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Sep 28

World Building 3 : Sillen Vale

Hello students, Crunch here with an article from Faculty Member Ryan Porta. In this article, he introduces us to the city of Sillen Vale, 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.

 

 

High Elf City of Sillen Vale

Dwarves live in huge subterranean palaces, carved out through centuries, and decorated with the gems found along the way. Giants and goliaths typically call the mountains home. They prefer the cold, so they are left in peace. Humans, halflings, and lots of other races make shelters in between. Permanent settlements scattered across the lands.  Each one has its own special qualities.

Elves are the one race that spread out over the entire realm. Wood elves patrol the forests and green pastures. Sun Elves are known to travel far and wide as free-spirited wandering nomads. The wicked Drow seldom look past the tip of their swords to revel in their fantastic cities crafted by intense magic and endless wars. In a nearby realm, High Elves are said to be some of the most beautiful creatures that exist. But because they are usually far from the common campaign, these fancy elves are probably foreign to many PCs.  Sillen Dale is a location that you can drop into any campaign for a touch of class. Or it could be just another city among the Feywild.

LIKE NOTHING THE PARTY HAS (PROBABLY) SEEN BEFORE

It isn’t very easy to find Sillen Vale. Unless you enter through one of the four magical gates, you will pass right on by. If you do happen to wander through one of the four cardinal directional doorways, you are transported to a wondrous city protected by a light blue dome of shimmering magical energy. This magical dome is generated by a similar light blue beam that shoots out from the top of the tower in the center of the city. Light from the sun, gentle breezes, and precipitation are all that is capable of passing through the barrier. As you lower your gaze, you will take in the sigts of a moderately sized High Elf city of amazing natural beauty.

Instead of roads or paths, cut into the earth, there is open bright green grass, so dense it is like a woven carpet beneath your feet.  Soft, yet firm dark brown soil becomes lighter as it meets the base of each building. The ivory walls of homes and buildings seem to grow right out of the ground. There is no pattern or system to their placement. The barklike texture of the walls can be seen throughout the city. Doorways and windows are nothing more than open holes in the walls. Thick branches seem to sprout from the wall tops, forming an overhanging base that supports the roof. The roof shingles are nothing more than huge leaves layered over one another. The colors of the rooves are magnificent: bright green, burnt orange, deep red, and soft yellow. If you were to look up through the roof, from the inside, it would seem as if you were looking through tinted glass.

No matter the size of the circular buildings, they are each connected by a very thin snakelike stream of swiftly moving clear blue water. It flows beneath each building into one side and out the opposite side to the next one. The closer you move toward the center of town, the more these small streams merge into larger ones. Where these larger streams meet, small ponds are formed. Typically, each pond has two streams flowing in and two streams flowing out. In each of these pools, there stands a statue that appears as if it is walking on the surface of the water. It is a high elf female, dressed in a simple tunic. She is in full stride, arms swinging forward and back. In her hands, she holds two over-turned pitchers. A steady flow of water empties into the pond from each one.

The center of Sillen Vale is marked by a large circular alabaster stone courtyard. Forty feet in diameter, each stone is separated by a thin strip of grass. The concentric circles of grass end in a perfectly spherical stone. The city’s most notable land marks flank the circle on the east and west.  These two buildings stand out from the rest in that they are the only structures that look to be made out of pure magic.

To the east, there is the Sillen Vale Council Hall. It is a large square building is made of solid red clay. It does not dust, chip, or weather. The clay is as hard as metal. The Council Hall has a low-lipped roof supported by sturdy round columns. They are 5 feet wide, spread 5 feet apart, and there are 10 columns per side. Once you enter, you look down into the Hall itself. Levels of the Hall floor have been cut away into four levels until there is a 20 x 20 feet square speaking platform at the bottom. The current speaker stands in the center, while those in attendance sit or lounge on the platforms.

On the western side of the courtyard stands the magnificent mirrored glass tower, The Pinnacle of Magic. The Pinnacle is the location of all the magic study, research, and practice in Sillen Vale. It stands 8 stories tall. The thick antennae on its peak projects the dome you saw when you first come into the city. The only entrance to the huge octagonal cylinder is a transparent doorway that meets the courtyard.

WHAT MAKES SILLEN VALE SPECIAL

Sillen Vale is a city like no other. It is a cheerful place, almost permanently. The townspeople greet strangers with smiles and friendly waves. The high elves are more than happy to answer nearly any question that is reasonable. Even the guards posted near each gate have few armaments. They assess any new comer and simply nod as the occasional non-violent wander comes through the portals.

That is not to say that the people of Sillen Vale are naïve, or defenseless. While the few guards the city has are armed only with long swords and simple armor, they are more than capable of defending the city. They have learned to blend the swings of their swords into fantastic dances of razor sharp cuts and explosive magic. In fact, as you would expect, each adult high elf is fully trained in the use of magic. The Pinnacle graduates each high elf once they have shown they are capable of helping to protect the city. While those citizens wishing to take up arms focus on destructive magic, your everyday citizen could choose to focus on illusion, conjuring, enchantment, and so on.

