The people and armies of Alberetor came to Ambria more than twenty-years ago. While bordered on the south and east by mountains, most of Ambria consists of fertile open land dotted with thick stands of forest. The slow flow of population means that the skill demographic of the population has not necessarily settled to a constant and the Queen’s push in the last year or so for greater Guild control has come quite late – and clearly shows concern over coordination, quality and regulation (taxation might also have something to do with it, but matters of economy are not the concern of this article). Indeed, the imposition of a Guild system has served to push many craftspeople away from the centre of Ambria to pursue their own ends unhindered by taxation and bureaucracy.
What’s the upshot of this train of thought?
Building with stone comes at a price in time, effort, resources and wealth. The business of coordinating all of these factors in one go means that bringing together a structure larger than a hall house in anything less than four or five years would be a miracle. To build a solid structure more complex than a small shed requires the involvement of skill artisans. The flow of refugees from Alberetor has carried craftspeople with it – and many came in the first few years before Queen Korinthia’s arrival to support the early construction work in Ambria – but the demand outweighs the Masters.
The Keep and Castle referenced in Table 13: Buildings (page 154) show a list price for the building alone, from scratch. That’s just materials. It will cost an additional 20 – 25% of the list price to hire the necessary artisan support to complete the work from land clearance through foundations to building and finishing. The cost of support also covers keeping the site secure and the labour force fed and housed. While the Ambrians have taken full advantage of slave labour – in the form of survivors of the Kadiz and Jezite clans – and harness the enthusiasm of the Goblins, it isn’t enough. Labour does the hard work, the digging, lifting and shifting. The design, planning, and coordination come from skilled Ambrian experts.
If you imagine Ambria to be some medieval land of sturdy stone inns and towering castles, you’re mistaken. Yndaros and Thistle Hold only have fortification of any kind because of recycling. The ruins beneath and surrounding the two settlements serve as a finite reservoir of stone to repurpose; both sources present a considerable danger to those seeking new sources of viable stone and coordinating transport to site.
You may imagine that the only underground adventure of worth happens under the eaves of Davokar; you would be wrong. Both Mayor Nightpitch and the Queen’s Court of Views handle the business of paying willing groups or individuals to complete subterranean mapping and prospecting for viable stone reserves.
The Guild of Plungers
Treasure hunters, pathfinders, thugs, diplomats, swindlers, innkeepers spies – all of them rogues!
Radomei Dalg, bitter guard captain in Yndaros
Yndaros boasts a sufficiency of urban explorers and plungers to warrant the formation of their own guild; the guild offers support, back-up, assignments, specialist gear and a place to stay – all for a nominal annual fee. Plungers – so named because they risk considerable odds of sudden death in the depths beneath the city – have come to find themselves in considerable demand; they enjoy a lucrative market, ridiculous fees and staggering prospects of never seeing the light of day again. For every plunger who breaks fresh underground, three others end up twisted, shattered, insane or simply lost without trace.
Loremasters believe that a city has existed on this site for thousands of years, not simply going back to the Symbaroum Empire but considerably further. Yndaros rests upon layers of intermingled ruins sunk deep into the earth, and the challenge of breaking new ground in exploration keeps treasure-seekers and plungers coming back.
Given the refugee situation within the capital, the so-called professionals are not alone in the depths. The need of the desperate for shelter forces many of the displaced to take to the tunnels and caverns below the city out of necessity rather than adventure. In the last couple of years, disappearances and the death rate amongst refugees have escalated at an alarming rate.
On the outskirts of Yndaros anyone can gain access to the underworld with a minimum of effort and many ruins have cellars with stairs leading directly into the depths. The ease of access belies the danger posed to anyone who choses to descend into the darkness.
Building in Wild Ambria
Further afield, the need to combine a good site position with accessible labour and plentiful supplies make stone buildings exceptional rarities. For example, Jakad’s Heart – an inn, owned by an energetic adventurer known as Koldra, that sits on the edge of Davokar – boasts three levels of robust stone construction that suggest an exceedingly lucky find for the owner. Indeed, Koldra carries one or two impressive scars acquired solely in the act of securing the property rights to the Heart.
For those who don’t care for the plunger’s fate, exploration and surveying of the wider countryside, both across wild Ambria and one the very edge of Bright Davokar, hold fair prospects for discovery of useful ruins. Most require initial clearance and securing, followed by protection while sourcing potential buyers from the likes of Thistle Hold, Yndaros or one of the noble houses. Some might prove too difficult or dangerous to secure and can serve as a source solely for recycling.
In the wilds, it can be much more difficult to build complicated and large structures from stone without spending considerable money on skilled craftspeople. While it would be a long term commitment, a good wage, often with a large retainer, can be secure by anyone willing to offer these skills (which could be taken as part of the Business Advantage included in the Player’s Handbook).
While it might not sound exciting, the threat of attacks from bandits and wild animals, attention from barbarians and elves, and negotiations with nobles and Guild would certainly provide plenty of material for a linked set of adventures. The GM can focus on specific events along the term of construction and might have the opportunity to switch between characters and roles as time passes.
In Yndaros or Thistle Hold, the opportunities become far more obvious but equally unglamorous. Poking around in the dank and dirty sub-basements, vaults, and caverns provide ample prospects for exhilarating and life-threatening exploration. The turnover in characters will probably have more to do with sudden painful mortality rather than anything more prosaic like the varied need for different expertise through the lifecycle of a building project!