The Duchy encompasses a medium sized island (roughly 80 miles north to south, and 40 miles east to west), off the eastern coast of the Island of Ilmahal. The northern third of the island is dominated by a grim and menacing woodland called the Maelvorn Forest. Beyond the forest, on the northeastern corner of the island, are the wild highlands called the Storm Ridges. The southern part of the island consists of fertile farmlands and river valleys, although sparsely settled rocky hills dominate the eastern and western coastlands.
The island – called ‘Brohn’ in the ancient Morghain tongue – was inhabited by a peaceful, if primitive, Morghain clan for many centuries. It eventually was conquered by Aphorian legions some twelve centuries ago. The island was abandoned by most human folk approximately four centuries ago, when the Aphorian Imperium withdrew its legions from Ilmahal. Much of the island was overrun subsequently by disorganized bands of humanoid savages. These bands settled in the abandoned Aphorian villages and forts that dotted the island, and fought amongst each other in a disorganized fashion for many years.
Approximately 225 years ago, a troop of mercenaries and adventurers led by the renowned warrior Flavius Briz landed in the ruined southern port of Irylond. Briz and his followers subsequently re-conquered the southern part of the island, slaying thousands of humanoids and driving the remainder into the dark Maelvorn Forest to the north, or the Storm Bridges beyond. Flavius Briz then declared himself duke of the island, renamed the port Irylond after himself (now simply ‘Briz’), encouraged the resettlement of the farmlands, and established three guard towers to protect the southern island against future humanoid incursions. Over the subsequent decades, a number of freemen from southern Ilmahal, tempted by the prospect of establishing their own farms and businesses, settled in the duchy, contributing to its wealth and stability.
Most of the duchy’s human population live in the southern part of the island. The one exception is the fishing town of White Cove, which is considered part of the Duchy. The present Duke of Briz is Duke Aelig Briz II. A small number of furtive Waldleuti (diminutive forest folk) dwell in the southern Highland Forest.
The nine towns of the Duchy:
1. Briz. (Formerly called ‘Irylond.’) The capital and only sizable town in the duchy, Briz is a moderately cosmopolitan cultural and economic centre, and hence the only place where representatives of other lands, and even other races, have permanent trading bases.
The imposing tower of Duke Aelig Briz II can be found on a small island attached to the town by a grey stone bridge. The ‘Red Raven Inn’ is large and rowdy establishment, frequented by rogues, mercenaries, adventurers, and other dubious sorts. The ‘Black Sail Tavern’ is rumoured to be the headquarters of the local thieves’ guild; they are said to led by the beautiful Amarrah Evensong, and run a brisk smuggling operation. An order of scholars, ‘The Grey Order,’ has a college in the town. In addition to educating the sons of the petty aristocrats of the Duchy, the Grey Order has been known to hire adventurers to obtain rare items (lost relics, strange herbs, and so forth) for their esoteric researches.
Some of the ruins of the ancient Aphorian town ‘Irylond’ are said to persist partially intact, hidden beneath the bustling port, allegedly holding lost treasures, forgotten lore, and dark eldritch horrors.
2. Solan. A fishing village on the southwestern coast of the island. A number of ancient Morghain cairns can be found to the southeast of the village, many of which are rumoured to be haunted by restless spirits. Treasure hunters sometimes venture into the cairns. They rarely return, and those that do generally wish to say nothing of their experiences in the hidden mounds of the dead.
3. Riagad. A fishing village on the eastern coast. A couple of small copper mines in the nearby hills provide additional revenue for the town. Riagad has a reputation for being dull.
4. Ninian. Another fishing village on the eastern coast. Sometimes called ‘Old Foggy’ because of the cool mists that perpetually form off the coastal hills. The village is ruled by a mayor, Sir Bran ‘the Melancholy,’ who is an ex-adventurer. An important lighthouse lies a few miles to the northeast of the village. A strange blue fire burns from the lighthouse’s brazier at all times. Only the lighthouse’s keeper, the taciturn Carthedon, knows the secret of the blue flame. The village’s only inn, ‘The Drunken Herring,’ is known throughout the realm as a welcoming and lively place.
5. Juvad. A trading village surrounded by a number of grain farms. The ale and lager served by ‘The Golden Grain’ – owned and run by garrulous Liam ‘Gutboy’ Brewson – are famous throughout the duchy. A reclusive mage named Neveldar ‘the Blue’ lives in a mansion just outside of the town. His diminutive servant Roderick obtains supplies and news for his master, as the mage never leaves his manor. A faint blue mist emanates from the bricks of Neveldar’s manor at all times. Strangely, as far as the villagers can tell, the mage has not aged a day since constructing and entering his manor some forty years ago!
