Moonsea is rich, indeed . . . gold and jewels, valuable pelts, and old ruins
ripe for plundering. But it is a hard place to live -- cold, brutal, and
dangerous, and it makes the men who live there into something much the same,
tempering the soft iron of their spirits into cold, sharp steel. The people of
the Moonsea are hard and unforgiving because if they weren't they'd be dead at
the hands of monsters, tyrants, or the cruel turns of nature herself." --
Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun
"Dare -- and beware!" -- Moonsea battle cry
acts to Keep In Mind
Moonsea is located in the northern part of Faerun. While not as cold as the
Silver Marches, it is much cooler than the Dalelands or Waterdeep, and people
dress warmly all year round (a fur cape or cloak is a common article of clothing
in the Moonsea). Anyone who walks around in light clothing during cold weather
is obviously either a fool or someone who is using magic to stay warm and
doesn't care if people know it (and thus a fool). Minor magic items that protect
against the cold, such as rings or potions that give resistance 3 against
nonlethal damage caused by cold, are in common use among the wealthier people of
the Moonsea, who enjoy not having to wear bulky clothing all the time (and these
people are the ones who can afford bodyguards to protect them from robbers who
would take such luxuries from them). The lake itself is fed by glacial meltwater
and even in summer it can be cold enough to kill a swimmer. Because of this,
most people who make their living on the water can't swim, since they've never
had the opportunity to practice; instead, they have learned more practical
skills such as fire building and how to not fall out of a boat.
In the winter months much of the sea freezes over, making travel across the
ice possible but (due to the great distances involved) not very common. The
larger cities sometimes use icebreaking ships, summoned monsters, or fire magic
to keep their dock areas somewhat clear of ice, though this is impractical on a
large scale. Ice fishing is common, with fishermen walking to their favorite
spots rather than boating. The first snow usually falls in early to middle Uktar,
and the land is consistently snowy from Nightal to Alturiak, with occasional
snowfalls happening through Tarsakh.
The frequent cold and limited technology means that Moonsea inns usually have
a small number of large rooms rather than a large number of small rooms; this
reduces the number of individual fireplaces needed and the overall risk of fire.
Some inns have just one large common room heated by a large hearth. This means
these places have less privacy than a typical adventurer's inn but attacks are
less likely because there are so many witnesses. The places with smaller rooms
tend to use closed metal braziers full of hot coals to offset the chill.
Because of the natural cold, those who have the means to magically protect
themselves against cold (such as adventurers, spellcasters, and other wealthy
folk) often do so, and in turn are aware that their enemies might have similar
protection. This means that magic-using NPCs are less likely to use cold
attacks. since doing so is often a waste of time (though the followers of Auril,
unpopular even in the Moonsea, would disagree). PCs who gird themselves against
magical cold in anticipation of many "cold mages" in the area might be surprised
that fireball and lightning bolt are just as common here as in warmer lands.
City-States: Because of the danger of bandits, monsters, and military
rivals, civilized populations gather in large settlements and behind walls for
protection and comfort; every town has at least a wooden palisade wall.
Adventurers traveling cross-country are much less likely to stumble across a
hamlet or village here than elsewhere in Faerun. Most settlements don't allow
visitors after dark, and some even refuse entry to strangers during the day
except under special circumstances -- even visiting merchants must make their
deals outside the town wall.
Monsters: Though most parts of Faerun have at least occasional
problems with marauding monsters, the Moonsea is particularly dangerous in this
regard. Surrounded by old mountains and ancient forests, and divided by a
mysterious deep sea, the land here has more than its fair share of strange
beasts. In particular, the lake was once called the Sea of Dragons because of
the many dragons that came here to mate; its forests and mountains are still
riddled with dragon lairs. Moonsea folk do not scoff at rumors of monsters --
they tighten their belts, sharpen their swords, and expect the worst. Monster
trophies do not impress them; such things hang in the main hall of most towns
that have managed to survive for more than a few years.
