Repeated attempts were made to end Freeman’s predation, but the man (or half-man?) evaded all efforts. In time Freeman grew so confident that he began construction of a small keep to be used as a permanent base of operations. After the completion of the keep, officials from both Triboar and Longsaddle realized that they would not be able to get rid of Freeman and his henchmen without a tremendous expense in gold and lives.
With few appealing options remaining, the officials decided to co-opt the robber baron. They offered amnesty and the right to collect a “road tax” on all traffic that passed by the keep. Advancing in age, Freeman saw this as an excellent opportunity to retire from cutting down caravan guards and having his hide peppered with arrows. He accepted the offer and then settled down to a life of tax collecting and gluttony.
Freeman died five years later after choking to death on a chicken bone. Those years had not been kind to Freeman’s waistline. Already large, he gained a tremendous amount of weight, so much in fact that his underlings decided not to bury him in a nearby copse of woods. Instead, they dragged his body out into the courtyard and interred him in a shallow grave. A simple headstone marked the grave. “Here lies Freeman Grewe, a foul tempered bastard.”
For nearly two decades following Freeman’s death, the ownership of the keep was in dispute. Initially, Freeman’s underlings began slaughtering one another in a power struggle. Triboar and Longsaddle tried to garrison the keep, but they, too, met with failure. With banditry on the rise and beasties on the prowl, the keep was mostly abandoned, save for a few desperate souls.
At long last, a group of iron-willed adventurers settled the issue. The itinerant sell-swords were a mixed bag. They called themselves the Stone Striders after successfully clearing an underground complex of nasty spider creatures who made the lair beneath some ancient standing stones.
They had a reputation for being skilled, albeit ruthless, fighters, so their questionable morals would have no doubt appealed to Freeman. The adventuring band consisted of two fighting men, a forester, and a rather vicious cutpurse. There was originally a fifth member, an elven spellcaster, but he was assassinated. No one claimed responsibility, but the thief was an obvious suspect.
Within weeks of arriving at the keep, the Stone Striders killed many wandering monsters, ran off anyone who would not accept their rule and beat up a few surly holdouts as a lesson to the rest. The forester of the group retreated to the seclusion of the nearby woods, wanting nothing to do with the butchery. The rogue, of course, loved all the purging.
Next, the company began administering to the day to day affairs of the keep. They secured for themselves lucrative enterprises within the keep’s walls, while hiring loyal retainers for others. Within a year the character of Freeman’s Keep changed dramatically. Merchants no longer felt the need to take long detours around the place. A few farmers were attracted to the area’s fertile soil and settled down, bringing with them their families and a sense of stability. The keep still retains some its rough characteristics, but the atmosphere has changed a great deal.
The four adventurers (Pike, Nestor, Pel, and Merrick), available services, a map of the keep, a few NPCs and additional information appear below.
a) Main Gate
At first glance, the keep is not much to look at. The architecture is utilitarian in all respects. This suits the inhabitants just fine, because what Freeman’s Keep lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in security.
Visitors are always stopped at the gate, where they are asked a series of questions by Marina Buehl (Fighter 4). A long-time resident of the keep, Marina has acquired a serious demeanor and an ability to handle herself in a fight. The adventurers who tamed the keep respected those qualities, so they appointed her Captain of the keep’s contingent of warriors. Marina believes in solving problems before they have a chance to get worse. Therefore, she likes to personally oversee all traffic entering the keep. She is backed up by four other guards (Fighter 2) and a rather unusual leucrotta named Sinchin, who lives in a doghouse just outside the gate.
Visitors to the gate must pay a 2 sp entry duty. Wagons can enter the keep for a fee of 1 gp.
b) Guard Towers
These towers are used to access the battlements atop the walls. Each tower has three floors, as well as a roof that can be used for observation. None of the towers are equipped with siege engines. The towers are used to house the warriors hired by the adventurers to guard the keep. In all, there are 30 fighting men. Several of the warriors are family men and have been allowed to convert one or two floors of each tower into a dwelling. The single men bunk in any unused floors.
