Adventurers of the Five Free Cities

So, murderhobos, right? In any society, you’ve got your caravan guards and monster hunters, wandering merchants and clerics, and your scholars looking for lost lore. If they work together, there’s usually a reason; they were brought together by one of the cities to explore some ruins, or they’ve been commissioned to investigate some threat, or maybe they’re on a pilgrimage to some holy site belonging to one of the hero-gods.

Adventurers aren’t automatically seen as heroes, because they live an unsettled life and they might as well be armed bandits, but in a society that treasures gambling and worships adventurers of ancient times, they aren’t automatically decried as murderers, either. The liminal, nebulous space they inhabit makes them useful for those with both noble and nefarious goals.

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Occupation Tables

Gwaethyr’s Five Free Cities have distinct populations and economies. If it suits your game system and your campaign, roll on the table below to help determine your starting-level character’s Occupation.

Roll 1d30 (across the top) and 1d12 (down the left).
--------------------------------------------------------
       Humans of ...
       Gwaethyr  Bhairsin  Jenseen   Thenalem   Urraim
       (1-15)    (16-18)   (19-20)   (21-23)    (24-25)
----------------------------------------------------------- 
(1-4)  Goatherd  Sailor    Miner     Weaver     Merchant

(5-7)  Farmer    Fisherman Mine      Farmer     Guide
                           Prisoner 

( 8 )  Brewer    Minstrel  Beggar    Healer     Acolyte

( 9 )  Hunter    Gambler   Jeweler   Minstrel   Caravan Guard

( 10 ) Outlaw    Merchant  Cook      Outlaw     Outlaw

( 11 ) Alchemist Pirate    Mercenary Blacksmith Urchin

( 12 ) ... City Guard ... 
-----------------------------------------------------------
       Humans of  Elves of    Dwarves of  Halfling   Human 
       Malthireon Ravensvale  Hraustren   Nomads     Barbarian 
       ( 26 )     ( 27 )      ( 28 )      (21-23)    (24-25)
-----------------------------------------------------------
(1-4)  Slave      Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Hunter
                  Gatherer    Miner       Beggar

(5-7)  Tax        Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Gatherer
       Collector  Artisan     Craftsman   Cutpurse

( 8 )  Gladiator  Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Outlaw
                  Bronzesmith Blacksmith  Con Artist 

( 9 )  Squire     Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Shaman's
                  Hunter      Fungus      Gambler    Apprentice
                              Farmer

( 10 ) Mage       Human       Dwarven     Halfling   Mine
       Acolyte    Slave       Brewer      Fisherman  Prisoner

( 11 ) Urchin     Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Bronzesmith
                  Shaman's    Rune-Priest Outcast
                  Apprentice

( 12 ) City Guard Elven       Dwarven     Halfling   Caravan Guard
                  Spear-      City Guard  Priest
                  Carrier
-----------------------------------------------------------

Adventurer Backgrounds

I.E.. What Misfortune Led to This Life of Blood and Death?

Although the Five Free Cities are a wild border region, it still takes a lot to make a person take up arms and head out into the wilderness to battle monsters and worse things. What drove you to this extreme? Choose some motivation, or roll 1d20 below. Depending on the game system, you gain a small stat bonus, but your background may lead to further complications down the road.

Roll     Humans      Elves         Dwarves         Halflings
------------------------------------------------------------
(1-5)    Criminal    Heart heavy    Craftsmanship  Simple curiosity
                     with regret,   poor
                     cannot revel

(6-9)    Indentured  Curious about  Greed           Seeks a cure for 
         Servant     humans                         the Moon Fever

(10-12)  Gold for    Murdered       Beard is        Revenge on oppressors
         life of     another elf    pitiful
         idleness

(13-14)  Madman      Prophetic      Shamed          Gold for a
                     dreams         Ancestors       life of comfort

( 15 )   Heretic     Outcast,       Female,         Excitement!
                     human ancestry wants to 
                                    prove self

( 16 )   Mad         In love with   Rebel against  Sampling delicious
         curiosity   a human        traditions     (expensive) food

( 17 )   Seeking a   Lost lore      Prove one's    Self-destructive
         challenge   and legends    mettle         after life of misery

( 18 )   Orphan      Greater spell  Seeking        Viciously violent
                     knowledge      legendary ale  after life of misery
                                    ale recipe

( 19 )   Fame        Ennui from     In love with   Wants to found a 
                     long life      an elf (!)     criminal empire

( 20 )   Gold for a  Not heart-     Seeks lost     Secret spy for some
         life of     breakingly     dwarven magic  hidden group ...
         debauchery  beautiful
------------------------------------------------------------

Languages of Eparra

What gibberish do you speak when you’re arguing with your employers for a bigger payout, anyway?

