps up another week. Again, this isn’t intended to be a full-on adventure but I thought perhaps that this might get the creative juices flowing for some of you. Please let me know if any of this sets your mind to wandering. Hopefully, instead of dreading the new work week that is quickly approaching, you’ll be able to let your thoughts drift a bit to future sessions around the gaming table. Good gaming and have a great week!

5. The Stables

Continuing my series about the town of Cross Tree, this week I am covering location #5, the Stables. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the stables.

The Stables

Enough travelers pass through to keep the operation worthwhile for its owner. However, she is new to the town and inherited the property after it had been allowed to go downhill for a number of years.

Taryn Keen

Taryn Keen is a young human woman who appears to be in her mid-twenties. She has green eyes and auburn hair that falls below her shoulders. Taryn bears a tattoo of a black dragon, just below her collar bone, on her left side. Under normal circumstances, she dresses quite plainly in wool breeches with a linen shirt.

Taryn Keen. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

Having inherited the stables from her uncle Benjamin, Taryn has only been in town for a little over a year. She grew up in a large city to the west, where she spent her youth working in her father’s stables.

An adventurer in his younger days, Benjamin Keen had owned the stables in Cross Tree for over 25 years, until he went missing 2 years ago. Townsfolk claim that he had an unhealthy fixation on legends of a lost city somewhere in the vicinity of Cross Tree.

Rather than operate and take care of his business, Benjamin was known to wander off into the woods for days at time. It is believed that he was obsessed with finding the lost city. On one such expedition, Benjamin failed to return.

When it was clear that the stablemaster was not likely to come back, word was sent to the family and Taryn arrived within the year. Having had a good deal of previous experience, she set about to putting things back in shape. The house itself still needs work but she is getting there.

Besides boarding, Taryn grooms the animals left in her charge and provides medical attention as necessary. She supplements her income by caring for the other beasts of burden and livestock around the town. Her rates would be considered modest compared to whatever is standard in your game. While her operation is too small to carry equestrian equipment, Astolpho & Gina at the mercantile, carry all of the basics.

1st Floor

The eastern portion of the ground floor is comprised of Taryn’s living quarters, while the room to the west is what she uses as an office.

2nd Floor

In addition to Taryn’s bedchamber, the 2nd floor consists of a meeting room. While not generally accessible to the public, she may invite the PCs up here for counsel, or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, Taryn’s uncle Benjamin went missing 2 years ago. What the other residents of Cross Tree are not aware of is that fact that Taryn’s father Adam also vanished around the same time.

  • Knowing that both her father and uncle had been adventurers in their youth. Taryn suspects that the legend of a lost city was what lured Benjamin here. It is reasonable to think that she might attempt to hire the party to find out what became of them.
  • While out on a ride two weeks ago, Taryn discovered some stone tablets with odd runes on them. She might hire the party to travel to the nearest city and try to decipher them.
  • Adam Keen owned a cabin located 3 days west of Cross Tree. Taryn has not been there since she was a young girl. However, she faintly remembers that he kept journals there, detailing his exploits. If she trusts the party, she may give them directions to the cabin and ask them to go retrieve the journals. Obviously, with this and any of the other previous tasks, she would be willing to share any resulting bounty.
  • Finally, if the party is simply in needs of funds and willing to put in some hard word, there is plenty to be done. Taryn would certainly be willing to hire party members to clean the stables or assist with the process of fixing up her living quarters.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Two more installments to go and then I’ll start using this basic town to produce some adventures. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share in this hobby. Good gaming!

4. The Mercantile

Continuing my series about the town of Cross Tree, this week I am covering location #4, the mercantile. I will list the pertinent information about the store and its inhabitants. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the mercantile.

The Mercantile

The mercantile is owned and run by Astolpho Fuchs and his wife Gina. The store is quite large for a settlement the size of Cross Tree. Characters with higher than average perception, will likely surmise that the place must survive due to the extra business brought in by travelers passing through.

Astolpho & Gina Fuchs

Astolpho Fuchs. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

Astolpho is a fit man of roughly 50 years of age. He has black hair, with a neatly trimmed beard & mustache that is starting to show patches of gray. His clothing consists of a simple tunic, woolen breeches, and soft leather boots.

Gina is the same age as her husband, though she appears roughly 5 years younger. She has shoulder length flaxen hair and peaceful green eyes. A sturdy woman, Gina nearly matches Astolpho’s 6’ and it is clear that she is no stranger to manual labor. A simple linen dress in earthen tones would be her typical attire.

