Auvenkine is a mountainous continent, isolated from even its closest neighbours by miles of storm-wracked sea. Although the continent itself is nominally peaceful, this is largely due to the precautions taken by its civilised residents. The cities, towns and villages are built on the easily defensible slopes of its major mountain range, leaving the badlands to tribes of orcs and savage humans and the mountaintops to the wolves. It is rare for travelers between cities to run into any kind of trouble more serious than bandits and highwaymen, and the roads and trade-canals between settlements are policed by well-intentioned amateur guards.
The mix of sentient species on the continent is reasonably even, with humans outnumbering the other core races but not by a huge amount. The non-core races are reasonably represented in towns and cities, but most keep themselves to villages and encampments on the fringes of society through choice, relishing their individuality and living by their own rules. Religions are tolerated but none has risen up to a position of dominance, and each major city is ruled by its own government (usually run in a vaguely democratic fashion, but there are exceptions). The average person would rarely stray more than a few miles from the place of their birth unless forced to, and existence is comfortable if sedentary.
Auvenkine's major cities are plunging into an industrial age, but the engineering fervour has yet to reach outside their walls. Apart from the presence of a few logging stations, smelting plants and sawmills the average township is rarely concerned with what advancements the cities are working on or incorporating into their daily lives.
Although the civilised areas of the continent are rarely troubled by unexpected violence, illnesses continue to take their toll. With little access to eldritch research or magical healing fast-spreading minor illnesses and plagues represent a real hazard, many of them brought by travelers who have frequented the badlands past the lower frontier. Town and village dwellers have built up immunities to many of the more infectious diseases over the years, but the strict policing of city borders has led to the populace being more susceptible to illnesses, and they thank the stars that such outbreaks are infrequent.
The cities and towns are surrounded mostly by forests and farmland, but there are occasional anomalies that most right-thinking people steer clear of. Underground networks of brass-coloured corridors are occasionally found and walled-up, and hard-to-reach monuments of an ancient civilisation can be seen jutting from the higher slopes of the mountains. These are seen as bad and unlucky places, the birth-holes of beasts best left undescribed. Every now and then a group of adventurers and restless souls will depart, stating that their intention is to make their way into one of these monuments – of those that can make the hard trek across the upper slopes and the unmapped regions few return, and those that do bring with them incredible riches to tempt their fellows, and even more incredible stories to keep them away.
As for the history of the region, it is a subject of debate for city-bound scholars all across the continent. Some evidence points strongly to the civilised nations being the remnants of a great purge conducted by unknown entities, a thinning of the ranks of sentience a thousand years in the past. Others hold that the elves are the true owners of Auvenkine's bountiful forests, and that the other races emerged from the badlands to bring industry, plague and a mixture of cultures to the mountain slopes, disrupting and co-opting a previously peaceful existence. An emergent theory is that the brass ruins that can be found dotted around the land are all that remains of a race of powerful Ifreeti, the last vestiges of the 'Smoldering Empire' mentioned in the oral traditions of the badland-dwellers to the far south. While it is rare that scholars can agree on exactly what the history of their continent is, they do settle on a single point – that Auvenkine is not truly theirs, and was once greater and more peaceful than it now stands.
The Immediate Setting:
You begin in a hospital room on the outskirts of the city of Barrjka, with a meeting about to be held in the ruined courtyard that the patients habitually stay out of. Your character will be present at the meting, which will give them a chance to put forward the reasoning behind why the visiting businessman's gift should be reserved for them.
The area around Barrjka is typical of the region, with dense forests and a lot of mountain streams. The climate is temperate, warm and humid in the summers but bitterly cold in the winter, and the nearest port is a hundred miles to the east of you. The logging companies often work on the edges of the lower mountain slopes, where the land starts to rise. You assume that's where you'll be headed.
There are several notable towns and villages around Barrjka - Elene (a settlement of elves and a few half-elves), High Krandon (A dwarven hill-fort surrounded by hard-won farmland), and Rowleech (A large predominantly human settlement clustered around a canal, and a useful place to trade and purchase goods from around the continent).
The Marshall Wellness Corporation, a group of doctors and chemists at the top of their fields, have finally devised away to utilise the oozes that roll around the city sewers. Treating them with a slew of chemicals and what little magical puissance they could get their hands on they have altered a group of oozes so that they are, for all intents and purposes, programmed to function as replacement body parts. With a lot of surgery and a little luck you could be whole again... sort of. There are still some problems with these so-called 'grafts', and you'll be the group to try them out in the field. The fact that you'll be undertaking dangerous and unpaid work at the same time is beside the point, obviously – just a matter of circumstance.
The company you are going to be subcontracted to for stress-testing is Hawcroft Logging, who have their headquarters clse by in the city of Barrjka. It owns over thirty logging and production sites, and supplies several surrounding cities with building and craft materials. The company has recently branched out into mining, although currently only several very small operations exist in your region.
