In part 1 of this series, I talked about changing up the history that figures in The Lost Mine of Phandelver to make it more evocative and contextualize it within the Darkplane setting. We also went through a few changes I would make to Part 1: Goblin Arrows. I want to continue the discussion of backstory rewrites as we move on into Phandalin.
Okay, I actually like this name, as opposed to Phandelver (which strikes me as a little on-the-nose). I'll keep it! Can't say the same about its denizens though. Bear with me as I go through the story changes. Phandalin's a town with lots of NPCs, and they've almost all been reworked to create a better web of conflict. This is all set-up for the action later on.
NPC ROSTER, OR HOW I CHANGE ALL THE NAMES
Here's a quick rundown of the changes I made to the factions and NPCs found in Phandalin:
Faction Replaced By Goals
Redbrands Looseys Defend Mottan interests, slave trade
Lord's Alliance Baxton Streeters Defend working class
Zhentarim Silfana Convert locals, slave trade
Order of Gauntlet Patriarchy Protect the innocent, hide jharethil
To add some cultural context to Phandalin, I decided that the Looseys (our Redbrand re-brand--see what I did there?) are immigrants from the southern empire Motta with a strong Mediterranean/Latin flavor. Their name comes from the fact that their Mottan-style shirts are uncollared and worn with no cravat. I gave all of them rapiers instead of short swords and they spoke in broken Italian accents.
Most Mottans are devout members of the Etholchan Church, a more orthodox version of the local religion (Urrothic Sect). Both (mostly) unknowingly worship an evil god, Daemoth.
The basic goals of the Looseys haven't changed from the Redbrands, but they're more fierce in defending fellow Mottans from perceived abuse, and they're not just lawless ruffians. In most cases, their violence is provoked by racism from the locals. The main opponents of the Looseys are the Baxton Streeters. The real reason they've gotten uppity of late is that their new leader has thrown in with a mysterious daemon known as the Widow (see Linene Grey to the right).
THE BAXTON STREETERS
A small-time mob family with deep roots in Phandalin, the Baxtons are out to make sure the immigrants don't take over the town with their orthodox religion. Once Silas Hallwinter returns from captivity with the goblins, they get riled up about taking the Cragmaws down and will pester the PCs about finding their castle lair and forming a raid. Other notable members of the gang include George Baxton and Hannen Ashby (both missing) and Elmar Baxton, who runs Barthen's supplies.
The Silfana is another religion from Motta, but they worship the chaos-god Silphenor. They operate out of a wagon caravan parked behind Halía Tumentra's Miner's Exchange, occasionally performing voluntary whippings for the purification of the soul.
Formed around the worship of Sterianon, the god of justice, rule, and fatherhood, the Patriarchy is a lawful neutral sect with a long history. They tend to stay out of religious conflict, but protect the jharethil (celestials) that may be in hiding in the area.
Character New Name Affiliation/Quest
Toblen Stonehill Toby Stonehill Trusted innkeeper (secret villain)
Elmar Barthen Elmar Baxton Baxton Streeters, deliver supplies
Daran Edermath Dorian Edermath Patriarch of Sterianon, well quest
Linene Graywind Linene Grey Stolen goods quest (secret villain)
Halia Thornton Halía Tumentra Silfana, Redbrand quest
Qelline Alderleaf Caileigh Alderleaf Redbrand lair location, Reidoth quest
Sister Garaele Aioma Garaele Heathfolk, banshee quest
Harbin Wester No change Orc trouble quest
Sildar Hallwinter Silas Hallwinter Baxton Streeters, Cragmaw quest
For a nice reversal, I made Toby Stonehill a doppleganger. For my money, the most rewarding way to use dopplegangers is to have them using their abilities in clever ways. Taking control of the friendly inkeeper (a community leader) was just too tempting for me. The real Toby learned too much and had to be done away with. Ever since his death, one of the dopplegangers has been posing as him full-time. He'll talk your ear off about the problems with the Looseys, but he'll subtly sabotage any effort to do anything about it.
Barthen's supplies serves as the headquarters for the Baxton Streeters, and Elmar is the man who holds down the fort for George Baxton, the mob leader. With George missing, Elmar has let things get messy with regard to the Looseys.
