Saturday, April 21, 2018

[D&D] The trade road from Narwell to Verbobonc

Most trade in and out of the Wild Coast region of the World of Greyhawk goes by water, through the bustling seaport towns of Safeton, Fax, and Elredd. However, some merchants also follow an overland route across the Kron Hills and through the Gnarley Forest, connecting the region with the breadbasket of the Velverdyva Valley.

This route, commonly called the "High Road" (as opposed to the "Low Road" that runs along the shore of the Velverdyva) stretches approximately 200 miles connecting the towns of Verbobonc in the northwest and Narwell in the southeast.

Eastbound wagons are typically loaded with foodstuffs and cloth goods intended for the inhabitants of the Wild Coast, while westbound wagons are more likely to carry goods imported from across the Azure Sea - superior food and clothing of Aerdy origin (including crates of highly-prized Sundish lilac wine) and even more exotic goods - spices, ivory, and rare wood - from further abroad. Thus, while the former traffic is greater in volume, the latter tends to be more valuable.

The trip takes ten days (including one mid-trip rest day) for a wagon train. Parties on foot or horseback - be they pilgrims, refugees, adventurers, or outlaws - also use this route on occasion, and are able to navigate the hilly terrain more quickly. A party on foot can traverse the route in seven days, and a group on horseback requires only four.

Although the road passes mostly through wild lands, it is fairly well maintained, and the woodsmen, gnomes, and wood elves inhabiting the Gnarley Forest are sufficient to keep the route safe from most bandits, humanoid raiders, and other predatory monsters. Nevertheless, a series of inns and lodges along the route serve as regular stops for the passing traffic. From east to west they are:

  1. The Chirping Redbreast Inn (Woodsedge village: pop. 750): Night 1 (9) stop for wagon trains, night 1 (6) stop for men travelers on foot. The scenically rustic village of Woodsedge is situated at the verge between the Gnarley Forest to the north and Welkwood to the south and sees traffic from both directions. This inn is pleasant, if largely nondescript. It is generally busy with patrons coming from all directions, who are happy to trade news and gossip of their travels. 
  2. The Grand Timberway Inn: Night 2 (7-8) stop for wagon trains, night 2 (5) stop for travelers on foot, night 1 (3) stop for riders on horseback. This large inn is, effectively, a self-contained fort. It is surrounded by a high palisade with two watchtowers and employs a dozen-person militia among its total staff of fifty. In addition to the inn proper, several outbuildings within the wall provide supplemental services (blacksmithing, candle-making, baking, etc.) to the innkeeper and travelers alike. The accommodations here are expensive, but most travelers consider it worth the price. Woe to those who (through excessive rowdiness, property damage, or inability to pay their bill) end up on the wrong side of the proprietors and find themselves banned from the establishment, forced to make camp outside its walls.
  3. The Windy Hollow Lodge: Night 3 (6) stop for wagon trains. This small, lonely inn sees little traffic, and even some merchant caravans will choose to make camp along the road rather than stay here. The lodge is a single dilapidated house which may have once been grand but certainly has not been that way for decades, and now smells of mold and dust. The small family who operates the place all seem dreary and listless, which also well describes the quality of the nourishments served here. Most travelers are sure the place is haunted, and those who've stayed here in the past tend to have stories of unexplained footsteps, moaning sounds, and even shadowy visions.
  4. The Homely House Lodge: Night 4 (5) stop for wagon trains, night 3 (4) stop for travelers on foot. This comfortable lodge is operated by an extended family of gnomes, though in recognition of their clientele the public eating and sleeping areas were all built at human-scale. When they learn that a group of travelers are passing through, gnomish peddlers from the nearby burrow-villages will descend upon the lodge in hopes of trading trinkets and gossip. The cuisine served here is typically gnomish - turnips, carrots, and other root-vegetables - but the gnomes brew their own beer, which is surprisingly good.
  5. The Cat's Cradle Inn: Night 5 (4) stop for wagon trains, night 2 stop for riders on horseback. This inn is operated by a pair of old widow sisters and their improbably extensive brood of 20+ children and grandchildren who are constantly scurrying back and forth on errands. The place feels underdefended (one son and two grandsons have spears and shortbows and form a feeble militia) but both women are powerful mystics (the elder, Bezequelle, is an Astrologer, the younger, Pegeen, is a Medium) who not only have placed various magical charms and wards about the place, but are also on friendly terms with and watched over by both the woodsmen and elves of the area. Should any trouble arise here one of the urchin granddaughters has been instructed to run into the woods to summon help, which will arrive 4-24 turns later in the form of a patrol of woodsmen (1-2) or wood elves (3-6).
  6. The Hillsmoor Inn (Imeryds Ford: pop. 200): Night 6 (3) stop for wagon trains, night 4 (3) stop for travelers on foot. The rustic folk of this hamlet keep their heads down and are not typically friendly with travelers during the day. At night, in the common room of the inn after their tongues have been loosened by ale, they are more willing to trade gossip (and slander) about the next village over. A pair of Footpads keep an eye on all traffic passing through (as this is one of only two fords along this stretch of the Imeryds Run) and if they spy anything unusual will report it to their boss (Gremag, in Hommlet), either by seeking to join on with the travelers (and spending the next day in further observation) or - if a group seems particularly interesting or dangerous - secretly departing on horseback during the night in order to make their report before they arrives. The villagers here know that these two (and their half-orc Warrior companion, who keeps a low profile but is available as muscle if needed) are untrustworthy strangers, but are very unlikely to share that with people who are themselves untrustworthy strangers. 
  7. The Welcome Wench Inn (Hommlet: pop. 250): Night 7-8 (2) stop for wagon trains, night 5 (2) stop for travelers on foot, night 3 (1) stop for riders on horseback. Located at the crossroads of the High and Low Roads, this large and prosperous inn is renowned for its good food and excellent drink. The ostler will often attempt to purchase out of the stock of any passing merchant carrying wine or liquors to replenish his extensive cellar. A few miles east of here on the Low Road lie the ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil, that cult of demon-worshippers who were the cause of so much mischief around these parts a decade ago.
  8. The Pig and Barrel Inn (Bywater village: pop. 850): Night 9 (1) stop for wagon trains, night 6 (1) stop for travelers on foot. Nondescript and seedy lodgings in this nondescript and seedy riverside village that always seems to smell vaguely of rotting fish. Travelers along the Low Road also frequent this inn, so despite its mediocre quality it is usually busy and travelers may be forced to sleep in the common room (30%) or barn (10%) even if they are willing to pay for private rooms - though offering to pay double or triple will see some other group consigned in their place.

