Currently, my players are in the town of Torch in the Outlands of the Forgotten Realms’ Great Wheel Cosmology. Next session, I plan on running them through the town and thought I might flesh it out a bit more.
In this article:
- I’ll look at all the information that’s come before for Torch. This includes articles and mentions in previous editions.
- Referencing the Tomb of Annihilation campaign setting, I’ll see how Wizards of the Coast “officially” lays out their town settings, using Nyanzaru as my model.
- Using what I glean from Tomb of Annihilation’s structure, I’ll flesh out Torch a bit more.
Needless to say, if you’re one of my players, don’t read this. It contains spoilers.
Part 1: Torch in Earlier Editions (Collecting Notes)
I have a knack for picking locations in the Forgotten Realms that haven’t been written about much. Notice I said much. That means that there have been things written about them, but those tidbits are difficult and usually not cheap to find.
For those that aren’t familiar with Torch, Torch is one of the gate-towns of the Outlands.
In the original Planescape boxed set, not a whole lot was said about Torch other than its role as a gate-town to Gehenna.
So I did a little digging on Google and managed to come across a detailed map of the town of Torch on DeviantArt.
The artist admitted that it wasn’t his original creation, but came from the Hellbound: The Blood War boxed set.
The trouble with Hellbound: The Blood War is that the thing has been out of print for twenty years. You can grab a copy on eBay, but it’ll cost you upwards of $200.00. So I had to turn to, uh… “less-than-favorable” means to dig up information on this obscure little town.
Chant of War
Here’s the first bit from the boxed set comes from the Chant of the War book that offers up adventure hooks and rumors for players. Here’s what it says:
A wave of amnesia’s passed through the volcanic gate-town of Torch. It’s almost like a disease, but the people of Torch claim that the waters of the River Styx are rising up and flooding the marshes just outside of town. Most likely, the truth is that the town’s food stores or wells’ve been spiked by some practical joker.
But if the chant’s true, what would that mean for the Outlands? The Styx has never backed up before — what’s the reason, and where will the waters reach next? Because the river’s linked so closely to the tides of evil on the Lower Planes, it’s possible that the flooding is a sign that the Blood War is about to enter a new phase.
War Games • An Adventure Book
The next tidbit in the Hellbound boxed set tells us that in order to continue with the adventure, a DM should be well-read on the city of Torch in a Player’s Primer to the Outlands. So I skipped over to there to capture what I could.
In the Player’s Primer to the Outlands, there’s an entire page devoted to this little town. I’ve added the details below for your convenience. The formatting is by my hand to make it easier to read the details.
Torch (Excerpt from Player’s Primer to the Outlands, 2e)
“Direction to the arena? I dunno, pal. What’s in it for me?” – Jangor the Fat, Public Guide
“I just find Torch so much more relaxing than Sigil. The lava, the explosions, the boils, the blood marsh–it just does a body good.” – Bantrice the Potter
Estimated Population. 17,000
The Town. Torch is built on the slopes of a set of volcanic spires formed from hardened molten rock. Around the spires is a blood-red marsh, which often floods into the lower parts of town, bringing pestilence, death, plague, boils, and killer frogs. As a result, teh high-up cutters in Torch are just that – the ones who live the farthest up the slopes, away from the marsh.
But as the locals say, “Trouble below, trouble above.” Some of the spires are still active, and they continually spit out lava and gases that ignite upon exposure to the air. The light from these constant flames gives the town its name and keeps it bright day and night. Fact is, Torch never truly sleeps but instead is busy around the clock. (Besides, a body’d have a hard time dozing comfortably with fire over his head and frogs at his feet.)
The Gate. Torch offers travelers the Gate to Gehenna, but it sure don’t make it easy for ’em. The gate looks like a blood-red eye or carnelian gemstone hovering in midair, a hundred or so feet of the ground. Flight, of course, is the best way to reach it, but cutters feeling lucky can try to drop into it from an overhanging spire above. Those who’ve gone through say that the return gate is on more stable ground, but a few berks supposedly giggled when they said it.
The local chant talks of a second gate somewhere in the blood marsh that surrounds the town. However, some folks think that’s just a peel put out by the Lords of Baator to lure eager bashers to a drowning doom.
The Populace. The people of Torch are greedy, vicious, and extremely dangerous. They believe that everything in the Outlands (and why stop there?) should be rights by theirs, and they’ll use any means, legal or otherwise, to get it. ‘Course since they all think the same way, they spend most of their time pillaging each other, much to the relief of neighboring towns.
The natives of Torch include humans, tieflings, evil humanoids, githzerai, thieves of every class, and a number of creatures from the Lower Planes (some of whom have even reached positions of power).
Unlike many gate-towns around the rim of the Outlands, most of the natives here are none too keen on joining their related plane. It all comes back to their greedy nature–Gehenna has less to grab, and the bashers doing the grabbing there are a lot more powerful.
The Hoi Polloi. Torch is supposedly run by the Council of All, a general gathering of the people in the small, ruptured arena next to the spires. However, locals tend to call it the “Council of Brawl,” since most of the decisions result in mob violence. The Council’s often used as a tool by wealthier citizens, who decide if the group is to be called at all.
The blood with the most jink is Bantrice the Potter, a native of Sigil who emigrated to Torch for health reasons. A measure of his success is that he’s never had to address, or even attend, the Council of All–his minions and flunkies take care of things behind the scenes. There ain’t much in Torch that can’t be solved by threats, money, violence, or more threats.
Local Sites. Torch has no less than six major thieves’ guilds: the Gray Orb, the Kindred of Yoj, the Severed Hand, Brotherhood Janko, Tiamat’s Chosen, and the Fire Lords. Each group wants to corner the cross-trading market, and their fights often spill out onto the streets. Fact is, any berk with three friends (or more often, lackeys) ends up forming his own guild, gang, or power center.
The best “neutral” site for meetings of the guilds is the resplendent Festhall of the Falling Coins, operated by a wheezing, stoop-shouldered drow named Badurth. It’s said that Badurth knows everyone and everything in town.
Current Chant. A few folks whisper that Bantrice has never set foot in Sigil in his life. They agree that he moved to Torch for his health, all right, but say that he’s really a foul creature from Baator in hiding from his masters. A berk who swore he had proof of this was recently found lying in the blood marsh. His intestines and brain, though, were not.
War Games • An Adventure Book (Part 2)
Now we’re starting to see a lot more about Torch thanks to the clue in War Games. War Games actually uses Torch as part of its setting.
In the adventure, players enter Torch through a portal in Sigil. This is the description block when they arrive:
Behold Torch – gate-town to Gehenna. As you adjust to your new surroundings, you’re buffeted by sights, sounds, and odors, and all of them are foul.
The city’s built on three volcanic spires that rise up out of a blood-red marsh. The lower portion of town, which sprawls out in front of you, is unbound by walls or gates. But
the upper sections of Torch, rising high on each spire, are walled in separately, connected by huge bridges stretching far overhead. Higher still is the gate to Gehenna, a glowing red portal that hangs in midair like a monstrous, unblinking eye.