Gina Fuchs. Art by: Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

The pair came to Cross Tree 12 years ago. Having been through the area earlier, they came to “get away from it all” and create a new life in this tranquil setting.

Unbeknownst to the other inhabitants of the town, the couple are in hiding. Gina was the eldest daughter of a wealthy merchant family in a large city and Astolpho was a member of the thieves’ guild. Already madly in love when the guild decided to target Gina’s family, Astolpho couldn’t stand idly by.

The pair turned the tables on the criminal organization by tipping off the city watch. In the ensuing chaos, they plundered the guild’s coffers and rode off into the night. Knowing that they could never dare return home, the couple eloped and didn’t look back.

They spent years traveling but ultimately settled on Cross Tree as a destination. They have enough wealth to live their lives comfortably but the store allows them to blend in. As previously mentioned, the store is a bit too large for such a small settlement but Gina suggested that storing some of their wealth in excess goods rather than gold coins might be prudent.

1st Floor

The western side of the ground floor is open to the public and contains all of the common trade goods, crafting supplies, and tools that might be required by the citizens of Cross Tree. The items would all be priced in a typical manner to what the PCs would expect to find in a large city. This will probably stand out to some characters.

While arms and armor would really not be in great demand (save for perhaps arrows), the couple do stock quite an array of these items behind the counter. If the PCs inquire about items of this nature, there will be an 80% chance that they stock any common item that might be available based on the game system you are using.

I run a low fantasy game, where magic items are quite rare. That said, if you happen to have the type of campaign where PCs need a place to stock up on potions, scrolls, and the occasional magical armaments, I suppose you could add those to the stock on hand as well.

2nd Floor

The 2nd floor of the mercantile consists of Gina & Astolpho’s residence. While not generally accessible to the public, they may invite the PCs up here for counsel or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, the couple are on the run. Should anyone from their past find them, it could mean their end. They are rather guarded but if the couple gets to know the party, they may open up to them.

  • Parties stopping in Cross Tree along the way to somewhere else, may be provided information about their destination. Both have traveled extensively and willing to provided trusted PCs with tips about the workings of nearby larger cities.
  • Someone from the Thieves’ guild may come looking for the pair and they may need to enlist aid.
  • Astolpho may receive word that an acquaintance from his underworld days is in trouble. Unable to help himself, he may hire the party to assist.
  • Gina may approach the party and offer to hire them to transport some valuable merchandise to another settlement.
  • Possibly Astolpho chose to settle in Cross Tree because he had heard rumors of an ancient lost city hidden away within the depths of the forest. Legends claim that there are fabulous treasures there.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Until I write again, good gaming!

3. The Church

Location #3 on the map of the town of Cross Tree is the church. I will list the pertinent information about the tower and its inhabitant. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the church.

The Church

The church of Cross Tree burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances roughly 15 years ago. At the time, it was a largely unused structure, as it had been quite some time since the settlement had been home to any members of the clergy. The site sat vacant for nearly 5 years, until its current inhabitant came to town.

Leagis Kormou

Leagis Kormou is a 42 year-old human woman. She has olive skin and long, white hair that trails down nearly to her waist. While she has a stern brow and piercing green eyes, there is a sense of peace about the woman that is disarming to guests.

Leagis Kormou. Art by: Daniel Comerci – danielcomerci.com

It will immediately be clear to PCs that Leagis is not originally from this area. In my game she hails from a chain of islands far to the south, though select her place of origin based on what works for your campaign setting.

Leagis is a priestess of a nature deity. If your world lacks a divine being who happens to be focused on nature, any good-aligned god or goddess should suffice.

The cleric spent her youth traveling the world, possibly even clocking in some time as an adventurer. As the years passed, she found herself more focused on her religion and wanting to settle down. Cross Tree provided a logical place to put down roots. Nestled deep withing the forest, Leagis can commune with nature while also sharing her faith with her modest flock.

Arriving in town roughly 10 years ago, Leagis began restoring the old burned church structure on her own. As the days passed, other townsfolk would come to lend a hand. Often they would work together by day and then take part in her fellowship and break bread together in the evening. Some of the materials for the new church were brought from the ruined town to the northeast of town.

Whether Leagis possesses any magical abilities from her deity will be left to the GM’s discretion. It is certainly possible that she may have the ability to casts lower level spells. However, I would suggest drawing the line at allowing her to have the power to raise the dead or even heal very serious afflictions.

