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The City-State of Saffirby Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 25
Saffir appears in the Mystaran canon for the first and only time in the Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, as the setting of the adventure “Krasniy the Red”, featuring a Red Dragon and aerial combat. The adventure is not given an explicit setting, let alone a location in Mystara. However, due to the presence of a Red Dragon ruling a human town and of the name Krasniy (which merely means “red” in Russian), the idea of setting Saffir in Norwold became popular in the Italian Mystara Message Board, and was compiled into a “mostly canonical” map of Norwold1. The position of Saffir in that map makes it rather interesting, as it lies at the border between the Heldanner-populated, Alphatian-controlled Strand coast, and the Ransarn river valley, inhabited by the Vrodniki and the Vatski. Moreover, Saffir lies on a trade route from Lighthall to the interior of Norwold, which is the main access to the Dragon Kingdom of Wyrmsteeth, the Vatski Rodina, and even the Kingdom of Ghyr.
In this article, I try to provide a more in-depth view of this city-state, which can easily serve as the home base for a long campaign in Norwold, especially for Basic and Expert level characters (or the equivalent tiers of other rules sets). In this view, the original adventure serves as a turning point, allowing the PCs to take over the city itself as they reach name level, as proposed in the adventure itself. However, the town can serve as the location of many earlier adventures, and its positioning allows the Dungeon Master to easily insert a number of existing scenarios.
AC 830 Vatski from the Wyrmsteeth cross the mountains at Ershal Pass and invade the plains south-east of the Final Range.
AC 834 After four years of conflict, the Vatski invaders are routed. Their leader, knyaz Volodymyr, is killed in single combat by the Shepherd hero, Hrotgarmr. Some of the fleeing Vatski settle along the Saffir Stream, most flee back beyond the Final Range.
AC 868 Arbadnasior the Learned, an Alphatian mage, founds Saffir as a tower, which he builds in a night with his magic. Around the tower a village is formed to host an Alphatian garrison and supply lines for the planned conquest of the Ransarn Valley.
AC 870 The Long Winter: the second Ice Queen, Frota, begins her reign. Saffir is isolated. Lord Arbadnasior blows up himself and his castle during a magical experiment aiming at mitigating the cold. Elshartendior the Bold, the commander of the Alphatian garrison, becomes Governor of Saffir.
AC 872 The forces of Akra the Ice Witch, led by the Frost Giant Skamkel, occupy Saffir as the center of the southernmost province of Akra’s reign. Eadradnaz replaces Elshatendior, who is captured by Skamkel, as Governor-in-exile, then Lord, initiating the Eadradyevich line.
AC 874 Eadradnaz dies in battle against the Ice Queen Frota, and is replaced by his son Eadradeeth the Broad-Shouldered.
AC 892 Eadradeeth dies of old age, is replaced by his daughter Amphiba.
AC 903 Lady Amphiba is slain by Premidar the Greedy, who names himself Knyaz of Saffir, and initiates the Borodyevich line. He is succeeded by his son Yarogor and later his grandson Premimir.
AC 942 Premimir Yagororevich is killed by a dragon on a hunting trip in the mountains.
Civil war ensues among the supporters of Premimir’s daughter, Premipolka, and those of his younger brother Mistislav. Both are killed.
AC 943 The warring factions accept the rulership of Sveinald Ingvarsson, second son of Ingvar of Ljóshöll, who becomes the first Knyaz of the Igorevitch line.
AC 959 Svein Sveinaldsson (also known as Svetya Svyatoslavich) succeeds his father Sveinald upon his death.
AC 982 Igor Svetyevich succeeds his father after a successful reign which consolidates Saffir's position. He is already quite old.
AC 983 After Igor Svetyevich's sudden death, his sons Volodymyr and Svyatopolk accuse each other of murdering the Knyaz. The High Druid Predgora Yurevna is called to judge the matter. She exiles both brothers, and installs Vladidar Dobrynich, a distant descendant of Premidar the Greedy, as the new Knyaz.
AC 985 Alphatian settlers and soldiers cross the Western Sea of Dawn and occupy Ljóshöll, renaming it Lighthall. A part of the local Heldanner population, led by the late jarl Eilif Eiriksson's sister, Thjohild Eiriksdottir, petitions Knyaz Vladidar to resettle in Saffir, boosting the town's population. Vladidar begins new defensive works, including a city wall.
AC 990 Alphatian troops under the command of Dunadale of commander Piras Erila march on Saffir. Vladidar and his troops defend the city, but Vladidar is killed by Alphatian magic.
AC 991 With no direct heirs to Vladidar, a city council is formed, composed of Bishop Volopolk the Reverent, leader of the Temple of Dazhbog, Thjohild Eiriksdottir, representing the Heldanner population, Premigor Volodyevich, leader of the Knights of Perun, a veterans' organization, Toric Belfkarats, Valphiik the Gnome, Volomyr Dobrelkovich and Sudik Nevidarovich, representatives of the town's guilds.
AC 992 Ericall is named King of Norwold by Empress Eriadna of Alphatia. Ambassadors from Thyatis and Alphatia reach Saffir, trying to persuade the local government to join either side. Ambassador Manlian Aulianites of Thyatis, leveraging a mix of resentment against the Alphatians, contacts with the Thieves' Guild, and oratory, outperforms Ambassador Erar of Alphatia, and Saffir declares itself autonomous and not part of the Kingdom of Norwold.
