Welnesgate is a system-neutral city inspired by post-Roman London, with a notable class divide and a growing lycanthrope problem. Could you see a place like this existing in your world? We invite you to incorporate it, in part or in whole!
Welcome to Welnesgate! This city, formerly known as Viroconium, was once the center of the Tralius Empire’s attempts to conquer this great land, was retaken by the locals after the Tralius Empire’s collapse. Its population has exploded since then, made up of former Tralius citizens, locals and enterprising folks from further afield.
The city is split into two halves by a river. On the north side is the Old City, built by the Tralians. This side of the city consists of sturdy, stone buildings with wide boulevards. It even has a simple sewage system. It dumps straight into the river, but hey, it could be worse. The remaining population of Welnesgate is not able to build to the standards of the Old City.
On the south, connected by a bridge, is New Town. New Town is made of rickety wooden buildings, with rutted, uneven streets between them. Here, sewage is simply thrown onto the dirt roads. Unsurprisingly, the inhabitants of New Town tend to be poorer. There are fewer guard patrols here, which means that crime is a little more prevalent, including the outlawed practices of the oldest religion of the land.
Both halves of the city have been facing an unusual problem, recently: a string of violent killings in the night. Bodies are found in the morning, eviscerated. Always in the streets, but recently, large scratch marks have been appearing on doors and walls at night. Whatever is out there is getting more desperate for prey. It’s werewolves, for the record. A family of werewolves recently moved to New Town from an area to the north. Unfortunately for them, they’re not aware of their condition— as far as they know, they are being stalked by werewolves!
The Religions of Welnesgate
There are roughly three major categories of belief prevalent in Welnesgate. First and most prominently is the Saint’s Host, a religion that worships various mortals who have ascended to divinity. Each inductee traces their doctrinal lineage to a particular saint, and includes this lineage in their name. For example, “par Cevra” indicates that one’s baptismal lineage comes from St. Cevra of Viroconium, while “par Ka” indicates that the person’s baptismal lineage comes from St. Ka of Peraktos.
The Saints’ Host charges money for for their services. Their healing rituals involve a lot of sanctified water. Recently, they’ve been wandering the streets at night with fragile bottles of sanctified water, searching for whatever foul creatures torment the city.
Second is the Old Faith, the monotheistic beliefs of the Tralius Empire, which once controlled Welnesgate and built what is now the Old City. Symbolic use of color is prominent among adherents, stemming from the fact its initial group of adherents was largely composed of people with synesthesia. This faith is severely waning but not technically illegal. The Old Faith holds no land or chapels, so services are generally held in members’ homes.
Members of the Old Faith have little in the way of holy magics, but what they can do is generally free. Of late, some of them have begun walking the streets of New Town at night, swinging censers of burning incense and carrying lanterns burning sanctified oil.
Last is the Various Pagan Beliefs, a broad category of animistic beliefs covering household deities, harvest deities and so on. These beliefs date back further than any other in the area, and their history of persecution is only slightly shorter. Among themselves, believers speak a church-tongue known as Vadrosan, named for the regional deity, Vadros.
The Old City
Sights. Stone buildings, wide boulevards, well-dressed churchmen.
Sounds. Distant sermons, cart wheels clattering over cobblestone, buskers playing pan flutes.
Smells. Freshly baked bread, dust on the air, horse manure.
The Cathedral of St. Cevra
The Cathedral of St. Cevra is a gigantic building on the northern end of the Old City, on a hill overlooking the government complex. It is built out of white stone, with pillars supporting the ceiling, and a roof made of clay tiles. The pillars have been covered by a wooden facade in an attempt to hide the origins of the cathedral as a temple to the Tralians’ God.
Inside, many murals have been painted, depicting various Saints of the Host. St. Cevra is the most prominent of these, and he is depicted behind the altar, fighting a lion. This is either a metaphor for the struggle against the Tralian Empire, a co-option of an already existing mural, or just a really cool image. The original painter, unfortunately, died before explaining the image to anyone.
If you know what you’re looking for, you can still see many elements of the Tralian faith in the building: Sacred lanterns that have been re-engineered into sacred fountains, sun motifs carved in high places, and so on. The basement under the cathedral is used for lodging by the priests, as well as for healing rituals.
Jeremy Tino par Cevra, bishop. Bishop Tino is an avaricious man with a fondness for fine wines. Bishop Tino is tall, but his shoulders are slumped and rounded. He speaks slowly but confidently.
Trevor Churchson par Cevra, acolyte. Trevor grew up at the church’s orphanage, and joined the faith when he was old enough. Trevor is an earnest believer and good with his hands. He can often be seen fixing things around the cathedral. He can perform religious services competently, but has no interest in great cosmological questions.
