Category Archives: Atlas Inspirare

Atlas Inspirare: The Starspire Forest

I’ve decided to start formalising the notes I have on my homebrew world of Thalen. As such, here is a brief overview of the Starspire Forest, found on the continent of Omnis, kept as setting agnostic as possible but hopefully still of interest.

The Starspire Forest has long been the site of a quiet struggle between the forest-folk who call it home, the outlaws who call it sanctuary and the primordial horrors which dwell beneath its leafy boughs, between the forces of the wild places of the world and those who would tame the ancient arboreal guardians of its secrets. For the most part, the struggle is bloodless, the forest-folk are content to remain in their glades and treetop cities, the interlopers stay hidden among the groves and caves that dot the forest floor and the creatures of the forest are kept at bay through the tireless efforts of forest-folk way-watchers and outlaw soldiers alike.

The forest-folk, a mix of native peoples and immigrants seeking a less civilised way of life, tend to the land with a skill equalled by few others and look after the forest with a reverential care. They are happy to receive guests, and to take in outsiders, provided an utmost respect for the forest is displayed. On the few occasions when their colonies and holdings have been infiltrated by people wishing them ill, their retribution has swift and left no survivors. Even the most reckless of the outlaws living in the forest quickly learn to live within the bounds the forest-folk set.

Most of the forest-folk live within Star-reach, a treetop city built in the heart of the forest. Visitors to the city are frequently awed by the wooden platforms the upper city is built upon, vast sections of wood seemingly grown from the trees around the buildings, none of which show signs of aging or decay. The lower city, cast in eternal shade under the overhanging structures above, is lit primarily by magical fire and is the main centre of trade and commerce within the forest. Several large caravanserai have been constructed around the natural springs welling up from the porous rocks beneath the city and a thriving merchant caste calls the lower city home.

Whilst many of the smaller colonies (as the disparate settlements the forest-folk have founded are known) throughout the Forest number their populations in the low hundreds, two exceptions exist. The Bright Cliffs, long home to a monastic order and named for the naturally luminescent flowers which grow upon the long ridge-line, is a conglomeration of settlements many miles apart that functions as one disparate city with trade and communication flowing constantly between its many factions. The other, the city of Deephaven, is a subterranean town built into the heart of a vast mining complex. Deephaven is well protected by natural defences but counts a large number of magic users among its standing guard.

For their part, the outlaws survive on subsistence farming and whatever they can steal from travellers on either of the main trade routes through the forest. The forest-folk, committed to their ideals of freedom, tolerate these thefts, but punish any excessive bloodshed or barbaric behaviour. Due the disparate nature of their backgrounds, the outlaws tend to band together in groups of a shared ideology, instead of along familial or racial lines, and it is not uncommon to encounter to two warring factions of outlaws fighting over the same caravan. Because of their reliance upon the trade routes for luxury goods, many outlaw camps and villages can be found within a few miles of the well-travelled areas of the forest, but all of them are protected by traps, pitfalls and (in some rare cases) powerful magic.

The largest of these settlements, Wilhelm’s Retreat, can be found 5 miles from the Ashen Way and is built in a clearing of the forest three miles across. Many of the smaller outlaw bands call this home, in return for tithing a portion of their food and spoils to the Master of the Hall. The Retreat is protected by numerous rings of traps, hidden guards, fortified walls, and mind-snaring enchantments and is virtually impenetrable without a guide.

Nearly 600 people call Wilhelm’s Retreat home, many descended from the now legendary bandit-lord who founded the settlement, and a rudimentary council has been formed in recent years to govern the peaceful day-to-day business of the town. There has been talk of creating a town watch to ensure the continued co-existence of the many groups within the walls but, due to loud public outcry, this has not yet happened.


Plot Hooks

The trees which support Star-reach have started to wither and die. Whilst the populace is being kept in the dark for now, if the problem isn’t solved soon, catastrophe is inevitable.

Something has destroyed the once thriving village of Golden Falls. The local forest-folk are worried that whatever did it will strike again.

Bandit activity along the Ashen Way has increased dramatically in recent days and survivors report their attackers having an almost inhuman strength and ferocity.

Travellers upon the Desert Way have reported strange, inhuman voices calling to them from the darkness under the eaves by the side of the trade route.

When a member of the forest-folk stumbles into Wilhelm’s Retreat demanding the fulfilment of their ancient oaths for some mysterious purpose, the council struggles to reach a consensus without sending agents to investigate.


Atlas Inspirare: Marcher’s Vale

Marcher’s Vale is a large, flat grassland. Claimed hundred years ago by the family of a long forgotten Lord, it takes its name from its use as a regular staging post for military forces during the long years of the Emerald War.

Situated on the borders of the Gravewyld Forest and the human kingdom of Ravanosk, Marcher’s Vale is roughly fifty square miles of arable pasture land. Situated within its borders are many farms, hamlets and villages, comprised mostly of human and elven settlers from the surrounding countryside.

