Boer the Dwarf had been wandering in the woods for hours. He had seen fleeting glimpses of his friends, but mostly just tall trees, thick bushes, and the occasional burst of laughter in the air. In a clearing he saw a woman, wearing a cloak of feathers and astride a white horse.
“Don’t worry, Boer,” she said. “Someone will open the door soon.” He awoke, miles and weeks away from where he had slept.
Hugh had similarly been wandering in the woods, but for mere minutes. When he saw the woman, she was a little more verbose.
“We continue to walk astride the balance beam between worlds, and between order and chaos. But when you reach your next destination, you will find someone trying to open the door.” Hugh also awoke.
The two joined Jethro, Elliot, and Ander, battered from their fight with the djinn. Hrive was gone, likely off to “the woods”, trapped within the Feywild by the greater spirit who seemed to be toying with them. Having no choice but to press on, the group rested from their combat, roused the guards they had knocked out before, and helped send the group of confused former slaves north to Glebhavern, where they’d be welcomed.
The journey south began uneventfully, with the entire first day spent on an old road running along the beach. There was ocean to the party’s left, and tall mountains to their right. Ahead of them stretched out meadows, with only the occasional skeleton of an old village to interrupt things. After sunset, the party approached a crossroads, with what looked like a half-constructed roadhouse sitting in one corner. Slinking about in the construction site was some sort of figure, hard to see at a distance. Ander and Hugh did what adventurers are wont to do, and got closer. The creature immediately hissed at them about desecrating a battlefield, and cast its eyes at Ander. While no medusa, the creature’s gaze did make Ander crumple into a heap. The fight had begun. Hugh’s healing magics were greatly appreciated, especially as he was absent in the fight with the djinn. While averting their eyes was difficult, the party closed the gap and slayed the undead beast. Smartly, then, Ander and Hugh climbed down into the incomplete building’s basement. Elliot’s Detect Magic spell had showed the location of a desecrated battlefield grave, and the two adherents of the Death God Dommus made quick work of re-burying the bodies and giving them proper last rites. After the drama of the night, the party walked down the road and camped on the beach, away from the battlefield, the inn, and whatever it was that attacked them.
The next morning, the party finished their trek, walking north into the peninsula and arriving at the outskirts of Third City. The buildings began to crop up long before they reached the gate, where they had a short encounter with a local customs agent. After seeing their various and sundry weapons and accoutrements, the agent let them through and directed them towards an Inn somewhat near the gate, the Wand of Lightning. Apparently it served “their kind”, meaning adventurers, wayfarers, and ne’er-do-wells. The inn was easy to find, and even had a notice board on the outside. Apparently a local construction crew wanted help killing a Bodak. So that’s what the undead beast was called…
Before following up on that lead, the party went inside. The place wasn’t busy, but still more full than you’d expect for early afternoon. The bar was being managed by Thori, a garrulous dwarf. Thori liked newcomers, and gave the party a basic overview of the city: Seven wards, four within the walls and three without. The three without were the creatively named South Gate Ward, North Gate Ward, and East Gate Ward, and were mostly working class dwellings with a smattering of shops. The Upper Citizen’s Ward and Lower Citizen’s Ward were within the walls, and were mostly merchants, craftsmen, and their homes. The Seaport District contained the harbor and warehouses, but also was home to the temple and the administrative center of the city. The Old City was to the east of the Seaport, and contained the largest assembly of the old city of Dihlstrad, including the old castle which was mostly abandoned. After negotiating for an extended stay with lodgings, food, and drink, Elliot asked about the purchase of exotic items. For that, Thori pointed them to a tavern in the Seaport District, the Maiden and Blade, which was the de facto home of the Azog Compact, a group of goblin smugglers who ran ships between Third City and Gulagash, a massive goblin city-state on the Eastern Continent. The party received their room keys and headed out. First they wanted to talk to the work gang about the Bodak, then they wanted to talk to a smuggler. The Azzo brothers construction crew was relieved to hear that the Bodak was taken care of, though also surprised. They too had seen the death gaze of the foul creature, and seeing a group who could overcome that was unusual. Elliot noted that they had seen some success with killing monsters, and were trying to dispose of excess coin, and to that end, Adri Azzo, the elder brother, noted that there was an investor coming into town the next day. Adventurers could both own and run inns at crossroads, so said investor may be interested. The party agreed to meet, while keeping their stake in a certain tavern in Glebhavern close to the chest.
The next stop was a detour from the destination of the second tavern, but both Ander and Hugh wanted to see if there was a lodge of the Order of Ending in the city. Being a large city where people die, there was. The clerics in the lodge welcomed them in, and answered Ander’s first question with a promise to send word of his well-being up to the monastery he came from north of Port O’Rock. The second question proved more interesting. After asking about holy weapons and getting no answer (despite being aligned with Dommus, God of Death, the Order of Ending is mostly peaceful) Ander and Hugh talked about their time with the Dogs of War, who to the other clerics were fantastical creatures of legend. After hearing about the Dogs of War, undead, and all sorts of other things that seemed reserved more for holy epics than the two men standing in front of them, one of the clerics had an idea. There was another religious lodge in the city, the Lodge of the Great Forge. The followers of the Great Forge were mostly those attuned to arcane power, and would likely be able to help with the requests for magic items and enchantment. However, the cleric warned, followers of the Great Forge turned their back on the elemental Gods.