The priestess is very welcoming to outsiders and will certainly be curious about their travels. Having travelled extensively herself, Leagis may be able to share information with the party about areas far from Cross Tree.

1st Floor

The nave and sanctuary take up most of the 1st floor of the church. Both are decorated simply, in woodland colors. Both the pews and altar are fashioned from downed oaks found in the forest.

Close to the entrance are two storage closets. Tools are kept here for tending the graveyard, as well as decorations for different festivals throughout the year. Leagis also keeps a small office on the first floor.

2nd Floor

The 2nd floor of the church consists of Leagis’s residence. While not generally accessible to the public, she may invite the PCs up here for counsel or to discuss future plans.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

As previously mentioned, Leagis has travelled extensively. She should provide you a good tool for disseminating information to your PCs. It is also possible that she may have use for their help herself.

  • Parties stopping in Cross Tree along the way to somewhere else, may be provided information about their destination.
  • As a priestess of a nature deity, Leagis may enlist the help of the party to investigate some strange goings-on within the forest. Perhaps some strange malady is affecting local wildlife or a queer blight is killing off vegetation.
  • Leagis recently buried a traveler who died while staying at the Cross Tree Inn. The man’s only personal effects were a strange metallic device and a map to a location that would take two days to travel to from here. The cleric may enlist the party’s help in learning more about the map and the device.
  • From her traveling days, Leagis may be aware that there is rumored to be an ancient lost city hidden away within the depths of the forest.

Closing Notes

That will conclude another post about the town of Cross Tree. Until I write again, I thank you for reading and hope that you may find yourself enjoying a game soon. Cheers!

2. The Ruined Tower

Location #2 on the map of the Town of Cross Tree is the ruined tower. I will list the pertinent information about the tower and its inhabitant. As previously mentioned, I will keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats provided. Instead, I will focus on what you would need to know, should your players opt to visit the tower.

The Ruined Tower

The tower itself predates the town of Cross Tree by over 100 years and none of the locals, aside from possible Nicodemus (see below), have any recollection of who built it. Characters with any type of architectural knowledge will easily be able to identify that this structure is from another time.

In my own game, the tower represents one of the last standing traces of a previous civilization. Deep within the outlying forest, there are cave entrances that lead into still accessible areas of this ancient settlement. Swallowed up by the earth itself, a lost city waits to be rediscovered. I may explore some of these locations once the rest of Cross Tree has been covered.

If this doesn’t work for your game, the tower could have an entirely different background. The idea here is to simply give you some interesting locations for your players to visit, without you having to do a lot of work.

PCs exploring the area around the tower will find all manner of debris. Some of this is from the collapse of the upper floors of the tower. The rest consists of odds and ends brought here by the tower’s sole inhabitant.

Unless the party is purposely attempting to be stealthy, the double doors to the tower will swing open enough for a frail figure to emerge.

Nicodemus

Nicodemus has lived in the ruined towed for nearly 5 years now. Prior to that he had been a frequent visitor to the area but none of the locals knew too much about him.

Nicodemus. Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art @ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. http://www.fatgoblingames.com

The general thinking of the townsfolk is that the tower is not safe for habitation and they are likely right. However, Nicodemus doesn’t interact a great deal with anyone from town. Every so often, Killian from the Cross Tree Inn will try to persuade Nicodemus to take up residence at the inn but up to this point these attempts have failed.

Play Nicodemus as a bit mad and a bit mysterious. He exists here as a device for you to feed information or plot hooks to your players. Outside of possibly Leagis (from area #3, the Church) Nicodemus is the only resident who you could really call “worldly”.

He knows a great deal about a great many things but should always be a bit cagey about what he reveals and how he reveals it. Whether Nicodemus actually has any magical abilities is largely up to the GM. Here are some possible angles for Nicodemus, to allow him to fit seamlessly into different styles of games.

  • Perhaps you make him a great mage, having him be the wise mentor who knew the party was fated to show up on his doorstep.
  • He could be a part-crazed soothsayer who constantly mutters to himself, while reading tea-leaves and tossing chicken bones to foretell the future. Whether charlatan or gifted fortune teller will be up to the party to decide.
  • Nicodemus could be an arcane dealer of sorts, prepared to sell different potions, charms, or wards to the party.
  • Possibly he plumbed the depths of a lost city in his prime, only to be left behind by his comrades. Having spent years as the prisoner of some unnamed horror, he is now quite mad.

