Slaughter Rock is a fairly large township on a distant northern shore. The waters are constantly cold, the shore consists of heaps of broken black stone, relentlessly beaten by the ocean, except in the depths of winter, when the ice freezes for hundreds of yards away. The township itself is a mixture of bleached white wood and abundant heaps of rough hewn black ocean rock. There is a modest sheltered harbor where ships came come in and be protected from the harsh storms the come out of the extreme north.
The people of Slaughter Rock are dour and stoic, seemingly immune to the misery of their homeland. They favor heavy oilskin coats and cloaks, and the more martially inclined wear sealskin cloaks.
Three things drive the economy of Slaughter Rock and keep it on the trade routes; whale oil, ambergris, and scrimshaw. The whalers make their main livelihood from hunting and havesting whales for their abundant reserves of blubber. This is cooked down and rendered into oil for lamps, and a variety of other uses further south, for customers who have no real notion that their vials of lubricant or lamp oil came from great ocean monsters. The locals of Slaughter Rock and the inland areas consume most of the meat and hide from the whaler's work. To a lesser extent, Slaughter Rock also supports seal trappers and traditional fishermen, though both of these are local subsistence level industries. The ambergris harvested from some of the whales is a highly valued and sought after commodity, and it is traded south to the more temperate and wealthy regions where it is used in making perfumes and potions. Finally, the teeth and bones are used in creating scrimshaw art. This niche art is commonplace in Slaughter Rock and other such communities, but again in the temperate south, it is considered a collectible form of art.
The namesake of Slaughter Rock is a specific tilted slab of stone that broke into the harbor. The whalers have learned that they can drag particularly valuable carcasses onto the rock and the beast can be butchered quickly and easily (relatively speaking) which turns the harbor red, and it is the rock the whales are slaughtered on.
The Kaulder Priory is something of a superficial enigma, as it is larger than a community like Slaughter Rock should be able to support. Outwardly, the priory is a convent and houses a fairly large number of women who have innate magical potential. They are being kept there as a sort of prison, but a nice prison for people who havent actually done anything wrong. The setting that Slaughter Rock is set in, Kill All Witches, is based around rogue magic users posing an existential threat to civilization, and the women of the Priory have the potential to become witches, being magic users. They have not become witches, they have not become a threat, but there is the potential, or the fear of that potential. So, the Priory is a sort of gulag for potential witches. If one turns, conditions are harsh, the locals are harsh, and local creatures are harsh. Plus it is isolated, and pretty far away from anywhere.
The Kaulder Vaults and Catacombs
The Kaulder Priory sits on top of a large hive of catacombs and dungeons. A number of things are kept under Kaulder, and none of these things are particularly good.
The Catacombs are a magical prison for the mortal remains of suspected, executed, and otherwise deceased witches. The remains are kept protected from the outside world. Some witches have the power to raise their sisters back from just bones and ash. Others can use the relics of their slain magic using kin as magical vessels. Finally, if a ghost or some other undead manifestation of a witch appears, they remain trapped within the catacombs. As such, the catacombs are explicitly not a safe place to be after dark, or on dark holidays.
The vaults are used to keep witch magic items, books, and other material objects. Superstition often keeps these items from being destroyed, either the fear of curses being bound to them, or that the destruction of such an item can be the trigger for a greater and more terrible spell. This is not entirely unwarranted, as a number of witch grimoires have been trapped thusly in the past, and the destruction of the book can activate a last spell written into it, summoning monsters, creating generational hexes, or otherwise unleashing horror.
The final thing under Kaulder is a sealed, but not destroyed hellmouth, a place where powerful negative energy wells up and boils from the ground itself. Extensive magics were used in creating a powerful altar and seal over the hellmouth, and it was buried so deeply that almost everyone has forgotten it exists. The only people who know are powerful members of the clergy (who know of it as a trivia footnote) and by a number of witches who remain active, or are in hiding.
Purpose of Slaughter Rock
Slaughter Rock is purposely intended to be used as a starting point for a campaign, and it both small and remote which will motivate the characters to leave for more verdant adventuring pastures, but it is rich in RP potential that they have options, and can pursue different leads and local adventures.
Inland - Slaughter Rock is on a coast, and heading inland provides ample room for mountain, tundra, and taiga encounters, This includes plenty of room for hidden keeps, large and powerful monsters, and primitive tribes, mountain dwarves, dragons, undead, and more. Scarcely traveled trade roads lead to hunting and trapping communities further inland, and form the crumb trail to adventure
To the Sea - ships travel to and from Slaughter Rock, most are whalers, but there are merchantmen who travel the distance for valuable ambergris and oil, giving the PCs plenty of potential for maritime adventures, hunting for emperor whales, and other marine megafauna, merfolk encounters, and simply the option for traveling via ship to other lands.
The Town - in typical RPG fashion, a rural marine community has plenty of opportunity for local color NPCs to have small jobs and tasks for a single of small group of starting level adventurers to try their hands at. This also gives them the opportunity to invest in their home community and create a legacy for their characters, an inn, a tavern, a shop, and so forth. This can be where they return to spend downtime between big adventures.
The Priory - The priory is a distant outpost of a regionally dominant religion, and I generally present it as a sort of lone diety setup, but one that recognizes the existence of other pantheons, but claims dominance and supremacy over them. As such, there is initial conflict either supporting the orthodox priory, or opposing it and supporting demihumans and pantheist and naturalist faiths. The vaults under the priory are a source of adventure, relics to be reclaimed, or taken for questing purposes, or to be vigorously defended from evil forces that would steal them.
Kill All Witches - in KaW, the town is a harsh place where individuality and self expression are distractions from survival, and it is easy to become ostracised, which can be a death sentence. Female magic users are already suspected of being evil witches, and there is extensive and outright persecution against them, regardless of their actions or innocence. This means that places like Slaughter Rock, and those like it, are inadvertently creating the conditions required to turn women into actual infernal witches, and men into warlocks (men and women both succumb to this lure, women are just more harshly treated for it). Thus, Slaughter Rock is frequently endangered by the witches it creates, but most are new, low level, and weak. It is up to the PCs to investigate the source and cause of the turnings, determine if there is actually a chance of salvation, and how much of a hand they've had in creating the problem themselves.
I am running a new dark fantasy campaign with my wife, and she is going to be starting out as an initiate of the Priory, an abandoned orphan of questionable blood but obvious magic potential.
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