There is no money system in Sillen Vale. No printed paper; no stamped coins; no exchange rate for jewels. Instead the peaceful high elves operate on a “favor” system, or promissory note. Each good produced is assigned a value reflecting how much time is used to create it, or how much the maker thinks it is worth. Elves that are in need of these goods exchange them for favors of chores, teaching lessons, or other similar functions. Larger items, such as livestock, wedding dresses or furniture are handled by the city Quarter Master. He or she keeps a manifest of all the large items, as well as their worth and any requirements for exchange, around the city. The Quarter Master becomes the broker for all significant trades in the city. This is an elected position, and once an elf is chosen, he or she must give up any other duties they have within the city.

If an elf chooses not to be a guard and has no talent for crafting or growing, he or she might show extreme talent for magic. The Pinnacle has rooms available for those elves who wish to dedicate their lives to teaching the next generation the basics of magic. After years of dedication, an Arcane Teacher might wish to become Head Master. The Head Master is the elf in charge of running The Pinnacle. They see to its daily functions, teach a little less, and focus on studies and the creation of new spells.  

Head Masters and Quarter Masters that retire or wish to step down become part of the Council Hall. These individuals listen to concerns, pass rulings, and oversee laws. They are usually the eldest or most intelligent high elves in the city. Because of their previous job requirements, they are well known and well respected.

PLOT CONCEPT – AN EVENTUAL GHOST TOWN

For the last few months, the positive attitude of the city has turned into one of worry and fear. This is due to the fact that a strange illness has fallen over the city of Sillen Vale. Its victims first show signs by being more fatigued throughout the day, eventually needing to meditate for longer periods of time to gain their needed rest. As they become weaker, they feel the need to actually sleep. During this stage, the body begins to turn transparent. They still have mass and continue to occupy space but it diminishes as “the vanishing” continues to progress.  Eventually, the elf will vanish altogether.

DM Note: This disease is not intended to kill the victims. Instead, I have designed this disease to suck the magic sensitive high elves to another plane, like a magnet. No one in the city is able to figure this out, until the victims return, all at once, when the problem is solved by the PCs. The DM can use this disease to hamper functions and operations around the city as he/she sees fit.  The idea is to make it harder for the PCs to accomplish their goals until they tackle this problem.

ADVENTURING GHOST HUNTERS

Once the PCs enter the city, they will eventually see at least one of the inhabitants start to fade away. Questions can be directed to the Council Hall, which is now almost constantly in session, trying to find ways to cure the disease. If one of the PCs is Elven, the DM may choose to have the disease affect the PC at a slower rate. The slower rate is due to the PC not being an inhabitant of the town, and just now being affected. This will give them reason to solve the problem.

The PCs should find nothing wrong inside the city. The Council Hall should task the outsiders with finding and solving the disease since they are likely the ones least affected. In doing so, they are more than willing to give the PCs all the information they have found, which is very little. Nothing in the city is out of place. The city has not come under attack. The water source is not poisoned or cursed. They do not believe they have angered any gods. Hopefully the PCs will come to the conclusion that it only affects inherently magical beings. The biggest source of magic in the city is The Pinnacle.

The Head Master is more than willing to help the PCs in any way that he/she can. For ease in the rest of this article, I will call him Thamior. He has conducted his own search of The Pinnacle in hopes of finding anything. This should seem suspicious to the PCs .  Thamior should be the prime suspect. He should be resentful of an outside group being able to solve the situation quicker/better than he. He should not agree with the decision to let them search The Pinnacle, but will allow it to help his city.

THE PINNACLE

The first story of The Pinnacle is a gathering space. It is made of mirrored glass. Anyone can see out of The Pinnacle through the glass, but you are unable to see into the building. It is magically reinforced and is extremely hard to break (DC 30). The floor is completely open, save for a few benches along the walls (that magically multiply when a large group meets) and a large number of cloak hooks near the doorway. The floor is grey marble with a swirl pattern. The large room is lit from a magical white orb suspended in the ceiling. On the opposite side of the doorway, slightly off to the right, there are 2 glowing teleportation circles etched into the floor. The left one glows a soft orange. The right one glows dark blue.  

Thamoir explains the orange teleportation circle is for going up to the next level. You must completely exit the circle, and then reenter to go up again. The dark blue circle is for traveling down. It operates the same way. Only 3 people traveling in the same direction, going to the next floor, may occupy the circle at one time. The command words are “up” and “down” in Elven.

Thamoir should call all the students and teachers down to the gathering space to make the announcement. There should be some groans and a lot of dirty looks once he tells them all that the PCs will be searching The Pinnacle to find any information that might help cure the vanishing. He tells them to answer any questions the PCs might have and not to impede their investigation. He immediately turns to the PCs and says they will show the same respect and attempt not to disrupt the students while they learn. Doing so and causing a student to lose concentration during a pivotal point might prove…dangerous…

Depending on how the DM wants to role play Thamior, he might begrudgingly volunteer to lead them wherever they chose to go, or he might call another senior teacher to do the same, and go to his chamber.

