Mysteries of the Moonsea provides you with many ready-to-use campaign pieces so that you can learn the basic background information on an area, then use one of the severa the completed adventures you'll find within this tome.The excerpts below include information on Melvaunt, Hillsfar, Mulmaster, and Zhentil, plus you'll get two ready-made areas as a sampling of what you'll find within the book.
Melvaunt and the North
You're seeking a good deal in Melvaunt? I think you're better off looking for a happy man in Thay, my friend! The greatest merchants in the Realms are inside these walls, and they're selling the best merchandise. And don't forget, after you've been overcharged at the stall you've still got to pay the nobles just for the privilege of shopping in their city! No, my friend, I don't think you'll be finding any deals on this afternoon . . . say, didn't you have a money pouch on your belt when we left the inn?"
-- Carolin deMark, traveler and resident drunkard at The Breakwater
The city of Melvaunt sits on the northern coast of the Moonsea, and serves as the port of entry to many travelers coming to the region. The Northern Moonsea region stretches inland from the shore all the way to the edge of The Ride, encompassing all of Thar. The River Stojanow marks the region's western border; the Galena Mountains frame the region to the east. The city of Glister at the northern edge of Thar is nominally a part of the region, but its people and customs differ significantly from those along the coastline.
The Northern Moonsea is a harsh place whose independent cities are not well connected by roads; most of the region's famed trade takes place by boat. None of the area's rulers want to spend time and money making it easier for armies to march upon them, so roads remain a low priority. The Phlan Path is perhaps the region's most proper road, but even it resembles nothing more than a rutted dirt trail in places.
Ships from Melvaunt constantly shuttle goods to Mulmaster and Hillsfar, where these items can be more efficiently distributed around the region. Legitimate trade with Zhentil Keep is dangerous and rare, but the black market is alive and well, despite the city's attempts to crack down on "traitors" that would do business with their enemies in the west.
The geography of the Northern Moonsea area can be described in three words: drab, marshy, and cold. Vast swaths of the region have little to no vegetation, and the landscape is rarely broken up by trees, hills, or rivers. Building roads through the land is expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately futile, because the stones sink farther into the marsh year after year. Structures outside the major cities encounter much the same problem, and few people have found a compelling reason to build fortifications to defend such unwelcoming terrain.
With little vegetation, frequent incursions by monsters, and a cold climate, farming is relatively unknown along the Northern Moonsea. In the western section, along the River Stojanow, a fertile belt allows for the sowing of some grains and a few hardy vegetables. Without the protection of a major city, however, no large-scale food production takes place. Few small communities pop up in the north for similar reasons, so most of the region's population is concentrated in its cities.
The Great Gray Waste of Thar occupies a large section of the north. It is a bleak and desolate region of marshlands and cold plains, with the occasional mountain or rock formation to break up the landscape. Tribes of orcs and ogres rule, making their homes wherever they can carve out a niche. Scavengers and predators roam the land, from the ubiquitous monstrous vermin to green dragons to the animated skeletons of the unfortunate dead.
The Campaign in Melvaunt
The lands north of the Moonsea are among the most dangerous in all of Faerûn -- where better to serve as a proving ground for a band of hardy adventurers who aim to make their mark in the world? If they can't survive the frontier city of Melvaunt or the wild lands surrounding it, they certainly won't fare well with the intrigues of the Zhentarim, Red Wizards, and mad mages found in the region's other cities.
This section begins the journey your players' characters will take across this dangerous and intrigue-laden territory. Even low-level adventurers have skills and wits superior to those of the average person, and they'll need every advantage they can muster to escape the city and its environs alive. The reward for their hard work is an invitation to even more challenging and dangerous adventures in the city of Hillsfar and beyond.
The quests found in this section are suitable for beginning characters and will take them into the middle levels of their careers. These quests can all stand alone or be pieced together to create a longer story arc, and also serve to prepare the characters for the challenges ahead. Small tidbits here and there refer to adventures in other chapters, from a mysterious corpse deep in an ogre stronghold to a group of tattooed slaves who share an origin with others found in cities across the Moonsea.
Even though they are built for low-level characters, many of the quests in this section are quite difficult. When characters have few hit points and minimal magic, even a single orc can decimate the party with a few lucky rolls. You should encourage the players to use tactics and stealth to pursue their goals . . . not being seen by your enemies is the best way to not get hurt by them. In some cases, a frontal assault by the PCs will surely end in their death, so you must plan for and allow alternative methods for the characters to deal with their adversaries. Remember, in many cases, the PC's foes will be just as interested in staying alive as the characters are. You can reward clever ideas by setting DCs low enough for low-level characters to meet, or by forgoing a skill check here and there and just assuming success.
The quests are presented for a range of character levels, so you must know the capabilities of your players' characters before beginning the adventure. If you don't think your PCs are up to a particular job, then use side adventures (such as those hinted at by the hooks in the rumors section) to supply them with helpful items, hints about what is to come, and experience.