There are those who have felt something all their lives, some deeply buried compulsion they could never explain. Some felt their gaze drawn to the horizon, captured by a half seen peek in the far distance; some found their steps leading them deep into the highlands, windswept and barren lands far from their people; and some, living in the shadow of cloud peaked mountains, found a cold fury building in their hearts at half heard taunts echoing in unexplainable memories. Regardless of the form such a compulsion takes, those so touched find themselves drawn to a remote, rocky plateau and the single great peak rising from its center, Baenthresir.
The mountain looms, its gray stone flanks so sheer in places that they seem to hang gallows-like over the Dwarven settlement at its base, Dwegyrhall. Beneath the mountain lie seemingly endless halls and caverns, halls that twist and flow as no stone should, rendering the maps of a man in his youth all but useless ere he can pass them to his children. On the slopes of Baenthresir lie hidden utopias and nightmares, mad things that should not live but do. Some say that at its peak, lost eternally in the clouds that ring the mountain, lie the gods themselves.
And yet, for all its wonder and horror, this place lies forgotten by the world at large, lost to history. Only the Dwarven and Duergar clans of Dwegyrhall keep its memory, and the memory of those drawn here by forces they do not understand... those like you. Born in brighter lands and deeper places, men and less than men, those like you have come for centuries beyond measure. On the rocky plains surrounding Baenthresir stand monuments in their honor, their lives and deeds recorded in Dwarven stone; the oldest long since worn into faceless boulders by time and the wind.
Baenthresir is surrounded a number of notable locations. Surrounding the mountain is a vast rocky plateau, ringed by glaciers to the north and rugged cliffs to the south. Among the rolling foothills at its base of the great mountain is Dwegyrhall, an ancient dwarven city and the only large settlement within easy reach of those drawn to Baenthresir. Beneath the mountain lie seemingly endless halls and caverns, halls that twist and flow given enough time, rendering the maps of a man in his youth all but useless ere he can pass them to his children, and an the high slopes of Baenthresir lie hidden utopias, lush forest glades filled with things born in dreams and nightmares.
Dwegyrhall is the the only large settlement on the plateau surrounding Baenthresir. On the surface it is a grim place of looming stone facades and bitter Dwarven rivalries as old as the Earth. But a hidden world lies within the smoke grimed fortresses of the five great Dwarven and Duergar clans, a world of precious beauty and unspeakable wealth. Although the Dwarves of Dwegyrhall rarely venture beyond the bounds of the city, they consider it their highest duty to care for the memory of those cursed souls drawn into the high places and the low. Each clan zealously guards any artifact pulled from the earth by those drawn to Baenthresir, hoarding the mundane and the magical alike.
The Mine Halls
Much of the stone beneath Baenthresir is composed of a mix of granite and shale, as well as a dull gray-white mineral known as Baenstone. Over long centuries the Dwarves of Dwegyrhall have found a variety of uses for Baenstone. Added in small amounts to steel it can lend weapons great strength and durability, used in the preparation of jewels it can lend them an unearthly luster, and in even the tiniest amounts it can grant surcease from pain, or a swift end to those who lay dying. Its poisonous nature cuts short the lives of those that would mine Baenstone, but at one time Dwegyrhall mined it in bulk, regardless of the consequences. As they delved deeper and deeper into the stone though, dark things beneath the earth stirred at their intrusion, raiding the mine tunnels and killing those they found. The Dwarves eventually abandoned their mines, though the occasional hardy soul still makes the trek to gather Baenstone for clan Glimmerdepth.
The Low Keep
The dwarves once kept an outpost within the mountain, a storehouse of their riches and a bulwark against the dark. The low keep allowed them unfettered access to the mountain tunnels near the surface, but only for a time. When the dwarves grew too complacent in their work, the darkness took them, killing all those within the keep, taking even their bodies so that none might know the means of their death. A number of small tunnels, meant to provide air, water, and a means of escape to the inhabitants of the keep were barricaded after the loss of the keep, but remain accessible for those seeking a more rarely used entrance.
The ancient crypts of a lost and unknown people lie half buried in the glaciers that break over Baenthresir's northern face. None know the names of the builders, any images of their likenesses having long ago been scrubbed from the titanic stones they set before their crypts. Those that enter the crypts rarely return, but those that do return bearing great riches indeed. Despite the riches to be found within the crypts few choose this path, as those that return seem changed, grown silent, and rarely live long enough to enjoy even a fraction of their wealth.
The Black Towers
South of Dwegyrhall the rocky plateau shatters into a vast array of canyons and pits, standing stones ten times the height of a man, and seemingly endless ravines. Within this broken landscape stand towers of blackened stone, worked by unknown hands, their upper reaches glowing with the dull embers of old fires and the occasional silhouette of obsidian figures. On the darkest of nights, the hard sounds of stone on metal can be heard, and the lands surrounding these behemoths grows acrid with the smoke of their fires. Some claim to have found entrance into the deepest depths through gaps in the ill repaired walls of the Black Towers.
