Thursday, August 15, 2013

Isle de Mont Deserette: A Homebrew Campaign Setting for D&D Next


The Isle de Mont Deserette sits off the extreme northeast coast of the Great Western Isles, approximately four hundred miles north of the city of Wanderhaven, the Kingdom’s northern capital, and a mere hundred yards off the coast of the Western Isles’ mainland.  It lies about two-thirds of the way up the interior coastline of the Charlesford Gulf, the largest in a chain of volcanic formations that together make the area both an excellent natural port and a rock-filled horror for unwary sailors.  Renowned Frankosian explorer Jacques de Charleford discovered the isle some three hundred fifty years ago, during his now infamous expedition to catalogue the land masses of the Western Isles’ far northeastern territories.  He named it after his sometime paramour, the courtesan Desiree Boline de Montville—a slight for which his wife later tried to have him assassinated.  
Mont Deserette and its surrounding islets are mountainous granite and obsidian formations, heavily forested, and rugged in the extreme.  The Isle is today considered the northern tip of the Kingdom’s frontier, and needless to say, it is sparsely populated at best.  The area is known primarily as a haven for fishermen and as the source of the Kingdom’s best bulk lumber, particularly aged pine and oak, although there are also some few stands of teak and mahogany as well as other valuable woods.  In addition to its vast forests, the area is also blessed with a near-infinite supply of workable rare pink granite, but sadly quarrying such and shipping it south has been proven to be ruinously expensive.  Finally, the Isle de Mont Deserette is home to a sizeable community of itinerant hunters and trappers engaged in the fur trade.  Such furs have occasionally been the source of fashion crazes at Court in Wanderhaven and on the Continent, and as a result recent years have seen an increase in the size of the trade.

This campaign setting is based on our vacation to Maine.  I started working on it
for the home-game I play with my kids.  I mention that because this view of
Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain greatly resembles the theoretical view
of Breakwater Bay from Mont Deserette.