The entire town’s blanketed in the reddish glow of the one still-active spire, and the strange gases that spew from various fissures and ignite with the air. These gases give the air an acrid, sulfurous taste and a gritty feel that collects on your tongue and teeth. By the explosive red lights that fill the sky, you can see that the people of the lower town are poor, malnourished, and diseased. The conditions of the buildings tell you that these folks’re exposed to frequent flooding — as well as other horrors sure to come from the swamp that surrounds the spires.
Despite the volcanic activity, the winds blow cold in Torch, causing you to shiver involuntarily.
Sounds like a charming place, eh?
Further Details from War Games • An Adventure Book
The adventure module continues. I’ve put the actual text in italics and followed it up with my own notes.
Getting into the lower town is simple, as there is no wall. The bottom part of town’s the most dangerous, home to the poorest, most desperate of sods – folks who’d just as
soon cut a body’s throat as say hello.
This tells me that it’s a great place for random encounters as the characters try to make their way up one of the mountains.
The nearby blood marsh brings the residents disease and even monsters. Giant toads, killer frogs, giant leeches, poisonous snakes (some giant-sized), insects (again, many giant-sized), and even alligators wander into the slums from the horrible swamp.
More notes for random encounters.
Torch has three upper sections — Karal, Maygel, and Dohin – one on each spire. The upper sections are walled in, but they’re all joined by huge bridges that pass over the
lower town. The high-ups of Torch like to pass the time by standing on the bridges and watching the sods of the lower town try to survive.
Cool information to really help flesh out the dichotomy of this miserable place.
The Festhall of Falling Coins
One of the major locations of Torch, the Festhall of Falling Coins is detailed in the War Games adventure.
The Festhall of the Falling Coins is fairly easy to find, located near the center of the most frequented part of Maygel.
It’s a large, two-story building with a huge central hall lit by many fireplaces. The first floor offers entertainment for the masses. The second floor has only private chambers, storerooms, and quarters for the workers.
The Festhall got its name from a unique fountain in the center of the large, open hall that literally flows with coins.
It’s considered bad luck to try to take a coin, and for good reason – powerful magical traps guard the fountain. If any would-be knight of the post tries to loot the jink, he suffers Id6 points of [lightning] damage from each coin touched.
The ground floor of the Festhall offers a wide variety of entertainment, including dancers, music, gambling, and occasionally bardic tale-tellers. The atmosphere is bawdy but peaceful. After all, the place serves as neutral ground for the six major thieves’ guilds in town (they’re always at war), and as a safe haven for any berk on the run. No violence occurs here unless the proprietor wishes it.
And he rarely does. The owner of the Festhall is a sickly, shriveled drow named Badurth. As the PCs were told, he knows the dark of everyone and everything in Torch. He doesn’t see most visitors, usually keeping to a private room on the second floor where he has meals, enjoys a little entertainment, and conducts Festhall business. Badurth is a mighty wizard, but he gained most of his strength by reputation – and by winning the respect of the leaders of the town’s thieves’ guilds. In his place of business, his word is law, and sods either obey or end up dead. Badurth isn’t the most powerful or influential high-up in Torch, but he’s close.
Badurth makes for an interesting NPC and one that should definitely stay as part of the adventure. After all, drow live long lives, probably even longer in the Outlands. Why reinvent the wheel (or Great Wheel)?
Badurth’s second edition stats ping him as a chaotic evil drow fighter and mage. I think a drow mage from the Fifth Edition Monster Manual is all we really need for his statistics. One may be inclined to buff him up with some magic items such as a ring of humanoid influence. The ring works just like a ring of animal influence, except it lets him cast charm person instead of animal friendship (save DC 13), fear affects all creatures, and it casts tongues instead of speak with animals. Finally, it’s very rare instead of rare. At all times, he’s surrounded by lackies and guards. Assume the lackies are yugoloths (mezzoloths and other lower-ranking yugoloths) or evil humanoids of CR 3 – 5.
Spending Time in Torch
The War Games adventure module from Hellbound gives more information on making Torch a base of operations. Here’s what it has to say:
Torch has plenty of places to sleep, from expensive inns to shoddy old kips. Places of good repute are found in great numbers around the Festhall of the Falling Coins, and a few others are scattered throughout the upper sections of the city.
‘Course, PCs must come up with some hefty jink to stay in such fine inns – at least 5-10 gp per night. If the PCs are leatherheaded enough to stay in a flophouse in the lower sections of Torch, they might end up losing more jink – and their lives – to thieves in the night.
The town’s upper section of Karal has a large marketplace that offers most goods listed in the [second edition] PLAYER’S HANDBOOK, as well as the following items:
- Holy water (rare in Torch) • 50 gp
- Potion of fire resistance • 1,000 gp
- Half-strength potion of fire resistance • 600 gp
- Ring of fire resistance • 10,000 gp
- Ring of Gehennan protection • 4,000 gp
While the magical items aren’t exactly common in Torch, they’re available simply because travelers headed to Gehenna need them to stay alive.
THE REAL CHANT: A ring of Gehennan protection is identical to a ring of fire resistance, except that it functions only on Gehenna, and only against heat, flame, and lava from
the plane itself. The ring has no effect on fiery attacks from the plane’s inhabitants.
What’s more, the special ring works only on Khalas and Chamada, the first two layers of the plane — they’re the hot ones. Any sod traveling to cold Mungoth or icy Krangath is on his own.
Pretty cool details about what can be purchased in the town of Torch. Double-checking the prices with what’s in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook, it’s about the same. Some of the uncommon and mundane items are a little overpriced, but that can be chalked up to supply and demand. And greed.
More information on Torch?
That’s as much official detail on Torch as I could find in the older edition supplements. There’s a bit more information on a random, long lost forum. I can’t find the source, so I can only assume it’s player created, so I’m going to choose to ignore it.
Part 2: Creating Torch – The Basics
We’ve got some good information on Torch now. With a little organization, we can turn Torch into a full-blown base of operations.
For town descriptions, I love the way the information in Tomb of Annihilation is laid out for Port Nyanzaru.
Here is a format breakdown to give myself (and you) the rough structure:
- Introduction. This part paints Nyanzaru with a broad brush. I can crib a bunch from above.
- Arrival. This includes the description block (which I can crib from the second edition bits), plus bullet points of notable features. It really breaks down what’s up in Nyanzaru and how to describe it.
- Side Quests. There are 10 useful side quests presented. This helps the characters find the right direction to go in the Tomb of Annihilation quest path. To make this part stand alone, I think I’ll set all the stuff in and around Torch.
- Map. There’s a big map of Port Nyanzaru in Tomb of Annihilation. While I have a map of Torch, if I really want to go all out, I should probably create a more detailed map of the city and its surrounding swamps.
