The Giant’s Glen

In the far northeast, in a quiet valley, the people live with the footprints of giants. Houses and huts are built beside tremendous structures from a bygone era. Snow and nature spirits dance alongside bridges that once supported more than mere mortals.

The giants left their lands long ago – but they also left their curios. Here in the shadows of giants and the fringes of the Wyld, a giant girl’s playthings have come to life. Some are here to protect the people of the glen. Some are here to take advantage of them. Still others would prefer to purify them.

They may be dolls, but their stories say that they are more, too. What secrets will you find? What strange allies will you gather, here in the Giant’s Glen?

Introduction

Long ago, before the First War, a race of gigantes ruled much of eastern Creation. Many of them were fractious, warlike, and foolish, but not all. There were also architects among them, sages, alchemists, wise women and clever men who had much skill with their hands. While the rest of their race died or was driven out of Creation, one clade of these clever giants survived for many centuries in a wooded valley in the far northeast. It helped them that this place was so close to the Wyld. Years could sometimes pass by in the outside world while they and their human servants slept through the night.

One of the giants was the leader, and her eldest child was given many gifts by an artisan amongst the giants. None of these gifts was more valuable than a cleverly made set of dolls. Each was the size of a grown human being. They were not alive then – not at first – but they were so cleverly made that even the Fair Folk gazed on them in wonder.

The child told stories about the dolls: that they were wise, or strong, or foolish, or funny. The child invented worlds, as children do, and had tea-time with her dolls, and went to war with them… and then she was gone.

Whether it was sorcery, fae magic, the sheer skill of the artisan, or the love of a child, her dolls came to life. They came to live amongst the people of the glen. Did they truly travel here from elsewhere, or do they only think they did? Some know that they are dolls, and some believe their own stories, too.

Now the tides of the Wyld have receded. Those who would come here seeking the giants’ power, or pursuing a fugitive, must decide what they will make of the glen and its natives, including the ancient dolls of a lost culture.

Physical Geography

glen-map-500

This glacial valley is listed as Giant’s Glen on those few maps that mention it. It is larger than that name might indicate, longer than it is wide, with many crevasses and rivers. As is common across much of the east, the trees here are gigantic, with leaves that can be the size of a horse. Both the deciduous leaves and the needles of the pines and spruces turn colors in the fall – a legacy of the Wyld’s presence. The leaves and needles litter the ground, and are occasionally used by the mortals who live here as craft supplies.

With these trees, the giants built tremendous longhouses, log cabins, and palisades. They built huge bridges over deep canyons.  Many have fallen into disrepair. There was even a wooden manse fit for a titan, with double-notch construction, now lying rotting and haunted.

In addition, there are signs of an even older, and larger people: mammoth stone buildings, huge ruins, and foundation-stones that speak of a truly daunting size of individuals who must have lived here in ages long past. Their only remaining legacy is a series of “singing stones” across the northeast, ten stories tall, that whistle and moan as the wind blows through them.

Winters are long, though milder than one might expect for how far north this land is. There are deep ravines and caverns where the snows never melt all summer. Fish can still be found beneath frozen rivers, and the people here often cut holes in the ice to get at them.

Local animals commonly include trout, moths (and their caterpillars) in a great variety of sizes, bears, rabbits, juncos, cardinals, and caribou. These last range from twenty-foot-tall monsters to miniatures barely larger than a lap-dog.

Almost the whole glen is a borderlands for the Wyld. The tides of chaos have been retreating from this place for some years, and it will be years more until they are finally gone.

The southwestern townships are the largest. Stonewall has nearly six thousand inhabitants. The villages and hamlets across the Glen are smaller. Pinedeep and Chestnut Ford are the largest, neither over 400 individuals.

The People of the Glen

There are few immigrants here in the glen, and the people have little variety in their base features. Hair is almost always black, with an occasional throwback of white from somewhere else in the North. Eyes are brown. Nearly everyone has light-brown skin with faint bark-like striations. They would be prone to sunburn if the sun were ever to breach the leafy canopy far above. The locals speak Skytongue with a Low Realm accent.