The guards are well-paid and loyal. A few of the older men have lived in the keep for many years. They enjoy the renaissance that has taken place and hope to retire there someday. The guards man the walls and gates constantly. A small group of four patrols the grounds at night.
c) Pike’s Tower
This tower overlooking the main gate was converted into a home by one of the adventurers who helped stabilize the keep. His name is Pike, an intimidating man partial to pole arms, such as halberds and glaives. If an adversary comes inside the reach of his pole arm, Pike is always ready with a short sword that he refers to as his “fillet knife.”
While serving as a mercenary, Pike learned to capitalize on lucrative opportunities. Once it appeared that he and his fellow adventurers would be running things at the keep, Pike took control of the stable and the collection of duties at the gate. He carefully records the coins taken in and the turns the money over to the keep’s coffers, minus a small commission of course. Pike owns the stable outright and keeps all of those profits for himself.
Finally, it should be noted that Pike and Marina Buehl are lovers. Because he is so fond of her, Pike takes a special interest in anyone who makes trouble at the gate.
|Pike, Male Human, Fighter 7; Armor Class: 0 (+1 plate mail, Dexterity bonus); Hit Dice: 7d10: hp 60; THAC0 13 (9 with +2 halberd, Strength bonus, Weapon Specialization); No. of Attacks: 2; Damage: 1d10+5 (+2 halberd, Strength bonus, Weapon Specialization) or 1d6+2 (short sword, Strength bonus); Alignment: Neutral; Move: 12|
Strength: 17, Dexterity: 16, Constitution: 16, Intelligence: 11, Wisdom: 11, Charisma: 11
Saving Throws: Parlayzation, Poison, Death Magic: 10, Rod, Staff, Wand: 12, Petrification or Polymorph: 11, Breath Weapons: 12, Spell 13
Equipment: +2 ha;berdd, +2 plate mail, ring of free action (conferring immunity to web, slow and hold spells), potion of extra-healing, 500 gp, 200 pp and two gems worth 1,000 gp each
Owned by Pike, the stable offers the usual services, such as boarding, grooming and shoeing. It costs 5 cp to stable a horse for one day. The stable hand is a withdrawn adolescent by the name of Owen. Owen is a neat freak. The stable is very clean and tidy and visitors are always impressed. Owen does not tolerate disorder and this extends to the property of his customers.
The young man has been known to empty and repack the contents of saddlebags in a more efficient manner. Owen will even go so far as to balance the newly repacked saddle on a beam to ensure that each side is evenly weighted. If the saddle leans to one side, he will rearrange the contents until he is pleased. This behavior unnerves some, but to his credit, Owen has never stolen a single item. Customers are strongly urged by Pike to “just let Owen do his thing.”
e) Inner Gate and Courtyard
Once past the inner gate, which is guarded at all times by two men, a visitor sees that Freeman’s Keep might be better described as a fortified village or hamlet. The sturdy towers and walls provide an excellent defense, but the spirit of the place is captured in and among the buildings of the courtyard. In this space, nearly 200 residents go about their daily business. At any given time there are 4d20 visitors who can also be found here.
This house of ill repute does not have a provocative name, a cosmopolitan madame nor any diamonds in the rough. The women here are shameless, bawdy slatterns with enough emotional baggage to cripple a pack mule. Freeman’s Keep can be a rather dull place for young, single men, so carnal pleasure is a popular pastime.
As Freeman’s Keep has stabilized, more respectable people have settled within the walls. These civic-minded individuals have suggested that it might be time to close the place down. This has met with stiff resistance from the owner, Nestor of the Axe. Nestor was one of the adventurers who tamed the keep and he took a keen interest in the brothel as soon as he walked through the front gate.
Nestor is a broad shouldered, tall man with a drooping mustache and an ever-present smile. He enjoys a good fight and a strong drink. Nestor keeps a tight reign on the girls who work for him and quickly handles rowdy customers. Should anyone get out of hand, they are invited to kiss the blade of his battle-axe.
