Swardmere: a player’s guide

Welcome to Swardmere! Here you’ll learn a bit about its surroundings, its history and notable characters. Plus, you’ll also find notes on rule variations specific to this campaign but, first, find out what to expect from gameplay.


Amidst a landscape devastated centuries ago, the first tendrils of civilization are once again struggling to spread.

Inspired by the ‘Western Marches’ campaign (do an online search), the theme for Swardmere is that you, the PCs, determine where you wish to travel, which dangers to brave, and what kind of story you will build. There is no ‘adventure path’ other than the one you create! You begin the game with knowledge of several local ruins and other hazards; what perils you brave are your choice. Be wary, for the further you are from home, the greater the risk!

Also, my intention is that more than one group of PCs will explore Swardmere’s environs. Adventurers are generally a rare breed, being that most folks prefer the safe routines of fields and town life. However, don’t be surprised if some other adventuring party has grown in renown, by bringing into town the very treasures you were planning to loot.

You might try to describe Swardmere as a ‘sandbox’. However, there are antagonists out in the wide world, with evil plots and plans that will no doubt collide with your own. What happens depends a great deal on your actions.

Brief Historical Outline

The events given here are common knowledge for all PCs, even if without ranks in Local History or similar skills. More specific information can be uncovered later via skill use.

• 0 PD: (Past Desolation) – This part of the world was devastated by Xanataneth, the Black Terror. The Desolation ended the Age of the Ancients. Forests burned, rivers boiled, and the very stones wept. The sages and scholars say that, after some decades passed, people slowly reclaimed the land, but lawlessness and barbarism commanded men’s lives in the absence of royal authority.
• ~200: Xenophat & Terakules – Heroic champions of the Old People who once ruled this area and brought order out of a land fallen into darkness and terror. These two men were paragons of virtue.
• ~250: Plogecomb settled by the Halflings. They came here, fleeing famine beyond the eastern mountains.
• ~350: The Old People fall again into an age of darkness, violence and ignorance; the population of this race of men wanes
• 645: Duke Sven I charters the area of Swardmere for settlement
• 649: Swardmere founded, and Baron Austeg assumes rule.
• 650: contact with dwarves of Cwanig. They are firm in their refusal to become vassals to Austeg.
• 651: contact with halflings of Plogecomb, who were initially suspicious of these new arrivals, but see in Man the hope of aid against the savagery of Riddlemist
• 655: contact with elves of Riddlemist
• 685: Duke Sven II charters a new barony, Wesward, containing the same-named hamlet. Baron Korwig arrives to rule from Wesward’s ancient edifice.
• 691: Current year

Notable NPCs:

• Terakules and Xenophat: legends swirl about this famous fighter and wizard pair. Apparently, they lived near what is now Swardmere, several centuries ago. Many monuments, carved in their likeness and riven with the Old People’s script, pay homage to these heroes. Indeed, Swardmere is centered around a stone obeslisk depicting many great works of these two.
• Groath the Cruel: a petty, vindictive miscreant exiled from these settled lands forever, by royal decree.
• Duke Stefan Sven I (deceased): former Duke of Fregnar; opened the way for settlement of these northern shores and, in doing so, hoped to vastly increase his power
• Duke Stefan Sven II: current Duke of Fregnar, although he resides on the other side of the water. His baron vassals administer these shores.
• Baron Austeg: long lived, he still sits atop his throne, always eyeing ways to expand his holdings. Austeg oversees Swardmere and its surroundings.
• Baron Korwig: a corpulent miser, Korwig rules Wesward. Newly installed, Korwig resents Austeg’s more established holdings, as well as the fact that his lands, nearly all frontier, are more exposed to predations from the wilds.

Settlements & Other Peoples:

• Swardmere: a bustling, growing township. Relatively new, it was settled across the Sea as the far-flung outpost of the Duchy.
• Wesward: hamlet located west of Swardmere; the very frontier of the duchy. The folk here are peculiar and quite rustic. Wesward is anchored by an old stone tower, whose easy defense made the site attractive for settlement.
• Plogecomb: a large settlement of Halflings, just due north of Swardmere. While the Halflings prefer to keep to themselves, the south-western farthing of their country has a good mix of both Big and Small Folk mainly due to the growing trade between these peoples.
• Cwanig: an old colony of dwarven miners, northwest of Swardmere by a couple of days travel. These dwarves are stiff-necked, proud, highly independent and resent human encroachment. At the same time, they find the trade with Men too profitable to abandon solely out of principle. Cwanig supplies Swardmere with a great deal of worked steel, of very high quality, though many merchants in Swardmere grumble at the prices.
• Riddlemist: the hidden palace of an elven witch, patrolled by blood drinking elves, said to be tucked away deep into the Glomerathas Woods

Adventuring Ideas:

• Kar-Karoth: a legendary fortress built by the Ancients and shaped from the inside of a mountain, engineered by dwarven craftsmen and imbued with elven magnificence. Where it lies, none now can say, but many still quest for it and its rumored wealth.
• Thanaspa: fortress of heroic pair, Terakules and Xenophat. Many old folk stories describe the place, but no one really knows where Thanaspa lies. However, most stories put the place in the vicinity of Swardmere and mention that it contains wealth beyond imagining.
• Gygar’s Keep: an old, ruined keep built by the Old People, just north of Swardmere, rumored to be filled with all sorts of deadly creatures.
• Black Rock Cave: a well-known and thoroughly explored cave only a few hours outside Swardmere.
• Chalk Cliff: sheer vertical cliff-face in between Ploughcomb and Swardmere; features a stone door riddled with runic writings of the Ancients, but the door is visible only during a full moon

Campaign Specific Rules:

Most options (classes, feats, spells, etc) from the Core Rules, Advanced Player’s Guide, and both Ultimate books are available, with a few exceptions.