Families are differentiated in their mutations. The people at the southwestern end of the glen tend to be less touched, but the rest of the families have ancestors who were exposed to dangerous levels of Wyld. Each family has its own oddity: one has plaid eyes, another vestigial wings, another grows claws that must be trimmed for safety. There are tails, odd tufts of hair, and even a hermit with eyebrows of shifting water. Children typically trend toward the father or the mother, rather than being a blend of both. The northeastern families are more used to their strange appearances, but are also nervous when outsiders arrive, knowing how they are viewed elsewhere in Creation. Those in the southwestern townships look down on their more “uncouth” cousins.

Wood and stone make up most of the useful materials here. Weapons are typically spears and bows. Armor is either leathers from the caribou, or a lacquered lamellar made from the cones of the giant pines. Swords come from outside. None of the smiths here have much to work with in terms of iron.

The glen has much more obtrusive spirits than most places in Creation. They will often materialize to speak with travelers. Inquisitive sky-sprites sweep in ahead of a storm. Each campfire spawns a little red flame-person who helpfully sweeps away things that might unintentionally catch fire. Sleepy snow-spirits hide in the ice-caverns all summer and come out to play in the winter. Most common are the helpful forest-spirits still bound by an ancient pact to the giants. These various spirits rarely enter the places where humans dwell. They say that the mortal denizens here are the caretakers of their land, and should be left to their business… but they do like to hide in the edges of the forest and observe.

The people eat a fair amount of meat. Root vegetables are also common: potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and celeriac. Wild mushrooms are plentiful and delicious. The local specialty is a bear stew. Sweets are common as well, with birch syrup and spruce gum holding together acorn-flour treats studded with pine nuts. The elderly sip peppermint liqueurs in the evening, and the young prefer mead.

Using the Characters

If one ignored the fact that they were dolls, most of the characters in this set could fit in well in many areas of Creation. A Storyteller looking for a random NPC could easily pluck one of these characters and place them in her own game.

However, if they are to be encountered together, these characters are somewhat tied to this particular setting. The players’ characters will need a reason to come to the Glen. A few options are:

  • The circle might need magical ingredients to craft a particular artifact, or to repair a manse. The bones of giants are buried here, and they may still have potent magic within them for such a purpose.
  • The circle could be seeking a manse to call home. The enormous wooden manse of the gigantes might be just functional enough for the circle to repair – if they can convince some of the local NPCs to work with them.
  • The circle might be pursuing a fugitive Fair Folk, guilty of crimes against their nation, who retreated toward the Glen and is hiding amongst the people here.

It is this last option that is assumed in the descriptions here.

Some Fair Folk can hide via possession, live within someone’s dreams, or attach themselves as a parasitic mutation to any living creature. That includes the dolls. No one character is pointed out as the “default” host for the Fair Folk. Several are good options, and any of them might host it in their dreams. The process of hunting for this quarry and interrogating the people of the Glen without losing their leaders’ goodwill is sure to be a challenge.

Depending on the skill of your characters, the Fair Folk might hide itself more or less discretely. It might even leap from one character to another (especially if they slept in close proximity or made physical contact with one another), making the circle accuse a previous host while the creature attempts to escape. Regardless of pursuit, it will not go further into the Wyld. Certain deaths are preferable to others.

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Demon City Project X

At the abandoned edges of the demon metropolis, its streets touch on all cities, in all times. In one winding and twisted block, brass and ichor give way to concrete and steel. No winds blow. Wolves roam the streets. Empty eyes gaze from broken windows.

Memories stolen from the future, citizens taken from Creation, and demons birthed of frustration mingle here in an obscene experiment. An Accursed Academy rises to crush thought and stifle creativity. Demons bound within mortal forms impose age-old passions on youths already overwhelmed with emotion. One being moves to end it all.

Come see a different twist on Exalted, inspired by our modern world. Come see it before it all collapses. Witness the end of… Demon City Project X.

Overview

Creation has many cities, from the glorious to the filthy, but none of them compare to the Demon City Malfeas. Does Nexus have over a million inhabitants? Malfeas has billions. Does the Lap have its tremendous, beautiful statue, gleaming in the sunset? Malfeas has the green sun itself. As Malfeas is the heart of the demon world, so are Creation’s cities its heart (at least in the mind of the Demon City), and Creation’s heart is weak in comparison. It rankles Malfeas that its old oaths bind it away from such easy prey.

Born of this frustration is Raiokon, the Face Reflected in Oil, Despising Soul of Malfeas. Raiokon has taken miles upon miles of the black streets of Malfeas and wound them strangely through time. There are places where one can watch the First War from a rooftop, or see the ultimate victory of oblivion at the end of a crumbling alleyway. Somewhere on a street that touches Creation’s future – only a potential future, one hopes – one of Malfeas’ great souls conducts a strange experiment.

