The GharFang Deeps
The Founding of the First Dungeon
Many hundreds of years ago – some say thousands – The Realm Lord of Gryffon’s Realm, Aros the All-Seeing created the first Dungeon to challenge the newly ordained Adventurers of the Realms.
This is the tale of the first adventuring band to set foot in those terrible and exciting confines; the story that has been sung by every bard and storyteller from the moment they returned from the surface to tell of their deeds, their horror and their triumph.
The story begins with an ancient poem…
After a great storm that lasted three days and three nights, the citizens of Old Corinth awoke to find the sun shining and their city safe. But, there was a change…
In the city square, where once the statue of the great War-Priest Corinth the Just had stood, erected after his victory at Kildurin, where the allied nations of Gryffon and Amar fought the Western realm of Nhor and drove the invaders into the gore-colored surf of the Eventide. But the statue was no more and in its place there now stood a great grey-black finger of stone. Emblazoned on the stone, in letters of fiery gold, the words of the Realm Lord were plain for all to see, still steaming in the cool morning air.
Four Tiers of cavernous Doom
Changeable, shifting, alive;
At the very Center
Hidden in the Deepening Dark
My greatest treasure doth reside.
Seek it though it Bring You Death
Seek it though it Bring You Fame
Seek it to assuage, to comfort and to Terrify.
But Know You this, my bonny child
Though You Seek and Struggle and Strive
Seek though you Might, To Seek is Not to Find.
The Priests of the Temple came down to the square and along with the rest of the populace, gazed in awe and fear at the words.
Even the old war-priest Corinth himself, now decrepit and weary with age, was carried down to view the miracle.
The people worried and wondered… what could it mean? And then, pages and servants from the Castle came running, shouting in fear and wonder – all of the weapons were gone! Blacksmiths and soldiers, mercenaries and sell-swords soon took up the cry as well… not one weapon could be found in the entire city.
Corinth, the old priest spoke to them, saying:
“On the last night of the storm, when all was dark and wind and rain, The Realm Lord sent his servant unto me and delivered to me these words:
‘War is no more! No battle for land or fortune or petty slight shall ever take place from this time forth. No sword or axe shall strike in anger; no blade or hammer shall shed blood in the Realms. Those who seek to War, Those who Seek to Destroy, shall in turn be Destroyed.
As War is in the Blood of All, the madness and heat of it shall be Purged by Glory and Fortune. From this time forth, all who seek to swim in the Flood of Battle and Conflict will do so only with the Consent of the Realm Lord – as Chosen Champion’s of the Realm – Adventurer and Explorer and Fortune-Hunter.
Throughout the Realm Places of Power will arise – Places of Mystery, Marvel and Wonder – Tombs and Dungeons, filled with wondrous treasures and guarded by fierce and terrible beasts.
This then shall be your Blood and Battle; this then shall be your War.’
Over the next several years, riders and messengers were sent out and all returned with the same mystic and terrible news. No war, no battle, all weapons had vanished. Any metal worker or blacksmith that was commissioned to make new weapons found that they could coax them out of forge as they had always done, but no sooner had they cooled enough to be of use, that they became brittle and useless. And then word arrived, from the messenger of the Realm Lord himself.
Drifting down from the clouds, Lor the Avatar of Aros appeared before the people of Old Corinth and declared that a Festival should be prepared, a festival of Challenges. The Challenges would determine who would be chosen to brave the First of the Realm Lord’s Dungeons, to seek the very crown of the Realm Lord himself. The ones who would brave the GharFang Deeps would emerge victorious, Champions of the Realm and be heralded throughout the Realm as Defender, Protector and Hero.
Lor then rose once more into the clouds, imparting one final word: “Prepare.”
One month to the day, Lor once more visited himself on the city. He walked the streets, silent and grim and at each forge he stopped and placed the foot of his staff on the anvil. Powerful magic flowed from his staff and the anvil would glow white-hot and Lor would move on. Until every shop he had visited, had been so touched and then he faded from sight, gone once back to his Master.
