This was the introduction I read to the players, when we began this epic game. Things have changed, but here it is…
Our game begins on the twentieth of Jannaer in Skaladan, a major port city on the northern coast of Kynnia, just south of Steamspout Bay. All kinds and creeds of folk are to be found here, though not all are necessarily welcome under the rule of Skal IV, as we will see in a moment.
KING SKAL IV The current ruler of Skaladan, Skal IV, came to power ten years ago, when his father, the beloved Skal III died of a strange disease. In the tradition of the rulers of Skaladan, Skal IV took the name Skal, which means “king” in Oldentongue. He immediately began a harsh tyranny over the people, and with his famed “Blackblood Soldiers,” few have dared oppose him directly. The Blackbloods are his elite guards, half-dragons that he recruits from Mt. Drac. No one knows why they are so fiercely loyal to Skal IV. The tyranny consists of unbelievably heavy taxation, brutal law enforcement, and pressing young folk into Skal’s ever-burgeoning army. This has led to widespread poverty, lawlessness, and also a mounting sense of nationality; you see, Skal has cleverly disguised his tyranny as the harsh measures needed for a kingdom at war.
ALLIES OF SKALADAN Although the city was once allied with all the surrounding towns, the alliance has become shaky since Skal declared his intentions of expanding his rulership to its ancient boundaries. Most recently, tensions rose to such a height with the township of Koln that open war broke out, ending with the burning and ransacking of Koln. More about that later. The new, mysterious alliance with Mt. Drac has in some ways benefited the town; no longer do outlying farmers have to fear random attacks from enormous dragons. Of course, their half-dragon brethren enforce the heavy taxation of Skal IV, so perhaps their lives have only gotten harder.
ENEMIES OF SKALADAN All kinds of new enemies are plaguing the already internally troubled kingdom right now. Raids from lizardfolk in the east make trade with Darktower next to impossible. Stray undead horrors from the Rivwood are wandering into farms and eating livestock and occasionally humans. Rogue bands of Centaur from the southern plains have been making hit-and-run raids on already-starving farmers, beating up even Blackblood soldiers stationed there to protect them!
MAJOR COMPONENTS OF SKALADAN There are two major fortifications in the widely spread metropolis, one to guard the sea port and one further inland. Otherwise, there is little planning to the city’s layout, which alternates unpredictably between slums and well-to-do neighborhoods. However, the slums are becoming more and more common under the ten years of Skal’s tyranny.
It used to be that you could easily tell the slums from the rich neighborhoods by their architecture; the simple, square buildings precariously hung on simple stilts in case of flood are still a byword for the poor areas, as in “The Blocks.” The richer areas were marked by there strange, magnificent buildings, often designed by artificers brought all the way from Na-Cara! They’re marked by the sheer size of the buildings as well as the twisting outdoor pathways leading up them. The slang still in use for these places are “The Twists.”
The two major occupations here are fishing and farming. Unlike other northern fishing towns, Skaladan’s fisheries take on Steamspout bay, which is not idly named; a vast and ancient dragon lives in the deeps, and manages to visit each and every fishing boat that bravely sets out each day. Because of this elitist nature of fishing and constant haggling with the Seadragon, fishermen trained in Skaladan get a synergy bonus on Diplomacy.
All races appear here, and all kinds of strange and wondrous items are available for purchase, though the best of everything generally ends up in the hands of the Yak folk who have come down from Arivad. Their global monopoly on trade is very present in Skaladan, and there’s a lot of resentment for the “Blackfur Hornheads.”
3. Introduction to The Raveneyes Gang and the destruction of Koln.
As I said before, Skal rules with an iron fist.
All kinds of rebellious groups have sprung up, from simple highway raiders to organized groups in settled areas. However, there are also far more lawless groups looking only for their own interest.
Although each of you has a completely different background and story, you all share one quality: you are a member of the Raveneyes Gang. The Raveneyes is a an amalgam of the two kinds of theives’ guilds I mentioned. Based around the leadership of the once-powerful halfling family of Raveneyes, they have been saving themselves from starvation and robbing the corrupt nobles of Skal since he came to power ten years ago. Until very recently, you were stationed in Koln, a city west of Skal’s territory that survived mainly by fishing. Whether you have been plucked from the gutter or have run from your rich but corrupt household, you were picked up by an associate of Telna Raveneyes and brought under the Gang’s wing. You have been trained by a mixture of simple day-to-day survival and occasional drills from Telna herself. Whether you made friends or enemies or both among the other members of the gang, you all loved Telna as a halfling mother.
Two days ago on the eighteenth of Jannaer, your protection from despair was destroyed. Koln was attacked by an army loyal to Skal, and leveled, from the rich merhcant’s houses to the temples to the darkest warehouses on the edges of town, where you lived. You don’t know what happened to the other members of the Raveneyes Gang, except for Telna herself, who was cut down by a large force of the Blackbloods as she defended the main entrance of your hideout. You only know how you escaped: through a secret tunnel that led outside of town, and then off into the wilderness. After some days of hunger, you came to Skaladan, partly because it was the closest food, partly because you want to wring Skal’s neck for what his Blackbloods did to the places and the people you loved in Koln, but mostly because you were told of another, smaller branch of the Gang based in this city. Our game begins as you arrive at the spot you were told by Telna was a spot one of her brothers, named Neenan, had set up his organization: a warehouse in the middle of town with a dirty sign outside reading “Ed’s Supply,” and a smaller sign tacked underneath reading “Closed.” The small sign reading “Closed” should have a tiny raven shape inked in the middle of the “O.”
4. Begin the game!
As the sun sets behind the Icemarch to the west, the sea wind brushes dirt and garbage along the narrow streets in this part of the city, which is very obviously “The Blocks.” Each building stands on a number of short stilts. Though most lean crazily to one side or the other, the building in front of you seems sturdy if old and totally uncared for.