The heart of After the Final War is the community. The players create the community together, defining the community’s strengths and weaknesses. Each player describes a person and location in the community, along with a threat and the dangerous place.
Player characters go on quests on behalf of the community, dealing with threats, finding the opportunities in dangerous places. The more their quests succeed, the more the community grows and prospers. They are helping to rebuild the world. But dangerous places can grow into threats, and threats can eradicate the community.
The idea of a community is easiest (for me) to describe with an example, so here’s one from the draft of the book.
Dassos is a Vespan outpost in the Caledor Forest. Vesper founded a number of such outposts late in the Third Age as fortifications for fighting the forces of the Nameless Emperor within the forest; they were both a place of observation and a place for troops to withdraw into safety.
All of the fortresses except Dassos were destroyed in the Final War. Dassos became a home for refugees, for people displaced, meaning there are a range of cultures present, mainly Vespan and Ekeli.
Dassos has people, and much land it could claim, giving it relatively high Military and Territory scores. More than a village, it is a small town. Unfortunately, trained experts have moved on to other communities, and as a result, Dassos struggles. Its people are poor.
- Education 0
- Hope d4
- Military d6
- Prosperity 0
- Territory d6
Army Size: 3
Some people of note are:
- Lady Irulan Douka and her husband Lord Rhainn are the joint rulers of Dassos. Lady Irulan Douka was a minor part of the nobility at Vesper, and the most senior noble here who survived the Final War. Lord Rhainn comes from the Ekeli, and was a member of the royal family of a destroyed Hollow Hill – there must have been traitors within for the desecrators to invade. The two have scandalised both their cultures by getting married. They have taken unusual titles at Irulan’s insistence; the traditional Ekeli title of King and Queen for married rulers of an independent settlement would antagonise the Vespans, and it is desirable to maintain links.
Matters have been peaceful enough in recent years for the lady and lord to have three children under five, but the children mean the two rulers are busy and distracted. They do not want their children to be brought up by servants.
- Eswen, a bitter old Ekeli hunter, is often found at the Lodge (see below). She was present when Lord Rhainn’s old home fell to the forces of the Nameless Emperor, and feels she should not have made it out alive. Eswen goes on riskier and riskier hunts – and is inadvertently leading the young hunters to take foolish risks.
- Phillipos Argyres is old and infirm, but is a capable magician, a Loremaster who came here with the Emperor in the Final War and never left – not because he likes it here, but because he feels he cannot travel. Phillipos frequently grumbles about the lack of education that is taking root in Dassos and the lack of books. He may well latch onto a player character who shows signs of learning.
Some important places in Dassos are:
- The walls of Dassos are made of a black stone found locally, andsurround the town in a wide oval. They were built at the same time as the town, and have proved strong enough to last. The walls are wide enough for two men to walk abreast. They are the Dassos’ most important defensive feature, and a major strength.
- The Running Wolf is the most welcoming of the local taverns, full of gossip. It’s a good place to hear news.
- The Emperor’s Tower is part of the wall, made of the same black stone, and is so called because the Emperor during the Final War once visited Dassos, and climbed to the top. This is more impressive that it sounds as the Emperor was rather old at the time. The tower is high enough to look out over the trees, and a pair of guards is always on watch. The Lord and Lady do not live in the Emperor’s Tower, but one of them holds court here.
- The Lodge is a long low building outside the walls, hidden from casual view. Ekeli hunters gather here before they go on forays into the forest to hunt. These hunts target both food and monsters. They are not officially sanctioned, but Lord Rhiann feels they serve a useful function in keeping the area around Dassos safe, and so does not interfere.
Dassos has ties to the following places:
- Caer Esk. Caer Esk is the nearest friendly settlement. Messengers pass regularly between Caer Esk and Dassos on the way to the old Imperial Road. There is also limited trade, though Dassos is too poor to attract many merchants.
- Vesper. Dassos is far from Vesper, and independent, but maintains diplomatic links with its founding city. Occasionally supplies come from Vesper, and Dassos sends back a sadly empty promise of loyalty.
- The Red Tower. Dassos receives news from the Kethian Roadwardens of the forest, but has no real influence with them. Even when the Roadwardens alert the people of Dassos of some incoming danger, they have their duty and cannot spare people to help. They are more likely to ask for help.
- Mawr Coed. Lord Rhainn has distant relatives in Gwyn Coed. Gwyn Goed is relatively powerful, but it is distant and a mountain range separates Dassos from Gwyn Coed. Further, the people of Gwyn Coed really don’t approve of Rhainn’s marriage to Irulan Douka, seeing him as turning his back on Ekeli culture.
Dassos faces, or potentially faces, the following threats.
- Vesper seeks to install a governor in Dassos, ending the town’s independence. Nobody is happy about the prospect, the Ekeli especially. Vesper is not likely to invade, but the governor has already left when a messenger gets to Dassos, and Dassos is expected to escort the governor and his entourage through the Caledor Forest. Without this imposed rule, any assistance coming from Vesper will be cut off.
- A large group of hunters goes missing on a long-ranging trip, seeking to bring down a troll and other tainted preying on those who travel through the forest.
- Bone Hill is a mound covered in white grass rising from a tainted swamp. The tainted waters from the swamp have begun to spread, threatening the drinking water in Dassos. The reason may be two strygloi who have made Bone Hill their home, and are seeking to gather tainted to serve them.
- The head armourer dies in a hunting accident. Perhaps he was with the above group of hunters. His apprentices are not really up to the job. The player characters must travel to find a replacement. Should this threat escalate, the garrison of Vesper finds itself inadequately armed to deal with a potential invasion, making it the job of the player characters.
Opportunities as well as dangers await in these locations.
- Gwyn Onnen. Gwyn Onnen is the old home of many of the Ekeli in Dassos, including Lord Rhainn. It is a hollow hill, with entrance between two great ash trees. These ash trees are now warped, and it is said animated guardians who will attack any seeking to enter. Worse horrors may wait within. But so do the tapestries Gwyn Onnen was especially known for – obtaining these would give Dassos well-needed trade goods, in the form of tapestries, some dating back from the Second Age. Those who invaded and ransacked the Hollow Hill would not have valued them, and they could not have destroyed them all. Besides, there may be other treasures remaining that were not found.
- Vesper. Is Vesper a dangerous place? The politics can leave bruises, and the journey there is dangerous. But opportunity awaits, including dealing with the effects of the politics from the attempt to install a governor, and a letter sent to Phillippos Argyres, mentioning three apprentice magicians who could be persuaded to come to Dassos.
- The Forgotten Shrine. Scholars, perhaps one of the above apprentices, or one of Phillipos’ correspondence, has learned the location of a late First Age shrine in the Caledor Forest, sacred to the earth god Volund. Legends say that a weapon taken to the shrine is blessed. The only problem is that the shrine is dangerously close to the Seven Barrows, where Duke Ash, the Minister of Corruption, has made his home.
- Mawr Coed. Rumours have reached Dassos of discontented people in Mawr Coed, who may want a new home. They will bring with them valuable expertise. Can they be persuaded to come to Dassos without annoying the Ekeli of Mawr Coed too much? A journey over the Arulan Mountains is needed.