The High Valleys
High upon the face of Baenthresir can be seen a number of forested crevices, thin mountain valleys lifted far into the sky by the hand of the mountain. Some few of these lie low enough upon its slopes to be reached on foot, though the climb is arduous at best. Limned in frost and snow, such valleys should be too high and cold to support the thick green forests they bear, but those who have reached one claim the mountain itself breathes from the depths, rich warm air spilling from wide tunnels in the earth and fueling the forest's growth. At times, the edges of such tunnels even seem to have been worked and shaped by the hands of men, or something very like men.
Religion and the Gods
The Aesir are the gods of humanity. They are warriors and poets, and claim that it was by their hand the world of men, Midgard, was made. Odin and his brothers slew the god Ymir, and fashioned the world from his bones and blood. Though immensely powerful, the Aesir are not immortal or ageless as the Jotunn or Vanir were before them. The knowledge that they will someday pass from this world (and in some cases the foreknowledge of the specific means by which they shall perish) has shaped the Aesir and their followers, hardening their beliefs and doctrines, their resolve to honor their ideals.
|For the full list of Aesir see The Aesir.|
The Vanir embody the forces of nature, and the bounty that the natural world can provide. Perhaps because of their innate fertility or their connection to creation, the blood of the Vanir runs in the veins of many mortal races. Particularly beloved by the Vanir are those races with a strong connection to the elements or nature, such as the Svartalfs and the Trolls of Muspelheim. Though they covet the worship of those beings that carry their blood, the Vanir accept followers of all alignments and creeds, favoring no ethos or cause.
Despite their fecundity, the Vanir are a fading pantheon, long since conquered by the warlike Aesir.
|For the full list of Vanir see The Vanir.|
The Jotunn are the gods of giants and their kin, titans that embodied the raw elements of fire, earth and ice. Though once neutral, they have long since fallen to evil, hating all the mortal races and their gods. All Jotunn possess the ability to shift their forms, taking the shape of any being, man or beast.
|For the full list of Jotunn see The Jotunn.|
The Gods by Alignment
- Lawful Good: Heimdall, Forsetti, Syn
- Neutral Good: Balder, Hodr, Eir
- Chaotic Good: Thor, Bragi, Gna
- Lawful Neutral: Tyr, Var
- True Neutral: Frigg, Fulla, Hel, Odin, the Vanir, Vitharr, and Ymir
- Chaotic Neutral: Ullr, Vor
- Lawful Evil: Ran
- Neutral Evil: Loki
- Chaotic Evil: Aegir
Setting Specific Rules
The following setting specific rules apply to characters in this setting.
Rare Arcane Spells
The following spells were once common, but employ rituals and techniques that have since been lost. Although those with sufficient Knowledge (Arcana) or Spellcraft may be aware that such spells once existed, they are incapable of replicating the complex formulae required to cast them through simple trial and error. Any Wizard, Sorcerer, or other primary arcane caster wishing to learn one of these spells must first either recover arcane works describing the spell or witness one of the spell being cast. Only then may they learn the spell as normal.
These restrictions apply only to primary arcane casters. Bards, Clerics, and other classes that receive similar spells are not restricted in their knowledge or use.
Rites and Restrictions
Truly devout followers of the Gods often attempt to emulate the beings they follow, shaping their actions and ideals to fit those of their religion. For those who draw directly upon the power of the gods though, such simple acts of devotion can become complex and demanding rites. All divine casters (Clerics, Druids, etc.) have additional rites and restrictions, determined by their chosen deity. They must either abide by these additional restrictions or risk angering the source of their powers.
Followers of the Aesir that fail to follow these restrictions are likely to face sanction from their gods, but will not typically lose access to their abilities immediately. The Vanir require only the occasional sacrifice of material wealth from their followers, but failure to offer up a suitable sacrifice of goods at the appropriate time is likely to result in an immediate loss of all casting ability. The Jotunn, rarely worshiped by men, are the least forgiving of all, demanding immediate payment in blood or service each time a follower of their faith prays for spells. Failure to properly appease the Jotunn is dangerous, to say the least.
Crafting High Quality Items
Craftsmen with the "Whispers of Mimir" feat can use Baenstone to fashion weapons and armor of unrivaled strength and excellence.
With 8 or more ranks in the appropriate Craft skill one ounce of baenstone can be alloyed with silver and platinum worth at least 1,000 GP to form a material that strengthens and supports weapons, granting a +1 enhancement bonus to attacks and damage. In a similar manner, small amounts of baenstone dust alloyed with silver and gold worth at least 500 GP can harden steel armor without making it brittle or prone to breakage, granting a +1 enhancement bonus to armor class.
With 12 or more ranks in the appropriate Craft skill an equal mix of baenstone, powdered gemstone, and precious oils may be used to temper steel weapons, producing a light and near perfect weapons that grant a +2 enhancement bonus to attacks and damage. Treating a single weapon in this fashion requires at least 4,000 GP in rare oils and powdered gemstone. Armor can be similarly treated using only 2,000 GP in rare oils and semiprecious gemstone, granting a +2 enhancement bonus to armor class.