Describing these six medieval fantasy suburban hexes has been one of the more difficult requests in the ‘Bring It’ challenge I made in December. It took forever for me to start tackling it and then I spent a lot of time drafting new things to place in the hexes. At some point, I decided that there was enough content in the blog going back two years that I could populate the suburbs with my own encounters and creatures. I included the URL’s after everything for those who want to print this out and made those links live for those who want to read it online. I’ve gotten a number of requests to compile the blog into a pdf or print collection. Daztur’s request turned out to be a great framework for compiling content and in the end it was a lot of fun to do this one. I hope its helpful. It’s still a bit empty in some hexes, but I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas to add to it.
I am going to assume that your city, which I shall call in your honor Dazturburg, is a medium-sized city ruled by a duke. I am going to treat it as a single hex, and describe the six surrounding hexes, although you should scale these areas as appropriate. My interpretation of ‘suburbs’ means not quite wilderness (there are villages, farms, etc.) although the fringes might have some wilderness areas.
The Suburbs of Dazturburg
Dazturburg is situated on the River Daz, which is approximately two hundred yards wide and up to 25 feet deep. The Jahur Road crosses the Daz on the Big Bridge, which is in Dazturburg (think the medieval London Bridge, but wider). There are several smaller bridges in the city but no bridges in the hex to the north. There is one small bridge in the hex to the south, licensed to the Church (or churches). If you decide to locate this city within 30 or so miles of the ocean, the river rises and falls about 20 feet with the tides.
North of the city is upstream or “updaz”, where the water is clean compared to “downdaz.” There are a number of fishing villages on both banks and several small islands where small communities live. These communities predate the city and their inhabitants call themselves the Daz. They believe their bloodlines superior to even the nobles of the city. If you want to stage some sort of Innsmouth-type grotesqueries, this would be the place for it. There are no bridges, but there are ferries, which by law may carry no more than twenty persons or four horses.
The fishing village of Daz is on the eastern bank. Midsteam is a small island called Midaz, where many small pontoons and boats are stored. If a caravan or small militia wants to avoid detection or customs fees at the legal bridge in Dazturburg, they can bribe the fishermen at Daz to create a pontoon bridge to Midaz. Having crossed, they must wait on the island until the bridge is then extended to the western bank. There, a small cave in the west bank cliffs that leads about a mile west where a secret exit is maintained.
Updaz from this secret crossing is a fairly wide (100 yards wide, half a mile long) island that some foolishly try to use as a crossing point. Here there are a pride of displacer beasts (south end) and a pack of blink dogs (north end). Anyone landing here is likely to be eaten or caught in the middle of the rivalry. The locals only know that evil lives on this island and they will never land there.
Smalldaz is a village of about 15 families. Smalldaz is one of the few villages licensed to manufacture and sell fortified wines (brandy, sherry, etc.). In this case, the liquor is called (wait for it) Daz. The best Daz comes from SmallDaz from a family known as the Wilts. This family’s tradition of Daz goes back to the days of the lost city of Pantari, the ruins of which are in the swamps of the NE hex.
The Wilts were recently killed and replaced by a family of doppelgangers. Anyone investigating thoroughly would find the bodies of the Wilts have washed up on Ghoul Island in the south hex. The DoppelWilts secretly carry on the family tradition, shipping barrels of Daz down the river to the city. In these barrels they conceal baby doppelgangers, which resemble clear gelatinous blobs. They wait until the barrel is drained then emerge. The plan is to take over wealthy families by sneaking in through the cellar.
North East Hex
The Jahur Road approaches Dazturburg from the northeast. Caravans travel hundreds of leagues from the cold lands of the north through the city, across the Daz and hundreds of leagues more to the south/southwest toward the Iberic city Jahur, the “City of Jewels.”
As pilgrims, crusaders and merchants approach the city, they pass through many small towns. Most of the land in this direction is swamp land.
There are many shrines along the road for pilgrims and crusaders travelling to Jahur. Each of these has its own stamp/tattoo/trinket it offers (for a price) to travelers who wish to see the holy relics/praying nun/weeping effigy along the way (adapt this to your campaign’s religious peculiarities). Here is one unusual shrine along the path:
The Shrine to No God
A small chapel along the main road, the Shrine to No Gods. It is kept by a cleric, Brother Germaine, head of the Order of No-God, a religious order that consists of one Brother Germaine. His order insists that there are no gods, that there never were in the first place, and that all this divine magic is locked inside each and every specimen of mankind. Brother Germaine insists that he himself worships no gods, but that his meditations on the nature of man deliver him “divine” magicks. And indeed, he is a cleric of name level with no apparent patron deity who can cast spells. He is also as old as the planet, but has forgotten that. They party might learn this truth if he was kidnapped and rescued.