The Lodge of the Great Forge was not far away, and the party was beckoned in by a berobed kobold. As the party were not members, the kobold asked questions as to their reason for visiting the lodge, which at least on the first floor appeared to be more library than temple. Elliot mentioned the Mage’s College at Glebhavern, and held up the amulet they had used to dispel some of the college’s arcane effects. The kobold studied the amulet, and then strode back into the reading room. Some time later, an aged halfling came out, amulet in hand. His name was Enoch, and he studied at Glebhavern’s Mages College before the city was invaded. The discussion quickly turned to the fairy door, both the odd pronouncements of the woman they had seen in the Feywild as well as the artificial gate they saw in the basement of the college. Enoch explained that, based on the description of the dreams and the woman, that some Fey was pulling the party into the Interface Between Worlds, a magical border between the Feywild and the Prime Realm. While it’s relatively easy for a powerful creature to pull someone or something into the Interface, getting them or it all the way to the other side requires a door. While the fairy doors that spontaneously pop up across the world may be physically large, they are magically quite small, and most powerful Fey that desire passage would be unable to squeeze through, even if a mundane person from the Prime Realm could easily. The problem with building a larger gate is that a lot of power could flow through into the Prime Realm, and chaos would overwhelm order. Enoch described it as an “apocalypse of chaos that would make the Great War look like a sneeze”. When Elliot asked if he knew anyone capable of making such a gate, he sadly shook his head. He did, however, know the answer to Elliot’s question of how to build such a gate. While the materials for building a teleportation gate are neither particularly rare nor particularly mysterious, research from the College indicated that to make the Faerie Door work, it would require materials from the Feywild to be brought back. Apparently the best place to look for those would be east of the city, an area where the war didn’t touch. Enoch showed the party out, and welcomed them to come back with new information. Elliot realized something from Enoch’s affect as well as his answers: he almost certainly had an idea of who was building the gate, though even if confronted it was unlikely he’d tell them. Still, it meant that following the old halfling may result in a new lead.
The last place the party went, finally, was the Maiden and Blade, where they gave a secret password to a short goblin with six ear piercings. They were led back to a long table where the smuggler had a retinue of half a dozen hobgoblins waiting. After showing some of the treasures from the most recent fight, the goblin, Buzzo, agreed to purchase two of the more (as he put it) “fungible” items, a pair of healing potions. He offered 20,000 gold, a fair price though a low one. After talking through the extent of their interests, Buzzo on the party settled on meeting at the city bank in the administrative district. They’d receive 15,000 gold in currency, with the other 5,000 held in escrow to pay information brokers and fixers who’d find sellers and buyers of other magic items. The party agreed, and Buzzo led them back to the main tavern area from the negotiating table.
“In this city, being a seller of esoteric goods often means being a seller of illegal goods as well,” he said. “But in this city, being a seller of illegal goods is much safer than being a thief or robbing people. I say this both to assure you that I will keep my promises, but also to inform you of the grave consequences should you betray me.” The party opted not to stay around the Maiden and Blade, not feeling very welcome as they tried to puzzle out if they had just been reassured or threatened. Either way, the next day had in store several meetings, and several potential business relationships.
When you write a new location, especially a city, you’re likely to come up with interesting stuff. And once you have interesting stuff, it’s understandable that you want to share it with your players. Sessions like this one above run the risk of becoming “info-dumps”, where the players listen to you rattle off all the cool things about the new location and aren’t exactly sure what to do with it. While I don’t think I entirely avoided this, by connecting everything I shared with something the adventurers wanted to do, this session at least kept their attention.
This session is also an example of a classic mid-campaign interlude: the shopping trip. Since magic items aren’t folded into advancement in 5e like they are in 4e and 3.5, it’s easier to make magic items both scattershot when they’re in dungeons, but also hard to find in settlements. Being that this is supposed to be the largest settlement in the area, though, if there’s anywhere the characters will find magic items, it’s here. And honestly, the main purpose of opening up the gates a bit in this session was to lighten the characters’ load in terms of the vast amount of gold and treasure they were carrying. I didn’t track encumbrance super closely in this campaign, but I did enough to say that they couldn’t just carry thousands of coins around in their pockets. Both letting the characters buy magic items as well as giving them access to a bank meant welcome relief to a party who, back in Glebhavern, literally dug out part of the floor of the inn they were squatting in to safely hide their coin.
The new location would provide some interesting hooks and, as was implied in this session, advancement of the plot the characters were chasing. To start, though, the characters got to see some new sights, meet some new people, and buy some new stuff. As for your humble GM, he learned the pop-culture implications of the Bodak.