Chapter One: The Town of Clearspring (1)
Our story picks up in a small town somewhere in the Wild Coast, close to Trebonshire Forest. Clearspring was founded some five hundred years ago by refugees who escaped from the Unholy Assault, the Tonomai conquest of the Arrufat Peninsula. The Wild Coast had for times eternal been an impenetrable wilderness that was left to monsters and bandits; after the Unholy Assault it has become home for many people displaced from their origins by the war.
They have forged their own lives, wrested oases of peace from their untamed surroundings. But they are little more than such islands of peace within a land still ruled by forests and wilderness. Contact between settlements is sparse, and Clearspring is no exception.
Don’t expect the locals to know much of what is going on abroad. By now they know that the Tonomai have been driven out of the better part of the Arrufat peninsula, but that is about the extent of their knowledge. They know the next few villages and towns, which they occasionally visit.
For a little bit about their history, read the short story Ruins and Hopes, available at our website. Three of the characters hail from Clearspring. Following is an excerpt from that story in which the young novice priest Markesh tells of their home:
Clearspring has only one tavern, The Drunken Badger, which serves the community as well as any travellers who find their way into town.
This is where the adventure should start. You can skip the tale of coming to town and deciding to have a meal and drink, so the characters are already in the inn. And then the story will pick up, as described later.
Afterwards, the party will likely want to improve their equipment and do a bit of shopping. Clearspring offers quite a few possibilities in that regard, and your characters should take a look at everything. Not least of all because some of the shopkeepers or their patrons might have some information of interest to the adventure.
(If you have spent an hour or two already with the creation of the characters, you might want to slowly introduce the characters to the story and push the shopping spree to the beginning. Then you will have to describe the party entering town, seeing the various shops – and of course The Drunken Badger. But that means delaying the start of the action even further; you have to judge whether your players are squirming at the bit to finally do something.)
There are three major exit points of the Clearspring chapter:
(1) Towards the mines: This is a diversion which might offer a hook to a later adventure. The mines are not involved in this module.
(2) Towards the “Lost Temple of Darawk”: If you check the story Ruins and Hopes, you will find that this supposed temple is actually a fortress of old, which used to be held by a man named Carawlk. The name was similar enough to be mistaken for Darawk, and thus the legend was born. In our story, the fortress was already looted, so it isn’t likely that a lot remains. Your players could be aware of this and should therefore stray away from this option. (If they want to go there, we have a few surprises prepared for them.)
(3) Towards Trebonshire Forest: This exit follows the plot line and is encouraged. (If the players decide to search for the “temple”, they are in fact heading into Trebonshire Forest as well and can easily pick up the trail of the plot from there.)
Starting this module, I assume that your players have already created their characters, including backstories and the like. Now there are a few questions that need be resolved at the beginning of the adventure.
The foremost question is their motivation for being here in Clearspring in the first place. What brought them here? Your players can come up with reasons all by themselves, but you might give them a nudge or two. Let’s start out the story on the right foot, and give everyone good reasons to be here.
In this section, I’ll offer you a few pointers on what might be the motivation. They are pointers only, and you are under no obligation to use them. After all, they have no direct impact on the gameplay whatsoever.
If they are, then the party has known each other for a while, and we can assume that friendships (as well as enmities) are already in place. For a beginning group, that is not really the best way to start things out. After all, it is better for the relationships to form during gameplay rather than being introduced beforehand. You never know how the actual game is going to turn out, and so the prior relationships might look all too artificial.
For The Courier’s Oath I would suggest that few if any of the characters know each other prior to this tale.
If your group of players is a mixed bag of veteran players and newcomers, you might decide to give each veteran a relationship with a newcomer, so that her experience can help.
Otherwise, the characters should meet for the first time in the single tavern of Clearspring, The Drunken Badger.
By “locals” I mean that the characters are from neighboring areas, not from Clearspring directly. The reason for that is that someone from Clearspring would have a lot of information available that the party has to work to acquire. (If you, the GM, want to run your own character in the game, this qualification is lifted. You have already read the adventure and do know all these things.) Someone born in the village down the road may have some idea of what’s going on, but not more.