Unlike other areas of the land, there are almost no racial tensions among the people of the Vale. This is due, in part, to the necessities of life here. With almost no resources other than fresh water and arable land, everyone must tend to their own craft in order to survive. As a result, the inhabitants of the Vale depend upon each other for survival and there is a remarkably low crime rate.

What crime there is, is dealt with the by Reeve. Appointed by the monarch in the far away city of Rusthold, the Reeve holds office from a fortified mansion in the largest settlement of the Vale, the city of Marcher’s Keep.

An ancient motte and bailey castle, Marcher’s Keep remained the only permanent structure in the Vale for centuries. Situated atop the lone hill, known to all as Giant’s Seat, Marcher’s Keep was built to guard the Vale during the Emerald War and was converted into a market town after the end of that conflict. Now, it functions as the trading centre of the Vale, as well as housing the few officials deemed necessary to keep the Vale a functioning region of Ravanosk.

Home to the Reeve, the Tithe-counter and the High Confessor, Marcher’s Keep is a thriving urban centre and plays host to a regular calendar of festivals, feast days and celebrations. During one of the many events, anyone is entitled to join the official parades and many use the occasion to catch up with old friends and learn new stories.

For their part, the three representatives of the King’s court tolerate the local’s predilection for partying with amused condescension. They view it as an easy way of keeping the peace and use every opportunity they can to seed the crowds with their agents to ensure they remain in touch with popular thought and opinion.

Outside of Marcher’s Keep, the towns of Springsough and High Pasture are the largest centres of civilisation.

Springsough is sited at the north tip of the Vale, a large town built in the foothills that rise to meet the White Peaks. With its intimidating walls, twisting streets and well-trained militia, the old city has guarded the source of the life-giving Iallen river for as long as the Vale has been inhabited. Traditionally used to guard the entrances of the Vale against the tribes that call the White Peaks home, Springsough has recently seen an influx of refugees from the nearby Gravewyld.

High Pasture, roughly halfway along the eastern border of the Vale, is almost the opposite of Springsough. The town itself began as a permanent livestock market some two hundred years ago and grew rapidly. Originally a cluster of small stone buildings, High Pasture now counts some fifteen hundred people as its residents with an ever increasing transient population. Situated well away from any traditional threats, High Pasture is a market town without equal in Ravanosk.

Plot Hooks

An unknown illness is sweeping through the stock of High Pasture. No mundane treatments have any effect.

The sounds of conflict can be heard echoing through the tunnels that honeycomb the hills around Springsough, but no bodies have been found.

The Gravewyld burns in the light of the full moon, and dread noises fill the air. Something is happening among those twisted trunks.

Marcher’s Keep has long stood for civilisation and the royalty, but recently there have been whispers of dissent. Parties unknown seem to be attempting to overthrow the royal presence.

Armies of the past have begun appearing as spectral images roving the grasslands around the tiny hamlet of Rulfstead. No official authority has deemed the matter worthy of investigation.

Atlas Inspirare: The Fademarsh

The Fademarsh is a spectral place of unseen threats and hidden wonders. It has existed for as long as there have been stories. Legend tells of a portal to another place that once existed in the middle of it, sealed long ago by a band of mythical figures.

If a traveller manages to make their way into the depths of the Fademarsh, they will find a collection of ruined villages.

Iron Well, the youngest of the villages, is in the best and most complete state. For some reason, the marsh has made little progress in reclaiming the land and the buildings are mostly complete, their contents largely undisturbed.

It is only as one makes their way to the centre of the village that signs of battle and conflict become apparent. Large rents in the stonework of the houses tell of gigantic weapons of war, and bones, far larger than any person, lay scattered on the ground. The focus of the village itself, the Well, is a large, fortified building.

At its very centre is a well leading down into the depths of the earth. They say that at certain times of the year, something makes it way out of the well and roams the village.

The oldest of the villages was inhabited, on the other hand, has been almost completely subsumed by the marsh. Carrock’s Rest used to be an important site for pilgrims and grew rich on the money brought in from the world outside the Fademarsh.

Now, however, it is a collection of stones and piles of decayed treasure. Rumours tell of a beast, large and terrible, that has made its lair in the broken bones of the long dead god that the village was built over.

Of course, the truth of these rumours and of the existence of the god’s skeleton is anyone’s guess. All the people living on the outskirts of the marsh know for certain is that, every now and then, a terrible roar can be heard, echoing over the still waters of the marsh.

The Vigil, a former staging post for a long lost kingdom, could only be loosely termed a village when it was a vibrant, thriving community of soldiers and camp followers. Many heroes of yore are supposed to have grown up here.

Quite what The Vigil was guarding has long been lost with the slow decay of the official records. What remains now is a large area of cleared and irrigated land in the north-western corner of the Fademarsh. Large piles of weapons lay rusted and decaying around the edges of a strangely clear patch of land.

