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Where is Winterhaven in Forgotten Realms?
The eastern edge of Cormyr is bordered by an ancient mountain range known as the Thunder Peaks. This mountain range, once home to a great wyrm shadow dragon named Shadraxil, is now home to tribes of Orcs and Goblins and other such rabble. Nestled among this inhospitable mountain range is the small agricultural town of Winterhaven.
Home to shy of a thousand, Winterhaven is composed of mostly farmers, traders and shop keepers, and a welcomed stop for travelers who going to or from either Cormyr or Sembia.
So what is so great about Winterhaven? In a word, nothing. Winterhaven itself is a fairly unremarkable village run by a somewhat unremarkable government. What makes Winterhaven a great place for a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, is its potential for storyline.
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History of Thunder Peaks
Cormyr erected a number of fortresses in this area of the Thunder Peaks to guard the eastern border, and Shadraxil saw this as a personal affront to him and his lands, and began to attack. Cormyr sent in the dragon slayer Jerold Keegan to stop these attacks. Jerold was able to defeat Shadraxil by luring him into an arcane trap, banishing him to the plane of shadows. Shadraxil, although imprisoned, reached out with his powers and eventually drove Keegan mad.
This story line is the basis of the module "Keep on the Shadowfell." It also makes use of the existence of the Orcs and Goblin tribes in the mountains.
The Thunder Peaks was also once home to a Dwarven settlement called Thunderholme. It's unclear to me what the fate of Thunderholme was. I remember some information about it from 2e Player's Guide to the Forgotten Realms, but I was unable to locate anything more than a mention of it. I'd appreciate a link to any information you might have!
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Why Stop at Winterhaven?
The road on which Winterhaven was founded is called "The Eastway" and it's the main route connecting two countries, Cormyr and Sembia. Anyone and everyone passing from one country to the other is going to pass through Winterhaven. The passage through the Thunder Peaks is perilous.
Even without the looming threat of Orc and Goblin tribes or the possibility of Shadraxil escaping his prison, the weather in the Thunder Peaks is a force to be reckoned with. The Shadow Peaks is subject to extraordinarily extreme thunderstorms, at any given time of the year. The luxury of a roof over one's head after braving all of the above is not something that will be passed up easily. It's almost guaranteed that a traveler will stop for the night. If it happens to work out that they don't quite make it to the town, there's always the fortresses along the border that might offer some shelter from a storm.
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Beyond the Orcs, Goblins and the threat of Shadraxil, the Cult of the Dragon is alive and well in the area, and is rumored to have infiltrated Winterhaven. The Cult of the Dragon, also known as Keepers of the Secret Hoard or, Wearers of Purple, is a group of evil zealots worshipping dead, evil dragons. They find and reanimate old evil dragon corpses as powerful fell dracoliches.
The cult also works as an intelligence network, ruled by Draconians, and bent on elevating the Draconians to power, believing that they'd one day rule all of Faerûn. The Cult collects gems and treasures to be offered to the Draconians, so a battle with them could yield some good booty. ...Then again, it could also make for some formidable enemies!
If it's treasure your adventuring party is seeking, Winterhaven would be a good place for them to base their operations, what with all the dragon activity that's gone on in the area over the years, not to mention the metals and gems that could have been mined by the Dwarves of Thunderholme.
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Winterhaven is neither impressive or grand, made up of simple folks, but the potential for adventure in its surrounding areas makes Winterhaven an excellent base of operations for any adventuring party, from Orcs and Goblins for lower level adventurers all the way
up through fell dracoliches for the more powerful groups.
The land is filled with history, and there's bound to be some treasure in the ruined fortresses or the empty stronghold of Thunderholme.
As always, the only limit is your imagination. Perhaps Thunderholme is not deserted? Maybe Shadraxil has escaped and the Cult of the Dragon has set up operations in the nearby fortresses? Have you used Winterhaven in any of your campaigns? Do you plan to use it now that you've read a little about what it's surrounding lands have to offer your group?
If you have any feedback on the information provided above, or information I have not provided, (especially information regarding Thunderholme!) I would love to hear about it in the comments below.