I run a home-grown Pathfinder game about twice a month that I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with. Through 18 games, I’ve taken my players up to level 7 (about a third of the way through their progression) and get this — they’re still with me. I’ve had pretty bad luck before with running games, and a lot of those wounds were self-inflicted. Still, it feels great to be running a game that people are into, and that I’m managing fairly well.
The players are all villagers in a small woodland community called Oak’s Home. Recently, there’s been quite a few changes to the village and their characters have stepped up to navigate their home through some difficult times. With one immediate threat put to bed and the world expanding to reveal others lurking in the shadows, I thought it would be a good thing for my players to see how their village looks to the outside world.
So I wrote this, an entry in a fictional travel guide. I rather like the way it came out, but I’m curious to see if it makes sense to anyone who hasn’t been playing in the game.
OAK’S HOME PRIMER
Oak’s Home is a small village comprised of some 500 souls. It is located deep within the Lunsym Forest 75 miles west of the capital of Splendor, and 50 miles east of the western coast of the kingdom. It developed at the intersection of the Lunsym Road, which runs east-west from the port town of Break Cove to the capital; and the Aileunid Trail, which runs north-southeast from a few half-elven settlements near the Barbarian Lands to the jungles of Drakkar, the kingdom to the South.
The village used to be a major stop along the trade routes, with merchants traveling between Splendor and Break Cove with supplies and exotics from the western lands beyond the sea, or the jungle tribes of Drakkar. However, its prominence in the kingdom has diminished as the world has gotten smaller. Over a century ago the Lunsym Sea changed, and no one has managed to successfully navigate its waters without disappearing or going mad. Some fifty years after that, the port towns fell to madness and supernatural forces, and fifty years ago the forests surrounding Oak’s Home and other towns became enchanted. Trade has been increasingly dangerous, and that has degraded the standing of both the village and the kingdom at large.
These days, Oak’s Home is known mostly for its natural resources and the trades that have sprung up around them. The hills that curve around the town to the northwest are rich in ores, woods and natural magical materials that are hard to find elsewhere. As such, the village supports businesses that typical places of its size doesn’t, such as a magic shop, blacksmith, mason, tailor and pastry chef.
Most of the village’s farming land is situated to the north of the city, where the soil is believed to be more arable and less prone to magical influence. Wheat, potatoes and other root vegetables, apples, peaches and corn are all grown for sale within the town and the nearby baron’s keep. This is supplemented by livestock (mostly sheep and chickens, with a few goats and cows), wild boar, venison, quail and wild berries that can be found in the forests. Mushrooms, truffles, spices and herbs can also be found with patience and luck.
The population of Oak’s Home is mostly human, though there is a significant minority of gnomes and halflings in town. Dwarves are practically non-existent, though ancient passageways beneath the village suggest that they once had a very large presence here. There are a small number of elves and half-elves in its borders. Despite the ever-present threat of magical animals and supernatural creatures in the forests, Oak’s Home is usually not threatened by any organized group.
Recently it was discovered that two cults had been organized within Oak’s Home in secret — the druid-like Group of the Agathion and the sinister Servants of Sslinosh. The Agathion Group has been declared a heathen group by the dominant religion of the kingdom, the Church of the Holy Trinity. Even still, the town enjoys a cool, if friendly, relationship with them. They partol the town’s walls and forests, identifying and neutralizing threats before they can harm the population. The Servants of Sslinosh have been driven out or killed for attempting to cause chaos and mass murder.
The Servants of Sslinosh are believed to be the cause of a phenomenon known now as the Flash, a supernatural event that caused roughly ten percent of the villagers to be changed into supernatural creatures. These people — called the Changed — have been accepted as part of the village, and there is an ongoing effort to re-integrate them into society. Homes and parts of town are being reshaped to tend to their needs, though this transition has been far from easy. Elementals, beast-men and deathless make up the bulk of the Changed, though there are a few more exotic creatures amongst their number. The Changed are a subject of great curiosity in arcane circles; it’s long been thought that creatures of a certain type couldn’t help but be evil, and this appears to be a refutation of that.
In addition to renewed interest by the arcane and holy communities, increased attention has been given to Oak’s Home because of its unique and seemingly plentiful natural resources, and the crafts-people that have been working with them for generations. A recent immigrant to the community, Allanaea Audalis, has spearheaded a campaign to get the unique works of Oak’s Home craftsmen noticed by the kingdom’s elite. It appears to be having some effect, and the small forest village looks poised to rise back towards its former prominence at last.
AT A GLANCE
Official Name: The Barony of Oak’s Home and Surrounding Lands
Population: 520 souls (55% human; 18% gnome; 12% halfling; 9% “Changed”; 5% elf or half-elf; 1% other (orc, half-orc, dragon)
Land Area: 7 sq. miles (including the road leading to the Baron’s Keep as well as the Baron’s Keep itself)
Date of Establishment: June 1st, 1854 M.E. (Modern Era); 498 years old, roughly
Ruling Noble: Baron Foalooke Aileuneid, by grace of Count Jamesmuth McGee the Sixth, under Duke Edward Willingson, by command of King Lensith the Great.
