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  • Scorn of the Sands, Part 2: The Desert Town of Brightwater
Scorn of the Sands Brightwater - Featured image

A frontier town and several of its residents, perfect for the beginning of a desert encounter.

This is Part 2 of our desert releases, covering the second of the Hitikon desert’s resident factions. Together, they will begin an encounter against an ancient, mad manifestation of the desert itself. Will the party succeed or will the sands claim them?

Be sure to refer back to part 1, ‘Hitir Desert Giants‘, to learn about the other residents of the desert. The party may just need their help.

A small town rests near the edge of the Hitikon desert. Once an outpost designed to monitor the nearby giants and other races, the town is now the first stop for anyone seeking to cross the desert. Its few residents have learned to tame native lizards, sustain the town’s oasis, and survive the hostile environment. But there is a greater danger that appears yearly and that the townsfolk have never truly overcome.

The Town of Brightwater

You spot buildings rising amidst the dunes, situated on the edge of a vibrant oasis. A compact arrangement of square structures, carved from stone the same color as the sand, runs along a single pathway. Behind one line of buildings is a pool of shimmering blue water. Palms and desert scrub surround the oasis, their leaves verdant and healthy. Looking around, the same vibrance seems to extend in a perimeter around the town. The sand is a rich golden color, gradually fading to the usual desert shades some two hundred feet from the town.

Brightwater Town Map

Established on the border of a magically-infused oasis and named for said magic’s effect on the environment, the town of Brightwater began as an outpost for monitoring the desert. It no longer holds any military presence and now acts as a gathering point for travelers and traders bound for the desert. 

Brightwater’s permanent residents include a leading Marshal and his deputies, as well as several vendors, hirable guards, and a tamer and stablemaster of desert creatures. Most recently, a cleric has made his way to Brightwater at the behest of his deity. The rest of the townfolk consists of those simply trying to survive, as well as anyone staying a night before or after braving the desert.

Brightwater is hurriedly preparing for trouble when the party arrives. As the characters enter the town, read the following:

Following the road of scattered bootprints into the town, you are met only by swift glances as people move between buildings. A man in a leather coat on the far end of the street seems to be leading the commotion. Under his direction, you notice townsfolk moving barrels, crates, and carts of wooden planks, and piling sand-filled sacks at the bases of the surrounding buildings. A few pay you a courteous nod, though none stop to elaborate.

The people of Brightwater are doing what they can to prepare for the desert spirit’s yearly attack. This includes dividing the town’s food and water between the people and reinforcing and protecting the bases of most buildings with sandbags, as well as boarding their openings. The former is to ensure that everyone has the supplies they need to wait out the attack, while the latter is simply to minimize damage to the town.

The man in the leather coat is the town’s Marshal, who can explain the preparations, though he is not fluent in the history and legends of the region. For that information, they must speak with the visiting cleric.

Map Downloads

Brightwater is modeled on our recently released Desert Oasis Town map. We also have a selection of other desert maps and assets that you can find below…

Marshal Philip Tarubahn

(LN male human veteran)

Gruff features, piercingly focused eyes, and an unkempt beard are covered by the shade of a wide hat, roughly fashioned from the skin of an unknown animal. His leather coat is propped open by the hilt of a sheathed sword that one hand absentmindedly taps on.

While his title is more of an unofficial nickname, the Marshal’s responsibilities are anything but. His previous life of traveling as a mercenary and soldier led him to Brightwater many years ago, where his efforts to protect the town from the spirit’s attack earned him respect among the people. When the sands cleared, he decided to stay.

As the closest thing they have to a leader, Philip takes charge of maintaining the peace and organizing yearly preparations. He has been integral in establishing organization between the many traders by acting as a single point of authority. Many of Brightwater’s residents assist as a de facto militia.

Philip’s position requires him to be discerning and skeptical of new arrivals. As the town prepares for the attack, he becomes more irritable and commanding, plagued by thoughts of his Lieutenant. Despite this, Philip would welcome anyone that honestly offers help.

Lieutenant Cody Kelly

(CN male half-elf scout)

A pale half-elf man looks out with distant, unfocused eyes. His face and head have been recently shaven, with orange scruff beginning to grow back, and he wears basic, loose-fitting garments. His mouth seems to fidget, which you soon realize is a constant, broken muttering.

Lieutenant Kelly was the Marshal’s only official assistant for several years. During one of the spirit’s appearances, the rider’s whip caught him, pulling Kelly onto the sled. The Marshal managed to pull him free moments later. Unfortunately, Kelly’s contact with the sled had already taken his mind.

In the three years since that day, the Lieutenant’s mind has remained broken and disparate. He repeats phrases that Philip says to him and requires assistance for all but the most basic of daily activities. The Marshal sees to his care without complaint.

Kelly’s state changes as the attack approaches each year, as his proximity to the sled compels him to return to it. He regains his faculties but is filled with the singular desire. The Marshal is forced to keep Kelly away from the open streets, though the shift in his behavior does alert the town to the spirit’s arrival.

Sovis Golbard

(NG male human acolyte)

An exasperated young man wipes the sweat from his brow and pushes the dirtied mop of blonde hair from his face. He wears a scholar’s garb, with the outermost robes abandoned. Momentarily masking his battle with the heat, he gives a welcoming smile, pausing to take in the people before him.

