Friday, November 16, 2012

Foresthome: Ashbury & The Clan Lands

Continued from the previous section.  Click HERE to go back.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Ashbury Map
County of Ashbury, map scale: 8 miles per hex
 
 This piece of land was key in the new kingdom’s western expansion.  Clans just north in their vast forest hesitated a long time before joining, leaving Ashbury as the sole gateway around Lake Lynn.  At first very quiet and somewhat remote, it grew rapidly when outsiders began transiting from east to west.  It was the farthest north one could sail, other than the Eastfollow River.  Since the northeast was either well-spoken for or at risk with the Gulons, remaining options were to settle here or travel west along the aptly-named Northlake Trail, from Green Bay to the junction with the Wessith Trail.  Yannifey immigrants commonly follow that route as well as merchants who seek to avoid the League of Eight.

In its distant history, Ashbury bore a very different name given by an ancient race that had settled the region.  Eventually, these people retreated as a result of the clans’ resilience to foreign occupation and the successive waves of outsiders moving in.  One town remains that still bears an old-style name—Shog.  Some say it describes the way the old invader was “shoggen” (as in shoved out), others use it as an expression of awe and dismay which find its root in the terror that primeval occupants and their alien sorcelry inspired.  Shogg!  But in truth, it refers to a darker place deep within the souls of Shog-born residents, so terrifying that no one ever looks there for fear of what they might find staring back at them.  Ill-inspired introspection aside, what lies in the dungeons beneath Shog is anyone’s guess.  In a century past, the town was burned to the ground to exorcise its primordial evils.  But fire doesn’t reach below ground.  Perhaps this has something to do with the latent darkness of the native psyche.  Time will tell.

Heraldry Coat of Arms Mystara Ashbury
Countess Ashbury is of the original dynasty that had received this land from the first monarch.  The family coat of arms displays a phoenix rising from its ashes, referring to the Town of Shog reborn from its destruction.  The latest and very young countess is among those who feel the reviled presence somewhere within.  Druids tend to her health and education, advising her on affairs of state and training her to focus her mind upon her work as a way to placate emanations of chaos troubling her.  A faint voice calls her in the night, beckoning her deep below the city and disturbing her sleep.  She may only find rest with herbal medicines and the care of her druids.  The head of the countess’s guard, her lover, has been arguing the need to mount an expedition to put an end to the trouble (and to loosen the grip druids maintain upon the young aristocrat).  Palace druids object to the expedition, primarily because they worry about what it may unleash.  There is talk instead of making sacrifices, precious items of amber or silver that can be obtained from Hârnmayne and the Queen’s Lands.

Elsewhere in the county, the Darkmoss and Argolan Rivers are fairly shallow.  Only the former permits navigation by small galleys or longships up to Snarewood.  This village marks the northern limit of outsider farmsteads.  A ferry barge is available to cross over to the village of Hopwater.  Woods cover a large proportion of Ashbury.  It belongs to forest giants.  These peaceful beings have been recognized as a force of nature, connecting with trees in ways that only treants and dryads fully understand.  Their territory extends from the western fringes of Blackroot Forest to the Lonely Forest, some twenty miles past the Argolan.  What is known about them is that they survive by preying upon a curious sort of moss that creeps in the shadows of the woods and attacks the unwary.  Forest giants are known to be able to appear or disappear from sight without any explanation.  Although some have spellcasting abilities among their clans, most do not, and the mystery remains.  Although occasionally giants show up for meetings at the local Clan House, they more commonly rely on rangers as their representatives.

Forest Giant: AC3, HD12**, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 + boulder, Dmg 7d6, Save F12, ML 10, Int 15, AL L.  Special Attacks: throws boulders (ranges 80’/160’/300’).  Special Defenses: pass-plant (as the druid fifth level spell, three times a day), eye-seeds (see description below, once a day).  Shamans and wokani exist with druidical spellcasting ability up to C7 or MU7.

