Poacher’s Crest is a cold, system-neutral town designed to be dropped into your fantasy world, complete with town map, NPCs, and character art.
Every breath burns your lungs as you trudge through the snow. Even on the road, it goes up to your knees. You keep your head down as you walk; the day is bright and and looking up at a field of unbroken snow is a surefire way to go temporarily blind.
You round a corner and stop in your tracks. You can smell something. Something… familiar. Something you haven’t had in weeks.
You stand up straight and look ahead, a halo of steam billowing out from under your cloak as it shifts. Beyond the swirling crystals of ice drifting through the air you see it: A town of sturdy wooden buildings with thatch roofs, split between a high section on a crest and a lower section in line with the road. Fires burn in every home, and a few fur-clad folks are perched around a bonfire, talking and drinking. Somewhere, a raven squawks.
Welcome to Poacher’s Crest.
Sounds: Howling wind, howling wolves. Snow crunching under feet, and falling heavily from rooftops.
Smells: Woodsmoke, baking bread.
Sights: Snow atop roofs and piling alongside buildings. Tracks of man and beast through the snow.
Poacher’s Crest sits at the border of the woodlands and the foothills. Originally, the settlement sat on top of a sandstone outcropping, but population increases over the years have led to the settlement sprawling out further. Now it extends to the lower area as well, and farmers’ fields spread into what used to be woodland.
To the east, a river runs alongside the town, though it is currently frozen over. It is thick enough to hold the weight of a few people, but a loaded wagon would surely fall through. Across the river, the Temple of the Order of the Sacred Tree sits, along with a combined apiary and brewery.
The town is run by a jarl, which is the local word for mayor or tribal leader.
A note on names:
Poacher’s Crest uses patronymic names instead of the family names most readers of this are familiar with. To give an example of how these work, using patronymics, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be Justin Pierreson, as his father was Pierre Trudeau. Justin’s sister, Alexandre Trudeau, would be Alexandre Pierresdotr. “Dotr” is pronounced like “daughter.”
A note on pronunciation:
The Js in words like jarl and jotunn are pronounced as if they were Ys.
Veronika Mathisdotr, jarl, female human. Veronika is a muscular, broad-shouldered woman with blonde hair and black eyes. When acting as jarl, her face is marked with two diagonal lines below her right eye. When preparing for real combat, be it hunting or war, she marks her face with a broad line down the right side, across her eye. Veronika owns a wooden shield whose paintjob is split into eighths, alternating red and white. It is usually mounted above the desk in her office.
Ven’Li Fae’larsdotr, elven woodcarver, born Ven’Li Hele’sando’ral, now goes by Fae’larsdotr to better fit in with the community. Ven’Li is a talented woodcarver, specializing in making arrows and bows. She also makes creates wooden sculptures of the local wildlife. Ven’Li owns a gray cat with yellow eyes, and she can often be heard shouting at it in Elven. Many townsfolk know the Elven word for “stop” as a result of this.
Oglfulgrr Jotunnson, male half-jotunn lumberjack. As his name implies, he’s part Jotunn, making him purple skinned, black eyed and eight feet tall. Oglfulgrr makes a living as a woodcutter, using his mammoth strength and a well-made axe to chop down trees and haul them back to town. He can sometimes be seen out in the woods with Ven’Li, arguing over the merits of various kinds of wood.
The Machine, machine. An ancient war-machine calls this area home, wandering the town. It can often be found in a small hut by the main road, staring into the fire of the hearth while the fire in its belly burns. It has four legs, a glowing yellow eye and a belching smokestack on its back. It sometimes wanders off into the hills for days at a time. Nobody’s sure exactly what it does out there. It does not speak, but appears to understand Common and will often do as requested.
Auga, a local raven missing one eye. Often seen perching on the high points of buildings, watching the townsfolk quizzically. Has occasionally been seen perched on the war-machine’s shoulder as it walks through town.
At, male goblin beekeeper and brewer. At is a small, green-skinned goblin who is sometimes mistaken for a wolf due to his short stature and the bulky wolf’s pelt he wears, complete with a hat made from the head. At is very energetic and social, and when talking to a taller person will try to get up to their eye-level, standing on chairs, tables or more precarious perches if need be. His ears waggle constantly as he talks.
Clem Mejson, human blacksmith. Clem doesn’t talk much, and will generally respond with nods, headshakes or single words. For more complicated things, he will pull out some paper and write a response. If it’s blacksmithing-related, it might include a diagram to make sure he’s understanding the request properly.
Here’s what Clem’s currently got for sale:
- Shield, round. Well-built, painted as you request (though Clem will not produce a replica of the Jarl’s shield), 12 GP.
- Shortsword. One-handed with a bulky pommel and crossguard. 15 GP.
- “Armbreaker,” Magical longsword. 1d10 Slashing + 1d6 Bludgeoning. Cannot be used one-handed. Armbreaker is Clem’s preferred weapon if the situation calls for it, but he’ll sell it for 750GP.
Tarmo’s gang is a group of miscellaneous ruffians from around the region who have come here to take over Poacher’s Crest by sabotaging the town and blaming Veronika for the state of it.
Tarmo Mathison, human barbarian. The illegitimate son of the former jarl, newly returned to Poacher’s Crest. He’s a ruffian and a bandit leader. Tarmo has black eyes and blond hair, and he wears the pelt of a polar bear to keep warm. He carries a shield whose paintjob is split into eighths, alternating red and white, which matches the one in the jarl’s quarters.
