Grey StraitsJanuary 19, 2008
(inspired by the 4E Shadowfell idea in the Worlds & Monsters preview book)
Down, down in the darks of the Shadowfell, there is a city, a town, a place, properly known as Grey Straits. By a cold ocean of swift currents, and often beset by fog, is a place for the living. Well, at least some.
No one quite knows how Grey Straights came to be. See, most of the inhabitants were either born there or wandered in with no idea of their past. And, most who stay, simply forget why they should even care.
A town of Gothic and Victorian architecture, even lit by gaslight and primitive electricity (no one knows who built these things, or how they are maintained, though certainly some do not work, or flicker out at the most inopportune times). At night, a dim moon can be seen through the clouds and the stars only appear in the smallest fraction of the sky (they call it the Fissure). Trade comes in the form of the carters- merchants pushing carts, who speak of nothing beyond haggling, and who leave town and disappear the second you turn your head.
Only the Wakers- those who have come from the normal world, mostly those who delved deep into the secrets of magic and death, those are the ones who still ask questions, still pry at the mysteries of the town. Some guess it was a god or mage of incredible power who hid in the Shadowfell, surrounding his or her dwelling with the far mist so that it might avoid most dangers. Others believe the place is a natural emanation- as much as many things are in the Shadowfell, and that the inhabitants are the poor unfortunates of resurrection spells gone awry. The Wakers often form scholarly societies and debate these things, sharing as much as they hide- because each in their heart believes that if they find the truth, they will become the ruler of the city, as well as break open the secrets of life and death.
Flickering in the wind
Why are the inhabitants so apathetic, so content? In Grey Straits, the nature of things is like a flickering flame in a strong wind- expose and it will be blown out, cover it, hide it in a lantern, and it may hold on. The most passionate things disappear the quickest. Only passion kept in secret, whether the feverish research of a single mage or a pair of lovers hiding their affair, those flourish. Everything else extinguishes.
Adventures in Grey Straits
Sort of the classic “town” to stop off in, in the Shadowfell, dark and moody with a definite touch of Ravenloft. But rather than being uber dangerous and dark like Ravenloft, think less deadly and more… creepy. There’s lots of secrets to be discovered, but the town itself is not a threat.
In terms of social interactions- you have the droll inhabitants and then the Wakers- people who probably serve as great sources of exposition and quest ideas. I’m thinking a lot of the mad scientist who rides the edge where you don’t know if you should accept their ideas or stop them now. Then imagine a erudite scholarly society of these guys.
There’s room for the occassional classic stalker monster- a vampire or werewolf in the fog, or even a serial killer, but the town itself shouldn’t be full of death around each corner. Danger within the town might be an abandoned laboratory or closed orphanage where “bad things happened”, but not in the main residential zone.
But most importantly, it’s a place to rest and restock between journeys to the strange places of the Shadowfell.