The company was founded by Ueno Hawcroft (a towering man with a waxed mustache, beginning to show the signs of old age, if their promotional posters are to be believed) but in recent years more and more of the executive decisions have been made by his adopted daughter Theria, a young half-orc of keen intelligence and a ruthless head for business. It is rumoured that total ownership of the company will fall to her upon his death, although in truth her current role in the business is so prominent that many of the employees wouldn't notice the difference if it did.
Hawcroft Logging is regarded as a necessary evil by most citizens, who are willing to overlook its business practices as long as it remains a useful and productive supplier of timber and firewood.
Barrjka, largest city of the Katterfein Mountains:
Known locally as Auvenkine’s Beacon, the city of Barrjka throngs with life both day and night. Its nickname comes from the signal fires and guide-lights that it keeps burning along its walls during the dark hours, a method of ensuring that no matter where you are on the slopes that surround the city you’ll be able to find a safe haven. The towns and villages that surround its walls extend this philosophy and while the inns and taverns charge a regular amount per room, their lofts and barns are always available without payment for a traveler who has fallen on hard times.
Despite these facts it would be a disservice to the city and its residents to judge them on their philanthropic exterior alone – the city streets house innumerable centers of industry and learning, and Barrjka is the birthplace of many new mechanical contrivances and advanced corporate practices. Its geniality is built on solid infrastructure and political stability (although dissidents do exist) as well as an iron core of advancing heavy industry.
An extracts from the travel diaries of Harley Vale concerning the slope-city of Barrjka. ‘Auvenkine’s Beacon they call it, and by the gods it’s easy to see why. I could see it for weeks before I reached its gates, like a pool of fire on the lower slopes of the Katterfein. And the city gates were open, I could see that too, as if a challenge to the creatures who flourish in the darkness of the forests I’d been surrounded by for so long.
They had nothing to fear, the citizens within those walls, for their city shone stronger than the gods-damned moon.’
Magic, and Those Who Use It:
The cities of Auvenkine are places of great learning, but this rarely encompasses a study of the arcane arts. There are no official magical institutions to join and, although there are occasional noble houses who pride themselves on creating practitioners of the esoteric arts, the common citizen will often breeze through life with no magical interference. Magic-users are regarded with a mixture of apprehension, awe and pity, and most individuals who have skill with the arcane decline opportunities to demonstrate in public, preferring to live normal, every day lives.
However, the inhabitants of the badlands to the south of the frontier have no such compunctions. Legends and myths tell of powerful mages and keen-minded alchemists who carve out petty fiefdoms amongst the sickly trees and hills of the badlands, marshaling small armies of magical beasts with which they hope to gain entry to the verdant mountain slopes. Few people believe these tales, or at least admit to believing them, yet the number of individuals who volunteer to help shore up the defences of the frontier towns are still markedly low.
Religion, or the Lack of It:
With the inherent lack of high level magic in the setting, traditional ‘divine action’ based religions do not have much of a foothold in Auvenkine. The lack of miracles, martyrs and, particularly, divine-channeled magical cures for illnesses or injuries means that although the majority of the population believes in the gods, they do so in a somewhat relaxed fashion. Auvenkine citizens are rarely supporters of the fervent worship seen in other parts of the world, although it's true that some individuals of that type certainly exist.
This does not mean that clerics or paladins are particularly rare, however, simply that they are more likely to devote themselves to the strengthening or reinforcement of an ideal over the whims of a deific being. It is more common to find a monument constructed to honour the abstract concepts of 'purity', 'bravery' or 'beauty' than a shrine devoted to Sarenrae or Calistria. Foreign visitors to the continent of Auvenkine often find this vaguely unsettling at first, although strong adherence to religious principles is only the subject of negative stereotyping when the doctrines of said religions clash with local laws.
The Sink and Rise Hours:
Living as they do on an incredibly mountainous continent, the people of Auvenkine have developed a slight idiosyncrasy when it comes to describing the times of the day (Due to the sun being blocked by the mountains for large amounts of time, throwing entire regions into shadow whilst leaving the surrounding slopes and hillsides bathed in the glow of dawn or dusk). These times are known as the 'rise hours' when they happen in the morning, and the 'sink hours' in the evening.
Different places experience these pockets of darkness at different times, and they can be dangerous for travelers who are moving alone or in small groups and don't know the local schedules, as the forests become progressively more dangerous to move around in throughout the night. Local legends (with more than a little truth to them) in many places describe the sink-hours especially as the favoured time for many savage creatures to hunt larger prey caught unaware by the sudden change in light conditions.
Barrjka and the surrounding area is relatively lucky, in that it has almost no rise hour to speak of due to its position on the lower slopes of the Katterfein - a mere thirty minutes of additional darkness past sun-up. it is less lucky in the evening however, with a false night falling over the region some two and a half to three hours before the sky truly begins to darken.
The Languages of Auvenkine:
The forests and cities of the Auvenkine region are home to a diverse mix of cultures and peoples, and a similarly diverse set of regional languages also exist. The list that follow details the most important...
Common Languages: Unsurprisingly, Common is the most usually-heard language throughout the region, spoken by just about everybody that belongs to some kind of recognisable social group. Dwarven is the language of choice in the dwarf-owned hill forts around the region, and it's common knowledge that the ability to speak it greatly increases your chances of entry. Those who commonly deal with elvish settlements often pick up a smattering of the Elven language, and it is seen as essential for a non-elf to know if they want to attempt to trade with such communities.
