Hello students, Crunch here with an article from Faculty Member Ryan Porta. In this article, he introduces us to the city of StoneFall, describes what makes it unique, and provides some plot hooks to use. The intention of this article is not only to demonstrate how to generate home-brew content, but also to give you some pre-made content for your home games. Use these details as you wish, or simply let them inspire your own creations.
The Origin of Magic
Magic is a pretty common occurrence in fantasy-based RPG campaigns. Players love Wizards who sling spells, Illusionists who warp NPCs with a wave of a hand, and Druids who can build a bridge out of tree branches by communing with nature. But where does it come from? What is the source of the magic in your campaign? If you haven’t given it much thought, StoneFall is a city that might answer those questions for you, and give your players some things to do while they visit.
Dwarven City of StoneFall
The great city of StoneFall was not always the bustling trade center that it is today. About 650 hundred years ago, it began with a Dwarf King trying to carve out his legacy. Now, it is an established Dwarven stronghold that has made it riches by trading the unique crystals that are mined beneath it.
Many new young traders have heard of the wealth the fabled crystals of StoneFall. But when approaching the city, this wealth is not apparent. From the outside, the city looks like any other. A high stone and mortar wall surrounds the boundaries of the city. The usual heavy iron gate is poised to drop, should the city fall under siege. A walk through the city gives you views of common houses, shops, and buildings that are made of stone, wood, and proven Dwarven craftsmanship. But that is where the similarities end.
As you approach the far side of the city, you begin to see more metal used for poles, supports, and even thin warehouse walls. The population becomes totally Dwarven, most covered in dust and soot. Thick black plumes of smoke drift up from dozen of large smelts, forges, and metal contraptions. Solid barriers and armed Dwarven guards prevent you from going much farther. Looking beyond, you see countless rope lines slung over the cliff edge. Supports anchor several platform elevators for large tools and equipment.
The far side of the city ends abruptly at this cliff, which drops off into a vast dark chasm that seems to swallow light. Across this empty expanse is a mountain of black stone that rises into the clouds and nearly casts its shadow on StoneFall. Occasionally across the void, creatures can be seen crawling on the stone. They resemble worms with multiple legs on each side. They glow light blue, and hiss deeply when the wall breaks away beneath them, sending rocks tumbling down. If you watch the rocks long enough, they disappear into a black fog that obscures the view of the bottom of the chasm. Moments later, your eyes are treated to pulses of blue, violet, or pink as magic crystals are crushed beneath the rocks.
A CITY DIVIDED
StoneFall has a population of over 100,000. 65% of those are Dwarfs, with the rest split between mostly Humans and Halflings. These beings inhabit and operate the main areas of the city that are accessible to visitors and merchants. Other races can be found among these inhabitants, but they are very few in number. A small 5% of outcast Dwarves have been forced to live topside. These Dwarves have chosen to live within the city walls, as close to their kin as possible. Now called “Topsider,” as a derogatory term, most find work in the city guard, the first line of defense for their king.
Humans operate most of the trades in the city. Most blacksmiths, tanners, cobblers, farmers, butchers, and the like are Human. While these jobs aren’t quick to turn large sums of coin, they help maintain StoneFall as a center of trade and commerce. Shop merchants, tavern owners, and innkeepers are also mostly Human.
If it is piles of gold you are looking to make or to spend, you’ll end up working with a Halfling. Trade markets, bulk supplies, coin exchange, and the auction house operate under the watchful eyes of greedy Halflings.
The Second City of StoneFall
As a Dwarf, if you aren’t a Topsider who owes his or her allegiance to King Claymore, it is almost certain that you work and dwell in the first level beneath StoneFall. These caverns, tunnels, and carved out homes are the oldest of the Dwarven city. In the highest levels reside the oldest of the clan, a few still living from before the city existed. This level expands downward, as newer tunnels are turned into dwellings for expanding families. The Dwarven schools, temples, crystal refineries, and other common businesses also have space here. When the Dwarven population becomes too large and needs to expand, a survey is taken, approved by the King, and the highest levels of the maintenance and storage tunnels are turned into homes.
