Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wilds - A Brief Backgrounder

By request, here's some of the background on my Wilds game. It's fairly brief, because this game was proposed as a dungeon crawler, so there wasn't great need for world-building. This post covers local geography and the main population centers nearby.

Hembard Wilds
Named for the ill-fated explorer, Jorund Hembard, who first charted the region, the Wilds are a thumb-shaped area of civilized lands, forming the northwestern corner of the Kingdoms of Jal along the Hembard River. While the petty kings and nobles of the Jalish Kingdoms bicker and fight amongst themselves, the local lord, Thambar the Prudent, takes little interest in the affairs of the court, being more interested in scholarly matters. He rules from Highcliff Keep, which perches like a great crow on the cliffs above Auslaug, the largest of the three main villages in the Wilds.

The largest of three villages that are the largest population centers of the Hembard Wilds. The most prominent feature of the village is Highcliff Keep, the seat of Thambar the Prudent, who rules the Wilds.

Auslaug is a farming and fishing community. Its river-front location between northern Brekkevale and southern Hustwood coupled with its proximity to the keep makes it the primary marketplace for the Wilds.

Auslang lies on the western bank of the Hembard River, just south of the bridge that marks the end of navigable waters. It's residents are primarily human, Hasuden and Toresden, though a handful of other races, Halflings from across the river, a few Dwarfs from the northern mountains, and even the occasional Elf from the woodlands around Hustwood, also live there.

Brekkevale is the northernmost of three villages that make up the Hembard Wilds, the other two being Auslaug and Hustwood. Brekkevale is in the hills just south of the Tajen Peaks. Its inhabitants are herdsmen, miners, and hunters, mostly Toresden, though a few Dwarfs live in the village and many more live in the mountains to the north.

Brekkevale is connected to Auslaug by a wide road, the Ironway, that Thambar the Prudent maintains to insure the steady flow of metals, furs, and wool into Auslaug. There is also a minor road, Westwalk, connecting Brekkevale to Hustwood, but this receives far less attention than the Ironway.

Hustwood is the southernmost of the three villages that make up the Hembard Wilds, the other two being Auslaug and Brekkevale. Hustwood is located in the deep woodlands about forty miles southwest of Auslaug. The inhabitants are a mix of Toresden and Hasuden, with the Hasuden being the more numerous group. Elves pass through the village with some regularity, though they seldom stay for long. There are also a few Halflings that call Hustwood home.

The villagers are a mix of woodsmen, charcoal burners, trappers, and hunters. A handful of farming homesteads, mostly in clear-cut lands to the northeast round out the populace.

Hustwood is connected to Auslaug by the Wood Road, a broad path, part dirt (and mud), part corduroy, the road serves as the primary route into and out of the village. A lesser road, the Westwalk, connects Hustwood to Brekkevale.

Tajen Peaks
The Peaks form the northernmost edge of the Hembard Wilds. The range runs generally west-southwest to east-northeast, and varies in both elevation and ruggedness. Several passes cut through the range, including the ill-named Vale of Bones, but these valleys are poorly mapped at best.

Western Woodlands
The name given to the relatively unknown lands beyond the borders of Hembard Wilds, generally covering the area northwest of Hustwood, and south of the Tajen Peaks. The Westwalk skirts along this area, marking the informal border between civilization and wilderness. In fact there are people living along this rough road, chiefly woodcutters, homesteaders, hunters and trappers, but they're few and far between. It is from this scattered folk that most of the rumors about the Western Woodlands come, as expeditions into the Woodlands usually do not return. Here are a few stories and rumors:

  • The Ghastly Man is a glowing yellow-green figure that stalks the shadowy woods at night. This apparition is often blamed when hunters or trappers go missing.
  • Blackpool Maze is half-swamp, half-ruin, a bleak waste of tumbledown stone walls, dead trees, and still, peaty waters. Old stories say the Maze was once a great castle built by a mad king, who constantly rebuilt walls and towers as the structure sank into the swamp.
  • The Carved Trees are found throughout the Western Woods. No one knows who leaves the odd carvings on the trees, or what they mean, but they're everywhere. Some claim they are boundary markers in some extra-dimensional war, others say they are hearth-markers for dryads. No matter their source, bad luck seems to follow those that disturb or cut trees marked by these strange signs.
  • Stonefinger rises from the woodland like a sentinel, a solitary spire of weathered blue-gray stone. Most say it marks the edge of the true wilderness, the place where weirdness really starts. Stonefinger appears to be a natural outcropping, but because of its curiously shaped and carved form and the oddly regular growth patterns of the plant life around it, many believe it to be an ancient ruin of some sort.
  • The Grave Lickers are the reason those that die along the Western Woodlands are taken to Auslaug for burial. They are creaking, creeping creatures that seek out fresh corpses and drag them off to the darkest caves and tunnels beneath the woods. Stories say those that see them go mad, eventually killing themselves or vanishing into the woods. Some say the Grave Lickers eat the dead, but others claim they are building something beneath the dark boughs of the forest.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to post up some world Lore. I especially like the stories and rumors. Very good stuff. In your current wilds game as the players have been exploring what they believe to be black pool maze.... how much of what they find is pure randomization and how much is based on planning (if you don't mind divulging your DM secrets)

  2. It's a mix. I have a basic setup laid out for a large number of levels in the Maze, but I don't do detail maps until the group appears to be heading in that direction. Most of the overland stuff is / was randomly generated though.


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