Sign of the Squandering Snail: Basics
Morvia and Bowden the creation of Dean Martin
Written by Fraser Ronald
This product was devised both as a generic setting supplement that can be dropped into any campaign and as part of an ongoing adventure series—The Lorestaves. As such, the background information and some of the NPCs are based on the Lorestaves adventure. You can simply remove or ignore anything here that doesn’t interest you and use whatever you like however you like.
For example, while the area is called the Temples, perhaps in your campaign the player characters have already heard of an area in the city of Thatplace called “Dark & Gritty Quarter.” No problem, the Temples becomes Dark & Gritty Quarter in Thatplace. Your players are in a city and decide they want to do some gambling and go off in search of a gambling den. You can use the Snail without using the Temples. You can even use the descriptions of the Snail or the maps of the Snail separately if you so desire.
Bowden, in the Duchy of Algorn
The default setting for this adventure is the city of Bowden in the Duchy of Algorn. The duchy is part of the Divided Duchies in Morvia, which was to be the default setting for SEP’s Arcane Kingdoms line. Bowden is Algorn’s capital city and home to the ruling Duke, Javarre, and his Duchess, Hollis. Duke Javarre rules from within the impressive Stonewell Castle. Bowden is a coastal city of some 80,000 inhabitants and is the centre of Algorn’s powerful navy. The naval dockyards and shipwrights are the foundation of the Algorn economy. This city is also the site of the Divided Dukedom’s first university.
When prices are given, the local coinage will be used with the generic term in brackets. As such, were one to purchase a slab of meat and bread at the tavern, the price would be listed as 5 princes (sp). The gold coins of Bowden are sovereigns, known dismissively as wrens. The silver coinage is the princemark, often called princes. The copper coin is the dubling. Very rare and used only among merchants for large purchases and transfers of wealth, the brace is a platinum coin.
The Temples District abuts the naval dockyards. The origin of the name is lost to history, as there is no record of a temple ever existing within the district. However, the Temples was once filled with places of worship dedicated to the elder gods, long before the One God arrived. The adherents of the One God, on their ascension to power, destroyed the temples of the elder gods and cursed the very land on which those temples had been built. They erased from history even the existence of those structures, though the people of the city that became Bowden continued to call the area ‘the Temples.’ Folk knowledge once again maintained that which historic records lost.
The Temples became a shunned area. For almost a century after its razing, only the homeless and the hopeless would venture into the Temples. Slowly, as the city grew, the abandoned area near the docks, avoided by the ‘good folk,’ became home to an underclass, those not recognized officially by the government. From the ruins, these individuals built homes and then businesses. The residents of Bowden found a new reason to shun the Temples—the danger they found there. Criminals of all kinds congregated in the district. While one could find legitimate businesses in the Temples—even criminals needed clothing, shoes and food—most of the prosperous businesses catered to needs and desires frowned upon or openly condemned throughout the rest of the city. The term ‘pink lantern’ and its links to prostitution come from the Temples.
Successive rulers attempted to eradicate or at least control the Temples, but the effort required proved too great. While the city vocally detested the Temples and its residents, many in the city patronized its businesses. Smugglers made their contacts and deliveries through the Temples, assassins found sponsors and whores their ‘mules.’ The Temples housed the underground economy of loan-sharks and coin shavers. The finances of the Temples are an important facet of the economy of Bowden, and this has contributed to the longevity of the district, protecting it to a degree from the campaigns against it.
Duke Javarre has enacted a hands-off approach to the Temples. He officially announced that he would enforce the peace and laws within the district, but at the same time he did not wish to expend the amount of wealth and manpower necessary to bring order to the Temples. However, most of the residents of the Temples feared that if they pushed this duke too far, he would force law onto them. A détente now exists, in which the depravities of the Temples are hidden behind closed doors and the streets are as safe as any street on the dockyards—perhaps not perfectly safe, but the district is no longer a jungle. The duke, for his part, sends his troops to police the district during daylight. While the troops disappear at night, there are plenty nearby should a grave disturbance arise.