AC 997 Theobold Redbeard is named governor of Lighthall. He sends an army led by Commander Tsalana to siege Saffir. Valphiik the Gnome, a council member in charge of the fortifications, is killed in the siege, and Volomyr and Pregomir are gravely wounded.
AC 998 With few options left, the Saffir council is ready to concede defeat. However, a mercenary captain, Krasniy the Red, appears before the council on request from ambassador Aulianites, offering his help, funded in part by the Thyatians. The council wavers, but, under pressure from Thjohild and Sudik, Bishop Volopolk consents to sign the contract. Kransiy's Heldanner and Vatski mercenaries join the defenses, with the support of a powerful Vatski sorcerer, Volopolk the Wary, and several trained wyverns, griffons, and hippogriffs. The aerial cavalry is decisive in routing the Alphatian, and Krasniy himself captures Commander Tsalana as she tries to flee the field.
After the cheerings for the victory subside, Bishop Volopolk notes that the payment offered by the Thyatians to Krasniy was only a small part of the overall cost, and a large victory bonus kicks in that was overlooked in the contract. Basically, Krasniy now owns the town. The Bishop tries to protest, but disappears when the Temple of Dazhbog explodes, allegedly due to explosives hidden in the crypt. Krasniy is named Knyaz of Saffir by a much reduced council, as four of the original members are replaced by Krasniy's puppets. Krasniy finally dissolves the council, and incorporates his mercenaries as the Saffir Guard.
[Table: Rulers of Saffir]
Style and line
Arbadnasior the Learned
Elshartendior the Bold
Frost Giant Jarl
Lord (Eadradyevich line)
Frost Giant Jarl
Eadradeeth the Broad-Shouldered
Lord (Eadradyevich line)
Lady (Eadradyevich line)
Premidar the Greedy
Knyaz (Borodyevich line)
Knyaz (Borodyevich line)
Knyaz (Borodyevich line)
Pretenders of the Borodyevich line
Knyaz (Igorevich line)
Svein Sveinaldsson (Svetya Svyatoslavich)
Knyaz (Igorevich line)
Knyaz (Igorevich line)
Knyaz (II Borodyevich line)
Bishop Volopolk the Reverent
President of the City Council
Krasniy the Red
The city-state of Saffir
Saffir is a medium sized town, with circa 3000 inhabitants. It is a major trade center, sitting on the route from Lighthall, the nearest port, and the Ransarn river valley, but due to Knyaz Krasniy’s tyrannical rule, it is difficult to acquire costly equipment (maximum equipment value of 300 gp, total value 75000 gp). It is also illegal to trade or even possess legally magical items.
The city-state of Saffir controls the valley of the eponymous river, as well as the Ershal Pass, which gives access to the valley of the Ransarn river. Overall, the city military protects an area over 2,000 square miles, circa half of which is actually settled, with another third being lightly inhabited borderlands. Besides Saffir, eight forts control the Ershal Pass, four mines in the Skýfjall and in the Lirovka’s Alps, the road to Lighthall, and the trail to Idhunvik and other villages to the south.
Saffir’s military is mostly composed of mercenaries, including the Saffir Guard, a highly trained (average level 3) force composed of 120 men, mostly heavy infantry, except a squad of medium air cavalry with 20 hippogriffs, as well as 2 griffon and 2 wyvern riders. Svyatopolka the Audacious, a Vatski warrior-woman, commands the Saffir Guard.
The main body of the army is composed of a mix of light infantry and archers, for a total of 600 men (25% of which are armed with bows). Following the Thyatian military doctrine, each hundred is led by a captain, and all captains report to a single commander, Sigurd Kolbeinsson, a charismatic Heldann Shepherd veteran.
Finally, 45 artillerists man the ballistae and catapults in Saffir and in the forts. Almost 60 auxiliaries, including two wyvern trainers, round up the army.
Of these troops, circa one third of the Saffir Guard, two hundreds of infantry and archers, 25 artillerists and 20 auxiliaries, are quartered in Saffir, while the remaining troops man the forts.
Furthermore, Krasniy has hired a company of 30 cossacks from the Peseny Centaur Hetmanate. The cossacks provide land cavalry support, which is otherwise not available in the standing army, and serve as outriders, patrolling the borderlands and hunting down goblin bands from the Gnomstal Forest. The company is divided in three lances of 10 centaurs each, one of which is a level 2 uryadnik (sergeant). The company is led by an otaman, Ovlur (Centaur 4). The cossacks are armed with lances and short bows.
Arbadnasior's Tower (ruin): this ruined building is what remains of the tower of Arbadnasior, the Alphatian founder of Saffir, and its associated constructions. The upper stories of the tower were obliterated by the explosion that killed the mage in 870 AC. The ground floor is hard to navigate, and the rooms are all but destroyed, but there are accesses to the basement, which is mostly preserved, albeit dangerous, as the wizard was -- like many of his peers -- as a secretive man with a penchant for magical traps.
