There may be hundreds of hidden entrances to the Harrowmark, scattered throughout almost any dark forest of Shyish (and maybe even further afield). A traveller may become lost in a wood and discover themselves in 10,000 leagues of malignant forest that is not where they started out.
The Harrowmark has long been considered a cursed and backward region, it has gained an ill reputation for being both a refuge for sorcerers and necromancers, and where the dead do not rest long in their graves.
The scattered villages and hamlets of the Harrowmark are detached and parochial. They are isolated by the vast and malignant forests that envelop them for 10,000 leagues in every direction. The dense, twisted woods are punctuated by rocky hills and outcrops that stand clear of the tangled trees like islands. A few gnarled and wind-swept trees cling to their sides and scrubby bushes and grasses hide in cracks in the stone. Some hills and some floating islands have clusters of houses or watch-towers huddled on top or on their steep sides, and most of these are accompanied by a wooden landing stage, used by flying ships to tie-up.
Grubbing what existence they can from the infertile land, the peasants live in small communities of inter-related families, and never venture far from their crude hovels. The villages are in a constant state of disrepair and have barred or boarded windows and heavy doors to keep out the night's predators. Crude fetishes and charms of a dozen gods hang on every lintel and frame. The villagers daub symbols of protection on their doors with pig's blood, to guard against the unnatural horrors of this frightful land. Hanging outside the gates of the most desperate townships can be found criminals and travellers caged in iron maidens, their only companions the crows and vampire bats that feed on them. The populace are for the most part concerned with day-to-day survival, raising famished, skinny goats and pigs, tending to what scraps of farmland they have in the hope of gathering enough crops to survive from year to year.
The villagers' only connection to their neighbours is by the flying ship trade routes overhead. Few dare to set foot in the forests, the risks are just too great: the creatures within too terrifying. But the galleons of the merchant fleets plot a wandering course over the treetops, stopping at as many villages on the ground and settlements on flying islands as they can to trade, to pick-up or drop-off passengers, to deliver letters and to pass on news.
The ships are propelled by a combination of wind and magic bound into the very timbers of their hulls. But getting to a particular location takes a great deal of skill and no small amount of luck. Flying ships' captains must know their trade and the overgrown rotting hulks of shipwrecks that litter the forests are a constant reminder of the fate that awaits those who do not!
Another constant hazard the flying ships endure is piracy.
Where there are goods worth stealing there are those who will try to steal them and the pirates of the Harrowmark have taken to the skies to ply their dark trade. Villains of many races come together in uneasy alliances aboard stolen flying galleons. Orruks, grots, humans, ogors, duardin, aelves, and even soulblight vampires on occasion have been seen rubbing shoulders among the pirate crews of The Harrowmark.
Wortbad is one such village, in the middle of the Harrowmark, it is deeply troubled by the undead and corrupted by dark magic. It is surrounded by haunted forests and overlooked by the jagged, foreboding Everdark Peaks. It is a land of perpetual autumn, where farmland lies fallow and untended, with crops rotted in the fields.
Rotshroud Manse is the Wortbad skyship dock - a landing point above the level of the trees used by traders and transports (and the odd sky-pirate) that stop-off at Wortbad in their journeys over the endless, malignant forests.
The Rose and Scythe is a run-down fortified Coaching Inn, actually it is two houses built around the crumbling remains of an ancient building, “The Rose” is a tavern and “The Scythe” is a boarding house. It once server hearty food an strong ale but it has been silent and empty for years. For all its emptiness it still has the homely feeling of a good inn. Like most intact houses in Wortbad there are crude protective spells painted on door and window frames, homemade wards and totems hang from the beams overhead: relic bones and skulls of holy men guard against the darkness. When near them the living feel less afraid of the undead that plague the village.
The Haunted Gate is a Baleful Realmgate in Wortbad, named for the writhing ghostly forms visible in its internal corona. The roiling magic energies within it's arch are entangled with Death Magic and the spirits of the dead so it glows with an eerie pale green-white light. The dark stonework is damp and weather stained with thin layers of green algae growing in places.
It is partly surrounded by a crumbling ruin from a time, long ago in another age, when it was enclosed by a protective building. Though no one knows if it was protecting the gate or the lands around it from the gate.
Blackrocks is a region in the tangled forests of the Harrowmark, characterised by dark rocky outcrops carved into the likeness of skulls. It’s the location of the Freebooter’s Tower, The Hurricane Bell and the Charybdis Occulum.
