“Variety is the spice of life,” as the old chestnut goes.
Upon seeing the thirteen expansion maps in our sandbox at the Legendary Realms hobby shop on Long Island, younger gamers usually perk up, forget about console gaming and/or mobile devices for a while, express an interest in our tabletop sessions, want to become involved, and want to remain involved.
The Frostlands expansion map was born from the knowledge that our sandbox would benefit from having a plethora of differing surface terrain and topography. As such, the Frostlands was created for our running of the classic G2 module. More than just an expansion map for us though, the Frostlands would go on to become a major landmark for us, in terms of collaboration, practicality, and ingenuity during the earliest days of our sandbox. Players have gone on to explore the Frostlands’ mysteries more so than any of our other expansions.
Much of the map was drawn by my hands, and some of the areas were intentionally left blank. In the spirit of camaraderie (and teamwork,) it was decided that the blank areas would be completed by others who were involved with our sandbox then (2013.) Filmmaker Jay Coughlin even drew Old Man Winter onto the Frostlands map for us, during one of his visits to Long Island (from Hawaii.) Having this expansion map be a group effort for us also meant that everyone involved would feel a sense of accomplishment, along with the sense that they’d have a stake in it being a success.
DMs looking to attract younger players to their tables, take note! Let younger players be part of the worldbuilding process together with you.
Stand-up comedian Doug Poniarski created the Order of Etherios, and Sconehenge, drawing both locations onto the map for us. Culinary expert John Agostino added a splash of artistic flair to the map as well, in the way of footprints, hills, icicles, and more. A rising star in the field of physical therapy (Anastasia Young) added spice to the map, in the way of hot springs. Luke Gygax (of Okorrim fame) and Keith Baker (of Eberron fame) each left their fingerprints on the map (more about that in a moment…) And, of course, EGG’s glacial rift of the frost giant jarl Grugnur was the spark that ignited this map in the first place. As such, it is only fitting that EGG’s glacial rift be the centerpiece.
Luke Gygax created Motsagnir, a proud dwarven city located in the hills/mountains. With an extensive network of mines and tunnels under the ground, Motsagnir is home to nearly 4,000 dwarves. The city of Motsagnir also has a walled town above ground (also called Motsagnir,) which serves as a nexus for trade and interaction with the dwarves under the mountain. Traders and visitors come from all across these lands, to visit the walled town, to trade, to interact, and sometimes even just to seek refuge from turbulent wintry storms.
These dwarves are led by proud King Steel. They’ve mined into a large underground vein of cronze; a rare and valuable natural alloy of bronze and copper. In addition to cronze, King Steel’s dwarves also mine for coal, cobalt, emeralds, iron, rubies, sapphires, silver, and tungsten.
While the dwarven King Steel is friendly and trusting towards humans; these sentiments are not necessarily shared by all of his loyal subjects who dwell at Motsagnir. And so, there is peace between the dwarves and the humans in this region…for now.
Hrofsbyrig is also a creation of Luke’s. He wrote “Hrosfsbyrig is a mid-size town numbering over 7,000. It is populated by Germanic style humans. They have a Jarl as their ruler, named Harrald Skarvolla. The people are more of a ‘typical’ barbarian northerner found in many fantasy realms.”
Much adventuring happened in Hrofsbyrig, including a concert performed by one PC named Shred Anselmo – a bard with a penchant for heavy metal music. Imagine, if you will, a crowd of more than a thousand moshing barbarians.