- Locations in the City. One thing to note is that Torch has a population of 17,000 souls living among its spires. Meanwhile, Nyanzaru clocks in at about 12,000. That means Torch is 41% larger than Nyanzaru. According to the old rules, this would make Torch a “large city” while Nyanzaru is a “big” small city. Tomb of Annihilation outlines 25 major areas in the city in 5 separate districts. I think it would be safe to create 35 major locations for Torch (40% more) and then divide the districts according to the spires and their walls. Fortunately, we’ve already got a few cool locations defined by the old fluff.
- City Denizens. There’s not a whole lot of major NPCs defined in Nyanzaru’s guide other than the seven Merchant Princes and Volo. Of course, there are also nine colorful guides located at the end of the chapter.
- Detailed Location. The Merchant Princes have their villa’s defined. This might be unnecessary for Torch, but while I’m creating the details for this article, there could be something similar here.
- Factions and Their Representatives. The guide to Nyanzaru has details on the various “in house” factions of Fifth Edition along with a couple of Chult-specific factions. The Outlands has its own bucket of factions (I’ll cover those later) and Torch itself has no less than six major thieves’ guilds. So there are plenty of notes to go here.
- Things to Do. This section has information on four specific things that characters can do while in Port Nyanzaru:
- Buy a Special Item. From what we saw above, there are a lot of “Torch-specific” special items that work for any Torch campaign.
- Dinosaur Racing. While I don’t believe there’s dinosaur racing in Torch, something similarly flavorful could be fun.
- Finding a Guide. Being a gate town, a guide to Gehenna would probably be useful. For a jink, of course, berk.
- Gathering Information. There’s a random generation chart for rumors in Nyanzaru. Offering up something similar for Torch makes sense since it’s a big time info-trading hub.
- Sidebars. There are three sidebars included in the Nyanzaru prospectus.
- Troubleshooting. This bar offers tips on spicing things up if the players seem restless. This can be done by either using the random encounter table from the back of the book, tossing Volo at the PCs, or hooking them with the wizard’s journal quest.
- Laws and Punishments. Next, this bar tells you how laws work in Nyanzaru. Torch strikes me as a “might makes right” type place. However, the wealthy rule from their high-up spots on the volcanoes.
- Guides as Party Members. Finally, the sidebar tells characters how to use guides and what sort of cut they should give them. I think similar rules for Torch guides probably work here.
- Exploration. Finally, a major point of interest in Torch are the surrounding Blood Marshes. This screams expedition and exploration. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that the swamps extend from the volcanoes 20 miles in all directions. Some parts of the swamp ooze with the waters of the River Styx, creating further dangers.
I think this gives us a good starting structure for Torch.
Part 3: Torch Side Quests
The first couple parts of Torch are covered with the notes I dug up. Now, it’s a matter of coming up with the other stuff that we don’t have in place yet.
Side Quests are interesting. They don’t function like normal adventures but tend to work alongside adventures or break up the monotony. They can be tricky, too, as often they can seem like red herrings for the main adventure.
Because I like to reverse engineer everything, here are the “broad stroke” versions of what each of the Tomb of Annihilation side quests do.
- Collect a Debt. This offers up some quick cash for PCs to beat up a CR 5 NPC in town. Very little travel, but high risk, and kind of a lousy reward.
- Create a Distraction at Fort Beluarian. This requires a bit more travel on the part of the characters and can end up being quite dangerous. However, the reward is free guide services which is, in itself, valuable.
- Escort a Priest to Camp Vengeance. While there’s a lot of travel and not much pay involved, this side quest is helpful for the overall Tomb of Annihilation campaign.
- Explore the Aldani Basin. More travel, but a decent reward. Plus, she helps the characters find important clues to help them with the overall adventure.
- Find Artus Cimber. This is a great hook to find a major NPC in the adventure.
- Help a Dyeing Man. This one appeals more to good characters. Plus, it helps them meet some of the local big wigs in Nyanzaru.
- Help the Lords’ Alliance. Very difficult quest (you have to map out the locations of Nangalore and Orolugna which are over 100 miles apart) but you get a freakin’ boat if you do it.
- Hunt Pirates. Another incredibly dangerous side quest, but it comes with massive rewards: 2,000 gp for the capture of pirate ships and a bonus of 500 gp for the capture of each captain.
- Save an Innocent Man. This is another one that appeals to the characters’ better natures, and fails to offer a reasonable award. The big thing to note is that like the Dyeing Man quest, this demonstrates another location of interest in Nyanzaru.
- Seek Wisdom at Orolunga. While a bit heavy-handed, this side quest helps point characters in the “right” direction.
Now that I’ve broken down all of Tomb of Annihilation’s Port Nyanzaru side quests, I can lump them into four different categories.
- “A sucker born every minute.” This side quest has the characters perform a deed for someone that has ill intentions. Typically, the quest is somewhat dangerous, puts the characters into a bad place, and offers somewhat of a lousy reward. These are meant to introduce danger and difficult roleplaying opportunities to the group. Examples include Collect a Debt and Create a Distraction at Fort Beluarian. In addition, Find Artus Cimber could fall into this category as well as the White Rabbit side quest type.
- “White rabbit.” The next side quest type in Tomb of Annihilation offers very little material reward but can help quite a bit with roleplaying and quest items. Examples of this side quest type include Escort a Priest to Camp Vengeance, Explore the Aldani Basin, and Seek Wisdom at Orolugna.
- “Do-Gooder Bait.” These side quests work as a foil to the sucker side quests. The consequences are clear, and the rewards are slim. However, good characters should immediately jump to the opportunity help. Like sucker quests, these create danger and difficult roleplaying opportunities to the characters. Examples include Help a Dyeing Man and Save an Innocent Man.
- “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems.” Finally, big time side quests that require a lot of effort (and are incredibly dangerous) but pay huge rewards fall into this category. Examples include Help the Lords’ Alliance and Hunt Pirates.
Of these side quests, it’s also important to note that only 3 actually occur within Nyanzaru’s city limits. The remaining 7 take place in the surrounding lands. Furthermore, none of these side quests lead to the final location, Omu. However, they make act as breadcrumbs to Omu.
So what should we do for Torch’s side quests?
I like the basic anatomy and buckets created by the Nyanzaru side quests. So I think I’ll keep those the way they are and divide accordingly, creating two Sucker quests, three White Rabbits, two Do-gooders (or Do-evilers?), and two Mo’ Money quests.
I will make it so three of the quests are set in Torch proper. Then, two more of the quests will take place in the Blood Swamps surrounding Torch. Finally, the remaining five will drive players away from Torch, potentially to other locations in the Outlands, Sigil, or even Gehenna.
Here are some rough outlines:
- Sucker quest #1. One of the thieves guilds tries to pit the characters against another of the thieves’ guilds.
- Sucker quest #2. A rogue on the run from a vengeful angel (maybe a hound archon?) offers the characters gold if they can escort him/her to the town of Ribcage.
- Sucker quest #3. Someone (a fiend or something similar) asks the characters if they can deliver a package to Sigil and offers to pay a modest sum upfront and once the mission is complete. The package contains a delayed blast fireball which goes off when it reaches its location.