Raiokon reaches into twisting alleys in Creation’s darkest cities, seeking for those who hate their homes. It draws these mortals from Creation and carefully prunes the memories of what they were. These it replaces with new thoughts and feelings – some from the denizens of this strange future, some from its own imagination. Then it pairs the mortals with its own lesser souls, and places them all into this fractured time.

The inhabitants of the Contorted Blocks have no homes. They have no families. They attend the Accursed Academy (officially, Public Upper School #142) from the first bell at 7 AM to the last at 4 PM. They play at sport or love, quarreling with or pursuing each other in the evening. They walk in a suspiciously deep park, and frequent shops stocked by faceless people, less living beings than animate scenery. Then the darkest hour comes, and shadows sweep the world – and the first bell rings again. Raiokon denies them true sleep, so that they may never dream of home. Each day their memories of the past fade, replacing lived experiences with mere footnotes.

Is this an experiment to create deadly warriors against Creation? Are the Contorted Blocks nothing but a sadistic pasttime for Raiokon, created as they were from frustration? Is Raiokon seeking a particular individual, or simply taking those unfortunates who are saturated enough to urban despair for it to touch? None of those within the Accursed Academy know. Many don’t even suspect that anything is wrong. They remember Creation only as a figment, fading during the day – a dream they never could have seen. And yet they do remember, they do have scraps of dreams to cling to. Some piece of their connection with Creation remains intact.

Its gods have not entirely forgotten them.

Physical Geography

There are a lot of things about the Academy and the Contorted Blocks that don’t make sense. The school is much too large for the number of students it has. There are always empty classrooms and unused, overgrown courtyards. The blocks surrounding the school are a mishmash of residential and business, but all abandoned and empty. The park is well-groomed in some places (but where are the gardeners?) and utterly overgrown in others. It has wolves. The entire city has wolves.

There isn’t much need for a map in this setting. The park with its tiny forest is next to the school, and the city surrounds them both. If that seems half-finished, Raiokon was never one for completing a task to perfection. Storytellers should assume that if they need a set-piece that could fit in a city, a school, a park, or a forest, it can be shoehorned in somewhere. If someone needs to go from one place to another, they can arrive in time to make a difference.

The People of the Accursed Academy

Don’t look too closely at the shopkeeps. Who are they? What are they? Most people never notice. They only exist to sell you something. No need to pay attention. Most of the teachers, too – another algebra instructor. Another grammar nazi. Just vacant faces, empty minds inside an empty educational system. There’s no one here to interrogate.

The characters don’t talk about their parents. They think about them sometimes, and then forget. Sometimes they talk about friends who moved away, or teachers who don’t work at the Academy any more. Raiokon has tested and discarded many individuals in the past.

Those who ask questions will immediately see the cracks in the facade. Those who don’t? Simply won’t notice. Any concerns are gently soothed away from their minds, the way a parent soothes a fussy child, or a killer soothes its prey.

How to use the characters

Each of the NPCs in this setting is a mortal bonded to a second-circle demon. The demon grants them power, but the Intimacies of the demons leak through into the everyday interactions of the mortals. Each of these compound entities should be roughly on par with a young Dragon-Blooded warrior in terms of power. Some of them will be more dangerous (Soma, in particular); some will be less so. Most of the mortals don’t realize that they have a demon bound to them at all – again, Soma is the exception – and they just think that these powers grew in them because of their training. The nightly memory wipes keep most of them from prying too deeply into why they are so different from the other students at the Academy.

Killing any one of the children here will release the second-circle demon within them. Each of these demons should be a match for a newly-Chosen circle of Solars or a pair of combat-ready veteran Exalted. Why Raiokon is concealing a stronger power within a weaker vessel is left as an open question for the Storyteller. Perhaps the mortals would eventually become more powerful if given time to train and grow. Perhaps they’re merely intended to be very capable bomb casings.