In an area of Blackrocks that was once known as Stonewarden, in a clearing in the tangled forest, lies the ancient Charybdis Occulum. It is said that a mage that stands within the verdigrised sphere of the Occulum can use it's power to scry across a hundred leagues of the malignant forest and the dangerous skies above it: the mage will be able to see everything in this radius. It is not without risk but with practice and concentration they will be able to locate individual objects of value or people of interest.
Gallowmire is a ruined city in a deep valley about seven leagues from Wortbad, that probably dates back to the Age of Myth. The citizens of Gallowmire were once wealthy and traded goods with other cities in Shyish; Stonewarden, Overmere and Shadespire. The treasures from those days long-gone have mostly been looted and stolen, but a few may remain, hidden in the undergrowth or in forgotten cellars.
Gallowmire is surrounded by mountain ranges to the north and south with thick fogbanks between them to the east and west, so it is an area that is hard to navigate in or out. The city was abandoned long ago and it became overgrown and almost lost to the malignant forests of the Harrowmark.
Recently though it was rediscovered by sky-pirates and used as a hideout between cruises. A shanty town has grown among the ruins and rocky outcrops.
But something ancient has been disturbed there...
The currency of the Harrowmark is the Silver Shilling. There are 12 pennies in the shilling and four farthings in a penny. The one-shilling coin has a “Death’s Head” on one face so they are commonly known as “Silver Skulls”.
3 shillings and 6 pence would be written as $$3/6
7 shillings, 3 pence and 2 farthings would be written as $$7/3½
The Harrowmark Calendar
13 months, obviously!
Darkmaw maps onto January, February onto Gloroyson, March onto Sorows, etc. Since it is always autumn in The Harrowmark I won't get too picky about it. I have assumed that the Mortal Realms are too big for everywhere to have common calendars! Each month has between 28 and 31 days.
Daylight in The Harrowmark
The “sun” in the Mortal Realms is Hysh, and Ulgu obscures it to make night.
The Realms of Light and Shadow are not directly above the part of Shyish where the Harrowmark is, they are on almost the same horizontal plane, so the "sun" always appears low in the sky. So Hysh is always filtered through a lot of dusty air and appears to be like what we see at sunset.
Each morning Hysh and Ulgu rotate around each-other so Hysh is in front and the land is bathed in horizontal orange-red light for a while. In the evening Hysh is slowly eclipsed and less and less light will fall on the Harrowmark until night falls.
So in the Harrowmark it will only ever be night or evening, and never full daylight.
Olshovilaag; the Fiend of the Harrowmark
Most of the Harrowmark is covered by virtually-impenetrable forest: Seemingly endless leagues of dark, tangled, twisted and unnatural woods. It is a corrupted land: the dead trees are warped by death-magic, skull-formed rock formations tower over the forest canopy like islands in an arboresque sea. The symbols and motifs of death are everywhere.
Things live in these forests: malignant, spiteful things. It is a brave soul that ventures under the dark bowers, brave or foolish, as few who attempt to navigate the winding pathways ever emerge again. The forests are shaped by the death magic that permeates them and the things that emerge from the shadowy bowers are shaped by the forest.
One terrible example is the dreaded Olshovilaag; the Fiend of the Harrowmark. A massive undead construct made from a conglomeration of monster parts, horns, huge black-feathered wings, lots of skulls, tree branches, bones, rocks and broken weapons. A Death-monster, born from the forest itself. A crow-winged “Terrorgheist". The sound of its beating wings fills the villagers of the Harrowmark with dread. It's screeching stops their hearts and shreds their souls!
Campaigns set in the Harrowmark
Oct - Dec 2016
The Harrowmark Run
Jul - Nov 2017
Thy Soul to Keep
Feb - July 2018
- The campaign structure
- Dramtis Personae - The Rotmoons
- Prologue - The Perfect Storm
- Cursed Omens
- The Black Void
- The Fragile Cargo
- Lands of the Dead
- At the Behest of Another
- Lights in the Sky
- The Beast's Lair
- The Soul Vortex
- Capture the Sky Dock
- Messages in the Rain
- The Night of the Comet
- The Dead Shall Bar the Way
- The Traitors!
- The Skydock Siege - The Finale!
The Harrowmark Twisted Oak
Jan 2020 - May 2022 (with a CoronaVirus hiatus from March 2020 to March 2022)