Nights of Hot Queso
Our intrepid adventurers’ base of operations is Fallcrest, which lies near the center of the broad border region known as the Nentir Vale. The vale is now mostly empty, with a handful of living villages and towns scattered over this wide area. Abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps litter the countryside. Bandits, wild animals, and monsters roam fiercely throughout the vale, threatening anyone who fares more than a few miles away from one of the surviving settlements. Travel along the roads or river is usually safe—usually. But every now and then, travelers come to bad ends between towns.
The Nentir Vale is a northern land, but it sees relatively little snow—winters are windy and bitterly cold. The Nentir River is too big to freeze except for a few weeks in the coldest part of the year. Summers are cool and mild.
Most of the vale is covered in mixed terrain: large stretches of open meadowland, copses of light forest, gently rolling hills, and the occasional thicket of dense woodland and heavy undergrowth. The downs marked on the map are hilly grassland, with little tree cover. The marked hills are steeper and more rugged, and include light forest in the valleys and saddles between the hilltops.
There are a number of interesting locales in the Nentir Vale. While Fallcrest is the main settlement for trade in the region, it is not the largest. That distinction belongs to the dwarven town of Hammerfast. Winterhaven, Nenlast, and Harkenwold are the largest of the remaining villages in the vale. Fiveleague House is a fortified inn providing relief for travelers weary from traveling along the Trade Road. There is one other stronghold along that main road: Thunderspire is maintained by a mysterious order of wizards in the upper halls of the ruins of an ancient minotaur city.
The long fallen Nerath Empire that once claimed the Nentir Vale has left many crumbling signs of its passage. At the end of a path that leads from the King’s Road sits the ruins of Gardmore Abbey. The ruins of the Keep on the Shadowfell lie just north of Winterhaven. Kalton Manor was not complete when the empire began to collapse, and remains unfinished and almost reclaimed by the Harken Forest. A lord whose name is now lost to memory once held a small manor in the Cloak Wood, but its ruins are now settled by local kobolds and it is known as Kobold Hall. Very little remains of the once prosperous town that used to be a center of river and lake trade on Lake Nen, but the Ruins of Fastormel may still hold secrets worth the danger of investigating them.
Some areas of the vale predate the old empire. The Sword Barrow is one such place, a burial mound of the hill folk abandoned centuries before Fallcrest was founded. Far to the west, hidden away in the Ogrefist Hills, stand the ruins of the Temple of Yellow Skulls. Orcs, ogres, giants, and other foul beasts inhabit the Stonemarch, a rugged land northwest of the Cairngorm Peaks.