Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fimbulwinter - Backdrop: Phlan

The City of Phlan
Introduction & History

Early Phlan was a trading outpost, established to facilitate commerce between the elves of Myth Drannor, the dwarves of the Dragonspine Mountains, and the primitive human tribes of Thar and the Ride. It was at this time that the fey planted the Quivering Forest north of the city; the copse enchanted to grow the great wood in the span of a human generation.

The city of Phlan stands as a testament to the stubbornness of the humans who populate the Moonsea Reaches. Despite the city’s current prosperity, the people of Phlan know all too well how quickly Beshaba can turn her fickle gaze upon the fortunate. The city has been ruined countless times over the centuries by war, invasions, and dragon strikes, only to be rebuilt each time. One need only dig in one’s own cellar to unearth artifacts of a prior age, mundane or otherwise.

Today the city is thriving. With almost 20,000 permanent residents, Phlan is by far the largest and most prosperous settlement on the northern shore of the Moonsea. It is a pivotal crossroads for trade in and out of the Moonsea North. Gems, rare ore, and other precious treasures flow into the city daily from vassal mining communities in the north. Until very recently, even the thick-bearded nomads of the frigid plains — the so-called Barbarians of the Ride — traded freely in the markets of Phlan, leading caravans burdened with silky furs, heavy wools, and precious ivories of beasts long forgotten in lands further south.

The city’s oldest neighborhoods are built on Valjevo Isle, a large shoal swaddled by the Stojanow River delta. Fabled Valjevo Castle dominates the skyline and serves as a strong reminder of the city’s resilience in the face of adversity. On the mainland, the burgeoning community has spread beyond the high walls of the Old City.

At a Glance

Phlan is an ancient city-state situated at the mouth of the Stojanow River along the northern shore of the Moonsea. The city is famous for having been constantly rebuilt in the face of repeated attacks. Today, the city is enjoying a period of growth and prosperity, fuelling bards to dub the port city “the jewel of the Moonsea.” 

Population: 20,000, plus an additional 3,000 or so who work farms or live in small homesteads in the surrounding region. Most are humans and dwarves, although sizable populations of halflings also reside here.

Government: Anivar Daoran is monarch and Lord Protector of Phlan as well as governor of the vassal communities of Whitehorn, Verdigris, and Ilinvur. Anivar is a weak sovereign, however, leaving much of the daily governance of the city to a confederation of merchant families, including houses Sokol, Jannarsk, Cadorna, and Bivaunt.

Defences: The Black Watch, a militia of 900 trained fighters, is the city’s primary police force. The Watch is one branch of a greater organization, the Knights of the Black Fist. The Knights report directly to the Lord Protector and deal primarily with external threats to the city. Phlan’s harbor shelters a small flotilla of warships to discourage pirate activity in the region.

Inns and Taverns: Laughing Goblin (inn), Cracked Crown (inn), Bitter Blade (inn), Nat Wyler’s Bell (tavern). The Velvet Doublet (festhall) caters to wealthy patrons
with exotic appetites.

Supplies: Brice Vang (armourer), Randolph Tzintin (leather clothier), Vondor Thond (carpenter), Alero the Smithy (weaponsmith). The Red Plumes mercenary company maintains a barracks and training hall in the city.

Temples: Lyceum of the Black Lord (temple of Bane). Smaller shrines venerate Umberlee, Auril, and Amaunator and a reasonably large shrine of Kelemvor watches over the Valhingen Graveyard. Worshippers of Shar are actively persecuted within the city.

The Knights of the Black Fist

Formed a century past, the Brothers of the Black Fist (as they were known at that time) were a tyrannical order of blackguards affiliated with the Church of Xvim.

In the Year of Risen Elfkin (1375 DR), Zhentilar forces under the command of Hatemaster Cvaal Daoran marched upon Phlan and seized the city. Thereafter the order became the de facto armed forces of the city. The citizens of Phlan warmed considerably toward the order after the “Knights” aided Phlan in repelling a Netherese invasion.

Today the order is only loosely affiliated with the Church of Bane. It pays a nominal tribute annually to church leadership in Mulmaster.

Keyed Locations

A Valjevo Castle

Citizens speak of Valjevo Castle with great civic pride. Standing several stories tall, with majestic marble and granite walls and awe-inspiring turrets soaring one hundred feet or more, Valjevo Castle is unquestionably the largest and most palatial edifice in all the Moonsea. Milsor the Valjevo commissioned the palace after re-establishing the city in the Year of the Lost Lance (712 DR). Construction on the palace was completed in the Year of the Jovial Mage (730 DR), during the final year of his reign. Despite many misfortunes befalling the city over the intervening centuries, Valjevo Castle has remained standing, an enduring symbol of Phlan’s resilience in the face of adversity. 

