[Let's Read] 4e Setting Lore/Nentir Vale/Nerath

sulldawga

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I'd love to see everything Nentir Vale-related. Why not the H1-3 modules? P1 technically begins in Nentir Vale. The adventures in the Starter Set, Monster Vault, and Dungeon's Master's Kit? Orcs of Stonefang Pass and The Slaying Stone? Madness at Gardmore Abbey?

I feel like those would go quickly, as there's not all that much lore in the modules.

Fallcrest map from here is pretty damn good.
Spoiler: Show


 

sulldawga

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In Dragon 364, there's:

Mention of the fall of Nerath in the article about Yeenoghu.
The "Playing Warforged" article somehow places the origin of Warforged in Nerath and not Eberron.
The "Alchemical Imbalance" article places the goblins in the Vale.

I guess you could assume the Grey Wolves were from PoLand but I've never seen any of the locations mentioned here mentioned again anywhere else.
 

VoidDrifter

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Alright, folks; unless you would prefer to vote individually, my plan is to tackle the location articles in chronological order, then the splatbooks Vor Rukoth, Hammerfast, and Threats to the Nentir Vale, and then finish up with any articles from Dragon/Dungeon that folks feel interested in, predominantly Guilds & Groups. I don't have access to the adventures, unfortunately.

In Dragon 364, there's:

Mention of the fall of Nerath in the article about Yeenoghu.
The "Playing Warforged" article somehow places the origin of Warforged in Nerath and not Eberron.
The "Alchemical Imbalance" article places the goblins in the Vale.

I guess you could assume the Grey Wolves were from PoLand but I've never seen any of the locations mentioned here mentioned again anywhere else.
The Gray Wolves of Maldeen? They're a precursor to the Guilds & Groups article series. As for Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Yeenoghu and Playing Warforged, they've been covered in other Lets Reads of mine.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

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My preference would be to tackle everything in strict chronological order, to best follow how the setting developed, but I expect to be outvoted.
 

VoidDrifter

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Dragon #364: Vor Kragal, City of Ash
Opening Thoughts:
Every setting in D&D has some distinct setting aesthetic or genre that it tries to emulate. Greyhawk is fundamentally a Sword & Sorcery setting, with elements of high magic stolen from Jack Vance. Dragonlance wants to be a Chivalric Romance with added dragons. Spelljammer is Science Fantasy - well, Space Fantasy, anyway. Planescape is Cosmic Fantasy.

So, what is the 4e setting? What would I call it?

Pulp-punk comes to mind. Or maybe Metal Fantasy. The fundamental weirdness of old-school pulp fiction, mixed with the amorality and savagery of sword & sorcery, but filtered through a lens of metal album covers and high magic - closer to Elric of Melnibone than to Conan the Barbarian.

Now, I love this setting, but I will admit that it can be a touch too grand guignol for others. Vor Kragal is, much like the articles on Sunderheart or Alloces, an article that doesn't hold back on the decadence, darkness and debauchery of a Roman-esque empire of diabolists being goaded on by the God of Sin.

In other words? You have been warned...


On Vor Kragal:
It's a basic fact of the 4e setting that Bael Turath was, in classic D&D tradition, an empire of incredible might compared to the diminished powers of the modern era. It's described here as a vast empire that even reached into the Underdark - and rumor had it that there were extraplanar holdings that dwarfed the sprawl present in the known world. A bit of fluff-text adds to the idea that Bael Turath reached across the multiverse - or at least the Prime Material Plane - by claiming that its markets "flowed with the treasures of a hundred worlds".

Vor Kragal was originally the jewel of the southern tiefling empire, and an epicenter in their war against Arkhosia. Ruled over by three houses - Barikdral, Kahlir, Zolfura - it was one of Bael Turath's most impressive bastions of power. Yet such was the ferocity of the war - and the corruption eating away at its heart - that even Vor Kragal could not stand, and was literally buried at the center of a vast wasteland of ashen ruin. Only some of its most impressive citadels survived, and it was only within 30 years that an earthquake forced a significant chunk of the city's center to ascend through the ashes and be restored to the surface again.