Below the main body of the subterranean dwarves is a thin layer of tunnels reserved for storage and maintenance of the mining equipment that is used in the section below. Carts, elevator platforms, rigging, and unusual machines fill these halls. When expansion is needed, it takes about a tenday to relocate all the tools to the uppermost, now depleted mine tunnels.
Farthest from the surface, the crystal mines are the sole reason that StoneFall has not only survived, but thrived for so long. Each horizontal shaft will have an upper and lower shaft that assists in farming the crystal veins. When the veins are depleted, the tunnels are reinforced, purposely done for further expansion later on.
The Main Source of the Continent’s Magic
The Dwarves of StoneFall found the magic crystals beneath them very early in their timeline. It didn’t take long for the natural stonecutters to find a purpose for the beautiful formations. But if not mined and refined properly, they are also a source of potential destruction to the city.
The crystals come into the refinery in many shades, but are sorted into 6 colors:
WHITE: These are newly formed crystals. They hold no monetary value. They are usually left behind in the rock, unless they are of considerable size. Smaller crystals can often be followed to more valuable veins further along.
BLUE: Traded for copper pieces. These can be refined down to fuel for fires and similar common uses.
VIOLET: Traded for silver. They are the base crystal for everburning torches. Fuel made from this crystal is used much slower than blue.
PINK: Traded for gold. This color can be refined to fine powder and used for medicine or boosting growth in plants and non-humanoids.
RED: Traded for electrum. These are the main magic component when crafting common magic items.
ORANGE: Traded for platinum. This is the most rare crystal. It takes the longest to form and is highly volatile. These are used to create magic effects on a grand scale, such as the powder for summoning circles, regional effects, or crafting wondrous items.
After being separated by color, the crystals are also graded on clarity. This is just as important when the crystal finally reaches the auction house.
CRACKED/SPLIT: These are dangerous, and will eventually explode. To give a sense of scale: white crystals simply evaporate. An explosion from a blue crystals can be safely contained in one’s hand. But orange crystal explosions have been suspected of causing volcanoes to erupt.
CLOUDY: Known as “young,” or “baby” crystals, these can be taken or marked and left behind for later. These are typically the grade that is ground down to powder and used as components. The powder is worth twice as much as the crystal due to the labor involved in refining. The powder is also a favorite among thieves, assassins, blacksmiths, and mages.
CLEAR: These are the most valuable. They are also the hardest to secure. They are able to focus and store varying degrees of energy. Clear crystals are always used for magic items. If crafted properly, the crystal is said to “melt” into the item, infusing all its stored energy.
The Dark Underbelly (Plot Hooks)
The mining of crystals has brought wealth to many traders. Greed can give way to worshipping the money these crystals bring. There are very few temples and gods worshipped in the city. The religious are laughed at and treated poorly for putting their faith in something other than the power of coins. Topsiders of any race tend to look down on faithful characters.
There is a known power struggle between the Halfling leader of the auction house and the Dwarf King, Claymore. The Dwarf King understands the relationship between his miners supplying the crystals and the Halfling’s ability to restrict their sale, thus increasing the value. He is patient, sending what he needs. The Halfling leader believes he is craftier, hoarding some, selling others, and believes he is in control. A DM may choose to offer his/her players a job in sabotaging the crystal supply, so the Halflings can gain control of the city.
King Claymore has seen a reduced amount of money come in from the crystals his kin have been mining. If the DM’s players can gain access/favor, the king might offer them a mission of proving that the Halfling leader is withholding the King’s share.
The Dwarves have been mining for centuries. Deep in the lowest levels, groans and shrieks can sometimes be heard. A DM may choose to have the mines come under attack from a large creature inside of them. A particular color and shape of crystals have been removed, breaking the seal that kept this monstrosity restrained.
The Halfling leader is a serious crook. Besides skimming coins from the King, he often hires the thieves’ guild to rob would-be traders of large crystal purchases and later resells them. He then splits the profits with the guild. A merchant might hire the players to look into this after it has happened to him a few times.
The Topsiders resent their outcast status. They want to return to the Dwarven city. A charismatic and greedy prince might incite a coup to take over leadership of the Clan. Tension in the city is palpable before this happens. The players could be caught in the middle of a civil war if the mastermind is not revealed.
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