Today the palace is home to the city’s ruling dynasty, House Daoran. Anivar Daoran, Lord Protector of Phlan, rules from the Cinnabar Throne in the castle’s Great Hall.

B Stojanow Gate

Bard’s tales claim that fire giants constructed Stojanow Gate in tribute to the warrior kings of old. Older, less fanciful accounts point to ancient dwarven craftsmanship. Whatever the truth is behind the structure, its architecture is awesome to behold, with likenesses of civic heroes, dragons, and even deities adorning its walls.

The vaulted monument stands nearly 60 feet high, with 30-foot-thick walls stretching over 100 feet between the two channels of the Stojanow River. The vaulted arch is secured by two sets of massive, ironbound doors which seal the gate. Both are left open except in times of war.

C Lyceum of the Black Lord

The largest and most prominent temple in Phlan is the Lyceum of the Black Lord, which serves the faithful of Bane. Unlike the tyrannical and caustic dogma espoused by the mainstream Church of Bane headquartered in Mulmaster, the priests of Phlan preach a moderate doctrine of meticulous self-discipline and simple vassalage to the city’s lords.

The priests of the Lyceum of the Black Lord in Phlan subscribe to the heresy that Bane was utterly destroyed by Torm during the Time of Troubles. The being they worship as Bane today, the heretical priests say, is in fact none other than the son of Bane, Iyachtu Xvim, having adopted his father’s name to more quickly achieve the status and might of a greater power.

D Podol Plaza

This large, open-air market draws large crowds with its plentiful selection of goods from the length and breadth of Faerûn. Here young children sell broadsheets of thin parchment with the news of the day for a copper each.

E Cadorna Textiles (merchant compound)

F Mantor's Library

Mantor's Library is the most significant landmark in the area of Phlan known as Scholar's Square.

Besides the library, Scholar's Square boasts trade schools, wizard academies, sage houses,

and other structures of learning.

G Cracked Crown (inn)

H Kuto's Well

Kuto’s Well, as its name implies, is a nondescript well drawing water from an ancient cistern beneath the city. If someone climbs down the well, a successful passive Perception check (DC 29) reveals a secret wall about halfway down the shaft. This is one of many concealed entrances to the notorious catacombs of Phlan, peopled with cutthroats, drug addicts, and other dregs of society.

I Nat Wyler's Bell (inn)

J Denlor's Tower (mage tower)

The mage, Denlor, is the best known of the arcanists of Phlan.

K Laughing Goblin (tavern)

L Sokol Keep (merchant compound) & Thorn Island

M Kovel Mansion (noble estate)

N House Jannarsk (merchant compound)

O Red Plumes (mercenary headquarters)

P Brice Vang (armourer)

Q Randolph Tzintin (leather clothier)

R Vondor Thond (carpenter)

S Alero the Smithy (weaponsmith)

T The Velvet Doublet (festhall)

U Castle Atuke

Unkeyed Locations

Iron Route

Phlan Path

Quivering Forest

A warning provided by Knight Commander Ector Brahms, while taking a short rest just outside the Quivering Forest: "Smart folk don’t go into that wood. A century back, when the Netherese razed Zhentil Keep and threatened to do the same to Phlan, Lord Cvaal Daoran, grandfather of the current Lord Protector, made a pact with the dark fey of the Quivering Forest. In exchange for their aid, the wee folk demanded the forest remain off limits to travel and timber cutting. Our last Lord Protector learned the hard way that the agreement was still being enforced, when he sent loggers into the wood in 1456. Lord Talaric Daoran went missing from Valjevo Castle the following day, never to be seen again."

Valhingen Graveyard

This large cemetery stands outside of the city proper, along the western spur of the Stojanow River delta. 

Iron gates along the west and east walls permit entry to what appears at first glance to be a sprawling city park. Thick stands of blueleafs wave their brightly coloured branches above tangles of witchgrass that grow tall over gravestones. Violet bougainvillea and other thorny vines grow unimpeded over the handful of mausoleums interspersed here and there within the confines of Valhingen’s high walls.

Despite rumors of past incidents with undead, no unholy pall hangs over Valhingen Graveyard today. Acolytes in service to Kelemvor tend the grounds and perform interment services for the dead.

One of the more prominent crypts serves as the eternal resting place for the legendary paladin Miltiades. Carved upon the granite doorway to the tomb are the scales of justice, the archaic symbol of Tyr.

The Surrounding Area

Castle Vathar

Citadel Ankhalus

Also known as Xul-Jarak in the Giant tongue. The Masked Wizards formerly laired here until they were defeated by the Zhentarim.

Dragonspine Mountains

dragon - white, red, green

Glumpen Swamp


The Grass Sea

deer are plentiful


City of Swords

The Moonsea

Also known as the Sea of Dragons.

Moonwatch Hills


Quivering Forest

The overwhelming majority of the trees that make up the Quivering Forest are aspens, actually a single grove of enormous size all of which are linked by a single root system.