Temple of Dazhbog (ruin): The Temple of Dazhbog was once an imposing building, with an octagonal main hall surrounded by slender towers and surmounted by a golden dome symbolizing the sun. However, it was destroyed in a mysterious fire.
Spire of Volos: This newer temple is a three story tower, supported by tortile pillars and surmounted by an onion-shaped dome, tessellated with gleaming green, red and black tiles. Inside, draconic motifs decorate the walls, and a round altar dominates the main hall, which is two stories high. A hidden stairway leads to the upper floor, where the offices of the priests are found. The temple of Volos is favored by Knyaz Krasniy over the other religions of Saffir, and it is therefore suitably decorated. The building itself is surrounded by a small grove of willow trees.
Forge of Volund: This squat, one-story temple dedicated to the Heldanner god Volund, also known as Svarog by the Vanatics, is built of large granite blocks. Its windows are closed by dark iron bars, and the doors are also built of the same metal, finely decorated with mythological scenes. The altar is shaped as a massive anvil, and pillars are shaped in the form of huge armored men, holding two-handed swords pointed down in front of them.
Shrine of Perun: This open area is dominated by a large, ancient oak tree, under which the worship of Perun2, the thunder god, is conducted. The priests of Perun have a medium sized hall adjacent to the area, where they house wandering godar.
Blue Feather Inn: This is the better regarded of Saffir’s two inns, managed by Aðalbjartur (♂ NM, N), an Heldanner, and his wife Zaida (♀ F3, L), a former adventuress from the south. The inn usually hosts several members of the Saffir Guard, as there are currently no barracks while Krasniy’s castle is under construction. Aðalbjartur is a handsome, honest, but cowardly man, whereas Zaida is a wilful woman, albeit far from her adventuring days. The inn itself features a large hall, a kitchen, and several rooms in the upper story.
Welibik's Emporium: This shop is managed by the gnome Welibik. It is a small, single-window business, crammed with all kinds of imported goods, from liquors to pottery, from jams to tapestries, from parchment to chalk. The gnome and his family also produce small clockwork devices, mostly amusing pieces such as mechanical singing birds, carillons, and the like. Welibik also manages an illegal, if profitable, trade in magic items -- especially potions -- but is extremely wary of spies and informers.
Pandrum's Bakery: Pandrum (♂ NM, N), a common Alphatian man in his forties, manages this bakery producing both Alphatian style white bread and Vrodniki black bread. Pandrum is a supporter of the old city council regime, but keeps his opposition to the Knyaz to himself for now, as the mercenaries of the Saffir Guard have already imprisoned other, more vocal opponents of the Knyaz.
Magist Volopolk's Tower: Volopolk the Wary, the most powerful mage in Saffir (and the only one operating legally), owns this walled compound, topped by a slender tower complete with a onion-shaped dome. Strange aromas and weird noises often come from this building, which is widely shunned by the saffirians. The Magist does not entertain visitors, and deals only with the Knyaz himself, his right-hand woman, Svyatopolka the Audacious, and the Elf alchemist, Mendel. Officially, the alchemist is only allowed to provide ingredients to the mage, but neither is especially scrupulous, and Volopolk occasionally sells potions to Mendel.
Guildhall: This is one of the oldest buildings in Saffir. Its ground floor is built in small stone blocks, with two upper stories constructed in painted wood. The Guildhall houses the council of merchants, which used to be the main political power in the town. Currently, it is mostly a social club, since Krasniy radically curbed the ability of the merchants to influence the city policies.
Mendel’s Apothecary: The Elf Mendel manages this apothecary. He is a skilled alchemist and herbalist, and carries (illegally) a few magical potions which he procures from Volopolk the Wary. Mendel is not especially in favor of Krasniy’s rule, but his livelihood depends in large part on the Magist’s willingness to trade through him alone, so he will go to any length to stay on the Magist’s good side.
Ilya the Blacksmith: Saffir’s smithy is managed by Ilya Alexievich3 (♂ F6, N), a former adventurer of mixed Thyatian and Vanatic descent. The smithy is centrally located, near the ruined Temple of Dazhbog and the Forge of Volund. The smith mostly sells tools and horse shoes, as the weapons production is reserved for the Knyaz’s militia.
City walls: The city walls once encompassed the whole town. After the last Alphatian attacks, several gaps are being filled by construction squads. The guard keeps a close watch on the gaps to prevent any unauthorized entrance to the city. Still, these are the easiest points where to smuggle in or out of Saffir people or goods, as the gates are heavily guarded.
Krasniy's castle (under construction). The castle construction site is located on a hill overlooking the town. It is being worked on by circa 40 people, usually overlooked by 4 guards.
Ershal-Kur: This ruin was once part of the line of fortifications built by the Alphatians to prevent attacks on their coastal colonies by barbarians and humanoids from the inland regions. It was abandoned after the demise of Prince Gaernil for lack of personnel. The last defenders set up a number of traps to prevent outsiders from entering the keep and its dungeons, and retreated to Saffir. Rather than brave the magics of the Alphatians, the later rulers of Saffir built the Ershal Pass Keep.
