The Kingdom of Scalecrown is a small nation run by a dragon, for OSR rule sets. Does your world feature terrain like this? This article is designed to help you flesh it out.
Long ago, there was a land tormented by a dragon. This land lay on the banks of the River Oka, in the shade of the Cloudripper Mountains. Generation after generation, this red monster would swoop down from its unseen lair among the peaks and lay waste to all humanity had built. For what purpose, none could say.
One year, however, a different dragon flew down from the mountains. Its hide was purple, with a yellow stripe across its back and wings. It landed outside the walls, where a legion of men and women armed with spear and scythe met it, ready to fight.
It opened its mouth, but no gout of flame came out. Instead, the people heard words. Human words. “Who is your leader?” said the voice, and then the dragon closed its mouth.
“’tis I.” said a raven-haired man as he stepped forward from the crowd. “Jakob Sharp, Head of the Guard. And you are not the Ravager, that red beast that has been our bane. So who be ye?”
The dragon took a moment to answer, and looked across the horde of humans ready to fight him and die for the effort. “My name is Brezarth Brightclaw. And I come with a proposal.”
According to the founding mythology of Scalecrown, within minutes the two came to an agreement, sealed with a handshake. In truth, this agreement took much longer to come to, and did not involve a literal handshake— Brezarth’s claws were, after all, at least twice as large as Jakob Sharp’s hands. Nevertheless, the image of a human’s hand and a dragon’s claw clasped together in friendship is visible throughout the city of Handclasp and the rest of Scalecrown.
Handclasp’s sigil, by Karu
The Kingdom of Scalecrown rules the lands between the Cloudripper Mountains and the Sea of Hinway. The kingdom is ruled by the dragon Brezarth Brightclaw, but the majority of its subjects are humans. A small population of dwarves live in the capital, and a few families of goblins live in the swamps, though those goblins certainly wouldn’t consider themselves subjects of the realm.
Scalecrown is not without its problems, of course. Bandits roam the forests, and a small fraction of the populace resents being ruled over by a dragon. Tax collectors are resented, as they are in every realm and every era.
This article has been written with OSR games derived from the first editions of the world’s most famous fantasy roleplaying game in mind, though the content should be easily adaptable to any other game in the fantasy genre.
Brezarth Brightclaw, Ruler of Men
Brezarth is benevolent by dragon standards. He has no desire for bloodshed or destruction, and his rulership of Scalecrown makes him arguably the richest dragon alive today, if not in all of history. He does possess the traditional dragon vanity, of course. The symbol of the kingdom is his own bony crest, and there are statues of him throughout the land.
Though he understands the tongues of the bipeds quite well, he cannot speak them without using magic to translate his thoughts into Common or Elven or what have you. The sound emanates from his mouth, but his mouth does not move as if he were speaking those words. He just keeps it open when “speaking” and closes it when he’s done. The fact that this shows off his teeth is a happy little side effect.
Brezarth is an imposing blue dragon with yellow stripes. He has a three-pointed crest of gray chitin on his head. This has been adopted as the symbol of the kingdom and is proudly shown on many banners, shields, and so on. From below, when he’s looking down at you, it almost looks like a crown. The shape of his crest is also used as the kingdom’s symbol.
South of the River Oka and west of the Cloudripper Mountains, Handclasp sits proudly on the open plains. It is a city of wattle and daub buildings with red and blue roofs, encircled by a wide band of fields growing a variety of crops. At its center stands Handclasp Hold, a massive stone castle with a prominent balcony facing to the east. This balcony is where the kingdom’s ruler, the dragon Brezarth Brightclaw, lives.
A dwarven enclave known as the Stone District sits on the eastern edge of the city, just inside the Cloudripper Gate, so named because it faces the Cloudripper Mountains. In the west is the market district, where merchants of varying moral character sell their wares. To the north is the tannery district, downwind from most of the city. The rest of the city is a mix of bakeries, residences, crafters’ workshops, and the like.
The people here are happy, or at least as happy as most commoners can be. Their long-lived king seems to be wise, and well-read on the ways of farmers, merchants and warriors in equal measure. The question of what should happen were he ever to die (and how long do dragons live, anyway?) is only discussed in hushed tones. After all, while it’s not illegal to discuss something like that, the imposing Dragonguard may take it as evidence of conspiracy.
The Market District
On the west side of Handclasp, there is a large plaza full of tents and wagons. Here, a charming mix of local and foreign merchants sell their wares.
Micah Foster, gemologist. Micah is a short, brown-haired human woman who makes her living selling and evaluating gems. She moves from town to town every month or so, and she works and lives out of a wagon.
