Ravensburg is a system-neutral adventure setting: a town in the middle of a sprawling woodland with an extensive cave system beneath its roots. Could such a place exist in your campaign? We invite you to use this as a resource, in part or in full!
Hundreds of years ago, a prince in exile fled his home with a small group of servants and loyal soldiers. They fled deep into the massive Berselin Woods, and eventually came upon a tall hill, where they built their new home. Now, Raven Castle stands atop this hill, and a town of a thousand people encircles it.
As you approach Ravensburg along the Deerfoot Road, your first sign of civilization is the trees. As you get closer to the town, they become strange: Rather than a single trunk, many have a dozen or so trunks sticking out of a single stump. This is a result of the way the locals harvest wood, a practice known as coppicing, which allows them to get firewood and construction material without killing the tree. Not every tree is like this, but the closer you get to the town, the more trees have been coppiced.
Next, you reach the clearing. Fields of barley alternate with orchards of apple trees in a circle around the town. The town’s walls rise up beyond the fields, wooden palisades encircling the settlement. Some of the roofs of the town’s buildings would be visible to the approaching traveller, patches of thatch looking like elevated pieces of the forest floor. Among these is a stone steeple with vines climbing up it, and a dull brass bell visible in the tower.
The most prominent part of the skyline is a castle on a hill, with red banners hanging on its walls. A single tower juts out above its bulk, visibly off-centre.
Welcome to Ravensburg, traveller.
Looming over Ravensburg is Raven Castle, a tall building made of dark stone. Raven Castle is built on a tall hill, and a path winds upwards around this hill, connecting the ground level with the entrance to the castle itself. A red banner with a crowned raven hangs on the wall of the castle.
The castle is a twisting thing made up of strange angles, the result of many centuries of additions and the occasional collapse. The tallest section, the Howling Tower, is seven storeys tall. Due to a strange quirk of the layout of the windows, the tower makes a deep, eerie howl on windy days.
Much of the castle is empty, occupied only by a small cadre of cleaners, cooks and scullions and, of course, Lord Zegrath himself. Its roof, however, is occupied by a conspiracy of ravens who have built their nests in the nooks and crannies.
Beneath the castle is a dank dungeon. It has been many years since anyone was locked up down here, but off-duty guards use the area for drinking and gambling. Their gambling table sits on a wooden platform, built over a large hole in the floor, which leads into Lanalin’s Cave.
Luka Weis, castle errand girl. Probably knows secret ways into and out of the castle. Luka is a tan teenage girl with black hair and gray eyes. She grew up in the castle, and spent much of her youth finding hidden passages and secret rooms. Now, she can often be found in Ravensburg, buying supplies for the castle. Her father is the castle’s alchemist, but their relationship is distant at best.
Markus Weis, castle alchemist. Markus is a short man with pale skin and gray hair in a combover hair style. The flesh on his left arm is twisted and puckered with scar tissue. He lives in Raven Castle and spends his days trying to make an alchemical blood substitute to sate Lord Zegrath’s hunger. He rarely sees his daughter, Luka, though he does love her.
Sir Wilhelm Schwarz, knight. Sir Schwarz is a black-haired, muscular man. He is gigantic in almost every respect, standing seven feet tall and wielding a two-handed sword with just one hand. Most of his days are spent training guardsmen or drinking in the tavern. Schwarz’s shield has a red field, a black border, and a three-headed snake.
The Cruel Fate of House Zegrath
Five years ago, House Zegrath was as prosperous as any other. For centuries they had ruled Ravensburg and the wood beyond, keeping it safe from brigands and abominations alike. Unfortunately, while traveling on a moonless night, the family’s caravan was ambushed— a tree fell into the road, blocking their path, as a dozen night-stalking vampires swarmed the wagons, feasting on the noble blood.
All were slain, save for the eldest son, Julien. A blue-eyed vampire drank deeply from his neck, but left just enough blood to keep him alive. Julien stumbled back to Ravensburg, finding that the sun now burnt his flesh, forcing him to travel at night. He locked himself away in his chamber, where he has spent much of the last 20 years. No coronation was ever held, and they say the Crown of Raven Castle sits on the throne, where King Nikolas Zegrath left it.
Changes to the kingdom have been few but each has been substantial. The worship of Pho-Yon, once the patron god of the region, has been banned. Even his name is not to be uttered within Ravensburg. Several food items, such as garlic and turmeric, are also forbidden within the town.
The Temple of Pho-Yon
Near the castle is a large wooden building whose fancy double doors have been roughly boarded shut. The faint outlines of where holy symbols once hung are visible on its exterior walls, and a pair of empty plinths which once held statues flank the doors. This is the Temple of Pho-Yon, once a focal point of the community, now forbidden.
