Saturday, June 27, 2020

Thurstle Island: Cove Town

Rather than a street map, I opted for a relationship map.

I want Cove Town to be a place for scheming. In contrast to the traps and monsters of the island's dungeons, the conflict and maneuvering in town is primarily social. Different groups control access to critical resources. Supplies, information and opportunities to hire help require making friends with the right people. 

How it Works

I recently solicited the advice of the OSR subreddit on what makes a good starting town. My favorite suggestion was to use the guidelines formatted as the "Gygax 75 Challenge" by Ray Otus based on an old Gary article. The challenge recommends the following components: 

  • Town Map: Since politics are more important to me than geographic proximity, I drew mine as relationship web. I'll also give them Kevin Campbell village cards as a visual reference on what shops and services are available. 

Kevin Campbell via Dyson

  • Equipment Lists: I've created equipment lists by shop (not 100% done yet). Depending which factions you're aligned with you might not have access to everything. E.g. if you piss off the Vikings, the smith won't do business with you. 
  • Assorted Locations: As prompted.
    • The governor's fort and the smuggler's caves.
    • If you're short on cash, you can mortgage your future for exorbitant rates at the bank. If you don't pay up, they'll sell you as an oar slave.
    • The best places to gather news and get a meal are the Tavern and the Meadhall.
    • The Abbey has an agenda that they hide from the town.
    • The Gothic settlers worship at The Lady's chapel and the Vikings worship at alters in the woods.
    • A little off shore, a darkened lighthouse rises from the waves. Without its beacon, navigating these rocky waters is treacherous.
  • 5 NPCs and their distinguishing features, needs and agendas:
    • Harald Halfjaw: Seven feet tall and bald as an egg, he runs the meadhall and is the de facto leader of the island's resident vikings. He needs to keep the peace or his outnumbered friends will be crushed by the garrison. He'll crack down on anyone who stirs up shit.
    • Margot: Impractically fashionable, she's a secret wizard looking to delve the ancient city's secrets but she needs to get through the wood. She'll pay someone to smuggle her.
    • Svedka: A smuggler with face-tattoos. She needs to provide a human-sacrifice to the druids to pay for passage through the forest. She's looking for someone with no local ties that she can drug and abduct.
    • Gorm: Tells funny stories and buys drinks for everyone. He's one of the only vikings welcome at the tavern. He's a secret cultist and he needs to recruit adventurers to break into the island's great barrow.
    • Severis Glot: A tall man with a dramatic mustache is second-in-command of the garrison. He holds a grudge against the Old Faith and is trying to provoke conflict. He'll pay someone to vandalize the chapel then blame the druids.
  • Hirelings (extra credit): I will create a deck of hirelings and any time the PCs recruit they'll get a few to choose from. Anyone that doesn't get picked gets shuffled back in.
  • Rumors (extra credit): I am creating separate tables for the Tavern and the Mead Hall and generating a couple rumors for each island location based on what the faction knows.
In addition to the Gygax 75 elements I plan to run Daniel's excellent religious conflict flowchart that he created for ggnore's Hommlet campaign. It was the original inspiration for all this strife.

When the Adventurers Arrive

Cove Town is the only significant settlement on Thurstle Island. It is a town divided. For hundreds of years, servants of the Old Northern gods have lived here but in recent years, settlers from the Gothic mainland have founded a colony. 

A long time ago, Gothic crusaders built a fort here, using it as a base for one their countless wars. This fortress is long abandoned. A few retired templar founded an abbey to the west of the town and until a few years ago, they lived there in isolation and left the Vikings and Druids to their own devices. 

This is all changing. Once again Thurstle Island has become strategically valuable. A new Gothic governor has come from the mainland with a company of mercenaries and taken control of Cove Town. More Gothic colonists arrive every month and supply ships and traders put in at the port each week. New tariffs, taxes and import restrictions vex the island's Vikings.  

Still, the Vikings are making tremendous profits. They have begun delving into the glaciated ancient city, buried from time immemorial on the island's north side. Strange treasures and powerful magics have begun to appear back in Cove Town. Because powerful druids forbid the Gothic colonists from entering the island's sacred central forest, the Vikings have a monopoly on passage to the ruins. These exports are making them rich and drawing longships from the surrounding archipelago full of fresh crews eager to make their names and fortunes. 


  1. Very nice - I like it. Inspired me to immediately pick up a pencil and do this for my own campaign!

  2. I've never seen before a relation map with cartographic visual elements and it really looks good.
    Very inspiring map !