|Nestor, Male Human, Fighter 7; Armor Class: 1 (+2 chain mail, +1 shield, +4 vs missiles, Dexterity bonus); Hit Dice: 7d10; Hit Points: 60; THAC0: 13 (9 with +2 battle axe, Strength bonus, Weapon Specialization); No. of Attacks: 2; Damage: 1d8+5 (+2 battle axe, Strength bonus, Weapon Specialization); Alignment: Neutral; Move: 12|
Strength: 17, Dexterity: 16, Constitution: 16, Intelligence: 10, Wisdom: 10, Charisma: 13
Saving Throws: Parlayzation, Poison, Death Magic: 10, Rod, Staff, Wand: 12, Petrification or Polymorph: 11, Breath Weapons: 12, Spell 13
Equipment: Rope of climbing, potion of extra-healing, 200 gp, 100 pp, 3 gems worth 1,000 gp each
g) The Ogre
Named with Freeman Grewe in mind, the Ogre is a tavern where wine, ale, and beer flow freely. Since the keep has calmed measurably, an increasing number of merchants and travelers stop over. When they do, the Ogre is a decent place to find a drink. The atmosphere can get a bit rowdy at times, but the tavern’s unassuming owner is often present to settle disputes.
Pel the Rogue, the third member of the adventuring band, owns the tavern. Pel must works very hard to keep his temper under control. Even an angry exchange of insults can lead to a knifing. Pel watches all travelers closely, attempting to divine their true nature. The keep is quite a prize and there are those who would try to wrest it from the four adventuring companions. Pel is always on the lookout for any spies or rival adventurers. Because he rarely draws attention to himself, Pel is able to surprise those who are visiting the keep for the sole purpose of causing problems.
In addition to Pel, visitors might meet Gage (Fighter 3), the rather bitter second in command of the garrison at the keep. He resents playing second fiddle to Marina Buehl. He believes that if she were not Pike’s lover, then he’d be in command. What Gage refuses to accept is the fact that Marina shows a lot more promise as a warrior. She would mostly likely beat him down in a fight. Anyone who buys Gage a few pints will be told the keep’s long and colorful past. The man likes to talk, so a few more pints will reveal his bitterness. Anyone looking to undermine the keep might gain a foothold by exploiting Gage.
Twice a month, the Ogre is closed for a few hours during the day while Pike, Nestor, Pel, and Merrick (the fourth and final member of the band) discuss the keep’s business. These meetings are the only time Merrick will be seen inside the keep’s walls, since he prefers the solitude of his cabin in the nearby woods.
h) Trade Office
Freeman’s Keep has a trade office to facilitate commerce. It was built by Pike and dedicated to the goddess Waukeen. Guards can inquire about work, caravan masters can trade news regarding road conditions, and goods can be exchanged. Local farmers, drovers, merchants and guards can be found here throughout the day. The office charges a small commission on all contracts that are forged within the keep.
An honest man named Geoffrey Kent manages the office. Pike, who knew Geoffrey during their days together as mercenaries, recommended him for the post. Geoffrey served as paymaster and earned a good reputation among the men. If he has a fault, it’s that he often regrets living his life behind a desk, instead of out in the world. This makes him sad at times, but he never allows these feelings to detract from his work.
i) Pel’s Tower
Pel has claimed this tower for his home and it is rumored to be heavily trapped. Pel receives frequent visitors from as far away as Waterdeep. These visitors fuel rumors that Pel is involved in a rather extensive network of crime. Many believe that Pel is a worshipper of Mask, but this in untrue. In fact, the visitors are merely old partners in crime who simply need a quiet place to lay low after a heist. Pel harbors them so that he can stay apprised of news beyond the keep’s wall. Pel is very loyal to Pike, Nestor and Merrick. He considers them brothers and will kill without hesitation anyone who threatens them without hesitation.
|Pel, Male Human, Thief 9: Armor Class: 0 (+3 leather armor, boots of striding and springing, Dexterity bonus); Hit Dice: 9d6; Hit Points: 35; THAC0: 16 (14 with +2 short sword, 13 with +1 short bow); No. of Attacks: 1 or 2; Damage: 1d6+2 (+2 short sword) or 1d6+1 (+1 short bow); Alignment: Neutral(evil); Move: 12 + special (boots: can leap 30’ forward, 9’ back, or 15’ straight up)|
Strength: 11, Dexterity: 18, Constitution 10, Intelligence 15, Wisdom 15, Charisma 14
Thief Skills: Pick Pockets: 55%, Open Locks: 65%, Find &Remove Traps: 30%, Move Silently:70%, Hide in Shadows: 85%, Hear Noise: 45%, Climb Walls: 90%, Read Languages: 30%
Saving Throws: Parlayzation, Poison, Death Magic: 11, Rod, Staff, Wand: 10, Petrification or Polymorph: 10, Breath Weapons: 14, Spell 11
Special Attacks: +4 to attack rolls and quadruple damage on backstab, can attack and leap away before counterattacked if wins initiative (2% chance of stumbling)
Equipment: Ring of invisibility, 50 gp, two exquisite rubies worth 2,000 gp each, +1 short bow, +2 short sword, +3 leather armor
As the number of families and permanent residents in Freeman’s Keep have increased, so have the spiritual needs. Well, at least some folks feel that the keep could use some spiritual nourishment. Answering the call to serve is Brother Samuel (Cleric 2) of Lathander. He has high hopes of building a dynamic, supportive community.
