To save a bit of effort, I’ll be using the map for the Forgotten Realms campaign. I’ll post some maps on the website shortly to help orient you. However, you should not assume that anything else from that campaign setting is true.
You are all from a kingdom called Tharhalan (don’t look for it in your forgotten realms books – I made it up). Tharhalan is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and the forth side opens to a great inland sea. A number of large cities, grown rich from trade, lie along the coast. The three main powers in the kingdom are the Royal family and nobles, the church of Heironeous, and the powerful merchant families. Overall, the kingdom is largely peaceful, and welcomes many races and faiths, though the predominate religion is that of Heironeous.
The surrounding lands range from friendly trading partners, to hostile rivals, to uncivilized barbarian realms. More on that later.
Expect a balance between role playing and combat, with time spent in the cities gathering information, and time in the wilderness adventuring. There will be indoor/underground bits as well. A bit of everything, basically.
Now some history:
There is both unrest and excitement in the kingdom of Tharhalan.
The bards tell that the kingdom was founded almost two thousand years ago, when Hilerion, a wandering priestess of Heironeous, arrived and began preaching to the barbarian tribes that then inhabited the area. Such was the power of her words that she soon converted the tribes and convinced them to join together under the guidance of the church. Heironeous was well pleased, and rewarded the faithful by gifting their land with fertile soil, rich mines, and plentiful wildlife. The tribes selected a leader to become the first king of Tharhalan, and they prospered for a time.
But the surrounding lands and their heathen peoples grew jealous, and resolved to attack Tharhalan. Hordes of creatures, both humanoid and monster, poured down from the mountains and welled up from the underdark in a bid to overwhelm the kingdom. Barbarians from the outer regions joined in the attack, and as the people of Tharhalan wavered, the attack nearly succeeded. Many were driven mad with fear, and either struck at their neighbors, or fled, or threw themselves upon the spears of their enemies.
In the darkest hour, it was Hilerion who rallied the faithful and convinced the other good creatures of the lands – the dwarves, the elves, the creatures of the woodlands – to join together for one final battle to defeat evil. They succeeded, but at the cost of Hilerion’s life. As she lay dying, she transferred her wisdom and eloquence to the staff, so that those who came after her could wield it and continue to bring new members to the true faith.
When Hilerion’s body was cremated, the priests and priestesses found that Heironeous had turned her right hand to silver. The priests prayed upon the miracle, and were at length granted a vision that so long as the people remained faithful to Heironeous, this holy relic would protect the land from any large scale attack.
Eventually, the Staff of Hilerion was lost in the mists of time, but the Hand of Hilerion has remained in the sanctum of the Cathedral of Heironeous in the capital. So protected, Tharhalan became a prosperous oasis of stability in a sea of unrest. While wars and conflicts raged among the surrounding lands, Tharhalan has carried on with the pursuits of commerce, learning, and the faith, protected by the gift of Heironeous.
In the last year, though, a new challenge has arisen. The lands to the north have fallen under the spell of a new religion, and some people have begun to fall away from the true church. The new religion preaches enlightenment for the individual, and freedom from the constraints of overbearing authority. Some in Tharhalan now fear that the gods will abandon the people for their increasing apostacy.
Fortunately, the gods have chosen to smile upon Tharhalan once again and come to the aid of the faithful. High Priest Cicrena of the Cathedral of Hilaria has had a dream in which he was visited by a messenger from Heironeous. In his dream, the Priest was shown the Staff of Hilerion, assured that it still exists, and provided some clues to help find it. If the priests of Heironeous can obtain the staff, Cicrena feels sure that they can turn back the threat of the false faith.
To this end, Queen Eliza III of Tharhalan has declared a holy quest to find the staff. Those judged worthy will be given the clues and permitted to search for it, with a promised reward of fame, money, land, and a noble title for the one who finds it. .