- White Rabbit quest #1, #2, and #3. All of these should be custom to the current adventure hook. These are especially beneficial for mystery and exploration style adventures. Incorporating major NPCs found in Torch is probably a good idea here.
- Do-Gooder Bait quest #1. The classic “I’m being attacked by bad guys!” works great here, especially in a town like Torch where fiends are common. It could easily be pivoted to a Sucker quest, too–turns out it was a trap!
- Do-Gooder Bait quest #2. Someone owes money to Badurth or one of his bookies. This puts the characters on a path to meet the powerful Torchian.
- Mo’ Money quest #1. There are creatures making trouble in the surrounding swamps. The characters are hired to take care of the issue and get a bounty for proof.
- Mo’ Money quest #2. Escorts are needed in Gehenna. The characters are paid handsomely to lead the Clueless from the portal into Gehenna to the gate down to its next level.
Part 4: Locations in Torch
Remember above I mentioned that we probably need to flesh out 35 major locations in Torch. That’s quite a bit! But, it will be worth it. Fortunately, we already have five that we can use, thanks to the map and notes from the previous editions:
- The Festhall of Falling Coins. This is such an important location, I’d say that nearly every Torch-set adventure should incorporate it.
- The Marketplace. Not a lot is said about this, but we at least know what sort of stuff can be bought there.
- Portal to Sigil. There’s a portal to Sigil at the base of Maygel. This is pretty important, as it helps characters easily travel in and out of Torch.
- Gate to Gehenna. Finally, Torch wouldn’t be a gate-town without its gate.
- Bridges. From the map, we can see that there are two huge suspension bridges that connect the volcanoes. Obviously, these are a big deal.
From there, we’ll need to figure out a few more important locations. I think the key is to divide up the city by its major wards.
Other major locations in Torch.
I’ve put in bold the locations of importance.
First, there are the three volcanoes themselves, Maygel, Karal, and Dohin. We know that Maygel is still active while the other two are dormant. Maygel is what gives Torch its name.
Each of the volcanoes are divided by city walls that separate the poor from the wealthy. Already, that gives us six major wards right there: Lower Maygel, Upper Maygel, Lower Karal, Upper Karal, Lower Dohin, and Upper Dohin. Walls separate the Upper Levels from the Lower Levels. The walls are manned by private funds and can change allegiance at the drop of a hat. During times of chaos, the walls are often unmanned, allowing all manner of delinquents to slip into the Upper Wards. There is almost always a toll for passing through the walls. Permanent passes can be purchased in some of the Upper Wards, but are costly.
Maygel is the centermost volcano and the only one that’s still active. It regularly spews lava down its side and exhales toxic gas. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask) most of the lava and fumes head towards Dohin.
Upper Maygel has access to the Gate to Gehenna and it’s where Badurth’s Festhall of Falling Coins resides. This is the wealthiest of all the wards in Torch. Bantrice the Potter’s Estate is found here, too.
Overlooking the Gate to Gehenna is the satirically named General’s Cliff. Here, those without the ability of flight can leap from the cliff into the Gate. Roughly 500 feet below the cliff is where the berks that miss the gate or don’t have the proper gate key splatter against the volcano’s walls. Locals call this pile of viscera and bones the General’s Rejects.
Traz the Belligerent is Torch’s local adult red dragon. Traz’s cave is found on the far side of Maygel where most of the homes remain deserted due to the constant blasts of poisonous gas. Its entrance is decorated with the bones of his dead brothers and sisters, whom he killed and ate. Only creatures immune to the steam and gases live here, and most serve Traz. Traz rarely makes his presence felt in Torch, preferring to take his hunting and pillaging to the law-wise towns, but does enjoy occasionally joining in on major events. Traz doesn’t lead Tiamat’s Chosen but has a close relationship with its “leader”, Sumesha. Sumesha and her gang stay along a path within a few hundred feet of Traz’s cave in an old mansion.
Lower Maygel is the dryest of the three lower wards. The Gate to Sigil is found here. For this reason, it’s a bit more “middle class” than the lower wards of Karal and Dohin. It’s “easier” to get around this part of town, too. The cleanest stairway in all of Torch, the Endless Climb, begins near the Gate to Sigil and ascends towards Upper Maygel. All along the climb, street vendors hawk their wares at passersby.
The Crumbling Arena, where the Council of All meets, is also in Lower Maygel. When things turn sour in proceedings, riots spill out into Lower Maygel. Near the Crumbling Arena is Torch’s Barracks, where the city’s militia operates from. The militia are lead by a cyclopean nycaloth named Gama who won’t lift a finger unless he’s paid handsomely to do so.
In Upper Karal, Marketplace is found close to its crater. Upper Karal acts as the “Merchant’s Ward” for Torch, and it’s a hot spot for the thieves’ guilds that dominate the city. Three of the six major guilds make their homes in Karal: the Gray Orb, the Kindred of Yoj, and the Brotherhood Janko.
The Kindred of Yoj are lead by a trio of vampires that descended from Yoj. They make their headquarters in a difficult-to-reach mansion on the Upper Karal’s far side, named the Bleeding Facade.
Brotherhood Janko has no true headquarters but uses the old lava tubes of Karal to move through the city.
While Torch doesn’t have a lot of factions to contend with, many members of the Revolutionary League make their home here. Their anarchistic ways aren’t rejected in the survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere pervading Torch’s streets. Like thieves, they stick to the lava tubes. It’s believed that Brotherhood Janko may be a subsect of these Anarchists.
Slave trade is popular all over Torch, but nowhere more popular than the Stone of Omos. Here, slaves pulled in from all over are bid upon by Baatezu, Yugoloths, and other unsavory creatures from all over the Great Wheel. The Stone stands just below where the Bridge Marbyz connects to Upper Karal, allowing wealthy to shout down and toss coin purses at the slave lords who operate the trade center. The slave trade is dominated by a wealthy illithid named Q’urum. The chant is that recently, a neogi tyrant named Kix is trying to move in on Q’urum’s territory. Both slave lords have spilled blood on the streets of Torch in their unceasing power struggle.
One curious location is Ogluguk’s Butcher Shop. Its eponymous owner Ogluguk, an oni, boasts he can get any type of meat you want from anywhere in the Great Wheel, so long as you’ve got the coin for it. Nothing is off limits in his shop. Chant has it he once served astral dreadnaught meat at one of the big nobles houses in Upper Maygel that cost the rich 100,000 gp for the dinner. Ogluguk keeps his methods a secret, but chant has it that he works closely with a band of githyanki operatives who roam the Great Wheel in a gate-hopping cruiser.
Lower Karal is the most flooded of the three lower wards, making it dangerous, too. Here is where the blackest black markets are found. The Gray Orbs run underground fighting arenas throughout all of Torch and keep stilted warehouses served by gondolas here in Lower Karal. A body can hire a gondola for 1 gp for 4 hours to take them around any part of the Lower Wards. Lozen’mro, a merrenoloth ferryman, collects taxes on all gondolas operating in the Lower Wards. He also keeps an ear out for valuable information. Lozen’mro lives and works in the wreckage of an airship named the Rust Monster in Lower Karal.