There are three suggested modes of play for Demon City Project X:

  1. Have the players create their own teenaged characters, pulled from somewhere in Creation, as well as second circle demons with which to bond them. (A sampling of character and demon names can be found later in this work.) Then, tie them into the social web here. Replacing an appropriate number of NPCs with PCs is optional. Do it if you want to keep down the complexity of the setting.
  2. Have each player select one of the existing NPCs to play. This may work best for one-shots and convention games, where there is little time for character creation.
  3. Bring in more typical Exalted characters from Creation, who are either drawn into the Contorted Blocks (by Raiokon? by someone else?) or who learn of this place and seek it out.

Whatever the reason these particular mortals were recruited, the demons who have possessed them are paired with characters whose essences are already fairly like their own. The demons themselves know each other well, and have relationships that are often thousands of years old. Their feelings for one another can be powerful. What one of the mortals feels for another is shaped both by their own emotions and the ancient passions of their demons.

Demon City Project X is a complex social setting, with a web of alliances that will be utterly upended by the time this scenario runs its course. It’s important to for the Storyteller to know both the mortal characters and the demonic ones. Their relationships drive these characters, and either set of ties could lead to betrayal or alliance.

The Splinter of the Machine

The great Empire lies in ruins. Their empress is dead. Their gods are dead. Their lands and people are dying. From the land of rivers a powerful legion moves in to mop up the survivors and ensure that the Empire will never rise again. A desperate band of would-be heroes tries to save their lands – and their world – from final destruction.

This is not Creation’s future… and yet some day it might be.

Into this strange, mechanical shadow of a world, a group of shining heroes arrives from the World Before. Their actions may save this place or damn it to final destruction, but neither this place nor Creation will emerge unchanged.

History

The Splinter of the Machine is like a brass mirror held up to reality. Some views are accurate. Some are distorted. Let us look back to the Splinter’s beginning, that we may better understand its coming end.

Long ago, the gods relied on an ally of theirs in a great war: the Machine God. When the conflict was over, the Machine God still survived. The Chosen were afraid of it, and forced it to retreat rather than remaining in Creation. In this and many other ways was Creation lessened in the early days.

In its retreat, the vast Machine God shed pieces of itself, all unknowing, as an animal might shed hair. One fragment landed in the ocean, where it floated about aimlessly and was eventually colonized. This place was called the Splinter of the Machine. The Chosen eventually banished it too, using its resonance with its long-vanished originator. They sent it in a direction that was neither backward nor forward, up nor down, left nor right. They sent it away. The gears and pipes that were its underpinnings wrapped around it like a cocoon, and none could enter or leave. It became its own reality.

This banishment was when the Splinter’s destiny became strangely entangled with our world. History took on familiar forms – a great war, a military shogunate, an invasion from beyond, an empire, a legion determined to remain independent. These mirrored events took their own time to happen, and the hidden secrets of the Machine God yielded themselves to the Splinter’s natives over the centuries. Devices have been forged here that Creation never saw, but which mirror developments elsewhere, far across the void. The Splinter bore Creation’s history, but created it with the Machine God’s technology.

Physical Geography

Splinter map 500

The natives of the Splinter refer to Creation in the First Age as “The World Before.” Most records of that time are lost. The original settlers of the Splinter were mostly pirates and bootleggers, not much for keeping diaries.

The enormous Splinter itself is now known as the Blessed Continent. Until recently this was the seat of the Empire. The center of the Blessed Continent becomes more and more mountainous until a massive metal spire rises from its hub, once gleaming, now rusted. Mountains cross the continent east-west. Cities dot the coastline and hug the rivers farther inland. Someone familiar with Creation’s Blessed Isle would find much familiar here, at least as far as names go.

Off the Continent’s southeastern coast lies an island from Creation, caught during the Splinter’s banishment. This fertile land is River Island, which bears names and temperaments similar to those in Creation’s River Province. This place is now the home of the Seventh Legion, also known also as Lookshy. It was recently declared as the seat of the New Empire.

Cities in the Splinter are large, with the potential for millions of occupants. Improved technology helped them stay cleaner and grow taller than in Creation. In the countryside there are many places where nature has provided forests and scrublands, swamps and veldt. Though the ground is metal far below, somehow things still grow above. If the apples here taste strangely of tin, well, no one knows that they should be otherwise.

Metaphysics

In the Splinter’s sky, beyond the bright white sun and the dancing stars, is a great clockwork that turns slowly as days and ages pass.

