Friday, September 11, 2015

[Sword Coast Legends] Building Criollo, Part 1

While it will still be a two weeks or so until Sword Coast Legends is formally released, that shouldn't stop me from doing some prep work. While ultimately I want to use it for my own setting Urbis, it is at the moment unclear when the tools I would need for that will be released - or, indeed, whether such tools will be released at all.

But I enjoy the Forgotten Realms in their own right, and I suspect I will enjoy creating modules for them as well. And to start with, I need a "hub town" - a place from where the initial quests start and where the player characters can go to sell their loot. I don't want to use an established town, since that might conflict with both the single-player campaign and the modules of other DMs, so I will create an entirely new one.

The first question is where to place it on the map. Since I don't want to deviate from Realmslore too much, I want to place it in a region where adding another town would not be surprising. This rules out much of the northern Savage Frontier, since every isle of civilization is notable there (plus, I suspect that this will likely be a very popular region for modules by other DMs). Thus, I will pick a place on the other end of the map - north of the Cloud Peaks, on the Trade Way between Beregost and Amn.

What associations does "Amn" trigger? Well, way back before the Spellplague, Amn had some colonies in Maztica, a pseudo-mesoamerican continent whose concept I was rather fond of (even if the execution of the concept could have been better). Some Amnian mercenaries pulled a Cortez-style invasion in 1361 DR, and had a very profitable thing going until 1385 DR, when the whole continent was switched with Laerakond/Returned Abeir. The continents presumably returned to their original place during the Sundering, though there is no real confirmation beyond noting the presence of Maztica in the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide. I haven't been able to dig up a date for the Sundering either, although Sword Coast Legends will take place in the year 1494. So it's not yet clear how long ago Maztica has returned.

(As a side note, while I am not a fan of the 100 year time jump after the Spellplague and the 3E campaign setting remains my favorite incarnation of the Forgotten Realms, I do think an examination of the hybrid culture that may have developed on Maztica during its absence would be absolutely fascinating. A Mesoamerican-style culture that has access to Renaissance-era technological knowledge - as well as arcane magic - imported from the pseudo-Europeans but can no longer be colonized by them would certainly in interesting ways, and that doesn't even touch any interactions with the dragon overlords of Abeir. But I digress...).

Back to the immediate aftermath of the Spellplague. Suddenly, Amn has lost access to its very profitable colonies - as well as their cash crops. To compensate, they will likely attempt to plant these crops at home. Maize should grow very well in Amn, as it does in Europe of our own world. I am not sure whether potatoes were ever "alien" to Faerun the way they were alien to Europe, so I will ignore that for the time being. However, another crop is highly interesting - cocoa. As any chocoholic will know, it is a highly sought-after substance and thus very valuable to mercantile interests - which Amn has in spades.

Which brings us back to our hub town. The Amnian government might very well attempt to create a monopoly on the cocoa trade - and it is almost inevitable that some people will attempt to break that monopoly by planting cocoa outside of Amn - such as the northern foothills of the Cloud Peaks. While in our world cocoa will only grow near the equator, the Forgotten Realms certainly have access to plant magics that should compensate for the relative cold. And if wizards can create owlbears, then adjusting crops to a different climate should not be a major challenge.

This also gives me the name for my hub town - Criollo, after one of the subtypes of cocoa plants. We will assume that the town has seen its ups and downs over the years. It will likely have had repeated problems with Amn, which doesn't want the competition and will use means fair and foul to shut it down.

And of course - as it was later discovered - the town was built on top of assorted ruins and dungeons, because this is the Forgotten Realms and they all are. But I will leave detailing them to a later date.

But before I conclude this entry, let me come up with one more Maztica association for the town. One of its residents is someone who claims to be the last descendant of the ruler of Payit before Maztica was spirited away, and he asks for monetary assistance from wealthy-looking individuals (such as adventurers) so that he can mount an expedition to now-returned Maztica and reclaim the throne that is rightfully his.

Of course it's a scam, but I will need to figure out some way of making this NPC more interesting than just attempting to take the PCs' money...