Creeping Moss: AC can always be hit, HD 2*, MV 3’ (1’), AT 1 constriction, Dmg 1d6, Save F1, ML 7, Int 0, AL N.  Special Attack: drops on a prey (hits automatically and causes 1d6 dmg per round).  Special Defenses: indistinguishable from normal moss;  a defeated foe’s flesh, bones, and any other organic matter are digested at the rate of 1 hp per Turn.  The moss remains in place, covering any leftover treasure.  Another may slowly creep above, on a tree trunk or beneath an overhanging branch.  Creeping moss goes dormant when temperatures are near freezing or below.

Forest giants stand about 30’ tall.  They look gnarled like old trees, with skin ranging from brown to birch-like gray, and hair from dark green to black.  Enjoying a deep bond with nature, they may heal normal trees and treantkind (6d6 hp) alike with a single touch.  They and the neighboring blackroot respect each other despite their opposing alignments, and do not intrude upon each other’s territories.  Forest giants are immune to forest wight attacks.  They also maintain very good relations with other woodland beings.  On a dry day, a giant may release a cloud of dandelion-like seeds.  The giant breathes upon them to give them a direction in which to float, at the rate of 7’ per round.  Anyone caught within should sense an odd draft defying any other breeze that had prevailed earlier.  A forest giant can see and hear anything within the cone of “eye-seeds”, which can reach up to 12 miles in length and 4 miles in width.  The entire process lasts a little over 12 hours.  When they sleep, forest giants meld with tree groves until sunrise.  If killed, their vital force is released, affecting nature within a 600’ radius: vegetation doubles in size, dead or dying trees are revived, bushes and brambles thicken and expand wildly, spores and pollens fill the air regardless of season, and creeping moss breeds wherever possible, generating at the minimum 3d4+3 creatures.  Any life form such as treantkind are instantly healed and may permanently gain one or more HD.  Blackroots and most undead, however, would be slain immediately.  Treants will often move over-sized trees resulting from the death of a giant, and relocate them deeper in the Lonely Forest where they may survive many centuries.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Clanlands Map
Autonomous Clan Lands, map scale: 8 miles per hex

Theirs is a vast forest.  Late-comers in the sylvan kingdom, the Great Clans as they dubbed themselves, took a long time to ponder the options.  For some, this palaver came as a preposterous waste of time taking far longer than it ever should have, especially in the view of the faerie folk who were the most resistant to the concept.  For treants in the southwest, it felt like a rushed decision, although the clincher was the protection of the woods and its people.  Forest giants concurred, although it took them nearly as much time as the treants to make up their minds.  The fey, at the western edge of the Clan Lands, remained more neutral, although the idea of bringing together all the other clans, even if under an Alphatian monarchy, won them over.  In the Mourngrim Thickets prevails an overgrown darkness that has become home to creatures humans call decapus (plur. decapi or decapusses).  They and their mysterious mistress, the Green Queen, hostile to all and highly aggressive, weren’t asked.  At the center stand the shargugh clans who didn’t seem to care one way or the other, and promptly went back to their woodsy endeavors.  At last the blackroots, in a stunningly-swift decision, supported the motion.  Since the woodsmen and their twig-headed elven allies had already embraced the sylvan kingdom, they couldn’t take the risk of their sworn enemy turning their newfound allies against Blackroot Forest.  Conclusion: yea—four, nay—one, abstained or not asked—two.  The issue was clear, and at long last the council of Great Clans negotiated their autonomous membership among the great Kingdom of Foresthome.

The Lonely Forest:  The focus among the treant clans is to recover giant trees stemming from the death of forest giants.  These trees are sentient and harbor a part of the life force and knowledge of fallen giants.  These special trees are moved to the center of the Lonely Forest where they can be protected and cared for.  Once in a century, a giant tree may produce a nut that will engender a treant or, more rarely, a gakarak (Creature Catalog) .  There are males and females among treantkind, but the grand creatures have since a long time ago forgotten why.  They usually doze off when debating the issue, so convoluted the matter seems to be.  There is one thing that will spark an instant reaction from any treant, male of female: threatening a treant sapling or a giant tree.  It is believed that this forest is one of the very few, if not the only remaining place on Mystara where treants are born.  It is called the Lonely Forest because no other sentient creature is permitted there besides those favored by treantkind, and common wildlife.  Treants distrust their blackroot cousins, but will not deliberately harm them unless attacked.

