Old Bear's Crossing - Banner - Large

Old Bear’s Crossing is a system-neutral adventure setting consisting of sacred groves, vicious bandits, and a small town. Does your world feature terrain like this? This article is designed to help you flesh it out.

Old Bear’s Crossing is a small town built alongside a rocky river. Many travelers pass through here, as it is the only convenient river crossing in the area, and paying a few silver in tolls is easier than trying to ford the cold water.

The village itself is mostly populated by humans, but there is also a small clan of elves called the Cedarleaves nearby. There is also a group of bandits who make their home here, terrorizing traders and locals alike.

Trout are very common in the river that runs through the town, and in the spring they can be seen hopping up the rapids up the river, heading for their ancestral spawning grounds.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 1 - Forge

The Double Triangle Forge

The Double Triangle Forge is a brick building with a wooden water wheel and a red roof. The building is a single large room, with a large axle at one end of the room. When linked up to the water wheel, this axle lifts and drops a large metal hammer, allowing the blacksmiths to form metal relatively easily.

The forge marks all of their products with a pair of triangles, side by side, facing opposite directions. This same mark is engraved in the brick above the forge’s door.

The Double Triangle Forge has been in operation for two centuries, and its mark can be found on tools all throughout the region.

Edith, blacksmith. Edith is an older woman with graying hair, and large muscles. Her husband was killed in a conflict with the Cedarleaf elves, and she still holds a grudge. She keeps her hair unusually short for a woman in this area, due to her trade.

Agnes, blacksmith apprentice. Agnes is Edith’s daughter. She’s 18 and intending to join the family trade, though she does have an interest in cooking. To that end, she can often be found in the forest, gathering mushrooms. She also has a secret lover, an elf from the Cedarleaf clan named Orntha’las.

Albert, blacksmith apprentice. Albert is Edith’s son, and Agnes’ fraternal twin. He’s 18 years old. Albert is deaf and has been since birth. He takes great pride in his knife designs. He has never made a sword, but would eagerly repair and study one.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 2 - Store


Kelly’s is a wooden building near the center of town. Inside, there’s a small area for customers, separated from the shelves of goods by a wooden counter. The store is well-stocked with goods made of wood or fiber, but when it comes to metal, they have only a couple of knives and axes. All prominently bear the mark of the Double Triangle Forge.

Helga Kelly, shop owner. Helga is a woman in her mid-40s, with brown hair and calloused hands. She’s used to dealing with hagglers and drives a hard bargain.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 3 - Garrison

The Garrison

The garrison is a small cluster of buildings behind a wall, guarding the river crossing. The westernmost building sits atop a hill, and it is the oldest building of the bunch. This was Old Bear’s home and now serves as the officer’s quarters. The lower building houses the guards and their equipment.

The officer’s quarters has not changed much since the days of Old Bear, and there is still a stone icon of Aely in front of it.

Finnley Parker, guard. Finnley is a tall and slightly chubby man in his early 30s. He speaks very slowly and writes at the same speed, though his writing is very neat. He mans the toll booth at the river crossing all day, every day.

Aely, God of the Hunt

Shrines to Aely dot the land around Old Bear’s Crossing. Many were built by Old Bear himself, serving as both caches and shelters. They are not architecturally impressive. The most common design consists of a single small room with a slanted roof and the crossed roof beams typical of the northern barbarians. Each contains some sort of idol of Aely, ranging from a simple carving in the wood of the back wall to a life-sized stone statue.

Aely is most commonly depicted as a tall woman with braided hair. She is almost always depicted engaging in some kind of hunting-related activity, whether that be simply holding a bow, or carrying a deer with a very impressive set of antlers over her shoulders.

She has no clergy, but most of the townsfolk repair damage to the shrines whenever they see some. Traditionally, after a successful hunt, a hunter spills some of their own blood along with some of their prey’s blood on a shrine to Aely.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 3 - Church

The Acolytes of Vosni

Five years ago, a group of churchmen calling themselves the Acolytes of Vosni built a small church in Old Bear’s Crossing. The wooden building is marked with a prominent wrought iron V over the door. They wear undyed tunics with plain belts and preach about the joys of conformity and belonging to a high purpose. They have a plot of land east of town, across the river crossing, on which they grow barley.

