This is just an idea… A bit of setting, a bit of plot, and a situation brewing for the PCs to find themselves in the middle of somehow, written for the “Winter is Coming II” blog carnival set up by Dice Monkey.
In the Northward town of Bruma, town leaders have a very good reason to track the exact day of the Winter Solstice. Not only is it strongly suggested by the Followers of Nyx and Hemera, but it keeps the locals happy by plying them with alcohol and revelry to celebrate the longest nights of the year. Though the priests know exactly when it occurs for a ritual performed twice a year, the people of Bruma are usually too intoxicated to notice. Once recovered from the hangovers, the whole town returns to normal and welcomes the longer daylight inch by inch.
But what happens if the ritual doesn’t happen?
The Place and the People
Bruma lies on the Northward border of the Kingdom, barely a concern in the eyes of the capital. Beyond Bruma lies the Waste, a harsh, empty land destroyed in one of the many mage duels fought long before the mages were expelled from Kingdom lands. Though Brumans on watch at the wall occasionally catch glimpses of movement on the other side, whatever survives there is firmly in the land of rumor and legend. The Waste itself magnifies any weather in the area, so if it is cold, it becomes a land devoid of heat or light. If it is hot, it becomes a furnace. Thankfully the effects of the Waste cannot be felt past the wall. And since the wall was built and Bruma fortified, there have been no documented cases of anything attempting to breach it in hundreds of years. If not for the hellish conditions beyond the wall and a concern for their own safety, the townspeople would have reclaimed the stone as building materials long ago.
The town itself is small, with little more than 1,000 people working the pastoral lands to the east, west, and south. Farmers in the area bring their food to market to be transported south to more populated parts of the Kingdom. Ranchers hold monthly auctions for livestock, which also roam in well-tended herds in the area. Everything is built around the needs of those two groups. Everyone depends on the harvests and the herds.
As far as places to go in Bruma, your choices are limited:
- There is one very busy blacksmith with a pair of apprentices that works year round to keep up with local demands for horseshoes, nails, tools, and so on.
- There is also one very busy butcher who deals with some of the cattle, goats, pigs, and other livestock in the area.
- The Followers of Nyx have a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Night. And the Followers of Hemera have a temple dedicated to the goddess of light. Both flocks ebb and flow as the days and nights change and the people choose whom to worship for solace and protection.
- There are three taverns where you can get a drink and a meal – the Frothy Moose, the Happy Cow, and the Vagabond. Each offers its own specially brewed concoctions and recipes. Wine is hard to find, but there are plenty of ales to choose from.
- The Messenger’s Bed is the only inn in Bruma, typically frequented by ranchers attending the local auctions, traders, and the occasional adventurer passing through. Lord Tarvet, who owns the inn with his family, serves as the King’s representative for Bruma as well as the unofficial mayor, judge, and arbiter.
- Once a week, when the weather cooperates, there’s an open-air market with stalls operated by the various vendors in town.
- Three different herbalists work in the area to help people with whatever ails them. Typically one of them will be at the open market, but they are usually out making house calls for their humanoid or animal patients.
- The wall, which runs for approximately nine miles, acts as the official border in this part of the Kingdom as well as a barrier against anything coming out of the Waste. Where the wall is close to town, the local militia patrols – two people walk the wall during the day and six people walk the wall at night. It has become more of an honorary post than anything, but the people of Bruma continue to do their duty as was spelled out in the town charter.
It’s a small town. And as you might imagine, there are family rivalries and even the occasional feud. But there is little violence beyond the occasional bar brawl. There is little need for weapons, but most everyone carries a dagger for everyday work.
There are two major celebrations, each timed to coincide with the Winter or Summer Solstice. These rites are the only times of year when everyone in Bruma puts aside any squabbles and enjoys a pint with anyone. The drinking doesn’t stop for three days and usually there’s a baby boom about nine months later.
Though the people of Bruma are merely happy to have an occasion to revel and cut loose, other parties in town treat the holidays with a bit more reverence. The followers of Nyx and Hemera use them to mark the passage of dominance from one goddess to the other. This handoff has deep significance and involves the movement of a magical orb that after one ritual represents light and after another, darkness. For as long as anyone can remember, the two sets of priests have done this exchange year after year. It is fervently believed that if the handoff does not occur that the balance will be upset and the land will fall into darkness.
Someone has stolen the Orb of Light and Dark from the Temple of Nyx prior to the exchange. The celebration is to occur in two days. Unless the Orb is found and given to the Followers of Hemera on the night of the solstice, horrors will be released and darkness will rein supreme.
- With a set deadline, there are two possibilities. The Orb is found and returned in time. Or it’s not. In either eventuality, different possibilities could play out.
- If the PCs succeed and find the Orb, they will be asked to attend the ceremony and thus be noticed by Nyx and Hemera during the ritual. This “notice” could then appear later on in a campaign where agents of either goddess may recognize the party and grant them a boon or ask for their help in the future.
- If the PCs fail, they will be asked to help defend the town against whatever comes their way. Though Hemera helps keep Nyx at bay in this world, the older Nyx is much more powerful than her adversary. And as a chaotic creature, she will draw on the plane of shadow to punish those who failed to do their job. The punishments won’t be limited to the Followers of Nyx however…
- It’s possible that this has happened in the past and the PCs must research to discover what happened the last time. How was the balance restored?
- As to who stole the orb, that’s up in the air. It could be a priest who’s had enough of serving the gods and has decided it’s time to end the world. It could be another god or goddess seeking more chaos to achieve their own ends.
- This could serve as the first adventure in a new campaign or the last adventure in an old one that leads the PCs to bigger and better things.
Obviously there could be many more plots, but this is just a few to ponder.
How do you get the PCs involved? The easiest way is to suggest that they are in the area and hear about the big celebration that occurs on the Winter Solstice in Bruma and they decide it’s time for a bit of R&R and a lot of ale. Beyond that, the PCs may be merely investigating the Waste, passing through, or directed there in some other way.