Tag Archives: Location

The World and its People: The Bright Cliffs

I took a few weeks off for personal reasons, but I should be back to my regular update schedule for a few weeks.

This week I’m happy to present a deeper dive into the material I posted as my last update.


The Bright Cliffs is a region of colonies many miles apart and treated as a single city. Covering almost twenty square miles, both at the feet and the top of the cliffs that provide its name, the Bright Cliffs is the westernmost settlement of the Starspire Forest. With a constantly fluctuating population and the closet of the Starspire colonies to the great Ozark Desert, the Bright Cliffs is home to a great many people, both forest folk and not.

At its heart, the Bright Cliffs is a trade centre and is one of the main points of contact with the world outside of the Starspire Forest. A regularly travelled off-shoot of the Ashen Way joins with the Desert Way about three miles from the Bright Cliffs’ borders and provides a steady stream of trade goods and other imports to the forest not suitable for Star-reach or Deephaven. For their part, the people of the Bright Cliffs are able farmers and carvers, providing many raw materials and hand-carved goods for the desert folk to make use of. Alongside the physical trade, the monks of the Dawn Rivers monastery have long been associated with the sun god and many pilgrims contribute to the local economy every year.

The Dawn Rivers monastery, built atop the Golden Falls at the confluence of both the Rising Light and the Rushing Wind (to give the rivers their names in the common language of the area), is a centre of learning and philosophy. Its archives hold records dating back millennia, preserved through carefully guarded techniques and revealed only to a select few. The monks themselves farm in several small clearings below the temple, sharing the land with the people of the village of Golden Falls, some two miles below them at the feet of the Bright Cliffs. Golden Falls, due in no small part to the monks on the cliff above, has been kept small and agricultural. Where many of the towns in the Bright Cliffs area are trade focussed and sprawling, Golden Falls is compact and continues to exist only through its people’s ability to grow and harvest rare crops.

The centre of the Bright Cliffs, if it can be said to have a central point in terms of commerce and administrative power, is the forest-folk town of Juriel’s Roost. Named for a mythical figure, Juriel’s Roost is a treetop enclave nearly three miles across and home to many artisans and scholars, as well as the region’s standing army. As the ‘city’s’ unique geographic layout presents a tempting target for many of the outlaws who call the Starspire Forest home, the Bright Shield (as the standing military force is known) maintains an active presence along the roads connecting the towns and villages that make up the Bright Cliffs and all its members are either veterans of the conflicts of years past, or recruits from other colonies within the forest seeking glory or experience.

The other town of note, the Shadowfort, is a fortified emplacement built to provide a last line of defence against the horrors that lurked within the forest centuries ago. Now, it is manned only by a skeleton guard and is host to a permanent caravanserai, its walls protecting traders and locals alike. Many of the goods traded from the Bright Cliffs come here to be sent on to the outside world, with the administrators of Juriel’s Roost maintaining a careful watch over all the trade that takes place here.



Greeter of the Dawn is the aged abbot of the Dawn Rivers monastery. One of the forest-folk, he gave up his birth name when he joined the order and has seen the monastery through many troubles. While many of his brothers whisper that he is due to step down soon and begin retirement, he remains full of energy and is an active figure in the local community.

Gerain Oakheart is the head of the Bright Shield, a veteran of the Thousand Glade War and a realist. He knows that his life has been spent in the defence of his people and that they will not reward him for his sacrifices. World-weary and tired, he wants nothing more than to lay down his arms and set up a small farm in one of the innumerable glades of the Starspire Forest, but there is always another matter that requires his attention.

Thalia Brasseye is a trader from the desert-folk who arrived in the Shadowfort one day and never left. She is currently an envoy for the administrators of Juriel’s Roost and has excelled in that position for many years, but there are whispers that she moonlights as an architect and has been helping to the build new fortifications and defensive measures to face an enemy no-one else believes is coming.

Merrick is a mystery. No-one knows who he is or where he came from. He simply appeared in the town of Shattered Glade one day and saved the town Elder’s life. Since then, he has risen to prominence within the town and has led many successful sorties against the outlaws who plague it. A few of the locals insist that he is a magic user, but no-one has seen proof of this.

Wandering Brook found her way to the reclusive village of Shadowed Ford and has been instrumental in protecting it from the monsters of the forest. An entertainer by nature, and a skilled swordswoman by experience, children of the village love to watch her regale them with tales of her derring-do and many of them have asked her to train them in the ways of the blade so they can better protect their village when they come of age.



The attacks on Shadowed Ford have been increasing rapidly and many of the villagers have begun to speak of abandoning their homes. The village council is willing to pay people to investigate the source of the attacks.

There are rumours of a demon worshipping cult in Juriel’s Roost. While they wouldn’t act against the city directly, they might move against one of the smaller settlements.

Thalia Brasseye claims to have spoken with a prophet who warned her of the monsters approaching the Bright Cliffs from the tunnels and mines in the area. While no-one yet believes her, a few miners have gone missing in recent months.

The Riven Stone, a local landmark, has started vibrating for no apparent reason. Locals who live near it speak of a voice that calls to them in their dreams. No-one has looked into this phenomenon, but several people insist something is hunting them while they sleep.

A monster from the dawn of time has been seen stalking through the gloom beneath the trees near some of the outlying villages. A call has gone out throughout the entirety of the Bright Cliffs for experienced warriors to track it down and dissuade it from approaching the colony.