Upper Dohin is barren, making it the perfect spot for airship captains and spelljammers to anchor their vessels in the Air Docks. After all, Maygel acts as an easy-to-find beacon in the night sky of the Outlands. Also, the warmer air assist in the launch of airships.
The sky pirates who take to the Outlands Rim can rest in peace away from the hardheads and angels found across the other gate-towns. A favorite spot for the cutthroats is the Platform. The only way to reach the Platform is through its top. Patrons can then descend to lower levels, each one offering more and more depraved tastes than the last.
A pool of molten lava spilled from Maygel divides the lower wards of Dohin and Maygel. Waters from the swamp drip into the pools, causing toxic steam to constantly hiss out from the reaches. To make matters worse, the lava pool is used as the waste disposal for many of the city’s inhabitants. Explosions caused by poor waste management are common.
There is a narrow, natural bridge over the lava flow called The Brute’s Bridge by locals. The thieves guilds often fight for control of the Bridge, as it’s often used as a bottleneck for tolls and taxes.
A popular spot for visiting Baatezu, The Crooked Horn is a tavern just below the walls of Upper Dohin. It’s managed by a cambion named Ritha who deals in the information of the Nine Hells. For a steep fee (16,000 gp or more), she can forge extremely accurate letters of passage through the Nine Hells. The Crooked Horn is always crowded and serves hot Tanar’ri blood. It’s a members-only establishment, too. If you don’t have a pass or an invite, you can’t come in.
Just outside The Crooked Horn is the Baatezu Recruiting Station. A plucky imp named Dolf manages the station and offers up quick, easy cash deals in exchange for time spent serving in the Blood War. He’s a hell of a salesman (no pun intended), able to talk even the most leatherheaded berk into signing up to be on the front lines of the Infernal Armies.
Speaking of Baatezu, a statue of Asmodeus once stood at the top of Dohin. When Dohin was active, lava flowed between the statue’s legs and down the side of the volcano. However, the massive statue was destroyed during one of the largest post-Council riots, toppling down the volcano. It now sits in pieces in the swamps consuming Lower Dohin. Since it offers a reprieve from the blood red waters of the Blood Marsh, poor Torchites have built their homes on top of the broken statue. This micro-ward is nicknamed Asmodeus’ Back. Some say it’s cursed. Then again, all of Torch is cursed.
Near Asmodeus’ Back is the Low Bazaar. Its name is misleading; many Clueless think it’s probably a market for unscrupulous types. On the contrary, it’s along the Dry Road leading in through the Blood Swamps and the main entrance to the town. This makes it not only the most popular marketplace in all of Torch–even more than the Marketplace in Upper Karal–but it offers up some of the best prices around, too. The Severed Hand operates heavily in the Low Bazaar, stealing from the Clueless who have yet to learn to watch their coin purses while in Torch.
Within spitting distance of the Low Bazaar is the Staff of Lightning, a queer but popular inn. It gets its name from the steel pole that runs through the center of the inner. When hot, acidic storms pummel Torch, lightning hits the pole, lighting up the place. Occasionally, fires break out, too. Either way, its proximity to the Dry Road makes it a popular spot for travelers to rest before heading up the mountains.
The Dry Road terminates at Dower’s Gate. The gate doesn’t do much to protect the city from attackers–not that any sane person would ever attack Torch from the swamps–but it does signify one’s arrival into the gate-town. Why is it named Dower’s Gate? No one knows who or what Dower is or was.
Bridges of Torch
There are two massive suspension bridges that connect the volcanoes in Torch. Both bridges are nearly 1,000 feet long. The bridge Marbyz connects Karal to Maygel, and the bridge Zuzu connects Maygel to Dohin. The wealthy of Torch tax the poor of the Lower Wards to maintain the exquisite condition of these bridges.
Part 5: Important Denizens of Torch
Torch has no true ruler. The wealthy dictate what happens in Torch, occasionally hosting the Council of All to make decisions that mostly benefit the wealthy. Often, these meetings turn into riots, hence the nickname Council of Brawl. Regardless, there are a few major players operating in Torch.
- Badurth (male drow mage, CE) is the owner of the Festhall of Falling Coins. He’s one of the best sources of information in all of Torch.
- Bantrice the Potter (male red abishai, LE) is the wealthiest man in all of Torch. Although he poses as a handsome tiefling, he is secretly a red abishai in disguise. Bantrice is the true leader of Tiamat’s Chosen. Only Sumesha and Traz know Bantrice’s true identity.
- Ritha (female cambion, LE) runs the Crooked Horn. She can forge documents allowing passage through the Nine Hells. The documents are nearly perfect and difficult to detect. Hence their high cost: 16,000 gp per person.
- Traz (male adult red dragon, CE) lives in a cave on Dohin. He’s got a nasty temper and likes to torment the villages surrounding the neutral evil rim of the Outlands. Fortunately, he doesn’t venture into Torch often.
- Dolf (male imp, LE) runs the Baatezu Recruiting Station in Lower Dohin. He’s remarkably friendly and an excellent recruiter. He works with a small staff of modrons who act as
- Shala (female cambion, NE) manages the Platform. She is Ritha’s former lover. The two have a bitter rivalry.
- Gama (male nycaloth, NE) is the leader of Torch’s militia. He is lazy and only works when paid to do so.
- Lozen’mro (merrenoloth, NE) is the ruler of the gondolas of the Lower Wards. His greatest trade is information, which he’ll sell for a price.
- Sumesha (female tiefling, LE) is the public leader of Tiamat’s Chosen. She actually works for Bantrice.
- Ogluguk (male oni, NE) is the owner of Ogluguk’s Butcher Shop in Karal. He’s secretly one of the wealthiest people in all of Torch despite his humble appearances.
- Q’urum the mindflayer arcanist rules the slave trade of Torch.
- Kix, a neogi, is trying to steal the slave trade from Q’urum. He’s often found hanging around the Platform.
I’ll probably include a few more characters of note as I flesh out the thieves’ guilds and factions within Torch.
I think one “celebrity” character in the city would be nice, sort of like how Volo is in Nyanzaru. After reading up on named demons, I think it’d be cool to have the outcast duke, Azazel living as royalty in Torch where he plots to regain his position of power. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about Azazel:
Azazel is an outcast Duke of Hell, one of the Rabble of Devilkin, in the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. Azazel first appears in Ed Greenwood’s article “The Nine Hells Revisited” in Dragon #91 (November 1984). Azazel “the Serpent”, is extremely conceited and scornful. Cast out of two successive dukedoms for his unbearable behaviour, Azazel constantly plots to regain his former position. He always wear gaudy jewelry and regal clothing. Azazel is a scaly-skinned humanoid with a serpent’s head and large scaled wings.
So he’s a dickhead. I love the idea of him sticking out like a sore thumb, too, causing all sorts of trouble in Torch.