Ershal Pass Keep: This fort was built during the reign of Svein Ingvarsson to guard the Ershal Pass to the Ransarn river valley. It is a simple but effective fort, with a main stone keep and wall surrounding a number of small buildings, and a wooden palisade protecting the village around it. The village itself has circa 50 inhabitants, but given the dangerous position, a company of the army, 20 Saffir Guards, and the main force of the Cossacks are stationed here to contain the Gnomstal goblins and the Vrodniki raiders from endangering the trade.
River Keep: This fort was rebuilt recently, and is composed of a single stone tower and a large wooden stockade protecting the barracks. An entire company of infantry is stationed here, to protect Saffir from Alphatian aggression. A small village of 50 people has formed around the keep.
Holmdalar: A large village (100 inhabitants) in the plains between River Keep and Saffir, Holmdalar has a predominantly Heldanner population. It is protected by a detachment of 20 Saffir Guards, who reside in a defense tower and in the local inn, and half a company of infantrymen, who are headquartered in a set of wooden barracks.
Premigorod: The largest village (100 inhabitants) in the hills south east of Saffir, it was founded by one of the princes of the Borodyevich line. The population, much like Saffir itself, is of mixed Vanatic and Heldanner stock. Half a company of infantrymen and 20 Saffir Guards protect this village and the southern border from a small keep.
Zheleznaya Skala: A large mining village (circa 100 inhabitants) up in the Lirovka’s Alps, it is the only village in the Saffir area with a small Mountain Rakasta population (about 10% of the population). It is defended by a detachment of 20 Saffir Guards, 25 infantrymen, and one artillery crew, who man the small castle overlooking the mine. Silver and iron are the main product of the mines.
Three smaller mines are located within the territory controlled by Saffir, one in the Lirovka’s Alps (Mrachniy, another iron mine) and two in the Skýfjall (Kholodniy, a marble mine, and Solyansk, a salt mine). All are served by smaller villages (around 50 inhabitants) and protected by detachments of 25 infantrymen.
Saffir recently transitioned from an oligarchic republic to the dictatorship of Krasniy the Red, a mercenary captain who took power after saving the city-state from the Alphatian invaders. A typical Vanatic strong man, Krasniy rules primarily through his military commanders, Sviatopolka the Audacious and Sigurd the Handsome. Although he shows several signs of eccentricity, Krasniy is an intelligent if tyrannical ruler, and keeps magical and clerical power at hand, through his court mage, Volopolk the Wary, and the cult of Volos, the dragon god of change and renewal.
The Court of Knyaz Krasniy is temporarily headquartered in the Town Hall, while the Knyaz' Castle is under construction.
Knyaz Krasniy the Red (♂ Red Dragon, 10 HD, C). A red dragon able to take human form, Krasniy appears as a tall, burly human with red beard and hair. He dresses primarily in red, both for personal taste and to create a memorable persona. Krasniy has been sent to take control of Saffir as a proactive defense project by one of the ministers of the Dragon King Eruuptar of Wyrmsteeth. However, he also has a personal side project -- he is collecting treasure to power his next Ceremony of Sublimation. He started by raising tax money from the city, but has now reached the second cycle, and has redirected his interest towards magical items. As a result, he is spending more of the City-State's revenues towards building projects -- in particular his caste -- which he believes will be useful in the third cycle, and has restricted magic use in the city, to ensure that as many magic items as possible are brought to his treasury.
Volopolk the Wary (♂ Vrodniki Magic User 10, N). A powerful Vanatic magician, Volopolk Dobredarovich hides his humble origins behind a shroud of mysticism. He has aligned himself with the Dragon Kingdom of Wyrmsteeth, which he believes is the best ally against the encroaching Alphatian Empire, to the point of becoming a follower of Volos, the Pearl Dragon. He is well aware of the magic prowess of the Alphatians, and desires nothing more than to see them thrown back beyond the sea. As the Court Mage to Knyaz Krasniy, Volopolk is free to operate, although he rarely performs magic in public. His spellbook includes quite a bit of elemental magic stolen from Alphatian magicians, through judicious applications of the Feeblemind spell.
Svyatopolka the Audacious (♀ Vatski Knight 10, N). A middle-aged mercenary from Stamtral, Svyatopolka Glebovna raised in rank and experience through a decade of minor wars and skirmishes. For a warrior, she is quite unimposing, and is more of a tactician than a frontline fighter. She compensates for her lack of personal strength with a good selection of magical items, as well as with a broad expertise in weapons. Like the Court Mage, she is aware of Kransiy's true nature and is an agent of the Dragon Kingdom. Svyatopolka is a passable aerial rider, and rides one of the Knyaz' griffons.
Sigurd Kolbeinsson the Handsome (♂ Heldann Shepherd Fighter 8, L). A charismatic Lupin from the south, he started out as a sea reaver in the Western Sea of Dawn and north to the Great Bay, where he got bounties posted on his head for piracy from Alpha and Gaudavpils. He therefore retreated to Stamtral as a mercenary officer, where he met Svyatopolka the Audacious, who hired him to lead the Saffir army. Sigurd operates also as the chief administrator for Krasniy, dealing personally or through his captains with the guildmasters, the clergy, and the village chiefs.
