In today’s preview, R&D’s Rich Baker examines the town of Fallcrest—a place many PCs may very well start their 4th Edition campaigns!
One of the most striking new features in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide is the town of Fallcrest, a ready-to-use “base town” for a low-level D&D campaign. We experimented with this in the 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Guide II, and we liked Saltmarsh enough to repeat the effort in 4th Edition with a new town. Fallcrest and its surroundings are just one of the handy DM tools included in the book.
First, Fallcrest is a convenient shortcut for new DMs—or busy ones. It takes time to think up even a small, self-contained setting like the Nentir Vale. One of our overriding goals in the 4E D&D game is to reduce the burden on the Dungeon Master! We want DMing to be fun, easy, and fast, not intimidating or mysterious. After all, every time a player becomes a DM, the game as a whole grows. However, a brand-new Dungeon Master doesn’t necessarily know how to create an imaginary landscape for the players to explore, or how to populate the world outside of the dungeon. The town of Fallcrest and the surrounding Nentir Vale give that new DM a good place to set their own games until they know more about what they want from their campaigns.
Second, Fallcrest serves as an example of town construction for DMs interested in creating their own campaign materials. It’s a good mix of contacts, adventure sites, potential plots, and local color. If you want to build your own town, then following the format established by Fallcrest is a great way to go. It’s also easy to layer on more detail simply by identifying more buildings, creating more townsfolk, and crafting additional storylines of artifacts and places the heroes might eventually discover.
Finally, Fallcrest and its environs serve as the foundation for a “default” D&D campaign setting. In upcoming months, you’ll find that adventures H1, H2, and H3 (Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth, and Pyramid of Shadows) all have locations marked on the map of Nentir Vale. There’s no reason why the relatively generic settings and place names in those early adventures shouldn’t connect into a simple framework so that a Dungeon Master who wants to tie these places and events together can do so easily. After all, plenty of campaigns start when the same group of heroes winds up taking on a second adventure—or a third, or a fourth—after the first!
Where do the player characters go when they’re not battling through dismal dungeons or exploring ancient ruins? Where do they go to spend the treasure they win and rest up for the next adventure? The answer is simple: a base town.
A base town is a haven where the heroes can interact with patrons, listen for rumors, sell art objects or magic items, and buy new gear. It might be an elven tree-village that happens to be located near a dungeon the heroes are exploring, a prosperous human trade-town that interesting people pass through, an isolated dwarf stronghold in the borderlands, or a true city inhabited by thousands of people. Whatever the nature of the base town, it’s the place your player characters return to between adventures, and the place where new adventures begin.
Chapter 11 of the Dungeon Master's Guide introduces a town called Fallcrest, which you can use as a base town for your first D&D game.
Fallcrest stands amid the Moon Hills at the falls of the Nentir River. Here travelers and traders using the old King’s Road that runs north and south, the dwarven Trade Road from the east, and the river all meet. The surrounding ridges shelter several small valleys where farmers and woodsfolk live; few are more than six or seven miles from the town. In general the people outside Fallcrest’s walls earn their living by farming or keeping livestock, and the people inside the walls are artisans, laborers, or merchants. People with no other prospects can make a hard living as porters, carrying cargo from the Lower Quays to the Upper Quays (or vice versa).
Fallcrest imports finished goods from the larger cities downriver and ironwork from the dwarf town of Hammerfast, and exports timber, leather, fruit, and grain. It also trades with the nearby town of Winterhaven.
The surrounding hills hold several marble quarries that once produced a good deal of stone, but the area has little demand for ornamental stone these days, and only a few stonecutters still practice their trade.
A small town built from the ruins of a larger city, Fallcrest is the crossroads of the Nentir Vale.
Population: 1,350; another 900 or so live in the countryside within a few miles of the town. The people of Fallcrest are mostly humans, halflings, and dwarves. No dragonborn or eladrin are permanent residents, but travelers of all races pass through on occasion.
Government: The human noble Faren Markelhay is the Lord Warden (hereditary lord) of the town. He is in charge of the town’s justice, defense, and laws. The Lord Warden appoints a town council to look after routine commerce and public projects.
Defense: The Fallcrest Guard numbers sixty warriors (see the accompanying statistics block), who also serve as constables. Moonstone Keep is their barracks. The Lord Warden can call up 350 militia at need.
Inns: Nentir Inn; Silver Unicorn. The Silver Unicorn is pricier and offers better service; the Nentir Inn sees a more interesting clientele.
Taverns: Blue Moon Alehouse; Lucky Gnome Taphouse; Nentir Inn taproom.
Supplies: Halfmoon Trading House; Sandercot Provisioners.
Temples: Temple of Erathis; Moonsong Temple (Sehanine); House of the Sun (Pelor).