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Common Languages

  • Trade Pidgin: The common tongue of humanity, derived from Viskani, Elvish, and Dwarvish, with a simple grammar. All PCs are assumed to be able to speak Trade Pidgin, also known (insultingly) as “Common”.
  • Jargen: The solid, consonant-rich speech of the Dwarves. Dwarvish holy books are always written in Dwarvish, and are not allowed to be translated.
  • Malthiri: The language of Malthireon comes in two dialects. Low Malthiri is virtually identical to Common, while High Malthiri is much more formal. Any PC from Urraim has a 1 in 12 chance of speaking fluent Low Malthiri, and a 1 in 20 chance of speaking High Malthiri. Everyone from Malthireon, and all Clerics of the Church of the Sun and Moon, can speak both Low and High Malthiri.
  • Onycian: A dialect of Low Malthiri, common in the Onyx Desert.
  • Raven-Tongue: The lilting, sing-song tongue of the elves of Ravensvale. Elves from offworld can speak with and be understood with little difficulty. The Elves of Eparra don’t have a written language, but have a pictographic language only used for tattoos and other art.
  • Scorpion-Speech: The tribal tongue of the Scorpion-Rider Tribes of the Onyx Desert. Inhabitants of Malthiri have a 1 in 12 chance of speaking Scorpion-Speech, and the folk of Urraim have a 1 in 30 chance.
  • Spicewinder: A local language that’s a mixture of Common and a dozen or so local tribal tongues. Any PC from Bhairsin has a 1 in 12 chance of speaking Spicewind Islander.
  • Splinter-Speech: The tribal tongue of the Splinterclaw Tribes, in the Trackless Forest. Other barbarian tribes have their own languages, but the Splinterclaw Tribes are the only friendly tribes. Any inhabitant of Gwaethyr, Bhairsin, or Thenalem have a 1 in 20 chance of speaking Splinter-Speech.
  • Teshan: The language of Tesh Para. It has nothing in common with other languages of Eparra, but there’s a sizable contingent of Teshan speakers in Bhairsin. Any PC from Bhairsin has a 1 in 20 chance of speaking Teshan.
  • Xistaxan: The language of High Ogres and the goblin races. A slightly different dialect is spoken in Garrigaxan.

Rare, Lost, or Secret Languages

  • Giganti: The common tongue of giants. Many ogres speak this tongue as well, but the proud and noble Giants never deign to speak Xistaxan.
  • Nylunish: The language of halflings, now spoken mostly in the Beldrasr Forest.
  • Star-Common: The Throng, the Neutroids, the most ancient Elves, and other space-borne races all speak Star-Common. The Viskani called it “Old Viskani”, but most Viskani of Thressa had forgotten what they knew of it midway through the Lla-Sudarios Dynasty, but scholars continued to study it until the end of their Empire. Both the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar and the Malthiri Astromancers’ College have books about it. Star-Common is related to the Neutral alignment language, spread by open planar metropolises.
  • Thieves’ Cant: A specialized set of code words and hand signs. The Ratwalkers and the Seal of Red and Black both have their own slightly different version of Thieves’ Cant.
  • Viskani: The language of the Malthiri. Its grammar is identical to Star-Common, but most of the words are unique to Viskani. The Viskani written tongue is called “venomscript”, as writing is sacred to Iskanix, the god of poison. Like Malthiri, Viskani came in both High and Low dialects. The Viskani called Star-Common “Old Viskani”.
  • Xistaxan: The aggressive and guttural common tongue of ogres, orcs, and goblins. The Xistaxan ogre tribe are the largest and most powerful, and their tongue has become the lingua franca. Individual dialects vary so much, from species to species and even from tribe to tribe, as to be almost insurmountable.

Adventuring Gear

Adventurers that survive know that embarking without the right tools means death. They also know the value, and dangers, of magic items they find along the way.