The Saffir Guard
Lieutenant Kari Glumsson (♂ Heldanner Fighter 7, N). A man who rose through the ranks in mercenary companies that serve (or plague, depending on your point of view) the Duchy of Stamtral, Kari is an expert swordsman, and one of the four lieutenants under Svyatopolka’s leadership in the Saffir Guard, the élite mercenaries composing Krasniy's personal guard. A wound suffered in an early battle left him with limited physical strength, but he compensates with excellent reflexes and a sturdy build. A courageous warrior, he is perhaps a bit too rash for a commander.
Lieutenant Malshedira (♀ Foresthome Elf 6, N). Malshedira commands the castle garrison at Zhelznaya Skala, and acts as the village governor as well. Disfigured by a fire in her forest home during her childhood, Malshedira left the forest for good, and has an almost pathological fear of fires and forests (she also hates fire magic, and has none in her repertoire). She is a passable rider, and a good mounted warrior on both horse and hippogriff. Contrary to Kari, she is a cautious commander, and like controlling the garrison from her keep, with a hippogriff ready to fly in case of danger.
Sergeant Vladipolk Volkhovich (♂ Vrodniki Fighter 4, L). An ethnic Vrodniki from a tribe in the upper course of the Ransarn river, Vladipolk is an experienced mercenary, having served in infantry, cavalry and archery units. He is also trained in aerial riding, and rides a hippogriff in battle. As befits a stereotypical Vrodniki barbarian, he is courageous to the point of foolhardiness, but also generous to his friends and forgiving to defeated enemies. Vladipolk commands one of the Saffir Guard units that patrol the town. His hippogriff is generally ready for flying from the barn behind the town hall.
Sergeant Vsek Olegovich (♂ Vatski Fighter 4, N). Vsek is a mercenary from the Duchy of Lazarsk, where he was recruited as a young boy by Svyatopolka the Audacious. He idolizes the warrior woman, on whom he has had a crush as long standing as hopeless. A former smith's apprentice, Vsek is not the strongest or wisest warrior around, but has been able to overcome his limitations through constant practice, which has made him one of the Guard's best shots with a crossbow. A good leader and woodsman, Vsek commands the Saffir Guards stationed at the Ershal Pass Keep.
Boroda Viachekovich (♂ Vatski Fighter 3, N). A comic figure in the Saffir Guard, Boroda has been affected by digestion problems ever after a stint as a sea reaver. This made him not only less resistant to fatigue, but also disgusting, due to his terrible breath and continuous farting. His ignorance is also legendary, as the poor Boroda tends to talk too much and make a fool of himself. He does have some "redeeming" qualities: his luck at cards (actually due to his fast fingers) and his ability to instinctively second guess others. Boroda can be usually found at the Blue Feather Inn, drinking or playing cards with other members of the Saffir Guard.
Hallfrid Fjolnirsdottir (♀ Heldann Shepherd Fighter 3). A Lupin female, Hallfrid is a skilled fighter and a reliable member of the Guard. She's also a follower of Thor, reveling in physical ability and sports -- she is the most tireless tracker in the Guard, and a good wrestler and weightlifter for her small size and light build. She is also rumored to be the fiancée of Captain Sigurd Kolbeinsson.
Orm Thorgilsson (♂ Gnomish Snoutzer Fighter 3, L). This short, bushy-moustached Lupin is supposedly the Guard's foremost investigator. Endowed with a brilliant mind, an energetic character, and his race's resilient build and tracking ability, Orm's real asset is actually his ability to bully reluctant witnesses and suspects into confessing whatever he needs. He can be usually found honing his bowman skills -- something he claims serves to calm and focus his mind -- when he is not on active duty.
Svala Knutesdottir (♀ Heldanner Fighter 2, N). Svala is a Heldanner huntress, and a good shot with either bow and crossbow. She is familiar with the Strand region, but has chosen to retire to guard duty after suffering from a training accident. She’s often found on duty at Saffir’s city gate.
Yuri Igorovich (♂ Vatski Fighter 3). The last son of a minor boyar from Lazarsk, Yuri was never particularly bright, nor interested in much except hunting in the forests in the western reaches of that duchy. He joined the Lazarsk army, but in spite of his efforts in training, he was discharged without special honors after an uneventful spin. He enrolled in the Saffir Guard mostly because the pay is higher than in other similar units. Yuri is not particularly well liked by the other Guardsmen, due to his noble origins.
Saffir has long been open to many cults, due to its position at the crossroad between Vanatic, Heldanner, Alphatian, Elven, Dwarven, Gnomish, Mountain Rakasta and Lupin civilizations. In recent years, the Knyaz has sponsored -- albeit without too much fanfare -- the cult of Volos and subtly opposed those of other Immortals. The Temple of Dazhbog got the worst, as it burned down a few months ago in a mysterious fire. The guard has not managed to pinpoint the culprit yet, although rumors say that explosives were hidden in the temple basement, and the disappearance of the Bishop Volopolk the Reverent has been hinted to be related to the fire.
Temple of Volos
Hierarch Dobrelko Svetyevich (♂ Vatski Cleric 5 of Volos, N). A flabby, prematurely balding priest, Hierarch Dobrelko is the highest ranking priest of Volos in Saffir. He only recently took his position, after the Knyaz funded the renovation of the Temple of Volos. A mediocre theologian, the Hierarch is also in charge of meting justice in Saffir, a role he undertakes with greater energy than his physique would indicate -- although most of his efforts are spent bossing around his assistant Sudislava.
