One of the things I love about settings is the little things. The facets of everyday life that often go ignored in the quest to have grand adventure and world-spanning stories. Fact is, you can have just as much of an adventure around a board game as you can with a plague of undead. There’s as much to learn from graffiti as ancient tomes. It’s all about how it plays on your values. Since I’m updating the Vale Tales wiki, I thought I’d add a bit of colour to the Nentir Vale.
The culture of the Nentir Vale is a bit of a hodgepodge thanks to the different races that dwell there, not to mention the constant influx of travelers. Nonetheless, in this land where fortunes can change in an instant, some consistency can be found among its residents. This article is devoted to the shared bits of art and culture that have traveled between the towns of the Vale.
In a region full of bards and adventure, it’s unsurprising that music is what captivates much of the public. Tales of heroes who ventured into the Chaos Scar or won fortune and fame from the caves that run deep in the Stonemarchabound, but the most popular bards in the towns today aren’t warrior poets, they’re romantics. In late nights when inn patrons grow tired of tales of battle, there’s always a request to hear the Pride of Arius, the tale of a wild elf warrior struggling to leave his past behind. Easily the most popular part of the Song of Arius, it’s one of the few Vale songs one can find farther south.
The Silver Unicorn was once a theatre, but Fallcrest natives aren’t a theatre-going crowd anymore. It’s far more profitable as a bar. Winterhaven on the other hand has a growing theatre scene thanks to Lord Padraig lending his patronage to a second troupe of players last summer. Their production of Serena Thedas’s Points of Light was seen as far east as Hammerfast and as far south as Harkenwold. The players of le Danse Joyeux brave dangerous roads to bring their craft to the Vale, safe thanks to the Lord’s appointed guards.
Given the climate, there’s little painting in the vale. A few pieces hang in private homes, portrait commissions or items recovered from the fall of Kiris Dahn. The true high art comes from Hammerfast in the form of sculpture, architecture and of course bladework. The dwarves there make some of the finest weapons and armor using Dawnforge steel. Each piece has its own name, its smith forging not merely a weapon but a legend. Dawnforge blades and shields are the prized possessions of many families, passed on from mother to daughter and father to son, some having stood in defense of the Vale for centuries.
The people of Nentir can’t fight and trade all the time, and one can only drink for so long. The usual games are popular of course. Chess, buffets, wagers, etc. But lately there’s been a surge of popularity in Devil’s Due, a chesslike board game with its roots in Bael Turath that pits four players against the game itself. To complicate matters, each player has a secret objective, obtained from a bag of coins at the beginning. The Warrior for example, must win honor in battle. The Noble accumulates wealth and servants. But one coin is the Apostate, who only wins if everyone fails, ensuring that the devil gets his due.