Regardless of which route you take Nicodemus is a good natured sort. He will size up the party and if he believes they have good intentions, he will try to help them. That’s not to say that he will necessarily be forthcoming with his help or information. It’s certainly possible that he may speak in riddles or test the PCs in order to ascertain their intentions.

1st Floor

If the party is friendly from the offset, it is likely that Nicodemus will invite the party inside. The double doors open to a chaotic scene and the heavy scent of smoke and incense.

All manner of junk is piled up within the 1st floor of the tower and the old man has a campfire burning away right near the doorway. Any characters with reasonably high skills of perception are likely to notice a mouse (or other small mammal) skittering for cover as the party enters the room.

Despite the clutter and debris, Nicodemus seems to know his way around the mess and is always able to deftly find what he is looking for amongst the rubble, crates, and boxes. A pile of hay against the wall seems to serve as the old fellow’s bed.

There are drawings and what appear to be maps scrawled with charcoal on the walls. What they depict and whether Nicodemus will discuss them is largely up to the GM. Two desks are arranged on either side of the room. While they are cluttered, it does appear that they have been painstakingly laid out, allowing Nicodemus to focus on his studies.

A spiral staircase leads up to the 2nd floor.

2nd Floor

Every bit as cluttered as the first floor, the wall of this section of the tower has been breached on the northeast and southwest. This allows the weather in, along with the occasional bird or bat.

Arriving from the first floor, it will be immediately evident that the stairway going up to the higher reaches of the tower is completely blocked with rubble. Rubble is strewn about on the creaky wooden floor and PCs who are invited up to this level of the tower, should be made to feel that the floor could cave in at any time.

Plot Hooks & Encounters

A lot of what Nicodemus has to offer is going to depend on your game, the level of magic in your world, and what role you need him to play within your campaign.

  • Other townsfolk might direct the party to Nicodemus in order to identify some item they have found or to seek answers about some quest that they are on.
  • As with Karia from the Cross Tree Inn, Nicodemus may charge a young party with venturing out into the woods to secure certain components for him.
  • Perhaps he knows of some impending trouble threatening the area and identifies the party as being just the right group to tackle it.
  • Seeing a yearning for adventure in the party, Nicodemus might share with the party what he know about a lost city, deep within the forest.

Closing Notes

That will do it for this week’s entry from the town of Cross Tree. Until my next post, I hope you have great adventures!

1. The Cross Tree Inn

Location #1 on the map of the Town of Cross Tree is the Cross Tree Inn. I will list the pertinent information about the inn and the people who work there below. As previously mentioned, I’m trying to keep this as system neutral as possible. There won’t be any in-game stats for the inhabitants of the town. Instead, I will focus on their personalities and what you would need to know to run them as NPCs.

#1 The Cross Tree Inn

The inn is both the geographical and social center of the village. Especially during the evening, it is likely some of the other residents will be found in the common room, enjoying a meal or tankard of ale.

Killian Merric

The proprietor is a stout man named Killian Merric. At 50 years of age, Killian was raised in a large city but relocated to Cross Tree and inherited the Inn from his uncle Tobyn. That was 20 years ago and Killian has been running the place ever since.

Killian stands 6’2” tall and weighs roughly 280lbs. His dark hair, beard, and bushy eyebrows. are starting to give way to a good deal of gray. The large man dresses simply, wearing cotton breeches and a simple tunic, On most days he’ll also be wearing an apron, adorned with splashes and dashes of whatever happens to be on the menu that day.

Nearly always sporting a grin, the innkeeper is nothing if not hospitable. Killian will greet guests warmly and take an interest in their adventures. He knows a fair bit about the local area and is generally willing to share information with travelers, if he feels that they have good intentions. For information he may lack, Killian is certainly well acquainted with the citizens of Cross Tree and able to suggest someone else who may be able to help.

The innkeeper loves a good tune. Any customer who happens to break out in song or play an instrument while visiting the inn is likely to be rewarded with a complimentary meal. If it’s particularly good, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Killian to take off his apron and dance a little jig in the middle of the dining room.

Despite being a fairly large fellow, Killian has no practical combat experience.

Killian keeps a simple room for himself at the inn. While he has had various employees over the years, his niece Karia is currently his only employee.