Zarthus, tiefling sorcerer. Red skinned and horned like a ram, Zarthus is an unscrupulous and greedy tiefling, responsible for most of the sabotage in Poacher’s Crest. He has black hair and cold, blue eyes.
The gang also includes roughly twice as many bandits as there are players. This is a motley crew of various races and genders, but none of them are particularly distinctive.
The Order of the Sacred Tree
The Order maintains a small building just outside of town, beside a gigantic tree. The Order is the major religious organization of the area and is responsible for things like the Midwinter Celebration, one of the rare times outsiders are allowed onto the grounds of the Temple. The Order believes in preserving nature, and specifically in the divinity of the very large tree in their back yard.
Torkjel Orderson, half-elf. Torkjel was left on the Order’s doorstep a hundred-some years ago, and is its current leader.
Margit Orderdotr, human. Margit is an orderly brunette who compulsively straightens anything in arm’s reach. She was once a street urchin in a nearby major city, brought to Poacher’s Crest by Torkjel.
Midwinter Celebration: On the longest night of the year, the townsfolk gather at the Order’s Temple outside of town to give gifts, dance and drink around a bonfire. They consider this to be the end of the year and the start of the next. Most years, the Machine tows children on a sled around town. Sometimes, particularly inebriated adults get a ride, too.
Harvest: The largest feast of the year, taking place whenever the last field has been fully harvested. Raucous drinking and dancing ensues. It is said that, once the Harvest celebrations start in Poacher’s Crest, the only sober person is the Machine.
Funerals: The people of Poacher’s Crest do not maintain a graveyard, due to the long winters and frozen ground. Instead, the people of this region prefer funeral pyres. These are somber occasions, despite the roaring flames. Funeral pyres are generally held in a spot near the river’s edge.
The Machine wandered into the woods a few weeks ago, and has been gone much longer than normal.
The deer meat in the local area is tainted with something, sickening anybody who eats it. It might be runoff from a dwarven copper mine upriver. Or it might be Tarmo’s goons.
Oglfulgrr Jotunnson wants to propose marriage to Ven’Li Fae’Larsdotr, but does she feel the same? And should he propose in the way of the locals or the way of the elves? The way of the locals involves climbing a particular mountain to get a beautiful flower that only grows there.
A hunt with Veronika. Something new has been prowling the nearby area. Its feet are huge, and its ominous howls echo through the night. Just a few days before the party arrived in town, it ate some of the town’s goats. Veronika, as the jarl, is expected to deal with this and would be grateful for the party’s assistance.
Tarmo Mathison and his various goons are up to no good. Mice have infested the grain stockpile, gold has gone missing, and cattle are sick. He will, of course, tell the townsfolk that this is due to Veronika’s inept leadership and that they should exile Veronika and appoint Tarmo as the new jarl. All of these problems are, of course, caused by Tarmo’s goons. The problems escalate as time goes on— The main bridge out of town collapses in the middle of the night, allegedly due to poor maintenance. The day after this is discovered is when Tarmo will make his final move— Marking his face in red, and marching through the streets to the Jarl’s house, shield and axe in hand, challenging Veronika to a fight.
Stage 1: Sabotage. Around when the party arrives, things have started going poorly in Poacher’s Crest. Mice have infested the grain stockpile. Gold has gone missing from the treasury. The goats are sick. The Jarl, Veronika, is scrambling to keep things together. (Perhaps the party meets a group on the road who tells them of this misfortune, as they head to another settlement to seek aid.)
If the party investigates, it’s going to take a DC20 Investigation check to find any tangible evidence. If they somehow succeed, they will find a trail of evidence out into the woods to a camp where Tarmo Mathison and his goons have settled.
A DC15 Stealth check is required to get close enough to learn anything useful. If the party is spotted, they will be attacked without question. If they do manage to get close enough, they hear the gang members talking about their genius plan to sabotage various things around town, blame Veronika, and take over the town.
Stage 2: Rabble-rousing. One of Tarmo’s goons spends the night in the local tavern talking loudly about Veronika’s ineptness as a leader. He can’t believe what a dungpile this town is! Tarmo said such nice things about it. If only Tarmo had been in charge. So on and so forth.
Stage 3: Confrontation. The players awake to loud drumming. Outside, Tarmo and his goons are walking slowly through the streets, banging weapons against their shields, heading for the jarl’s house. Tarmo is wearing war paint. If they reach it, they call out Veronika, accuse her, and the scene degenerates into a brawl unless the players intervene. A few townsfolk will stand and fight along side Veronika— Oglfulgrr and Ven’Li are the two most likely candidates. The Machine is absent from this encounter unless the players make some specific attempts to recruit it to their cause.
The Good Ending of this scenario boils down to the party saving Veronika— or, to be fair, Veronika saving herself— and sending Tarmo packing (or to the great beyond, either works). The Bad Ending is the opposite— Veronika is slain by Tarmo and Tarmo’s gang takes over the town by force.
There are a few degrees between those two endings— For example, it’s entirely possible that neither Tarmo nor Veronika survive the fight, in which case, well, this town could use some strong folks to defend and lead it. Maybe the party fits that bill.
If the party saves Veronika, she’ll remove a golden ring from one arm and offer it to the party. It is worth roughly 750GP.
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