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Books

Ghellorian’s Chronicles
Ghellorian was a bard and historian of the Oak and Holly Guild, and his Chronicles are a compilation of songs, legends, rumors, and hearsay about the ancient times on Eparra, from before and during the Ogre Wars.
Cost: 1 sp each for each volume of the five-volume set.

Holy Writ of the Sun and Moon
The Holy Writ of the Sun and Moon are the holy book of the Church of the Sun and Moon. The earliest works in the Holy Writ were said to have been composed by the poet-prophet Yshial, before he ascended to the heavens as the angel Gloriant, transcribed by his disciple and later the first Pontifex, Ismere I “the Just”. Older versions are called the Holy Writ of Three, and contain many psalms to Thressa, and don’t contain explicit references to the Viskani deities as demons.
Cost: 5 sp for a simple volume, 1 gp for an annotated study volume, 1d4+1 gp for a large ritual volume with ornate illustrations.

The Lore of the Stones
The authoritative holy book of the dwarvish rune-priests, each true copy of the Lore of the Stones has a chip from a Dwarvish family hearth-stone sewn into its leather binding, carved with that family’s sigil. The Lore of the Stones is always written in an ancient Dwarvish dialect, and translations are sacrilege.
Cost: 1 gp, but only available to Dwarven priests.

The Scrolls of the Seasons
The Scrolls of the Seasons are the holy book of the Way of Nature. There are many different versions of the Scrolls of the Seasons, each with slightly different material, combined from different sources. The Scrolls vary from place to place as well, and some even have ancient songs in the original Elvish.
Cost: 3d4 cp, depending on what volume and how complete it is.

Spellbooks

A small number of spellbooks have been produced by small printing presses in Bhairsin and Urraim. Most of the spells in these books have been stolen from the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar, the Sisterhood of the Seventh Sight, various folk traditions, and even excavated Viskani documents.

The Fraternal Order and the Sisterhood do everything they can to suppress these rogue volumes, but they can still be found with a month or two of earnest search in any local bookseller or bazaar.
The books rarely have any powerful or important spells, generally nothing above 3rd Level, but they have hints of history and lore strewn amid the practical mysticism.

The real danger of a second-rate rogue press spellbook is the directions, sigils, words, and symbols may be misprinted, garbled, or deliberately changed, making the spells difficult to learn and cast. Any rolls to learn a spell from these books suffers a 10% penalty, and the consequences of a failure should result in some kind of wild magic disaster.

The Cyan Spellbook of Klegg
Klegg was one of the earliest members of the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar, and the Cyan Spellbook contains not only spells, but doctrines and metaphysics, which can be traced back to the era of Arota Lan. Many false and errant copies and translations can be found, but only the Fraternal Order holds the original ten copies. Klegg is well-known for the utilitarian spell that bears his name, “Klegg’s Phantasmal Packbeast”.
Cost: The original ten are not for sale, but a Fraternal Order initiate is allowed to copy the book as part of their training. A “false” copy costs from 10 to 60 gold; the book should contain six random spells of 1st Level, and 1 fewer spell of each higher Level. The chance any spell is simply useless or contains catastrophic errors is equal to (price paid in gold)/10 or less on 1d6.

Image credit nuttakit, Freedigitalphotos.net.

The Dagger-Word of Hlun
A strange tome written recent emigrant from another world across the Gloom-Tides, the cryptic spiral glyphs are said to contain spells and incantations, for those that can puzzle out their meaning. The book and its glyphs are generally well-preserved, but it’s really the commentary that makes the tome more or less valuable, as different translator add their thoughts and notes about each glyph. Rumor has it that the most powerful spell within is the secret name belonging to all columns and pillars, which will allow one to destroy mighty buildings, even “destroy entire cities as if to bear a dagger to a city’s very heart”.
Cost: From 5 to 50 gold. The book contains three random spells of every Level, but learning each spell requires an Intelligence roll, with a penalty that scales with the price paid for the book. It is said that only by learning all the spells within can one learn the City-Murdering Dagger-Word, so many collector-mages travel the land, paying potentially outrageous prices for any copy of the Dagger-Word of Hlun.

Clothing and Personal Care

Garb
All PCs are assumed to start with garb appropriate to their social station.
Cost: If the clothes are fortified for travel, they cost double. Winter clothes also cost double.

