Monday, 29 December 2014

Starter Set Sandbox 15 - Leilon (and Night Below!)

While Leilon does not play/has not played a significant role in my current Neverwinter campaign, I have some fairly major plans for it in my next Neverwinter campaign where it will serve as a major base for Thayan slave traders.

And that's the reason for the picture to the left: wyvern-riders are a significant part of the Thayan forces based in the ruined town, but more on that later in the post.


Old Grey Box

The first reference I can find to Leilon is in the Old Grey Box. It is not a direct entry about the town but, rather, it's in reference to an adventuring party known as the Swords of Leilon. Here's a partial quote:
Based in the small coastal town of Leilon, on the High Road north of Waterdeep, this ragtag band of local toughs has done surprisingly well in a brief career of adventuring, plundering (and surviving) at least six of the Mage-Tombs in the mountains east of Leilon, slaughtering a colony of lizard-men in the nearby Mere of Dead Men (gaining some strange magical treasure thereby), and doing some caravan guarding for merchants in Neverwinter. 
FR1 Waterdeep & The North
This is where Leilon begins to develop its own identity, as FR1 notes:
This small human mining town sprawls along the High Road, on the Sword Coast. It lacks walls (an earthen bank surmounted by a wooden palisade shields it from the landward side, but where the road pierces these works there are no gates), and also lacks a proper harbour. A dozen massive, battered barges are loaded in the shallows in the spring and summer, and are poled and then rowed out to meet ships and unload by means of rickety cranes that rise from the stems of the barges into their holds. Needless to say, this is a fair-weather operation only, and tricky even then if the wind is fresh and the seas high. Increasingly, Waterdhavian entrepreneurs have sent wagons north to buy the copper, nickel, and silver of Leilon at bargain prices and take it south to sell at Waterdeep’s harbour. Leilon’'s mines are guarded by “the Lances of Leilon,” a force of some two hundred fully armed, mounted lancers used to fighting off pirates, orcs, bugbears, and trolls. Each lancer carries an axe and knife, usually a sword of some sort, his lance, and a light crossbow which he is experienced in firing from horseback. Leilon'’s total population is some 3,000; its ruler is Pelindar Filmarva, Lord of Leilon. Leilon is a firm ally of Waterdeep, and considered a friend of the Lords’ Alliance. In the mountains east of Leilon’'s mines is at least one important abandoned dwarf-hold, “Southkrypt,” said to be home to many strange and dangerous creatures.
I rather like the fact that in two small entries we have hints of at least two major dungeon complexes, the Mage-Tombs and Southkrypt. Combined with the references to trade and you have an ideal "home base" for adventurers from which they can combine caravan duty, raids on the lizardfolk in the Mere of Dead Men, and dungeon delving. Oh, and that's forgetting the fact that this is a mining town and mines in the D&D multiverse always seem to end up uncovering balrogs monsters....

FR1 also later notes that it takes 11 days to travel by wagon from Waterdeep to Leilon. Ahhh, I rather miss the simplicity of adventures involving simply guarding merchant wagons....

There's also a secondary entry about Leilon which notes:
... The mines east of Leilon are rich in copper, nickel and silver. The mountains are honeycombed with mine shafts and tunnels, including several that open up into the town itself, and some that go very, very deep....
Volo's Guide to the North

The first reference to Leilon in this book is in relation to the Place of the Unicorn:
One sight the Coast traveller should not miss is the Place of the Unicorn in the hills northeast of Leilon. The place can be found only at night. Wizards of the Coast believe that it lies in another dimension, reached only by a moongate (a magical gate that operates only in moonlight). The Place is sacred to Lurue, the unicorn of the Beast Cult. It is a stand of trees whose leaves are brilliant blue, surrounding a bluegrass meadow. Beings who rest therein are healed of all diseases, poisons, curses, and insanity. Unicorns (only) are also healed of physical damage. Beings who have no faith or are wavering in their beliefs often see Lurue herself in the trees, and their reaction may reshape their lives.
I have already mentioned my own forthcoming campaign that is going to include Leilon as an important adventuring location. At the moment, it would appear that one of the PCs is going to be a tiefling fey pact warlock and, if that is the case, I plan to include the Place of the Unicorn as part of her quest to be freed from diabolic influence. The healing power of this location could also feature in a campaign where a PC (or NPC for that matter) is cursed with lycanthropy or something similar. Too many campaigns - mine included - forget to include magical sites such as this....