The second floor brings you to a 10 x 10 area. Across from the teleportation rings is a counter about 6 feet long. There is a door off to the left. An elf at the counter waves as the PCs stop in this area and explain that this is the supply chamber. It houses both successful and failed experiments, magical equipment and ingredients, and the rare non-magical standard dormitory furniture.

The third level is a simply decorated “U” shaped hallway with connecting rooms side by side. The PCs are capable of walking down the hallways for some distance, much longer than the actual size of The Pinnacle. Space displacement magic, of course, the guide might explain. These rooms are used by the students for individual research and study.  Actual experiments are meant to be conducted on the 4th level.

The next level up is similar to the first floor. The space is dark, without any walls that can be seen. It feels like an endless void. Soft white light illuminates the walkways. The PCs again follow a “U” shaped pattern if they go all the way around. They see large protection circles etched into the floor that glows a light pink. When a circle is in use, a light pink shield rises up from the protection circle and encloses the space. A student must occupy the circle, and a teacher must over see in the adjacent viewing deck. In an emergency, the teacher can dismiss the shield if need be.

The fifth floor is for the teachers who stay at The Pinnacle. While similar in appearance to the student rooms, the teacher suites are nearly 3 times the size, furnished with simple beds and mediation corners. Teachers are expected to practice spells and rituals on the level above – Advanced Practice. Although frowned upon, small spells can be heard throughout this floor after teaching hours have past.

Advanced Practice on the sixth floor is much different than the students’ area. You enter the level to an open foyer. Simple wood benches strand along the short walls. There is a wide entrance way immediately across from the teleportation circles. It leads to the top level of a stadium. There is a large dirt field at the bottom, outlined and sectioned into 3 parts. About 20 levels of padded seats surround the stadium. This space is exponentially larger than one would expect, which seems to be a constant magic effect throughout the tower.

Above the open air stadium, Thamoir has an entire level all to himself. Half of the level is a basic home. There is a resting room, kitchen, eating area, and relaxing study. The opposite half of the level is for magic study. It is partitioned into three sections: an alchemy lab, library with study table, and practice area. The noticeable thing about this level is that the “up” teleportation circle is on the far side of the level separating the two halves.  his circle is the only way to access the roof.

The open roof is flat and barren, save for the town’s dome source. Atop a golden rod that stands 5 feet tall, there is a solid blue orb. It projects a beam of light straight up toward the sky. At exactly the correct height, it begins to spread out o fall over the entire city, creating the shimmering blue dome seen from the inside. Removing the staff and attached orb have no destructive properties. The dome would slowly get sucked back into the orb. As the dome retracts, the city becomes visible to the naked eye. If the PCs take the rod and orb, they now possess a Rod of [Group] Invisibility, should the DM allow it.

WHERE IS THE PORTAL?

The secret to this adventure and the disease is a portal to another plane that has malfunctioned. It starts by siphoning off the magic of the elves and then takes their physical bodies. I designed the Pinnacle so that the given details would potentially confuse and mislead the PCs, if they don’t do it to themselves.  My idea is that a failed experiment generates the portal. It would be stored away, somewhere on the second floor. The party might come across any number of magical traps from experiments or creatures that came through the portal. They are now wandering around the storage room. Although it might seem straight forward to this point, now the DM could throw any type of monster or trap at the party he/she has wanted to try.

As to a resolution, I think the best course of action is to have the PCs find and destroy the portal, saving the inhabitants and indebting them to the High Elves. Maybe Thamoir was actually behind it or maybe he isn’t. Maybe the PCs have to enter the portal to find the vanished Elves. Maybe this is the starting event of your campaign, and the majority of it takes place in this mysterious plane. Or maybe there’s a traitor in Sillen Vale and the PCs have to find him or her or it.

Of course, as with everything in this series of articles, you can do what you want with the setting I have provided. Use my ideas as a foundation for your own story and change what I have created to fit best in your game. Or just drop this concept into your existing game and see what happens.

OTHER PLOT HOOKS

The main problem with the disappearing elves is meant to be a large and central focus of Sillen Vale. There are several other side quests that could be set from an extended stay in Sillen Vale. Here are a few ideas.

  • If the Quarter Master was to vanish, the book he carries might not come back, or be destroyed by the process. The city would go into a sort of chaos as the adventurers would be the only neutral party capable of solving any disputes, or implementing a new system. This hook is probably more socially driven if your players like that.
  • A party’s rogue or wizard might wish to keep the Rod of Invisibility for themselves. This item is the town’s most precious item, and they would do anything to keep it. The Council Hall might throw the party in jail if discovered. Or the DM might have the party chased by Sillen Vale bounty hunters that wish to get the rod back.
  • The disease and portal might be the cause of an angry student, or Thamior, the Head Master.  It is up to the DM how this is played out. Perhaps the portal is located somewhere else in the city, hidden away by a member of the Council Hall. If not, chose a different location inside the Pinnacle and spread clues.
  • With the dome not working, the city might come under attack from a group or a large creature.
  • Because of the special magic technique used in Sillen Vale, this might be a good place for a PC to learn new magic or a new fighting style. If you have a player wishing to change or considering the Eldritch Knight path, this might be a good place to introduce it into your campaign.

 

 

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