There are no shops that only sell magical items. However, merchants can be found which sell extraordinary items. The 75% chance of finding any magic item within a settlement’s GP limit is ignored for this campaign. However, superior craftsmen are capable of working weapons & armor into items of greater benefit than masterwork. Mechanically speaking, these items function the same as their magical counterparts, except that such an item will not detect as magical. However, a sufficient Appraise check would quickly reveal its worth. Indeed, a cursory glance is enough for even a simpleton to know that he’s found something really special. Also, if you decide to craft such an item, expect that work to take time. The few alive with the mastery such work requires are often busy with commissions from wealthy lords.

Barter is frequent. A merchant may not be able to pay you in proper coinage for an enchanted bauble you no longer need; instead, he may offer an heirloom that’s close in value.

Create Water. There’s a daily casting limit of 1 pint/level on the amount of water created. The spell can be cast as many times as needed, but the caster needs to specify the volume created, up to this limit.

Character Generation: Use the Purchase method, with the Low Fantasy option (10 point buy). At this point, we’re not using traits.

Character Classes: These classes are unavailable:
• Gunslinger
• Ninja
• Samurai

Non-Lethal Damage: When a flat-footed character is dealt NLD, that NLD is doubled. (from thealexandrian blog)

Surprise Damage Threshold: (SDT = Constitution score + HD ) If a flat-footed character suffers more damage, lethal or non-lethal, than their surprise damage threshold during the surprise round, they are knocked unconscious on a failed Fort save (DC 15). This rule helps guarantee that PCs’ stealthy behavior pays off. The flat-footed requirement is there to make this strictly about achieving surprise. (from thealexandrian blog)

Wilderness exploration rules are inspired by rules from Pathfinder AP # 31, the first Kingmaker issue (“Into the Wild”, pg 56). Standard hexes are 12 miles across, but exploring a hex of wilderness is different from simply crossing a hex. Depending on roads/trails, weather, terrain and party speed, crossing a hex will usually take less than a day.

Exploring a hex and looking for standard or hidden sites means going down to a 2 mile detail hex map. These detail hexes may contain 3 different kinds of set encounters:

• Landmark: automatically discovered upon entering the standard hex. The party is aware of the landmark’s general position among the detail hexes and can avoid or explore this site as they wish.
• Standard: something not particularly obvious; if not traveling specifically to this site, you don’t find it unless the detail hex (2 mile hex) is being explored, in which case, the site is automatically discovered
• Hidden: Same as a standard site, except that if the party is ignorant of a hidden site’s location, a skill check is required to locate the site during exploration. Each hour of exploration in the detail hex (2 mile hex) lowers the DC to find it.

Local movement will be handled differently from the rate listed on pg 172 of the Core book. There are various reasons for this, but generally, local indoor movement is an extremely cautious movement rate, and we can assume characters are routinely looking for trouble by scanning for traps, secret doors, strange noises, etc. However, players are free to point out a specific location for any sort of check they’d like to make. Outside of combat, local movement is used and ‘Walk’ is equal to the RunX3 tactical movement. If characters decide to ‘Hustle’, speed increases at the expense of -2 penalties on any automatic skill checks.
15 feet 20 feet 30 feet 40 feet
Walk 45 60 90 120
Hustle 90 120 180 240
RunX3 135 180 270 360
RunX4 180 240 360 480

Swarms: We’ll be looking back at the SRD for D&D 3.5 regarding combats with swarms. See the section, ‘Vulnerabilities of Swarms’ on this link: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/swarm.htm

Races of Swardsmere:

• Humans are most common, and are assumed to be citizens of any settlements, such as Swardmere, Wesward, their smaller villages & hamlets, or even from across the Sea.
• Dwarves are uncommon in Swardmere, but those that are encountered are from Cwanig; their memories are long, and they are well aware their numbers were vastly reduced after the Great Desolation, and thus, rarely speak of the event. The desolation was so complete, the dwarves near Cwanig have lost all contact with their more remote kin and some even believe that they are alone now, a race destined to dwindle.
• Elves are rare in Swardmere, but the elves that live among men are refugees, fleeing from the horrors of Glomerathas. Upon coming of age, they refused to partake of the ‘Red Bowl Dance’ ceremony, the Althanata, and so faced torture and death from their kin.
• Halflings are fairly commonly encountered in Swardmere, being that Plogecomb is friendly to most Big Folk, despite their noise and oafishness.
• Gnomes do exist in the Swardmere setting, but take pains to remain unnoticed. Gnomes tend to be found in very rural, isolated parts of Plogecomb.
• Half-orcs are extremely rare; the few that have come into Swardmere were all from the wastelands which lie to the East, the foul product of foolhardy men braving wilds beyond the barony’s frontier, often raided by orc tribes.