You’re starting a new game and trying to come up with a setting, at least to kick off the first few levels, somewhere with intrigue and danger, somewhere they’ll remember for levels to come, the place that they’ll one day be thinking of when they save the world.
Usually these articles make no small use of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, but as a heavily narrative oriented piece there will be little to no need to adjust any components for your own game, but tinker with anything you like. Welcome to…
Rising up the side of a hill on its sunset-side is a town made almost exclusively out of red brick. Pipestone makes its coin on the deep clay pits that stretch for several miles across the plains, and it maintains a wide road that runs through it leading on to the bigger towns and cities nearby. Dirt roads lead to the local villages that keep food flowing in to support the hard working labouring class.
Rulership and leadership are points of contention in Pipestone, while the obnoxious and lazy Baron Wyle heads up the council and collects taxes, the disgruntled workers look to the pit owners to represent them, and the clergy of The Host help disuade insurrectionist talk while using more insidious means of extorting the Baron into doing the right thing. The delicate balance is always on the brink of descending into violence, so the Baron is quick to usher adventurers along or distract them with business that will keep them out of town so that he can keep his seat in a certain amount of peace.
Pipestone is divided roughly into two districts:
From St. Aliera’s Infirmary in the north, up the hill to the Temple of The Host in the south, the houses are occupied with those too old and infirm to work. Nurses and priests walk the streets, aiding the elderly in those tasks they can no longer perform alone, such as tending to their gardens, shopping, and house maintenance.
Goods and Services:
St. Aliera’s Infirmary – The hospital gladly offers its services to the elderly, and accepts a regular donation from the owners of the clay pits to heal the pit workers where necessary. Anyone else is required to make a voluntary donation for the sake of having their bones set, wounds stitched, and illnesses alleviated. Simple healing potions and medicines are available for purchase at the on-site apothecary.
Vander’s Antiquity – The antique shop owned by Madame Vander is filled with various trinkets acquired from those local families with unwanted inheritance, and she’ll happily act as pawn shop to those who come with artistic objects. Occasionally the items that cross her counter have a hint of magic about them, so those perusing her shelves may stumble across a rare surprise.
Silver Stopper – A tavern specialising in wines and spirits. Clientele are unsurprisingly old.
Granny Thousand: Some say she’s a former adventurer, and that her blood was replaced with millipedes by an angry Fey giant. Some say she turned tricks, and that half the continent have blood ties with her at the centre of a grand web of family. Everyone knows she sees more visitors than anyone else in Candle’s End, and there are plenty of suspicions about what goes on behind her door. In fact the old witch casts spells for coin, mostly powerful divination spells, but some curative magic for problems folks don’t want to talk about, or communication with those who have passed on.
Amidst the brick curing houses, potters, ceramic workshops, and sculptors studios are the houses of the workers and families, and a market that serves their needs and those of visitors. The market boasts a glorious selection of artworks, so long as the medium is clay-centric, statuary, mosaics, and painted urns and vases.
Goods and Services:
Red Market – Food and drink, simple provisions, and aspiring artists fill the streets with tents, stands, and wagons. Lovast Firstson is the foremost smith but is often overworked by the clay pit owners, a handful of his apprentices have struck out on their own, causing a bitter rivalry between foundries in town.
Stony – Above an alley just off the market hangs a sign that reads “Stony will lift for food”, referring to the large half-ogre who lives beneath a tarpaulin inside. Stony is dimwitted but kind hearted, and as the sign suggests will lift, carry, and pull heavy loads in exchange for food. In his own words he can “lift one cows, pull three cows, and if I have a wheels, I can pull that many cows” to which he holds up a varying number of fingers. He is well fed, hard worked, and generally happy with his lot in life, and cannot be persuaded to join the heroes.
The Dry House – An old brick-curing warehouse converted to a bar and tavern. A heavily modified firing kiln prepares some of the best slow-roasted meats in Pipestone.
The Pit Pony – Stables are affixed to the inn, most visitors stay here for their first night or two in town at least. There is one permanent resident, Nethens, a failing sorcerer-turned-wizard who offers her magical services in and around town.
Red Sky At Night – Beneath the very nose of the Baron’s manor house there is a hidden speakeasy where the pit workers drink. The moonshine has an earthy taste and is free to the workers, but those few guests who are welcomed still have to pay up. Conversation is often rebellious, almost anarchic, and disagreements as to who ought to take the Baron’s place often outweigh any organisation. Nevertheless, a night at the Red Sky At Night is the best party in Pipestone.
As a side note, I envision Stony bursting into tears like a scolded four-year-old if he ever drops anything or does something wrong and having to be comforted by a member of the town guard.
Alright! I sincerely hope you enjoyed and can make good use of Pipestone (and thanks to Kev at Lawful Geek for the name), if you did then it will form the backbone of a miniature setting that may spring up out of future Dungeon Situationals. Next week, take your pick between a collection of non-magical curiosities to stock shelves and decorate the streets; variations on the theme of “Mummy” which will include a toad; or a variation on a couple of spells, Conjure Minor Elementals, Mirror Image, and Web, to the theme of a Chronomancer.