Leilon & surrounds

Leilon is addressed more directly as well, with an entry that expands on the one in FR1. I will just quote some of the expanded portions:
... Leilon consists of stout stone cottages with slate or thatch roofs, the latter being covered with a hardened
slurry of mud. The houses cluster together within a crescent-shaped earthen rampart on the landward side of the settlement. The rampart has a ditch on the outside and a wooden palisade on top.

... The hard-working miners of Leilon concentrate on digging rich lodes of copper, nickel, and silver from deep mines in the mountains east of the town, though a few older shafts even descend from within the town itself.

... Leilon is a growing community. Lord Filmarya has established a shrine to Tyr in town. It stands beside older shrines to Lathander and Tymora. The Cult of the Dragon and the Zhentarim are both reputed to be active in Leilon, and there are also dark tales of local cults who worship undead mages or spirits of the mine deeps.

An abandoned mage’'s tower, known as the High House of Thalivar, rises in the centre of town. It is guarded by its own ward. Details on the powers of the ward and the existence of tokens remain unknown. It is known, though, that it has guardian monsters, and they have so far proven deadly to all adventurers seeking to plunder the magic reputed to be therein....
Right at this point in my post, and also as I look at the map I just uploaded to the right, I cannot help but think how Leilon would make a perfect place to start a campaign much like Lost Mine of Phandelver but larger in scope. Like Phandalin in Lost Mine, Leilon is a ruin in the 4E/5E era and all its features - abandoned mines under the town, former lairs of the Zhentarim and Cult of the Dragon, a sealed wizard's tower, numerous nearby dungeons - simply scream out, "Here's a great place to run a campaign!"

You could even call it Lost Mines of Leilon....

And one last thing from Volo's Guide, there is mention of Manyclaws Alley, an alley notorious for being haunted by the ghosts of trolls. A footnote explains this a little bit more:
The alley is actually haunted by nine heucuva. These are all that remains of a long-demolished temple to Loviatar. The monsters guard treasure that still lies buried beneath the alley in vaults long forgotten by the folk of Leilon.
A haunted temple of Loviatar? Now that's a dungeon adventure that almost writes itself.

The North boxed set

The sections on Leilon in this boxed set are an abridged version of what appears in Volo's Guide to the North. Move along; nothing to see here....

Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Is that the High Tower of Thalivar?
And this book brings us to the end of canon references to Leilon and also to the "present day" in FR terms, as there is unlikely to be any official update on Leilon for quite some time from WotC.

This sleepy mining town once served as a convenient resting place for travellers on the High Road. Now, the few travellers who still take this route shun Leilon, going miles out of their way to avoid even laying eyes on the town.

The High Tower of Thalivar long stood as a landmark here, abandoned by a forgotten mage. For generations, the tower proved a tempting target for plunderers - and, too often, a grave for them as well. The people of Leilon knew that the tower held guardian monsters, and they were content to leave it alone. However, the Spellplague's twisted magic unleashed the creatures trapped in the tower, which quickly ravaged the helpless village. Now, the tower is a place of terror, its magic freezing in place all creatures whose eyes rest upon it, even for a moment.
OK, there's a bit of material to work with.