Harris Stone, busker. Harris is a tall man with blonde hair and long, thin fingers. Every afternoon, he sets up his stool somewhere in Handclasp, and plays his lute for tips. He has an excellent memory for songs and legends, and is willing to share this knowledge with anyone who asks. Well, anyone who asks and puts some coins in his hat, at least.
Sue Peyzhur, trader. Sue is a traveling merchant, using her knowledge of commerce and economics to fund her travels across the land. Though she enjoys the bargaining and the rush of profit, her true motive is to travel across the world as far as she can. In her wagon, she keeps a journal with her thoughts and experiences of various things, along with mementos of those she’s traveled with.
On the main road of Handclasp, there is a wattle and daub building with a red tile roof. This is the Sparrow, as denoted by the carefully painted bird on the wooden sign hanging above the door. Inside, a fire keeps the patrons warm as they drink, play cards, and eat that famous local pastry, the Dragonclaw.
Robin Robinov, tavernkeeper. Robin is a tavernkeeper. He is the fifth member of his family to carry the name Robin, and a painting of his great-great-great-grandfather, the first Robin Robinov, hangs behind the bar. The two look absolutely identical. Robin is a skinny man with wild red hair and a hawk-like face. His tavern, the Sparrow, is one of the finest sites in town for music, alcohol, and food.
Mykel Gregov, turnspit. Mykel is a young teenager who works at the Sparrow, roasting the meat and occasionally getting burnt by splashes of hot fat. He has an excellent memory, which is good, because drunken people constantly talk about their business around him.
Dragonclaw: A pastry shaped into a palm with three long claws. The palm is filled with strawberry jam. One silver.
Slow-Cooked Pork: Tender, tasty pieces of pork served with bread. Five silver per plate.
Ale: A local brew with a bitter taste. One silver per mug.
Alan’s Chymicals is a small shop with a wooden door that causes a bell to ring whenever you open it. Inside, there is a small open area for customers, and then a counter behind which Alan and his employees can be found. It sells many strange concoctions, as listed below.
Alan Jenkins, chymist: Alan is a middle aged man with pale skin marred by patches of yellow discoloration. He is completely bald, and wears glasses.
Potions of Water Breathing: This item consists of a small tin of ointment and a vial of blue liquid. The liquid must be boiled and the vapor inhaled, and the ointment rubbed on either side of the user’s neck. This will cause gills to form temporarily, and to connect properly to the user’s airway. The formation of the gills is somewhat painful, but the pain stops after a minute. This effect lasts for an hour, and the area around the gills gets noticeably sore a few minutes before they seal up again. 150 gold.
Vial of Temporary Eternal Rest: This potion is a bottle of milky fluid with gray sediment at the bottom. It must be shaken thoroughly before ingestion. A minute after drinking, the user enters a state of suspended animation, with their heart slowed to an imperceptible rate and their body beginning to cool rapidly. After somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes, they begin to wake, shivering considerably as they do. 50 gold.
Phoenix’s Broth: This potion takes the form of several tablets which must be mixed into a soup. Eating the resulting soup causes the user’s hair to turn a fiery red. Not immediately, mind you, but any new growth will be red. This effect lasts for one year. 10 gold.
Sticky Serum: This item comes as two vials. One yellow, the other blue. Mixing both creates a layer of adhesive which, when applied to one’s hands, substantially enhances their ability to climb or maintain a grip on a weapon. Closing your hand will not leave it stuck in a fist, but grabbing somebody’s uncovered arm will stick your hand to it for the duration. The adhesion to non-skin materials is not as strong, but it is strong enough to support a human’s weight. This effect lasts for roughly an hour. Your muscles will probably be sore after using this to climb something. 50 gold.
The Stone District
On the east side of Handclasp, near the Cloudripper Gate, there is a cluster of dense stonework buildings. This is the Stone District, the dwarven enclave. A group of dwarves from the Cloudripper Mountains have made their home here, selling dwarven goods and doing stonework for the larger folks.
The Healthy Hearth
The Healthy Hearth is a bar that makes up the bottom floor of one of the Stone District’s buildings. Like much of the Stone District, it is built to dwarven proportions. As a concession to the humans in the area, however, they have added a patio with human-sized seating around back, along with a window for serving food and drinks, though a human will still have to kneel to grab them.
Hemnar Foamforge, dwarven barkeep. Hemnar is a black-haired dwarf who runs The Healthy Hearth, serving customers and managing its brewing operations. He likes humans, and dreams of traveling the land as so many of them do.