Religion: The common faiths of the Moonsea reflect its dangerous
nature; most of the gods worshiped here are of the "worship me or bad things
will happen to you" variety, and the rest fall into the "worship me or I will do
bad things to you" category. Whether overt or subtle, these faiths influence how
the local people think. Visitors who worship bright and noble gods are likely to
be scoffed at behind their backs, while those who worship "frivolous" deities
such as Eldath, Lliira, Milil, Sharess, and Sune are often derided to their
face. Adventurers who proselytize "foreign" religions quickly draw the attention
of Banite loyalists and others who openly serve the evil deities favored here.
Most Moonsea folk pay lip service to these deities just to keep potential
threats away, not necessarily fully embracing the dark philosophies of these
Suspicion: Because of their frontier situation and the many threats in
the Moonsea (particularly from rival city-states), the people of the region are
mistrustful of any stranger, since any unknown person could be a spy or assassin
from a rival settlement. Unlike other harsh lands where a culture of hospitality
to all became the norm for the sake of survival, the Moonsea folk have more of a
"take care of your own" attitude. This also makes them reluctant to turn to
outsiders for help except under great duress, or when they have no questions
about a person's motivations (for example, even in the Moonsea a paladin of Torm
is someone you can trust to help you without an ulterior motive). Strangers must
prove their worth before earning even a small measure of free hospitality. While
the people of the Moonsea are not inherently evil or distrustful (any more than
the people of the Dales are inherently friendly and good), that is the attitude
bred into them by a culture where survival is hard work and the kind-hearted are
usually taken advantage of.
Major Geographical Features
River Duathamper: The River Duathamper is a minor tributary of the Moonsea
that flows through the forest of Cormanthor from the south. A few woodcutters
cut timber from its banks and float the logs downriver to the Moonsea, but the
elves of the forest quickly run the interlopers out.
River Stojanow: The swift, cold River Stojanow flows to the Moonsea from the
foothills of the Dragonspine Mountains. Ships and barges carry ore from
Dragonspine mines to Phlan and Melvaunt.
Elmwood (Village, 500): Elmwood is a small farming community on the southern
shores of the Moonsea. The locals supplement their incomes with fishing and
woodcarving, and they sell their goods to passing ships and adventurers at fair
prices. Few places in the Moonsea can be called peaceful and serene, but Elmwood
is one of them. Constable Thoyana Jorgadaul (NG female shield dwarf Ftr8), an
adventurer who retired here years ago, oversees the community. Elmwood owes its
security both to its isolation and the simple fact that no one in the town owns
anything worth stealing.
of Phlan lies Melvaunt and the North Moonsea Reigon
You're seeking a good deal in Melvaunt? I think you're better off looking
for a happy man in Thay, my friend! The greatest merchants in the Realms are
inside these walls, and they're selling the best merchandise. And don't forget,
after you've been overcharged at the stall you've still got to pay the nobles
just for the privilege of shopping in their city! No, my friend, I don't think
you'll be finding any deals on this afternoon . . . say, didn't you have a money
pouch on your belt when we left the inn?" -- Carolin deMark, traveler and
resident drunkard at The Breakwater
The city of Melvaunt sits on the northern coast of the Moonsea, and serves as
the port of entry to many travelers coming to the region. The Northern Moonsea
region stretches inland from the shore all the way to the edge of The Ride,
encompassing all of Thar. The River Stojanow marks the region's western border;
the Galena Mountains frame the region to the east. The city of Glister at the
northern edge of Thar is nominally a part of the region, but its people and
customs differ significantly from those along the coastline.
The Northern Moonsea is a harsh place whose independent cities are not well
connected by roads; most of the region's famed trade takes place by boat. None
of the area's rulers want to spend time and money making it easier for armies to
march upon them, so roads remain a low priority. The Phlan Path is perhaps the
region's most proper road, but even it resembles nothing more than a rutted dirt
trail in places.
