4d4 Fort on the Borderland
by Creighton Broadhurst
June 11, 2019
The quintessential fort (or keep) on the borderland is a classic locale for neophyte adventurers to visit at the start of their careers. Using the fort as a base, they can explore the wilderness and know a safe haven lies nearby. Borderland forts are not featureless places devoid of interesting features and folk. They are living breathing places.
Use the tables below to add depth and verisimilitude to the fort on the borderland in your campaign.
4 Borderland Fort Dressings
A borderland fort is a living, breathing locale. Travellers, peasants, soldiers and adventurers all pass through such a place and leave their mark on its buildings and fortifications. Thus, such places should not be a sterile, pristine environment devoid of minor points of interest.
- A lewd picture daubed on a wall depicts a warrior decapitating a goblin, orc or some other kind of evil humanoid. The blood spurting from the humanoid’s neck is particularly overdone.
- Recent rain has turned the churned earth of the courtyard into a muddy morass, through which travellers and men-at-arms struggle. A single boot juts forlornly from a patch of particularly thick, cloying mud.
- A section of scorched, soot-blackened stone wall along with a newly replaced section of roof bears mute testimony to a bad fire that—perhaps—almost got out of control.
- An empty gallows atop a five-foot high wooden platform stands in the middle of the courtyard. Two servants are on their hands and knees scrubbing the platform clean. A bored man-at-arms stands nearby looking on.
4 Borderland Fort Rumours
Like any small community, a borderland fort is often rife with rumours. Whether its folk swap stories about various adventurers passing through, the dalliances of prominent individuals or the depredations of nearby humanoids news—both true and false—circulates wherever people gather.
- Strange things are going on at the chapel. A hooded figure has been seen entering the building late at night. (The priest is having an affair with a married women).
- The fire at the blacksmith’s last month was not accidental. Had it not been for his apprentice’s quick thinking, the whole building would have gone up in flames.
- Bandits have once again been seen in the fort’s vicinity. Rumour has it the Captain of the Guard is preparing an expedition to put them to the sword.
- The fort’s lord is expecting a high-ranking guest in the next few days. He has already despatched a patrol to meet his guest and preparations to receive a person of note have kept the servants busy for the last week. Speculation runs rampant as to exactly who is coming to visit.
4 Borderland Fort Sights & Sounds
One of the quintessential locales for adventurers to rest between adventures, a fort on the borderlands is a safe haven offering many of civilisation’s beguiling comforts. Here adventurers can rest and recuperate between expeditions into the wilderness.
- The clamour of sword striking sword and the grunts of warriors fighting foreshadows the sight of two fighters practising their craft.
- A particularly large raven squats on a tower’s battlements and watches folks’ coming and going with strange intensity. It flies off, if the PCs take particular note of its presence.
- Several travellers—the mud of the road fresh upon their boots—stagger passed the party in search of fresh ale, warm food and a comfortable bed for the night.
- A small boy—dirty and thin—darts through the crowd. He clutches a scabbarded longsword to his chest. The weapon appears finely made. If stopped, the boy—Arthal—explains he is delivering it to a customer of his father.
4 Men-at-Arms with Personality
Borderland forts are often dangerous places, and the wise nobleman strongly garrisons it with redoubtable men-at-arms. Such soldiers should not be merely carbon copies of one another. Among any garrison exceptional—or interesting— individuals will always emerge.
- Aever (LG male human fighter 1) Overly burly, and bald, Aevar cuts a menacing image. His dangerous mien is further enhanced by a badly done tattoo of a skull covering his entire head except for his face. For all that, Aevar is loyal to his lord, if not a little bit too enthusiastic in combat.
- Turkka Hiroven (N male human fighter 1) Turkka doesn’t want to be soldier; he only become one to escape a life of crushing poverty and constant hunger. He is loyal—to an extent—to his lord, but is always on the lookout for a way to turn a profit. Turkka is always hungry, and rarely encountered without food in his hand (or hidden in his pouch).
- Aila Leino (NG female human fighter 3) Aila’s slender frame belies a strength far greater than most men. Friendly and gregarious, Aila is popular with her fellows, although secretly she hates their coarse, unsubtle humour. She is a skilled warrior and braver than most veterans. With dark grey eyes and short-cropped red hair, Aila stands out from her drab fellows. If she can escape this backwater fort, a great destiny lies in her future for Aila is not entirely human...
- Gar Blood-Eye (CN male half-orc fighter 2) A renegade from an orcish tribe lurking in the nearby wilderland, Gar is not completely trusted by his fellows. Half of them see the tall and broad-shouldered green-skinned warrior as little more than a savage while most of the rest believe him to be a spy. Consequently, Gar has few friends and has become used to expecting the worst from those he meets.
The material in this article appears in 20 Things #20: Fort on the Borderland, which is available here at the Raging Swan Press shop.
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