The elements of Creation (wood, fire, water, air, and earth) are known here as the Five Exiguous Compounds. They are rare and potent elements with strong magical resonance. The Splinter’s makeup, in contrast, is more like that of the Machine God. Rather than being anchored against the dark by elemental poles, the world is graced with the Six Virtuous Beasts of Alchemy, whose existence stabilizes the land. They are:

  • The Brilliant Crystalline Spider
  • The Indomitable Metal Ox
  • The Unhesitating Tiger of Lightning
  • The Cunning Crocodile of Oil
  • The Benevolent Stag of Steam
  • The Calamitous Vulture of Smoke

Unfortunately, the Blessed Continent has recently lost almost every spirit that watched over it, in an event called the Holocaust of the Gods. The land is rusting and breaking apart. Rivers run with oil. The crystalline conduits in the ground darken and crack. Cities that once were great are now in crumbling disrepair after only a few years of neglect, and many millions have died. Whether the Six Virtuous Beasts remain is unknown.

The People of the Splinter

The people of the Splinter are descendant from those who settled there in the First Age. Most of them are ordinary folk, similar to those of the Blessed Isle, the North, and the Northwest. The most common language is Imperial, a tongue similar to High Realm, with some savants still capable of speaking Old Realm (which they refer to as the language of the “World Before”).

As in Creation, there are some whose awakened essence makes them powerful figures:

  • Some mortals (and others) become Technologists – science-sorcerers who invoke the ancient Protocols and call the body of the Maker to perform miracles, or who undertake lengthy Alchemical Workings that exceed the limits of science or reason.
  • There are very few Dragon-Blooded. There were none on the Splinter when it was banished, and few mortals with strong elemental bloodlines. Those Dragon-Blooded who do arise here are similar in power to those in Creation, though they are often less strenuously trained in childhood and more in demand for their unusual skills later on.
  • God-Blooded are fairly common. The gods here have sired and borne many children over the centuries. With the Holocaust of the Gods, this now seems as much a tragedy as a blessing.
  • The Six Virtuous Beasts of Alchemy occasionally select Amalgam Champions who synergize with their power and moral attributes. The beasts personally appoint each of their Chosen as they move across the world. The appropriate alchemical element courses through the champion, empowering them in ways both physical and ephemeral. At a glance they look like ordinary mortals, but they might move like lightning, burn like steam, or have the strength of metal.
  • Finally, the Celestial Aions are selected based on their birth time, the patterns of the gears in the sky, the timing of falling stars, the turning of the ages, and a myriad of unknown patterns. When the right clocks align, pure essence strikes from the sky, and an individual finds themselves unexpectedly coursing with essence. Each Aion is aligned with a particular sky-sign, of which there are thousands. Aions are much like the Exigents of Creation, each one having an idiosyncratic nature. Unlike the Exigents, however, Aions were not chosen by a particular god – merely by coincidence and timing.

Both the Continent and River Island are run by a set of ruling families, with names matching those from the Realm’s Great Houses and the Gentes of Lookshy. Dragon-Blooded are slightly more common in these lines, but they are far more likely to sport Amalgam Champions.

The Setup

The players’ circle passes through a “shallow space” between worlds. Depending on the Storyteller’s preference, this shallow space may be similar to a Shadowlands, or it may be a portal hidden within the Wyld. They find themselves in the Splinter; effectively an alternate Creation. They have a little time to explore, to consider their options – but the world before them is clearly dying.

At some point in their exploration, the circle runs across a secret mission from the remnants of the Empire. Their goal: to destroy the Luminous Godkiller Weapon that murdered the gods, or to turn it against Lookshy and end the war. They don’t realize how catastrophic that decision could be for their pocket dimension. The end of River Island could mean the final death of all gods, and the end of their world.

The players’ circle would be safe if they could escape to their home world in time. However, the shallow space through which they passed means that there will always be a connection between the Splinter and Creation. It may also mean that the Splinter is returning to Creation after so many years. Dealing with the Weapon first may save millions of lives in Creation. Sealing the gate, if such a thing is possible, may doom those in the Splinter. There are tough choices to be made here.