Sovis came to Brightwater some dozen days ago under the instruction of his god, a deity of nature and balance. The location was all that he was given. He has since remained in town, using his time to research the desert’s history and legends in between assisting the Marshal. While he is something of an oddity in Brightwater, the townsfolk find his beliefs, abilities, and inability to deal with the heat to be endearing.

Without a clear or defined instruction, Sovis has been waiting for another indication of why he is there and what he is meant to do. The characters are the sign he is waiting for. He will realize this when he meets them, coming to the hopeful conclusion that they are to end the spirit’s attacks for good and that he is to assist them in doing so. 

Greva Tiliqua

(CG female blue dragonborn guard)

Sun-faded blue scales cover the lithe body of a dragonborn woman, with darker patterns spotted across her limbs. She is clothed in light fabrics but with dirty, heavy leather boots, gloves, and apron. The leather is marked by deep punctures and gashes. Similarly-shaped scars are visible on her arms.

Born in Brightwater and raised with a fascination for the desert’s creatures, Greva is the resident expert on the beasts of the Hitikon. She would observe and interact with the native beasts from a young age. Her knowledge and appreciation of the wildlife eventually led to her learning how to tame a species of giant lizard that she affectionately calls ‘frillies’. Taming and saddling enough of these lizards even allowed her to open a stable. And not a year later, the rest of Brightwater acclimated to the presence of a lizard stable.

Like any other stablemaster, Greva makes her keep by renting her lizards to travelers, as well as to the Marshal, should he require them. She cares deeply for them, spending more time caring for the reptiles than she does with people. Regardless, she is friendly, if erratic.

Travelers can purchase a frillie for 60 gp. A specially-crafted saddle for the lizard costs 40 gp, with the option of a one-person sled (pulled by a single lizard) for 20 gp. Greva has also created studded leather barding for her frillies, which costs 200 gp to purchase, owing to the scarcity of resources and unique design.

The reptiles can also be hired, with any assortment of saddle, sled, or armor, for one tenth of the price of purchase, per day.

Giant Frilled Lizards

A large lizard with rough, sandpaper-like brown-grey scales, a frill that drapes back from its neck, and a long, thin tail. Its front half rises as it begins to move, lifting the lizard into a hunched, bipedal stature that towers almost eight feet tall.

Click to zoom in!

Native to the Hitikon and gifted with surprising intelligence, the giant frilled lizards, or ‘frillies’, have been trained by Greva Tiliqua to serve as desert mounts. Those that she raised see her as a caring parent and happily obey her. This is owed both to her dragonborn appearance and the endless care and adoration she shows them.

In addition to their suitability to the desert sands, the lizards’ intelligence also provides benefits over horses or other desert mounts. They are able to follow Greva’s commands and more direct instructions from their riders, who stand on an almost upright saddle on the lizards’ backs. If one is abandoned in the desert, it is often able to find its way back to its clutch and master.

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Beginning the Hunt

With Brightwater making ready for the spirit’s attack, the Marshal advised the party not to leave town until after it has passed. It should arrive within the week. They are unsure of the exact moment, though meeting it on the open sands would only invite death, as the sandstorm will consume them. Sovis approaches the characters later in the same day and curiously inquires about their identities and abilities. This conversation confirms his suspicions.

Sovis believes that the party is the sign that he has been waiting for and that they are to aid Brightwater, with his assistance. He will tell them of the spirit and its yearly attacks, noting that the people of the town kept only sparse recordings. Most of them seem to blame the Hitir giants. They believe that the clan worships the desert spirit, though Sovis notes that the lack of communication between the two peoples means that their understanding is likely based on rumors and gossip. He suggests that they begin by speaking to the giants. Sovis will also present a book that might allow him to translate their conversation, if the characters cannot.

If the party does not go along with Sovis, he suggests they approach Marshal Tarubahn and arrange a reward. The Marshal expresses disbelief and voices his concern, though he will not stop them from trying. Should they succeed, all of Brightwater will happily show their appreciation. Finally, he tells the party that the Hitir clan was last spotted two days to the north-east, and offers to speak to Greva about providing them with temporary mounts.

Speaking with the Hitir

Need some encounters for the party to face as they navigate the scorching landscape? We have a handbook of 20 desert encounters, complete with advice on running the uniquely hostile environment. Take a look at what it contains here.

Locating and reaching the giants’ camp may require the party to make Wisdom (Survival) checks, with the possibility of additional encounters on the way. If they repeatedly fail these checks, feel free to have a party of giant hunters and scouts find the characters.

While the giants are apprehensive of visitors, the party may talk their way into the camp. It is up to them to speak to the clan’s leaders and gather information. Ulvi Dernir is especially supportive of their plan to bring an end to the spirit’s attacks.

Allow the characters to negotiate for aid from the giants. With Ulvi’s support, they must only convince one of the other leaders. If they succeed in their talks, a group of four giants will accompany the party back to Brightwater, following whatever plan the characters present. If the party chose to convince Voki Alkavr, one of these four will be the hunt master herself.

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This is part 2 of 3 in a large desert encounter. Our final entry will bring Brightwater and the giants together, as the party faces down the mystersious desert spirit. Let us know what you think of this adventure so far, as well as where it might go!

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink. You can support my writing efforts on Patreon.

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