The metalworkers and blacksmiths gaped in awe, their anvils cooling once more to cold, black metal… and each of them was suddenly seized with creative fire. For a week and a day, hour upon hour; day upon day, night after night, they worked without pause. And at the end of one week, a thousand weapons had been crafted. The finest weapons the Realms had ever seen: keen edged blades, razor-sharp axes, spears, lances, hammers and maces, morning stars, flails and a dozen others. And then Lor returned as the final note of the metal-smith’s hammers was still hanging in the air, and he gathered all of the weapons and marked them and said unto the people, “Know this, that these are no longer instruments of War, but rather weapons of Honor. Whosoever raises but one of these against his fellow, then he shall break the world, and from that time forth naught but eternal punishment, death and destruction shall reign.
These are the blade and spear, the axe and the shield of Heroes and only a true Champion shall wield them. Let the Challenges begin.”
And with a gesture, the fields outside the city walls were transformed, shaped into arenas and testing grounds. And the challenges were made known to all and from all over the Realm they journeyed to take part, to test themselves and to win the name of Champion.
And so the Festival was held, for twelve days and twelve nights, as the brave and the strong, the wise and quick all vied for the Honor to brave the GharFang Deeps. In the end, teams were chosen, and dressed in colors and signs to mark them from their competitors and they all marched to the Deeps, all determined to return with the Prize.
And thus, has it ever been. That when the Realm Lord deems it time, that a new Festival is held, to find new Adventurers and Champions, and each one is tested in the Deeps of GharFang, to prove themselves worthy of the title of Hero.
The Legend of the Deeps
The Deeps are a treacherous and hazardous place, ever transforming from one appearance to the next, shaped and altered by the fickle whim of Lor, the avatar and servant of Aros. Yet, is the tale of the Dawnfire Blades known to all, for they were the first to retrieve the fabled crown and the eldest and most honored of the Champion’s Guilds.
Ten bands, five men strong, left to brave the deep and the dark of GharFang – yet only one group of five returned. This is the tale of those five – of Arik, Kron, Tharnor, Naelmar and Ghorm, the first who carried the banner of the Dawnfire Blades.
Beasts of the Realm
Creatures and Beings Every Adventurer Should Know
Adventurers are viewed with awe, reverence and fear by the common folk of the Realms and for good reason. These brave and foolhardy souls face dangers and horrors quite frequently, but the regular hard working folk of the Realms are also acquainted with a fair number of beasts and monsters that not only roam the tombs and dungeons explored by the likes of the Company of the Nine, but because these creatures also can be found in the local woods and forests, shadowy abandoned buildings and even the dark back alley of a major city.
Following is a list of creatures that each citizen of the Realm has been made aware of from childhood, through legend, story, or personal encounter…
The Mage Hound is a ferocious beast conjured by a Mage or Wizard of Master’s Rank. The creatures are a frightening mix of flesh, shadow and illusion, and look like the bastard offspring of a dire wolf and porcupine. They are most commonly conjured to guard a precious item, person or object, but have been known to be used as guard animals in palaces or merchant gardens. There are persistent rumors that a unbound version of the beasts exist in the wild, and many Adventuring Guilds have stalked them, but to no avail. there is a standing bounty of 500gp to anyone who can provide proof in the form of a slain unbound Mage Hound.
The Ghul are a race of creatures that dwell underground and that were created by the Realm Lords themselves to populate the many dungeons and tombs that dot the landscape. These are the most frequently encountered beasts in the dungeons of the Realms, and many Adventuring Guilds have ongoing contests to see who can collect the most Ghul ears and fingers as trophies and symbols of prowess. The Ghul are vaguely humanoid, appearing as nearly naked, gaunt goblin-like creatures with pale skin, mouths filled with sharp teeth, dirty clawed hands and bright, cunning pure black eyes. It is documented that they are cannibalistic, falling on their slain comrades after battles.
The Festival Challenges
During the Festival of Champions those who wish to join the ranks of the Realm’s Adventurers must undergo a rigorous day filled with tests, contests and challenges – players who successfully complete their class challenges will be selected to participate in the Champion’s Quest.
Ten individuals from each class are selected to participate in the Quest and those chosen are divided by class into five teams. Obviously the Players will all be on the same team.
Each team is designated a colored banner imprinted with an easily identifiable symbol to carry during the Quest.
If the Banner is lost or destroyed during the Quest, this counts as immediate failure and disqualification.