Not much to change with Edermath, except that he knows that Reidoth (who we'll meet in Part 3) is actually a jhareth hiding out in the ruined town of Thunderton (Thundertree). Edermath will make an effort to keep others away from Thunderton if he discovers they're heading out there. As a former Patriarch of Sterianon, he's respected by everyone in town except the Etholchan Looseys, who have an ancient grudge against his sect.
Their hatred is returned tenfold by Dorian. As a child he remembers the tragic story of his Sterianon's death at the hands of Etholchans. The fact that Sterianon later achieved godhood doesn't temper his wrath much. No one in Phandalin is more concerned about the Loosey situation than Dorian Edermath.
As with the dopplegangers, having a mysterious mastermind that operates in the shadows is really unsatisfying to me if you find out that all along it was someone you knew nothing about. How much more interesting to reveal that it was the unassuming but shrewd trader at the Lionshield Coster, and that the PCs could have stopped her if they'd made different choices.
I chose to combine Linene Graywind with Neznarr for more intrigue. It's so much more interesting to have someone who needs to keep appearances up in Phandalin (with some help from the dopplegangers) and makes dangerous treks into the legendary mine-pit in the black of night. But what's this simple merchant's motive for all the evil-doing? Simple. She's a daemon--a demonic spirit reincarnated in the body of a human.
Daemons are among the most popular elements of the Darkplane setting in my experience, and always perpetuate religious conflict with a dash of black magic. Linene Grey is a daemon blood mage looking for fabled Murachba. It was one of the oldest and most common legends told by her people when she first lived, thousands of years ago. Now she's back and she's obsessed with finding it.
Combining these characters does three things for me. First, it makes a female NPC more prominent in an adventure that's pretty male-heavy. Second, it does away with the predictable twist that the "Black Spider" is a drow (which Neznarr probably found racially insensitive). Lastly, it ties into the history we redefined in Part 1 and gives a little more nuance to the villain's motive, which as written is "because magic." Being a daemon explains how she wrests control of the Looseys, since the Etholchans believe the daemons are literal descendants of their god Daemoth.
Under the moniker "the Widow" (not the Black Spider), Linene Grey has acquired the help of the Cragmaw goblins, the Looseys, and the four (yes, four) dopplegangers--all in pursuit of finding Murachba and accessing the unspeakable power in its lowest pit, to which she feels entitled. Of these agents, only the dopplegangers know her true identity. The Looseys have only been told that she's a daemon, and they're dying for the honor to meet her.
Halia's undergone a major ethnic shift, becoming Halía Tumentra. She's one of the first Mottan immigrants to arrive in Phandalin, and very influential among them. She's a Silphenite convert, however, and houses the Silfana's whipping caravan on her property.
Since her conversion, the Looseys have begun to disregard Halía and she wants the power back. Just like the written adventure, she'll try to convince the players to help her defeat the Looseys, with the intent of taking over the Loosey operation herself.
Not too much to change about this simple quest-giver. When she tells the party about Reidoth the druid, however, there are some adjustments to be made. In my game, I made Reidoth a jhareth (a celestial in human form) who's hiding out in Thunderton (my sub for Thundertree). Caileigh of course has no clue of his true nature, only that he appeared and helped her when beset by goblins on the Triboar trail. Reidoth mentioned that he knew the wilderness very well and (carelessly) that he was on his way to Thunderton. Caileigh happened to remember that fact.
As a priestess of Ruethas, the primordial god of time and strategy, Aioma keeps a shrine to her people's god rather than Tymora. She's a heathfolk who knows a fair bit of white magic. The mission to the banshee's lair is more her own arcane curiosity than a mission from her religious higher-ups.
Well, there's one character who remains unchanged. Harbin Wester works great as is.
I did make some adjustments when introducing the quest Orc Trouble through Wester. Orcs in this setting are less savagely evil. Their people, called the Telmatra, are more styled as a male-dominated culture of tribal seafarers. Some more developed settlements exist to the east, but the Telmatra that Wester wants you to find are basically Native American pirates.
We discussed Mr. Hallwinter in the last part, but I that there are some shifts in what he knows and what he's after. As in the written adventure, Silas is looking for a man he doesn't realize is a leader of the Redbrands. That man, however, is not Iarno Albrek, but Colten Ashby, whose brother (a Baxton Streeter) was found dead. Colten is now missing too. What we'll discover in the next part is that Ashby is a nice amalgam of several characters, including Iarno Albrek, the Redbrand leader.