Initiate Sudislava Rostivolodvna (♀ Vatski Cleric 1 of Volos, N). Sudislava is more intelligent and wise than her boss, but is not very personable, and is rather lazy, which accounts for her lack of progress in the cult hierarchy. The daughter of a well-to-do Saffirian merchant, she is very committed to the philosophies of Volos, and her paranoid mindset suits well the current state of Saffir.
Temple of Dazhbog
Bishop Volopolk Radodarovich the Reverent (♂ Vatski Cleric 7 of Dazhbog, N). The bishop of Saffir is a noble man slightly over 50 years old. This loyal and courageous priest disappeared after the fire that destroyed the temple building, leaving many suspicions on the events of that night. Officially, his whereabouts are unknown, although the guards tend to spread rumors -- that he fled the city, or that he died in the fire. The truth is that Knyaz Krasniy holds the bishop prisoner in his dungeon, hoping to force him to reveal the location of the temple treasury -- which does not exist, as the Temple of Dazhbog is a relatively poor organization.
Coadjutor Putypolka Volkhovna (♀ Vrodniki Cleric 6 of Dazhbog, L). The second highest-ranking priestess of Dazhbog in Saffir, Putypolka is now the head of the cult, after the disappearance of the bishop. A middle-aged woman of Vrodniki descent, she is very familiar with the temple business, and would be well able to run it without the bishop, except that the temple is reduced to a ruin. An unsuspecting soul, she cannot make heads or tails of the bishop’s disappearance.
Vsek Volodyvolodovich (♂ Vatski Cleric 3 of Dazhbog, C). The son of Volodyvolod, a member of a lesser branch of the Borodyevich house, Vsek initially enrolled in the army, and fought in the Lighthall-Saffir conflict. He contracted the brown plague during the siege, and joined the Temple of Dazhbog after the Bishop healed him. Contrary to Putypolka, he is not a trusting soul, and suspects foul play in Bishop Volopolk’s disappearance. However, he has not been able to prove it, yet.
Forge of Volund
Forgemistress Bifis Bombirak (♀ Dwarf Cleric 7 of Volund, L). A Wurkrest Dwarf from the Wyrmsteeth Range, Bifis is a former adventurer, having traveled far from her homeland. She does not share the isolationist stance of her clan, being a fair and trusting soul. She’s Saffir foremost expert on speleology and geology, as well as an expert smith. Bifis chafes under the Knyaz’s restrictions on weapons, and would hand over the custody of the Forge of Volund to another priest, if there was one willing to take over. Unfortunately, she is the only available priest of Volund in Saffir.
Shrine of Perun
Faric Wharikarats (♂ Dwarf Cleric 1 of Thor, N). An aspirant warpriest from the Barrad clan, Faric belongs to one of the families who have not returned from exile to Stonepeak, the northernmost dwarven kingdom. His parents are too poor to move back to Stonepeak, and put their confidence in Faric’s ability to win sufficient gold to pay for the resettling. Faric has been a member of the army, where he honed his tactician’s skills, and is an expert mountaineer. In his desire to restore the family fortunes, he is likely to embark in a quest beyond his current skills.
Premigor Volodyevich (♂ Vrodniki Fighter 6, L). The guardian of the sacred oak, Premigor Volodyevich is a veteran of many wars, as well as the leader of the Knights of Perun, an organization of veterans -- he led them during the Lighthall-Saffir war, and was gravely wounded in battle. Lacking experienced priests, he leads the cult of the god of thunder.
Rogues, Regents, and Rascals
The Thieves’ Guild
Guildmistress Volgerd Erlendsdottir (♀ Gnomish Snoutzer Thief 9, N). Head of the Thieves’ Guild is an unassuming Snoutzer female, Volgerd. Hailing from a penniless family, she started out as an adventurer, campaigning across Norwold’s wilderness, until her weak constitution led her to contract brain rot. She stopped in Saffir to recover, and never left the city. Volgerd worked her way into the local guild, relying on a combination of strength, skill, and deception. Should this not suffice, she keeps a store of magical items, including potions of human control and polymorph self, from her adventuring days.
Rhorvald Hareksson (♂ Heldanner Thief 5, N). Rhorvald is the guild’s primary smooth-talker. A charismatic and handsome Heldanner in his mid-thirties, Rhorvald poses as an adventurous merchant, although he rarely leaves the city. He settled in Saffir after being caught during a complicated con in Lighthall, an experience which made him somewhat more careful, and a lot more ruthless in covering his tracks. Contrary to some other thieves, Rhorvald has no compunction about resorting to violence when necessary.
Sudik Nevidarovich (♂ Vatski Thief 4, N). Sudik is, officially, a member of the Merchant’s Guild, specialising in stonemasonry. A very tall and strong man, he looks well in the stonemason’s role. However, he achieved his success only thanks to his membership in the Thieves’ Guild, as the thieves have helped him by sabotaging his competitors and providing him with access to funds and information which allowed Sudik to get major contracts with the Saffir government for the restoration of the city walls. In return, Sudik provides covers for several members of the guild, as well as conferring a large quota to the guild coffers.
