Finally, I am in a position to describe Rime Tower in (hopefully succinct) detail. I started more than two weeks ago looking for Inspiration, applied some Perspiration, and now move to Implementation.
Potential (because I’m not describing them now) other entities are highlighted in bold. Text in <angle brackets> indicates a placeholder — I am not defining or naming fully the entity now, but I expect there would be one.
Okay, ‘succinct’ got stabbed in the face. I have not tried for evocative descriptions here, since this format is usually better suited for reference notes. I also have written more than the notes I might normally have kept for myself, since I am trying to be more clear than I need to jog my own memory.
While there are still a lot of questions to answer (yay! Stuff I can make my PCs look for) and gaps to fill (ditto!) I have enough that I can use this in scenario or setting development. This will undoubtedly fill in some holes and open some others (just why is that character the commander of the port of Evermelt, and why doesn’t the bay there ever freeze over?), but to me, that is a good thing.
Bastion of good, protectors of the icy north from the warm landers who would invade.
- Constantly vigilant against the warm landers, sometimes invade (or ‘counter-invade’) to limit staging opportunities by the warm landers.
- Rime Tower is located over a place of power held in high interest by Count Linnorm of the Frost Court (a faction of the fey found locally). Linnorm may be interested in gaining control of this place of power, though the cost he is willing to pay — or to see paid, if he can avoid paying it himself — is not known.
- One of the <royal cousins> was sent here to gain seasoning and credibility as a leader, so he can be a worthy contender for the throne when the king dies. He is ambitious but honest and frankly somewhat naive, and may be overzealous. He rarely lacks incautiousness, but has so far been lucky enough that he is gaining something of a following among the Tower defenders.
- Various local creatures. Pretty much all creatures appropriate to Cold terrains (especially mountains and forest), though most of the actually evil ones will have been eradicated if possible. Many have the (Cold) subtype (either naturally or through templates).
Normally I would provide specific examples here (such as identifying the six largest bastions and their locations and nature — over time they would be expanded to full entities themselves).
- Rime Tower is the focal point of power, but there are lesser bastions spread across the areas controlled. Commander of Rime Tower is high Champion.
- Largest: probably stone keeps with supporting town. There are half a dozen such throughout the area, where local terrain allows (about one per 8000 square miles; much food is important, but a lot comes from local game or fishing). The local commander is probably a Champion or Master-tier character, cadre is probably Master or Heroic, bulk of forces are Experts with a few Heroic.
- Medium: probably fortified (with stockade) hunting lodge/manor house with supporting village. Perhaps 500 throughout the region (about one per 100 square miles, two or three days apart given local terrain). Usually focused along ‘more habitable’ paths with large, relatively unoccupied areas otherwise. Leader is probably Heroic but may be Master, cadre is Heroic or Expert, most others are Expert.
- Smallest: fortified hunting lodges, more or less, probably no supporting settlement. Thousands of them, roughly one per 16 square miles and can be in less hospitable places than the medium bastions. If you know where you are and where to find it, you are usually within a day or so of a lodge. Probably a small cadre of Experts, leader is Expert or Heroic.
- Various caches with useful goods for emergency use (probably just identify a few general forms and sets of gear, then leave it at that; not really worth itemizing individually).
- The Frost Court is the seat of power of the local fey kingdom. The relationship is generally not antagonistic, but there are factions within the Court (one headed by Count Linnorm) that would change this.
- <Champion Dragon> is an erstwhile ally, willing to help if it sees advantage to doing so (or disadvantage in not doing so).
- <Royal Cousin> and <his family> (plus rivals for the throne).
- Those who train with the Rime Tower are almost unequaled in their ability to survive in cold conditions, and if the training continues long enough come to find power in winter, and even to embody it.
- Potential access to some of the mightiest and most capable nature/winter magicians around.
- There are some incidental benefits (such as sanctioned hunting and trapping in the area, and there are some lost ruins that may be explored).
- It may be possible to gain audience in the Frost Court, though that is a fraught with danger itself.
- For those from the ice lands, having served with Rime Tower may be a source of great honor and a source of respect (or of shame, if not honorably discharged).
- May be able to gain access to <Champion Dragon> or part of his court — again, fraught with danger.
Description and Identification
Rime Tower is seemingly a pillar of gleaming ice near the top of a fairly large (about 10,000 feet) mountain that oversees a large portion of the isthmus joining the ice lands to the warm lands. On a clear day it can be seen from over a hundred miles away, and even at that range it can be painful to look on. Even moonlight is sufficient to make the Tower visible at great distances (30 miles or so), though starlight is not, unless you are within a few miles.
The larger bastions are usually formed of quarried stone and the medium bastions have wooden palisades, but given enough time even these places will take an appearance of ice (a medium bastion that has been around long enough will have walls of ice with a wooden core). The smallest bastions are well-made and warm, and usually welcome to legitimate travelers.
The entire region is usually shrouded in snow. Blizzards and major snowfall is infrequent, but does happen from time to time — mostly, it just stays too cold for snow to really melt.