Questions

  • Shadowlands in Creation are created by death and suffering. If the “shallow space” between Creation and the Splinter is a similar thing, what kind of event might create it? What rules would govern the transition across the border?
  • If the “shallow space” is located in the Wyld, what natives of the Wyld will guard it or seek to destroy it? How will this portal look and behave?
  • Worse yet, what if the passage is found in the Labyrinth? What are the implications for the Machine God?
  • There is an event in the past of the Splinter that mirrors the Fair Folk invasion. Who or what invaded? How were they turned back?
  • If the Splinter is returning to Creation, is it because of the Weapon’s resonance with the elements of Creation, or is it because the Machine God itself is returning? How long would it take for the Splinter to return to Creation? Will it be weeks, months, years?
  • Is it possible to move the Splinter “alongside” Creation as the Underworld is, or will it reappear as an island? What power might suffice to make the difference? How violent an event would its return be?
  • How much will Creation’s future follow the Splinter’s history?

Red Jade Canyon

A few days before Calibration – isn’t it strange how so many stories start that way? And still, the date is the date: a few days before Calibration, a collection of strange events and stranger characters converge on a canyon in the deep southeast, where volcanoes belch ash and the sands flow like water.

First, the Guild came, with soldiers and engineers and merchants, and requested to see the mines that gave the canyon its name. The secret of their collapse nearly a year ago had gotten out, it seems. The merchant prince was friendly enough, but the danger was clear to those with eyes to see.

Then, worse, the Dragon-Blooded arrived. Three of them, demanding and frightening, asking to know where their damned jade was, and it became obvious that the mines were just as important to the Realm as the elders said.

Then, on their heels, riding out of the desert came two thousand cavalry led by She of the Thousand Tales, Lady Shafallika the Invincible. The cavalry set up camp at the mouth of the canyon, letting none enter or leave.

What has brought all of these forces here at once? When will the cavalry break their silence, and what will they demand? And when your characters meet their defining moment – when they are lifted up and empowered by the highest of the gods – whose side will they choose? Will their power be enough to stand alone?

Red Jade Canyon is a collection of NPCs that provide an interesting and conflict-filled setting for starting characters. It’s not intended as a full campaign setting, but it makes an excellent place for a first adventure, where characters are chosen by the sun to defend Creation from its foes.

Physical Geography

Red Jade Canyon map

(Click map to enlarge.)

The canyon is small (only about five kilometers long), but densely populated, with houses built into the walls and on any flat surface. Metal and stone are the most common building materials, partly due to their easy availability from the mines, but also out of necessity. Ash storms and tornadoes of fire scour the land frequently. Farms are kept beneath a series of thick, ancient glass domes that have weathered the storms for nearly eight hundred years.

Water comes from an ancient spring in the northern end of the canyon. From there it runs in a brook to the southern end. An underground reservoir at the southern end collects the water, providing enough for a small wet oasis before the water drains into the ground.

Mines dig deep into the mountains on all sides, sometimes perilously close to the volcanoes. All manner of metals can be found in rich veins here, including a vibrant red jade well-suited to the construction of artifacts. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the jade mine has been collapsed for nearly a year. This has led many people to leave the canyon. Not only has the land’s greatest wealth been depleted, but many fear that outside forces from the Guild or the Realm will turn the canyon into a work camp to get the mines functional again.

There are no shadowlands in Red Jade Canyon. There are demesnes farther into the mountains, but none in the canyon itself, and no manses nearby. The nearest settlements of any size are many kilometers away along the edge where the mountains meet the desert.

Foodstuffs here include teff and wheat, mint and cardamom, soybeans and garlic, eggplant and grapefruit. The ash-filled soil is a rich growing environment. Most foods were imported long ago from farther north, chosen for their hardiness and low water requirement. Chicken is the most common food animal, with a species of suspiciously fire-resistant goat close behind.

The People of Red Jade Canyon

About ten thousand individuals live in Red Jade Canyon. Nearly every family is native to the southeast, with skin tones tending to brown and reddish-brown, and dark eyes. Some rare individuals have red eyes, which, while disconcerting to outsiders, is normal here – merely a result of the town’s proximity to the elemental pole.

Names in Red Jade Canyon get longer with age. The first syllable is the family name. Later syllables are added when a child begins to walk, or after puberty, or after marriage, or when they come back to the canyon after traveling, or a half-dozen other important life events. A final syllable is added after death, to placate the soul.

Using the Characters

Our first setting, The Shores, was best for characters who were moving quietly through the world and more interested in subtle investigation or the careful acquisition of power than in overt displays of magical might. Red Jade Canyon is just the opposite. This is a place where a newly-chosen Solar will be drawn into existing events, augmenting and accelerating the story rather than derailing it. The characters presented here will not drop everything to deal with the sudden appearance of a new circle of Solars in their midst, but will instead draw the characters into a dangerous and explosive scenario.