6. Envel. A prosaic rural backwater, Envel is surrounded by farmland. In addition to grain, some farmers near Envel grow an unusual crop – pumpkins. The pumpkin ale sold by the tavern ‘The Goblin’s Nose’ is famous not only throughout Briz, but in lands further away. The owner of The Goblin’s Nose, Zethar ‘Orange-thumb,’ is a wealthy man, thanks to the money he has made by exporting his ale.
7. Maugan. A small town located in the coastal highlands. It supports a few nearby silver mines. Some of the abandoned mines are said to be haunted.
8. Pereg. A highland town surrounded by farms to the east, and a large temple devoted to Amithos (the sun god) and the Solar Court to the west. Many religious subjects of the duchy make pilgrimages to the temple. It is well known for its potent whiskey (‘Pereg’s tears’), which is somewhat popular with the temple’s clergy.
9. White Cove. The second largest town in the Duchy, White Cove dominates a small rocky island to the north of the dreaded Storm Ridges. The tower of the powerful wizard Ulfor – a friend of the Dukes of Briz – overlooks the town. Ulfor is the formal ruler of the island, holding the title of ‘baron,’ although he typically delegates responsibility for day-to-day affairs to White Cove’s mayor, Sir Aidan. Ulfor has dwelt in his tower for over a century, and is widely believed to be the most powerful wizard not only in the Duchy of Briz, but in the surrounding areas as well. Rumours claim that he is either half-fey or half-demon. Ulfor has been known to pay adventurers great amounts of money for the retrieval of rare substances and items (lost artifacts, exotic herbs, rare gems, parts of magical beasts, and the like).
Legends suggest that beneath the town of White Cove there exists a vast complex of natural caverns that were once inhabited by a depraved cult of worshippers of the Crab God. Even today, the occasional disappearance of a townsperson is blamed on the black ‘Cult of the Crab.’
10. Three imposing guard towers stand at the southern border of the Maelvorn Forest to limit humanoid incursions into the civilized lands of the south.
Other areas of note:
Gentle Ridges. A small range of rolling coastal hills that contain a few copper mines, most now abandoned. Some ancient Morghain ruins can be found in hidden vales throughout the Ridges.
Highland Forest. A small forest made up of a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. A number of small Waldleuti settlements are scattered throughout the forest. The Waldleuti avoid contact with most outsiders. Some ancient haunted Morghain barrows are said to exist in the wooded hills.
Maelvorn Forest. A dark and gloomy forest, the Maelvorn dominates the northern part of the island. Many tribes of humanoids live scattered throughout the woods, fighting amongst each other, and occasionally raiding south into the rich farmlands of the Duchy. More dangerous and powerful creatures are rumoured to dwell deeper within the forest, including a sleepy but powerful emerald drake. Legend suggests that some ancient and beautiful – but deadly – non-human (perhaps even pre-human) ruins can be found near the murky Lake Vorn in the centre of the forest.
Misty Hills. As their name suggests, these hills typically are covered in mist formed by moisture blown in from the Murcha Sea. Some ogres are known to dwell within the caves that dot the hills. They occasionally raid nearby settlements. Sir Bran, mayor of Ninian, has offered a bounty of one hundred gold coins for the scalp of every ogre brought to him.
Off the coast of the Misty Hills lie five forested islands. As far as anyone knows, they are uninhabited by intelligent creatures, although it is believed that the ruins of an ancient Aphorian order of sages – the ‘Amber Savants’ – can be found somewhere on one of the islands.
Western Highlands. An imposing range of rocky hills that dominates the western coast of the island. A number of ancient Morghain cairns can be found throughout the highlands. The cairns are said to be filled with treasure, but haunted by terrible, restless spirits. Local tales speak of an ancient Aphorian monastery somewhere within the northern hills, concealed by mystical means.
Storm Ridges. An unpleasant, broken land, with little vegetation, the Storm Ridges primarily consist of reddish and black rocky hills. Sailors and fishermen regularly report seeing a mysterious, ancient purple tower on one of the highest hills on the northern part of the ridges, near the Maelvorn Forest. No one who has investigated the tower has ever returned.
Swamp of Norg. A fetid marsh covered in a perpetual miasma of malevolence. According to legend, the swamp was created many centuries ago following a great battle between a demon frog lord named Norg and a great Morghain hero named Cadifor Manus. A tribe of lizard men and a band of depraved frog people are said to dwell in the swamp. Sailors have reported seeing mysterious barges leaving the swamp in recent years.
This is a revised and expanded version of my description of the Duchy of Briz (the original description can be found here). In addition to providing more details on the various towns, regions, and NPCs of the Duchy, this version gives much more information on the kinds of possible adventures that can take place in the Duchy's different areas.
I've submitted this version of the Duchy of Briz to Fight On! magazine (along with some notes on adapting the Duchy to one's own campaign world, which I've left out of this post). Further edits may be necessary, of course, but hopefully nothing of substance will be changed.
This is the version of the Duchy of Briz that I used for my summer Swords & Wizardry campaign. I plan to post a summary of that campaign at some point in the near future.