Marcus Catt par Ka, preacher. Marcus is an itinerant preacher, inducted in a church a few towns west. He rides around the country, carrying news and dispensing blessings as needed. He often wears a wooden box on his back. Two doors on the outside, emblazoned with the seal of the church, cover a set of drawers containing various clerical implements and holy books.
The Hall of Power
At the center of Welnesgate, at the end of a wide boulevard, is the Hall of Power. Once, this place served as the headquarters for the forces of the Empire. Now, it is the home and workplace of Duke Pemble and his family. The Welnesgate Guard’s headquarters is located nearby, and they use the buildings as they were originally intended.
Duke Robert Pemble, ruler. Duke Pemble is a middle-aged man with a sizable bald spot on his head, covered by a comb-over kept in place by his crown.. His father led the forces that liberated Welnesgate, and he’s old enough to remember the early days of the new government. The chaos of that time turned him into an authoritarian, and he consolidated his power by forming close ties with St. Carva’s Host.
Lord Robert Pemble II, young noble. Lord Robert is a 15 year old boy with green eyes and blonde hair. He spends much of his time pestering both his father and the Captain of the Guard to make the townsfolks’ lives better in various ways, but is generally ignored.
Captain Aquila Blanco, Captain of the Guard. Captain Blanco is a serious man with hard features, a magnificent moustache and short-cropped black hair. Between the werewolf attacks, the mysterious illness in New Town and Lord Robert’s pestering, Captain Blanco is incredibly stressed. If the party brings him any bad news, he will most likely have a heart attack and die on the spot.
Abner Trapp, butler. Abner’s family have been loyal servants to the Pemples for generations. They are also all frog people. Nobody finds this particularly strange. Abner speaks exactly like a stereotypical butler, down to referring to Lord Robert as “The Young Master.”
Once, these stone docks were frequented by the fleets of the Tralian Empire. Now, only fishermen come here, trying to catch the few fish that are still in the river.
At midnight under the full moon, the light hits the river in just the right way to sparkle off the lost treasure of the Azure Hymn, a church-ship of the old religion that sunk many years ago. This sinking was considered a portent at the time, and any attempt to retrieve the treasure is forbidden due to fears that it is cursed. The fact that several people have died trying to retrieve it only strengthens this belief.
Fisheye, fisherman. Fisheye is an older man with white hair and a scraggly black beard. He can often be found on the docks with a can of bait worms. He knows much of the history of the area. He once got smacked in the eye by a fish, thus the name.
Sights. Poorly constructed buildings, sickly people wandering in a daze, claw marks on the walls.
Sounds. Angry shouting, the clattering of the mill’s waterwheel, distant violin.
Smells. Raw sewage, bread, burning incense.
On the south side of the river is a flour mill and bakery. The mill is powered by a water wheel, and the flour ground there is used to bake bread, which is sold throughout New Town.
Due to several recent crop failures causing a shortage of wheat (and thus, real flour), the baker’s guild has begun adding a mushroom-derived flour alternative to its bread. These mushrooms grow all along the river’s edge, and are dried and crushed before being mixed in with the flour. Unfortunately, while harmless in small quantities, it accumulates in the body and causes hallucinations, internal bleeding, and eventually death. Currently, people are blaming this on the “bad air” of New Town. All the tainted bread is stamped with “RIVERSIDE BAKERY.”
The Black Market
Near the center of New Town is a clearing, built on the remains of a burnt-down tavern. Dozens of tables and stalls are strewn throughout the area. You can find whatever you need here. Or, at least, you can find something that looks like what you need, and which probably won’t kill you.
Jessenia, black market merchant. Jessenia is a merchant of herbs and tinctures, folk remedies and smoke-leaves. She has long, straight black hair and a crooked smile. Roll 1d10 whenever a healing item sold by Jessenia is used. On a 1, it does damage instead of healing, in equal proportion.
Big-Eye Blake, black market bouncer. Blake is a tall man with abnormally large eyes. He is bald, tall and broad-shouldered, possibly due to some barbarian ancestry. He roams the black market, reminding everybody to play nice and be civil.
Smelly Jake, wizard. Smelly Jake is a practitioner of the magical arts, able to decipher the purpose of any spell scroll or magical artifact shown to him, with a few hours’ work. Unfortunately, he also smells absolutely foul, a fact he appears to be unaware of, no matter how many times people tell him. His services come cheap, because otherwise people would avoid him entirely.
“Mask,” wizard apprentice. Jake’s apprentice is a blonde-haired youth who always wears a black piece of cloth over his mouth and nose to keep out Jake’s stench. His real name is Michael, but Jake is the only one who calls him that. He has green eyes and his voice often cracks mid-sentence.