  • Slave Rags: 1 cp.
  • Peasant Garb: 1 sp.
  • Merchant, Priest, or Armiger Garb: 10 sp.
  • Noble Daily Garb: 1 gp.
  • Noble Courtly Garb: 10 gp.

Hair Dye
Gentle formulations of dyes from Tesh Para, these dyes change one’s hair color to some unusual shade (red, blue, green, purple, and stark white are all popular) for up to 3 weeks. This time is significantly shortened by crawling through dank dungeons or travelling through the rain.
Cost: 1 sp.

Herbs and Drugs

Bellroot
When chewed or made into tea, Bellroot heightens the senses, adding a minor bonus to all manual dexterity skills, making it useful for thieves. However, it also heightens the sense of pain; the character suffers an additional bit of damage from all attacks.
Cost: 3 sp.

Blue Dandelion
Crushed and ingested, or steeped in tea, a well-known formula for preventing conception if ingested by a female up to 24 hours before or after sex. Other formulae are known that affect men rather than women.
Extramarital sex isn’t that big of a deal in the Five Free Cities, and even in Malthireon, the Church of the Sun and Moon’s arguments against fornication are mostly ignored.
Cost: 1 cp.

Cleft-Hoof Leaf
People of Gwaethyr smoke dried and ground Cleft-Hoof Leaf in pipes, a habit picked up from halflings during the signing of the Compact. It gives a mild buzz, adding a small amount to avoiding-death-by-quickness saves. However, the smoker feels dizzy and nauseous; on a badly failed avoiding-with-quickness roll, the character takes a bit of damage as they trip and hurt themselves.
Cost: 1 sp.

Pearly Nettles
Pearly Nettle tea is a potent aphrodisiac, made by the kettle-full on festival nights and in the bawdier and more raucous inns. Those who indulge in the tea roll 1d6 while carousing with attractive wenches, and on a 6, they regain some of their lost luck and fortune. Combined with Bellroot, the character regains fortune on a 5 or a 6, but loses some physical toughness.
Cost: 1 sp.

Sunset Petals
Sunset Petals are a powerful narcotic, sometimes used as a battlefield pain reliever. Applied directly to wounds, an adventurer’s Level is treated as one higher for preventing them from Bleeding Out, and adds a +1 bonus to rolls to survive death.

Viskani sorcerers used to swear by Sunset Petal paste, rubbed under the eyelids, to induce a dream state. In this daze, they received visions of supernatural mentors and patrons, who speak riddles with mystic lore. However, they’re shaky and infirm, their running speed halved and a significant penalty to avoiding-death-through-quickness. Only the Fraternal Order of Cinnabar remember what it’s for, but they would adamantly refuse to allow this use.
Cost: Unavailable for sale, but easy to make.

Survival Gear

Compass
Always shows the way north.
Cost: 1 sp.

Lodging
A warm place to stay for the night. Includes one meal. Companionship for the evening costs extra (usually doubles the listed cost, but may be more or less).
Cost:

  • Filthy tavern’s common room: 1 cp.
  • Shared room in a simple inn, with a straw mattress: 3 cp.
  • Single room in a simple inn, straw mattress: 5 cp.
  • Comfortable room with wool and cotton sheets: 1 sp.
  • Luxurious room at an inn with feather pillow: 1 gp.

Maps
Shows where things are at. Maps vary wildly in cost, based on where the buyer is going, and how serious they are about the map’s quality.
Cost: Maps below are considered Unreliable. Double costs for a Reliable map, and quadruple costs for a Rock-Solid Map.

  • Five Free Cities: 1d6 cp.
  • Trade Routes through the White Mountains to Malthireon: 1d4 sp.
  • The Onyx Desert: 3d6 sp.
  • Trade Routes across the Serene and Spiteful Sea: 2d20 gp for each route (Tesh Para, Spicewind Isles). There are no trade routes across the Gloom-Tide; when you travel those strange routes, you’re at the mercy of forces beyond mortal ken.

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Soap
It seems like a luxury until you haven’t had any for about ten days on the road. By then even you are tired of your stench. Also, nothing else will get the odor of Rodement out of those bolts of silk you rescued from that cave.
Cost: 1 cp for one bar, all the way up to 1 sp for a block good for two weeks of use.

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