Jess Nickelsen: Discombobulated
January 13, 2021 - 0404: The Herbywood


A hex setting for Dolmenwood.

(Note: I’ve been trying to learn about how to design new content for games; in trying to educate myself I’ve picked out a few examples of the form to try and copy. As such the format (but not content!) for this hex description is mimicing that from The Goatman’s Goblet Tumulheights. This website is fantastic and full of great stuff, especially if you enjoy the Dolmenwood setting.)

St Wort mapSt Wort map

The Herbywood

A wooded, temperate area with an abundance of mushrooms and wild herbs, the Herbywood was once a base for an ancient group of druids. Nothing much is known of them, though odd leavings’ can still be found in the area, including a druid’s graveyard. After their departure from the area, a monastery of the One True God was established by the Brothers of Saint Wort, who found that the abundant plant life in the region was much to their liking.

From St. Wort’s monastery, the brothers tend their cottage gardens and make much from the surrounding abundant growth. They brew beer, perform all sorts of interesting herbalism experiments, collect wild yeasts and fungi and provide a place of rest to any travellers who are heading towards the village of Silverfoot (0303). Most keep clear of the druid’s graveyard, though from time to time curious graverobbers (or desperate bandits) attempt to unearth those buried secrets, setting off ancient wards in the process.

In the forest itself a tribe of moss-dwarves have gathered (or did they simply spring up from under a log one day?), and the brothers at the monastery have brokered an easy peace with them, as they have found they have many interests in common. Goatmen are occasionally encountered, as they wander from the Graystone (0306) and occasionally succumb to the lure of banditry.

Generally however, as fecund as the woods may be, it is not recommended to travel through them at night, as the Witch Owls emerge at dusk. Whether these are the spirits of the druids themselves, no-one knows. But the brothers have tended to their fair share of travellers who have fallen under their terrifying spell, and as a result the monastery gate is locked tight to all come the approach of dusk. The silver-wingtip-feathered birds have been said to gather in council, and it is rumoured that there are several factions of them. Are some aligned with the Drune and others with the witches? Only those brave enough to venture to the ivy-clad mausoleum (rumoured to be the resting place of a witch), could tell, but none who have attempted it have returned.

Key features:

  • forested - the ancient trees here are huge and have never been milled. It is said the druids who lived here long ago made a point of planting their sacred trees here.
  • still - it does not get very windy in the Herbywood at all, even though the areas around it experience the wind as a normal part of their weather.
  • haunted - the undead are under control, thanks to those in the monastery nearby, however the buried dead may still be restless beneath their wards, and any disturbance of these may threaten to upend this balance.
  • temperate - winters are not as harsh as they are to the north, however for the brothers living simply at the monastery, they are cold enough!
  • colours - old dark green of ancient trees, soft vivid chartreuse of new growth, bone-white dead trees that have fallen, a glimpse of bright yellow fungus poking up from a mossy bed, and a silvery flash of a violet-eyed owl.

Points of Interest:

St Wort’s Monastery: a group of tidily thatched and whitewashed buildings set around a larger stone chapel. The white fountain in the centre of the cloister is said to have been the baptismal font from the original Chapel of St Wort. There are guest rooms available, and the monastery serves as a stopping point for various postal services in the area. The brothers experiment with many different sorts of alcoholic beers,” based upon different herbs and plants gathered nearby. The workshops can provide basic yet good-quality repairs, though the woodworking brothers are best known for their whimsical beehives. The main attraction however is the gardens, which grow impressive speciments of plants from all over the country, even those that would not normally thrive in the local conditions.

