What value is there in a flooded mine that even dwarves couldn’t salvage? Why would gnomes want to spend top dollar to locate one of their most prestigious schools of magical learning there? They want it for the prophet.
Here we are, the eleventh episode of Groundbreaking, and the last of the high level looks at the various regions found in the basin. About half of what I have written is inspired by my various home brew adventures and campaigns, with about a quarter as spinoffs of things I have seen or chatted about online and the remainder simply made up as I sit down to write. I am constantly thinking about how each of the pieces fits together through the weeks between posts, to make sure that I don’t back us into a corner or completely disregard something already in place. This entry is a fun one for me, as it has two of my favorite creations that I dropped into my home campaign and have hinted at for decades (of real time as a GM) but no adventuring party ever stayed together long enough to ultimately take on that side quest (spent too long in APs). They are completely unrelated in origin, but after molding them for so long they actually make up a pretty good set piece for Groundbreaking as the primary source of underground interaction. Without further ado …
The dwarven clan was elated when the gnomes bought their flooded mine. That particular set of tunnels and lava tubes had been troublesome anyway, as their size meant they needed to spend more effort on defense and secrecy than they wanted to for a couple of reasons. First, they weren’t making as much money with their active mines as they were letting on. They were able to keep up appearances with all of the other inhabitants of the caldera and basin because they were pooling resources and funds from all the organizations they had going, including the bargemasters, the brewery, and other engineering and architecture projects. They are certain that they are going to be able to turn a profit on all of their mines as a family in the long run, but it has only been 100 years or so since they started mining the newest vein.
The reason they are running all of these mines at minimum capacity is also the one thing they aren’t telling anybody else about. In the northeast region, roughly located under some of the worst badlands the surface of the basin has to offer, the dwarves have found a new ore that they are trying to figure out. Nobody in the clan is familiar with it, and all magical (divine and arcane) attempts to divine information have failed. So far, they have damaged every piece of equipment they have tried to use to mine the ore. They have reached out to every known smith in a 100 mile radius, and a couple farther away using expensive scrying and teleportation magics, to no avail. Directly affecting the ore with magic has completely failed as well. The small amounts that they have managed to successfully retrieve have them baffled and elated in equal parts. The ore is as light as mithral, as sharp as adamantine, as hard as starstone, and seems to function as both alchemical silver and cold iron. The applications for such a metal are truly endless, and thus they are keeping tight lipped about their find until they can determine what it is and how to mine it. They are currently awaiting a special liaison of a brother clan that is a special representative of their deity as a last ditch attempt to divine what they are working with.
Gnomes are creatures of The First World, and no scholar denies that, yet non-gnomes don’t understands what it truly means. There are certain magic traditions within gnomish culture that specialize in magic that makes use of remnants of The First World that have somehow made their way to the material plane. Much like ley-lines are able to provide power to nature or primal magics, gnomes have learned to harness First World interactions to help magics relating to divination, illusion, and fey. After visions of the caldera, and learning the inexplicable connections that the region has to fey creatures and tidings, a gnomish Dream Master put together a group of representatives to investigate the region for possible First World “leaks.” After an initial visit, she realized that this wasn’t just an expedition, but that it was going to require years of effort, and so volunteers from the various communities built up around Dream Colleges world wide were moved to the basin and caldera to setup a gnomish community for long term intelligence gathering and forays into the wild.
With so many unique aspects of the region, to include a ley line nexus under the caldera, the gnomish community spent an entire generation looking for but not finding that which they sought. It wasn’t until the dwarven mines flooded that the now venerable Dream Master realized that the visions she had received had not been of the region as it was at that time, but how it would come to be. The gnomes offered their dwarven neighbors help after the initial flood as a way to investigate the area and, as suspected, the waters were flush with First World energy. They purchased the tunnels and caverns by selling the Dream Master’s estates and immediately began construction of a college within. They are not secretive about their college as the dwarves are about their ore, but they do have a strict faculty/donor admittance policy that greatly limits the number of people travelling into and out of the Gnomish Dream Caverns.
The Rumor Mill
Each of the following rumors can be learned by spending an hour or more gathering information from locals. The DC listed is the target DC to determine if the rumor is true (T), false (F), or nobody knows (?).
DC 10 – (F) The dwarves are refugees from a distant war.
DC 15 – (F) The dwarves aren’t miners and that’s why they can’t make any money.
DC 20 – (T) The dwarves are earning some money architecting and building for the gnomes.
DC 25 – (?) A dwarven engineer is secretly pursuing with a gnomish Dream Acolyte.
DC 30 – (T) The dwarves basin are all related by blood or marriage.
DC 10 – (T) Many of the regions gnomes have given up on their quest and settled down.
DC 15 – (F) The gnomes are all secret agents spying on the local residents.
DC 20 – (F) The Gnomish Dream Master is a fraud that led a cult to the region.
DC 25 – (?) A gnomish Dream Acolyte is stringing along a dwarven engineer for information.
DC 30 – (T) The Gnomish Dream Caverns are the largest and most ambitious school of its kind.
Please keep name and content ideas coming in to our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj. After we get a handle on all of the locations, I will be picking names from those submitted to help flesh out the history of the region!