Vosni is more like a principle than a deity. The name allegedly comes from an ancient dwarven word for “unity.” They are not openly violent towards other faiths or beliefs, but actively try to convert people to their cause. All their goods are divided equally among the adherents, and all are expected to work hard in the fields.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 5 - Forest

Cedarleaf Elves

The Cedarleaf Elves have lived in this area for hundreds of years and have repeatedly come into conflict with the human settlers at Old Bear’s Crossing. Currently, there is a tentative peace between the two factions, which hinges on humans leaving the elves’ sacred groves alone and the elves leaving the humans’ shrines alone.

The most sacred grove sits two kilometers west of Old Bear’s Crossing, near a major road. Here, dark brown trees with purple sap grow. These are the dreambark trees, and their sap has intense hallucinogenic effects on anyone with elven blood.

Amryn’n, clan leader. Amryn’n is a tall elven woman with red hair. Her features are sharp and almost hawk-like. Her left hand has been replaced with a claw-like prosthetic made of antler and leather. It can open and close to the right position to hold a bow, but that’s all. This does not make her any less intimidating.

Orntha’las, dog trainer. Ortha’las is a thin elf with short red hair. He trains most of the clan’s dogs, and is friendlier towards humans than most of his clan is. He will even let human children pet the dogs if they ask nice. He is rarely seen without one of the dogs somewhere nearby. He is romantically entangled with Agnes from the Double Triangle Forge, but no one else knows.

Tan’nyl, seer. uses dreambark to see visions of the ethereal realm. Tan’nyl is the sacred leader of the rites of vision, where participants use dreambark to tap into the wisdom of the realms beyond.

Ar’dreth, sacred botanist. Ar’dreth is dark-skinned elf who has dedicated his life to taking care of the sacred groves of the Cedarleaves, ranging from the apple trees in the east to the dreambark grove in the west. He’s not very sociable, but he can talk about plants for hours if the opportunity presents itself.


At the summer equinox, the Cedarleaf elves join the humans of Old Bear’s Crossing for food and games. During the day, the two groups share their skills. The elves teach young humans archery, the humans show young elves the arts of metalwork, and groups of both species cook together.

The most important event is the Bleeding. In this ceremony, one elf and one human prick each other’s finger, then they both wipe the resulting blood on a log, which is thrown into a bonfire. This ritual represents the blood shed by both sides in the previous conflicts between the Cedarleaves and the people of Old Bear’s Crossing.

Old Bear's Crossing - Additional Banner 6 - Bandit Cave

The Scales

In the foothills a few kilometers from Old Bear’s Crossing, there is a rocky crevice where a stream once ran. In this crevice is a cave mouth, which is surrounded by dirt and tobacco ash. This is the home of the Scale Syndicate, a small group of bandits.

Inside the cave entrance, there are crates of supplies, all stolen from merchants and other travelers. There are four exits off of this main gallery. The first, on the left, goes to a damp and stinking room where most of the bandits sleep on piles of blankets and furs.

The next has been hastily fortified with a wooden wall and barred door. Behind it rests most of the bandits’ valuable goods and the quarters of their leaders, the four former adventurers who founded this band of miscreants.

The third is a hole in the floor of the center of the room, angling sharply downwards. Down this treacherous slope there is an alcove whose walls have been covered in carvings and blood smears, all dedicated to the dark god Ien Zaag. Further down this slope are a dozen rotting corpses, come to rest against rocks or turns in the tunnel. Eventually, it reaches an underground river.

The last hole has been fortified in the manner of the second, though the door is clearly lockable only from the outside. It contains a few blankets, a bucket, and nothing else. This is where the bandits keep any hostages or other prisoners.

Near the bandit hideout, a rough bridge has been constructed by the bandits, allowing them to bypass Old Bear’s Crossing. It has been patched up several times, with new boards nailed on top of rotten ones. It is located only a short walk from the main road, but it is hidden by a copse of trees. On the far side, the path continues north to the bandits’ hideout. There is also a game trail heading into the bushes to the west, with bear tracks clearly visible.