The Three Houses:
All of the noble families of Bael Turath were crazed to some extent, and Vor Kragal's ruling trinity were no exception. They were each dedicated to some form of arcane magic before the infernal pacts were signed; when their old expertise was combined with diabolic potency, the result was quite monstrous.

House Barikdral was a dynasty of tiefling necromancers. Its mistress at the time of Vor Kragal's doom was the venerable Matron Jorhara, whose necromantic skills were so powerful that the sound of her voice alone could cause lesser mortals to die and then reanimate as her zombie slaves.

House Kahlir had been practitioners of blood magic before the infernal pacts, and diabolic taint only pushed them into madness. Their last ruler, Blood King Barathas, was an obscenely corpulent and gluttonous tiefling vampire, so monstrous that he developed the power to exsanguinate victims with a glance.

House Zolfura specialized in elementalism and evocation, harnessing destructive elemental magic to destroy their enemies. The throne was shared by two elemental tiefling mages when Vor Kragal perished; Kaieta, ever cloaked in white-blue flame of impossible heat, and her brother Krumos, forever cloaked in chitinous armor of opalescent ice. Legend has it that if the two were separated for two long, an explosion would result, and some have speculated that they might have been the cause behind the destruction of Vor Kragal.


Modern-Era Ruins:
Vor Kragal stands in the middle of ashen wastes, as established earlier. Much of it is still buried beneath layers of ash, and many portions have fallen into ruin. Still, a number of notable locations are covered in significant detail.

Hellforge Crucible: In life, this was the center of Vor Kragal's war-machine, turning out epically powerful magical weapons and artifacts of war. The list is quite absurd; enormous soul-eating juggernauts that moved like quicksilver, blades of pure soulfire that slew with the slightest touch, black spheres of void space that can eat entire cities, and a helm that can "break an entire dimension to splinters of astral space and leave their people howling in oblivion". Though obliterated in whatever cataclysm annihilated Vor Kragal, the Crucible's custodian and chief smith - a pit fiend named Rithzalgor who has descended deep into insanity - has toiled ceaselessly to restore the unholy smithery to life over thousands of years... and may be on the brink of a breakthrough.

Pool of Bronze: Hidden in a cavern in the lowest depths of the city, this superheated lake of molten bronze was used as an execution ground for devils that displeased Bael Turath, powerful spells of unmaking woven into the slag allowing it to consume them. Eventually, so many were fed to the Pool that it gained its own infernal sentience, and rumor has it that the hell-bronze could be used to obtain great power.

Charspire: With spires that reach a half-mile into the sky, this citadel of charred dragon bone and scorched dragon sinew was the stronghold of House Barikdral. They retreated behind its walls and refused to leave them five years before the city fell, but whatever protective enchantments are on it are seemingly impregnable. In the modern era, Charspire teleports every night, and has been known to appear in spots several leagues away from Vor Kragal itself. None know what may lie within, in no small part because attempted breaches result in a torrent of moaning undead and giant bone golems that seek to kill them on site.

The Vein Maze: A vast labyrinth of red stone and brick reputedly mortared with the blood of a dozen empires, this was the stronghold - and ritual killing field - of the blood-mages of House Kahlir. All manner of horrible things relating to blood magic - exsanguination chambers, hidden altars of brutal sacrifice, pleasure baths of boiling blood that restore decades of life to a mortal who bathes in them, honeycomb chambers of gargantuan blood-sucking insects, and more - are said to be hidden here. Along with thousands of blood-drained undead, created from House Kahlir's victims and the criminals of Vor Kragal, for this unholy place was the city's prison in the days that it lived.