Thalrisa (♀ Elf 4, C). A beautiful elf woman, Thalrisa is the most popular singer and actress in Saffir. She performs at the Blue Feather Inn, and takes advantage of her charm to acquire all kinds of useful information for the guild. When she is not performing, she moonlights as a thief. Besides her stealth, she also packs useful magics, including a sleep spell.
Vselko Zivonovich (♂ Vrodniki Bard 3, L). The son of a Vrodniki chief, Vselko left his tribe to pursue a musical career. He is a mediocre performer at most, but is a competent thief, and one able to follow orders, which makes him precious to the guildmistress.
The Merchants’ Guild
Bilibin (♂ Earth Gnome NM, L). Bilibin is a gnome caravaneer based in Saffir. He travels routinely to Lighthall and to Midway Haven, and less frequently to the Ransarn Valley. He knows well the geography of southern and central Norwold, and is a shrewd negotiator. Bilibin likes to hire adventurers as guards, often offering incentives such as discounts on used armor or weapons. Bilibin’s family also owns a general store in Saffir, which is mostly manned by his brother, Welibik.
Welibik (♂ Earth Gnome 2, N). Welibik is Bilibin’s younger brother. An alchemist and veterinary by trade, he does not leave Saffir as often as his brother, manning the shop when Bilibin is away. Welibik knows a lot about the local personalities, but also about famous people around Norwold, thanks to his idle talks with customers and visitors. While not a paranoid character, he is very perceptive, which has helped the family business to escape the notice of the Saffir Guard.
Mendel the Alchemist (♂ Elf 2, N). Mendel is a Foresthome Elf who settled in Saffir twenty years ago. A passable alchemist, he is also able to use some magic, mostly of the type that helps identifying magical objects and writings. Mendel was wounded and scarred during the war, and supports the rule of Krasniy, since he has since obtained a monopoly on the provisions to the tower of the court mage. He also runs an illegal trade in potions, mostly provided by Volopolk himself to track the potential buyers.
Toric Belfkarats (♂ Dwarf 2, N). Toric is the foremost jeweler and one of the richest craftsmen in Saffir. He used to be a prospector, and participated in the Lighthall-Alphatian war as an officer of the militia, distinguishing himself for his tactical acumen. However, he is a terrible miser, even for a dwarf. Toric is the current guildmaster of the Merchants’ Guild, an organisation that collects all the merchants and craftsmen in Saffir.
Wanderers and Mages
Zivon Volkhovich (♂ Vrodniki Bard 9, C). Zivon is an itinerant bard of Vrodniki origins. He spends the winter in Saffir, then travels the Ransarn river valley to the Vatski Rodina during spring, and returns in autumn. A former adventurer, Zivon’s musical skills are not on par with his other capabilities as a swordsman, hunter, and outdoorsman. He is relatively reliable as a guide, but is not a trusting soul, and takes offence at the smallest slight.
Yuri Svyatogorovich (♂ Vatski Fighter 1, L). A large young man from the Vatski Rodina, Yuri is an adventurer for hire. He is a trained outdoorsman, and has traveled beyond the Great Bay as a kid with his father, a merchant from Vyolstagrad. He is an honest hireling and a courageous warrior, as well as a generally cool person to have around. However, a training accident left him a bit short on his breath, which may prove a liability in the field. Furthermore, while Yuri is not rash, he is not the most insightful person around.
Volomyr Dobrelkovich (♂ Vatski Magic User 5, L). A tall young man of Vatski background, Volomyr is not the typical Magic User. He is trained as a Skald, but he is not as cultured as you would expect from a wizard, and his magic is mostly achieved through talent rather than study -- it is possible that Alphatian, Elven or even more exotic blood ended up in him, as his family is not native of Saffir, and very little is known about it. Of course, to the people of Saffir, Volomyr is just the village fool -- when Krasniy took over, Volomyr feigned insanity as a result of wounds suffered in the war. He is actually scouting visitors to Saffir for powerful adventurers who might be able to overthrow the dictator.
Vyshemira Putyslavna (♀ Vrodniki Magic User 5, C). A member of the secretive sisterhood of the Ice Witches, Vyshemira has recently infiltrated the city, looking for a magic item coveted by the Ice Witches leadership4. The witches suspect that the Knyaz may have the item, or may be trying to acquire it, which would explain his policies towards magic items. If their first hypothesis proves true, Vyshemira will have to steal it from the Knyaz’s coffers, a very dangerous proposal. As such, the Ice Witch is likely to trick some unsuspecting adventurers into stealing it for her.
Vseata Bryachislavich (♀ Vatski Thief 4, N). A tall woman in her mid-thirties, Vseata is the hereditary boyarin of Premigorod, a vassal village to Saffir. A good huntress and swordswoman, Vseata visits the city frequently either escorting caravans or to curry the favor of Knyaz Krasniy. The boyarin is a persuasive and brilliant politician, but like many politicians she is not to be trusted, as she is prone to deception and not at all loyal to the Knyaz or even the city.
