Nekturis is an system-neutral desert town designed to be dropped into your fantasy world, complete with town map, NPCs, and character art.
The mid-day heat beats down on the town as you rest in the shade of the trees at the oasis. A merchant’s caravan sits nearby, its crew looking exhausted and disgruntled, save for a lizardman napping gleefully against the side of a nearby mud brick building.
Goats bleat in the distance as you lay back, staring at the cloudless blue sky. A hawk flies by above you, gliding from thermal updraft to thermal updraft, searching for something.
Nekturis is a small town beside an oasis alongside a major trading route. The town has little industry of its own, aside from producing wine from the peaches that grow alongside the oasis, but it serves as a safe place for travelers and nomads to spend a night.
If somebody in the party decides to dive into the oasis, they will find that at the bottom of the oasis is a natural channel in the rock, the remnant of some ancient earthquake. This channel is not wide enough to enter, unfortunately.
Sights: Goats and desert foxes drinking from the oasis, side by side. Wind blowing across town. A small grove of fruit trees.
Smells: The sweet smell of blue agave, the musk of creosote oil, dust, goats.
Sounds: The howling of wind, the bleating of goats in the distance, screeching birds of prey. Crickets chirping in the oasis.
The People of Nekturis
Ari Se’Van, elven peach-tender. Ari Se’Van is ancient even by elven standards. A cloth held in place by a cord covers his white hair, and he wears a white robe. He carries a walking stick made of heavily-knotted wood. If the party talks to him, he may talk about empires long-fallen as if they were still around.
Gen al-Amiri, elven tracker. Gen is a professional tracker, finding people and things lost in the wastes with the help of his faithful companion, Blueberry the red-tailed hawk. Gen has a gold tooth and green eyes. He tends to move his hands a lot as he talks, but the movements aren’t random. They’re a form of sign language used by the local druidic order, which he is a part of.
Amra al-Amiri, elven brickmaker. Amra is a part-time resident of Nekturis, often travelling to the nearest river (A few days away) to make and dry bricks. She is very practically minded and carries a large sword on her back to deter bandits. While in town, she can often be found helping to erect new buildings, or drinking copious amounts of wine with her brother, Gen.
Nasir-Sin, human dentist. Nasir is a somewhat eccentric man with a large collection of very painful looking tools. When he talks, you can see glints of copper in his mouth and, fortunately or otherwise, he talks a lot. Nasir-Sin rarely makes eye contact with people. Instead, it seems almost like he stares at everybody’s mouth.
Leah, human, goat herder. Leah doesn’t visit town very often, but she can often be found in the nearby wastes with her herd of goats. The goats have brown fur and long, curved horns. At night, Leah sets up a brightly-colored tent made of goat yarn. She wears a keffiyeh and a second piece of fabric over her mouth and nose to keep out the sand. It is not uncommon to see her with Amra, walking along the road with their respective goods.
Zaheil, human woodworker. Zaheil is a skinny, twitchy man with black hair. He is well known to be greedy and forever searching for a way to make a quick buck. He lives alone in a small house whose every surface is covered in sawdust.
A group of plain-looking covered wagons sits near the oasis. They are the property of a merchant caravan passing along the trade route.
Zrooth, birdman merchant. Zrooth is a blue and red birdman with a love for gold and no sense of forgiveness. Zrooth is the owner of the caravan and all its goods. He stands straight and carries himself like a king, and shoots withering glares at anyone who laughs at the squawks and caws that punctuate his speech.
Wrix, goblin accountant: Wrix is a pale green goblin with a long, forked tongue that hangs out of his mouth. He speaks with a lisp as a result of this. He can tell the grade of a piece of copper by licking it.
Vaserd, human muscle: Vaserd is a tall, muscular man with a pig-like face. He is impulsive and always ready to punch something, or somebody. While in this town, he is always sweating profusely. He doesn’t talk much.
%, lizardman muscle. His name sounds exactly like somebody clearing their throat. % is a burly lizardman with two rings on his left hand and three on his right, all inscribed with fancy elven script. He carries a large axe on his back. His main duties in the caravan are defending against bandits and securing cargo.
Cendrad Shu’shu’grat, drow passenger. Cendrad comes from the Underdark and hitched a ride with this caravan to cross the desert. She is effectively nocturnal, sleeping in one of the carts and coming out only at night. On the rare occasions she comes out during the day, she shields herself from the sun with a fancy parasol made of spider silk and dyed with mushrooms. Some of the designs on it glow slightly.
The Grand Tournament
Every fall, Nekturis plays host to many of the area’s nomadic tribes. This event marks the end of the hot season, and is marked by feasts, drinking, and most importantly, the Grand Tournament. The Grand Tournament is a series of sporting events, such as javelin throwing and falconry. The winner of each event receives a bottle of peach wine.
If the party decides to participate in the Tournament, it will take a DC20 check to win any event. The javelin throw is a ranged weapon attack, falconry is an animal handling check, so on and so forth.
If the party is not interested in showing their athletic prowess, there is plenty of unusual food and exotic trade goods to look at or purchase.
- Donair: Lamb meat cooked on a spit, shoved into some flat bread with a creamy and sweet sauce. 2 CP.
- Chicken kebabs: Marinated chicken, limes, lemons and other things on a stick. 1 CP per kebab.