The Druids’ Ruin: little more than a tumble of rock on a bare circle of land, in the order of several hundred feet in diameter. In the centre there is an obsidian bowl with silvered markings around the edge depicting phases of the moon. This bowl is not large, but no-one has been able to lift it. In spring, a particular type of flower grows at the edge of this earthen circle; the brothers of St Wort’s call it a dunbell”, and their goats and bees are particularly fond of it, though the milk from a dunbell goat” can bring on hallucinations. A cluster of gravestones is not far from the circle; these are chipped and broken, and whatever was written on them has long been eroded by the wind and rain. They are covered in bright yellow lichen (phosphorescent at night), which grows over the stone surfaces in strange patterns. A humming sound eminates from the graves; one can sense it from the circle, but if one ventures too near the gravestones the vibrations grow stronger and stronger until it moves through the body and eventually becomes quite painful.

Bobilib Village: less of an actual village and more of a wet green patch where the moss dwarves tend to gather. Those who suffer from allergies are advised to stay well away, as the entire area is filled with spores of all kinds. Anyone entering the area with open cuts or wounds has a 50% chance of having a random spore lodge in the open flesh, and sprout some 1d6 weeks later. Several damp bark-shingle huts are here, though there is only a 25% chance anyone will be present, as the dwarves have learned if they are too available the brothers from St. Worts will hound them for all sorts of botanic information.

The Witch Stone: at the southern end of the hex, in a glade of mistletoe, is an ivy-clad mausoleum, rumoured to be the resting place of a witch. It is thought to be very old, and yet the stone is unweathered. Stories and rumours have circulated over the years, drawing young romantics and esoteric apprentices alike. Some say you will live a long and fecund life if you sleep atop the mausoleum, while others say if you kiss the strangely-shaped stone over the door, the one you love will find you irresistable. Others still believe the ivy that winds around the stone structure has been imbued with some resonances that enhance alchemical reactions. Young lovelorn types come to read poetry to the witch” under a full moon, though everyone knows not to approach the stone at the new moon, for that is when the Witch Owls hold their council, atop the stone.

Personages of note (the Monastery):

In addition to the Abbot, there are seven Brothers, two Novices, and two Lay-brothers who live at St. Wort’s.

The Abbot

Abbot Gylbart: Abbot of St. Wort’s Monastery, Gylbart is a robust man in his seventies who believes in the curative powers of a good long walk. His approach towards the brothers is a subtle one, preferring to encourage self-reflection and meditation, rather than active instruction. He would like to see the monastery expand its services to the public, as many of the buildings (despite their clean and tidy appearance) are in need of structural repair, and the monastery is short on the funds to pay for this. He was the one who forged the peace between the Monastery and the Moss Dwarves, when he first came to the region as a young man.

The Brothers

Brother Avery: was sent to the remote monastery as punishment for theft. There he humbly performed as was expected of him, but he still dreams of another life as a merchant, mercenary, or general scalliwag. He spends his spare time around the Druids’ Ruin, looking for the treasure he is convinced is there. He has had the odd secret dalliance with several guests who overnighted at the monastery over the years.

Brother Rauffre: pious yet incredibly nosy, he has taken it upon himself to look after” all the guests who come to stay. He has little subtlety about him, and often asks very pointed questions of the guests, often catching people out with his perceptive observances. Brother Borse and Novice Grimbald believe him to be a spy, but for whom, and on what orders, they have yet to determine.

Brother Borse: a dedicated and pious brother, who nonetheless is prone to flights of romance and whimsy. When he thinks no-one is watching, he escapes to the Witch Stone, where he has secreted books of secular poetry. He claims to be quite content with his lot in life, despite the letters that still come quite regularly from a girl in his home village, which he slips each night under his mattress, unopened.

Brother Wystan: young and from a troubled background; his family worried he would wind up on the wrong side of the law and so strong-armed him into the monastery. Forced with a choice between joining the Guards (which might involve ratting out his friends) or the brotherhood, Brother Wystan opted for the latter. He is mostly happy at St. Wort’s, though he still struggles to control his temper, and Abbott Gylbart has told the others not to give him any public-facing tasks for now.

Brother Ozias: from an old and extremely wealthy family; Brother Ozias was the black sheep who turned his back on a life of wealth and privilege. Though he has wholeheartedly embraced piety and poverty, he will still on occasion be baffled by things that commoners” would find mundane. The only thing he misses about his old life is the silk sheets that used to be freshly laid for him each day.

