Background

The Sword Coast has weathered many tales. The best ones start with chaos. The worst ones end with it. May this one be the former, though the only way to know the story is to turn the page…

In the Dessarin Valley, the breadbasket of two nations, crops have failed and lawlessness is on the rise. Once safe roads are beset with banditry. Monstrosities once only spoken of in legend prowl at the edges of the torchlight of civilization. Or so it is claimed. Liquor and bored farmers have a way of conspiring to weave thick tales from thin thread.

Neighboring nations bicker over the current tensions. Each see the nefarious machinations of their enemies behind each razed village, each ransacked caravan, and each burned-out crop. Neverwinter, to the north, and Waterdeep, to the south, are poised on the brink of war: each one eager to be the force which brings order, and a new banner, to the Valley. Neither side dares be the first to sound the march, but both are firm in their intention to defend (or assert) their interests.

Yet statesmen are not the only ones feeling bellicose. The weather itself seems to have taken issue with the nations of the Sword Coast. A harsh winter brusquely swept by spring and went straight into a blistering summer. Sailors tell of 100-year storms in normally calm waters. Village Wisdoms squint through rheumy eyes and swear that never have been winters so cold, summers so hot, nor droughts so dry as now.

But only those in the highest towers are afforded the luxury of the bird’s eye view. To many, life remains unchanged. Food prices go up, taxes go up, and that is just the way of things. There are still children to feed, floors to sweep and fences to mend. There is coin to be made, crops to be harvested, and duties to see to. The banker bemoans the chaos as insurance rates rise, and kings eye their bullion like hungry wolves. The bold merchant sees a chance for higher profits. Buy low and sell high, it is said. Weapons, grain, and leather are dear, and scruples always in short supply. Even for those in the Dessarin Valley, where folks suffer from banditry and fear that war will bring worse, life goes on. The Gods blessed the land with life, but they never promised it would be an easy one.

Is there a whispered warning on the winds of the storms? Or do things seem particularly bleak because they are happening here, and now? Perhaps things seem exceptionally grim because bad news sells, and the bad news is carried on swifter hooves these days. After all, projections of misery and doom must always be tempered with a few key axioms: farmers always complain; seamen spin the tallest tales; and old men always see the worst in the new ways of the world. It is said that no new tales are ever told, so perhaps the current troubles are just business as usual in a land where kings and lords have too much power, and decent people are just collateral damage in the dangerous game of politics and empire.

As summer reluctantly gives way to fall, an autumn breeze, already bearing hints of winter, greets you on the Long Road as you head north. You are one of many travelers that have joined a merchant caravan destined for Red Larch, Triboar, and points north. Even in safer times, it is always wise to travel in groups during journeys on the Long Road. You are about two days travel from the town of Red Larch, and everyone is anxious for some safety, rest, and maybe a drink or two before heading onwards.

But onwards to what end, traveler? What has brought you this far? What pulls your wagon? What whips your horse? And what will push you farther, potentially into harm’s way? Love? Duty? Profit? Revenge?

Background

Prospect Heights Winter D&D zach_baxter zach_baxter