I got my ACKS game going this week, so I figured I'd write up a blog post about creating the starting town, Nenlast. I've set the game in the Nentir Vale, the implied setting of D&D 4E, but I've changed Nenlast quite a bit from the way it was described in the Abyssal Plague novels.
So first up, I knew that Nenlast is described in the 4E DMG as a small fishing village, so I decided to run with that. It's small, so for population I decided on roughly 200 people. Large enough to warrant a wall and a militia, but small enough to keep fairly simple in terms of organizations and locations within the town. According to the ACKS rules, 200 people would make Nenlast a market class VI town and include a pretty small number of leveled NPCs.
After setting the population, I made some decisions on locations I wanted to have available: an inn, a disreputable tavern, some sort of church, a graveyard/cemetery, a place of governance, a couple of shops, and the docks. I wrote out some descriptions of these locations along with NPCs that might be found there, then moved on to the next step in the ACKS rules: criminal organizations.
Such a small town, in the ACKS rules, will have a correspondingly small criminal faction. In this case, I decided to have the town's known criminals consolidated into a gang known as the Crimson Hands. I incorporated The Drunken Boar, the disreputable tavern I'd created, and made it the gang's hangout. The tavern's owner, Belloc, became the gang's leader and that was that. Total gang membership is only 16 (8x 0th level ruffians, 5x 1st level, 2x 2nd level, 1x 3rd level boss).
I figure the Crimson Hands are small fish who think they're a lot scarier than they really are. The gang leader and a couple of his lieutenants might be a threat to some adventurers, but for the most part, the gang consists of level-0 normal people that probably won't want to get in a lethal fight with armed and armored adventurers.
Once I finished up the basics on the Crimson Hands, I wrote up a few tavern rumors for the PCs can follow up on. It's a hexcrawl/dungeon crawl game, so I won't be using many, if any, published adventures. I figured these rumors were pretty decent stuff for a low level party to be interested in taking a look at.
I'm working on a map of the town, so hopefully that'll be finished up and posted later this week.
Locations in Nenlast
Black Trout Inn
Famed around the Nentir Vale for its beer-battered trout, the Black Trout Inn is owned and run by Red Toran. Small compared to inns in larger towns such as Fallcrest, the Black Trout Inn has a core group of regular customers who like to sit and chat about the day's events during most evenings.
Rather than having multiple churches dedicated to individual deities, Nenlast has only a small chapel with individual altars or statues for most of the pantheon: Erathis, Pelor, Avandra, Bahamut, Melora, Ioun, and Kord. The chapel is overseen by Korlas, a priest dedicated to Erathis, though there are a number of other priests of various deities. The Raven Queen is not represented at the chapel, but there is a small shrine to her at the entrance to the graveyard.
Easily the most bustling area of Nenlast on most days, the docks are where the village's small fleet of fishing boats and rafts are moored. Near the docks is a beach where the ice-fishing shacks are kept during the summer.
Erkar's General Store
Most popular for its wide selection of bait and tackle, Erkar's General Store sells just about any necessity for life on the shores of Lake Nen, including archery gear and leather products. Erkar carries some of the most basic spell components, but it's a small selection that he doesn't really cater to, as most mages prefer to buy from the Sapphire Tower
The Ironheart Smithy is run by the Ironhearts, a family of dwarves living in the only completely-stone building in Nenlast. The Ironhearts are known for their no-frills, high-quality craftsmanship and blades that are very durable and solid. Most iron and steel products can be bought at the Ironheart Smithy, including swords, axes, and armor. The smithy is run by Kora Ironheart, who boasts that she is the best smith in all of the Nentir Vale.
The Drunken Boar
The only competitor of the Black Trout Inn, The Drunken Boar is a tavern in a rather run-down state. Run as a front for the local thieves' guild, the Crimson Hands, The Drunken Boar is a home for the town drunks, ruffians, and other disreputable folk.
Named for the silver crescent moon painted on the door, Moon Tower is where Nenlast's few mages congregate. Owned by a doddering, half-senile old mage by the name of Cromlen, Moon Tower is a combination magic shop and residence. While Cromlen's powers have waned in the last decade or so, rumors abound of arcane secrets and trinkets held within the tower.
Lord Mayor Thure Karn
Red Toran, proprietor of the Black Trout Inn
Korlas, priest of Erathis
Erkar, proprietor of Erkar's General Store
Erkar, proprietor of Erkar's General Store
Kora Ironheart, master smith at the Ironheart Smithy
Belloc, chief of the Crimson Hands and owner of The Drunken Boar
1. Goblins have been plaguing the Old Hill Road, besieging trade caravans. The Lord Governor of Nenlast has set a bounty of five silver pieces for goblin ears, and an extra bounty of 100 gold if presented with proof that the goblins are no longer a threat.
2. Rumor has it that there's a nest of owlbears in a cave just inside Winterbole Forest, five miles out of town. Everyone knows owlbear eggs are a delicacy, and their pelts make for the best leather in the Vale.
3. An old wizard's tower has fallen into ruin outside town. It's rumored to be haunted and the wizard's treasures are said to still lay within. The tower is perpetually shrouded in mist, and none have been brave enough to enter in years.
4. Legend has it, an island known as the Fang on Lake Nen is home to an old smuggler's den that may still hold a cache of valuables left there long ago. Most sailors in Nenlast think the Fang is cursed with bad luck and won't go anywhere near it, however.
5. The teens of Nenlast insist that the local graveyard is haunted. They say that, if you spend the night in the graveyard during a full moon, a restless spirit will appear. The identity of the spirit is always changing – some say it's a half-elven woman, while some insist it's a full-blooded orc warrior (though why an orc would be buried there is another mystery altogether).
6. A local farmer, Old Man Hatchet, is willing to pay good gold to enterprising folk willing to clear any unwanted beasts from a cave on his property. Purportedly, the cave contains some sort of giant rodent or insect – Old Man Hatchet's sight is failing and his account varies from telling to telling.