Ships from Melvaunt constantly shuttle goods to Mulmaster and Hillsfar, where
these items can be more efficiently distributed around the region. Legitimate
trade with Zhentil Keep is dangerous and rare, but the black market is alive and
well, despite the city's attempts to crack down on "traitors" that would do
business with their enemies in the west.
The geography of the Northern Moonsea area can be described in three words:
drab, marshy, and cold. Vast swaths of the region have little to no vegetation,
and the landscape is rarely broken up by trees, hills, or rivers. Building roads
through the land is expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately futile, because
the stones sink farther into the marsh year after year. Structures outside the
major cities encounter much the same problem, and few people have found a
compelling reason to build fortifications to defend such unwelcoming terrain.
With little vegetation, frequent incursions by monsters, and a cold climate,
farming is relatively unknown along the Northern Moonsea. In the western
section, along the River Stojanow, a fertile belt allows for the sowing of some
grains and a few hardy vegetables. Without the protection of a major city,
however, no large-scale food production takes place. Few small communities pop
up in the north for similar reasons, so most of the region's population is
concentrated in its cities.
The Great Gray Waste of Thar occupies a large section of the north. It is a
bleak and desolate region of marshlands and cold plains, with the occasional
mountain or rock formation to break up the landscape. Tribes of orcs and ogres
rule, making their homes wherever they can carve out a niche. Scavengers and
predators roam the land, from the ubiquitous monstrous vermin to green dragons
to the animated skeletons of the unfortunate dead.
of Phlan lies Zhentil Keep and the West Moonsea Reigon
Weak? You think the Black Network is weak? Hah! If anything, the razing of
Zhentil Keep made it stronger! Cyric's muddling seemed to be exactly what the
Zhentarim needed to get rid of the riffraff and get back to the business of
ruling the entire Moonsea region -- and everywhere else, for that matter." --
Flobrian Helvar, Sembian caravan master, to one of his employers as they watch
several of their wagons burn on the road to Voonlar
The western portion of the Moonsea region, which includes the city of Zhentil
Keep, stretches from the great body of water from which the territory gets its
name all the way to the Border Forest in the west, and from the northern fringes
of the mighty Cormanthor Forest to the tribal lands of The Ride in the north.
The River Stojanow serves as the region's northeastern border, while Yulash
marks its southeastern limit. Most people also consider Voonlar to be part of
the region, demarking its extreme southwestern border. Good roads connect many
of the communities, with major traffic flowing along the trade triangle of
Voonlar, Zhentil Keep, and Teshwave. Another major route leaves Zhentil Keep and
passes through Yulash on its way to Hillsfar in the east, while minor roads run
to Phlan to the northeast and to the Citadel of the Raven, Zhentil Keep's
companion community, to the north. Trade continues south out of the Western
Moonsea region and into the Dalelands and points beyond.
Within the Western Moonsea, two geographic features dominate the landscape --
the River Tesh and the Dragonspine Mountains. The river, which flows from Dagger
Falls near the northern tip of the Desertsmouth Mountains, serves as a major
trade route, particularly between Teshwave and Zhentil Keep. The Dragonspine
Mountains bisect the region from the southwest to the northeast and provide many
valuable raw resources as an enticement to the entrepreneurs attempting to carve
civilization out of the wild places. Though far from being the largest or
tallest mountains in Faerun, the Dragonspines are rugged and often bitterly cold
throughout the year, making them a danger to even the hardiest explorers.
In between these landmarks, the Western Moonsea region features miles of
bleak grasslands and moors no one dares travel across alone. A few farms lie
scattered throughout, but most people with any sense stay close to the cities
and towns, where protection from marauding monsters is readily available. While
the Western Moonsea has the greatest concentration of population of any part of
the region, this doesn't mean there are folks packed shoulder to shoulder
anywhere. Its vast reaches are filled with ancient ruins, dank tombs, remnants
of civilizations old even by elven standards, and scores of bloodthirsty
humanoids and even more hazardous beasts.
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