Denizen side quests and services.
One thing I want to point out about Tomb of Annihilation is that the city denizens defined in the book have their own series of side quests and/or services to offer up the characters.
- Ekene-Afa sells magic shields and weapons.
- Ifan Talro’a sells beasts.
- Jessamine sells poisons. She’s also a victim of the death curse.
- Jobal deals in guides. He’ll also pay for maps of Chult.
- Kwayothe deals in insect repellant and rare fruits. She’s evil, and consorts with succubi. She also hates Zhanthi.
- Wakango O’Tamu is the friend of the adventure patron, Syndra. He sells knowledge, information, and lost lore. He also offers up the Wizard’s Journal sidequest.
- Zhanthi deals with gems, jewelry, and armor. She knows secrets about Liara Portyr.
So there’s plenty of intrigues found here. The same can be done with Torch’s denizens, tying them into quests. Plus, these denizens act as sources of information (see Gathering Information in Torch for details).
Part 6: Detailed Location (Traz’s Cave)
Of all the spots I wrote about in Torch, Traz’s Cave probably lends itself best to adventure and encounters. After all, Traz is a freakin’ adult red dragon. Plus, Traz has close ties to Tiamat’s Chosen. All I need is a map.
Since I don’t plan on selling this adventure, I don’t mind digging through archives and other creators’ portfolios to see what they have to offer.
I found this cool, old “Map of Mystery” from Christopher West.
A lot of really cool stuff on this map. The varied elevations are pretty cool, as are the way water runs into the magma. I’m willing to bet that the ceilings are pretty high, allowing plenty of opportunities for Traz to fight with height advantage.
I imagined Traz being male, but perhaps he’s got a lover here, too? Hence the nest of eggs.
What sort of creatures would Traz have working for him?
It could be anything immune or resistant to fire, and probably stuff that’s either chaotic or evil. All fire-based elementals would probably work for Traz, as well as cambions and low-level demons (although they aren’t immune to fire), salamanders, efreeti (as a mid-boss, perhaps?), fire giants, iron golems (always a favorite), half-dragons, magmin, magma, smoke, and steam mephits, nightmares, slaadi, succubi, will-o’-wisps, wraiths, and yugoloths.
Fire environments with extreme heat cause exhaustion. So long as a creature is immune to exhaustion, it will be fine in Traz’s cave. That includes nearly all elementals (although, I can’t imagine water elementals wanting to hang out there) and undead.
Red dragons are arrogant and vain. Traz has no issue with others knowing where he lives. His arrogance is his greatest weakness. He’s also incredibly impulsive and will fly into a rage when angered. Traz believes he rules over all in Torch, including Bantrice, who is clearly his superior–and actually has a relationship with Tiamat, unlike Traz.
Everything about Traz’s lair is set up to give his abilities and lair actions the greatest advantage. Kobold petitioners maintain a series of traps that work to drive trespassers into the areas with greater magma concentration.
An efreeti named Salma manages Traz’s slaves for him and acts as the point of contact for Sumesha and Tiamat’s Chosen. A pair of fire giant brothers name Dalbar and Brigar act as the guards to the entrance to Traz’s cave. They answer directly to Salma and are loyal to the efreeti and Traz.
The rest of Traz’s cave is filled with fire elementals, magmin, and mephits. Salamanders keep guard in the cave (reporting to the brothers and Salma), dealing with bigger threats–their ability to speak Ignan helps them control the elementals.
Traz’s red dragon wyrmlings play and swim in the pools with the elementals.
The large cave to the west is where Traz’s “livestock” is kept, mostly slaves, large animals, and other creatures collected by Traz. There are no bars to keep the creatures in. However, the fire giant brothers keep a pack of vicious hell hounds at the bottom of the sheer cliff who quickly attack and eat anything that tries to scale the wall.
Traz’s bride is a former drow priestess of Lolth named Viaza. She’s been driven insane during her tenure as the mother of Traz’s children and suffers from Stockholm Syndrome as a result. She defends her half-drow/half-dragon children with her life.
Part 7: Factions and Their Representatives
Next, I need to identify how the factions of the Outlands and the six major thieves’ guilds get along in Torch. Knowing factions offers up additional side quest opportunities, as well as flavor for the overall setting.
The Outlands has 15 major factions. Each has a presence in the town of Torch, some greater than others.
Athars don’t have a huge presence in Torch, but there are a few. Their immunity to divine spells gives them an edge in a town that’s loaded with fiends. If characters run into trouble with cultists, Athars are a good place to turn to.
Believers of the Source
The Godsmen get along well with most of the denizens of Torch. As usual, they operate in Torch to spread the word of ascension among the planars and petitioners that live there.
The Bleak Cabal
The madmen of the Bleak Cabal get along well in the often tumultuous town of Torch. They frequently butt heads with the devils that call Dohin their home. Azazel maintains a good relationship with the Cabal’s local leader, Bertio Eras (LE male human gladiator).
The Doomguard love entropy, and there’s hardly a place in the Outlands more entropic than Torch and its volcanic denizens. The Doomguard keeps a citadel in Upper Maygel. The Doomguard’s chapter leader is Scorch (LN female tiefling assassin) who works alongside Gama to preserve the “sanctity” of Torch. Although lawful, she believes that the true law of Torch is its inevitable destruction. Anything that disrupts that stands in the way and must be destroyed. Characters who bring justice to Torch may find themselves at ends with the Doomguard’s beliefs.
The Dustmen or Dead keep a flooded mortuary at the base of Karal. They work alongside Lozen’mro and his gondoliers to fish the dead from the waters of the swamp. On the cliffsides, they rescue the downtrodden and foolish in an attempt to rehabilitate them so they may appreciate life. Many of the Dustmen of Torch are former drug users, replacing their former addiction with an obsession of death. The eldest of the Dead is a man named Waterlog (N male human commoner).
Upper Torch is filled with the ranks of the Fated. Some believe that half the nobles there pay homage to their views. Bandrice the Potter claims fealty to the Fated (despite his true allegiance with Tiamat’s Chosen) as does Q’urum. The Record Keeper of Torch, an ancient bone devil, acts as the justicar for all disputes involving the Fated in Torch.
The Fraternity of Order
The Guvners (as the Fraternity is commonly known) works alongside the devils of Dohin to ensure order is preserved throughout Torch. Frequently, they deal with the Fated–when the Fated plays by the rules, that is. An acid-scorched kolyarut named Gibson sees to interests of the Fated in Torch. However, some believe he’s got a screw loose and is easily distracted by minute details.
The Free League
The free, take-what-you-can nature of Torch appeals to the Indeps, as does the flow of information among the Lower Planes fiends. Their free-thinking ways allow them to move through Torch without a lot of trouble. They never participate in the Council of All.
Needless to say, the hardheads have a tough time in Torch. Their rigid ideas of law, order, and morality has no sway over Torch’s rough-and-tumble citizens. There are virtually no members of the Harmonium in Torch, and what few there are, are likely passing through.
