The tent city of Sanctuary sits in the foothills of the Deng Fang Mountains in northern Tekralh. The mountains were once a border between the lands of the dwarves and the lands of the elves. However, generations ago human incursions from the south forced the elves to retire to their great forests in the west and the dwarves to the Dragonspine Mountains of the east.
To the north of Sanctuary, in a valley, runs the N’Halem River and on its banks sits the one permanent building in the region, a tavern called The Raven, which has long served as a stopping point for merchants travelling down river or caravans crossing the foothills.
The Raven is owned by Mr Gold, who “runs” Sanctuary (for instance, he leases out the plots for people to erect their tents on and likes to receive a ‘consideration’ from all treasures retrieved from the mountains).
Although blind, he is assisted by a pair of brutish half-ogre brothers, Darth and Khorne.
The day-to-day running of The Raven is handled by Gold’s brother, Penfold, and Penfold’s wife, Arrietta, and their staff of barmaids.
Sanctuary is home to a variety of stores and services, catering to the needs of those who come to the town seeking their fortune in the Deng Fang Mountains.
The “gold rush” began eight months ago when a party of merchants, camped in the hills, discovered the entrance to an old dwarvish burial mound.
That small ‘dungeon’ has now been cleared out, but recently adventurers further up the mountain heard “roaring” from behind a rockfall and when they investigated they discovered a narrow passageway twisting into the heart of the mountain.
The photograph above is actually a tent town in a mountain valley in Idaho, November 1909, but fitted my vision of Sanctuary almost perfectly.
As with my last stab at running a campaign I'll be using the Crypts & Things rules (a sword and sorcery variant of Swords & Wizards, from D101 Games - although the houserules I've been working on would probably have author Newt Newport tearing his hair out. He went to great lengths to create a game that captured the spirit of Conan, Kull and Slaine and I've gone and turned into my own fantasy heartbreaker re-imagining of Arduin.
But I just love what Newt has done with the rules - his take on magic is the most perfect reworking of the traditional old school Dungeons & Dragons Vancian magic I've come across (splitting magic into shades of white, grey and black).
There are also plenty of other clever little twists in the game that make it as close as possible to my "holy grail" of fantasy RPGs. Of course, that hasn't stopped me from buggering around with the rules, bringing back non-human races, introducing my own skill system etc
Meanwhile, the whole idea of starting "small" comes about from my dissatisfaction with my last attempt to run Crypts & Things. No fault of the system. I'd just go so engrossed in "Westeros-fever" and try as I might I couldn't stop myself from continually building and building the game world - detailing countries and cultures the players would possibly never discover - while simultaneously delving into the minutiae of a pseudo-medieval world.
The players were overwhelmed with "facts" before they even got started. I'd been so enamoured of trying to create my own Song Of Ice And Fire that I'd overlooked the intimate adventure that the game needs at its heart to keep the players - and Dungeon Master - invested.
I shall not be making that mistake again. What you read above is pretty much all the background I'll give the players at the start of the game - although probably with a few more personal touches once we know a bit more about them.