The characters in Red Jade Canyon are also less tightly interconnected than those of The Shores. This makes it easier to take a handful of them and drop them into your own setting, or to remove one or two of them from this setting without breaking an important thread of connection.

Here’s a link to the relationship map for Red Jade Canyon.

The Shores

At the end of an age, the shadow was drawn across a once-beautiful province. Its fertile lands and proud cities fell before the Fair Folk, cruel even in their retreat. The land was remade for some fifty leagues as the beautiful shores of the Dreaming Sea were born.

Slowly, over the decades, humanity returned. The land filled first with the outcast, the homeless, and the unpopular, and later with their children. Centuries later, a new culture thrives: a melange of refugees who simply called their land “the Shores.”

Recently, the influence of faraway lands has come to the Shores. Amilar Valna, chosen of the dragons, once of the famed Seventh Legion, brought advisors, merchants, and heroes with her to mold the Shores into a powerful and unified land. Now, ten years after she established her rule, events are coming to a head which will either secure her rule or violently unseat her. Conflict is inevitable.

Where will your heroes stand?

The Shores is a collection of NPCs that provide an interesting and conflict-filled setting for newly-Chosen characters. It’s not intended as a full campaign setting, but it makes a good place for a couple adventures. This post describes the territory itself. Later posts will detail the characters who make this such a fascinating place.

Physical Geography

Map of the Shores, an area of forest and hills enclosed by mountains to the north and the Dreaming Sea to the south.

(Click map to enlarge.)

The Shores are located along the northern edge of the Dreaming Sea, tucked between a pair of mountain ranges. They stretch for about 250 kilometers of coastline, with perhaps 80 kilometers of land between the capital of Phaedros and the mountains to the north. Phaedros is a thriving city of 80,000 individuals. West along the coast is Tsannia (40,000), and Thaetrana (25,000) lies to the east. Most of the population lives along the shoreline, and roads to inland towns tend to be poorly-maintained.

The Shores are particularly unusual for their large concentration of shadowlands. Ghosts are common here, and ancestor worship is held alongside the worship of local gods and spirits. There are also a number of broken and abandoned manses across the northern mountains.

The coast is lined with warm sandy beaches and coral islands. Deciduous forests cover the land. Olives and spices grow here, along with citrus and kasha. All manner of plant life that is extinct elsewhere in Creation can be found on the border of the shadowlands, but their seeds will not grow in the lands of the living.

The People of the Shores

The local population is comprised primarily of four major ethnic groups:

  • Natives, who hold a slight majority, have a range of olive skin, and hair that ranges from brown to black with green undertones or highlights. Eyes are likewise brown, black, or green, often with flecks of other colors.
  • Families from farther East have bark-brown skin, dark green hair, and green or black eyes. A handful of families have birch-like skin.
  • Families from the South, across the Dreaming Sea, have skin that ranges from sepia to umber to cinnamon-bark red. Crossing the Dreaming Sea means crossing the borderlands Wyld, and eye color is the first thing to be affected – such visitors may have any eye color, including fantastical shades or subtle glows that intensify with concentration and careful thought.
  • Immigrants from the Blessed Isle have their folk’s typical pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. They are the smallest group, but also the wealthiest.

Local individuals have both a given name (assigned by their parents at birth) and a more descriptive name that they choose later in life. Family names are secret, as it is believed that magicians and witches could use them against the family. Revealing one’s family name is considered a great show of trust.

Using the Characters

The characters presented for the Shores have agendas that they consider important, but not important enough to make them ignore a group of obvious Chosen. Therefore, this setting will be most interesting and believable if encountered by characters as they travel, rather than using it as the first place where a group is chosen by the gods (an event that is typically difficult to ignore). Perhaps the group is crossing the Dreaming Sea and is pulled into events in Phaedros or Tsannia. Perhaps they come here from lands to the northwest, seeking refuge from the Wyld Hunt. They might also be drawn by the promise of wealth or secret knowledge in the mountain range’s manses. However they arrive, you will get best use of this setting if the characters are subtle, at least at first.

The characters of the Shores can also be removed from this setting and used in other places. The more of them that are used at once, the more easily disrupted their individual goals and relationships will be, so we recommend taking just a handful that fit the needs of your particular game.

Here’s a link to the relationship map for The Shores.