Posted by : David Guyll April 25, 2013
Bodil’s Bounty is a free realm located just at the edge of the Bhalen'lad Cluster, near a gulf of unclaimed space that divides it from the Platinum Span. Much of the realm is dominated by jagged mountains and thick forests, though there are enough open fields to support several villages of hard-working humans and dwarves, in no small part due to their patron spirit: Bodil, an old, powerful bear spirit that lays claim to much of the region, though she was not always so.
The Sundering shattered the mountains that represented her corporeal form, wounding her greatly and forcing her into a state of hibernation while she recovered. Some centuries later while she slept dwarves tried to settle, building fortresses and riddling the mountains with tunnels in their search for metal and gems. This wracked her spirit form in pain, but not only was she still recovering from her previous wounds, their work was akin to slowly drilling holes into the flesh and bone of a living creature. She was powerless to stop them, and her pleas were ignored.
A massive horde of orcs arrived and slaughtered most of the dwarves, keeping a few on hand for slave work and other orcish amusements (both of which promised a painful demise). Bodil appeared to them again, offering to free them if they left her mountain forever untouched. The dwarves agreed to this, swearing blood oaths, and with her help were able to drive the orcs off. Though the dwarves could no longer mine the mountains, the rest of the region had plenty to offer in the way of farmland and lumber, so they established fortified villages to exploit those resources instead.
Eventually the orcs returned, and given that a fortress filled with dwarven warriors could not withstand them, neither could a handful of villages. The villagers fled to the ruined fortress within mountains, hoping that if they ran far enough that the orcs would be satisfied with easy spoils and leave. They were not: from the mountains the villagers could not only see the columns of dark smoke rise from the smoldering remains of their former homes, but also the black formations of orcs marching towards them.
The story of Bodil and how she saved the dwarves decades ago was a local legend: survivors of that night and relatives of avenged victims occasionally visited the mountains to give thanks to her, and she was the subject of many tales. They would need a miracle if they were to survive this, and so they begged and prayed to her. Her answer was destruction on a scale that neither side had seen before, nor expected: where before Bodil had merely freed the dwarves, giving them an edge, this time she summoned arctic winds to hold them in check, and unleashed thunderous roars to shatter their ranks.
It has been many years since the Second Orcfall, and the villagers have long since rebuilt. They treat Bodil as something akin to a deity, making regular visits to her shrine within the mountains--now known as Bodil’s Teeth--so that they may pray and offer sacrifices. These acts of devotion empower her, granting her the strength to protect them from more powerful threats, as well as allowing the land to grow food more quickly and in greater abundance. It is for these reasons that Bodil lays claim to the region, something that the Bhalen’lad nobility only grudgingly accepted because they are a notable source of exported food.
However, Bodil is not the only spirit to inhabit the demiplane. Among potentially others the river Sindri also gets along with the villagers, providing fish and water in exchange for prayers, songs, and wine. Bodil enjoys his company well enough, especially since it means that the villagers can bring her fish as part of their offerings. On the other hand the Oak Sisters are an enigmatic pair that dwell within the Blood Forest. While their mother, a large oak tree, spends her time tending to the forest and crafting animals, they embody a more savage side of nature and hunt anything within the forest’s border, something that people have learned through harsh examples.
For Next and Dungeon World the druid and ranger make sense, though a barbarian could also work.
I envision Bodil occasionally appearing to the villagers, either in person or through an avatar of stone, to select one of them to teach druidic magic. The commoner and guide backgrounds (Next-only) are obvious choices, but a noble or knight might also be stationed there as a kind of ambassador for the Bhalen'lad Cluster.
For 4th Edition, I would round out the class choice with shaman (especially with guardian spirits), sentinel, berserke, hunter, and fey pact warlock/hexblade. Aside from humans and dwarves, there could be a satyr or wilden dwelling within the Blood Forest.
- Before Bodil came into power, a darker force inhabited the land. It was almost roused during both orc invasions, but since she has come into power she has been able to keep it dormant. She has been been regularly training druids for the day when it finally re-awakens.
- Dragonborn crusaders from the Platinum Span invade Bodil’s Bounty, attempting to establish a steady supply of food for their crusade against Tiamat’s Reach (or vice-versa).
- A chunk of aberrant star, or perhaps a mass of land with its own dormant spirit, collides with the region. This could corrupt one or more spirits, or cause conflict between them.
- Angels from the Golden Road and/or pilgrims that worship them arrive, hoping to convince them to worship "true" gods.
Bonus Featurette: Duergar
Dwarves were crafted from stone by Moradin before the Sundering, and as they get older gradually "return" to stone. At first this starts out with skin becoming more rock-like, which can make them resilient to damage (including disease and poison, even more so) and allow them to benefit from rune magic by carving them directly into their skin, but eventually they start to move more slowly and sleep longer, sometimes for years at a time (which can make it difficult to determine when a dwarf has truly, fully returned).
Duergar are the result of devils abducting sleeping dwarves. They take them to the Iron Circle, where ritualists carve infernal signs into their flesh, transforming them into powerful, durable vessels: once possessed, the devil is able to access the dwarf's memories and skills, and dwarves that begin to slumber typically have several centuries of experience to draw from.