Encounters on the road: For the first and last days of travel, encounters should be checked normally for the Viscounty of Verbobonc or Wild Coast (respectively, depending upon the direction of travel). For the days in-between, while the road is passing through the wild woods and hills, the following table should be checked three times per day of travel (morning, mid-day, and evening), with an encounter of some sort occurring on 1 in 10.  If the party stays in any of the inns above there will be no encounter checks during the night, but if they make camp in the woods instead they will be subject to three more nighttime encounter checks.

Roll (1d8+1d12)            Encounter
2                                   Bugbears
3                                   Kobolds (1-4) or xvarts (5-6)
4                                   Snake: poisonous (1-3), giant constrictor (4-5), or giant poisonous (6)
5                                   Owl (night) or Raven (day)
6                                   Giant porcupine (1-3) or skunk (4-6)
7                                   Gnomes
8                                   Bear: black (1-4) or brown (5-6)
9                                   Men, woodsmen
10                                Giant beetle: bombardier (1-2), boring (3-4), stag (5-8), slicer (9), or death watch (0)
11                                Wild boar
12                                Stag
13                                Wolves
14                                Men, merchants
15                                Wood elves
16                                Men, bandits
17                                Men, other: pilgrims of [St. Cuthbert (1-2), Fharlanghn (3-5), Olidammara (6)] (1-3), Rhennee (Attloi) (4-5), beggars (6), refugees (7), or adventurers (8)
18                                Giant tick (1-3) or weasel (4-6)
19                                Spider: large (1-3), huge (4-5), or giant (6)
20                                Monster (see Sub-table)

Roll (1d8+1d12)            Monster Sub-Table
2                                   Displacer beast
3                                   Lycanthrope, werebear
4                                   Giant: hill (1-4) or verbeeg (5-6)
5                                   Blink dog
6                                   Griffon
7                                   Basilisk
8                                   Leprechaun
9                                   Ghouls
10                               Gnolls
11                               Ogre
12                               Owl bear
13                               Lycanthrope, werewolf
14                               Stirges
15                               Troll
16                              Shadow
17                              Lycanthrope, wereboar
18                              Peryton
19                              Wyvern
20                              Green dragon


  1. Excellent stuff. Is this your own invention, or are you gleaning this from some long-lost source?

    1. All me, as extrapolated from T1-4 and the 1983 WOG boxed set

  2. Great post. Going straight into my campaign

  3. Thanks for this Trent, I'm using this if the PCs travel this way!

  4. Great work Trent!

    What do the parenthetical numbers mean in the intro for each entry?: "Night 1 (9) stop for wagon trains, night 1 (6) stop for men travelers on foot."

    Is that the hour when travellers arrive on Night N, or something else?


    1. Nothing so elaborate. The primary value is which night westbound traffic arrives at a particular spot, and the parenthetical is the night when eastbound traffic arrives at the same spot. I generally assumed full days of travel each day, so parties should always arrive at the inns around mid-to-late afternoon. The exception is the distance between Hommlet and Imeryds Ford. At about 20 miles, that’s a long day for wagons (who normally make 15 miles per day on a road through hills) and a short day for unencumbered parties afoot (who could cover up to 30 miles). So the former group probably does a forced march and/or arrives after dusk, while the latter group arrives in the early afternoon and has extra time to spend lounging in the bar gathering rumors :)

  5. Also: do you have map for this route done up yet? If not, do you need some hex paper? :D


    1. Sort of. I have a Hommlet area map that shows the last three and a Narwell area map that shows the first two. The three in between I don’t have on a map (other than the Darlene map) but am not sure one is really needed either, as long as the parties are just passing through.

  6. Trent,

    I love this stuff. That particular route is something I'd focused on too for the home campaign---although mine was far less populated. It would be great to see your maps.

    I also liked your post of the "Activity Tables for The Village of Hommlet" which compliments this nicely.

    One thing I've vacillated a bit on is travel times by horse versus foot. I've seen it stated several places that traveling by horse over distance is not actually much faster than foot, as the animal needs to rest too (but obviously you can haul more). I've also seen your convention many places too---horse travel is twice as fast. I was thinking a compromise might be that you can choose to travel at double speed with a horse, but you can only do that for half the time before wearing the animal out. Either way, you only get to travel the same distance each day (8-10 leagues = 24-30 miles), which is nice for placing locations relative to each other.

    Your thought?

    1. I just used the movement rates in the World of Greyhawk folio & boxed set and didn’t give it any more thought than that. I don’t know nearly enough about overland horse travel IRL to make any judgment about whether or not those numbers are accurate, but if you do want to have mounted traffic move at the same rate as foot traffic it doesn’t break the route (though it would reduce the amount of traffic staying at the Cats Cradle Inn).