“Foreigners” would be people from outside the Wild Coast who have drifted for one reason or another into this area. Referring to the story Ruins and Hopes, both Koyson and Vobul are clearly foreigners. (There is no insult to the word “foreigner” here. In a secluded area such as this, the people of Clearspring don’t particularly distinguish between someone from ten miles down the road and someone who was born three hundred miles to the west.)
The advantage of a local is that he might have some knowledge of the area, and perhaps a knack for speaking to the citizens of Clearspring.
A foreigner has to learn everything about the area. His advantage is that he comes from a more civilized place (we hope), and therefore has a different view of Clearspring and its surroundings. His backstory should be interesting, to see how he found his way into this backwater place.
Perhaps the best party assembled here would be one that is a mix of both locals and foreigners. Their different origins should give rise to some conflict in the game, and ironing out this conflict can forge more solid relationships between the characters.
Let’s now take a look at specific motivations for coming to Clearspring. Mix them, change them as you feel is best.
If the characters already know each other, they might have been traveling through Trebonshire Forest with a specific goal in mind. Unfortunately they got lost, have been wandering through the forest for days, when they finally found some traces of civilization – which means Clearspring. They head to town, and happily go to the inn to get a bearing.
Clearspring is the biggest settlement in the area, and it has a few trade options to offer. That is as good a reason as any for a party to head there. After a long travel, you can expect to get decent service in this town, enough to replenish your supplies and perhaps buy a bit of new equipment. (This applies to both options.)
The characters might be with a group of traders, or be traders themselves. (If they decide to carry goods to Clearspring, inform them that the sale has taken place before the story begins. For each player in the group, roll a d10 and divide the result by the number of players. The end result is the number of gold coins they receive for their sale. That doesn’t upset their wealth too much.)
Life in a secluded town doesn’t offer lots of opportunities for young people. So they might want to see a bit more of the world, to strike out on their own, which leads these characters to Clearspring.
Doesn’t sound too intriguing yet, does it? Have your players spice this up a bit.
One of the characters could be the youngest son of a farmer; the land will be split among the sons by ranking of age. This character plainly expects to inherit next to nothing, and so he sets off to find a fortune for himself (or at least enough to buy his own farm.)
Another character could have had a dalliance with the daughter of his village’s mayor – one that led him to run away from home, lest the mayor string him up. He still pines for the girl and is sure that if he proves his worth he can show his face back home. (Some people of Clearspring may have heard of the story. Let a NPC drop her own remarks about the situation which might cast a dubious light on the girl; after all, when the character who is in love with her ran away, why didn’t she join him? Does she love him? The remarks of the NPC could bear enough of a sting for the character to re-consider his plans.)
On the other hand, the character could be that mayor’s daughter who has left home to look for her lover. Her father incarcerated her after the incident, madly protective, and it took her days to calm him down enough that she could slip away from home. She has no clues where to go, and came to Clearspring hoping that he might have come there, too.
Clearspring has rich mines nearby. Rumor has it that the holy metal of the dwarves, the gadnú, has been found there. But in all dwarven existence on Gushémal, the only gadnú is that which their ancestors brought from the Mine of the Gods. So a dwarf would be interested in finding out whether the rumor is true or not.
In the story Ruins and Hopes you have been introduced to the young half-elven warrior Ha’el Morhawk-Des’Epaes. Her father is a local from Clearspring who attracted the attentions of a passing elven warrior woman, C’rinn Des’Epaes. C’rinn fell for the young man, and they had a child. But the elf grew quickly bored and moved on, leaving Ha’el with her father.
C’rinn has a bit of a history, a bit of fame. (We left it vague in the story. Sequels to this story are likely to flesh out this background.) Enough so that an elf might be following in her footsteps, so to speak, to try and find her. Considering elven life-spans, the thirty years that have passed aren’t quite that much. An elf might consider this trail luke-warm rather than the icy cold a human would think.
The reason for seeking C’rinn could be that either this character is awe-struck by her tales and wants to find her, or that the character (or her family) has a grudge against her and is after revenge.
A part-elf character can have heard about C’rinn’s passing through Clearspring and that she had a child here. Since the character himself is part-elf, he might be interested in meeting C’rinn’s child. They are alike, and perhaps he could learn from that child as much as teach the child.