Fleshing out Harrald Skarvolla was the next step. Creating his family, and his inner circle at Hrofsbyrig, was a delight. Harrald’s eldest son Jan (pronounced “Yan”) is the enforcer of the family, and the protector of the town. His eldest daughter, Janna (pronounced “Yanna”) is a great warrior as well, in her own way. Recent threats to Hrofbyrig’s safety included Orcus (Lord of the Tomb,) and Khuul the witch-ghoul. Orcus was dealt with in a manner which will remain secret, known only to those PCs who were involved. Khuul was handled by a joint operation, involving both the PCs and Jan Skarvolla’s barbarian warriors. Khuul dwelled five miles west of Hrofsbyrig, inside a grisly eldritch igloo. If not for Brandt the MU, and his clever usage of a sphere of annihilation, Khuul might still be a threat today. It is my hope that this thriving barbarian town of Hrofsbyrig will be the site of many more adventures to come. Time will tell. There is no railroading here, or reverse-railroading, and that’s just the way it goes in a sandbox.
The Frostlands are also home to the Kainuu (another fun creation of Luke’s.) Luke wrote “The Kainuu have some small settlements generally the size of villages (50 – 300) constructed of timber. They are trappers, loggers, sheep herders with some agriculture, fishing (lakes/rivers). They have domesticated large moose-like creatures, called Kven, that they use to pull sleighs through the snow and can use as mounts in battle/raiding. They are semi-nomadic and travel with the herds of sheep and Kven . They are a more short and wiry in build, with darker complexion along the lines of Innuit people.”
The insertion of the Kainuu people into the Frostlands was a quantum leap forward for this expansion map. Having humans appear in a fantasy world is all well-and-good, and yet the creation of different human cultures is something that we value here as well. Our players are encouraged to create different cultures for our sandbox. It is this flexing of the brain muscles that further endears our sandbox to its players.
Luke created Jannok, and here follows his two cents: “Jannok is a small town of 4,500 Kainuu in the southern reaches of their territory. It has a curtain wall constructed of stone and timber perhaps located on an inland waterway. The leader of the Kainuu is called the Kreivi (Count) Emoinen IV. They engage in trade, selling furs and some precious metals, for manufactured items and foodstuffs to augment the sparse fare available in the tundra/taiga region they inhabit. They range far to the north, having some trade with the deep gnomes and mountain dwarves that live in the Wyrm Fang Mountains. Culturally they are kind of like the Laplanders and Finnish people — music, dress, et cetera.”
Jannok is as mysterious to the DM as it is the players. This area has not yet been developed any further than what Luke wrote. Younger players in our sandbox will be invited this winter, to aid with the development of Jannok. How tall is the curtain wall? What kinds of furs and precious metals do they trade? What is known of the Kreivi? Where are the Wyrm Fang Mountains? What color are these mountains, and what can be found there? Answers to these questions, contributed by the younger players, will become sandbox canon for us. Younger players will essentially be co-creating together with EGG, Luke, and myself, for an expansion map inspired by the classic G2 module. That’s special.
It was decided that one of Keith Baker’s Lords of Dust would hold sway over certain goings-on in the Frostlands. The question became “Which one of them?”
Keith said, “If you’re running it in Eberron, I believe we’ve said that Lolth would likely be an Overlord in Eberron, so I’d just flesh that out. But if you’re looking for a countering force… Rak Tulkhesh & Mordakhesh could be stirring up the aggression of the giants and feeding off the conflict; Eldrantulku would fit right in with the Drow; and the Heart of Winter could easily have a cult among the Frost Giants.”
And so, enter Dral Khatuur, the Heart of Winter. Her cultists are hither and thither, but they’re especially active in the areas near the glacial rift. PCs in our running of the classic GDQ1-7 campaign have already encountered them whilst hunting for (and later finding) the Demon Boomerang of Infinite Explosions; a magic weapon which, by all accounts, belongs securely locked away in a vault beneath the Frozen Keep, home to the Order of Etherios (an ancient order of paladins dedicated to safeguarding artifacts, relics, and weapons which could unbalance things in a hurry if ever they fell into in the wrong hands.)