Putting it All Together

The purpose of this series of posts was really to expand the adventure in the 5E starter set into a much bigger sandbox and I think Leilon offers a really great starting point for what I am calling LMoP Expanded (it now has its own tag). Frankly, you could even run Lost Mine of Phandelver with Leilon replacing Phandalin completely and then simply add in such things as:
  • The High Tower of Thalivar could be a fairly old-school wizard's tower with lots of weird stuff inside. Ghost Tower of Inverness could provide some inspiration, but it also seems like a perfect lair for, say, the Red Wizards of Thay. Oh, and the sight of the tower may still paralyse but only within, say, 5 squares unless, of course, you happen to be carrying a ward token....
  • There are rumours of a treasure-laden lost temple of Loviatar beneath the city streets. Unfortunately, for failing their deity, the clerics of said temple continue to exist as unusual undead determined to protect the sanctity of the temple that they failed to protect in life....
  • Numerous played out mines are still to be found beneath Leilon. There may be a black dragon in one, and a nest of aboleth in another, while a third has connections to the Underdark and a mysterious trading bazaar.
  • Beneath the streets is the former lair of the Cult of the Dragon (I wonder if Azurl's Hoardseekers might be found here?) hiding a dracolich and various Cult treasures.
  • The signs of new life in Leilon have attracted attention from the sea and, while the PCs are exploring the ruins, sahuagin attack!
Here are some ideas inspired by published adventures (in publication order, more or less) which I mention as a reference:

A0-A4 Against the Slave Lords (1E)

This is largely taken from the notes for my next Neverwinter campaign. (My current campaign is simply called Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One because it's set in 1479 DR. My next campaign will be called Neverwinter: Year of Deep Water Drifting because it's set in 1480 DR. While there is no overlap in players, the events of the former are helping to shape the background of the latter campaign.)

While some Red Wizards of Thay have allowed themselves to be distracted by Szass Tam's plans for the Dread Ring, others have decided to focus on building their own wealth and power by a very traditional Thayan method: slave-trading.

The fundamental lawlessness of the docks and Blacklake district of Neverwinter means that taking slaves is easily accomplished, particularly when Neverember's mercenaries are rather susceptible to bribery. (This also ties in to a reference to press gangs that can be found in the DDi article about The Beached Leviathan, a ship converted to an inn in Neverwinter.)

I imagine that this campaign would actually begin in Neverwinter, take to the Sea of Swords, and then head to Leilon where the PCs seek to beard the Thayan slave lords in their new lair. The Thayans may also have established cordial relationships with the Cult of the Dragon, Zhentarim, and even the lizardfolk of the Mere of Dead Men, all of whom are happy to sell captives to the Thayans in exchange for Thayan gold.

And where do all the slaves go? Skip ahead to Thunderspire Labyrinth....

Ruins of Adventure (1E/2E)

I think Ruins of Adventure provides an excellent blueprint for a Leilon-based campaign. The idea is simple: clear out the bad guys from the ruins a block at a time. The patron could be the Lords' Alliance or Lord Neverember of Neverwinter and Waterdeep, with both the Alliance and Neverember wanting to reopen Leilon's lost mines. 

And competing with the PCs are at least three factions: the Red Wizards based in the High Tower of Thalivar, the Cult of the Dragon who have found their old base, and the Zhentarim who also see the mercantile potential of such a key location on the High Road with mines to boot.

I must admit, the thought of these three groups cooperating makes me think this would be an interesting place to also run an update of Curse of the Azure Bonds.... (Oh, and I wonder if the Place of the Unicorn could remove the titular azure bonds...?)

Night Below (2E)

The longest running campaign I have ever DMed was a 3E campaign that spanned levels 1-24, was set in the Shining South of the Forgotten Realms (from the Forest of Amtar to Dambrath and the Underdark beneath) and was heavily inspired by Night Below. Ever since, I find it difficult to think of a D&D campaign without aboleth: for me, they are the ultimate mastermind monster, especially if you retain the original flavour whereby they remember everything that was in the mind of every creature they have ever devoured.

Night Below consists of three basic parts: raiding for slaves above ground, exploring the Underdark, and dealing with the aboleth in their sunken city. I can easily see the earlier mentioned Red Wizards et al filling the role played by the orc raiders in the first part using Leilon as a base. The second part could be filled by expanding Thunderspire Labyrinth (see below) leaving only the third part to be converted.

IMC, I have an aboleth city beneath The Chasm in Neverwinter. It's Golismorga from the Savage Tide adventure path published by Paizo during the last 12 or so issues of Dungeon's life as a printed magazine. It may not suit every campaign as Golismorga is a city of slumbering aboleth. A curse has drained the water from the city and blocked its return and, as a result, the aboleth have turned to stone and sleep. (This phenomenon was first described in Lords of Madness, the 3.5E book about aberrations and one of my favourite D&D books of all time.) Again IMC, the PCs have lifted the curse from the city causing water to return and the aboleth to awaken and now they actively need slaves to help rebuild.

