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  1. #1
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    Letís Make a Hexcrawl Setting

    Tour of the Shrouded Lands

    You’ve heard of the incredible firebirds, but this is the first one you’ve ever seen. It shimmers like the hearth in your home, like the hair of a beautiful woman, like the sun itself, and the sky and the water and the distant mountains seem to brighten in its presence.

    A flying viper latches on to its head and tries to swallow it whole. The two plummet to the ground, where an ibis pecks at them.

    There is a weird and sometimes funny melancholy to the Shrouded Lands that lie near the edge of the world. The gods – for all the praise of priests – are strange and inhuman. The animals – such as the mongrel dogs that birthed in whole packs like ants – are twisted reflections of what you might expect to find. The people – and note, I do not say ‘the humans’ … well, one quivers in a lonely hut, one sits motionless prophesying for her chimerical goddess and one fuses the heads of those he kills to his body, making a screaming, arguing, genius mess.

    Let me be your guide to the Shrouded Lands. We shall start at the Pool of the Firebirds. To the west, the endless Ocean of Bitter Regrets. Winging east over the Draugmere Peaks, passing the relentless Grey Mountains to the north, we come to the Kingswood. Jealously guarded by the elves, it is death to walk among its trees by day but humans have cut a path beneath it – the Welt Road.

    The Welt Road surfaces at the Lands of the Night Cattle, where they graze their cattle under the moon so as to keep their hides pure white and untouched by sun. The Welt Road continues north to Titan’s Skull, the great fastness of the dwarves. If we continue our passage east, we pass through the Withered Moors and come to the World’s Edge: a great cliff which stretches north and south for many miles above the jungles that lie far below.

    We return now to the Lands of the Night Cattle and take the Welt Road back, this time heading south along the White Road to the City of Shuttered Windows. Its walls stand tall and unmoving, but the city itself is sinking into the ground. The Shuttered City is on the shore of the Keening Sea, and as we head south-east we come to the gnoll-ridden Burning Lands. Of these lands we will say little, except that beyond them still are the Twelve Nations, or what remains of them.

    These are the great sites of the Shrouded Lands – unless you have others that you wish to tell me of?

    What is the Shrouded Lands?

    The Shrouded Lands is a collaborative fantasy RPG setting. It is a map of a world for use with D&D or other roleplaying games. 'Collaborative' means that YOU can contribute to it. The Shrouded Lands is awesome because contributors are required to connect their ideas to something that someone else has written about previously. This encourages people to riff off each other, producing emergent content that nobody could really see coming. As a bonus, it also ensures that the setting is tightly woven together rather than composed of discrete elements.

    OK, I want to contribute. What should I do?

    There's only a few rules to govern what you can and can't add to the Shrouded Lands. First and most importantly, you need to make at least one connection to a previous post by another poster. Also, you should try to make a list of 'hooks' at the end of your post for other people to expand upon. Usually a hook is a question about something in your post, which someone else can answer. Hooks are great because if you can't think of anything to write about something, then you can just let someone else do it for you.

    The other rules are just organisational stuff:
    -Don't write up any stats or anything else that's system-specific. For now, we want the Shrouded Lands to be equally usable for any D&D system.
    -Don't place any locations outside the map. The map is plenty big enough already! (You can make reference to other places; but assume that they aren't accessible to the PCs.)
    -Tie your entry to a hex on the map. This can be an uncharted hex, or one that's already been described, in which case you should consider how your entry relates to whatever is already there.
    -Each hex is 6 miles across.
    -All posts are to be made under the Creative Commons license (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 (Unported), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )

    The easiest way to contribute is just to read some of the entries, pick one of the hook-questions and start answering it. The alternative method is to start with an idea and then try to fit it into the Shrouded Lands, which also works well.

    Alright, I'm going to add something - whoa, this thing is long!