Adventures in Saffir
The City-State of Saffir is an ideal location for a party of adventurers in the Basic and Expert range. The city is controlled by a tyrannical overlord, but not one who will immediately force the player characters to confront him or leave. Actually, Krasniy may well try to recruit the characters to act as agents in various matters, as suggested in the original adventure.
This section provides guidelines for adapting a number of suitable published modules to Saffir.
In Saffir itself, Abardnasior’s Tower may be a suitable location for a low-level adventure. Actually, a ruined wizard’s tower or other abode is a typical location for an adventure, and several published ones may be easily adapted. From BECMI, the first part of B12 The Queen’s Harvest fits quite well. Replace Kavorquian with Abardnasior, and you have a simple adventure ready, with minimal adjustments needed. Replace Kaerin Penhaligon with Krasniy or one of his underlings. Krasniy wants the magical items, of course, but also the tiara, which is the original crown of Saffir, to legitimize his rule. Kavorquian’s notebook may be replaced with a logbook from Abardnasior, detailing some of the events of the foundation of Saffir, and the research of the Alphatian mage. It might point the PCs towards the Ice Witches and the magic item they search (see the entry for Vyshemira Putyslavna in the Wanderers and Mages section).
Alternately, the Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) series contains a suitable adventure, The Ruins of Castle Churo5. Replace once more the titular wizard with Abardnasior, and the monsters with a band of goblins, most likely sponsored by the Ice Witch Vyshemira to penetrate Abardnasior’s dungeon.
Outside Saffir, you can stage a lost dwarven hall in the mountains near Mrachniy or Zhelezhnaya Skala. There are several suitable modules. From BECMI, you could use XS2 Thunderdelve Mountain. This is a solo module, but can be adapted for an adventuring party in the mid-Expert range. Thunderdelve becomes one of the main settlements of the lost Syrrak clan6.
Alternately, the DCC series contains a suitable module for low-level characters, Forges of the Mountain King7. As for XS2, replacing the lost dwarven clan with the Syrrak clan is easily done. You may want to replace the evil dwarves of the adventure with something else, in particular gnomes corrupted by the evil at the heart of the Gnomstal Forest, but dwarves will work too.
In both cases, the PCs might simply hear rumors about the dwarven halls by one of the bards in Saffir, such as Zivon Volkhovich, or be recruited by a dwarf, for example Toric Belfkarats, Faric Wharikarats or Bifis Bombirak, or by agents of Krasniy the Red, who is on the lookout for magical items, or, finally, by Vyshemira the Ice Witch, who is also collecting lost magics.
Finally, Ershal Pass Keep can serve as the base location for a Basic-level wilderness campaign. In BECMI, you could easily adapt B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The cultists of Chaos here come probably from the Gnomstal Forest, or they may be followers of the Black Queen of Alphak’s Volcano.
Alternately, the DCC series has a sort of remake/homage to B2, Into the Wilds. The adaptation of this module is quite easy, as the goals are very similar to those of Keep on the Borderlands.
Finally, the Keep might also be used for an adaptation of the AD&D 1e adventure, UK3 The Gauntlet. In this case, you will want to adapt the preceding adventure in the Adlerweg series, UK2 The Sentinel, to Yakhontsk, Holmdalar or another suitable village near Saffir. The creator of the titular Gauntlet would be the Ice Queen herself, of course, and the goblinoids come from the Gnomstal Forest. The Sentinel, on the other hand, would have been created by Abardnasior and other Alphatian mages.
Gary Gygax, B2 Keep on the Borderlands, TSR, 1979
Graeme Morris, UK2 The Sentinel, TSR, 1983
Graeme Morris, UK3 The Gauntlet, TSR, 1984
William Carlson, XS2 Thunderdelve Mountain, TSR, 1985
Gary Thomas, “Krasniy the Red”, in Deborah Christian (ed.), AC10 Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, TSR, 1987.
Carl Sargent, B12 The Queen’s Harvest, TSR, 1989
Harley Stroh, DCC28 Into the Wilds, Goodman Games, 2006
Alex Anderegg, DCC39 Ruins of Castle Churo, Goodman Games, 2006
Simone “Zendrolion” Neri et al., Norwold Region, http://pandius.com/nrwldreg.html, 2007
Harley Stroh, DCC54 Forges of the Mountain King, Goodman Games, 2008
Giampaolo Agosta (Agathokles), The Skaufskogr and Beyond, in Threshold Magazine Issue 7, 2015
Giampaolo Agosta (Agathokles), The Skars’ Legacy, in Threshold Magazine Issue 10, 2015
2Thor for the Heldanners. The equivalence is acknowledged by both peoples.
3This character is called Eli in Bestiary of Dragons and Giants. I’ve changed it to a more appropriate form for a setting in Norwold.
4The nature of this object is left vague on purpose. It could be, for example, the Sentinel, if the DM wishes to set the UK Adlerweg series in or near Saffir.
5This adventure is written for the d20 rules set.
6See The Skaufskogr and Beyond in Threshold Magazine Issue 7 for more details on the Syrrak clan, and The Skars’ Legacy in Threshold Magazine Issue 10 for a way to link the Syrrak dwarf to a larger campaign in the nearby Skaufskogr region.
7This adventure is written for the 4e rules set. Its encounters are rather oddly balanced for that rules set, however, so you might be better off porting it to BECMI.