There is evidence of tens or hundreds of soldiers passing by, no doubt part of an invading or defending force. A tracker will notice that they have been in quite a hurry and several are limping and/or bleeding. Whatever they encountered it was more than they could handle. At the GMs discretion this might lead to a second roll a short time thereafter, to determine whether the party encounters the enemies of this fleeing group.
2. The buried shrine
A small pavillion shrine has sunk into the soft soil and is now partially buried. Only the granite pillars and the green tiled roof remain above ground. Intricate symbols on the pillars reveal that this was once a shrine to the forest gods and spirits. There is power still in the shrine, and this power can be unlocked by anyone intelligent enough to decipher the patterns of the pillar symbols. Anyone capable of understanding the symbols can try an intelligence check if the player explicitly states that he is investigating the symbols. The first letter of every symbol forms a message when read around the pillar in a circle and so it is with every symbol, from those just below the roof, to those barely visible above the forest soil. All in all four rituals of power can be unveiled by studying the text and those four are: Summon Forest Guardian (Bear or other animal), Awaken Tree Guardian (Ent), Halo of Crows (A swarm of crows to defend and blur those chanting) and Encroaching Mist (Mist covering the forest). The words must be chanted while touching the shrine and will weaken the chanters somewhat. Several people chanting would not be as weakened as a lone chanter attempting to invoke the powers of the shrine.
3. The talking serpent
”What willsssst thou noble lordssss? What errand dosssst thou have in the keep of Almanderssss?” The voice is that of a thin, green tree snake, its yellow eyes flicking back and forth, studying the adventurers. Its voice will be unsettling, evoking nervousness and caution in the adventurers. In reality this serpent is a benevolent guardian of the forest, its questions mirroring the countless fears and questions of the forest spirits. The forest will witness the PCs as they interact with Alamanders and their actions will weigh heavily in how they are treated further on.
4. Odd butterfly patterns
Strange green butterflies, their legs disturbingly long, cling to the bark of an oddly pale tree. They crawl in strings up and down the bark, seemingly at random, and only take flight to avoid being squashed (by some noble player for instance). They do this for about ten minutes, then they take flight and land on the next tree, beginning to crawl on the new tree. The reasons for this behaviour could be anything from mating ritual to harvesting essential nutrients in the bark, as ruled by the GM. The butterflies are highly toxic and should a player try hard enough, he might actually squash some butterflies. Unfortunately they contain a potent contact poison and the PC must now make his save or die. On another note they are sought by alchemists and herbalists alike and will fetch a nice sum if an adventurer manages to harvest enough of them.
5. The Earthen Chambers
As the adventurers traverse the forest (or when they rest/sleep) they are suddenly engulfed by branches and are pulled down into the earth. Heroic strength might free individuals, but this should be hard. Those caught beneath soon discover that the roots withdraw and they are able to breathe stale cold air. However there is little in the way of light. As soon as they find some light they will discover that they are inside some old earth chamber with a corridor leading out into a maze of subterranean tunnels, all earthen walled with only an amazingly dense network of roots holding the earth back. Some of the roots, especially the serpent thin black variant, seem to move seemingly at random, the iridescent gleam of the aforementioned black roots somewhat disturbing. Inside the maze are several dead soldiers and adventurers, and random encounters can be had even down here. At the center of the maze is the Forest Shayde, a Tree Spirit of some power and the controlling force of this subterranean forest prison. On his person the adventurers might find the root Opal, a necklace made of twisting black roots bearing an opal like a branch bears an apple. This necklace can be donned by the adventurers and is in fact magical. It is called “Vhisterthyde” by the forest spirits and gives the user control of roots in the immediate vicinity. However roots favour the owner to such a degree that they entwine and caress him as he sleeps and often he might find himself buried beneath roots and soil as he awakens.
The outer band is ring of forest 15-25 miles in thickness. The forest is very dense with closely packed trees and heavy underbrush. No paths wider then a deer-trail exist through the forest. The roads used to bring construction supplies were replanted long ago and the trees growth accellerated via magic.
The forest is naturally dark and dank, and carefully ensorcelled against fire. Attempts to clear the forest by burning will be limited unless high power magic is used. Even then, the fire will not spread far beyond the immediate area of the magical flame.
The trees are largely a passive defence to stop or slow down major troop movements by making horses, wagons and siege engines difficult to move. Some of the trees present have special 'adjustments' to make clearing roads difficult.
Assume that one needs to cut at least 500 trees to clear 1 mile of pathway (1 per 10' of progress) along with extensive underbrush. The chance of a 'special' tree being encountered is as high as the GM would like it to be. The author would suggest a 5% chance per tree - it is intended to be a signficant obstacle for an invading army. See Appendix A for special trees.
In addition to the special trees heavily seeded through the region, the forests are inhabited by many creatures, great and small.
One can use typical forest random encounters for the world in question, or you could use the list found in Appendix B, Random Forest Encounters.Go to Comment
2 -Whispering Pines - Spooky, but nothing comes of it.