Tower of the Mirror King: This majestic mirror tower stands on the northern tier of Vor Kragal, and was the stronghold of a powerful mage known as Sharvast the Mirror King. Such was Sharvast's might that he was able to force the three houses to acknowledge him as an equal. His primary focus was experimenting with transdimensional magic of sanity-shredding power, with mirrors that could serve not merely as scrying tools, but also as portals. Which ultimately turned out very badly indeed. It's possible that Sharvast's mirrored tower might have been responsible for the destruction of Vor Kragal... but who can say? None who have returned there alive have retained their wits...

Pyramid of Lost Tales: A giant sandstone edifice inset with several thousand fist-sized tiger eye gems, it is covered with inscriptions both inside and out that document all manner of tales - both before Bael Turath's fall and after. Its interior is guarded by an enormously powerful beholder lich named Lobosaht.

Bliss: Once a giant nature preserve that served as a retreat for Vor Kragal's wealthiest and most powerful citizens, the primeval beasts and magical plants that survived the cataclysm have become a deadly array of predators. At the center of the ruined arboretum, a fungal tyrant holds court with poisonous trees and fields of carnivorous weeds. This tyrant is the size of a great wyrm and its touch melts any living creature to fetid mulch.

Yazadoun's Folly: Several hundred years ago, a tiefling warlock named Yazadoun foolishly attempted to lay claim to the wasteland of Vor Kragal, constructing a fortress of marble with adamantine gates. The very evening after it was completed, a fiery meteorite fell from the sky and utterly obliterated it on impact. The crater is a popular launch point or base camp for adventurers who seek to explore Vor Kragal, but those who sleep here find themselves almost compelled to look to the heavens while they remain in the area.


Relics & Monsters:
Two artifacts are discussed in this article; the Shattered Spear of Myrdroon, which was the artifact-spear of a storm giant overlord who tried to destroy Vor Kragal, and the Black Tongue of Mabberaj, the unholy tongue of Vor Kragal's most insane warlock, a tiefling so foul and unhinged that even they were revolted to the point of ordering his execution. Of the two, only the Shattered Spear has stats, appearing in both its fragment form (magic spear) and its fully assembled form (paragon tier sapient artifact spear).

For monsters, only three statblocks are provided, and they almost seem like an afterthought; Kahlir Husks are the blood-draining zombies created from the exsanguinated victims of House Kahlir. Kahlir Vampires are the insane, feral remnants of the tiefling vampires of Vor Kragal. Finally, Bloodworms are basically giant leech-like carnivorous worms that were traditionally trained by House Kahlir.


Closing Thoughts:
What to say on this article? I won't lie, the prose is a little...florid, but I grew up reading Conan the Barbarian and the original Tarzan novels, so to me it honestly feels comforting. This article leans very heavily on the "ancient empires", "dwarves on the bones of giants" and "evil empire" buttons, so if those aren't to your taste? It's not going to be much use to you.

Honestly, I think the one word I would most use to describe this article is "experimental". It's a solid bit of fluff, but not as in-depth or intricate as later articles like Mithrendain will be by comparison. It's probably in no small part because Vor Kragal is intended to be a dungeon delve first and foremost, but still, the map and the list of notable sites, whilst heavily detailed, is pretty short. This article seems to mainly aim at giving you the broad strokes outline of the place, and a feel for what kind of nightmarish Dark High Fantasy place it was in the age of Bael Turath, and then entrusting you to make it your own.

I don't know how useful it is, but I'd still recommend giving it a read, if only to compare it to how later articles will turn out.
 

Raveled

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This sort of setting stuff doesn't really do anything for me because I can't really figure out how to use it. By the time the PCs are ready to go into this place and bargain with Rithzalgor I feel like they're outgrown the sword and sorcery feel of the place.
 

sulldawga

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This place feels like one death trap after another. I guess I could point to this place when people say there isn't enough content for the 21st to 30th level PCs in 4e...
 
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