The Faerie Woods:  They are home to pixies.  These small creatures build their villages high up in the trees, and have the ability to render them completely invisible to intruders.  The latter is somewhat of a shame, as these dwellings are wonderful pieces of art, with delicate carvings, magical lights, and graceful wooden architecture akin to that of ancient forest elves—it has never been established who copied whom.  Despite their fragile appearances, these tiny villages are able to weather the worst of winter and ice storms, perhaps another manifestation of faerie magic.  Although not hostile, pixies dislike visits from outsiders, whom they mistrust.  Those who did earn their confidence, usually elven rangers, may be invited as honored guests.  This involves magic reducing the visitors’ sizes to the scale of the faerie world.  It is possible they may never allow visitors to leave, ever, let alone regain their original sizes.  The annals of the land have recorded, however, several instances of adventurers regaining their freedom after taking on a quest on behalf of the faerie folk.  Almost invariably, this involves romance between a visitor and a faerie person, since they are quite beautiful and charming.  Such stories may also end in one being able to willingly take on the shape and nature of a faerie when needed, or vice-versa.  Beware, however, as there seems to be no end to magical shenanigans when it comes to love among pixies.  Aerial faeries also dwell in the skies above the forest.  They are considered a part of this region.  Other woodland beings inhabit these woods, including mostly satyrs, dryads, unicorns, flitterlings* and coltpixies*—(*) Creature Catalog.

The Feywoods:  The Fey is the name that generally refers to all fairy folk.  However, it also designates the inhabitants of this region, who would be better described as wood nymphs.  They look like elven women of awesome beauty.  Their kind isn’t unheard of elsewhere in Alphatia, but those are aquatic cousins dwelling in rivers and lakes.  Nymphs of the Feywoods are bound to trees and the land that feeds them.  Although highly magical, they are spirits of nature whose appearance, abilities, and alignments change with seasons.  They are closely allied to treantkind, except for blackroots whom they see as undead abominations.  When they turn chaotic in winter time, they aren’t “evil”, but merely unpredictable and colder, because such is nature during this harsh season—it is the time when the weak must be tested.

Wood Nymph: AC9, HD 3-18***, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 spell, Dmg per spell, Save E3-E18, ML 7, Int 16+, AL L in summer, N in spring and fall, and C in winter.  Special Attacks: may cast Druidic spells as a cleric half their HD (rounded up), and magical spells as a magic-user one third their HD (rounded down).  Special Defenses: dimension door (once per day), blindness, death, anti-magic 50%.

Blindness may occur when a nymph is first seen (save vs. paralysis neg.)  Death may occur instead is the nymph is naked at the time of the first glimpse (save vs. death ray neg.)  Wood nymphs may befriend a visitor of the corresponding alignment if they see that visitor first (10% chance + 14% per point of Charisma above 12).  Friendship only remains true for the current season and each time that same season returns.  Seasonal abilities are described below.  Each ability is available once a day and, wherever possible, affects a 15’ radius.

  • Spring:  may awaken dormant creatures, remove magical paralysis, return petrified beings to life, and cause plants to burgeon and bloom.
  • Summer:  may radiate natural sunlight or moonlight (1 Turn per HD); may cast an aura of life inflicting 1d6 per HD against undead creatures (save for half damage).
  • Autumn:  may render dormant living creatures (save vs. paralysis neg.)—the effect is permanent until the nymph reawakens the victims in spring, or if negated with a remove curse spell.
  • Winter:  immunity to ice and cold-based attacks, may turn open water to ice, may create and shape ice as the magic-user’s woodform spell.

