Wednesday, 7 January 2015

(5E) The Twilit Land: Rise of the Zhentarim 0 - Introduction & Hexcrawl Map

When I began typing this post, it was going to be a similar sort of introduction but for a campaign I was planning to call Tyrant of the Twilit Land. It was going to be largely based on B2 The Keep on the Borderlands - as explained in <this post> - with the town of Phandalin from Lost Mine of Phandelver taking the place of the titular keep. The Caves of Chaos would be lost dwarven mines where a tyrant - originally a beholder but I finally decided to use a blue dragon scion of the Blood of Morueme - had managed to unite disparate humanoid tribes and was gradually forging them into an army that would threaten Phandalin and other settlements in the North...

... but then we played tonight and my attempts to make Phandalin feel like Tombstone resulted in the players deciding they wanted to clean up this town and make it a safe place for miners, farmers, and their families.

And as the Zhentarim were identified as the primary threat facing this town - more on this when I write up the session report in my next post - I decided to use some ideas I have been playing with since 2E about the civil war within the Zhentarim between the Cyricist and Banite factions. So, while the Zhents are definitely trying to secure their position within Phandalin because of its easy access to several mines they expect to have real value, there are also two factions within the Zhentarim that are competing with each other in a desire to dominate the Black Network.

Anyway, here's some details of the four PCs that I'm running through this campaign which does not include a healer of any sort (but I do have a DMPC on standby, just in case). It's an odd group, including my very first drow ranger in 33+ years of D&D. But these are good players who I know won't turn the drow into some desperate, angst-filled, Drizzt-wannabe. And I am sure the fact that he is drow will be used against him more than once....

A. CG Male Drow Ranger

Background: Outlander.
Personality Traits: I'm driven by a wanderlust that led me away from home.
Ideals: Life is like the seasons, in constant change, and we must change with it.
Bonds: An injury to the unspoiled wilderness of my home is an injury to me.
Flaws: Don't expect me to save those who can't save themselves. It is nature's way that the strong survive and the weak perish.

A's favoured enemies are goblins and orcs.

B. CN Male Elf Monk

Background: Guild Merchant.
Personality Traits: I always want to know how things work and what makes people tick.
Ideals: Freedom. Everyone should be free to pursue his or her own livelihood.
Bonds: I owe my guild a great debt for forging me into the person I am today.
Flaws: I speak without really thinking through my words, invariably insulting others.

B is holding a letter of introduction from the Lionshield Coster in Waterdeep.

C. LG Male Human Fighter

Background: Soldier.
Personality Traits: Haunted by images of war.
Ideals: Greater good. Our lot is to lay down our lives in defence of others.
Bonds: I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Flaws: I'd rather eat my armour than admit when I'm wrong.

C has a dice set (and, presumably, proficiency) and insignia of his former officer's rank. Unusually for a former soldier, he wears leather armour and fights with a greataxe. Coupled with his great strength (it is 18), the way he carries himself as a former soldier, and the fact that he is keeping company with a drow, the Zhentarim of Phandalin are going to look at him as a prospective recruit.

D. LG Male Human Warlock

Background: Noble.
Personality Traits: Despite my noble birth, I do not place myself above other folk. We all have the same blood. Even as a noble, I still feel the need to prove myself to others.
Ideals: Noble Obligation. I hope to become strong enough to protect all those beneath me.
Bonds: I will face any challenge to win the approval of my family.
Flaws: I hide a truly scandalous secret that could ruin my family forever.

A scion of House Adarbrent of Waterdeep, D enjoys the position of privilege trait of his Noble background. He also possesses a dragonchess set and presumably proficiency in same.


I've been using an old computer for the past few weeks because of problems with my laptop which is being repaired. (And this is the Philippines so nothing happens quickly... or on time.) I had forgotten that I had bought Hexographer roughly four years ago and had never actually used it. Anyway, as part of a desire to give this campaign a bit of an old school vibe, I thought a hexcrawl might be the perfect complement to a conversion of Keep on the Borderlands.

Here's the map I made in a few minutes using Hexographer (it really is fast!) but I am still brainstorming what each of the locations mean and will include them in another post.

The PCs actually obtained this map during the course of the first session of play - see next post - which is going to help with the mechanics of actually running a hexcrawl online without using a virtual tabletop.

BTW, the scale is 1/2 mile per hex. It's a pretty simple map so I hope it makes sense without further explanation. I've also posted some ideas about the locations in <this post>, part of my Starter Set Sandbox series.

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