The Stonelands and the Goblin Marches
Design: Monte J. Cook
Editing: Jonatha Ariadne Caspian
Interior Art: Daniel Frazier
Cartography: Dennis Kauth
Typography: Nancy J. Kerkstra
Production: Paul Hanchette
A Few Notes About Me
There is so much to tell you in such a small amount of space. I am not quite sure where it is best to begin - perhaps the beginning? Yes, of course you are right. My name is Maris Khorma Terrabin, but I am known to some as the One-Eyed Mistress, and to others as Maris of Daggerdale. That last title is odd because I have never... well, that is a long tale, and Elminster wishes me to be brief.
I am a wizard of great skill and ability - not to mention modesty! I must admit, though, it is no surprise to me that Elminster should seek my aid in detailing the Stonelands and the Goblin Marches. I am not bragging, but I dare say no other person in the history of the Realms has spent as much time in those uncomfortable, unfortunate places, or so committed herself to learn their secrets. But I am getting ahead of myself.
When I was much younger, I lived in central Cormyr, apprenticed to a wizard named Felbour. I heard all the tales surrounding the Goblin Marches and the Stonelands, I lapped up all the legends of beasts and monsters and mysterious beings that might be found there. When I was old enough, I accompanied a group of adventurers into the Stonelands. They had dreams of finding the legendary Citadel of Seligonil. Was it myth or history? I caught the flame of their passion, and it burned bright within me. Of course, finding the place was not as simple as finding the new wines in the market. We spent many months in conflict with the border raiders that skulked along the rough edges of Cormyr, making sorties into civilization, and dashing back into their Stonelands warrens. And raiders were not all we encountered. There were other creatures, even less savory creatures, as well. Not a vial of perfume for miles.
Although we never found the Citadel, I learned enough about the Stonelands to make me want to stay. This was an area ripe with secrets. Few remembered its treasures, left over from the ancient kingdoms - kingdoms which at one time sprawled over all that is now Anauroch, the Great Desert immediately north of the sullen wastes we wandered. History called, legends whispered. Treasure fanned the flame.
I and a few companions built a small wooden keep just north of the High Moors. From there, we launched our forays into the Stonelands and the Marches. Our travels took us from the Thunder Peaks to the Farsea Marshes, from Skull Gorge to the Storm Horns, and even into Anauroch, to find the ancient ruins of Rasilith. We have been grubby, frozen, waterlogged, desiccated, wounded, bruised and exhausted.
Though my allies have come and gone, moving on to other climates, going down in battles, falling out over minor squabbles, or major ones - come now, who truly thinks all's fair in love? - I have spent most of my life in this desolate region. And I have more than enough to show for my labors, thank you. I know the Stonelands and the Goblin Marches like a Wyvernspur knows Immersea, like King Azoun knows Suzail - perhaps, I dare say, better. I have solved many of the mysteries in the sullen wastes. I have found much of its treasure.
But don't let this prideful tone, this puffed self-consequence, put you off. There is more treasure to be had here, even yet. The Marches and the Stonelands boast many more secrets to uncover. I no longer reside in that snug little keep beyond the Moors. New adventure has led me to the far west. But Elminster was persuasive - and flattering. That long-ago flame still flickers. So I am relating now what I learned, that others may blow its coals once more to life.
Part One: Regional Details
The Goblin Marches and the Stonelands are desolate areas that few humans venture into - for fear, no doubt, of the goblins, orcs, and other humanoids dwelling in the region. The inhabitants are not the only discouraging features, either. The land is rather infertile, and the climate is hot and humid in summertime, cold and windy in winter. Due to the position of the surrounding mountains, and the proximity of that unnatural desert to the north, strange, dangerous storms appear with little warning.particularly in the Stonelands. In point of fact, neither place has anything to recommend it to a reasonable person. And reasonable folk don't see a need to distinguish (unless they are mapmakers) between the two. But there are differences.
The Goblin Marches
The Goblin Marches are a narrow strip of land between the Storm Horns and Anauroch. Although technically a part of the Kingdom of Cormyr, this rind of land is all but devoid of human inhabitants. As its name implies, the masters of this region - if you could call them that - are the goblinoid races. Fortunately for the civilized lands to the south, these goblins are disorganized and would rather fight among themselves than attack well-trained Cormyrean soldiers, particularly those who stand guard in the passes through the Storm Horns.