As for Dral Khatuur herself, she dwells in the Demon Wastes (another creation of Keith’s, from his Eberron campaign setting.) In our sandbox, the Demon Wastes exist north of the Frostlands, and there is no map for it. As such, it retains all of the mystery that such a place deserves. If and when our PCs should ever attempt to visit the Demon Wastes in our sandbox, we’ll be a needing a map for that. For now, it’s a loose end, and that’s fine. Our GDQ1-7 PCs have completed the G2 module, and the G3 module has begun, so the PCs have already moved on to warmer climes. Those PCs aren’t likely to be doing any adventuring in the Frostlands again any time soon. At present, they’re in the town of Silverleaf (Benchleydale proper,) and enjoying all that that town has to offer.
Rain Stick and the Snow Flower Meadow are undeveloped areas. One of two things will happen with these locales. Encounters will be entirely improvised; a thrilling challenge for any DM worth his (or her) weight in electrum pieces. Or, players will be invited to create what goes on there. Until then, these places remain in stasis; little more than window dressing the Frostlands.
Three Boots is a mining town, and is yet to properly developed. Younger players will be asked to help create what goes on there. Same for Polar Bear Pass.
Little is known of Greychapel and Hookthumb. What is known is this.
Greychapel is an ancient order of clerics, who worship an assortment of deities from the 1981 edition of the DEITIES & DEMIGODS book. Whilst we do not use the 1980 edition of that book, we do still encourage players to choose their deities from the 1981 edition, or to create their own deities (which has resulted in some of the more entertaining moments in our sessions – one such creation is Lumia, the goddess of fire and chaos, as created by United Artists’ very own Scott Sarfaty. Lumia is a big deal, especially in the Firelands, where many of her worshipers are paladins at the Sunholme stronghold.)
Clerics at Greychapel watch over the Frostlands, and they report news of any dangers to King Asiago in Benchleydale proper, via lammergeier.
As for Hookthumb, it is a strategic glacial outpost, loyal to King Asiago.
And now, current events in the Frostlands…
News from Greychapel recently arrived via lammergeier, at the royal castle o’ good King Asiago. If these handwritten reports from Greychapel are true, the famous Prah Veedentae (“Shield Maiden of the North Wind”) was seen at the strategic Hookthumb glacial outpost in the Frostlands. This marks the first time in seven years that Prah has been seen by anyone…if these reports be true.
Prah went missing seven years ago, having gone north of the Stillborn Sun, into the Demon Wastes, searching for the Lords of Dust, and following an old map which supposedly leads the way.
King Asiago reads the note, drops the note, sits down, heaves a deep sigh, and begins to weep. Overcome with emotion, happy tears of joy stream down his face.
He leaps up! He goes to the window. He looks out across the royal gardens, and he lifts his gaze towards the north, as far the eye can see, in the direction of the distant Hookthumb glacial outpost. Beyond yon Red Horn, Treebor an’ the Great Dome o’ Darkness. Beyond yon Silver Mine, Lightningfoot, an’ Snowdrift. Beyond yon Jannok, the glacial rift o’ Grugnur, and Skatebite…
She has returned. There is still hope that she will return to the royal castle. Memories of her flood the King’s mind, and he feels a swelling in his heart not unlike the warmth of a summertime breeze. Memories of battles fought, and won, and lost, as determined by the performance of his four royal Shield Maidens; one for each of the four winds.
‘Twas she who dealt with the troll horde at Hvalsey. ‘Twas she who dealt with the goblin chieftains at the Circle o’ Ancient Stones. ‘Twas she who brazenly hunted Zsazoopi, the ogre king. All in the name of keeping Benchleydale safe for the lands of men.
Will she now choose Asiago, her benefactor? Will she choose King Ayabig, her stepbrother? Will she choose not to choose at all? Is this really her? And, better still, what secrets has she brought back with her, from the Demon Wastes?
You’ve just enjoyed reading Part Six of our Long Island Sandbox series. Thanks for reading. Join us again next week, when we
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You’ve just enjoyed reading Part Six of our Long Island Sandbox series. Thank you so much for reading. Join us again next week, and we’ll enjoy a closer look at some of the more colorful NPCs in our sandbox (the dramatis personae, if you will.) Until then, let the good times role.