The Montporte Dungeon Campaign started as a one-shot adventure with this two-sentence backdrop: The Captain of the Guard of Montporte (pop. 1,028) has his hands full. Bandits have holed up in the castle ruins to the south, orcs have been harassing the mining village of Wootspil (pop. 106), the wildlands to the east continue to spew forth all manner of foul creatures (most recently giants), and a rebel force commanded by the Duke’s upstart brother lies between Montporte and help to the west.
That has been enough information to propel us through 25 sessions of play. Along the way, the party has picked up additional information about the area that explains some of what they have experienced in the dungeon. I have also created a few NPCs that are based in Montporte for those rare times when the player characters are shopping or doing some other town-based activity.
Montporte lies beyond the eastern edge of the civilized world. It is a small, ancient town that was established, if common knowledge is to be accepted, by the Lyndanians as an imperial outpost. It was an important military outpost, guarding the eastern frontier of the Lynanian Empire from invasion through Mont Pass, one of few east-west crossing points of the Dragonfang Mountains. Montporte also developed into a regional trade center and a hub for mining activity along the western slopes of the Dragonfangs.
Montporte is one of the few settlements in the vast eastern wilderness that separates the Dragonfang Mountains from the Western Kingdoms. Its fortunes have waxed and waned throughout its very long history, yet Montporte has proven to be resilient to war, disease, famine, economic woes, and host of unpleasant creatures that inhabit the area.
Montporte lies at the base of Mont Pass, one of the few readily traversed passes in the Dragonfang Mountains. The Dragonfangs occupy a geographic location that is akin to Earth's Ural Mountains, being a long north-south mountain range bisecting a very large continental mass. The difference here is that the Dragonfang Mountains rival the Himalayas in height. Montporte is located on the western flanks of the Dragonfangs, at the northern end of the range.
The latitude, altitude, and a large continental mass all have an effect on climate and weather. Orographic effects magnify the climate and also create wild swings in the weather, depending up the season and direction of air masses. Suffice to say that that winters are long and bitterly cold with significant snowfall. Summers are cool and damp. Prevailing weather patterns travel from west to east, bring moisture. Occasionally, the weather patterns change and very dry air sweeps over the mountains and through Mont Pass. Depending on the conditions, this can either raise or lower the temperature significantly in a very short time.
The eastern slopes of the Dragonfang Mountains are rich in mineral wealth. Gold, silver, tin, and copper have all been mined in the Montporte area. There are significant deposits of iron ore in the mountains, south of Montporte.
The challenge to mining these natural riches are threefold: (1) The climate and topography make prospecting, mining and transport difficult; (2) The distance to transport to markets can be a challenge, particularly during times of unrest in the Western Kingdoms; and (3) The constant threat of orcs, ogres, giants and even more dangerous predators and foes creates a daunting challenge to set up and maintain mining operations.
The plane of Aarde is the home of Montporte, the Dragonfang Mountains and the Western Kingdoms. The physical geography of the plane of Aarde is such that the presence of mountains stretches the fabric of the universe, creating cracks and crevasses for beings from other planes to make their way to Aarde. The tension present in the very foundation and framework of Aarde generates a tremendous amount of magical energy. Pliny the Alder wrote: The Eastern Mountains lie at the very boundary of civilization and much danger there awaits anyone who travels to their peaks and valleys. But this land also has a deep underlying magical power, as the fabric of our world is stretched thin [there is also additional information in my post, Montporte Cosmological Notes: On the Planes].
All manner of creatures and horrors from other planes are rumored to have found their way to Aarde by way of passages in the Dragonfang Mountains: Fey (from the plane of Umírající); Demons (from the plane of Syvyys); Dragons (from the plane of Zaj); and aberrant horrors (from the plane of madness, Ioucura).