    Yeah. We've written a lot about the Shrouded Lands already - well over 50,000 words. This is pretty daunting to a newcomer. However, you should know that you don't have to read every last word before you're 'allowed' to contribute. In fact, you only really need to read one entry and riff off that. If you're worried that you're going to write something that's 'wrong' or 'not canon', don't sweat it. A lot of the coolest bits of the Shrouded Lands so far have come out of trying to reconcile some sort of continuity problem. For example, a man who had accidentally been given two different first names became a man who actually shapeshifts into another man entirely.

    If you are still uncertain about how your contribution fits into the Lands, then below are a series of short 'briefings' to explain the most important regions, races and characters in the setting. For a more comprehensive survey of different creatures and races, see the Appendices.

    Regions
    The Kingswood: A large forest inhabited by mysterious and hostile elves. An elven holt lies at the centre. Dark fairytale flavor.
    The City of Shuttered Windows: Largest city in the Lands, ancient and labyrinthine. Very slowly sinking into the ground. Strongly religious. Feels like Vornheim crossed with Venice. (Also called 'Shuttered' or 'The Shuttered City'.)
    The Duchy of Thring: Large Arthurian nation with knights, counts and castles. Worships the Green Lady. Bizarre laws.
    The World's Edge and Beyond: Vast cliffs sinking down to an uninhabited (?) temperate basin. Many strange monsters.
    Lands of the Night Cattle: The Night Men and their cattle only come out at night. Their albino cattle are used in rituals by most religions in the Shrouded Lands.
    The Freeholds: Lawless region dotted with independent keeps and towns. Something of a wild west vibe.
    The Welt Road: Trade route that passes through a long tunnel under the Kingswood, avoiding the dangerous elves. Connects the Lands of th Night Cattle to the Freeholds.
    The Grey Mountains: Northern mountain range inhabited by dwarves and orcs.
    The Bitter Coast: Western sea frequented by pirates and Pirate Kings - storm giants who ride in flying cloud castles.
    The Keening Sea: Large eastern sea with ships from Shuttered and Blind Midshotgatepool.
    The Barrier Range: Mountains between Thring and the Shuttered City. Inhabited by Witch Clans - inbred tribesmen with the hereditary power to cast one particular spell at-will.
    Blind Midshotgatepool: Five towns that grew together into a bureaucratic nightmare of a city. Founded by Thringmen but now subjugated by the City of Shuttered Windows.
    Bergolast: Ruined city which once held the Tarrasque captive, but was later destroyed. Those who drank the blood of the Tarrasque became trolls or immortals.
    The Burning Lands: Hot deserts, sometimes literally on fire. Inhabited by dwarves, painted elephants and gnolls.
    The City of Smoke: Gnollish city in the far southeast. Ruled by the Great Mother, matriarch who murdered and devoured her predecessors.
    The Hills of Gore: Region ruled by the Lords Sanguine, former butchers who overthrew their kings and became immortal through Tarrasque blood. Mostly undescribed.
    The Cornfields: Fields inhabited by tooth-stealing corn farmers. Mostly undescribed.
    The Devil's Fingers: Mountains (?) with a ruined city and a tribe of cave-dwelling gnomes. Mostly undescribed.

    Races
    (where unspecified, assume similarity to D&D norms)
    Gnolls: Gnolls are relatively civilised. A gnoll could be a PC. They have their own city, a matriarchal society, a college for bards. Still pretty violent and barbaric though. They dwell primarily in the Burning Lands.
    Orcs: Also somewhat civilised, though still warlike. An orc could be a PC. They are builders as well as raiders, and dwell mostly in the north.
    Goblins: Have a spiritual connection to oak trees.
    Trolls: Were originally humans who drank the blood of the Tarrasque.
    Ettins: Have only recently come into the world (as far as we know). Are named after Alvise Etienne, the first Ettin, created by the wizard Severard.
    Elves: Are pre-Tolkien - fey, mysterious and capricious. An Elf could probably not be a PC. They rarely leave the Kingswood, and deal harshly with those who enter it.
    Gnomes: (Sometimes) live inside the walls of giants' castles.