Brother Purnell: has a twinkle in his eye and a dance in his step; Brother Purnell is lively and enthusiastic, and rather hale for a ninety-year-old. He’s always got time for everyone, though his stories do tend to ramble. If he had any faults it would be that he refuses to see the bad side of any situation. He loves St. Worts and has lived there all his life, after being left on the doorstep as a small boy clutching a poppet and a note.

Brother Elyn: old and cranky; the near complete-opposite of Brother Purnell. Still they appear to be fast friends, working and praying together whenever they are able. Brother Elyn is determined to get first prize at Silverfoot Village’s (0303) annual harvest competition, but every year his produce has been struck by one catastrophe after the other. Brother Elyn is convinced someone is sabotaging his efforts, and each year conducts an elaborate investigation, to no avail.

The Novices

Novice Grimbald: young and fascinated by hallucinogens, which he is convinced brings him closer to holy St. Wort. Novice Grimbald believes the brotherhood needs to take a more active role in encouraging residents in the region to experience the possibilities for communion with the divine through psychedelics. When he is not hallucinating, Novice Grimbald can be found badgering Abbott Gylbart about producing incense” for the small gift shop, or creating a special communion hut” behind the barn. He records notes and findings about his travels” in small notebooks which he always carries about his person, and reads aloud to anyone in hearing distance.

Novice Ogden: a moss dwarf who decided to take orders. The other moss dwarves find him rather disgusting as he produces neither fungus nor mold nor mildew from his body. The village was rather relieved when Abbot Gylbart offered him a place at St. Wort’s, and he has taken a liking to the care and feeding of the goats, preferring the dry, sweet, clean interior of the barn to the dirt and mud of the gardens.

The Lay-brothers

Lay-brother Taran: was found last spring, unconscious in the centre of the Druids’ Ruin by one of the brothers who was out gathering dunbells. Taran was brought back to the monastery and revived, though he still has no memory of his former life. He appeared to be destitute, yet is skilled, and so he lives at the monastery and assists with repairs and other jobs. He has a knack for identifying fungi that eludes even the most learned of the brothers, and some view him with suspicion.

Lay-brother Snow: a young man from Silverfoot Village; he resides at the monastery during the week and hitchhikes home for the weekends. Very quiet and does not speak often, and yet he always seems to be at hand whenever Abbott Gylbart needs an errand run. Comes from a family of twelve children, of which he is the youngest. Wears handmedowns, usually patched, threadbare, or holey. Abbott Gylbart, when he notices, will offer the boy items from the lost and found box”, resulting in odd outfits, depending on who has passed through recently. Lay-brother Snow hates these outfits but is too shy to refuse the items when Gylbart forces them upon him.

Randomizers for the Herbeywood

Experimental beers

  1. (roll up when herbalism stuff is released)

Various beehives

Size (d4)

  1. small
  2. medium
  3. large
  4. ridiculously huge

Material (d6)

  1. wicker
  2. oak
  3. birch
  4. hazel
  5. rimu
  6. (other)

Shape (d4)

  1. a building
  2. an animal
  3. a geometric shape
  4. something fanciful

Building shapes:

  1. house
  2. inn
  3. church
  4. greenhouse
  5. castle
  6. barn

Animal shapes:

  1. bird
  2. monster
  3. magical beast
  4. fish
  5. mammal
  6. reptile

Geometric shapes:

  1. square
  2. circle
  3. diamond
  4. triangle

Fanciful shapes:

  1. a cake
  2. a teapot
  3. a butterfly
  4. a symbol of st wort
  5. a giant ball gown
  6. a mushroom

A bag of lost mail

  1. a love-letter, incorrectly addressed
  2. news of an inheritance
  3. the angry missive of a jilted lover
  4. a long, thick letter from a homesick daughter
  5. an exchange certificate for a shop in Prigwort
  6. a child’s letter to a travelling parent
  7. alchemical formulae, sent to a colleague
  8. a letter of blackmail

Wood-workery (possibly for sale)

(All items polished with beeswax.)