For the traveller who wants to risk it all, it said that hidden among those weapons is a treasure wielded by the kings and queens of old. It is doubtful that such a potent artefact, if it exists, has remained unguarded for so long.

The name of the other village has long been lost, if it was ever known. Built by a strange race long before the coming of settlers to the region, it had been long abandoned by the time the first explorers found it.

Constructed of a strange stone not native to the area, the buildings have stood the test of time. What their purpose and contents were, however, has baffled academics for years. Each and every stone is covered in a strange script belonging to no known language.

In recent years, there have been discussions about establishing a permanent academic presence there. A joint venture between several universities has been proposed several times, the latest only weeks ago when two of the stones were revealed to have seemingly changed position without assistance.


Plot Hooks

Strange and unearthly creatures have been spotted in the Fademarsh, creatures that have not been seen since the rumoured portal was closed.

A monster hunting guild has been contracted to hunt and kill the beast that lives in Iron Well. Such a job would pay handsomely and carry no small amount of reputation.

A pilgrimage recently set out to reclaim Carrock’s Rest. All contact with it, magical, mundane or divine, has since been lost.

The current monarch is looking for explorers to retrieve a hereditary weapon from the ruins of the the Vigil.

A professor of good standing in the university recently returned from his studies in the marsh. He has not been the same since and refuses to speak of what happened to him there. He will say only that ‘They are returning for what they left behind’.

Atlas Inspirare: Mara’s Wake


Welcome to this, the first of a (yet another) new series of posts. The purpose of this series to provide inspiration for cities with which to populate your fantastical worlds, as well as supply some suggested plot hooks.

Feel free to take as much or as little content as you wish to use in your own games.



Deep in the middle of the Emerald Bog lies the city of Mara’s Wake. Named for the saint who raised the first walls and led the efforts to drain the bog, Mara’s Wake is a trading hub, and the gateway to the North, for the entirety of the Southlands. Protected by thick walls of stone and miles of mist-covered, bottomless peat, it has resisted invasions, plagues and disasters for five hundred years.

To gain access to Mara’s Wake, one must buy the services of an Emerald-guide, a select handful of people authorised to escort travellers, traders and pilgrims across the Emerald Bog, using the few safe paths that exist. After three days of travel in a permanent, green twilight, clothes damp from the ever present mist, visitors will come upon either the Star Gate or the Tower Gate.

The former is a solid construction of preserved timber, metal and stone that straddles the road leading directly into the marketplace. It is manned at all time by no less than ten guards and is the most used method of entry and exit for visitors.

The Tower Gate is situated at the base of a three storey tower built by master masons and guards the temple quarter where the Saint’s bones may be found. The tower itself serves as a barracks and armoury and only distinguished guests are permitted to use this gate.

The natives of Mara’s Wake themselves know of a number of smaller gates and paths out into the Bog, many leading to popular fishing spots or the few hills capable of supporting farming that exist within it. Whilst they are welcoming to outsiders, the people who live in Mara’s Wake treat themselves as a people apart, unwilling to share the secrets of their city but happy to share its bounties.

Due to its position as the nearest city to Great Eagle’s Pass, Mara’s Wake sees visitors from both the Southlands and the more populous folk from the North. Common traveller’s tales tell of chance meetings between the Kings of the North and the Emperor of the South taking place in Mara’s Wake and many within the city can claim descent from travellers of both nations who met there and never left.

Governed by a council of five, Mara’s Wake holds an election every three years with only one post being hereditary. The Speaker is always a member of the Saint’s family, responsible for maintaining the temple district and directing the people of the city in matters of faith. The other four posts are open to any master-craftsman who wishes to stand for election.

Only three times in the history of the city has a council proved so unpopular that it has been dissolved by the Speaker. For the most part, its decisions are viewed as fair and just, with many people regularly visiting the council chambers to discuss matters or listen to hearings and council sessions.

In addition the temple district, where many travellers and pilgrims have set up their own shrines, and the marketplace, Mara’s Wake has a thriving Artisans Quarter and a large fishing and farming district pressed against one of the city walls where the Bog has been turned into farmland for crops and animals, as well as large pools of deep, clear water. No-one knows for certain how the fish get into the pools, but there have never been any signs of shortage or over-fishing.

Plot Hooks

The council has been killed, and the Speaker kidnapped. No-one knows who did it or how it happened.

Fishermen have reported strange lights from the bottom of one of the pools each night.

A spate of deaths in the temple quarter has caused great concern among the city Watch, but there are no clues to be found.

A recent outbreak of plague in the marketplace has forced everyone inside for safety and the city is suffering. Can a cure be found?

The Speaker has not been seen for weeks, her house is empty and the Saint’s bones have been stolen. The city Watch is not trained or equipped to deal with situations like this.