I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with the Post-Roman, Pre-Saxon Hex Generator Jones Smith created for Secret Santicore 2019. The following is a disorganized set of locales inspired by the generator’s output. If I squint at them, I can sorta see a Dung Age campaign setting take shape…
1 – A cold wind rustles through an empty expanse of knee-high grass. Water trickles out of a stone cairn; everything the liquid touches is covered with verdant growth. Arrayed around the pile are a number of headless bodies encrusted in green mold. A lone man crouches at the foot of the cairn, frantically tearing patches of moss from his skin. If approached, he will cry out a warning that the spring water is cursed – he and his companions, all soldiers of fortune, drank from it and plants began to sprout from their flesh. The warrior slew his comrades as they writhed in agony, but they would not die until he cut off their heads. He will refuse any offer of aid or release from his own pain.
2 – Ghostly lights flicker about in a foggy marsh. Trudging through the muck, a stony escarpment looms suddenly into view. Petroglyphs taller than a man are carved into the crumbling cliff face. Atop the hill stands a ruined outpost, ancient stones tangled with withered vines. Further along the ridge, the mouth of a cave is partially concealed by overgrowth. A band of cannibals makes their lair inside; they lure in victims with tales of treasure hidden in tunnels beneath the fort.
3 – Tendrils of mist snake between the great trunks of centuries-old trees. A hint of woodsmoke wafts through the air. A sinkhole gapes in the forest floor, revealing a subterranean chamber. Its walls and ceiling are decorated with faded murals depicting a long gone people. If one were to follow the scent of smoke, it leads to campfire burning low. Next to it, a lone man leans against a tree, asleep, sword laying in his lap, a full-looking backpack beside him. This man is a brigand named Kilius, an unrepentant thief and killer. He’s calm and affable, but cagey about his satchel (full of stolen goods).
4 – A hillside terraced into a series of walled gardens fallen into disorder and decay. Planters and flower beds are hidden by overgrowth, unpicked fruits rot on branches and vines, and weeds break up the paved paths. As you walk through the ruins, you discover a wan and disheveled young woman digging ineffectually at bare dirt. She is the restless spirit of the caretaker, Bodamil; her despair is reflected in the state of the grounds. If her remains are found and sanctified, the gardens will be restored.
5 – A cluster of buildings, the remains of a farm estate, have been overtaken by brambles. Thorny vines crawl up walls and through windows. Out of the corner of your eye, you think the plants creep towards you. Searching inside the farmhouse, you find several skeletons, all encircled by briars. The grounds are stalked by a gangrel fey that controls the spiny vegetation. It destroyed the farm and killed the farmers for trespassing on wilderness it considers sacred.
6 – Cold vapor crawls along the surface of an unwholesome wetland. A pungent odor stings the nostrils; oozing berries depend from a clump of bushes nestled against a dilapidated dwelling listing on its foundation. The horns of a bull have been nailed above the door. A figure dressed all in green has their back to you, oblivious to your approach as they pick berries. This being will startle at any noise or contact you make and run off at great speed, leaving behind their collecting basket.
7 – A river, swift and cold, rushes through a stony valley. The wind seems to carry faint snatches of the sounds of battle. From the rocky banks, you see what looks a like body lying on the bottom of the river, impaled on a sword. Should you enter the water and grab the sword, the body disappears. The sword is a rusty relic, seemingly hundreds of years old. On the opposite side of the river stands a partially collapsed menhir. Sitting on top of the weathered stone, a harried-looking vagabond sings softly to herself. Her name is Jelza Howdel and she is waiting for someone a dream told her would be here.
8 – Rain drizzles on a barren and rocky plain. Stinging nettles and thorn bushes grow along the banks of a sluggish stream. A fluttering scrap of fabric catches your eye. Should you investigate, you find a woman entangled in one of the briar patches. She is in obvious distress: clothes torn, eyes tightly closed, a sword lays broken at her feet. If helped, she will say little – just that her name is Eothu. With great effort, she can be persuaded to accompany you but will be despondent until her sword is repaired.
9 – A stream wends down a rocky slope in a series of waterfalls; something in the water stains the rocks red. Behind one of the falls is a cave in which hides a crew of bandits; they are recuperating after their last attack went badly for them. Many of them are wounded and all of them are in a bad mood. The cave goes deep under the ground, ending in a chamber covered with ancient eldritch paintings.
10 – A flash flood has scoured this valley, demolishing a village and leaving behind a thick layer of mud and debris. Hidden in this morass, the restless corpses of the villagers will emerge to chase after and drag down anyone entering the area. Several of the creatures are in pursuit of a sellsword carrying a cumbersome chest. If rescued, the warrior will introduce himself as Worgar and will offer you a share of the proceeds of the sale of the relics he carries in the chest.
11 – A deserted hillfort perches upon a desolate, boulder-strewn ridge. Deposits of scree impede your ascent; an unlucky step can send you crashing back down the slope in a tumble of loose rock. The gate of the fort hangs askew on its hinges revealing a courtyard of churned up dirt. Detritus piles up in the corners and the walls are covered with graffiti and bird shit. Inside the keep, a young dragon called Eksusha toils at turning the building into a suitable lair.
12 – The surface of the bog roils as pockets of gas seep up from the bedrock. Occasionally, a vent ignites in a brief, fiery flash that suffuses the area with a foul stench. From the crown of a grassy hillock, clean water burbles up from a deep aquifer. Surrounding the spring is a quagmire of bituminous sludge. As you approach, a person can be seen lying in the noxious tar. It is the nobleman Lord Fentus, abandoned by his retainers, delirious from thirst; without aid, he will soon die. If revived, he will make grand promises of rewards he has no intention of honoring.