Brother Samuel uses a small warehouse as a chapel. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Brother Samuel is keenly aware of the keep’s turbulent past, so he is careful not to condemn those who still engage in shady acts. He believes that if he is patient, then more and more citizens of the keep will be inspired by Lathander’s teachings. Brother Samuel is generally well-regarded because of his kind, generous nature.
The keep’s inn is an informal affair; it even lacks a proper name. The inn is a two-story building that can house up to 40 guests in 12 rooms. There is a rather cozy (although some would call it cramped) common area where hungry travelers can enjoy a meal and a pint before retiring. A night’s stay (2 gp) includes an evening and morning meal. There are no private rooms so guests must share quarters. The inn is a vital component of the keep’s economy, since the profits help to pay the salaries of the garrison.
Merrick is the fourth member of the adventuring band that secured Freeman’s Keep. He is ill at ease within the walls of the keep, so he built a cottage in the nearby woods. During his time in the forest, Merrick befriended a race of sentient squirrels called kercpa. He has also met an enchanting fellow ranger by the name of Talia. A member of the Harpers, Talia passes through the area from time to time. Merrick is enamored with the woman, as well as the organization she belongs to. He hopes to one day prove his worth and join their cause.
|Merrick, Male Human, Ranger 6: Armor Class: 4 (+1 leather armor, Dexterity bonus); Hit Dice: 6d6; Hit Points: 35; THACO: 15 (14 with +1 long sword, 13 with bow or +2 dagger); No. of Attacks: 1 or 2; Damage: 1d8+2 (+1 long sword, Strength bonus) or 1d4+3 (+2 dagger, Strength bonus) or 1d6 (composite longbow and flight arrows); Alignment: Neutral Good, Move: 12|
Strength: 16, Dexterity: 17, Constitution: 15, Intelligence: 16, Wisdom: 14, Charisma: 13
Saving Throws: Parlayzation, Poison, Death Magic: 11, Rod, Staff, Wand: 13, Petrification or Polymorph: 12, Breath Weapons: 13, Spell 14
Special Abilities: Attack with two weapons; Ranger Abilities: Tracking (16), Hide in Shadows (42%), Move Silently (52%).
Equipment: +1 longsword, +2 dagger. +1 leather armor, potion of extra healing and a ring of feather falling
Sinchin is an unusual leucrotta. He never grew to full size after being cast out of the litter by his mother. Being a runt was actually a blessing in disguise. Moments after being expelled, a band of determined halflings slaughtered his mother and her brood. Sinchin’s mother had been plaguing a nearby halfling village, killing livestock and a few villagers. The villagers mobilized and struck when the mother was still weak after birthing her pups. Sinchin witnessed the slaughter from a distance, horrified.
The event had a profound effect on Sinchin. As a result of being abandoned, Sinchin craves attention. He has been able to suppress his evil nature in order to gain companionship. Merrick has taken a keen interest in Sinchin and spends a great deal of time training him to be obedient. The keep’s populace has reluctantly accepted Sinchin, although most have no idea what a leucrotta is. They think he’s a deformed, talking dog – perhaps the result of some wizard’s bizarre breeding program.
Sadly, one aspect of Sinchin’s instincts cannot be suppressed – his uncontrollable hatred of halflings. He will attack any halfling on sight unless restrained. When asked about his penchant for halflings, Sinchin merely wags his tail, perks up his ears and responds, “I like to eat halfies. I eat them up good.”
Warning signs have been placed along the road advising halflings that they should detour around the keep. Fortunately for Sinchin, the powers that be (Pike, Nestor, Pel and Merrick) like Sinchin more than halflings, so they will always choose his side in a conflict. Sinchin is smart enough to distinguish dwarves, human children, and gnomes from halflings, although he will give anyone under 4’ tall a thorough sniffing just to be sure.