Almost everyone from the region is accustomed to bright light; Basic and Expert characters are rarely far from some kind of eye protection (usually a wood mask lined with fur — it helps keep the face warm, too). Heroic characters associated with the Tower usually have a perpetual squint and weathered faces (but no longer require the masks used by lower-level characters — they may find them more comfortable, but not necessary). Master characters associated with the Tower are quite comfortable regardless of how cold it is (and in fact, overly warm areas are not so uncomfortable because of the aura of cold they carry with them). Champion characters associated with the Tower are seemingly made of ice in fact — cold and hard to the touch, slightly faceted appearance. Hair colors gradually fade to white and skin tones through white to pale blue as Tower characters gain in power.
Spears and axes are perhaps the most common weapons. Most ranged weapons do not do so well in the cold, and swords are prone to breaking. Armor is usually a ‘soft’ material (hide, leather, padded) that might keep a character warm. At lower levels wearing metal is a recipe for wicked frostbite and a hindrance to mobility on the trail. Higher-level characters often acquire rime armor (armor made of unmelting ice). High-level characters may have the ability to freeze their enemies in place (perhaps literally so).
Southernmost (and highest elevation) area of the ice lands. Most of the north is in fact warmer and more hospitable than this forbidding region.
I usually leave this section just as notes, since I really only need it when it looks like the mechanics are going to be relevant.
- Within 125 miles in daylight the light reflecting off Rime Tower causes Glare (five zones of increasing strength of light — every 25 miles moves you between zones, increasing from no real effect except ‘yeah, the Tower is over that way’ through ‘it hurts my eyes’ to ‘I actually take damage if I look that way without protection).
- The entire area is shrouded in Snow (Cold manifestation), getting deeper as you get closer to Rime Tower.
- Similarly, many places experience Freezing Conditions (Cold manifestation), which might intensify either as you approach the Tower and bastions or elevation (which means the Tower is certainly most intense, but allows areas within this region to have slightly differing effect.
- Strength of the Righteous: increases in benefit the closer you get to Rime Tower or the smaller bastions. I would probably replace the Strength benefits with Constitution benefits (or swap them, if both are present in the normal manifestation).
- Weakness of the Vile: the cold penetrates even the soul of evil creatures. RAW this affects Dexterity, but I could see it affecting Wisdom or Charisma (hypothermia saps the will and ability to make good decisions).
- Elemental Ascendancy: creatures of the (Cold) subtype gain increasing Strength and Constitution bonuses, and bonus cold damage on attacks, based on how strong the manifestation is. This likely applies to the more powerful members of Rime Tower, since they tend to gradually acquire the (Cold) subtype.
I expect there would probably several relevant talents here.
- I am a Northman: early on, focusing on survival skills (how to deal with the cold, find food, mobility — snowshoes, skis, dog sleds), leading to being able to largely ignore local conditions (cold endurance, leading to cold resistance).
- Winter’s Friend: starting to draw on the power of the land. This leads to the transformations described above, and increasing ability to use power. I don’t yet know the details here.
- Rime Tower <something>: I don’t know what this looks like, but there should be at least one talent specific to Rime Tower.
- Characters probably have some ‘useful’ skills not specific to Rime Tower (martial abilities, magic, and so on). Combat styles focus on spear or axe, at higher tiers they almost certainly involve cold, possibly paralyzation or related effects, and so on. Magic probably involves ice and cold, I expect there is some scrying (reflections in ice). Runes would be pretty obvious, perhaps too much so. Something druidic (getting along with local creatures, or even wildshape-related abilities) is certainly appropriate as well. ‘Favored enemy’ is likely appropriate as well.
I expect characters associated with Rime Tower would take at least I am a Northman (just for survival’s sake) and Rime Tower <something> (for obvious reasons). As above, there are likely common abilities after that (lots of combat or magic, of sorts appropriate to the location) but nothing really mandatory. I expect that usually a character’s top five or six talents might be dedicated to this set, leaving two or three for other things (and supporting talents can be used for either, of course).
Rangers, of course, and druids. There might be some paladins, but I think it unlikely, and barbarians might be more common than fighters (skill sets are better matched). Probably more sorcerers than wizards, but I can’t rule out wizards. I expect there are a few prestige classes possible, one specific for ‘Rime Tower Ranger’, another for ‘Winter Druid’, and so on. (I honestly haven’t thought about this too hard, since as I said I’m in Echelon space right now). I like to see something where ranger, druid, and barbarian are all suitable paths into a common prestige class for ‘Rime Tower’ characters, with other classes able to gain eligibility with a little more effort. After that a second prestige class covering the transformation from ‘mundane human’ to ‘creature of ice’ could be appropriate. I’m thinking perhaps something like the Orders of Solamnia from Dragonlance. Five levels shortest path to the first one (which is itself a five- or ten-level class), then possible to become eligible for the transformative class at eleventh level (again, five or ten levels).