Interestingly, the Mercykillers have a unique roll in Torch. They serve as the militant arm for the Guvners and Fated. However, the Revolutionary League has trouble with the Mercykiller’s strict nature. Often, the Mercykillers are attacked and pushed away by the thieves’ guilds that dominate Torch. However, they always seem to return, driven by their greater purpose. The current Lord of the Mercykillers in Torch is a fire giant named Spritzo.
The Revolutionary League
The Anarchists love Torch and see it as a staging ground for overthrowing the corrupt and grim souls that make the Upper Wards their home. They work in cells; no one knows who leads (if anyone) the Anarchists in Torch, but their presence is frequently felt from bombs, murders, and other acts of terrorism. The Fated seeks to squash them out and will pay handsomely for any information regarding the League’s leaders.
The Sign of One
Like the Fated, the Signers hold a lot of sway in the Upper Wards, especially in Maygel and Karal. It’s not uncommon for the desires of the Signers to take precedence in Council of Brawl meetings; usually, it’s their will that causes the typical riots.
The Society of Sensation
Torch might be a miserable place to many outsiders, but to the Society of Sensation, it’s just another experience to be had. Many of the pirates that frequent the Platform are Sensates, but Sensates can be found all throughout Torch. Shala considers herself a Sensate, but rarely goes to the extremes that others of the faction do.
The Transcendent Order
The Ciphers have a curious role in Torch. Despite the overwhelming presence of evil found in Torch, the Ciphers who call the volcanic gate-town home believe that Torch holds the answer to a number of universal riddles that plague the Order. Bale (N female tiefling mage) leads the Ciphers in Torch. They’re often found searching the ruins and abandoned lava tubes for ancient archaeological findings.
Many of the poor and destitute–unable to pull themselves up from their squalor–claim to be Chaosmen. When times are especially tough, their ranks swell.
The Six Thieves’ Guilds
While there are plenty of thieves’ guilds in Torch, there are six that are well known and more organized.
Brotherhood Janko has no real headquarters. It’s believed that they, themselves, are a subsect of the Revolutionary League. They work to undermine the wealthy of Torch, stealing from the wealthy. However, they don’t give back to the poor. Instead, they destroy what they steal, seeing all wealth as a plague.
The Fire Lords are probably the most well-known and organized of all the thieves’ guilds in Torch. Their leader, a surly woman named Jazmin (NE female azer champion) has connections in nearly every gate-town in the Outlands, using the ill-gotten gains of her guild to extend her reach. There is no crime too small or too large for Jazmin and the Lords.
The Gray Orbs are bookies and racketeers, operating primarily in the flooded regions of Torch. They control the waterlogged warehouses in Lower Karal and have a close relationship with the gondoliers and Lozen’mro. All pit fighting and underground combat goes through the Gray Orbs.
The Kindred of Yoj
The kindred are mostly undead and ruled over by a trio of vampires named Kerri, Davos, and Charlz that live in the Bleeding Facade on the wrecked side of Upper Karal. They specialize in assassinations and have a nearly spotless record (would have been completely spotless had Nix not avoided a recent attempt).
The Severed Hand
Drugs and petty theft are the favorite tactics of the Severed Hand. Their leader, a morbidly obese ghast named Zoef, issues commands from his well-defended subterranean lair.
One of the most important and influential thieves’ guilds in all of Torch, Tiamat’s Chosen are secretly lead by Bandrice the Potter. However, he employs Sumesha as his mouthpiece, keeping his true intentions in the city a secret. Tiamat’s Chosen enact Tiamat’s will in the Outlands. They deal in devil contracts and arms, equipping yugoloths and devils alike with magic items and powerful weapons, many of which are collected by Traz. Any time an artifact of great power appears in Torch, the Chosen seek to collect it.
Part 8: Things to Do in Torch
If all of that isn’t enough for you, there’s plenty for characters to do while they’re in Torch.
Buying a Special Item
I gave details on special items that can be purchased while in Torch above. In addition to those items, characters can purchase a Gehenna Glider, which allows them to sail off the General’s Cliff into Gate to Gehenna. A glider costs 60gp and weighs 20 lbs. A character can strap it to his or her back. The wings fold inside itself, allowing the character to walk around with the glider. Pulling a ripcord extends the wings. The glider slows a wearer’s rate of fall as the feather fall spell, but it is not magical. If the glider takes any damage, it fails to work.
Pit fighting is a big deal in Torch. While no laws prevent it, the Gray Orbs hold a steel grip over its proceedings. Any unsanctioned fight in Torch is met with a swift vengeance by the Orbs.
The current pit fighting champion of Torch is a balor named Ruk whose record is 131-0. However, Ruk only fights those worthy of him. To get to Ruk, a challenger must work their way up through a series of lesser challengers. Only then, will Ruk decide whether or not a challenger is worthy of fighting him in the pits. Ruk hates devils and devil-kin and will favor challengers who come from an Infernal background.
Ruk’s manager, Osiris “The Bald” Grimborn (NE male dwarf noble) keeps Ruk happy, offering up the greatest pleasures from all over Torch and beyond.
Finding a Guide
Like Nyanzaru, Torch and its surrounding Blood Marshes are a huge place that may require a guide. Furthermore, guides that specialize in Gehenna are common, too. There is no true organization to the guides in Torch. However, many of them work for Jazmin and the Fire Lords.
The price for guides varies on what’s needed.
- Information. Guides can provide information on Torch and its inhabitants at a cost of 1sp per question asked. Whether or not the information they provide is true is another matter.
- City Tour. A guide will accompany the characters for the price of 2gp for four hours. Most Torchite guides know most of the major locations in the city. There are a few locations (such as the Bleeding Facade and Traz’s Cave) where they will refuse to go.
- Blood Marsh Expedition. Guides that specialize in the Blood Marshes charge 5gp per day to traverse assist the characters searching the swamps for a minimum of 15gp (three days).
- Gehenna Expedition. Guides who know Gehenna will show the characters how to enter the gate and then take them where they need. Their cost is a lot higher, charging 100gp per day. The demand 3,000gp upfront. They’ll offer tips on protective measures as well as directions to important locations on the plane.
Some guides have ulterior motives and may use the characters to achieve their goals. Most guides are NPCs of challenge rating 1 – 3, and are usually capable of surviving in the conditions which they specialize in.
Information is never free in Torch. Often, asking a question to anyone costs at least 1 sp. Depending on how the creature being questioned feels, that price could go up as much as 1 or 2 gp. Even then, a lot of what’s told are lies, rumors, or conjecture.
Looking back at our model, the rumors in Tomb of Annihilation can be classified as either location–directing the characters to go to a particular location–or informational–offering important information to protect the characters from danger. 11 of the rumors fall under locational and 8 are informational, fairly balanced.
All of the rumors in Nyanzaru lead the characters away from the Port. But since I want Torch to be a place of urban adventure, I think I’ll make sure that half the rumors lead into the city itself, a third of the rumors direct characters to the Blood Marshes and its interesting locations, and the remainder send characters into Gehenna or the Outlands.
