On route from Geli to Nekrass the characters meet a peasant boy on the road. He's wandering in the direction from which they've just come. If this seems a little bit incongruous, they may wish to ask him a few questions. He's perfectly willing to talk: he's called Lamish and he's run away because he knows he is the heir to the throne of Geli and his parents didn't believe him. How far is his home? About five weeks walk from here. How much has he eaten? Nothing. Has he drunk? Only from the filthy roadside ditches. In short, it's a wonder he is still alive. And yet he seems perfectly healthy.
Is he a thief, waiting for travellers to trick? Is he lying because there's something more sinister under all of this? Is he telling the truth? And anyway, what should the characters do? Do you take him to Geli? Do you try to find his parents? Or leave him to make his own way?
What a narrow street! The bowed windows of the upper floors encroach on the view of the bowed windows opposite, making it all very dark and shady down here in your carriage. You feel it slow down and stop, and there are raised voices outside. Craning your neck out of the door you see a smug cartsman ahead, whose cart is blocking just enough of the narrow street to make your passage impossible. He appears to be waiting for you to move, but your driver is hurling abuse at him and your horses are getting restless...
"...the city was built on many levels, linked by stone bridges. But with the improvements in diet and corresponding increase in stature and strength of the populace, these bridges became too low, and the people would hit their heads. The bridges were eventually done away with in 1764, but the scars on the walls where they once jutted out remain, and in Low Bridge Street there is still one extant bridge, measuring about 6' high." - Chronicler Rasill, Mondopedia, Vol II (The Lands of Hyellia)
"...the Ilthian mountains. A craggie masse of rock rysing from the Ilth'n plaines. The waters whych springe from it are ful of godeness and fortyfie those who drynk them [+1 STR]. Alas the vyle beasts resydent in these hills also bathe in these waters, and in the doing gain great strength. Foes mortallie wounded have bene known to flee, onlie to return, revytalised houres later..." - Chronicler Eamusil, Mondopedia, Vol XV (The Lands of Sylmen)
The extra-planar citadel of Ansern is named after its mage-founder. Ansern discovered the means to traverse the planar gulfs and created the citadel as a haven for his disciples in the art of planar-exploration. The disciples of Ansern continue his work and explore the countless worlds opened up to them by the work of the mage. They are cataloguing everything they discover in preparation for the greatest volume ever written: the Mondopedia, a book detailing many of the worlds. But the countlessness of the planes means that their book will never be finished.
I know basilisks are immune to the gaze of other basilisks, but imagine if they weren't. Like the panda they would become ecologically unviable and endangered...
There are two large stones on the thinly wooded hillside above Tiringan. It is said that two basilisks surprised each other many years ago and fell in love at first sight. They also turned to stone at first sight. A local legend of star-crossed lizards: very moving.
The city was cursed many years ago. Since then it has not stopped raining. The gutters are inhabited by eels and the doors are on the first floor, coated with pitch. On a bad day, you can see the water level rise above the ground floor windows. Carts have both wheels and bladders filled with air to keep them afloat. And yet everyone is surprisingly dry.
The two cathedrals in the Citadel stubbornly ring their bells two minutes apart, since each believes the other to be too early or too late respectively. This has been done for over two hundred years.
The city of Nausopol is built on stilts. Lots of very sturdy stilts and butresses, of course, because it rises about five hundred feet from the ocean. Even the most terrific of storms is only heard in the city as a distant cacophony of blasts as waves strike the solid stonework fathoms below. It has never been attacked because of its isolation and impregnability.
It's not a place for the faint-hearted: vertigo and sea-sickness are not desirable traits. But when you are standing in the middle of the city there is no way you could tell that you were standing above an ocean, separated only by a gulf of air and a few stones.
A thousand steps lead down from Nausopol to the floating docks. These docks are pitch-coated wooden and can be raised by winches during squalls. Trade with other cities and countries is good: Nausopol is built over a sunken atoll whose minerals are still mined by divers, and it was from this that it originally derived its wealth.
But the principal method of getting to and from the city is by riding the giant sea-eagles which have been captured and bred for that very reason.
The village sits on the edge of the deep fjord, often engulfed in mist or rain. Its people are fishermen, who work even through the sea-ravaging winter. And they pray to the gods of the deep.
At the beginning of every winter they hold a summoning ceremony. Three boats are taken out into the fjord, a hornsman on each. The mournful horns are blown in the language of the whales, the gods of the deep. The whales sometimes appear in answer to these calls, and it is taken as a good omen when they do.
To a party of PCs wandering the misty hills and valleys nearby however, the doleful whalesong of the horns can be disturbing and misinterpreted...
THE GNOMES OF UDNALOR: Part II
Having left the hush of the upper halls, and crossed the depths of the Braeth (an underground river, which is not all that deep because bear in mind we're talking about gnomes here), you would find yourself in Wattling Street, the main road through Udnalor. It's actually a long, well-worn passageway which opens out eventually into the City Centre. The gnome-buildings branch off Wattling Street as small burrows or caverns with boulder-blocked doorways for privacy. You can find armourers and smiths (though their armour tends to be on the small side for humans to buy) and many other types of trader.
There are many streets, ginnels and cooies which run off Wattling Street, the most famous probably being Smell Street, the domain of the infamous gnomish alchemists, the eponymous smell being very distinctive: the stench of cooking fungus, the aroma of subterranean spices, the pungent reek of rotting carcasses (used in some of the more notorious experiments). An encounter with an alchemist can really be spiced up (excuse the pun) if you have a well-stocked herb cupboard, and actually make up the potions, elixirs and draughts as they are ordered by characters.
THE GNOMES OF UDNALOR: Part I
Upon entering the deep underrealm of Udnalor, one must first pass through the upper halls, which were the residences of the gnomes in days of past glories. Now they have abandoned the fading tapestries to the worms and moles, and an uncanny silence reigns, laid over the oaken tables like the thick layers of dust and humus.
There may be creatures which now inhabit these areas: nests livid with giant maggots, rats and other vermin.
The watchtowers and passageways which lead to the Overground are frequently trodden, however. After all it takes a great many small humanoids to hoist a single giant rabbit corpse back through the fathoms of earth.
The gnomes primarily hunt giant rabbits with bows and arrows tipped with the subterranean poisons concocted by their best alchemists.
The Forest of Throck:
Throck forest is divided into three parts: a region of twisted black magic, which is dark and hemmed in with the legions of sable pine. This is Spindel, and is occupied by the hideous Ettercaps and their spider-pets. The second area is the chaotic elfin-wood, where the druids work their wyrd magic amongst the oaks. The last part is Udnalor, the home of the gnomes. Finding themselves surrounded by these chaotic forces they dwell as quietly as possible beneath the surface. Their culture is a fascinating one to visit, and in the next few miscellaneous ideas, I shall examine the ways and customs of THE GNOMES OF UDNALOR, with a view to role-playing them.