Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Lands of Ara - The Great Western Swamp

The Great Western Swamp is an immense swamp region that covers most of the southwestern fourth of the Arandish continent.  It borders the Kingdom of Noffel, The Western Lands, and even the southern frontier of Aldoria near Nurna, the Elven Great Lake.

The Swamp is largely untamed and unexplored, and is infested with hostile monsters.  It is so vast that a great many merchants, travelers, and adventurers have become lost there, and brigands, criminals, and arcane magicians fleeing persecution in Noffel have been known to deliberately lose themselves and hide out there.  While there are many civilized settlements that immediately surround the Swamp—Swampsedge in Noffel, Castle Morko in The Western Lands—there are very few villages or towns actually in the swamp, Marsh Town being the notable exception.

The Great Western Swamp is so notorious for being difficult to navigate that even skilled scouts and rangers from other regions have difficulty finding their way: the base chance for a party becoming lost in the Swamp (without a local guide) is 60% (see Labyrinth Lord p. 46).  In this the locals have an advantage: scouts and barge captains who specialize in traversing the Great Western Swamp reduce the chance of getting lost to 50%, get a +1 bonus to any scouting / tracking activity in the Swamp, and also add a +1 modifier to Monster Encounter Table rolls (see forthcoming post).

As for trade and barge travel in the Great Western Swamp, there are “established” barge routes between Swampsedge and Marsh Town, and some barge captains claim to have established relatively safe routes from Marsh Town all the way through the Swamp to the Arandish west coast.  But the prevalence of swamp trolls, blaag, and other aggressively dangerous swamp denizens (see forthcoming post) have made any truly safe passage of the swamps a near impossibility.  However, with the oceangoing sailing routes around the southern horn of the Komar Peninsula taking almost twice as long as the Swamp passage, many merchants and traders still prefer the risks of the Swamp to the loss of time and other risks of the ocean route. 

Swampsedge marks the western frontier of the Kingdom of Noffel, and is essentially a port city from whence many swamp traders depart west on barges into the depths of the Swamp.  There is lively trade through here, both legal and illegal, and the town is chock full of guides and barge captains willing to take adventurers west or north.    

Marsh Town (called Sluggerton by many locals) lies approximately three hundred miles (twelve 24-mile hexes) west of Swampsedge, and is built upon wooden docks, much like Lake Town in The Hobbit.  The Oligarchs of Marsh Town (a governing body made up of seven wealthy merchants, lesser nobles, and the like) retain a small garrison of skilled archers and fighters to keep swamp trolls and brigands at bay; but piracy, theft, and black marketeering are fairly rampant in Marsh Town.  Of course, this makes Marsh Town the ideal place in which to “fence” and/or purchase stolen goods—Skeleton Pete is the guy to know in Marsh Town if you are seeking these black-market services.  However, as I mentioned in a previous post, there are other (perhaps lesser) black marketeers to deal with if no party member can forge a connection to Skeleton Pete, such as Ork-Ork, a half-elven man with a right club foot who is a part time fishmonger, part-time fence.  Other notable personages in Marsh Town (not including barge captains; see below) include a powerful but eccentric Enchanter known as Old Man Fish-Penis, and a young, mentally unbalanced, but exceptionally talented swamp guide named Rabbit-Head.

Swamp Barges: Many swampgoing craft are quite small, and can be treated as common rafts from the Watercraft Table (Labyrinth Lord p. 57).  However, most of the serious operators in the Great Western Swamp use larger swamp barges that require a crew of ten to row and navigate, including an experienced barge captain who knows his/her way through the treacherous swampways.  These larger swamp barges have the same characteristics as a river boat from the Labyrinth Lord Watercraft Table. 

Great Western Swamp barge captains (that is, those who command a small crew aboard a proper swamp barge) are skilled like sailors but must be hired at a the higher “navigator” hireling rate (see LL 48).  Most barge captains also have some combat ability, fighting as first or second level fighters (referee’s discretion).  There are a few semi-famous barge captains and scouts in the region of the Great Western Swamp; here are gaming stats for a representative few of these:   

Sunna Garfield, Noffellian barge captain
Human Fighter Level 2
Sex: female
Alignment: neutral (balance)
STR 13, DEX 14, CON 13, INT 10, WIS 11, CHA 12
HP: 11
AC: 5
Weapons: Long Sword, Short bow
Armor: studded leather (base AC 6)

Sunna Garfield is probably the best-known and most prosperous barge captain running between Sluggerton (Marsh Town) and The Western Lands.  In addition to her own barge, she also owns controlling interest in two other barges running between Swampsedge and Marsh Town, and sometimes makes that run herself for particularly important / expensive shipments or clients.  Her operation is largely legitimate, though like almost all Swamp runners, Garfield will haul black-market goods or passengers for the right price.  She is a gruff Noffellian traditionalist, however, and will have no truck with wizards.  If she suspects a character is a magic-user or rodian illusionist, she will not transport or do business with that individual.

Marko Halfdagger, or “Captain Marko”
Human Thief Level 1
Sex: male
Alignment: neutral
STR 10, DEX 15, CON 14, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 9
HP: 4
AC: 6
Weapons: short sword, dagger
Armor: leather (base AC 7)

“Captain Marko” is probably a better thief than he is a barge captain, but he has the advantage of being cheap: he charges only 100 gp / month for his barge and services.  Marko is wanted for thievery in Swampsedge, and therefore sticks to Marsh Town, The Western Lands, and (occasionally) the West Coast. 

Karn Borasukian, rodian barge captain
Rodian Duellist Level 2
Sex: male
Alignment: neutral
STR 9, DEX 18, CON 13, INT 9, WIS 12, CHA 14
HP: 8
AC: 3
Weapons: duelling rapier (treat as short sword), dagger, light crossbow
Armor: studded leather (base AC 6)

Karn Borasukian’s barging operation is based in the west coast city of New Port, making runs to Marsh Town and even Swampsedge on occasion.  He primarily likes to deal with other rodians, but will transport paying customers of non-rodian races so long as they do not insult or slight Borasukian or rodians generally.  Borasukian has a very high opinion of himself and charges a slightly higher fee (200 gp / month) for his services then do many other black marketeering barge captains.  But he has an excellent track record for evading both the law and aggressive swamp monsters. 

More yet to come on the Great Western Swamp, including Rogath the Swamp-Ranger!


  1. Hey Carter. Great stuff. I tried to add you to my blogroll, but, for some reason blogger won't let me. Other blog links are working ok, so the issue may be on your end. Also, your sidebar wouldn't show up until I hit the comment link. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. Thanks James! Hmm, I am not much of a technical wizard with this thing, but I will dig a little deeper into the Blogger help menus to see what I can discover. I checked my settings and they all seem as "open" as possible right now. Any idea what kind of a setting I would be looking to change to enable you to add me to your blogroll?

    Thanks for checking the blog out.

  3. I think blogger was having intermittent problems, as I was able to add it a little later.