The Fat Pony Inn
There are many Inns along this road, but none so renowned as this four-story inn, run by a small charter of halflings. Their particular charter is to discretely collect research into magical spells. They are reknowned for their hospitality, their cheap yet extraordinary house meade and their willingness to secure any sort of entertainment their guests might desire. Each adult is a mage of up to sixth level. A sixth level mage (or bard) plays his harp nightly in the common room. A few hours past midnight, he casts a sleep spell in one of his songs. The others then gather all magical scrolls and books found on guests and copy them into their own library, which is in a hidden part of the cellar. (Halfling Charters: http://www.rolang.com/archives/168)
There is a famous market outside the city that offers local fish, crawdads, wine, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Many items of contraband (purple lotus powder, dream snuff, etc.) can be bought if one inquires DISCRETELY. Here is one stall that might cause trouble for unwary travelers:
Bathilda the baker, a woman in her fifties, has wild dreams of making love to a demon at night. His pillow talk tells of a skull buried under a stump in the forest. She seduced a woodsman to fell the tree and dig up the skull. As he climbed out of the pit, the woodsman tripped on a root and fell back, landing on the skull and piercing his heart on its single horn.
She puts the skull beside the coals of her oven when she bakes her bread. Each roll has a small spirit in it, capable of possessing someone who eats it, provided they eat it hot and fresh (the spirit rides the steam).
Bathilda spent a considerable amount of her small savings to rent a small place near her market stall, so the bread is hot and fresh. She has even started to serve goat stew (at a loss) to go with the fresh bread, encouraging her customers to eat it right there.
There are a few brothels along the road. Here’s the worst/best one:
This brothel is ludicrously expensive. Mage/prostitutes use telepathic spells and illusions to enact their customer’s deepest fantasies. For most locals, this experience is too disturbing for repeat business. Prudhella relies on tourists for business. Roll on the carousing mishaps table.
Ruins of Pantari
In the swamps are the ruins of Pantari, ruined home of the famous Pantari Sybil. She was unfailingly correct, but expensive and very popular. This was the Las Vegas of the ancient world. Although sacked many times, there are still untold riches in the ruins. It is guarded by an adult green dragon. You’ll have to make this one up yourself, pal.
To the southeast are farmlands granted by the Duke to the officially recognized church (or churches). There are several monasteries, nunneries and other organized communities that farm the land and produce food and luxury goods (cotton, wheat, meade, kobe beef…), the latter of which are not taxed by the city (although the Duke does get secret kickbacks and will be sainted by one or all of the churches). If you have several recognized religions, each of them has parcels of land. If there is only one, consider creating rival sects so there is some tension down this way.
There is a road that least to the south hex (toward the church bridge) and one that leads to the Dazturburg. There are NO roads leading to the main road (to prevent illegal use of the church bridge). There is a secret road that leads to the NE hex and the Jahur Road. Be careful for there is also a man-eating road that lurks nearby (http://www.rolang.com/archives/198).
One temple that could lead to adventure is the Temple of Orsobuffu (Which is too long for this post, but is at http://www.rolang.com/archives/400). Or you could put any of ten other temples found at http://www.rolang.com/archives/412.
There is one very tall mountain toward the SE edge of this hex. There you will find a Roc and a hidden dungeon. If you like published adventures, I recommend Dwimmermount or Death Frost Doom for this location.
To the south is the downstream portion of the Daz, or “downdaz.” On the western banks of the river are slaughterhouses and tanneries, which add considerable stink to waters carrying the city’s waste. Here also is the Church Bridge, which is licensed to the officially recognized church (or churches) which use it to bring cattle from the SE hex to the slaugherhouses on the west bank. According to local custom, it is bad juju/luck to locate a cemetery, charnel ground or place of death on the eastern side of a river, city or holy place (as death offends the rising sun).
Anyone who wants to cross the bridge must show proof of church business to the bridge guards located at either end. The guards are in employed by the church, and if there are rival sects or religions, make sure they opposite ends of the bridge are manned by opposing groups, who make life difficult for those belonging to the opposing group.