Heraldry Coat of Arms Mystara Clanlands
The Riddlesnatch Woods:  Three feet tall, with wild, matted hair, tangled beards, and ragged, brown-and-green garb, shargugh claimed this region so long ago no one remembers exactly when or how.  They get along fairly well with their neighbors, usually disappearing altogether when they disagree with someone.  Unless they need to expand their territory, even the decapi leave them alone perhaps because they smell and taste so bad.  Shargugh (pronounced in various ways depending on the local accent) often benefit from increased ranger attention, mostly to monitor decapus activity.  More than once do rangers clear out decapus hunting parties encroaching upon the Riddlesnatch Woods, taking those captured back to Greenwood for examination.  The name “Riddlesnatch” comes from a game shargugh like to play either on each other or even more on visitors.  Hidden in the bushes, they greet outsiders with a riddle.  If the answer is correct, the visitor may pass unmolested.  If not, shargugh will sneak up to the visitors and “snatch” something from them—a pouch, a bag, a weapon, a helmet, etc—before disappearing into the woods.  Shargugh, although the dominant race there, share this part of the forest with a few clans of phanatons (Creature Catalog), living higher up in the trees.

Shargugh: AC7, HD3*, MV 150’ (50’), AT 1 bite or weapon, Dmg 1d4 or by weapon, Save E6, ML 7, Int 10, AL N.  Special Attacks: pick pocket 85% chance, move silently 85% chance.  Special Defenses: hide in woods 90% chance, transport through trees 600 yards (5 times a day).  Shargugh live in symbiosis with their woods, the health of either depending upon the well-being of the other.

The Mourngrim Thickets:  A sinister place indeed, for it harbors a concentration of decapi, arboreal beasts with ten tentacles, covered with brown hair, and featuring a very large mouth filled with sharp yellow teeth.  The writhing, coiling, green-drooling, foul-smelling denizens of the dark weald were first discovered there about the time the Town of Shog was burned down.  Since then, they took over these parts.  It is widely believed by the fey and forest giants that something escaped from the ravaged town, something that was meant to remain in its dungeons.  And it reproduced.  Some time afterward, news of a Green Queen emerged.  For some, her name came through dreams—nay—nightmares from which one awakes screaming.  For others, whispers in the fronds told of her existence, a mysterious being, ageless yet mortal, a wicked force that harkened back to even more distant times.  Rarely does she communicate with clan leaders, perhaps remaining dormant until disturbed.  When she does, trouble soon follows when her minions spread out, pushing the limits of her kingdom a few hundred yards here, a mile there.  Druids suspect she may be a queen in the sense of a hive, bearing and bringing decapi to life according to an alien cycle.  Those who attempted to pierce the mystery were never heard of again or went insane, their faces and limbs partially melted.  The last to intrude upon this somber realm was an ogrish horde.  None survived, and the decapi suddenly multiplied, pushing their borders out once more.

Decapus/Hupadgh'fhalma: AC5, HD 4, MV 90’ (30’) in trees or 3’ (1’) on the ground, AT 9-10 tentacles, Dmg 1d6 each, Save F2, ML 9, Int 11, AL C.  Special Attacks: none.  Special Defenses: telepathic link with the Green Queen.  Decapi usually hang from a branch with one tentacle, and attack with the other nine.  On the ground, they can only manage six attacks.

Green Queen/Queen Mother/Hafh'drn'fhalma*: AC –5, HD 33*, hp 260, MV 0 or teleport, AT 10 bundles of ten tentacles/swallow whole or acid breath weapon, Dmg 10d6 + paralysis per bundle/20d6 acid breath (300’x10’ line), Save F33, ML 11, Int 19, AL C.  Special Attacks: telepathy/ESP*, madness (save vs. spell neg.), causes fear to characters levels 1-4 (no save), casts 2 spells/round as a MU33 + 1 spell/round as a C33 (reversible spells are reversed).  Special Defenses: immune to spells level 1-5, anti-magic 50%, +3 or better magical weapon to hit, detect magic, see invisible (60’).