Each member will then have a patch with this color and symbol sewn onto the shoulder of their armor or clothing so that they can be more easily identified by the crowd. Each team’s symbol is chosen by a guild sponsor, which also provides the team’s initial 100g.p. equipment allotment. This year’s team colors and symbols* are:• Red Diamond with a Gold Eagle – The Crimson Band
• Black Square with a Purple Flame – The Black Company
• Deep Green Pentagon with a Black Sun – The Emerald Brethren
• Light Blue Pyramid with a White Stallion – The Sapphire Alliance
• White Circle with a Silver Rose – The White Companions
• Grey Crescent and Copper Sword – The Grey Fellowship
• Violet Octagon with a Black Star – The Amethyst Legion
• Gold Rhombus with a Red Spear – The Brotherhood of the Spear
• Green Pentagram with a Silver Stag – The Silver Cohort
• Copper Hexagon with a Mahogany Tree – The Auburn Branch
*DM’s can feel free to adjust color and symbol as they see fit.
These five teams are then tasked with retrieve the Realm Lord’s Crown from the dark and twisted catacombs of the legendary Gharfang Deeps, a testing ground for young adventurers. Not only will it test their resolve in the face of dangerous monsters and traps, but also their ability to rely on one another and work as a team.
Those who fail may not come back alive.
The city of Gorath is the location where the Heroes Festival is being held and where the players will meet each other.
The city is one of the oldest in Gryffon's Realm, but it is not the capitol. It is (whn not hosting an event as momentous as the Festival) a medium-sized hamlet with a population that hovers around 7200 – give or take.
The city does a brisk "sea" trade as it is a port on the great Inland Sea, but it is also a trade center for outlying towns, territories and other communities. Gorath is famed for its fish and seafood industry, but also has a number of large fruit and wheat farms in the territory in a decent radius outside the city proper. It also boasts three of the more well-known inns and taverns in the Realm – The Sword & Crown, The Wandering Friar and The Brass Teat.
Like many of the cities throughout Gryffon's Realm, Gorath has no real defenses to speak of – no walls or moats protect the homes, house, shops and business' that sit within the city boundaries.The city does have a militia which is manned on a voluntary basis, but never seems to be without a full compliment.
The city has it's down sides, the wharf is rife with some illicit trade and businesses, but nothing that is not tolerated by the law. Houses of ill-repute, and thieve's dens (i.e. opium or hashish dens) and pawn shops or fences all can be found within a few streets of the docks.
The city is dominated by two large areas – the City Center, which is a roughly circular section which contains a city square/forum and all of the city's government buildings. and a large area appropriately named The Colosseum, where entertainment and events are held.
A preliminary Map has been uploaded to the Maps section.
Realm Lords – Powers, Abilities & Function
As caretakers, the Realm Lords strive to insure that a cautious environmental balance is maintained and that that no life form should have too great an advantage over others, and carefully monitor these new landscapes.
As free will is a gift of all sentient species, this balance is not enacted directly by the Realm Lords (as this might result in resentment and dissatisfaction or jealousy among the mortal races), but rather through seemingly natural disasters or hardships that will maintain a respectful and obedient relationship between mortals and their godlike custodians.
If these measures are ignored or if the balance is still in danger, then a Realm Lord may employ an agent or emissary to enact his or her will, and this agent that will carry out the Realm Lord’s will.
These agents of the Realm Lords are varied and take many forms – signs and portents, dreams and visions, physical and elemental manifestations, horrors and wonders. For this reason, the many societies that have arisen in the years since the Cataclysm are superstitious and religious in nature.
Cults and Houses of Worship have grown up around these emissaries, for in the minds of the races these representatives have achieved god status themselves, especially since there are so many documented cases of their manifestations throughout the history of the Realms since the time of the Cataclysm.
These Cults and Churches go by many names, some hinting at pre-Cataclysm beliefs and others, which are proto-typical divine or elemental beings, worshipped as deities: any of the underworld demons for example (Anguish (Orcus), Despair (Demogorgon), Bale (Chernobog), etc.) or mega-powerful creatures such as dragons or elementals.
To aid in keeping the natural aggressive tendency of life from once again exploding into unmitigated violence, the Realm Lords devised a system of checks and balances that would direct aggression into more competitive channels…
To assuage the violent nature of the races, many of the Realm Lords tasked ambassadors and envoys to oversee a vast army of craftsmen and builders to construct vast underground complexes, or to convert natural caverns into testing grounds for adventurers and treasure seekers.
