Verdantia – an alternate setting for Frostgrave

I enjoy Frostgrave. Yet I’m not too keen on collecting a bunch of terrain and rebasing models to fit in the ice and snow setting of the game. One plus I found was that the background for Frostgrave was paper thin. As long as it was in decaying city ruins, you could plop that down anywhere. I embraced this and decided to create a different place. Another sprawling labyrinth of decaying city ruins… Verdantia.

Long ago were the Dragonborne, a reptilian race of people that were infused with the arcane powers of dragons. Their empire flourished in the hot lands of lush jungles and scorching deserts, with only tepid cities built skirting much of the colder lands to the north. It is said their reign was for 5,000 years and then overnight, their kind disappeared. Thousands of years since their demise many of their mysterious monuments still litter the landscape.

Some legends say that they fell into warring factions, wielding powerful magics that resulted in the destruction of their race. Other legends speak of a great religious movement which rebelled against their affinity of the arcane, choosing instead to worship primal gods. The winning faction of this war were the followers of primitive nature, resulting in the savage lizardmen seen in the world today. No one can claim the true reason for the fall of the Dragonborne. What cannot be refuted is that this grand civilization reached an epoch, and in the matter of years slid into obscurity, utterly wiped from existence.

However now many state that it was the great network of portals, created by the Dragonborne, which lead to their downfall. These portals weakened the normal boundaries of the physical world. They allowed primal, chaotic aberrations to slip in, and brought destruction to their great civilization. A statement which is supported in grave hindsight to the terrible fate that had befallen Verdantia.

Twelve standing portal gates scattered among the lands were remains of the Dragonborne and their enigmatic past. These portals were widely distributed not only among different regions in the southern lands, but also a few sparse regions to the north, as well as the western coast that lay beyond the great mountains. The portals themselves were made of thick stone etched with arcane script and large enough for a cart of oxen to pass through. Once one entering the glowing stone arch a traveler would instantly appear from another paired portal gate, safe but unable to enter another portal for a full day.
All of the 12 portals congregated at one location, a sprawling set ruins within a steaming jungle. The gates were arranged in a circle on a great stone platform within the center of a crumbling city. Even stranger, a 13th portal structure was at the center of these gates. This 13th portal appeared as a standing, empty stone ring yet much larger than the other portal gates. This last grand portal appeared to be non-functional however, either never completed or its paired portal location destroyed somehow.

This far off region soon became a nexus of trade. A small community sprung up as brave merchants were willing to travel through the portal gates, spend a day within the hazardous jungle and decaying city, only to travel through another shimmering stone arch and reach far off cities. Soon the community grew and adopted the name Verdantia, taken from the lush jungle surroundings. It was in the year 400 of the Imperial Calendar that Octavius VI endeavored to make Verdantia part of the grand human empire.

Octavius entered Verdantia with his great army and cleansed the decaying ruins of all manner of creatures that remained there. He oversaw the reconstruction of the city, and in many cases simply built anew over the carcass of the old foundations. The college of Imperial Wizards relocated to the recovering city, its members eager to scour the ancient ruins for long lost arcane knowledge. Coin flourished in Verdantia and it became the hub of world trade. Warehouses sprung up as brokers for staple and speculative goods haggled among the crowded streets of local merchants. Money lenders and currency changers of different regions also congregated within Verdantia. Yet despite the successful efforts to rebuild the city, Verdantia was far from peaceful. It was ever under threat from the surrounding jungle which held many horrible creatures, cunning goblin clans, and savage lizardmen tribes.

In Y700 IC, rumors were spread far and wide of an ancient chamber discovered within the labyrinth of catacombs that ran under Verdantia. Within this chamber was a tome of necrotic spells that held secrets of the undead. A treasure of knowledge for those seeking greater understanding of the dark arts. This tome became the unrelenting focus of the terrible lich, Ulaam the undying.

His great undead army sacked Nordia, the western coastal city of frigid waters, and using the portal gate located there Ulaam poured his legions of skeletal and ghoul warriors into Verdantia. For over a month humans and undead creatures openly fought within the city streets. Imperial wizards flung spells at undead lichs and other necromancers that had joined under Ulaam’s dark banner. While the city was in chaos, the palisades were no longer manned and goblins, gnolls, and lizardmen warbands struck deep within Verdantia, further inflaming this chaotic war.

In ensuing battles as the human forces were buffeted by these other newly arrived factions, Ulaam was finally able to make a decisive strike. He spearheaded an attack into the Imperial Wizard library and was able to capture the necrotic spell book he so prized. Within days, he was able to decipher a great spell that would turn the tide of the battle towards his favor. It is rumored he emerged from a tower, his gaunt form encircled with a clinging dark yellow mist that appeared to be billowing from his mouth which was constantly muttering an incantation.

This yellow mist flowed over the city seeping into the lower recesses of Verdantia. Living creatures within this poisonous cloud choked and died. To the horror of living creatures that managed to stay above this yellow haze perched atop buildings, comrades and creatures slain by the sorcerous fog shambled to life and began to shuffle towards any living being, eager to tear them apart or drag them down into the suffocating poison mist. Legends from survivors speak of the horrible visage of Ulaam cackling on the steps of the ring of portals, leering down at the undead havoc he had wrought. But this victory was fleeting. The doom that visited the Dragonborne empire so long ago came to Verdantia then.

The sky became dark and the sun was blotted out from an eclipse. The 13th portal, this dormant gate that was silent for millennia shimmered and forms became to pour forth. All manners of demons and elemental creatures spilled into the city. Chittering demons of chaos fluttered above, and huge lumbering golems and elementals ran amok unfazed by the poisonous fog. They tore into living and undead forces alike, imbued with primal magic. It was said the footsteps of some elementals appeared as roots seeping into the cobbled stone roads, breaking them apart, and leaving footprints of lush green plants.

As the darkness faded from above and the sun slowly seeped out, the central portal stone frame cracked, and exploded into a shower of fragments. Each gate in turn shattered and exploded, as if the elemental energy within the air was finally able to dispel the arcane power which enchanted the portal gates. Verdantia was lost, secluded from the world, and again a crumbling city deep within a foreboding jungle.

The decaying ruins are now home to all manners of venomous creatures and savage beasts. Cunning goblins, gnolls, and fierce lizardmen are rumored to reside there. Ulaam’s necrotic presence still taints it, as undead continue to shamble among the ruined streets (darker tales say that Ulaam still lives in undeath, hidden away within the bowels of the city). Along with these creatures are far greater threats of demons and great elementals which still can be seen lurking within Verdantia.

But the faded seclusion of fallen Verdantia was not to last. There are too many riches deep within those crumbling ruins. Too many magical treasures and arcane texts to ignore. Wizards which covet such great power gather soldiers and fledgling apprentices under their wing to undergo perilous expeditions into Verdantia. It is a lost city, but one with wealth and great arcane power for those steely enough to take it.