Karia Merric

Karia Merric is a young woman of 25. After the passing of her mother, two years ago, she relocated to Cross Tree and has been helping her uncle Killian manage the inn.

A no-nonsense woman, Karia usually keeps her blonde hair pulled back and wears simple, woolen dresses.

While she adores her uncle, Karia was also interested in relocated to Cross Tree due to it being nestled in the wilderness. She has been studying herbalism for a number of years and her move has allowed her to pursue this passion. When not serving drinks or helping out at the inn, Karia spends her time collecting specimens in the forest and furthering her studies.

Like her uncle, Karia is quite friendly. However, her mind is often occupied, thinking about different tinctures and ointments. She may not be outwardly chatty, though if any travelers come by with obvious wounds or ailments, she will immediately offer to help. Depending on the rules system you are using, I would allow Karia to at least provide some basic healing to injured party members.

If any travelers happen to come through town and mention having a background in herbalism or another similar skill, Karia will be fascinated and try to gain as much knowledge from them as possible.

Food, Drink, & Lodging

You can assume that pricing for food, drink, and lodging will run on the lower end of what is typical in your game system. Killian is a wonderful cook and accommodating host but this is a modest operation.

Highlights of the inn’s menu include flapjacks with locally made maple syrup, a fabulous “restoring” stew, and roasted potato wedges.

Killian has 4 modest rooms for rent. Three of these have a single bed, while one has two. However, a simple sleeping cot can be added to any of the single rooms if it becomes necessary to house more guests. While he wouldn’t rent out his own 2nd floor room, on occasion Killian will allow cots in the common areas upstairs, to accommodate extra guests. Obviously, this would be offered at a reduced rate.

Legend of the Cross Tree

As the Cross Tree Inn is the first stop for weary travelers, Killian will often be asked about the name of the town. On such occasions, he will be more than happy to pull up a chair and share the tale.

Whether there is anything to this legend or whether it is a simple folktale is up to you. Go with what works for your game. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to drop in little bits to keep your players on edge. The inn is an old building, so there will certainly be strange creaks from the floorboards or the occasional cold draft.

*See location #2 once I have posted it

Plot Hooks & Encounters

If you already have plans for future adventures, it should be easy enough to drop in any plot hooks while the PCs are visiting the Cross Tree Inn. There is a message board in the common room and Killian, Karia, or any of the other townsfolk could be used to reach out to the party and ask for their assistance.

Left to their own, both Killian & Karia have a few tasks that they might approach a party of travelers for help with.

  • Killian might offer the party a fair price to go on a hunt for a day and try to bring back a stag or wild boar.
  • Karia might hire the party to help her locate certain herbs or mushrooms, only available in the deepest part of the forest.
  • It’s rare that the innkeeper the ability to make the trip to a city. If Killian gets to know the party well or they stop at the inn frequently, he may hire them to bring back certain spices or ingredients.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If you’re taking the time to read this, I hope you have a good week.

Good gaming!

Cross Tree – Starting Town

Every adventure needs a place to start. The maps in this post feature the town of Cross Tree, from a fantasy setting. Moving forward I plan to flesh the place out a bit. I will post a about what can be found within the town, its citizens, and the area at large.

For the time being I think I will try to keep much of what I post as system agnostic as possible. These days, I am most likely to be playing 5e Dungeons & Dragons but I’d like to put content out there that would be useful to just about everyone. I’d be curious to hear what fantasy system you’re playing.

Where possible, I’ll try to post stuff that would be equally useful for D&D, Pathfinder, WFRP, Savage Worlds, or whatever you may be into. Whether you put your players through their paces in the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, or some other campaign setting, I hope to make it easy enough to file off the numbers and make things as useful as I can.

In case anyone is curious, I created these using the Cities of Schley Symbol Set from Campaign Cartographer. I have included a version with just the title, one with labels, and also one with labels & a grid. Feel free to use these as you like for your own games or simply as inspiration for something more grand.

As of this writing, I have not had the time to explore the world of virtual table-top gaming. I know that it has become quite popular and that the pandemic has only increased its popularity. The thought occurred to me to do some investigating and include maps that would easily import into the popular VTT platforms. However, since part of my purpose in undertaking this endeavor was to interact with people, I decided against it.

If you are a VTT game master and you stumble onto something of mine that would be useful to you, if only it were scaled differently, had a different grid, or certain tweaks, please leave a comment. I can’t swear to it but I would certainly do my best to make an edit and get you what you need.