Here’s the first installment of the Hightop Dungeon Adventure: the town of Hightop which rests immediately above it.
The town of Hightop rests upon an ancient tell, the uppermost portion of which stands 150ft tall. The southwest portion of the tell gave way many years ago forming a steep ridge. Until a few years ago Hightop was no more than a humble farming village. That was before it was discovered that the tell upon which the village was built contained a massive underground complex filled with ancient riches. Once the news spread people began pouring into the village to exploit the opportunity for adventure. As a result a steady stream of Taldic gold flowed into the town, transforming it almost overnight into an economic hub catering to the needs of adventurers. There is a new energy about the town. Dangers lurk just beneath the surface but fortunes have been made by those willing to risk life and limb to clutch it.
Vos Keep: this newly constructed manse is home to Baron Vos and his men at arms (one 3rd level warrior, 1 2nd level ranger, one 2nd level mage, two 2nd warriors and twelve 1st level warriors). It consists of a great hall, a study, a dormitory, a kitchen and larder, the Baron’s quarters, two guest quarters and a large turret which serves as the lookout tower overlooking the Thildish highlands to the south-west. The Keep’s gates are constructed of sturdy iron reinforced hard-wood doors.
White Griffon Hall: named after the mythical beast, this building once served as the town hall. Shortly after it was discovered that a dungeon sat beneath the town, an enterprising half-elf named Kel Tennaris bought the place and retrofitted it to serve as a tavern. Prices at the Hall are a bit on the steep side, but that has not deterred business. Kel’s culinary skills are legend, and his sugar pear brandy is the finest on the island. But what really draws the crowds are the theatrical performances put on each night at the Hall by Hightop’s Dramatic Society.
The Golden Feather: this stately stone inn offers the finest accommodations in town, albeit at a premium. Despite its high rates the Inn has no shortage of patrons. For, conveniently, the Golden Feather sits upon the only known dungeon entrance within town limits. Beldroved Grix, the Inn’s proprietor has seized on this fact to turn a tidy little profit. He charges each would-be delver a silver coin for the use of this passage (though the fee is waived for clientele).
The Apothecary: a dazzling array of liquid filled vials, dried hanging herbs, desiccated amphibians and medicine cabinets clutter this strange hut. Arenis Tavarian, an aging tan-skinned man who speaks in a thick halting accent, is the owner and operator of this shop and claims to be able to cure leprosy, filth fever, foot rot the common cold and everything in-between. However Tavarian’s customers have found that the foreigner’s elixirs occasionally have some rather unexpected side effects.
The Mage’s Satchel: sumptuous purple satin drapery hangs from the four bay windows of this shop dedicated to servicing the needs of the wandering mage. Parchment, scrolls, ink, spell components and the occasional wand may all be purchased here. A striking middle aged woman by the name of Tunessa Galdun runs this establishment. She is clothed always in violent and smells faintly of jasmine and clove.
The Dragon’s Anvil: this soot covered stone building houses the largest arsenal of arms and armor outside of Vos Keep. The armaments here were all crafted by the Drelotho Brothers, two brawny dwarf twins who have recently set up shop in Hightop. The twins have already begun to make a name for themselves for the quality of their craftsmanship. The Drelotho brothers are exceedingly proud of this reputation and take offense at any who dare to question the superiority of their craftsmanship.
The Red Horse Inn: the walls of this Inn once housed horses in years past. It has since been renovated and expanded in order to serve as lodging for travelers, yet the faint aroma of horse manure lingers on, hinting at the building’s past. Still, the accommodations are inexpensive, and the proprietor, a squat little runt of a man named Nevlen Brom serves up a halfway decent Thildish Fryup for the morning meal. What’s more, Brom offers a carriage service. For a few copper pieces he will drop delvers off at the ancient salt mines, one of the few known entrances to Hightop Dungeon. Thus the Red Horse is a popular establishment among new adventurers.
Thelma’s Boarding House: this humble but clean building is home to Thelma Dolberm, the much beloved widow of Hightop. Thelma is a wise and generous old soul who serves on the town council and cares for a handful of orphans. She rents out her two spare rooms in order to earn a few extra coins. Though her rates are somewhat higher than those of the Red Horse Inn, the accommodations are more comfortable, and Thelma serves both a morning and an evening meal around the cozy family table.
Lystra’s Emporium: doubles as an adventuring gear vendor and the local general store. Here locals shopping for wheat to bake their daily bread mingle with those being outfitted to survive the menaces that await just below the surface. Lystra is a tall heavy-set woman with short spiky hair whose skin is covered in decorative tattoos. She can out-drink most of her male counterparts over at Tevlen’s Grog Shop.