Locational Rumors in Torch
- Traz’s cave. There is an old dragon that lives on the far side of Maygel named Traz. Traz doesn’t mess with the people of Torch, but has a quick temper.
- The Bleeding Facade. The vampires who rule the Kindred of Yoj hide in the Bleeding Facade on Karal.
- The Lava Tubes and Brotherhood Janko. Chant is that Mercykillers will pay good jink to proof that Brotherhood Janko consorts with the Anarchists.
- The Crooked Horn. If you need passage into the Nine Hells, word has it that the owner of The Crooked Horn, Ritha can get you a forged document. But they don’t come cheap.
- Ogluguk’s Butcher Shop. Want to try exotic meats? Head over to Ogluguk’s. He can get you any kind of meat you can dream of.
- Asmodeus’ Back. A slum in Lower Dohin named Asmodeus’ Back got its name because it built its hovels on the back of a crumbling statue of the Devil himself. There are those that believe an artifact of great power can still be found in the statue’s head.
Locational Rumors in the Blood Marshes
- Drow temple. Thanks to the ashen cloud cover over the Blood Marshes, drow live above ground in crumbling temples in the Blood Swamp. They are in a stir, claiming that their high priestess was stolen from them.
- Khaasta village. A tribe of Khaastas calls the Blood Marshes their home.
- Ung the Hydroloth. The River Styx touches an area of the Blood Marshes. However, an old hydroloth named Ung is said to possess a map of the River Styx that can lead to secret demi-planes.
Location Rumors Elsewhere
- Gate to Gehenna. The best way to enter the Gate to Gehenna is with a Gehenna Glider. The gate on the other side frequently moves, horizontally and vertically, so even if you make the leap off the General’s Cliff, you could find yourself falling further.
- The Fire Lords. Jazmin, leader of the Fire Lords, has secret bases of operations in nearly every gate-town in the Outlands.
Informational Rumors in Torch
- The Brute’s Bridge. While the Brute’s Bridge is a convenient way to cross over into Maygel, the thieves’ guilds ask for a steep toll to outsiders. Any who fail to pay are pushed over the edge into the lava flow below.
- Bantrice the Potter. Chant has it that Bantrice isn’t who/what he says he is. Some think he has ties with Tiamat’s Chosen and Traz.
- Q’urum and Kix. Q’urum is the lord of the slave trade in Torch. Most fear Q’urum, except Kix the Neogi who is trying to take over the trade.
- Tiamat’s Chosen. Sumesha pretends to be the leader of Tiamat’s chosen, but there are those that think the true leader of the Chosen is Traz the red dragon.
Informational Rumors in the Blood Marsh
- Avoid the thick, red water. The River Styx boils into the Blood Marsh. A berk unprepared to cross through it may lose his or her memory for a day, or permanently.
- If it looks too good to be true… The khaastas are known to set up traps for Clueless searching the swamps for treasure. Their favorite trick is to raid caravans, then use the caravan itself as a trap.
Informational Rumors Outside of Torch
- The Hardheads hate Torch. Chant has it that they’re gathering forces to storm the Lower Wards and enforce their will on the poor of Torch.
- The General of Gehenna. A powerful altraloth named the General of Gehenna lives in the Bleak Eternity in his Crawling Fortress. All yugoloths fear the General; it is said that his name is lost to the ages, and he is unkillable, even in Gehenna.
Part 9: The Blood Marshes
The entirety of Torch is surrounded by the stinking, red waters of the Blood Marsh. In the rumors above, I fleshed out a few areas of interest. In addition, the marshes themselves make for a great adventure setting and offer up old school exploration opportunities.
The marshes extend roughly 20 miles in every direction of the volcanoes that make up Torch. We know that there are at least three locations of interest there:
- A drow temple. Here, the drow can live on the surface thanks to the permanent ashen cloud that hangs over Torch and its swamps. The drow that live near Torch aren’t like typical drow. They still worship Lolth, certainly, but their leather and weaponry are pulled from the blood-red Abyssal Spiders that lurk in the marshes.
- Khaasta village. Khaasta are like huge, intelligent lizardfolk that make their homes in the wastelands of the Outlands. From this village, the khaasta mount raids on travelers in the Blood Marshes.
- Ung the Hydroloth. Ung lives in a hovel created from fallen logs, damming part of the river. He’s one of the oldest hydroloths in existence and knows the River Styx and all its many tributaries well.
There’s always room for other places of interest, but I think three is good for now.
However, random encounters are definitely a necessity. Remember this text block from above?
Giant toads, killer frogs, giant leeches, poisonous snakes (some giant-sized), insects (again, many giant-sized), and even alligators wander into the slums from the horrible swamp.
That lays the groundwork for a lot of it. However, I don’t see any reason to create a whole new table for swamp encounters when the table of Swamp Encounters (Levels 11-20) from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything works pretty well. You might substitute yuan-ti for khaastas and maybe even toss in a few giant insects, alligators, etc., but otherwise, it works well. The swamps are exceedingly dangerous. In the morning and afternoon, roll a d20–on a result of 16-20, an encounter occurs. In the evening, the chance for an encounter happens on a result of 15-20.
However, because the swamp is loaded with other sorts of dangers, have the party’s navigator make DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) checks to avoid dangers each hour spent in the swamps. On a failed check, roll on the hazards table below:
Blood Marsh Hazards
|1-10||The party becomes lost. The party’s navigator can repeat the check after the party spends 1d6 hours trying to get back on course.|
|11-13||Razorvine. See page 110 of the DMG.|
|14-15||Quicksand. See page 110 of the DMG.|
|16-17||Trap grass. A random character attempts to walk through an area that looks like low water with grass. However, the water is much deeper than anticipated. The character sinks into the water and grappled and restrained by the grass (escape DC 10). There is a 20% chance that a giant alligator lurks nearby to take advantage of the trap grass.|
|18-19||Random Encounter. Roll on the Swamp Encounters (Levels 11-20) chart in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.|
|20||Stygian water. Part of the river Styx bleeds into the marshes. Each character must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, a character comes under the effects of the feeblemind spell, except the effects are permanent. On a successful saving throw, a creature suffers from the effects of feeblemind, but the effect wears off in 24 hours. Regardless of success or failure, the effect can be ended with a greater restoration, heal, or wish spell.|
For the town itself, use the Urban Encounters (Levels 5-10) for the Upper Wards. For the lower wards, there is an equal chance that you use the Urban Encounters (Level 11-16) for encounters or the Swamp Encounters (Levels 5-10). Each of these charts can be found in chapter 2 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Use random encounters to break things up a bit in Torch.
Conclusion: Welcome to Torch
I think I did a pretty excellent job fleshing out Torch and its surrounding areas. Looking at my word count, it appears I hit nearly 11,000 words in this article. That’s roughly 15 pages worth of content right there.
Knowing my players, though, they’ll probably leave the place immediately.
Art by Wizards of the Coasts, Paizo Publishing, and Bob Juanillo.