  1. a charming puzzle-box
  2. a small wooden bowl
  3. a folding travel-stool
  4. whittled spoons
  5. a scented cedar box for collecting herbs
  6. clicky prayer-beads
  7. a clawed back-scratcher
  8. a nubbed foot-massager

Things the goats have eaten lately

  1. Brother Rauffre’s second-best socks
  2. an important bit of post
  3. the latest batch of beeswax candles
  4. an item belonging to one of the guests
  5. dinner
  6. dunbells (and they are hallucinating)
  7. ivy from the witch’s stone
  8. Abbott Gylbart’s robe

What’s for dinner at St. Wort’s?

  1. field mushrooms with barley risotto
  2. fennel soup with goat cheese crostini
  3. parsley and tarragon omelettes with buttery toast
  4. honeyed sage dumplings in a porcini mushroom soup
  5. fresh tomato and goat curd salad, with dark brown bread
  6. fried fish, buttery mashed potatoes, and chocolate pudding

Who’s staying at the guest house?

  1. a postman, suffering from blisters due to ill-fitting boots
  2. a travelling merchant, looking for trinkets to take home to his children
  3. a treasure-hunter, intent on gathering information about the Druid’s Ruin
  4. a pale young woman, with a primrose picked from the Witch’s Stone tucked behind her ear
  5. a visiting friar from a nearby monastery, hoping to learn some brewing secrets
  6. a highwayman, separated from his comrades, trying to lay low; in disguise
  7. a large family, on their way to a family reunion; they have taken all the beds
  8. a newlywed couple; she is pregnant but lost her last child, and has come to the monastery for a tonic to ensure the child’s health
  9. a traveller of the ley lines” who has overindulged in Dunbell goat milk
  10. a necromancer trying to track down a lost thrall

What’s for sale in the gift shop?

  1. several pots of honey (5s)
  2. a bunch of beeswax candles (1s each)
  3. a beehive (roll on the above; small: 5s, medium: 15s, large: 5g, ridiculously huge: 30g)
  4. writing paper and envelope (1s)
  5. inks and quills (colour changes quite frequently, 5s each)
  6. herbal salves (roll up when Dolmenwood herbalism info is released), (5g each)
  7. an effigy of St. Wort, (1g)
  8. a prayer to St. Wort, written on a bit of card in calligraphy (5cp)
  9. herbal incense (mix, and cost, changes daily)
  10. herbal tea packets (roll up when Dolmenwood herbalism info is released), (5g each)

Random encounters (day)

  1. travellers, heading to the monastery. If at dusk, they are worrying whether they will get there in time
  2. travellers, leaving the monastery, drunk on herbal beer (any time of day)
  3. a courier, carrying post
  4. a wandering herbalist, picking a specimen from the side of the road
  5. 1d4 moss dwarves, trying to extracate themselves from the questions of an enthusiastic brother
  6. a Brother of St. Wort’s, in travelling gear with walking-stick
  7. bandits, desperate for cash
  8. a swarm of content bees, with a strange sweet scent following in their wake (strange dreams that night if sniffed)
  9. a bee swarm, looking for a new home (may attack!)
  10. sounds, smells, sights (warm grass, cicadas, the sighing of trees, a prickly wild blackberry patch, the wafting scent of spicy incense)

Random encounters (night)

  1. a group of goatmen, holding a revel in the woods
  2. bandits, bolder at nighttime
  3. fireflies, making odd patterns with their lights in the dark
  4. witch owls, chasing someone
  5. a barefooted young woman, with a witch-owl on her shoulder
  6. foxes, running swiftly
  7. Drune, heading away from the druids’ ruin, hands glowing with phosphorescent lichen
  8. an undead, freshly unearthed, captivated by the moon
  9. A group of slightly-intoxicated young people, heading for the witch’s stone
  10. sounds (loud humming from the druids’ ruin, crickets, frogs, hooting of owls)