Check out this amazing concept map from Mordite Press developer D. Koch! This is really starting to come together!
If you’re new to this series, we’re collaboratively developing a short Torchbearer adventure.
If you need to catch up:
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part II)
- Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part III)
In our last installment, we nailed down some details about our adventure location, what treasures might draw the PCs to the location, why that treasure hasn’t been plundered yet and who currently inhabits the adventure location. Check Part III for the details.
I also asked you to supply your thoughts on how the current inhabitants have altered the location and what traps or terrain features could give the PCs trouble. There were only a few responses, but they were great. We’re going to go over them next week. If you have additional ideas, there’s still time, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts below.
The Scale of the Map
Before we get to that, though, I want to consider the map for a bit. Looking at the image of the bridge itself, a few things leap out to me.
First, I think I want the break in the bridge between the Gate House and the Middle Tower to be a bit larger — enough to make it clear that the break makes the bridge useless. It may be that we just need to give the reader a sense of scale. If that’s the case, we don’t need to change the image at all, we just need to add a scale to the key. What do you think?
Second, I’m thinking about the ruined Toll Gate in the south. D. Koch elected to make that tower ruins so we could focus on just one tower and keep the adventure area smaller. I’m 100 percent on board with the intent, but there are some kinks, setting history-wise, that we need to work out.
A Little Middarmark History
Just to get you oriented: Vanskrdal (now known as the Gottmark following the Gott conquest) is to the north1See Vanskrdal, Middarmark, page 23. It owes allegiance to Otkell, warchief of the Gotts2See Otkell, Warchief of the Gott Host, Middarmark, page 30. The Bjorning jarldom of Vargstrond3See Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23 is to the south of the bridge. It is ruled by Jarl Una the Cat4See Una the Cat, Jarl of Vargstrond, Middarmark, page 23, who owes allegiance to the Bjorning High Queen Astrid5See Astrid Yngesdottir, High Queen of the Middarmark, Middarmark, page 13.
Otkell and the Bjornings are technically at war, but for the past 20 years or so it has been a quiet affair — mostly skirmishes and raids, not the clash of armies. This, by the way, is why the Bjorning raiders have occupied the tower at our adventure location. They’re harassing the Gotts and causing trouble.
Also, we should figure out how the Bjorning raiders are crossing to the northern side to conduct their raids. Do they have a boat or raft nearby? Have they created some sort of structure that allows them to cross the gap, but which could be easily destroyed? What do you think? How do the raiders navigate this problem?
Why Is the Southern Tollgate in Ruins?
Back to the southern Tollgate. So here’s the thing: The bridge was broken by dwarven mercenaries 20 years ago during the initial Gott invasion. They did it to prevent the Gott cavalry from flooding across the bridge into Vargstrond and continuing the invasion. It was one of the major factors in halting immediate hostilities.
It makes sense to me that the Gatehouse at the northern end of the bridge was ruined in the assault. However! The fighting wouldn’t have reached the Tollgate at the southern end of the bridge. That means the Tollgate couldn’t have been destroyed in that war.
That doesn’t mean the Tollgate can’t be in ruins! We’ve already established that the Bjornings don’t have the engineering knowledge required to repair a structure like this. So, the question becomes: What happened in the past that led to the destruction of the Tollgate? Why didn’t it affect the Middle Tower?
We can use this to establish something new in the setting that the players can discover while adventuring here. Maybe it was destroyed by Ofnir the Black Wyrm6See Ofnir’s Lair, Middarmark, page 32; one of the depredations that led Bjornar the Grim to confront the dragon7See The Death of Bjornar the Grim, Middarmark, page 7? Maybe another monster entirely? Or maybe it was the result of some conflict between the Sakki and the Grælings? Or between the Sakki and the Skyrnir? A natural disaster? What do you think it was and what cool thing might the players discover or learn here? What evidence and effects of the event would someone see? It could lead to another adventure entirely.
Also, did the Bjornings erect some sort of wooden structure there in its place? Is it still there? Has it rotted away? What does that mean for reaching the Middle Tower from the southern end of the bridge?
The Secret Bit
Finally, somewhere in the Middle Tower we need some sort of secret or hidden entrance that grants access to the lower part of the tower and the underwater passage to the Nykr’s prison. What does that look like? How is it hidden? How does it work?
Do you have any other thoughts on the map? Any changes or additions you would make? For instance, I think at the bridge level the tower needs a passageway with a portcullis on either side and a ceiling covered in murder holes. I think that also means we need a stairway on the outside of the southern side of the Middle Tower that provides access from the bridge to the first floor of the tower. Comment below!