The trees have tall trunks, up to 80 or so tall, with smooth pale bark, scarred with black. The glossy green leaves, dull beneath, become golden to yellow, rarely red, in autumn. The species often propagates through its roots to form large groves.

A tall, fast growing tree, usually 20–25 m (66–82 ft) at maturity, with a trunk 20–80 cm (0.66–2.6 ft) in diameter; records are 36.5 m (120 ft) in height and 1.37 m (4.5 ft) in diameter.

The bark is relatively smooth greenish-white to gray and is marked by thick black horizontal scars and prominent black knots. The leaves on mature trees are nearly round, 4–8 centimetres (1.6–3.1 in) in diameter with small rounded teeth, and a 3–7 centimetres (1.2–2.8 in) long, flattened petiole. 

Young trees (including root sprouts) have much larger—10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in) long—nearly triangular leaves. The flowers are catkins 4–6 centimetres (1.6–2.4 in) long, produced in early spring before the leaves; it is dioecious, with male and female catkins on different trees. The fruit is a 10-centimetre (3.9 in) long pendulous string of 6-millimetre (0.24 in) capsules, each capsule containing about ten minute seeds embedded in cottony fluff, which aids wind dispersal of the seeds when they are mature in early summer.

A verdant prince (cf one of the 3.5E monster manuals) rules the Quivering Forest. He is a vassal of the Prince of Frost or a fomorian king. Most of his followers are satyrs. He has cyclops bodyguards. Dryads are also common. The verdant prince can see anywhere, and travel anywhere, in the Quivering Forest as it is essentially one giant tree made up of thousands of individual trunks. He can also cause sections of the forest to animate. (It should be noted that a seed of Moander could corrupt this forest and turn it into something like the Forest of Ulom [cf Dungeon 11] very easily.)

Stojanow River

Trank River

Stormy Bay

An unnatural storm is perpetually present. Followers of Gruumsh come here - they refer to it as the Eye of Gruumsh - so many an orc can be encountered here. Blue dragons are also common.


The land of orcs and ogres.

Umberlee's Talons

The Spellplague resulted in sea levels lowering across Faerun. These rocks were exposed. They look like great talons reaching out of the sea. Many a ship has come to grief here. Sahuagin lair here supposedly led by a covey of sea hags.

Toranth's March

It's a road, of sorts.

Vanishing Hills

There are many portals to the Feywild here. Gnomes are unusually common.

The Delves

A Smelly Surprise!

The PCs are welcomed to Phlan with this:

A maddened, rampaging otyugh bursts through the street from the sewers below possibly taking the party by surprise. It is a solo soldier 1. 

The stones of the street have rotted, or so it seems, because the lair of the otyugh was a former temple of Moander and some of its foulness still leeches into its surroundings. A pack of diseased wererats makes it lair there and the final encounter is with Belak the Outcast (shamelessly stolen from Sunless Citadel), a male human dread ghast (template from Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary for 3.5E) druid (elite controller 1) accompanied by twig blights or similar creatures (again, shamelessly stolen from Sunless Citadel).

Essentially, this is a three encounter delve with the otyugh comprising the first of the three encounters. That said, the temple is larger than the number of encounters would indicate; there should be some mysteries to explore and possibly clues to obtain about the nature of the primordial threats that the party will later face.

The purpose of this mini-adventure is to throw the PCs immediately into action and also to provide a legitimate reason for them coming to the (positive) attention of Phlan's ruler, the Lord Protector.

Exploring Phlan

Basically I want to include some sort of hook for each site in case the players decide to have their characters explore Phlan. Of course, I also don't want it to get out of hand and become the focus of the campaign!

Lyceum of the Black Lord

Adaré, Adept of Bane (placeholder but use the stat block from the Compendium as a general basis for the NPC) is the leader of the Lyceum. She is far more fanatical than the other Banites in Phlan and has received secret messages from fanatical Banites in Mulmaster seeking to bring her into the fold. Furthermore, she is privy to the news that the Warlock Knights of Vaasa are seeking to conquer the Moonsea North.

When the time comes, she will betray Phlan unless her treachery can be uncovered first.

Mantor's Library

Erised Mantor wants a book.

Red Plume Mercenaries

Caravan guard duty - from Phlan to Melvaunt and back. What are their ties to Hillsfar where they are originally from?

The Red Spyglass Inn

portal linking to the ruins of Zhentil Keep per the Perilous Gateways article?

Press gangs for pirates?

Valhingen Graveyard

The presiding cleric of Kelemvor simply wants an undead infestation rooted out of the graveyard. This is based on the delve from Open Grave.

The Wizard, Denlor

Borrowing from an early Dungeon adventure, Denlor wants various herbs and plants from the Twilight Marsh.

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