The Mathanach Family
Generations ago, the Mathanach family ruled a small area in the north. After seizing land from a practitioner of the dark arts, they were cursed to suffer “the terror of the wolf” every night. The Mathanachs took this to mean that wolves would try to hunt and kill them, and planted fields of wolfs-bane around their manor. No wolves attacked them, and this became a mere footnote in the family history. The wolfs-bane flower was even incorporated into their family crest, eventually.
Wolfs-bane does indeed ward off the wild canines, but unbeknownst to them, it also staves off lycanthropy. This was not a problem, as the Mathanachs rarely strayed far from their manor. Oh, sure, there was the occasional report of a bloodbath in a town one of them had, coincidentally, spent the night in, but nobody thought much of it.
Now, however, the few remaining Mathanachs have been stripped of their land as punishment for forbidden pagan practices. Now they have come to Welnesgate to start a new life as commoners. Unfortunately for them, wolf attacks stalk them wherever they go. They hope that this will stop if they’re in a large enough town, since there should be no wolves to terrorize them. They are, of course, wrong.
Roanul Mathanach, family man. Roanul is the patriarch of the Mathanach family. He has shaggy brown hair and gaunt features. The travel across the country has left him near starvation, as he routinely gave most of his food to the others. The constant fear of wolf attacks has left him a nervous wreck.
Stineag Mathanach, matriarch. Stineag is a tall woman, broad of both shoulder and hip. She is loving and gentle, especially to her two children. Her embroidery skills are excellent, and most of the money coming into the family right now is a result of her work in that field. Stineag, having married in, is the only member of this family who doesn’t carry the curse.
Finnghan Mathanach, teenage werewolf. Finnghan is a strong lad, and intends to join the city guard. His thick accent has made this a difficult process, but he’s currently a “provisional” guard, stuck on night patrols for very little pay. He does get to live in the barracks in the Old City, though.
Ailis Mathanach, baby child. Ailis is a one year old baby. She has messy brown hair and cries a lot. She has not turned into a werewolf… yet. She probably will some day, unless the curse is broken.
|1. A street merchant hawking baubles. Roll on your favourite trinket table and charge a gold or two.|
|2. An enterprising urchin offering to shine your armor or sword or what have you. The price is reasonable, and the child may know important information.|
|3. A guard patrol shaking down merchants for protection money. They will, of course, fight the party if they try to interfere.|
|4. A mewling kitten that brushes up against the leg of one member of the party. The kitten is very cute.|
|5. A street blocked off by revellers celebrating a wedding. The crowd is dense and loud, and full of booze.|
|6. A group of people in masks, doing a strange dance in the street. If the party stays to watch, a guard patrol appears and the dancers scatter. They were pagans performing a ritual.|
|7. A man who offers to do 5 push-ups for a silver. This appears to be his main source of income.|
|8. A woman selling bags of discolored water for a silver each. She claims they are holy water. They are not.|
|9. A man running through the streets fully naked, fear on his face. Moments later, a second man, obviously angry and fully clothed, runs up and asks the party if they’ve seen a naked man.|
|10. Two men fighting each other in the street. The crowd watching is dense enough that cutting through is nearly impossible. It is not clear what the fight is about.|
|1. Prowling wolf. It growls at the party if they get too close. Its mouth is covered in blood.|
|2. Suspicious guardsmen. Three guardsmen on patrol. They will hassle the party unless they provide a good reason for being out after dark.|
|3. Churchmen swinging censers. Priests of the Old Faith walk slowly down the street, swinging a metal ball full of burning incense.|
|4. Prowling murderer. A brown haired man in a brown long coat passes the party, holding one arm stiffly to his side. A perceptive character may notice that he’s holding a knife covered in blood.|
|5. Lady of the Night. She catches the eye of the most charismatic member of the party and gives them a coy smile.|
|6. Thieves absconding with stolen goods. They do not see the party. They are hauling 2d6x100gp of stolen treasure.|
|7. A man dressed like a guard, with a bloody knife and a feral gleam in his eyes. He will attack the party on sight and accuse them of being werewolves.|
|8. A burning building, fully engulfed. There’s no saving this, but hopefully it doesn’t spread farther.|
|9. A werewolf trying to beat down a door. A woman can be heard screaming on the other side of the door.|
|10. A man fiddling his way through the streets, oblivious to the dangers of the night. His tempo slowly drifts up and down, possibly due to how inebriated he is.|
Most of my articles are inspired by the Victorian era. Factories, pollution, all that fun stuff. This article is inspired by an earlier time, specifically the years after the fall of the Roman Empire. The stamped bread of Riverside Bakery plays into this as well— in the Roman era, bakeries would set bronze bread stamps on their loaves as they baked, leaving identifying marks in it. This was both a mark of pride and a legal issue, as these stamps were used to identify any bread that had been adulterated, typically with sawdust or the like.
The early outline for this article had the words “Sewer Crab Man” in it as its own line. I’m sorry that didn’t make it in. Maybe next time.
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