The Marches are primarily rough grassland, their meager vegetation broken by small streams, rocky outcroppings, an occasional gnarled copse. There is a great deal of subsurface water here, and underground streams and pools have etched caves and tunnels into the underlying bedrock, some of which rise very near the surface. These caves provide homes - lairs is the better word - for many residents.
The soil is poor and consistently stony. Despite abundant rain and ground water, few plants find the Marches a comfortable home. Tough, hardy grasses, flowering weeds, prickly ground vines, and various fungi straggle sparsely throughout the plain. Low scrub brush, such as the tiny lorach bush (as the goblins call it), can be found everywhere. Certainly a farmer would despair of raising crops here.
This area is actually more fertile than the Goblin Marches, but that advantage matters very little. The frequent, violent storms that lash the surface make any sort of agriculture impossible here as well. Hail and fire are just not healthful for croplands.but I am getting ahead of myself.
The Stonelands are named for the large, monumentlike spires which are scattered haphazardly across an otherwise unremarkable landscape. Some number of these rocks are hundreds of feet high, but most are much smaller. All of them give the impression that they fell from the sky and landed awkwardly. That appearance is not mere bardic fancy. Unlike the Goblin Marches, the earth here is not rocky.the stones do not belong. Many jut at strange angles and lean dangerously off kilter. A traveler passes below these tilted megaliths at his own peril. Have I seen one fall? No. Do I dance at their feet, flouting their stability? Not on my life.
The same plants grow here in the Stonelands as haunt the Goblin Marches. In the Marches, the vegetation seems cowed and sullen. Here however, lusher, greener grasses tuft around the rocks in shy celebration, while plush mosses and lichens cling tenaciously to their sides. The larger plants are not so happy with their situation. Trees are still fairly uncommon, their welcome height and shelter limited to a narrow edging on a stream bank or a thin fringing around one of the rare lakes. Where there are trees, there are also plenty of deadfalls, downed limbs, and lightning-scored trunks attesting to the hazards of Stonelands weather. At least gathering firewood and tinder in these fringe woods is never a problem.
Storms thrash the area with high winds, hail, and frequent lightning strikes - sometimes so frequent as to seem continuous. Rumor has it that occasionally these tempests rain down acid or even fire, but I have never seen such a thing in my time here.
That is not to say it doesn't ever happen. I could imagine such an environmental effect to be the remnants of an ancient magical experiment gone wrong, or the lasting aftermath of a wizards. battle of incredible power. Given the proximity to the old, magical kingdom of Netheril, I never completely ignore such legends.
Storms in the Stonelands
The chance of encountering a storm is 1 in 12, with a single check made each day.
Normal storms produce heavy rains and wind, slowing all movement by 50%. There is a 1 in 10 chance of a nearby lightning strike, which panics horses and other animals for 2d10 rounds.
There is a 1 in 100 chance, if a lightning strike is rolled, that it hits a random player character. Such strikes should be treated as 6d6 lightning bolts, with a chance to make a save and so take only half damage.
One storm in 100 in the Stonelands is magical in nature. These rare storms (occurring once every three years or so, although there have been occasions when they are more frequent) can be very dangerous to wildlife, plants, and intelligent inhabitants, and especially to travelers without shelter. If such a storm strikes, roll 1d12 for the specific nature:
1-4 Firestorm. All within a 1-mile radius take 2d6 points of damage from fire per round if in the open, half to no damage if adequately sheltered (DM discretion). Storm lasts 1-6 rounds. These are accompanied by normal storms 90% of the time, so the chance of a grass fire is very small. If the storm is not accompanied by rains, there is a cumulative 30% chance for a grass/scrub fire to start each round. Such a fire kills all plant life and drives away monsters and animals.
5-7 Icestorm. All within a 3-5 mile radius are pelted with huge hailstones, many of which sport iciclelike points. All those exposed take 2d6 points of damage each round. Stone shelters are the safest bet. Only the sturdiest wooden constructions can withstand the storm. Constant battering destroys most structures and anyone inside takes full damage thereafter. Icestorms last 1-12 rounds, and are always accompanied by thunderstorms.
8-10 Acid Rain. All within a 1-6 mile radius take 1d6 points of damage if exposed to acidic raindrops. Wooden or stone shelters can protect a character, which is fortunate since these storms last 1-20 rounds. They are always accompanied by thunderstorms.