When visitors to the keep first meet Sinchin, he will be lying in the dirt outside his doghouse, belly to the sun, tongue hanging out of his mouth. He responds well to scratching behind the ears and food. Sinchin does not exude evil, so an unprovoked attack on him will bring down the wrath of Merrick and his friends.
|Sinchin: Armor Class: 4; Move: 18”; Hit Dice: 6+1; Hit Points: 13; No. of Attacks: 1; Damage: 3-18; Special Attacks: mimic speech; Special Defenses: Kick in retreat; Alignment: Neutral; Size: Medium|
Like any community, the keep generates a large amount of refuse. Some of the trash can be given to animals for feed or be used to fertilize plants. What’s left over must go somewhere. That somewhere is the domain of a disgusting group of ogres called, appropriately enough, trash ogres.
The trash ogres are typical of their species. They are large, hot-tempered, and dim-witted. What makes them unique is their shocking level of filth. Their bodies are covered with large, oozing sores. Huge chancres scar their mouths and their own fecal matter drips down their legs. Few can bear the sight of the plague-infested creatures, much less tolerate their stench.
The trash ogres have lurked in the area since before Freeman Grewe and his band of outlaws arrived. Outcasts from their own kind, the trash ogres inhabit a dark cave complex stuffed with the refuse they collect from the keep. For years no one knew how they came to be in this state until a visiting wizard was able to shed light on the subject.
The wizard had read about a clan of ogres from the Sword Mountains known for their ferocity and fanatical devotion to a deity with an insatiable thirst for blood. In his name, they battled others of their own kind and anyone else who crossed their path. They were eventually defeated in battle and cursed by their god for causing him shame. Because their god now considered them filth, the ogres were doomed to live in it. During the ensuing years, the trash ogres developed a tolerance for their wretched state and have grown remarkably patient.
What the wizard did not know was that the ogres were promised a second chance if they accepted their penance with quiet shame. After 35 years of suffering, their time of deliverance is nearly at hand. The ogres have had great and terrible dreams sent by their god, letting them know that soon they will rise up and slaughter the inhabitants of Freeman’s Keep. Their stench and filth will be washed away with the blood of the humans. The ogres’ trash collecting duties have now taken on a new urgency. With each trip to the keep, the ogres study the guards, their number, placement, and other defenses.
It’s hard for the residents of the keep to calculate the exact number of ogres living in the caves, which are located just a few miles from the keep. Only a dozen or so have ever been seen at any given time. The caves are far too filthy to venture into and the ogres certainly aren’t telling, since they rarely talk to outsiders. In fact, there are nearly 40 adults and 15 young tucked away in the refuse-strewn tunnels.
The Gnome Engineer
Silas Weatherstop (Thief 3/Illusionist2) was hired to see if there was any credence to the rumors that Freeman had hidden gold away in a secret vault under the keep. Being a rather typical gnome, Silas declared that if a vault existed, then he would certainly be able to find it. He spoke in a steady stream of techno-babble, going on and on about “the detection of certain anomalies while performing soundings of the bedrock.” The adventurers had no idea what he was talking about so they left him alone to investigate. Silas began tunneling under the keep and no one has seen him since.
The tunnel that Silas dug is too narrow for a man to enter and certainly no one wishes to send in a child. A halfling could fit down the tunnel, but Sinchin has scared any away. The gnome is definitely alive because scraping and digging can be heard occasionally under people’s floors. Just last week, someone saw a few cobblestones in the courtyard get pushed aside. The face of the dirty gnome appeared briefly, then disappeared like some two-legged prairie dog.
The inhabitants of the keep fear that Silas is digging a maze of tunnels beneath their feet that might cause buildings to collapse. People have tried calling into the tunnels, begging him to come out, but there has been no response.
Merrick has determined from tracks in the dirt around the tunnel entrance that Silas has been exiting at regular intervals. A guard was posted, but he fell asleep. A snare was set, but that was disabled. It was suggested that Sinchin go into the tunnel, but the leucrotta refused, citing a fear of the dark. For now, there just isn’t much to be done and the story of the “Gnome Gopher of Freeman Keep” is beginning to spread, much to the embarrassment of the locals.