3 -mp (Nighttime)
4 -Charyn Slug(Nighttime at camp)
5 -Cor-Spiders Giant webs will be encountered.
6 -Mirruva Fox- Forest life encounter - not dangerous, just an event. On reoccurrence, substitute any desired temperate-forest wildlife.
7 -Trapper Ants
9 -Swarmsnake Pit
10 -Selvaks On the prowl.
11 - Dire Swine - Dangerous wild boars.
12 - Grove of Dwarven Treeherds- Patrolling for forest despoilers, may or may not be hostile to PCs. Will be hostile if a road is being cleared in the area.
13 - Giant Feral Boar - This massive pig-monstrosity is one of the more active defenders of the Forest. It is the size of a small elephant with massive tusks and vicious hooves. It is highly aggressive and will attack regardless of numbers. There is only one such Boar in the forest. If rerolled, substitute a similarly dangerous forest encounter. This is similar to the Dire Boars, but is a singular creature of great power.
14 -17 Trap! (but only if there are active defenders to maintain them)
1 .. Massive deadfall - Treetrunk will fall if trapline triggered. Tripline is about 1/4 inch and colored to match the local ground.
2 .. Covered pit - 10' deep, optionally spiked or occupied by Swarmsnakes.
3 .. Snare - Strong rope loop will snare a foot - mostly a nuisance, but will activate a noisemaker if the victim struggles.
4 .. Whip trap - A springy sapling will lash across the path at face level. The sapling is studded with poisoned thorns (poison is weak due to effects of the elements, not likely to kill..)
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Assume a 25% chance of at least one 'cutter' being injured or having their axe broken.
1 = Tree is 'Ironwood' and is much more difficult to cut with an axe or other tool.
2 = Tree has poisonous sap - 10% chance of cutter being subjected to poison of varying intensity.
3 = Widowmaker - Numerous heavy branches are 'dead' and liable to drop if the tree is subjected to hard shocks (i.e. Chopping). Damage varies from minor to lethal. Alternately, the tree might have structurally flawed wood, which causes it to 'kick' randomly when cut and not fall in the direction the lumberjack intends.
4 = Tree is an unusual and/or aggressive Tree -
1 .. Devil's Thorns. A large oak tree with dangerous projectiles. It may be easier to bypass it rather then cut it down.
4 .. Qanquen Trees. These trees form massive copses which create 'natural' walls. When encountered, it will increase the number of trees to be cleared signficantly.
5 ..Rose Tree. This tree drops plenty of sharp debris making passage underneath painful to walk upon unless very heavy boots are worn. Beasts of burden will not move through such an area for this reason.
6 .. Walking tree - Ent Analog. Currently resting and will not take well with would-be lumberjacks.
7 .. Trailbane Pine. This tree will serve to either hold-up or misdirect the party, or possibly descend into conflict.
8 .. Brawlingwood - Animated tree which strikes with it's branches.
9 .. Grappelwood - Animated tree which attempts to grab and hold victims. Will not let go until they rot away.
10 .. Gorgewood - Like grapplewood, but will attempt to deposit victims into various large maws equipped with jagged wooden 'teeth'.
11 .. Skullcracker Oak- Animated tree which drops coconut-like nuts.
12 .. Skullcracker Oak- Animated tree which throws coconut-like nuts.
Assume a 25% chance of at least one 'cutter' being injured or having their axe broken.
5 = Tree has been seeded with many iron spikes and other debris to make cutting it dangerous and difficult.
6 = Tree is home to dangerous residents
Dangerous Tree Residents
1 - Mundane Hornet's Nest - if the tree is not examined before attempts to cut are made, will swarm and attack any would-be lumberjack.
2 - Explodestools - Large odd-colored mushrooms cover the base of the tree. If they are disturbed, they will burst violently, knocking nearby people back and creating clouds of choking spores.
3 - Selvaks have been introduced intentionally into the forests. They are not a real threat for an army - the movement of troops will scare them off, but against an adventuring party, they are quite dangerous.
4 - Huge Spiders (Any reasonable sized available will do.) Will not attack unless the tree is significantly disturbed.
5 - A swarm of Aboral Swarmsnakes will drop onto those disturbing the tree.
6 - Consult Appendix B: Random Forest Encounters for something disturbed by the chopping.
7 = Sentry Totem. Scattered through the forest are trees that have outlandish human and animal faces carved into them. Any intelligent being who comes within 30' of one of these faces, and is in the visual arc, will trigger an alarm which will alert the defenders of the Fortress, who will begin active defence. At the GM's option, these totems could also be an active defence - attacking with spells, etc.
8-10 = Tree rapidly regrows at the rate of 1' per day until 30' height reached unless stump is burned out or completely removed.
The middle band is essentially a huge moat - a lake. It is quite large and surrounds a large island which contains the inner band as well as the main compound. It's thinnest point is about 1 mile wide and it's thickest is nearly 4 miles wide. (The thinnest span coincides with the thickest portion of the outer band.)