There are three main human settlements in the area of Mont Deserette—Ellesburg, Breakwater Bay, and South Harbor.  None of these, however, number more than a thousand souls at most.  Additionally, there are numerous loosely affiliated clan-sized dwaven settlements cut into the rocks of The Three Sisters and Mont Deserette itself, along with one larger dwarf settlement on Ironhide Island.  The Ironhide dwarves number perhaps as many as two hundred, while the disparate dwarf clans on the various mountains house between ten and thirty members each—maybe three hundred dwarves in all spread across the totality of the island.  Finally, a small elven house, House Yindell, sits on the banks of the Mirror, a large pond at the base of the valley between Mont Deserette and Mont Claire.  Padmé Yindell leads the house, which numbers approximately fifty adult elves and a small number of elven children.
Though the Isle is home to a number of at least moderately civilized settlements, the settlements themselves are spread widely across the area, and the island itself is both large and rugged.  Isle de Mont Deserette is more than sixteen miles long and twelve miles across with three separate named mountains and a number of smaller rocky hillocks and numerous natural caves.  This rough country provides a ready home to many tribes of goblins, kobolds, and other, less-civilized humanoids.  
Ellesburg is perhaps the most important settlement in the area.  The town itself is little more than a large, permanent logging camp, really, numbering some dozen timber and stone buildings sited on the southern tip of the mainland, just a few hundred yards north of the Isle de Mont Deserette.  From Ellesburg, the timber men head north into forest, establishing temporary logging camps from which they harvest the Kingdom’s best lumber.  They then send the cut trees down the Peneboscot River to Ellesburg, where the timber is processed in one of the local mills and loaded onto barges for the trip to Breakwater Bay and the rest of the Kingdom.
Ellesburg provides a permanent home to some two hundred hearty souls and a temporary refuge for at least half again as many more.  The nature of the place makes most of the population transient, either because all but the hardest and heartiest of men find the work and the frontier lifestyle too cold, demanding, and dangerous for long-term living, or because the sheer remoteness of the place attracts the kind of men who don’t tend to stay in one place for very long.  Regardless, the town of Ellesburg can be a rough-and-tumble place, and every effort to impose a more strident form of law-and-order has proven to be counter-productive at best.
There are, however, a handful of respected, established families in Ellesburg, amongst which the Braven family is most prominent.  William “Billy” Braven is the owner/proprietor ofThe Whistling Sailor, Ellesburg’s all-purpose tavern, trading post, and general store.  Newcomers to town invariably find their way to the Sailor since it is by far the largest and most imposing building in the town, and once they’re there, Billy is more than happy to sign them up for a term as a timber man and get them up into the hills where they can help him enhance his fortune.
Breakwater Bay
Breakwater Bay is the largest and most well-known of the settlements on the Isle de Mont Deserette.  Located on the northeast corner of the island, the town of Breakwater Bay is named for the bay over which the town sits, one of the largest and most navigable deep-water ports in the entire world.  The bay, in turn, takes its name from the Breakwater, a natural rock formation that reaches out from the Isle into the bay and up onto a small coastal island called Breakwater Island.  
Between the Breakwater, Breakwater Island, and the other barrier islands around the port, as well as the fact that the Bay itself already sits in the middle of the usually calm Gulf of Charlesford, Breakwater Bay is almost always placid, even during storms.  In fact, Breakwater Bay is such an excellent natural port that the only thing preventing the rise of the region as a major trading hub is the sheer remoteness of the place and the fact that the bay itself is covered with ice for a few months every year.  However, for those souls hearty enough to handle the climate, Breakwater Bay is an excellent port of operations.  Indeed, even with the climate, the place is still home to a substantial fleet of deep-water fishermen, whalers, merchant factors, ship builders, and other assorted sea-going folk.
With all of that said, Breakwater Bay exists primarily as a transshipment point for the timber trade from Ellesburg.  The waters immediately south of the town of Ellesburg itself are too shallow and rocky to allow for more than the lightest and shallowest-drafting barges to actually dock, so coastal sailors from Breakwater Bay must travel north to pick up the town’s lumber and ferry it home.  Once in the Bay, the lumber is loaded onto merchantmen and sent south to the Kingdom.
The town of Breakwater Bay is a much larger, more well-established settlement than is Ellesburg.  It counts a mere thousand or so permanent residents, but its population swells substantially at the height of the summer when the lumber trade reaches its peak.  The town is ruled locally by the young Baron Pavel Pavelovitch, made Lord Charlesford by the King just a few short years ago.  In theory, Lord Charlesford holds all of the lands in and around the Charlesford Gulf—one of the largest holdings in the entire Kingdom.  In practice, however, his rule extends at best to the edge of the docks in town.  Once one reaches the forest or open water, the rule of law is theoretical at best.
South Harbor
The last human settlement in the area of Mont Deserette is South Harbor, a fishing hamlet on the southern tip of the isle.  Little is known about South Harbor.  The place is, if anything, even smaller and more remote than Ellesburg, and its population is perhaps tied more closely to the pirates of the Blueberry Islands than to the rule Lord Charlesford.
Perhaps a hundred souls reside in South Harbor, and if the rumors are to be believed, nearly all of them are blood relatives of the dread pirate Jack “Black Jonny” Johansen.
Ironhide Island
Ironhide Island is a mid-sized barrier island in the middle of Breakwater Bay.  The place is home to the Ironhide Clan of dwarves, a large clan of dwarven shipbuilders serving the needs of the sailors of Breakwater Bay.  Cassius Ironhide, an ancient dwarf and direct descendant of the first dwarven settlers in the area, rules the Ironhides with an implacable grip, though his domain is at most a half-mile long and perhaps two hundred yards across.  Over the centuries old Cassius has proven himself to be a shrewd and vindictive businessman, a skilled shipbuilder, and iron-willed negotiator.  Those who owe Cassius money have a tendency to wash up face-down in the rocks of the Breakwater.
The Ironhides number about a two hundred souls living in warrens carved into the bedrock of their island home.  Legend has it that the Ironhide citadel connects with Breakwater Bay’s keep via tunnels under the waters of bay itself, but if this is true, no outsiders have ever seen those tunnels and lived to tell the tale.
Mirror House
House Yindell sits on the banks of the Mirror, a small pond in the center of the Isle de Mont Deserette nestled between two of the island’s largest mountains.  The elves of the House are famously insular, and though they are surrounded by rough country and uncivilized goblinkin of every description, they steadfastly refuse the aid or company of the men of the Kingdom.  Occasionally, the elves will venture forth to trade with itinerant human trappers or dwarven metal smiths in the surrounding areas, but outsiders are never welcome at Mirror House itself.