Up until four centuries or so ago, the Moon Hills and the surrounding Nentir Vale were thinly settled borderlands, home to quarrelsome human hill-chieftains and remote realms of nonhumans such as dwarves and elves. Giants, minotaurs, orcs, ogres, and goblins plagued the area. Ruins such as those on the Gray Downs or the ring-forts atop the Old Hills date back to these days, as do stories of the hero Vendar and the dragon of the Nentir.
With the rise of the empire of Nerath to the south, human settlers began to move up the Nentir, establishing towns such as Fastormel, Harkenwold, and Winterhaven. A Nerathan hero named Aranda Markelhay obtained a charter to build a keep at the portage of the Nentir Falls. She raised a simple tower at the site of Moonstone Keep three hundred ten years ago, and under its protection the town of Fallcrest began to grow.
Over the next two centuries, Fallcrest grew into a small and prosperous city. It was a natural crossroads for trade, and the Markelhays ruled it well. When the empire of Nerath began to crumble about a century ago, Fallcrest continued to flourish—for a time.
Ninety years ago, a fierce horde of orcs known as the Bloodspears descended from the Stonemarch and swept over the vale. Fallcrest’s army was defeated in a rash attempt to halt the Bloodspears out on Gardbury Downs. The Bloodspears burned and pillaged Fallcrest and went on to wreak havoc all across the Nentir Vale.
In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and down the river these days. The countryside for scores of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few folk live. This is a place in need of a few heroes.
Some Key Locations
16. Moonsong Temple
The third of Fallcrest’s temples is devoted to Sehanine. It also includes shrines to Corellon, Melora, and Avandra. The Markelhays regard Sehanine as their special patron, and over the years they have given generously to the temple. The temple occupies a commanding position atop the bluffs, and its white minarets can be seen from any corner of Lowtown.
The leader of the temple is High Priest Ressilmae Starlight, a wise and compassionate elf who finished adventuring decades ago and retired to a contemplative life. He is a musician of great skill who happily tutors the local children, even those who are poor and can’t afford to pay for their lessons. He has limited access to the following ritual scrolls: Cure Disease (2), Raise Dead (1), Remove Affliction (1).
19. Naerumar’s Imports
Considered the finest of Fallcrest’s retail establishments, Naerumar’s Imports deals in gemstones, jewelry, art, and magic trinkets. The owner is Orest Naerumar, a tiefling who displays impeccable manners and discretion. Orest corresponds with relatives and colleagues in several towns and cities outside the Nentir Vale; given a few weeks, he can order in low-level magic items or other items of unusual value. Similarly, Orest purchases interesting items such as these, since other dealers in distant towns or cities might be looking for them.
Orest doesn’t ask questions about where characters in his store found the goods they’re selling to him, but he is not a fence—if he knows that something was obtained illegally, he declines to purchase it.
DM Tip: Orest normally arranges for halflings of the Swiftwater clan to transport special orders—jewelry, gems, or magic items of value. However, he sometimes makes other arrangements for items that seem especially valuable or dangerous. If the player characters are looking for something to do, Orest can hire them to carry or guard exceptionally valuable goods he’s sending to a merchant in another town.
Level 8 Skirmisher
Medium natural humanoid, tiefling rogue
Initiative +8 Senses Perception +5; low-light vision
HP 79; Bloodied 39
AC 21; Fortitude 19, Reflex 23, Will 22
Resist fire 9
+11 vs. AC; 1d4 + 1 damage.
+14 vs. AC; 1d4 + 9 damage.
+14 vs. AC; 1d4 + 4 damage and target dazed until the end of Orest’s next turn.
Infernal Wrath (minor; encounter)
Orest gains a +1 power bonus to his next attack roll against an enemy that hit him since his last turn. If the attack hits and deals damage, Orest deals an extra 5 damage.
At the start of an encounter, Orest has combat advantage against any creatures that have not yet acted.
Once per round, Orest gains +2d6 damage when he has combat advantage.
Orest gains a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls against bloodied foes.
Languages Common, Dwarven
Skills Bluff +13, Diplomacy +14, Insight +11, Stealth +10
Str 13 (+5)
Dex 19 (+8)
Wis 14 (+6)
Con 15 (+6)
Int 15 (+6)
Cha 20 (+9)
Equipment usually unarmored, might carry a level 6 through 8 magic dagger
23. Blue Moon Alehouse
This brewhouse on the banks of the Moonwash Stream is the best tavern in Fallcrest. The owner is a nervous, easily flustered fellow of fifty or so named Par Winnomer. The true genius behind the Blue Moon is the halfling brewmaster Kemara Brownbottle. She is happy to let Par fret about running the taphouse, while she spends her time perfecting her selection of ales and beers.
The Blue Moon is popular with halfling traders whose boats tie up along the Lower Quay, well-off town merchants, and the farmers who live in the countryside south of Fallcrest. The old dwarves Teldorthan (area 24) and Sergeant Murgeddin (area 18) hoist a tankard or two here on frequent occasion, and both can provide beginning adventurers with good leads on potential adventures.
Be sure to return Wednesday for a look at rituals!