The lake can be categorized into three regions - Outer shallows, deep water and inner shallows.
The outer shallows are characterized by a great mass of cattails around most of it's circumference, though there are sizable gaps easily found. In these shallows lurk many leeches of the mundane sort, mosquitos and an unusual frog species. These frogs have unusual calls. It has a distinct mournful sound which at night leads to a demoralizing cacophony.
The shallows have some unseen hazards as well - in addition to the occasional inhabitant (see Appendix C, The Shallows) there are deep pits filled with quicksand-like silt. These generally are placed where the water is already about 3' deep and it is fairly easy for any who step into the holes to sink below the water.
Also, a little further out (10-20') is a ring of large rocks which only allow about 6" of space between top and water surface. There are a few channels however, but these are not immediately obvious.
The deep waters of the lake range from 30-100' in depth and is home to a wide assortment of creatures, some of which could make passage over the waters interesting. See Appendix D - Deep Water Encounters for possible encounters.
The inner shore is more heavily fortified then the outer shore. Around much of the island (north,northeast and northwest), the water stops at shear cliffside, where no landing is possible.
West,Southwest and South are all heavily obstructed by large rocks - vessels with more then 6" draft cannot get closer then 30'. The water is still quite deep at that point, and any who disembark will find the bottom about 7' down. In addition, the shore is just as marshy as the other shore, and shares the same hazards and possible encounters. (Again, see Appendix C).
The Southeast and East shores are much more open with less obstacles. There are two major channels wide enough to allow for small numbers of fairly sizeable boats to reach shore. These beaches are very rocky and slippery, and numerous large boulders litter the beaches, creating subtle channels and choke points, but not large enough to provide a great amount of cover. These will not greatly affect small parties, but large forces will be slowed by these rocks, and will be compressed into tight formations
Landing on the Southeast and East shores will force the invading party to deal with some of the most dangerous of the Inner Band defences. If there are any major forces on the island to repel invaders, it is here where they will stage their main defensive action here, trying to kill any invaders before they reach shore.
The above map shows different terrain types,
4. Green Fields
5. Barren Clearing
The content of these are as follows:
The north end of the island is much higher then the south end which slopes down to the waterline. At the northmost end, there is a sheer cliff nearly 200' at the top. The cliff face is nearly vertical and Mountain Grace grows in fissures and cracks.
If the island is being actively defended, there will be defenders at the top of these cliffs to rain rocks, arrows and other missile weapons against climbers. This chaos makes it even easier for a climber to accidently disturb the flowers.
Mountain Grace is a relative of Morning Glory, and is a long, rambling vine that bears very large mauve flowers. These flowers emit a fragrance which has highly narcotic affects and will expel a significant dose when disturbed. Naturally, falling asleep while climbing is hazardous in the extreme. This flower is useful in creating Sleep related poisons
The forest on the island is a more dangerous and intense version of the outer forest. These regions are a maze created by hundreds of Qanquen Trees. Within the maze can be found many other dangerous trees - see APPENDIX A - SPECIAL TREES, Unusual/Aggressive Trees sub-table for possible encounters. No large animals nor defender patrols will be found in these very dangerous areas.
After coming ashore on the easiest approach, the would-be invaders are presented with the vast Garden of the Fortress.
It appears as a massive cottage-style garden with seemingly random patches of plants of all description. A warren of pathways wend through the varied foliage and these lead to scores of little nooks and clearings.
The plants of the garden are quite dangerous to any not properly equipped or informed of the correct path through the garden (The garden is large and complex enough that virtually no chance exists for the unknowing to bypass all of the dangerous encounters). Case in point is the Giant Foxglove, a huge patch of the flower forms the first real obstacle to the garden and those in the know will be wearing fine dust masks to screen out the toxic pollen, or will have otherwise protected themselves against poisonous vapors.
All other encounters are randomly determined (or selected by the GM) using Appendix E: Garden Encounters, but party should encounter at least two dangerous encounters per 'band', more if they explore the bands rather then make their way through them.
In addition to the encounters, the PCs will see all varieties of garden flowers, both common and rare, as well as occasional topiaries, statues, and other mundane items. The walkways are commonly Miremoss with stepping stones, but in other places dirt, cobblestones, gravel and even wood are present. If desired, the occasional clearing could contain a dangerous tree.
These fields appear to be overgrown meadows. The tall grass is actally vissewort and also conceals the presence of Scorpion Grass and Death Nettle, which grow here in exuberant quantities.
If the Fortress is actively defended, the vissewort will act as an alert system in this region.
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This large area is picked clean of plant life and is pockmarked by holes in the ground and large heaps of earth. It is a giant colony of mundane fire ants. There are scores of 'nests' which all interlock and it is not possible to cross this area without being attacked by massive numbers of the creatures. Generally several score to several hundred will crawl unto intruders and then will attack en masse, stinging simultaneously.