Primary Businesses: Farming, Mining, Trapping, Crafts
Baron Foalooke Aileuneid (dragon)
Baron Aileuneid is the owner of Oak’s Home and the surrounding forests; he was given the land by King Shaesbon the II some sixty years ago. The Baron is a just and popular ruler who seems to be more laissez-faire than most nobles in his position; perhaps this is why the villagers hold him in such high regard. Taxes are reasonable, he sends his personal guard out in defense of the town when he sees there’s a clear need, and he visits the village twice a year — during its birthday in the summer, and again during the Winter Festival near the close of the year. Through the duration of his reign, it was believed that Baron Aileuneid was an elf; however, he has chosen to reveal himself as a dragon three months after the Flash.
Regent/Assistant Carwen Elms (human)
Sir Elms is the regent of Oak’s Home when the Baron is away on official business; otherwise, he serves as his chief advisor and head of staff. He is an older gentleman with a serious demeanor, his wispy white hair and furrowed brow making him look perpetually harried and unhappy. However, he is devoted to his work and serves the Baron without question. It is known that he wears a Prisoner’s Ring connected to a Jailer’s Ring worn by the Baron — far from the relationship this implies, it actually signifies a bond of great trust and care from both parties.
Recently Sir Elms has established residence within Oak’s Home, making sure the Baron maintains a closer presence within the village in the wake of cultish activity. He has been replaced as the Chief of Staff of the baronial keep.
Sheriff Anthony Hardin (Changed)
Sir Hardin has held the post of sheriff for almost a decade, and for most of that time he’s had to deal with little more than busting up a tavern brawl or determining the particulars of a dispute over cattle. The last several months have been excessively exciting.
He lost all of his deputies to cult activity, and both he and the people he conscripted into replacing them were changed in the Flash. Instead of a reasonably fit middle-aged man, the Sheriff is now a twelve-foot-tall, four-armed monster with goat’s legs, huge curved horns and solid black eyes. Despite his fearsome appearance, he remains the same man he always was; business-like, forever wary, straightforward and stoic. He prefers peace and quiet, and likes to see things in order. Of course, he’s not above using his new magical nature to encourage rowdy townsfolk to make sure things are as quiet as he likes them.
Father Philo Greeves (human)
Father Greeves is the newest addition to the town; he has filled in as priest for the village since Father Seabring has been called to the Church’s headquarters in Splendor a few months ago. The father is a man just entering old age; his body is fit still but beginning to fail, and grey is beginning overtake the brown in his hair. Still, he radiates a quiet, powerful contentment that can put almost anyone at ease. This comes in handy with his new post, as the revelation that the town has recently become the front lines of a secret war against a fallen god has stirred up some uneasiness.
He can often be seen visiting the villagers at their homes with one of his acolytes, Elburt or Tobin. The other acolyte stays at the Church to manage things there, and that autonomy has seen both of them blossom in different ways. Elburn has taken to updating the scrolls and digging into the maps and histories of Oak’s Home, while Tobin has developed a keen interest in the healing arts.
Dame Jenoiella Clearwater (elf)
Dame Jenoiella is an elf whose clan hails from Splendor, one of the few elven families who’ve remained behind in the world of men. She has been a mainstay at Oak’s Home for quite some time and has fashioned herself something of a leader of culture and arts. She has established a Seamstress’ Circle and invested money in many local businesses for a number of years, always hoping to put her personal stamp on the final product. Her relationship with the local tradesmen have diminished somewhat, leaving her free to establish cultural events and assume command of town festivals. She has a reputation as a busybody and a gossip, but most villagers will grudgingly admit that she gets things done and her events are quite memorable.
Recently her family has taken a bump in reputation, with the revelation that her son, Annais Clearwater, and an old family friend, Kenneth Grossman, were both Servants of Sslinosh. However, her nephew and young ward, Allanaea Audalis, has stepped up to prominence with the Baron’s blessing. Like the rest of Oak’s Home, Dame Jenoiella is looking forward to a renewed prosperity.
Allanaea Audalis (Changed)
Allanaea is a recent transplant to the village of Oak’s Home. When he arrived, the villagers understood that he was an elf from Splendor who needed to retire to the country for a strange affliction that would get better with rest. He has been anything but restful — first he was conscripted to become a Sheriff’s Deputy, and had a major hand in discovering and thwarting the Servants of Sslinosh. For his efforts, he has become one of the Changed — a humanoid silver dragon — and been given ownership of the town’s Tavern and Inn.
He has also attempted to bring together a collection of merchants under the Audalis family banner, introducing an audacious plan to offer discounts to services at the Tavern and Inn if certain goods are purchased. He’s also traveled to Splendor to strike alliances with merchants there interested in selling unique goods that come from Oak’s Home.