The "Dragon's Reach" Campaign Setting
Fresh cool water cascades downward from the ogre infested mountains as foamy saltwater splashes upward with the tides of the raging sea. They meet to form a bleak brackish (semi-salt) swamp. A thick and spooky fog clings to the wet surface squeezing slowly between the tall grass and muddy puddles.
Water slowly drips through cracks in the earth to carve out a massive maze of magnificent limestone caverns that run beneath most of the swamp. Various openings exist that are large enough to grant access to this dark under realm.
Recent legends tell tall tales of gold-plated viking dwarves who unexpectedly arrived on the rocky shores one day. They were highly skilled at war, built a castle by the sea, then conquered and enslaved this entire realm. Their battle strength was matched only by their greed. They horded mass treasures, then hid this wealth in hundreds of secret vaults deep below their "Blood Storm" castle. They also conquered the ancient elves of this land and stole many powerful magic items from them. Most of these items were far too magical and complicated for the dwarves to comprehend, so they simply buried them along with the rest of the treasure.
When the entire castle sank and collapsed into the deep limestone caverns below them, all the treasures were lost but not forgotten. These treasure vaults now lie deep within the wet, dripping (and sometimes completely flooded) chambers beneath the swamp, and are protected by vicious monsters and nasty dwarven traps.
A new city was built over the buried ruins of the dwarf castle. Blood Storm city has recently become a thriving city with pirates, vampires, thieves and more. Meanwhile, portions of the old buried castle have been found and robbed of their treasure. The race to find the remaning treasure is on!
The map below shows the commonly known parts of Dragon's Reach, which becomes more of a jungle as you approach the forest and mountains to the north. Feel free to place this swamp anywhere in your own fantasy world, or let it serve as a starting point for creating a new epic fantasy world of your own.
The common citizens of Dragon's Reach are trapped here with no means of escape. Across the north is a savage forest with spooky legends of ghosts, goblins, werewolves and such. And farther north, beyond the forest, can be seen a mighty mountain range teaming with ogres and giants. To the west, where the fog is thickest, lies a sleepy dragon. Across the south and rising up to the east is a raging sea with high cliffs looking down on sharp upthrusts of deadly rocks.
The Strong and the Weak
The weak and poor live here because they have no choice. The rich and powerful live here to find the lost treasures of the viking dwarves. But no one wants to admit the existance of the treasure, let alone talk about it. The less others know the better.
Pirates who brave the deadly sea to obtain the desperately needed supplies are looked upon as the real heroes. Merchants and peddlers distribute these supplies whilst the common laborers work steadily to repair ships, sails and docks, or serve in one manner or another to entertain the pirates.
The Vampire Queen
The city is governed by a self appointed vampire queen. Her many guards lack motivation and training. However they all carry magical whistles that summon her deadly champions (ultra-powrful NPCs) who magically appear, and enforce the immediate and final judgement. No one is ever permitted to disturb the queen. She's busy searching for the treasure.
Many young girls are sold (or stolen) into a life of slavery. Some girls are raised as boys, beaten and scarred by their loving parents to discourage the lustful pirates. Young boys are pushed hard to be the strongest and meanest brutes possible so they can be sold to the pirates as slaves and hopefully someday earn their freedom. Strong backs who aren't purchased by the pirates wind up poor laborers with no real future. So the children (who fear beatings and slavery) often run away to form gangs of "Adventurers" who steal from the rich (and evil) and fight for freedom (and power). These adventures attack guards, raid pirate ships, cause a lot of trouble, and occasionally go so far as to annoy the vampire queen.
Blood Storm City
Special thanks to Dean Kuhta for his drawings of the Blood Storm city. Above are two of his images that when displayed side-by-side give us a feel for what the city must look like on a dark, spooky night.
Old Blood Storm
Many of the city sewers and underground hide outs are connect in some way, and occasionally they happen to meet up with parts of the burried dwarf stronghold. Most of these connecting passages are locked up, concealed and kept very secret by the gangs and mercenary groups that control them, but with a mess of fighting and some serious searching about, your characters can get almost anywhere in the city using these tunnels and passages.
Deep Blood Storm
Deep, dark, and often wet caves can be found twisting, dropping and bending beneath the entire surface of the swamp. Miles and miles of natural caverns desperately need exploring. The creatures who live beneath the surface have already found some of the lost viking dwarf treasure vaults and rumors of their great wealth is spreading far too quickly.