Tevlen’s Grog Shop: this large waddle and dab tavern is one of the most popular establishments in Town. While the food is merely passable Tevlen’s offers a wide range of inexpensive and highly quaffable ales and spirits to warm the blood. Locals and adventurers alike come here to swap stories, catch up on the latest gossip and enjoy a game of chance. Sell-swords and the like in search of employment can usually be found here. Tevlen himself is a large imposing figure with an oak-like chest, wild frizzy hair and pale grey eyes. He brews and distills most of his own liquor and the only thing in the world he’s more proud of is his daughter Lystra.
Neldrek Vos: with its new found prestige the town has been appointed a Baron charged with governing its people and protecting them from whatever unknown dangers lurk beneath. Vos is young and foolhardy. Do to his initiative and bravery he quickly rose through the ranks of the Veskaran naval fleet. Now that he’s an administrator he finds that he misses his former life. He’d much rather be delving into Hightop’s unknown depths than governing from its heights. He enjoys hosting feasts at the keep with successful parties to listen to their adventures.
Tav Harkon: the town Reeve was recently assassinated by an ambitious doppelganger named Thiddian. Unknown to anyone within Hightop Thiddian is impersonating the deceased Harkon. He knows of Vos’s discontent and impulsiveness and seeks a means of exploiting these to allow him to win the barony from Vos. When in the form of Harkon Thiddian appears as a tall, nearly gaunt Taldic man with graying temples. He wears fine clothes, is impeccably groomed and has a habit of stroking his long dark goatee when thinking.
Avrek Sharn: is Vos’s Right Hand. He is a seasoned warrior (3rd level) and helps to oversee Vos’s men at arms. He is well respected by the men at arms for being a fair, disciplined leader. He and Tav Harkon despise one another.
Beldroved Grix: is easily the richest man in town. As a local Mercers Guild foreman he oversees the collection of wool from local herders. He also serves on the town’s council and is the proprietor of The Golden Feather. It was he who accidentally discovered the entrance to Hightop dungeon that lay beneath his manse several years back while building a wine cellar. Upon its discovery Grix immediately set to work transforming his private residence into an Inn, whereupon he began to circulate rumors that he had found a cache of Taldic gold in a tomb beneath his home. Within weeks the first adventures began to appear, and within a year Grix had doubled his fortune. Grix is a bald, portly man with a well trimmed red beard. On the surface he appears affable enough but he’s a ruthless, calculating man who cares only for his own wealth. He has sought, unsuccessfully, to buy off his major competitor, Nevlen Brom of The Red Horse Inn. Now he is scheming up a way to knock his rival off.
“That halfblood Tennaris must’a made some sort of pact with the fae or demons or something cause I ain’t never tasted food like that before. I’m tell’n’ya it’s gotta be sorcery or something.”
“Tevlen’s got a secret cask of Demon’s Tongue Whiskey stashed away somewhere. One shot of the stuff will scald your insides, but will also grant you the power to speak Demon.”
“Lystra’s got a weakness for redheaded women. She’s been known to give them discounts at the Emporium.”
“Ol Ardby used to be the town drunk, till he bought an elixir from Tavarian to cure a hangover. Now anytime he so much as catches a whiff of alcohol he starts grabbing his head and hollering for someone to stop that infernal ringing.”
“I’ve heard tell that somewhere down there in the dark lurks a man who can speak to rats. They say he’s like a father to’em, and if you kill one of the lil’buggres he’ll come for you.”
“Don’t go anywhere near Hulvren’s Grove, they say an angry spirit haunts the woods.”
“Yup, got lots of folk looking for work over there at Tevlen’s Grogshop. If you are need’n someone to carry your things, or another sturdy lad with an axe, that’s where you’ll find’em.”
“Reeve Harkon used to perform over at White Griffon Hall till he dropped out of the Dramatic Society a few lunar turns ago. No one really knows why, but ever since he tends to keep to himself up there in Vos Keep.”
“Well everyone knows that Scargren’s tower leads down to the Dungeon but no one dares take that passage. The few that ever made it back from there alive warned of an oozing black death that consumed half of their party.”
“Yup, them little pint-sized cusses are down there. Not them gobblers mind, I’m talking bout those scaly creatures they call Kobolds. Better watch your step around’em. Way I heard it they serve some strange snake-god that watches over’em.”
“Somewhere down there is that place they call the Crucible, a place that tests the soul. People that’ve been there and lived to tell about it come back changed somehow. Like some of’em seem older. Others are scared at their own shadows.”
“Most folk come here bold as you like with visions of Gold and fame dancing round in their heads. Course the moment they step beyond Grix’s cellar it’s a whole’nother story. Most come back with their tail between their legs, telling of strange and unnatural creatures. That is, if they come back at all. Guess that’s why they call that place beyond “Scavenger’s Folly.”
A .pdf copy of this town writeup can be found here: hightop-village
Next up I’ll begin work on the dungeon maps.