    Gods and Godesses
    Alberon: God of the City of Shuttered Windows. Whether he has any other portfolio beside this city is unclear. Spurned the godesses She Who Waits and the Green Lady, slew the goddess Tiamat, fought a war with the goddess Chimalia. (He doesn't get on well with goddesses, apparently.) Cults: The Temple Indivisible and the Temple Invisible.
    She Who Waits: A nameless underworld goddess spurned by Alberon.Possibly the cause of the Shuttered City sinking into the ground. Tries each night to trap the sun-god, the King in Splendour, in her dark realm. Cult: The Whispering Sisterhood.
    The King in Splendor: Dual-identity sun-god who rises each day as the Lion in Splendour and descends into the underworld at night to become the King in Splendor. Cult: The Lion Priests.
    Tiamat: Dragon-goddess who was killed by the god Alberon. Still has a small cult. Is the mother and sister of Chimalia.
    Chimalia: Goddess of chimerical (half-and-half) monsters, particularly minotaurs. Sister and daughter of Tiamat. Her symbol is a labyrinth.

    Famous Figures
    The Tarrasque: The Tarrasque used to be chained up in the city of Bergolast, where the citizens drank its blood to gain immortality. That turned them into trolls. Since then the Tarrasque has escaped. It doesn't ravage the land unless you make it angry. In Thring it is called the Questing Beast and they hunt it, but never manage to kill it.
    Severard of the Seven Chins: Highly powerful wizard who was apparently something of a dick, though not outright evil. Is now presumed dead.
    Trimoueil, Exiled Poet: Author of several well-known poems and plays. Where he is exiled from has not yet been described.
    The Founders of Blind Midshotgatepool: Five heroes who founded the five towns that make up the city. One of these was Ban the Clever, founder of Banshot.

    Up to date map: http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/1543/april11map.png (note the white bits in the NE quadrant indicate tentative borders of regions, not described hexes and the bits of coastline that go through blank hexes are also tentative)
    Map with region labels: http://img839.imageshack.us/img839/4...withhexes1.jpg (a bit out of date now)
    Map with labels: http://img17.imageshack.us/img17/579...landshexes.jpg (a bit out of date now)
    Map with labels and tentative borders: http://img840.imageshack.us/img840/1...ndsborders.jpg (a bit out of date now)

    Revised hex description archive:
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6z-...lRRDR2aWc/edit
    Appendixes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1...hs76R1Ovg/edit
    Hex index: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6z-...hqNktBSjA/edit

    Credit: the introduction (the paragraphs above the line) was written by Sanglorian, one of the contributors to this project, and edited and added to a bit by me.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Entry #1: The Pool of the Firebirds
    Type: Hex Description (Hex 04.05)

    High in the mountains, a series of hot springs feed into a steaming pool where the beautiful and elusive firebirds fly from their distant nesting grounds to splash and cavort. In a series of mist-shrouded waterfalls, the overflowing waters of the pool flow down to the valley floor far below.

    As long as a firebird lives, its feathers give off a warm glow as of a bonfire just past its peak and a single caged bird can easily light an entire feasting hall throughout the night. Many of sought to brave the dangers of the mountains to capture a living firebird, but the cliffs below the Pool have proven steep and the perils many…

    Hooks (I’ll include a lot for this first one):
    -Who would be interested in buying a captured firebird? Who already owns at least one? Why?
    -Who has succeeded and capturing a firebird?
    -Can firebirds be used as a material component for any magic? Are they favored as sacrifices by any cult?
    -Does the pool have any magical properties?
    -Where do the firebirds nest?
    -What is the origin of the firebirds?
    -What dangers lurk in this hex?
    -Why are there so many hot springs here?
    Last edited by Daztur; Saturday, 13th April, 2013 at 03:14 PM.

  2. #2
    Eh, sure I'll take a shot at this.