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.


The village of Rustwell is small, barely 200 strong. Its population is a mixture of hunters, miners and guides for the local pilgrimage route.

Situated in the foothills at the base of the Wyvern Crags, the village takes its name from the rust coloured waters of the well it was built around. The iron rich countryside nearby has provided mining opportunities for generations of villagers and has attracted newcomers to the area for the last fifty years.

The village itself is roughly semi-circular, built against the base of the roaring waterfall that pours down from Iron Rock, the tallest mountain for miles. A large pool at the base of the waterfall provides a secondary source of water and a defence for the village’s valuables and stores, hidden in a cave behind the torrent of water that falls endlessly into the pool and drains away into the cave system beneath the village.

A few farms on the edge of Rustwell provide most of the food the village requires from their fertile fields, but every few weeks, some of the villagers travel to the nearby market town of Shepherd’s Hollow to trade for more.


Marshall Yannick – the village leader. A retired military officer, Yannick moved his family to Rustwell in attempt to escape the memories that haunt him. Confident and proud, he is an honourable man who has led the village through some tough times.

Hera Yannick – Marshall’s daughter and the village’s physician. As confident in her abilities as her father is in his, Hera serves as the village’s main source of medicine and is also the head of the village guard. Bandits in the nearby mountains have pushed against her forces more than once and have been beaten soundly every time.

Artur Helmsson – the owner of the Cracked Anvil and the village blacksmith. Artur originally settled in Rustwell as a spy for the largest of the local bandit groups but has recently begun to question where his loyalties lie. Many in the village consider him a good friend and a skilled bartender and craftsman.

Aria Larain – the village’s priestess. Few know that Aria turned down a senior position within her church’s hierarchy to follow her love to Rustwell. Even fewer know that she has eyes only for Hera, who she met briefly when Marshall brought his family through the city she was working in on his way to Rustwell. All, however, know of her endless patience and compassion. (Please note; Aria’s sexuality is not her sole defining feature, it is merely a highlighted facet of her character intended to create an interesting plot hook.)

Brand Eront – the head miner. Brand is a blunt, but wise, man of middle age and is well respected among the community. Under his careful leadership, the mines have prospered in recent years and there are rumours that he is considering opening a new working.

Plot Hooks

Rusthold, the abandoned keep further up the cliff, has recently been claimed by an unknown group of people. The village has sent a representative to begin friendly communications but are waiting for an answer.

The local bandit gangs haven’t been seen in a while. The villagers hope they have been driven off, but there are rumours they are simply massing for something large.

Marshall Yannick has been receiving reports of strange occurrences on the outskirts of the village, so far his investigations have found nothing. A few of the farmers think that something supernatural is occurring.

A few of the children playing near the waterfall have told their parents about voices calling to them from the water. No-one is sure if this is youthful imagination, or something more sinister.

A recent cave-in caused several deaths and many injuries. A few of the miners believe that it was not a tragic accident but the work of a saboteur.



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.

The World and its People: The Radford House

I realised that my Atlas Inspirare articles lend themselves more to historical/traditional fantasy themes so I’ve decided to do a series with a more modern/darker twist. Articles concerning ‘The World and its People’ will usually contain some sort of folklore about a specific location and a handful of people interested in that location.

As ever, if you want to re-skin the things described to suit a different theme, feel free to.


Bubbles / Ryan

The house isn’t haunted, all the stories agree on that. No. The house is possessed.

The Stafford boys say that they spent the night there and the walls themselves spoke, ordering them to leave. Neighbours often report strange liquids pouring from the windows and the eaves at night and it isn’t unknown for the doors to slam open suddenly, as if thrown wide with great force.

It’s been there since the town was founded and records indicate it was one of the first buildings erected. Folk memory claims that the first of the town’s mayors lived in the ornate house until his death. After that, they say, a string of criminals and politicians lived there until it was abandoned after the last war.

The years since then haven’t been kind. Most of the glass in its windows is missing, the doors remain intact but seem to be visibly rotted and the roof has patches of exposed framework where the slate tiles have fallen off. Decades of unruly children have scratched, painted and otherwise marked a wide variety of expressions onto the outside ranging from names all the way to song lyrics and declarations of love.

No two recollections of the inside of the house match, however. The Stafford boys claim that it was full of mouldy furniture and broken walls. Mavis Clifford, the nearest neighbour, says that when she followed her dog inside after it escaped, the house was in perfect repair. She says that had she not lived next to it for ten years, she would not have known it was empty.

Then, of course, there are the other stories. Young couples breaking in for a moment of passion report relaxed inhibitions and the sensation of being watched. A thief, hiding there over night, was found the next day whispering to himself about the arms that reached out of the walls and grabbed him. Wilder, more lurid, tales tell of the floors bleeding and the furniture animating to trap intruders.

The truth of these stories is not known and for now, that is all that they must remain. Stories.



Nigel Harrow – the latest owner of the Radford House. Rumour has it that he bought it on a whim and intends to demolish it in order to build a bigger property on the site.

Tabitha Radford – the last of the Radfords and a permanent patient of the local psychiatric institute. Whispers abound concerning the unnatural deaths of her brother and her husband.

Clark Engel – an infamous ghost hunter in town to investigate the Radford House.

Alice Thrush – a local girl obsessed with the supernatural. She is convinced she can use the power she believes to exist in the house for her own purposes.

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.