Pho-Yon, the Lord of the Underworld. Pho-Yon is often depicted as a man made of marble, carrying a spear and a bow. He is the warden of the afterlife, responsible for making sure the dead stay dead and that no living being may enter the realm beyond. As such, he is often prayed to by those who hunt zombies, ghosts and so on.
The Mauled Shield
The Mauled Shield is a two-storey wattle and daub building, located right beside Deerfoot Road. A sign hangs in front of the door, depicting a shield with three slash marks across it.
The main room has several tables and a group of mismatched chairs by the fireplace. Merchants and other travelers often spend the night here. Their food is pretty standard, save for the spicy cheese known as pepperjack that they use in almost every dish. The ale they serve often has fruity notes to it.
Odette Haber, owner. Odette is a short woman with gray eyes and black hair. This tavern has been run by her family for generations, and she takes great pride in it. She keeps a broom behind the counter to hit rowdy customers with.
Fritz Haber, cook. Fritz is a heavy-set man with a horseshoe haircut and pointed ears. He generally doesn’t talk to customers, but in the quieter hours, he can be heard singing as he cooks.
Emily Haber, server. Emily is the daughter of Odette and Fritz, and she serves the customers of the Mauled Shield. She has her mother’s gray eyes and the slightly pointed ears of her father, hinting at some distant elven ancestry.
The second floor has several rooms for rent. They’re modest rooms, but it beats sleeping on the ground. Many of the rooms have some kind of graffiti carved into the table or walls. Here are some options, some juvenile, some plot-relevant:
- “Only six women knew of my presence here— too few for such a stallion!”
- “Innkeep, may you choke on the fetid ale you sell.”
- “Two friends spent the night here. Remember Aurik, Dextis and our fallen brother, Marseille.”
- “May Yew-Ren reach out of the Earth and drag that damn barking dog into its depths.”
- “The baldy will short-change you.”
- “Pho-Yon watches still, no matter the Lord’s will!”
- “Watch out for the loose board.” [written small enough that one has to step on the loose board to read it]
- “→ A ↓ → A ↓” [written as if on a musical staff.]
The People of Ravensburg
Johan Schmidt, blacksmith. Johan is a tall, muscular man with a deep voice. Alongside his son, Fritz, he handles the area’s metalworking needs. He can often be heard singing as he works. He says it helps him keep his hammer blows on the right rhythm. Most of his songs are in the common language of the area, but for projects of particular import, he prefers an old Dwarven hymn called The Hammer and the Anvil.
Fritz Schmidt, apprentice. Fritz is a 13 year old boy with a pudgy face and six fingers on his left hand. He is learning the arts of metalwork from his father, though he often helps out the other craftsfolk of Ravensburg as well. His voice cracks almost every time he speaks.
Lukas Weiskopf, merchant. Lukas is a tall, bald man with nimble fingers and several pockmarks on his right cheek. He runs a shop in town, where most essentials for life can be found.
Augustin “Aug” Haeberle, farmer. Aug is responsible for one of the barley fields outside the wall of Ravensburg, and takes his duties seriously. During the growing season, he lives in a pit house near the field, but he takes shelter inside the walls of town during winter. In his youth, he explored much of Lanalin’s Cave, but he has no time to talk about the cave until he figures out how to cure the blight afflicting his crops.
Nicholas “Nick” Fleck, logger. Nick is a tan-skinned man with black hair, bulging biceps and a slight beer belly. With the aid of his horse, Leadbelly, he hauls deadfall trees back to town for building new structures. He knows most of the forest very well, and would make a good guide.
Jasmin Nellinger, brewer. Jasmin is a middle-aged woman with dark skin and blonde hair. Jasmin runs the town’s brewery, turning well-water, barely and fruits into delicious, nutritious beers. She sometimes pays children in the village to go harvest berries.
Valk Lederbeiter, leatherworker. Valk is a scrawny man with short black hair and permanently rosy cheeks. He wears a metal brace on his left leg. He makes all kinds of leather equipment from hides the local hunters bring in.
Buster, dog. Buster is a stray dog that hangs around the town. He doesn’t really belong to anybody, but he does have a well-made wolf collar with a metal name tag
Berselin Wood is a sprawling forest of birch and elm trees. A well-used path called Deerfoot Road cuts through it, connecting Ravensburg to the kingdoms beyond the wood. Thickets of wild blueberries are a common sight here. Deer, wolves and the occasional bear inhabit the woods, though they leave the two-legged folk alone most of the time.
At one fork, there is a pair of hemlock trees that have grown towards and partially around each other, forming one strange tree. This tree is known as The Lovers, and is a common landmark for navigation. Wedding ceremonies are often held here.