    Entry #2: The Glass Rapids
    Type: Hex Description (Hex #05.05)

    A rushing river breaks the silence of the otherwise smooth stone landscape, the rocks just beneath its surface strangely crystalline in appearance, and deadly for one caught in the fast flow of the current. The river flows several miles to the south-east before pouring abruptly into a gaping hole in the ground. At night, strange, almost festive sounds come from the caves in the hole, and the riverbed glows with a soft green light

    Hooks:
    -Who or what lives in the caverns beneath the river?
    -Are the river rocks magical? Valuable? Is it even possible to safely retrieve them from among the rapids?
    -How deep does the underground river run?
    -Why does the landscape seem so unnaturally smooth around the river?

  3. #3
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    Comment was too long: basically in order to hook your entry to mine I'll have the source of your river be my pool. It'll be hard until we have a few more entries, but try to connect each entry to a previous one in some way.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Daztur View Post
    Comment was too long: basically in order to hook your entry to mine I'll have the source of your river be my pool. It'll be hard until we have a few more entries, but try to connect each entry to a previous one in some way.
    That was my thought too, and the reason I choose to place a river next to a mountainous setting with high-up water. You'll note the river flows south-east, i.e. directly away from your hex. It'd make sense for the water to be coming from there, and I figured that'd make it easy to connect them.

  5. #5
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    I'm participating!

    Entry #3: KFE!
    Type: NPC/location description (Hex #15.07)

    KFE or "Keith's southern Fried Entrails" is a local eatery that is popular among those who would enjoy entrails. Captain Keith uses he secret spice recipe and his patented "southern" style frying technique to cook some tasty entrails. What people don't know is that "southern" style frying uses the power of the mystical river rocks from the Glass Rapids!

    Hooks:
    What other strange indigents would KFE require?
    How did Keith get the rank of Captain? Is there an army nearby? Was there a war?
    Are there any other eateries that would rival KFE?
    Who invented the idea of frying entrails?

  6. #6
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    Looks like a fun project to participate in.

    Entry #4: The Glass River Winery (Hex # 05.04)
    Type: Hex Description/NPC location

    Abutting the flat stone plains that the Glass River runs through is an unusual winery whose proprietor, Abdul Zassiz, is well-known locally for being a rather shady character. Although Abdul masquerades as a normal human vintner, he is actually a tiefling in disguise (in pre-4e, his tiefling features are easily concealed; in 4e, he is mutilated or has undergone a strange form of surgery to remove his obvious tiefling traits).

    Abdul treats his customers fairly, but they always feel as though they have been swindled or tricked somehow. The few individuals who have visited the winery after dark always report that the place is full to the brim with scurrilous characters after sunset, yet nobody ever sees those same characters elsewhere. Despite all of this, his customers tend to come back for more, as his wine is of exceptional quality.

    Hook:
    -Who are Abdul's after-dark customers? Where do they come from and where do they go?
    -Why does Abdul maintain the fiction that he is human rather than tiefling?
    -With no grapes at hand, how does he make his wine?
    -Despite their fair treatment, why does everyone think Abdul is so shady?

  7. #7
    Cool idea!

    Hex 03.04 - The Monastery (mountains)

    A cadre of dwarves has set up a small monastery overlooking the Pool of the Firebirds. Occasionally, the dwarves travel in pairs - never more than two, never less than two - to the pool to collect small orange stones. Outside of the monastery the dwarves will interact with others in a friendly manner. However, they will never speak about what happens inside their monastery. Each dwarf carries an iron symbol shaped as a firebird.

    A dwarf vagrant also roams these lands; he claims to be the former master of the monastery who was driven out during a coup d'etat. He claims that an evil presenece has taken hold of his former students.

    Hooks:
    Who are the dwarven monks?
    Why are they collecting small orange stones?
    Who is the dwarf vagrant?
    What is happening inside the monastery?

  8. #8
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    This one connects with Jacob Marley's post:

    The Shrine of Father Dorek
    Type: Hex Description (Hex 03.07), NPC description and background information.