Downdaz is there the less desirable land is and there are small villages and encampments found here. Among them is the mage caravan headed by Tullully. (http://www.rolang.com/archives/200)
Further south near the west bank you can place the Tower of the Stargazer or the Institute of Deathology. (http://www.rolang.com/archives/396)
This mile long island is known to the locals as “the Curse.” Something evil in the soil of this place causes the dead to walk. In most cases, bodies become zombies or ghouls. Partial bodies become skeletons (http://www.rolang.com/archives/274). In a thatched hut hidden in the woods is a mummy, who does not at all resemble anything Egyptian. He has hidden his soul in his liver, which is picked in a clay jar and buried among many jars of pickled cabbage on the southern end of the island. He has established secret signals with the churches on the eastern bank and the bandits on the western bank and can call a meeting with either (held on his island, which he never leaves). The Wilt family from the north hex village of Smalldaz are among his subjects. He is aware of their circumstances and will make a deal with or destroy the DoppelWilts.
This hex is on the Jahur-side of Dazturburg. Pilgrims on this side of the city have either already passed through the NE hex and the city, and are therefore broke or had their fill of trinkets and wares, or are returning from pilgrimage (or more rarely, a crusade). On this side, there are a few inns and a few fortune tellers who offer to divine the future of your travels. Also on this side are several cemeteries and a small town that has sprung up around Daztur College and its library. These were relocated from the city after a fire two centuries back and are located on the western side to avoid interference and trouble from the church (which sees the western side of rivers and cities as bad omens-see entry for south hex). If arcane magic is legal in your campaign, this is where a mages college thrives. Otherwise, it is a college where the zygote of an intellectual and scientific renaissance has formed.
Consider using this as a location for the Caves of Chaos, StoneHell, the Grinding Gear or the Kaotic Caves (http://www.rolang.com/archives/391).
There’s a bridge over an old flooded quarry here. In a nearby cave, an Ettin (Hoss or The Gang, or if you want to go for laughs, The Ship) lives off the meat of travellers headed toward the city. It carefully covers its tracks. (Ettins: http://www.rolang.com/archives/122).
In a hut in the woods lives the famous oracle, Medusa. I suggest using the Junkie Medusa (http://www.rolang.com/archives/84)
Every city has its playground for the wealthy and the Hamptons of Dazturburg are here. Selmarne has east and west ends, separated by the Duke’s hunting grounds and the Sel, a small tributary to the Daz that has been irrigated almost to death to support the vineyards and elaborate water gardens of the wealthy. Old money makes its home in the more desirable EastSel. Merchants and politicians are in WestSel.
Selmarne is patrolled by a sheriff and his men, who are supported and bribed by the wealthy families. Strangers are arrested on sight, but can buy their freedom, provided they leave Selmarne immediately (and are not carrying anything stolen from the wealthy residents). If crossed, they will kill captives and dump them in a swamp behind the Sheriff’s Hall.
There is a gang of bandits, calling themselves the Branch Men (after a branch in the Sel that leads to a waterfall and cavern instead of the Daz). These men firmly believe, correctly so, that some of the wealthy families use their estates for sex and lotus-powder, fueled parties and rituals in honor of far-away gods. They believe the mayor of Dazturburg is concealing half-elf bastards in his mansion and that Chez Drobonne, the finest vineyard in Sel, secretly employs halflings. They are absolutely opposed to any form of magic, arcane or divine and hope to rid Selmarne of its influence. The Duke has told the sheriff to do a poor to mediocre job of bringing them to the Duke’s justice, as he believes the Branch Men give the rich something to fear.
Thieves who are clever at disabling traps and sneaking past guards will be rewarded with the riches of Sel estates. In addition to monetary wealth, one might find:
Decanter of the Addled Gods (http://www.rolang.com/archives/105)
The Queen of Assassins (http://www.rolang.com/archives/95)
A coin collection containing a cursed coin. (http://www.rolang.com/archives/388)
A stubborn treasure chest (http://www.rolang.com/archives/144) that will only open in the center of the Seelie Market (http://www.rolang.com/archives/324) or another very public and strange location in Dazturburg. and It contains a map, adventure hook or perhaps a scroll detailing the construction of a belt of fireball skulls (http://www.rolang.com/archives/223).
The private cemetery of one prominent family has been infected by corpsemites (http://www.rolang.com/archives/18).
The Duke’s hunting grounds are off limits, of course, but anyone poaching is likely to get bitten by a bogpiggie (http://www.rolang.com/archives/133 — I am going to include this in every setting or adventure I post until I get some play reports from someone).
At the entrance to the hunting grounds is the Duke’s Pitch, a tournament field, where jousting, bear-baiting and wargames are held. Here any man may put his name on the lists, but magic and the use of poison are capital offenses. Some believe the Duke offends the gods by putting this field on the east side of the Sel.