Into the Hollow
Pre-Game Setting and Lore
Your characters will begin in the secluded citadel, Hearth, one of the great capital citadels scattered across the land.
Hearth is a grand port city, known for its historically impenetrable natural defenses—to one side of the city lies a great ocean, and to the other, a vast web of mountains and forests separated from the castle by only a few miles of planes and farmland. The only ways past the giant white walls that surround the citadel are through the port and the great front gate—both of which are heavily defended. Never once has the city fallen; “mighty are the walls of Hearth.”
Hearth is divided into four great quarters, where your characters will begin their journeys. Choose one of the quarters where your commoner character will begin, and choose one of the organizations within to ally yourself with. Each quarter and organization has its own benefits and withdrawals to be considered.
Don’t worry about character backstory or lore just yet. The rest will follow in your first adventure.
From the outside-in:
Hearth’s dangerous rural lands, marked by farm plots, survivalist groups, and the many scout towers of the city’s fringe rangers that guard against the Greatwood.
The Cultivators: Farmers and outdoorsman whose spirits are too free (or purses too thin) to take up residence within Hearth’s great walls. These men are hardened, tough individuals, with high knowledge of local lore, crafting tools and structures, and how to use the land towards your will.
The Greatwood Band: The scouts and rangers at the border of the Greatwood. They man outposts and towers around the city, acting as the city’s scouts and first line of manned defense. They know the Greatwood’s geography and hidden dangers like no other men—when traders and envoys come and go, it is necessary to hire a squad of the band to lead them along even the most frequented of roads. Their lives are built around exploring and watching, making them great scouts, and terrifying enemies in unknown terrain.
The Stone Quarter:
The outermost, and most heavily populated quarter inside Hearth’s walls, consisting of housing clusters and a few scattered shops and stalls. This is the urban sprawl—the breeding grounds of the lowborn and peasantry. Though many of the buildings and streets may seem lowly, the strong mercenaries and treacherous rogues make many sectors of this quarter a place where many of even Hearth’s White Guard fear to tread without great numbers.
The Cherubs: Scoundrels and rogues. A gang of ruthless common criminals, led by a charismatic leader, Thane. They are an organized, petty mafia, with secret schemes to move up the Stone Quarter’s food chain.
Torren’s Kennel: The Stone Quarter’s gladiatorial ring, where “Torren’s Dogs” fight to prove their mettle, and earn some silver on the side. The fights are savage, the stakes are high, and the men that walk from the ring alive often move on to become sellsword captains or rogue leaders. Brutal soldiers are born and bred in this pit.
The White Flagon: The intelligentsia of Hearth. Inside this unsuspecting tavern lies Hearth’s greatest network of spies and agents. The ’Flagon has its hands in almost every pocket, and an ear in almost every room. The shadow agents of this network are commissioned by all levels of social and economic strata. They are brilliant negotiators and extortionists, and in a few select cases… assassins.
The Silk Quarter:
The beating heart of Heath’s economy. The quarter is full to bursting with shops and guildsmen, from foreign caravanners to hardy sailors in the port. This quarter is directly connected to the port of the city and to the great gate, and surrounds the innermost quarter of Hearth. Due to the massive economic importance of the quarter, and its direct connection to both entrances of the city, Hearth’s guard has made its station here. To thrive in the Silk Quarter, you have to be a master of your craft, and have the guile to talk your way in and out of everything.
Guilds (Merchant, Smith, Siege Craft, & Art): Each guild is built upon a meritocracy of knowledge and craft. Each guild’s title explains its intent, though each guild holds its own elusive practices and secrets. The guilds are in a constant state of rivalry and feud, often over the grand annual guild gauntlet, where the guilds display their finest skills and crafts to prove their dominance in the city.
The Voyagers: Men of the sea who scoff at the ‘pointless cock-measuring’ of Hearth’s guilds. These hardened sailors seek only adventure and riches beyond the ocean’s horizon, island hopping and exploring at all times—stopping only to rest in their home port. Though many think them a small fleet of romantics, the truth is that many ships are secretly Black-Flaggers and brigands, and only a few have retained their romantic ideals through the years of toil on the sea.
The Guard Garrison: Hearth’s guard is a constantly shifting, ever-moving movement of fighters and warriors. Due to Hearth’s unbreachable defenses and line of ranger scouts, most of the guard’s duties remain inside of the walls. While the city as a whole is a place of peace, the guard is often called into The Stone Quarter to quell the constantly-surging force of organized crime. As of late, many captains of the guard have been paying close attention to the goings-on of certain prominent targets in The Stone Quarter. The rank-and-file are unsure why, but it seems like a great clash is in store.
The Light Quarter:
The innermost sector of Hearth which houses the ever-burning Heart-Fire, marked by a grand central tower and the high keep of Lord-Warden Marius. The Light Quarter is home to the illuminated scholars and wise men of Hearth. It is an ancient place, full of deep magic.
The Blades of Barael: Warrior clerics for the saint of blades and patron god of Hearth, Barael. These men hold little in the ways of magical power, acting more as earthly healers than divine beings. In Hearth, no greater healers or surgeons exist outside of the temple of Barael. Each initiate of the order carries a sword at their side as a holy symbol of the order, and while they train in basic forms and tactics to honor their warrior deity, they are more healer than soldier—more scalpel than sword.
The Blind Brothers: Housed inside of the great tower at Hearth’s center is The Academy, a revered and ancient orders of mages, led by a council of some of the most highly regarded wizards in the land. In The Academy, magical theory is learned over many hours of rigor and study, often to empower those not born with natural sensitivity to the arcane. Through ancient tomes and secret rituals, initiates learn to harness and understand the deep implications of magic… and once they achieve a level of success high enough to be recognized by the order, their eyes are taken from them as a ritual trade for magical attunement. After The Gouging, some initiates grow in power and rise through the ranks of the order—but many Gouge themselves before truly being ready, rendering them cripples, bent for The Stone Quarter as beggars and failures. This order is responsible for the continual maintenance of The Heart-Fire, which stands as a beacon of safety and warmth to Hearth.
Firebrand: An organization of natural-born sorcerers in open conflict with The Blind Brothers, led by an ex-Blind Brother, Lancaster. Firebranders, unlike initiates of The Academy, were born with natural sensitivity to the magics they wield. In many cases, they are magical prodigies, able to practice great rituals that would take initiates of The Academy countless years of study to accomplish. Firebrand disdains the Blind Brothers for their practice of Gouging, often trying to shelter the fallen initiates who did not gain power after their eyes were plucked from them. To them, The Academy is full of soulless academics, and to The Academy, Firebrand is full of unsophisticated, undeserving terrorists and troublemakers.
The Royal Arms (not joinable): A group of elite knights and decorated generals, led personally by Lord-Warden Marius. This force of knights, known as The White Guard, are masters of tactics and war, acting as field commanders during sieges and grand operations in the city. Marked by white swords and shining armor marked with white etchings of The Heart-Fire, they make their presence known in any encounter. Though they move in critical operations around the city with the Guard, they don their armor only in times of great peril for Hearth.