by John Payne
Jeff Rients posted this last week on his website. It is about the mythical island of Antilla drawn on maps from medieval times through the early 19th century. In his article, he quoted an idea pitched in Dragon Magazine #34.
Here’s a different idea that encompasses four islands that can be dropped off any coast in your campaign world. Some specifics are given, but to fit in the size of this post, there’s only thumbnail information. There is lots of room to expand and plenty of unanswered questions. Feel free to expand it if you like. If you do, let me know.
A little over five generations ago, followers of the twin gods of virtue disappeared. In some cases, entire villages were abandoned. Cryptic messages were found in the religion’s main temple detailing a mass exodus to ‘consecrated isles’ in an untamed, but idyllic world.
Today, a local port is hiring crew and adventurers to sail to newly discovered islands given the name, The Twelve Temple Isles. The stationmaster will tell anyone interested about a set of civilized islands marked by the virtuous inhabitants and twelve large temples.
Once on the two main islands, would-be adventurers will discover twleve larger cities hugging the coastline. Each city contained a very large, ornate temple dedicated to one or the other of the twin gods. As described, the cities are quite clean with little to no crime.
What is striking is that the cities are over 98% human with an apparent lack of any elves. The townsfolk will react with almost childish wonder to any elf or half-elf. The other striking thing about the two main islands is that the interior is entirely unmapped and rarely explored. Although the local townsfolk will not express interest in visiting what they call the Heathenlands, they will do what they can to support anyone that wants to go.
The two smaller islands each serve as a benefice for each of the high priests. The islands are elevated about 1000 feet above sea level and appears to be a completely flat plateau covered mostly with grass. On the northwest corner of each island will be the residence of the high priest. Although large for a home, the structures are not ornate. The interior will have the barest of furniture.
Characters that are just starting on their adventuring career can find plenty of challenges exploring the interior of the main islands. Most of what lies within is unknown. Since each of the large islands are roughly the size of Portugal, there is plenty of room for lost cities, hidden civilizations, victims of the church’s colonization of the islands and more.
Those characters that decide to stick around, especially those that wish to purchase land, will be pressured to convert. Demands of the church will be particularly light, especially if the characters have cleared out a section of land in the interior.
Cities will not have very much crime and the local officials are not inclined to engage in political intrigue. Anyone with any real authority is a priest of the church. A bishop usually serves as spiritual leader and mayor of the town. Other priest perform other civic duties ranging from dealing with sewage, acting as police chief, or managing city markets.
No character can visit the benefice of a high priest without an express invitation. Each of the smaller islands have a small town just above sea level on the southeastern corner of the island. Anyone can visit the smaller islands, but interlopers that openly discuss exploring the rest of the island are forcibly removed, by death if necessary.
Gemilla (pronounced ge-MEE-yah) is the largest of the four main islands that comprise the Twelve Temple Islands. This island is devoted to Mdedro, the female of the twin gods. Each of the seven cities on the island are named for the seven virtues she espouses: generosity, wisdom, longevity, dignity, beauty, wealth, and honesty. In the local language, the names are, in order,Galenki, Sibradze, J’veli, Lishup-Leba, Silimazi, Samdedron, and Patzneba
Each of the seven cities are laid out on a simple plan. The main road (chardil) begins at the northeastern corner of town and runs to the southwestern corner. It is crossed by the other main road (samkret) that runs from the city’s two opposite corners. In the middle of town, where the two streets cross, is the city’s main market and temple.
Other streets run in the same directions in grids throughout the city.
Padare is the small island that lies southwest of Gemilla. It serves as the benefice of the high priestess of the Twin Gods. The town of Bude on the southeast corner is known for its botanical gardens.
North of Gemilla lies the other large island in the Twelve Temple Isles. This island is devoted to Namro, the male of the twin gods. Each of the five cities on the island are named for the five virtues he espouses: truth, charity, friendship, devotion, and duty. In the local language, the names are: Simarde, Savelmok, Mesatvis, Ergula, Morige
Unlike their kinsmen on the southern island of Gemilla, citizens here do not find acquiring wealth very important. An unstated belief on this island is that duty and friendship are best learned through military discipline. As a result, almost everyone on this island is trained in the use of a sword and bow.
Although mages are uncommon on the Twelve Temple Isles, they are especially rare on Didige.
Ymana lies north of Didige. It serves as the benefice of the high priest of the Twin Gods. The town of Chmala on the northeast corner is known for it’s metal working. Metal is mined from rich veins of iron. As a result, there is a large network of tunnels running throughout the island.
The Barrateb Ku, or Islands of Evil, lie between Didige and Gemilla. There are dozens of tiny islands that serve as bases for pirates, or places of refuge from the church. Both of the big islands send out missionaries every year in efforts to purify these islands.
For those that play games that stick close to the SRD, priests of the twin gods may have alternating domains.
The bishops of each of the twelve towns may have psionic power. The bishops use their power to keep crime down in their locales.
The high priest and priestess are mystic theurges, able to wield divine and arcane magic. They may limit the use of arcane magic on the islands in order to prevent others from becoming more powerful that they are.
The high priest and priestess died during the original colonization. This fact is unknown to the citizens of the islands.
For a darker, more Orwellian feel, there can be notices about the virtues posted throughout the town. The names of the twin gods can be featured in civic art declaring their love for their followers.
The Barrateb Ku contains the original inhabitants of the islands. They were forced here when they could not resist the colonists.
Other humanoids, friendly and evil live in the central parts of the two large islands. They are unaware or unconcerned by the human cities.