This is a sketch of Mont Deserette.  As you can see, I greatly simplified the topography
from what exists in reality on Mount Desert Island.


In addition to the various settlements in and around the Isle de Mont Deserette, the area also holds many notable terrain features with which any visitor would do well to become familiar.
Mont Deserette
Mont Deserette is the tallest mountain on the isle of the same name.  Standing over three thousand feet tall, it towers over the surrounding countryside, rising like a monolith from the forests below.  The mountain was once an active volcano, but it is long since dormant, though there are supposedly still a few smoking vents residing up towards the mountain’s summit.  
A few small dwarf clans live on the lower slopes of the mountain, in caves that connect to tunnels reaching deep into the earth.  The upper regions of the mountain, however, are completely given over to kobolds, and old Cassius Ironhide claims that a red dragon lives at the mountain’s peak, presiding over the beasts like a great, sleeping god.  If this is true, then it’s been a century at least since the dragon last ventured forth.
Shepherd’s Isle
Shepherd’s Isle is a barrier islet in Breakwater Bay and a possession of the Ironhide dwarves located adjacent to the clan’s home island.  The dwarves keep their sheep and goat herds on Shepherd’s Island because the island’s greenery provides a ready source of forage for the clan’s animals and because its location naturally protects the herds from land-based predators like wolves.
Breakwater Isle
Breakwater Isle is another of the barrier islets in Breakwater Bay.  It is connected to the mainland by the rocky Breakwater but is accessible mainly by boat.  Breakwater Isle is therefore the premier neighborhood in the area.  Only the richest, most ostentatious merchant houses in the region can afford to maintain residences on Breakwater Isle.
Griffon Rock
Griffon Rock is a tiny rocky island in the Charlesford Gulf just south of Breakwater Bay.  The rock itself is little more than a shipping hazard, and in fact, there is a small, squat lighthouse located on the island to prevent catastrophes.  
Griffon Rock Lighthouse is manned year-round by sailors in the service of Lord Charlesford, but the island itself is home primarily to seals and nesting seabirds, who can often be seen sitting out on the rocks whenever the sun is out.  The rock is therefore named for the griffons who hunt the area, looking for lazy seals and dolphins sunning themselves in the general area.
Mont Claire
Mont Claire is the second of the major mountains on the Isle de Mont Deserette.  Mont Claire is wider but at a mere twelve hundred feet also much shorter than Deserette, and it is covered entirely in pine and spruce forest.  Wolves and other large predators call Mont Claire home, along with numerous tribes of gobilnkin.
The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters are small mountains set in a range along the north side of the Isle de Mont Deserette.  The Sisters each stand a little under a thousand feet and are the home to several small clans of dwarves and goblins who war over control of the spaces where their territories overlap.  Like the rest of the island, the Sisters are mostly pine and spruce forest, though the area also has a good many rocky open spaces, crags, and even caves.
Great Blueberry and Little Blueberry
The Blueberries are large rocky islets off the southern coast of the Isle de Mont Deserette.  Like much of the rest of the region, the Blueberries are rough granite rocky outcroppings, rising from the water in broken and irregular patterns that make sailing nearby difficult and unpredictable.  However, so long as one can avoid the rocks, the Blueberries offer a tempting harbor.  For this reason, it is perhaps no surprise that the area has become a haven for pirates and smugglers.  The most famous of these is Black Jonny Johansen, but he and his crew are by no means the only threats to legitimate shipping in the area.
The Mainland and Other Islands
The Isle de Mont Deserette and its environs are the only officially inhabited places in the area of the Charlesford Gulf, but the area itself is massive—and filled with many, many more islands, both large and small.  Moreover, the mainland stretches for hundreds of forested miles in either direction, offering further adventure for explorers wishing to push the boundaries of the map.  The only real obstacle to further exploration is the cold, which becomes extreme as one continues to head north.  Still, should the need ever arise, the mainland of the Western Isles extends some hundreds of miles further on.

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