The Scales are a group of childhood friends who took on the life of wandering adventurers after the destruction of their town, but soon grew tired of it. They turned their skills to simple banditry, and eventually amassed a small following of similarly unscrupulous folks. Since they’ve settled down in this area, each has begun to change.

Gan Sheeren has become obsessed with a dark power who he believes lives beneath their lair. Axium no longer sleeps, because he has (secretly) transferred his soul into the gem on his wizard’s tome and now controls his old body like a marionette. Dau’s ambitions have slowly begun to grow, and he is now seriously considering attacking Old Bear’s Crossing directly and taking it over. Alkan, the thief, is starting to grow weary of living in a cave in the middle of nowhere, and yearns for a more comfortable life, or at least more interesting things to steal.

Dau Reeds, human male fighter. Dau is a tall, tan-skinned man with green eyes. He solves most of his problems with violence. He is skilled with both a warhammer and a sword. He styles himself as a sort of bandit king.

Gan “Chosen” Sheeren, dark cleric. Chosen is a tall, imposing man who dresses in a white robe covered in runes written in his own blood. He insists on being called “Chosen” instead of his name. He worships the evil god Ien Zaag, who he insists slumbers deep under this very cavern and demands many sacrifices.

Axium, wizard. Axium is a dark-skinned man who carries a thick book with a gem on the cover. In a sense, he is already dead; his soul is stored in the gem on the book, and it controls his body as long as it remains within 10 feet of the gem. He has a surprisingly high-pitched voice. He does not sleep.

Alkan Reeds, human male thief. Dau is a tan-skinned, mute man. His eyes are a cold blue, like the ice covering a lake. He is a talented lockpicker and safecracker. He strongly prefers a stealthy infiltration to a violent brawl, but he is capable of defending himself with a dagger. He is Dau’s younger brother.

There are about a dozen other bandits, mostly human males between the ages of 15 and 30. Each carries burdens with them that make them unable or unwilling to live normal lives, usually related to traumatic past experiences that they do not have the capacity to deal with.

20 years ago, there was a dispute between the Cedarleaf elves and the humans of Old Bear’s Crossing. The dispute centred on humans trespassing in a sacred grove, and led to about a dozen deaths on each side. Things have been relatively calm since then, but both sides remember.

Current Conflict: Vandalized Shrines

The shrines to Aely that dot this region are considered sacred by the people of Old Bear’s Crossing, serving as a monument both to Aely and to the town’s founder, since he built them. While the Cedarleaf Elves destroyed several of them in the past, they have carefully avoided damaging them since the conflict got violent 20 years ago.

However, several of them have been vandalized recently, ranging from being defaced with bodily fluids to being burnt down entirely.

There are four likely suspect factions:

  1. The Cedarleaf Elves. They’re well known to dislike these shrines, and have desecrated them in the past.
  2. The local bandits, the Scales. They’re dangerous and disrespectful, and probably see it as a way of exerting their influence.
  3. The townsfolk of Old Bear’s Crossing. Many of them still bear grudges against the Cedarleaf Elves, and would quite like to reignite the conflict and push the Cedarleaves out of the region.
  4. The Acolytes of Vosni, the newest religious group to set up shop in Old Bear’s Crossing. They preach unity and oneness, and scorn all other objects of worship.

The actual culprit should depend on the general themes of your campaign, but my preference is for the Scales to be the vandals. Provoking another round of fighting between the Cedarleaves and Old Bear’s Crossing would make Old Bear’s Crossing much easier to take over, and it is, frankly, a somewhat less politically loaded outcome than inter-religious or inter-species tensions.


I couldn’t find an appropriate place to work in “roll to generate a buck’s antlers” into this article, so you’re getting it here: “Roll 1d6 to determine the number of points on its antlers. The die explodes on a 6 and any further 6s.” I hope this proves useful to you and your players, whether they’re finding naturally shed antlers or determining the value of a deer they’ve hunted.

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About the author


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.

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