While your campaign may not have PCs who caused Golismorga to awaken, it could easily have NPCs who have done the same thing. Maybe the same Red Wizards who are running the slaving operation fell prey to some sort of psionic effect of the slumbering aboleth? Or was it drow explorers? Or maybe your Golismorga was never in a state of slumber. Another option is the flying city of the Abolethic Sovereignty: what if it, or one just like it, is hovering invisibly above Leilon?

Anyway, personally I prefer the idea of the aboleth who have just awakened and need slaves to rebuild. There is a certain logic to it both in terms of their current goals but also in the sense of why they haven't posed a threat until now.

Thunderspire Labyrinth (4E)

The main thing I would steal from this adventure is the market city of the Seven-Pillared Hall which is the destination for many of the slaves that come from Leilon on the surface.

I would have several competing factions present including drow from Menzoberranzan and Skullport (the latter is beneath Waterdeep), duergar from Gracklstugh, illithids from Ch'Chitl, and neogi representatives of the aboleth. (I like neogi and think they're underused... plus I like the idea of the aboleth contracting out the work of gathering slaves as they're still not completely au fait with the present time. That also reminds me: if aboleth can retain the memories of any creature they devour, it would make sense that PCs or NPCs trained in History - or the equivalent skill in non-4E editions - might be considered targets for the aboleth to devour so that they can learn what has happened during the time they have been asleep.)

For those who have the Menzoberranzan boxed set, I see Thunderspire Labyrinth being something very much akin to Mantol-Derith. Another option would be to use the city of Pedestal from the 3.5E adventure The Sinister Spire or even Skullport itself from beneath Waterdeep.

And while this location can be dangerous, it's meant to be something of a safe haven the PCs can return to in between forays to the Underdark.

Summing Up

As I have already said, or at least implied, this post is very much inspired by my plans for my next campaign involving Thayan slavers and the aboleth beneath Neverwinter. But it's also a great way, IMO, to take Lost Mine of Phandelver and continue the adventure in the Starter Set to levels 6-12 or so.

If you're reading this and running 5E, you might think a city of 5E aboleth each with a challenge rating of 10 is a bit too high-powered for the level range I mentioned. That's also an issue in 4E, the edition I use, where aboleth are mid-Paragon Tier monsters. What I have done, though, is to reduce the level of the aboleth to match their 1E hit dice. As a result, my standard aboleth are level 8 controllers which puts them in the level range that suits my games. It wouldn't be difficult to reduce the aboleth in 5E in the same way, and maybe even lower in CR, and simply explain it as a loss of power caused by their slumber (assuming you take the slumbering but now waking up idea I mention above).

So, start with Lost Mine of Phandelver, make a few of the enemies aboleth pawns, include some slavers, and then lead your PCs to Leilon where they can experience a great mash-up of, inter alia, A0-A4 Against the Slave Lords and Night Below. I think that's a campaign your players will remember!


  1. Are there any published maps of the city of Leilon and it's roads/buildings? Underneath? Thanks.

  2. None that I am aware of and I have checked every official source. I haven't even found a fan-made map.

  3. Found this!

  4. Three new adventures were just released as a sort of expansion to the recent "Dragons of Icespire Peak" (Essentials Kit) and they are all set in Leilon! I am about to run these adventures, thanks for all the compiled info.

  5. I have a question on the exact location of Leilon. Is it on the coast due to the multiple mentions of it's harbor and barges or is it 10 or so miles inland as shown on many of the maps of the Sword Coast. Do you edit the map and move the town to the coast or move the coast to the town ?

    1. I wish I had an answer. WotC have clearly put no thought into this. If you're playing in the 4E era, it's fair to assume it is inland because the level of the sea has dropped due to the effects of the Spellplague. But it would have been nice if the descriptions had made this as plain as it is on the map.

    2. Glad you replied because that is what I was going to do. Now that someone else mentioned it I will go with it. "It was the Spellplague ya that was it". There will still be a small marsh (about a mile or less) near the town but keep it inland.