The Birchmouth is one of the many entrances to Lanalin’s Cave. It sits under a massive silver birch tree, and is just wide enough for the average human to crawl through. Near the entrance, a few garlic plants are growing. A dozen feet or so inside, where the cave widens enough for a person to stand, a rough table has been built. Strange supplies sit on top of it: A sheathed dagger inlaid with silver, six stakes in a bandolier and, leaning up against the wall of the cave, a piece of cold iron forged into the symbol of Pho-Yon, three tilted squares horizontally intertwined.
This is a small grove of thorny blueberry bushes. About 20 feet from the edge of the thicket is a rocky crack in the ground, which leads down into Lanalin’s Cave. It’s big enough for a child to crawl into, or fall into.
A mile north of Ravensburg, there is a fairly unimpressive lake that the locals use for fishing. Many garlic plants grow around its edges. On the south shore, a rough dock has been built. Below that dock, under the waterline, a wide stone maw allows entrance to Lanalin’s Cave.
Nick Fleck’s Cabin
Deep in the woods, in an area cleared of trees, sits this surprisingly sturdy looking cabin. The logger Nick Fleck calls this place home, and its only other occupant is his horse, Leadbelly, who he lets come inside on the coldest winter nights.
In the darkest part of Berselin Wood sits a large pile of flat stone arranged into a rough circle. Moss has grown over it, and it would be easy to mistake it for an unusually rocky sides. This is a burial cairn, dedicated to an ancient, forgotten warrior. His name, Nak, is chiselled into the largest stone, though this too is overgrown. Under the rock, among his bones, sits his weapon: A hammer carved out of what looks to be a gigantic, petrified mushroom.
There are many caves in the limestone beneath Ravenswood, but the largest and deepest of these is the system known as Lanalin’s Cave. Lanalin’s Cave has many entrances, from under the dock at Garlic Lake to the Birchmouth in Grimsby’s Hollow. They say the cave even extends under Raven Castle, separated from its dungeon only by a floor of rotting wooden planks.
Lanalin’s Cave eventually runs beneath Raven Castle, and intersects some of its storerooms. Though there is no door to cross into the storerooms, the wooden walls are old and rotting, and easy to break through.
Lanalin’s Cave is meant as a means of travel than an exploration area, so in lieu of a comprehensive map, I give you a procedure. When the party attempts to travel between two known entrances for the first time, roll twice on the chart below. Write down the result. This is now the route.
- The Forum: A wide room with several exits. The area is filled with spiderwebs and, of course, spiders. It’s somewhat unpleasant but none of the spiders are venomous. Probably.
- The Goblin Squeeze: Here the cave narrows sharply, and can only be traversed by crawling for about 10 feet. In order to get through, backpacks and armor must be removed. A clever group could tie their packs to their waists with a rope and drag them behind as they crawl.
- The Maw: A deep crevasse, seven feet across, cuts through the cave here. It carries on for a substantial distance both up and down, but the walls appear to be intact, at least at this level. The safest way across would be to build a bridge, but climbing along the side walls is technically possible as well.
- The Adventure Hole: A 20-foot drop whose rock face is incredibly slick, making it abnormally difficult to get back up.
- The Bone Room: The Bone Room is a small chamber with a humanoid skeleton in it. Beside the skeleton is a war pick made of a bone and a gigantic tooth. These remains have been here for at least a thousand years, untouched and unremembered. The pick is made from parts of a dragon.
- Crystal Cave: The ceiling of this long, straight section is covered in large crystals which reflect and refract torchlight, causing strange Rorschach blot-like images to appear on the walls. Many travellers see images from their past, or their fears, among these.
- Yew-Ren’s Fingers: In the middle of this cavern, five sideways pillars of stone bridge the gap from one wall to the other. Each is the size of a man’s torso, and they are spaced a foot or so apart each, horizontally, and at the same height.
- The Bathhouse: Flooded section, far end has a breath-hold drop to another area. This wide room is permanently flooded up to ankle depth with cold, muddy water. The water trickles in constantly from a waterfall on one wall. Underneath the water fall is a completely flooded passage that takes about one minute to swim through, and exits into another dry cave passage.
A lot of this article was written while watching “caving gone wrong”-type YouTube videos. which is where most of the areas in Lanalin’s Cave come from. I admit that they have left me with a vague desire to go explore a cave.
If the improvised travel procedure is unsatisfying for your group, you could always mark out the entrances (Birchmouth, Blueberry thicket chasm, Raven Castle dungeon etc) on a piece of paper, throw some d8s at it, mark off where they landed and what number they rolled, and then connect those areas as you see fit.
Much of the graffiti for the inn rooms was inspired by historical graffiti from Pompeii, except for the last one. I hope you find it useful, or at least amusing.
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"Much of the graffiti for the inn rooms was inspired by historical graffiti from Pompeii, except for the last one. I hope you find it useful, or at least amusing." – Am I missing something? Graffiti? Inn Rooms?
Actually, *we* were missing something! We’ve now updated the article to Garm’s latest version. 🙂