The envoys of the Realm Lords were tasked with maintaining these dungeons and ruins, to keep them stocked with all manner of foul and frightening beasts and to keep the traps and puzzles that barred the way to untold treasure in working order.
Many nations and cities of the Realms depend on the treasure taken from these catacombs as the basis for their economy – and many fortunes are won and lost based on the fortunes of the adventurous ones who dare fight their way through these dark and dangerous places.
These complexes became famous and feared for the many monsters and traps that awaited those brave or foolish enough to enter. Over time, guilds were formed and sponsors paid for the right to back those who delve deep underground. The Adventurer is Celebrity, and their name is currency in all corners of the Realms – the more fame they can win, the richer they will become.
The Call to Adventure
After the Realms had been divided and healed, the Realm Lords created a set of challenges or endeavors for the great heroes of the Realms. These Champion’s Endeavors were upheld by each race as the highest of honors; a chance to test themselves against others, against nature and against powers and evil outside of their Realm. In this way, war was held in check and devastation of land and homes averted.
The first and oldest of the endeavors set forth as law by the Realm Lords is the Call to Adventure.
Those who are chosen are sent out into the world to seek that which was lost – to bring back to the Realm, artifacts and treasures that are now guarded by curses or creatures; or hidden behind a veil of secrecy, mystery and myth. This is a celebrity profession (not unlike like our modern sports stars) and competitions are held to be able to prove one worthy of joining their hallowed ranks.
Once every four years, a weeklong festival is held. During the festival, numerous feats of strength and tests of will are performed among those old enough to attempt them. The winners of the contests are then brought before the city elders to be given one final test.
The finalists are divided into teams and are then each team is charged with a grand quest (generally the quest is different for each team, but can involve one or more teams pitted against each other), usually to seek a highly prized artifact or treasure and to return it to the town square.
Those who return from the quest are brought before the huge festival crowd and all of them kneel on a dais. At that point, the Realm Lord (or the Realm Lord’s avatar) will descend and bestow upon them the title of Adventurer. They are courted by various guilds and sponsors and missives are sent throughout the kingdom to be posted in each village and town, their names added to the rosters of the famous.
An Adventurer is from that moment forward (until the time of their retirement or demise) known as a champion of the Realm. They have many privileges, but also many restrictions.
Among their many privileges, adventurers are treated with awe and receive many gifts from the inhabitants of any community they pass through. Their status as a Champion of the Realm, grants them access to the best inns, the best food and the best equipment. All that is required is that they leave something with the community that can be added to that village or town or city’s hallowed treasures. Failure to provide an item of worth or value that matches or exceeds treasures already owned by the community will not change the status or privilege of the adventurer, but will result in a measure of lost respect, that can only be regained by replacing the lesser treasure with one of greater value.
Each privilege is matched by a restriction – as in the above example; the more generous a community, the greater the item of value that is required to maintain the Adventurer’s status.
Many Adventurers use their status for the good of their chosen Realm, but others treat their fame and status with a disdain and recklessness that borders on true evil. They are mean, ruthless and pay no respect to the Adventurer’s Code. They still adhere to the rule of seeking a treasure to add to a community trove, but they have no regard to its value. Returning with a mere bauble to them satisfies the contract.
Many Adventurers start their careers living outside of established communities, either at sponsored guildhalls or private estates where they can rest, recuperate and train. Many also form adventuring bands and live off the land, setting up temporary camps as they move from place to place.
The classes of Adventurer’s that are normally used in D&D are also used in Realm Lords, but some of the stigma associated with the classes doesn’t apply in this setting. For example, thieves are a much needed class while exploring, but can be looked down on or outlawed in towns and cities. In Realm Lords, Rogues are hailed for their craftiness, nimbleness and quick-fingers. To have one’s pocket picked by a Rogue is a privilege and a symbol of status.
In Realm Lords, the classes of Adventurer are as follows:
• Fighter (defender, martial)
• Ranger (striker, martial)
• Cleric (leader, divine)
• Paladin (defender, divine)
• Wizard (controller, arcane)
• Warlock (striker, arcane)
• Warlord (leader, martial)
• Rogue (striker, martial)