Hey folks. This will be a series of articles that shows off the Airy Peaks, a fantasy setting. Over the course of several articles with the Airy Peaks tag, you’ll find a bunch of stuff you can use in your fantasy games, including but not limited to a town called Foot, maps of the areas of the peaks, NPCs, magic items, stories of the peaks, adventure seeds, rumors about Eyetog – the great red dragon that once ruled over this small mountain range, adventure hooks, and interesting things you can use for your games.
To begin let’s start with a story.
The Legend of Eyetog & The Airy Peaks
Eyetog the terrible is the most fearsome dragon that has ever existed. For thousands of years he’s been known as the ender of ages, the taker of treasures, the eater of heroes. It was pay tribute to the dragon or have your nation destroyed by fire. As of today no one has seen the dragon for 50 years.
Some thought the dragon might have died, others believed he just retreated to his lair in the small mountain range to the north known as The Airy Peaks. After 30 years, adventurer’s became curious and made their way to The Peaks to find out for themselves. Inside they found the mountain range had been hollowed out. There were miles of caverns and tunnels of smooth stone that glowed with energy. The stone looked as if it had been shaped and melted by dragon’s fire. There was also treasure in those caverns and it was guarded by all manner of monster and horror. It became a siren call to adventurers.
Soon after a small town called Foot was established and it became a haven and base for adventurers to make their forays into the mountains. Many died. Some became rich. Stories and legends were born. This is the Airy Peaks. What legend will you leave?
The Airy Peaks is a massive dungeon complex. It was created to run Dungeon World, which is a game I very much adore. I’ve used it to run a number of one shots, Long Cons – convention games where two or more consecutive sessions tell a longer story with the same characters and players, and several campaigns. This means you can use it to run games in a variety of situations, but it’s dungeon crawling at its core. There’s a town. There’s a dungeon. You’re supposed to go into the dungeons, explore, find treasure, return to town, spend your coin, go into the dungeon, and now you see the cycle.
How to do this effectively
I’ve been fascinated with dungeon crawls my entire life and especially the mega-dungeon. My problem has always been how do you tell a compelling story around the idea of these dungeon crawls? My answer was the Peaks.
- Step 1. Variety
To start I wanted to make sure the dungeon was compelling and had a number of areas. When I started, the Airy Peaks had eighteen different cavern complexes for adventures to explore. These were not all highly detailed. A lot of them were just the name of the cavern complex, like The Dragon Fire Forges or The Mushroom Cavern. Some were drawn out and more detailed to begin with, like the Wild Caverns and the High Halls. In either case I had a lot of places the characters could explore and travel when we started.
- Step 2. Evolving Ecology
I also decided that each of these cavern complexes wouldn’t just be stagnant. They’d have evolving situations based on the things that happened around them or too them. So if adventurer’s went into a cavern and cleaned it out, the cavern would eventually be repopulated by different monsters. For example there’s the High Halls.
The High Halls have a very tall ceiling and when my Airy Peaks Campaign started it was inhabited by a tribe of Hill Giants. Once those giants were dealt with, a tribe of Cyclops moved in and took the place over. The High Halls are adjacent to a huge cave area called The Wild Caverns. When the giants were there the characters could encounter giants in The Wild Caverns. When the Cyclops moved in they were up for random encounters in The Wild Caverns. This made the ecology of The Peaks an evolving thing.
- Step 3. A Home Base that Matters
The next step was to make the town of Foot a living, breathing place that had a purpose. It’s an adventurer’s town and is there to service adventurers. It’s sort of like a resort town and tourist trap for adventurers. It’s a place for adventurer’s to bring their gold to and spend it on carousing, getting into trouble, gear, the bath house, the pleasure boat, bribes, information, and whatever else an adventurer can think of.
The place was also filled with a number of NPCs that had their own agendas and desires in the town. Some of them even belonged to the Cult of the White Fangs, which worshiped a spirit aspect of Eyetog. To go along with those NPCs who lived in Foot, I also had a bunch of adventurers who were also delving into the mountains. They would have their own stories of exploits in the Peaks and sometimes they wouldn’t come out. This helped to show that the Peaks weren’t a kind or forgiving place.
- Step 4. The Dragon’s Plot
Here’s the spoiler about the Peaks. Eyetog is trying to become a god — a god of death to be precise. The first thing he needed to do was discover the way to become a god of death. He already has when the campaign began and set up his situation for this plan to succeed. Here’s what else he’s already done or needs to do:
- Consume a god of death
- Collect enough energy to ascend
- Fashion himself a body that can hold the energy of a god and infuse that energy into the body over time
Next time I’ll talk about how the dragon’s plot helped shape the Airy Peaks and gave me the flexibility of steps one and two. I hope you enjoyed this and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below.
Header art is by Drew Smith