The Queen Mother looks vaguely like a giant decapus, about 60’ tall and with a hundred tentacles, about 100’ in length and organized into ten bundles around her body.  Three large eyestalks sit on top of the fat lump that serves as her body, above a single wide mouth.  Smaller tendrils, about 6’ long, wriggle around the acid-oozing lips, awaiting to pull someone inside.  Her fur ranges from lime green to crimson red, rippling with strange eddies as she constantly coils and uncoils her tentacles.
  • Tentacles: Tentacle bundles will initially hit for damage, whipping or slamming into foes.  With a natural roll of 20 on a bundle’s hit roll, a foe must save vs. death ray of be ripped in half.  If not ripped in half, or with a natural score of 18-19 on a bundle’s hit roll, a foe is entangled in the bundle.  Inflicting 20 points of damage to the bundle will knock a trapped victim free, otherwise, the victim is thrown into the Queen Mother’s mouth at the end of the following round.  If another victim is already being sucked into her mouth during that round, any other entangled victims are thrown preferably into a lava pit, off a cliff, or to some other deadly spot nearby.  Those hit or entangled must save vs. paralysis or be paralyzed (one check per bundle attacklasts 1 Turn).
  • Mouth: those dropped into the mouth are pulled inside the Queen Mother’s body by series of concentric tendrils, down to a huge sack of acid (20d6 acid damage/round) by the end of the round.  Three times per battle, she may otherwise breathe an acid line—if anyone is trapped inside, their remains are regurgitated and spit out as well.
  • Eyestalks: the three large eyestalks on top of the beast provide her with her spellcasting abilities.  One is the clerical eye, the other two cast magic-user spells.  Attacking eyestalks directly requires a hit good enough for AC –10 and at least 20 points of cumulative damage singly or 60 points of damage with an area spell.  The Queen Mother can regrow eyestalks and damaged tentacles in a day.
What remains a mystery is who came first, the Green Queen or the decapi.  The Queen Mother can bring intro existence one decapus per round, if the planetary alignment is correct or if a massive amount of live food is brought to her.  Her progeny grows at first like an over-sized wart and bursts out amid a glop of pus, before rolling off the Queen Mother’s side.  She can telepathically call any decapus in the neighborhood to her side.  At other times, decapi hunting parties set up ambushes for the purpose of capturing prey to feed the Queen Mother.  Without them, she is nearly helpless, as she cannot move (other than teleporting) and thus isn’t suited for hunting.  She remains unable to use other movement-related spells (dimension door, fly, travel, etc.)  A few mad rangers have taken her side and may be used as a way to communicate with the Green Queen, should she decide to address the Clan Lands council.  It is unknown what powers they may have gained in the process.

Blackroot Forest:  See County of Llynmouth for details.


A greater purpose exists in the vast woods of the Great Clans.  A primeval spell was devised in eons past that would return the land to its original sylvan state.  If ever unleashed, it would provoke the uncontrollable and monstrous growth of all that relies on roots to survive within all of mainland Alphatia.  It would tear apart town, bridge, road, monument, and fortress alike in a matter of hours, eradicating the empire.  As a result of the spell, it is understood that many outsiders would perish in the cataclysm.  It isn’t known who or what created the spell, as neither druid, nor cleric, nor sage, nor all-knowing seer ever connected its language to any immortal.  It is believed not even they would be able to stop it once triggered.  The spell was devised in such a way that the mightiest of leaders from the seven Great Clans would have to speak the enchantment’s words together, including the Green Queen.  The latter’s inclusion in the spell’s design remains another unnerving mystery.  The spell’s outlandish wording can be made to appear or disappear when uttering command words.  It will materialize as an engraving on a nearby stone or within the flesh of a mature tree opening itself as if to reveal its heart.  Clan leaders gazing simultaneously upon these mind-disturbing writings are telepathically connected, no matter how far apart from each other.  As a final note, forest giants have believed as far back as they can remember (and that is a long, long, very long time ago) that the obliteration of so much life would engender guilt enough for all who bear it to turn them evil.  This warning failed to impress the Green Queen or the denizens of Blackroot Forest.

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