11 Anti-Magic Storm. These dreaded storms do no physical damage, but any magic items caught in such a storm must save vs. magical fire or have their powers completely drained.
12 Magic Storm. The effects of this storm are always different and completely unpredictable. Those caught in the storm can be teleported, altered, cursed, put to sleep, or affected by any other effect chosen by the DM. Such storms have been known to summon monsters, create magic items (rain-filled pools become potions, sticks become wands, etc.), and alter animals and plants into never-before seen mutants.
Throughout the Goblin Marches, and especially in the Stonelands, ruined castles and remnants of ancient cities can be found in the wilderness. In the Marches, these structures are often goblin fortresses of the more organized past. In the Stonelands, ruins are even more prevalent, and are most frequently the remains of Anauria and Asram, those powerful ancient cultures that once controlled the area.
It is fairly common to encounter creatures, particularly magical beasts, among these ruins. It may be the comfortable ties of a familiar place, or the remnants of a holding spell, or even the draw of magical energies, that keeps inmates prowling around the dead and disintegrating structures. Most ruins, however, have long been plundered of their treasures. Nothing of worth survives in them.
Still, rumors abound of new discoveries of gold or magic within some previously obscure find, and they are a draw for adventurer traffic in the region. Between the regular influx of hopeful explorers, and the frequent discovery of further baleful monsters which dwell or propose to dwell in many of the ruins, these crumbling sites are actually an important facet of the ecology of the area.
The numbers of natural animals are waning in any case from overhunting by the goblinoids. The sight of game is rare. But even the slim possibility of finding game drops to nil near a ruin that contains such vicious predators as chimerae. In fact, I find it a good bet that ruined castles or towns surrounded by an area of lifelessness are plagued by the heavy predation of some monster (or several) which dwells there. An ancient ruin with animals nearby can fairly safely be presumed unoccupied.
Even dismissing the terrible storms which plague the Stonelands (and occasionally the Marches), weather in the region is inhospitable and unrelentingly harsh. Although rainfall is heavy, the blazing summer heat, fueled in part by unnatural winds blowing off the Great Desert, makes it impossible for any but the hardiest plants to survive. Humidity fluctuates greatly, as whatever moisture the summer storms bring is quickly absorbed northward into always-thirsty Anauroch.
The orcs of the Marches sometimes say, "In the summer, if you are not too hot, you're cold and wet. In the winter, you're just cold." Winters are indeed cold, but at least it is a dry chill, crisp and razor-sharp. Powdery snows fall in the heart of winter, but the winds common to the season blow them about like so much dust. They rarely pile up to dangerous levels except in the drift-filled corners of the standing stones.
Climatic Averages for the Stonelands and Goblin Marches
|Temperature (Spring)||68° F.|
|Temperature (Summer)||86° F.|
|Temperature (Autumn)||62° F.|
|Temperature (Winter)||40° F.|
|Low Temperature (Year)||2° F.|
|High Temperature (Year)||101° F.|
|Annual Precipitation||63 inches|
|Days With Snow on Ground||18 days|
It would seem that there are only two seasons in the Stonelands and Goblin Marches - summer and winter. Spring and autumn are transitory periods of temperatures somewhat lower than in summer, and of precipitation a bit higher than in winter. With little plant life, and so few trees to mark the seasons by their changing foliage, the landscape looks about the same year round. Perhaps the grass swells greener in the quick warmth of spring, but summer heat bakes it tough and sere again all too soon.
This monotony of aspect does not have much bearing on a particular month's weather. The individual details of seasonal conditions can vary greatly from year to year, particularly in the Stonelands. There, the vagaries of rainfall can cause flooding in lowland areas, or deny the earth any moisture at all for months. One summer I shivered through unseasonable coolness, and several winters ran strangely hot, while all our efforts at disguising our tracks churned to mud, and no one wore the thick wool cloaks I'd paid so much to have boiled for windproofing the year before. I attribute these wild year-to-year swings of climate to the unnatural influence of Anauroch, as much as to the usual natural factors of geography, topology, and all the rest.
- A Few Notes About Me
- Part One: Regional Details
- Part Two: The Vanishing Wildlife
- Part Three: The Goblin Threat
- Part Four: The Great Beasts
- Part Five: Rumors and Events