    In the rocky hills of this hex, the vagrant dwarf maintains a small shrine dug into a hillside where as small fire is kept eternally burning with a slow smoky blaze. No matter how far the vagrant dwarf wanders, he always returns here to feed the fire and look mournfully into its flames.

    This dwarf, once known as Father Dorek when he led the monastery, was of the habit of taking long walks in the forgotten tunnels beneath the dwarven monastery while contemplating the mysteries of the divine. On one such ramble, he came across a passage of tunnel that radiated heat and when he ran his hands along the tunnel wall the warm areas spelled out the dwarven Forge Rune, or at least so Dorek claimed.

    Excitement raced through the old dwarf and he quickly sent for mining equipment and delved into the rock for the source of the heat. There he found, encased in the rock, a being of fire and smoke. To Father Dorek, this creature could only be an avatar of The Drinker of Iron (whose symbol is a firebird), the dwarven god of the forge, and he set about freeing the creature from the rock that imprisoned it.

    Alarmed at Father Dorekís heresy, and even more alarmed at the thought of a monster loose in their halls, the Brothers of the monastery ousted Father Dorek from his position and his home. Too afraid to confront the being of fire and smoke, they redirected the flow of the springs of the mountain to pour through the tunnel where Dorek found the creature, hoping that water would rob the creature of its power.

    So far it seems that the plan of the dwarven Brothers has worked. That spring water, heated by the imprisoned being of fire and smoke, now pours out in the Pool of the Firebirds. At night, strange cries from deep in the mountain can be heard by the dwarven monks and strange orange rocks have begun to turn up at the Pool of the Firebirds. These rocks, perhaps the tears of their prisoner, become smoky orange gems of breathtaking beauty when cut correctly. Every so often two dwarves of the monastery are chosen by lot to venture to the Pool of the Firebirds, one to gather the orange stones and one to ensure that the gatherer keeps none for himself.

    Hooks:
    -What exactly is the being of fire and smoke? Was Dorek right about it? Or is it a demon? An elemental? A demigod? How did it wind up imprisoned in solid rock?
    -Do the gems that are cut from the orange stones have any interesting properties?
    -Who do the dwarves sell the gems to? What have they done with their new income?
    -What would happen if the being of fire and smoke ever broke free? What is the vagrant dwarf doing to make this happen?
    -Is there anything else of interest in hex 03.07?
    -What else is down there in the tunnels beneath the monastery?

  9. #9
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    I've updated the map and have collated all of the entries together into a complete write-up and have edited them both into the OP.

    SnowleopardVK: excellent, we're thinking along exactly the same lines then
    Last edited by Daztur; Friday, 17th February, 2012 at 05:19 AM.

  10. #10
    Okay, one more before bed. (This is too fun!)

    Hex 03.08 - Uncle Bertie's Trading Post (plains)

    Here, where the high plains meet the foothills stands the small outpost known as Uncle Bertie's Trading Post. Hunters and trappers come here to resupply before heading out into the foothills and mountains nearby. Uncle Bertie's also offers space in a large hall for people to rest in as well as some poor quality food and ale - often, sausage with goat cheese and turnips.

    Uncle Bertie's is owned and opperated by tough, no-nonsense retired adventurer named Maris. She set up shop here some fifteen years ago after a short (but profitable!) career as an adventurer. She is assisted by a goblin known as Shep whose life she saved from a vicious boar. Shep is greatful to Maris and assists her willingly, but secretly longs to return to his tribe. Only his fear of the boar keeps him at the Trading Post.

    Hooks:
    Hunters and trappers have been commenting on a strange site nearby - an everburning fire! - who, or what, made this strange site?

    Supplies are running low and Maris is growing worried that something has happened to her supply caravan.

    Why did Maris name her trading post Uncle Bertie's?

    Who is this strange little goblin hanging around? Is he a spy? Are there more nearby?

    What happened to Old Willie the trapper? He has not been seen in over three months!

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