- Fatayer: Triangular meat pies, easy to eat while wandering around. 1 CP.
- Grilled peaches: Peaches grilled over the fire, giving them a sweet and smoky taste. 2 CP.
- Carved bone statuettes of various deities and animals: 25 GP each.
- Large tapestries depicting complex geometric patterns: 200 GP each. Can probably be sold to foreign nobles for twice the price.
The Day of the Dreamers
Once a year, five of the townsfolk trek out into the desert. Led by Ari Se’Van, they head to an ancient, buried temple dedicated to some forgotten deity. Once there, they each drink deeply from a basin by the altar. Then, they sit in a circle and don strange, wooden masks that have been passed down from generation to generation. Once they are seated, they begin to experience vivid visions, allegedly from the deity that the temple is dedicated to. These visions guide them on how to spend the coming year. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide if these are legitimate divine visions, hallucinogens in the water, or something stranger.
The next year, four of the five nominate the new Dreamers. Only Ari Se’Van participates every year. Participating in the Day of the Dreamers is considered to be a coming of age ritual.
Bandits have been prowling the dunes recently, and Leah needs to go to another town to sell her goods. She will pay the party well to guard her and her flock.
Ari She’Van speaks of a palace buried beneath the sands, full of ancient books and other priceless artifacts. Can the party sift nuggets of truth from the rubble of an old man’s memories?
A bandit leader carrying the mark of a terrifying gang comes into town just after the party with a demand: Either the town hands over a massive tribute, or the bandits will ransack the place. The party has a mere three days to help the town prepare a defense.
Dreaming Already? The Day of the Dreamers (see above!) happens to land on the day the party arrives in town, but the Dreamers haven’t returned. With the help of Amra al-Amiri, can they find the temple and save the Dreamers from whatever terrible fate has them in its grasp.
A valuable box of treasures has gone missing from the merchant caravan, and they believe someone from the town stole it!
The morning after the party arrives, they are awoken by much squawking and angry shouting. Zrooth and Wrix are arguing with Ari Se’Van, claiming one of the townsfolk has stolen from them. This continues until and unless the party intervenes.
Suspects: Zaheil the woodworker. Zaheil is that special combination of greedy, lazy and a little weird that makes him a perfect suspect. It wasn’t him.
Vaserd, the Muscle: Vaserd has very little impulse control, and stealing from your employer is something only an idiot would do, so naturally some suspicion should fall on him. It wasn’t him.
%, the Other Muscle: % was in charge of loading the wagons, and thus would know exactly where this valuable crate was. Maybe he stole it, hoping to fence it in town. It wasn’t him, mostly.
Cendrad: Cendrad is weird, and was seen wandering around the wagon before absence of the crate was noticed. (Not her.)
So if it wasn’t any of those people, who was it?
% is to blame, but he didn’t steal it. %, who was supposed to check over the cargo after they last made camp, instead spent his day relaxing on a nice, warm rock. As a result of this, the crate of fancy silks bounced out of the wagon when they hit a dip in the road.
The boxes adjacent to where the silk used to be have diagonal scrapes on the sides facing the silk, going up and towards the back of the wagon.
The ropes that should’ve been holding that stack of boxes tightly in place have come loose.
While in town, % can often be seen sleeping on the roofs of mudbrick buildings or up against the side of them.
Leah and Cendrad were seen together by Gen al-Amiri on the night of the alleged theft, heading towards Leah’s tent on the edge of town opposite the caravan, unburdened.
The night of the alleged theft, a strange, rhythmic croaking noise was heard by the oasis by many of the townsfolk. It continued, uninterrupted, until morning. This was Vaserd’s snoring, as Wrix may realize.
Zaheil spent his night inscribing tablets with requests for funding to build a large pyramid nearby to store grain. It’s not entirely clear why Zaheil thinks that’s what pyramids are for, but he does.
Once the party figures it out, or if they get a good hunch early on, retracing the route from the nearest town to Nekturis will uncover the crate eventually. A DC 15 Survival check will reveal a point where the tracks diverge from the road, and following this back will lead to a lump near a chunk of sandstone sticking out of the ground. Under that lump is the crate of silks. Failing that check will cause this to take much longer, roughly half a day, but if Gen al-Amiri is with them, they can bypass the check entirely.
If the party successfully finds the crate of silk, Zrooth will give them a brooch as a token of thanks. The brooch depicts a pair of crossed wings, one made of silver and one of gold. The brooch is not magical, but is worth roughly 700 GP.
As well, Zaheil will give the party a bottle of peach wine as thanks for clearing his name. It’s worth 15GP in any town but Nekturis, but more importantly, it has a pleasant and smooth taste, and a significant alcohol concentration.
Nekturis is a town of grifters that will fleece anyone who doesn’t keep their wits about them. (Mostly untrue.)
The peaches of Nekturis make the journey across the desert worth it. (No, but they’re a nice highlight.)
Ari Se’Van, the peach-tender, knows more about ancient artifacts, sites and nations than anyone else in the region. (True)
Map and Asset Downloads
Below you can find our town map alongside a small collection of other desert-themed maps and assets, plus a batch of desert encounters by Troy that you might use to liven up the wide, open desert. Please enjoy!
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