For centuries, the mountain valley has drawn very little attention to itself. The mountain folk draw their livelihoods from trapping, logging, and the crafts of their hands. It is a good life, a safe life, a quiet life. There is only one village in the valley, and a few outlying smaller communities, most less than a few hours travel out from the main village. Perhaps 1000 people make their homes in the valley.
The peace ended six months ago when a passing adventuring band crossed the small river that cut down through the valley. They found something irresistable…gold. Despite their efforts of secrecy, the word spread like wildfire, and would be gold miners fell in on the valley like a plague. The valley was overrun with literally thousands of miners, and river panners.
Gold has been found, a virgin load in the mountain, slowly chewed down into the river by the constant flow of water. Squatters have leveled large parts of the valley to erect temporary homes, shanties, shacks, and lean-to tents. The fishing is gone as the panners have ripped the bed out of the river hunting for the gold that is in the water. The trapping has been about the same. The local game is vacating the valley due to the mining pollution.
Mining crews gnaw at the mountain day and night, forcing it to give up it’s prize of gold. Humans vie with dwarves, all of whom are preyed upon by small bands of orcs and goblins, normal residents of the high mountains. The crews will even turn on one another, attacking with mining picks, shovels, and other makeshift weapons. Dozens have been killed, and hundreds maimed.
In the village things are taking a turn for the worse. Inflation has destroyed the market. Supplies are in short order, while gold is abundant. Eggs are a gold piece each, bread is 5 gold pieces for a loaf, fodder for animals is 8 to 20 silver pieces a bale. The smithy works constantly, turning out new tools, pans, and sharpening blunted and dull tools.
Crime is becoming more rampant as well. Thieves attack the mining camps, and the vendors, stealing their produce, and their gold as quickly as they can. Some are caught, and violence ensues. Others are revealed when they try to spend some of their ill gotten gain as none of the miners, or panners, or locals remember them involved in hunting for gold. Thieves, when caught by the goldminers, suffer long painful deaths.
The village is small, and has never had a real agent of law enforcement. The mayor was also the prime landowner, the constable, and likely either the blacksmith, or a horse breeder. Most folk in civic positions held two or three posts, since there were so few people. Now, with the population booming, there is a sudden, and dramatic need for more constables and reeves, guards and soldiers.
The gold will not last long, perhaps it has already been tapped out. Once it does run out, the violence will get worse. Most of the miners sold everything to get to the valley and might settle since they have no way to return to their original homes. With no trade, or skill they will either beg, or steal, neither of which the villagers like.
A new stone courthouse/fort/prison is being built as quickly as it can be erected for the comming bust that is sure to follow. Now, enter the PC’s.
- The PC’s can be passing through the valley and be offered the position as law enforcers, given their obvious upstanding nature. What can the town offer? How about the loads of raw gold it has.
- An agent of the village, an elder, approached the PC’s in the nearest city, perhaps a week or two away from the valley. He makes them the offer from above, become guards for the village for payment in gold. They don’t want professional mercenaries, that could be worse than any criminal element.
- The PC’s are lured in by rumors of fantastic loads of gold being found. Nuggets the size of a fist being picked up out of the water for anyone to find. Who would say no to such easy wealth?
- One of the first wave miners, mauled in a camp fight tells the PC’s of the great motherload and is willing to help them find it, so long as he gets a cut of the gold. He is likely missing an arm, or leg, and to be crippled badly.
Greed is a powerful motivator that cannot be overrated. The rich (no pun intended) shine of gold can drive a person to do petty things, and the thought of instant wealth, all shinging gold, can drive a sane person to do very evil things.
- The local duke hears of the gold rush and sends investigators or tax collectors to make sure that he gets his cut of the wealth. There is very likely going to be alot of violence following their arrival. These collectors could be slain, which would draw the Duke’s troops down on the miners.
- Elves, offended by the decimation of the forest in the area (leveled for firewood, shanty homes, more room) start picking off lone miners one at a time. Going up river is a sure way to die. Even the locals, who make their living trapping in the highlands are not immune to this treatment.
- The nearest dwarven lord suddenly claims dominion over the valley as stone is the right of the dwarves. War coudl erupt as the human Duke of the region, and human baron of the valley itself heartily dispute the claim. The Duke for gold, the Mayor because the humans have lived their for centuries without dwarven influence.
- Bad to worse, instead of petering out, the gold vein gives way to veins of a more valuable material, such as mithril. The boom would grow more then, and all of the above mentioned activities would start happening. The sudden influx of people could cause a famine, epidemics of sanitary diseases such as cholera, or consumption.
I have stood up to me knees in cold river water, panning for gold. Looking for elusive flecks and gold dust in gallons of river sediment, and found it. The gold my precious! It is a heady experience finding the unmistakable shing of gold in a pan after hours of backbreaking labor. It kind of makes you crazy.