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Lost Mine of Phandelver on Mystaraby Stefan Beate
I started to convert the Lost Mine of Phandelver to Karameikos. Take the following as a first draft of the current situation at the start of that adventure, with much to be developed and written.
Phandalin is a pioneer´s town without a local ruler at the moment. In the original adventure, it is set along a minor trail connecting the main coastal road with the main inland road. The distances to the nearest cities are quite big, the closest is a town called Leilon, about 3000 inhabitants, and about 20 miles away in a direct line, with the trails winding about 40-50 miles. One wonders why the Triboar trail does not connect more directly to Leilon and Phandalin, perhaps with a split in the trail at the south end of the Neverwinter Woods, the northern branch leading towards Neverwinter. Phandalin is a relatively new mining town, built upon old ruins. It is not close to any major trade route, in fact, it is quite a backwater town.
I think this fits to Highdell, the mining town introduced in Dungeon Magazine #42. It is about 20 miles from Threshold, and reached only along trails through the mountains and wooded hills, so according the movement rates given in the 5e PH, you need more than one day of traveling or a forced march to reach Highdell from Threshold. Assuming normal travel speed, you need the better part of two days to get to Highdell. If you keep the goblin ambush, this would probably take place a day away from Highdell. On the original map, the distance from the Cragmaw hideout to Phandalin is some 20 to 25 miles, but as this is for the most part level terrain, movement there would be at the normal speed listed in the PH.
Now, according to Dungeon #42, Highdell is ruled by Sir Reynald, a “selfishly neutral” knight, and his treacherous advisor Antar, a pawn of the Black Eagle. Of course, you could always ignore that bit of lore in favor for the adventure as written. But maybe the kidnapping and ransoming of his son went even worse than Reynald planned. He sent several of his men north to Utica, where the ransoming had the effect of getting his men killed. The bandits were furious about being fooled, and decided to teach Sir Reynald a lesson. They sent him another note, stating that they still held his son, demanded a personal delivery of twice as much ransom by the knight himself, coming alone, or they would tell his son and heir just what a crook his father was and get him to Threshold, to have him tell Patriarch Sherlane just what his father did. Of course, this is a game with high stakes for the bandits – if they get caught by either the knight or the patriarch, their life is forfeit. They gambled that the knight would try to hold his title at all costs. Antar influenced the knight into accepting the bandit´s demand, as the knights position was at stake, and Antar saw an opportunity to get rid of Sir Reynald without any blame falling on himself. Antar saw towards the ransom money being not enough to fulfill the bandits demand, but have it look like it would. The knight rode to meet the bandits, alone as demanded, but Antar followed in a safe distance. The bandits were outraged at being mocked by the knight, and attacked him. The following fight saw the death of Sir Reynald and several bandits. After the fight, with the remaining bandits wounded, Antar revealed himself, told the bandits that he had the rest of the ransom money and an idea: If they left Baldwin alive, he would be the legal heir to Sir Reynald, with Antar holding the boy and his mother charmed. Meanwhile, the bandits could do whatever they wanted in Highdell. Of course, Antar would try at the same time to convince the nobility that he should be the warden of Baldwin. The bandits should take care of anybody trying to tell anything to outsiders. Still quite risky, but the kidnapping made bold moves necessary. Overall, Antar bides his time to have his position strengthened by further Black Eagle involvement.
I´m not yet sure if I will identify Antar with Glasstaff, but this might be an option.
After a few days, I think it makes more sense to return to my original idea: equating Phandalin with Utica. All the necessary changes to Highdell are way out there. Now, Utica lies in Darokin, according to Simone Neri/Zendrolion, as quoted above.
I would change that just a little bit: Have Utica in a sort of no-mans-land, with neither Karameikos nor Darokin claiming that village (yet). This works for the adventure in Dungeon #42 as well as the Starter Set adventure, I think. Maybe the borders are not as well-defined as the red lines seem to indicate, a common problem in mountain ranges before the advent of modern surveyors techniques. This would also take any call for the authorities out of the picture, as none of them officially acknowledges that this village belongs to them (or even exists). If the son of Sir Reynald was killed, he is even less likely to lift a finger for those villagers (unless it is to let them suffer), and his domain marks the border, as far as Karameikos is concerned. So, any intervention there might be an international problem, and is avoided.
I found this and liked the idea of the mayor of Armstead being in a delicate situation politically, so anything that would seen as a grab for power is avoided by him, even if Utica might technically lie within Darokin. So, as long as Utica gives him no trouble, he will ignore that situation.
The trail from Highdell to Utica starts along the river to the north and runs along the lower, wooded hills in a northwestern direction, avoiding the mountains. (Again, referencing this map) It is navigable by foot or by horse only, so the amount of goods transported there is limited. Of course, the humanoids of the Black Peak Mountains/Cruth Mountains prey on any travelers there, limiting traffic even further. From GAZ 11 (Armstead entry), we learn that the main danger are Kobolds and Goblins, who are cowardly and attack only with superior forces, preying on the weak. This might be known in Highdell as well, so perhaps this was the motive behind Gundren traveling with only one companion. So, the attack on two well-armed travelers was not to be expected. The easy victory made the goblins overly confident, so they take on a group of travelers, even if outnumbered - Goblins are not noted for their wisdom. On a side note, maybe the provisions the PCs are to bring to Phandalin/Utica are not fully collected when Gundren leaves, but he is too impatient to wait any longer - the danger seems to be low.
The attack should take place closer to Utica than to Highdell, within Darokin territory, so the group will be better off if they advance to Utica. The trail is roughly 20 miles from Highdell to Utica, so this takes the better part of two days of traveling, as the trail counts as difficult terrain (p. 182, PH), unless the travelers force march at a fast pace for three hours beyond the usual 8, then the distance can be covered within a day - barely. I would set the ambush and the Cragmaw hideout about 4-5 miles south of Utica, far away that no help will be coming, but close enough that the group can still reach Utica after clearing the Cragmaw hideout, if they manage to do so within a day.
I do not like Utica as presented in Dungeon #42 - a village surviving by "offering services to bandits" is a strange thing. The presentation of Phandalin is much more in keeping with a frontier/mining town, and still includes a lot of shady and downright evil persons. Regarding the map, I would take the miners trail as the trail to Karameikos, and the Triboar trail as the trail to Darokin.
The folks of Utica would mostly be humans of Darokinian and Karameikan descent, with the Karameikans probably being mostly Traladaran. The traders in the village should probably be Darokinians. The orchard owner is a half-elf, and I would keep him that way, but there are some DMs who see half-elves as being not true to the setting.
I would leave out the various organizations. As most of the organizations mentioned are FR-specific, these are more difficult to replace here, so for the time being, I would just leave them out. This eliminates the awarded titles as well.
It might be tempting to put in the Darokin Merchants Guild here, but not as part of any larger House, rather as individual traders. No House would waste money on a village not even officially acknowledged yet, and with a somewhat dubious reputation to boot. (I find the Darokinian merchants to good to be true, but that is another thing entirely).
I´m not quite sure how to translate Sildar Hallwinter, Iarno Albrek and the whole plot background surrounding those two. The Lord´s Alliance makes no sense within this gaming world IMO. Sildar might be an Darokinian agent, trying to get the village back on track. But this will need to be thought over some more.