Sarhok “Ol’ Catgut” Coincloak, dwarven instrument maker. Sarhok is a dwarf from the Cloudripper Mountains, who makes his living in Handclasp as an instrument maker. He builds and repairs musical devices from drums to harps, and he can play almost anything he can repair. His favorite instrument is something he refers to as a “dwarven lute,” which is a normal lute with abnormally thick strings, leading to a deep, resonant sound.
Vodka, with or without water: 5 copper.
Ale, the only kind available: 5 copper.
Meat and Potato Stew, 5 silver.
Secret Dwarven Menu
There is a second menu inside the bar, containing a number of dwarven specialties, most of which are wildly unpalatable to humans. This includes a few meals that use lead as a seasoning, which is harmless for dwarves, but lethal to humans with substantial exposure. One meal probably won’t kill you, though.
You can, however, get your vodka cheaper if you order it in Dwarven.
The national military of Scalecrown is the Dragonguard, a force largely made up of swordsmen and archers. They patrol the borderlands, guard Handclasp Hold, and accompany tax collectors.
The Dragonguard in the borderlands are much less professional than the others, due to the general lack of oversight and importance in their positions.
Despite the name, guarding Brezarth is not one of their major duties. After all, he’s a dragon.
Ivan Maslov, Dragonguard leader. Ivan is a tall man with a dark purple scar on the right side of his neck. His hair is a pale brown, and he keeps it short. His skin is darker than the average in Handclasp.
Below are statblocks for common members of the Dragonguard:
HD: 2 AC: 15
STR 15 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 8 WIS 10 CHA 13
Carrying: Longsword, d8 damage. This sword has an ornate brass crossguard evocative of a dragon’s claw. The crossguard is very distinctive, but an unscrupulous blacksmith could replace it and resell the sword. Worth 5 gold and likely to draw attention unless modified.
Chainmail armor. Worth 50 gold.
Tabard bearing the symbol of Scalecrown. Worth very little, even after bleaching, and highly suspicious to own.
Shield, painted with the symbol of Scalecrown. Worth 40 gold after a repaint.
HD: 2 AC: 13
STR 12 DEX 15 CON 8 INT 14 WIS 10 CHA 13
Carrying: Bow, d6 damage. Relatively easy to sell, worth 15 gold.
Tabard bearing the symbol of Scalecrown.
Quiver, clearly marked as Dragonguard property, nearly worthless.
20 arrows, made of birch, with iron leaf-shaped tips and fletched with hawk feathers, worth 5 gold for the whole bundle.
Dragonguard typically travel in groups of five, two archers and three swordsmen. In combat, they will try to avoid splitting up, but if it is necessary to pursue somebody, two swordsmen will pursue the target, leaving one with the archers. If they are defending something, like a coach full of tax money, they will stay close to it as much as is reasonable
Religion in Scalecrown
Though there is no formal clergy dedicated to the worship of Brezarth, for many of the inhabitants of Scalecrown, he is the only god they need. After all, he’s incredibly old, he founded this prosperous kingdom, and he can spew gouts of flame from his mouth. It’s hard to compete with that. A large statue of him has a prominent place in every major town, and smaller ones sit beside the road on major trade routes.
Worship of other gods is not forbidden in Scalecrown, but it is also not encouraged. A large statue of him has a prominent place in every major town, and smaller ones sit beside the road on major trade routes.
Holiday: Unity Day
The major holiday of the year is Unity Day, in late fall. Every year, the townsfolk of Handclasp put on a play reenacting the original conversation between Jakob Sharp and Brezarth Brightclaw. Brezarth is portrayed by three people in a complicated costume, working together to manipulate its wings, mouth, and forelegs. Jakob and the other humans are usually portrayed by Dragonguard members, though any tough-looking adventurers that happen to be in town are often asked if they’d be willing to help out.
After sunset, a feast is held on the main boulevard, with Brezarth himself at the head of the table closest to the hold. Plenty of ale is served, alongside fire-roasted deer and pigs.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of our series on Scalecrown! While this article covered the capital, the next one will delve into the outlying areas. Look forward to a port town, a swamp of goblins, and a wizard university!
Map & Asset Downloads
We recommend these maps and assets…
Support the Creators
Former esports wannabe, current TTRPG streamer and TTRPG creator interviewer. I like science fiction and I have a soft spot for licensed tabletop RPGs. You can find all the campaigns I’m in and interviews I’ve done over on YouTube.
We put out new content like this almost every week! If you’d like to keep up, here are all the ways that you can do it, be it on social media or with our email newsletter: