Second generation, first edition adventures
Hochoch is an overcrowded walled town that serves as a military base, refugee camp, and diplomatic arena. It is formally part of the Grand Duchy of Geoff, although the influence of Grand March is high.
Because of Hochoch’s position between two large forests, wood is plentiful as a building material. The town’s structures feature extensive woodwork, from shingles to carved frames, often with elven designs.
The largest buildings, including Hochoch Keep, are built from stone quarried in the Stark Mounds. As befits a village of Hochoch’s age, ivy covers most of the stone buildings. Since the repulsion of the giant invaders five years ago, several structures have undergone renovation to repair damage suffered during the battles.
Population: 5,500, with about 4,200 humans, 500 elves, 250 halflings, and the rest divided among dwarves, gnomes, elves, half-elves, and half-orcs. Individuals of other races also appear occasionally.
Government: Hochoch is governed by a town council, instituted as a diplomatic compromise to ensure the town’s safety. The council’s members are displaced nobles, community leaders, Watcher and Dispatcher officials, and representatives of Duke Owen I and Commandant Magnus Vrianian of Gran March.
Defences: Hochoch boasts a battle-hardened townguard, whose members maintain day-to-day order among the populace. The nearly 230 town guards answer to the local Knights of the Watch, who are honor-bound to uphold the laws laid down by the ruling council.
The Watchers are an elite force, overseeing the defense of the city walls and investigating serious crimes with religious zeal. The number of knights fluctuates due to reassignments, but usually hovers around 80.
Inns: The Streamview Tavern is probably the most popular establishment in Hochoch, overlooking the northern shore. The wealthier residents prefer Walton’s Winery, a well-appointed inn with an extensive underground wine cellar. Watering holes of all sorts can be found among the Shingles, where the poorer residents try to drown their sorrows.
Supplies: Hochoch has a long tradition as a starting base for adventurers and explorers, and several stores provide supplies for long-term expeditions. Since the giant invasion, these stores have become recruiting centers for brave Geoffites interested in mounting raids against the invaders. Olwyn’s Outfitters and the Cautious Dwarf are two of the most popular supply shops.
Temples: Every major non-evil religion has at least a small shrine or chapel somewhere in Hochoch. On Watcher Hill stands a well-kept church, favoured by the Knights of the Watch, that is dedicated to Heironeous, St. Cuthbert, and Kelanen, the Prince of Swords. The common folk prefer to attend the Old Faith services in the Grove, honoring nature-related deities such as Pelor, Obad-Hai, Beory, and Allitur.
Hochoch In Depth.
Located in the broad valley that cleaves the Oytwood from the immense Dim Forest, the town of Hochoch has always been a strategic location within the Grand Duchy of Geoff yet its importance has never been greater than it is now, because the town has become perhaps the sole torchbearer of a dying nation.
Giants have plagued the Grand Duchy of Geoff for generations. Their isolated attacks had always been a nuisance, but they rarely amounted to more than that. That situation changed seven years ago, in 584 CY, when the diverse giant clans and savage humanoid tribes of the Crystalmist Mountains descended upon Geoff in an unprecedented tide of devastation and savagery.
Now, Hochoch serves as the last bastion of freedom and civilization in Geoff, though the years of fighting and the burdens of war have exacted a heavy toll upon the inhabitants. Refugees from nearby areas have swelled the population, while savage attacks have wiped out crops and despoiled food supplies.
Factions diverge in their opinions about the most appropriate course of action to deal with the problems. While nobles and knights argue over treaties and priorities, refugees and peasants face a daily struggle for survival in an overcrowded city. These are dark days in Hochoch. But, as an old Geoffite saying goes, “The darker the storm cloud, the higher the griffon flies.”
Hochoch History – From Outpost to Bastion
Geoff ’s history stretches back for more than nine centuries, and Hochoch is not much younger than the Grand Duchy. From its humble beginnings as a military outpost, Hochoch (“Watcher’s Hold” in old Flan) has held great strategic importance in Geoff.
Originally just a sturdy riverside keep watching over Geoff ’s eastern border, the outpost soon grew into a small village. The few buildings that surrounded Hochoch Keep expanded into an entire town, far outgrowing the town of Midwood (Hochoch’s elder by less than a generation) and becoming one of the largest settlements in Geoff.
When Geoff became a vassal state of the Kingdom of Keoland in 316 CY, its ruler granted a fortified manor in Hochoch to the Knights of the Watch, who established one of their primary strongholds there. Although polite, the relations between the stern Watchers and the general populace have always been cold. Still, the Watchers’ presence has until recently kept Hochoch safe from the savage humanoids that occasionally preyed upon neighboring communities.
Hochoch’s safety ended in 584 CY, when the giant-led forces stormed the realms of Geoff, Sterich, and the Yeomanry. The savage horde swept through Geoff, and refugees poured into Hochoch daily, bearing the scars of the invaders’ violence. Soon after Preston’s fall, a force of hill giants emerged from the Oytwood, smashed Hochoch’s siege engines, and occupied the town. For almost a year, Hochoch’s inhabitants struggled under the giants’ abusive rule.
That suffering came to an end in 586 CY, when a force composed of Gran March soldiers and Knights of the Watch descended upon Hochoch and reclaimed the town after a bloody battle. Using Hochoch as a staging ground, remnants of Geoffite pike and longbow armies, led by the recently created Knights of the Dispatch, pushed back into the invaded lands, bent on vengeance. Even though this combined force achieved some victories—most notably the liberation of most of the Oytwood—the loss of peasants and knights alike led to a grim stalemate. The giants kept to the conquered towns, and the Geoffites lacked the population to effectively reclaim their land.
In the five years since its liberation, too many eager eyes have turned to Hochoch. The lords of Gran March annexed Hochoch (ostensibly on a temporary basis), and rumors abounded that the town might be formally given to the Knights of the Watch. Perhaps unsurprisingly to onlookers, the local populace resisted such a move, seeing it as a coup against Geoff.
Displeased by the Watchers’ ambition, the exiled Grand Duke (Owen I of Geoff, currently housed in Gran March) announced his intention to move his court to Hochoch, the last free town of his realm. At the same time, quite a few Geoffite malcontents began blaming the Grand Duke’s inaction for the loss of their country and promoting the idea of replacing the monarchy with a democratic system not unlike that of the Yeomanry.
Currently, diplomatic debates in Hochoch have settled on a precarious balance of interests. The city remains a Geoffite community, ruled by a council of representatives elected by nobles, merchants, and community leaders, and it pays tribute to the Commandant of the Gran March. The Knights of the Watch, under orders from their leader, Hugo of Geoff, have sworn to serve as Hochoch’s town guard and uphold the laws laid down by the town council. It is uncertain how long this condition can last, however, before all parties are once again at each other’s throats.
Hochoch Geography and Climate
Poised upon a hill overlooking a curve in the Realstream’s course, Hochoch commands an impressive view of the Midwood Vale — the expanse between the Dim Forest and the Oytwood. Most of the terrain around Hochoch consists of sturdy grasslands broken by the occasional copse of cottonwoods. A few miles to the north lies the brooding expanse of the Dim Forest, whose terrain slowly rises as it approaches the Barrier Peaks. To the south of Hochoch, the forested hills of the Oytwood sprawl across the landscape. The land to the west of the town slowly drops in altitude as the plains and forests give way to the swamplands of the Rushmoors. Finally, to the east, the Javan River cuts through the Midwood Vale near its namesake village. Beyond the Javan is what little remains of Geoff.
Hochoch lies in a subtropical region, where temperatures range from about 91º F (32º C) during Reaping (high summer) to as low as 46º F (7º C) in Fireseek (midwinter). This temperature range means that Hochoch sees little snowfall, although morning frosts are common during the colder months. Still, chilling fogs roll down from the Dim Forest from late autumn to early spring. Violent thunderstorms are common during the summer, when the winds carry in heavy clouds from the Azure Sea.
The humans that comprise the majority of Hochoch’s population are of mixed heritage, displaying all the best qualities of their Flan, Oeridian, and Suloise ancestors. Their complexions can range from the deepest brown to extremely pale, although most fall into a tanned middle ground. Hair colors also vary widely, from raven black to platinum blonde, though brown and reddish-brown occur with some regularity. Hair structure is usually wavy or curly—rarely straight. Eye color is typically black or brown, though gray, blue, and violet are not unknown.
Halflings have been a part of Geoffite society since the beginning, and they tend to live alongside humans. Apart from size, little difference exists between the two races—their cultures and manner of dress are nearly identical. Dwarves have lived in the Stark Mounds and the Crystalmist Mountains for centuries, but have always been a rare sight in the Eastern parts of Geoff. Likewise, half-orcs in Hochoch might hail from the regions near the Crystalmists or from more distant realms, such as the Pomarj.
The humans of Geoff have traditionally kept good relations with the Olvenfolk of their realm. The high elves and gnomes of the Oytwood and Stark Mounds helped build the Geoffite capital of Gorna, and the wood elves of the Dim Forest have proven to be strong allies against the depredations of savage humanoids.
This long history of cooperation has led to a goodly number of half-elves in Geoff ’s populace. Still, the recent trials have strained the relations among the humans, high elves, and wood elves, with each race fighting its own battles and treating its own wounds. A few clearer heads have realized that only a joint effort can reclaim Geoff from the giant marauders.
The human nomadic riverfolk known as the Rhenee merit special mention. Their barge-homes have escaped the giants’ depredations, and the riverfolk have made a comfortable living out of ferrying goods and people up and down the Realstream and the Javan. Their knowledge of the riverways, mapped or otherwise, have made them invaluable to the refugees of Geoff, but some travellers — especially among the Watchers — resent having to pay the riverfolk.
Knights of the Watch
This monastic order of knights has long aspired to control Hochoch and use it as a training ground for new Vigils (entry-level Watchers) who would fight the western nomads from beyond the Barrier Peaks (the traditional enemies of the order). When soldiers from Gran March first secured Hochoch, it seemed that fulfillment of the Watchers’ dream was imminent. But political maneuvering by Grand Duke Owen and negative repercussions from the local population cut that dream short. By order of Watcher leader Hugo of Geoff — a personal friend of Owen I — the Watchers became the elite defense force of Hochoch, and no more. While the Watchers perform this duty to the best of their abilities, in accordance with the precepts of their order, some within its ranks doubt Hugo’s capacity to continue leading at such an advanced age. Chief among these dissidents is the Great Honorable Wyvern Darwyck of Hookhill. Unsurprisingly to many, Darwyck would be one of the main candidates for Grandiose Imperial Wyvern if Hugo were to leave office.
Knights of the Dispatch
Formed in the aftermath of the giants’ invasion, the Knights of the Dispatch is a splinter sect of the Knights of the Watch whose members eschew the Watchers’ strict adherence to codes of conduct in favor of more flexible methods of waging war. The Dispatchers are among the staunchest proponents for continuous raids into Geoff ’s territory, which makes them popular among the lower classes. A small number of Dispatchers have considered forming a new Geoffite knightly order based solely in Hochoch. The local leader of the Dispatchers is the Grim Basilisk Kerwynn of Gorna, a middle-aged swordmage who looks favorably upon adventurers willing to venture into enemy lands.