Religious Languages: Abyssal, Celestial and similar languages are very rarely spoken in Auvenkine due to the general lack of organised religion. However, the region does have its own historical 'religious' language in the form of Low Targiss, an ancient language very small amount of extremely out-of-the-way communities. It is written with a modified form of the elven runic alphabet and is most often found on extremely old relics and monuments out in the depths of the forest.
Planar Languages: Of the four planar languages the only one that is anywhere near common on the continent is Ignan, which is often found scribed across the interiors of the brass ruins near the lowlands and mountain peaks.
Bestial Languages: Gnoll and Goblin are most commonly spoken by the savage tribes of the badlands (whether the members of the tribe belong to those species or not) and by some individuals in frontier towns. Most other 'bestial' languages are very rarely heard.
Unusual Languages: Brass-tongue is the traditional language of bargemen and travelling tinkers, although it is rarely used for anything other than trading or insults. Hunter's Cant is an unspoken language of hand gestures used by trappers and woodsmen out in the forests to communicate without startling nearby animals, and finally Gearish is an emergent variation on common used by inner-city engineers, although they see such a name as an insult to what they hold is simply the obvious language of blueprints and new technology.
(A note for language-learners here, you are treated as 'fluent' in any bonus languages granted by your int mod. However, languages learnt through the linguistics skill are automatically set at 'learner' proficiency unless you spend an additional skill point to become fluent. A learner has no problem following basic conversation, but may have to take a linguistics skill check when trying to understand complex ideas and multi-clausal sentences. Gatsby)
Graft traits come in distinct flavours, Iron, Ceramic or Raw, depending on the main material used as a chassis for the ooze (if any). When choosing a graft trait you must also choose which material is used, as each has a additional positive effects and/or inherent downsides.
Grafted Arm One or both of your arms were lost in some kind of accident.
You gain a +1 graft damage bonus when using weapons that gain extra damage based on your Strength modifier.
+ Iron: The damage bonus increases to +2, but you take a -1 penalty on all weapon attack rolls.
+ Ceramic: You may wield weapons one size category larger than normal without having them count as larger in terms of weapon category, but you take a -3 on accuracy rolls whilst doing so. Note that this trait does not affect the way you wield weapons made fo your size category in any way.
+ Raw: By using a swift action you can coat your weapon or projectile with viscous graft-stuff. Affected weapons count as dealing acid damage.
Grafted Hand One or both of your hands were lost in some kind of accident.
You gain a +1 graft bonus on accuracy when using the grapple combat manoeuvre.
+ Iron: When you gain this graft you may pick either slashing or piercing. Your unarmed attacks may now deal lethal damage, and you may choose either bludgeoning or your new type of damage when you attack with them.
+ Ceramic: You take a -1 penalty on all melee damage rolls, but gain a +1 graft bonus on all sleight of hand, disable device and perform checks.
+ Raw: You take a -1 penalty on all melee damage rolls, but the bonus on your grapple checks rises to +2.
Grafted Leg One or both of your legs were torn off or amputated at some point in the past.
You take a -4 penalty on swim checks, and a -2 penalty on climb checks.
+ Iron: Caltrops have no effect on you, and you can ignore any damaging effects of ground-based hazardous terrain for a number of rounds a day equal to twice your Con mod.
+ Ceramic: You gain a +4 graft bonus on jump and acrobatics checks.
+ Raw: You gain a +1 bonus to your CMD against trip attempts and a +4 bonus on stealth checks.
Grafted Ear One or both of your eardrums or ears has been wrecked beyond repair.
You take a -4 penalty on perception checks.
+ Iron: You gain damage resistance 5 against sonic damage.
+ Raw: Once a day you may activate blindsense 30ft as a swift action for a number of rounds equal to your wisdom mod.
Grafted Eye You were blinded at some point in the past.
You gain light sensitivity.
+ Iron: You gain darkvision out to 60ft. If you already had darkvision, its range increases by 30ft.
+ Ceramic: You are immune to gaze attacks.
+ Raw: You may immediately re-roll a number of perception checks per day equal to your wisdom modifier. When you re-roll a perception check in this way you my choose the higher of the two rolls as your result.
Grafted Spine Your back was broken in some horrific accident.
You take a -1 penalty to your CMD.
+ Iron: You gain 2 extra hit points per level and take a -4 penalty to your swim checks. .
+ Ceramic: You gain a +1 dodge bonus to your armour class against the first attack aimed at you every round, which increases to +2 if you posses the abilities evasion or uncanny dodge.
+ Raw: You gain a +3 graft bonus on acrobatics checks, and can squeeze through small spaces at double the usual speed. .
Grafted Jaw You r jaw and tongue were lost in some hideous accident.
You take a -2 penalty to diplomacy checks.
+ Iron: You gain a natural bite attack that deal 1d4 point of damage.
+ Ceramic: You gain a +3 bonus to bluff checks.
+ Raw: You are immune to ingested poisons and toxins.