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Thoughts about Melinirby Belathauzer
The roots of Thunder Rift definitely run deep.
I picture Melinir as being an old city in disrepair, built upon the ruins of much older settlements; perhaps even the original Hutaakan city that was destroyed in the wake of the Gnoll Invasion. The central position within the Rift alone makes it a perfect place for a permanent settlement/city; not to mention the proximity to Lake Ganif, the Drake River, and at least one entrance/exit nearby.
What had once served as the Hutaakans primary settlement thousands of years ago would have been sacked when the Gnolls entered the Rift. A century later the Dwarves would find their way into the Rift. It is known that they mined the Melinir Hills at one time, so surely the thrifty Dwarves (some might call them cheap) would salvage whatever building materials were left behind in the ruins in order to shore up their mines and underground dwellings.
Another century would pass and the Halflings and Elves would appear. The Halflings more so than the Elves would pick through the ruins, taking whatever materials necessary for constructing their burrows along the Drake River. The Elves, who aren't nearly the miners that the Dwarves are, would possibly salvage stone for constructing their first settlements.
Let's not forget the Goblinoids either, who have a great penchant for not only making ruins, but recycling and reusing them as well.
Several more centuries would pass and the Humans would arrive; most likely Nithian and Traladaran (Traldar) types. Finding the Melinir region to their liking they would build upon the remaining ruins of the once great Hutaakan city. Many more centuries would pass and the Rift and Melinir would continue to grow as influxes of immigrants find their way into the Rift; but conflicts and plagues would take their toll on the populations throughout the centuries. Towns and castles would be built and lost during this time.
The latest conflict to rock the Rift passed a mere thirty years prior - Sword vs. Wand. The Rift was thrown into turmoil; as the formerly cold hostilities between Jameson's Fighter's Academy and Wizardspire boiled over into all out war. Many lives were lost, and great damage was done througout the Rift. So much so that the Rift has still not fully recovered. Melinir is now just a shadow of its former glory. Where once stood great walls and gleaming spires there are now crumbling walls and dilapidated buildings. Without the money or manpower to sustain it, the infrastructure is failing. This could help to explain the physical size of the city versus the population size.
Will the heroes help to rebuild Melinir, or will it eventually become just another ruin? This would make for a good campaign goal and reason for staying in the Rift once the characters approach or reach "name" level (old school reference for 9th level). The PCs could set up their own "domains", or opt to become members of the Quadrial and rebuild Melinir and the Rift as their domain. The PCs power and influence could attract new immigrants to the Rift and initiate a new golden age.