Red Wastes (3.5e Environment)
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|At first glance it might look like a featureless waste,
but the Red Wastes holds secrets and solaces
for those who know how to look.
The whole of northeastern Pansaer is dominated by a nigh-endless desert of red sand. This desert is formed by the sun rising in the east and scorching the land, a lack of vegetation and water, and the mountain range of Caragos Eavorn that blocks rainfall and wind. Called the Red Wastes, it is the single most inhospitable place in all the world.
The Red Wastes are a wasteland in the truest sense of the word. The desert receives near to no rainfall, the air is still and stifling except for those few times it intensifies into a sandstorm, and there's little cover from the elements. And yet folk live here: tribes of hardy goblin bedouins perpetually seeking moisture, dunedelver dwarves who build their cities under the sands and traverse the night, as well as all manner of monsters both mundane and magical.
Red Wastes as a geographical feature means that travel in the east is difficult. Unless you stick close to the coastline or the mountains (or indeed travel by sea or pass over the mountains), travel is nearly impossible, except for the centaur offspring of titan-god Mieli. Thus, civilization in the east is concentrated to a few locations, invariably hugging the coast or along rivers in the east. The exception is Dharuum, the capital of the east that's situated smack in the middle of the desert.
While the heart of the Wastes is thoroughly uninhabitable, the borders, especially those near the coast, are less so. The areas near Caragos Eavorn at least receive a bit of shade in the evening, and the rock formations and oases of the southern end of the desert allow for a stunted kind of life to prosper.
The desert gets its name from the sand of the region, which is uniformly a red shade. This comes from the high concentrations of red clay found in the soil, especially near the coastline. In the time of myth before the mortal races spread across the world, the Wastes carried a different name, now long forgotten, and were the home of the proud children of the titans. Now their ruins and hidden cities beckon foolhardy adventurers to try their luck.
The weather of the Red Wastes is terrifyingly uniform: day after day can pass without so much as a breeze, leaving the days stifling and hot and the nights sedate and freezing. The only deviance to this are the sandstorms that whip up a couple of times a year, usually in the prime midseason, and those are hardly a desirable exception. Some accounts claim that the heart of the desert is in the throes of a perennial sandstorm of flesh-flaying power.
The Red Wastes count as a sandy desert terrain (DMG, p. 91) with the exception that only the southernmost parts and the strip along the coast have light undergrowth; the rest of the desert has 10% dense rubble instead. Quicksand is common and gets more so the closer to the heart of the region you get. The sand dunes of the Red Wastes nearly always point towards north, since wind most often blows from the south.
The temperature of the Red Wastes is a constant enemy of a traveller both during the day and at night. The desert is a sensible, if unpleasant temperature for an hour or two at morning and before nightfall. The temperature is quick to change: a rise or drop of tens of degrees is common. The extremes of temperature and its quick changes are more pronounced the deeper in the desert you are.
Once the sun is up, the temperature quickly reaches a 100° Fahrenheit (35° Celsius), threatening travellers with exposure and heatstroke (DMG, p. 303). For around six to eight hours each day, the temperature rises to around 120° Fahrenheit (50° Celsius). During these hours, even the hardiest of travellers seek shelter or perish. In the nighsummer the temperature occasionally rises to 150° Fahrenheit (65° Celsius) and over, quite literally broiling people alive.
The night is no better. Once the sun is down and the stored heat of the sand has dissipated, the darkness gets deathly cold. The temperature plummets to 40° Fahrenheit (5° Celsius) and below, threatening travellers with hypothermia and frostbite (DMG, p. 302). Some nights the temperature drops to below 0° Fahrenheit (-15° Celsius) for a few hours. The lack of water in the desert means that no ice forms even in these chilling conditions.
Another problem that arises in the Red Wastes is dehydration (DMG, p. 304). Since the deep desert has almost no water, and the borders are little better, those without means to procure water will quickly perish. The heat of the desert means that during the day, an ordinary person needs three to four times as much water as he'd need normally. What's more, the cold nights have a chance of freezing stored water and potentially ruining the receptable. The few inhabitants of the desert, such as the bedouins and dunedelvers, have their own mysterious moisture-collecting methods and hidden wells.
If you intend to make the Red Wastes and the rest of the east the focus of your Years of Gold campaing, you should consider using the expanded rules for desert travel and survival, heat dangers and dehydration given in the Sandstorm supplement. If you use those rules, the people of the area are likely to have adapted some of the equipment (or perhaps even feats and spells) outlined in the book as well.
|The deeper you go, the more horrid
the inhabitants of the Wastes become.
The mercurial temperature and stifling stillness of the Red Wastes means that the area is inhospitable, but it is by no means uninhabited. While the area is hard to travel for normal folk and beasts, some monstrosities can withstand or even ignore altogether the extremes of the desert. This is less true the deeper into the desert you go, but even in the heart some things, often old and terrible, bide their time.
Goblins have a natural resistance to the elements and a high pain threshold. This makes them ideal inhabitants for the harsh conditions of the Red Wastes. Tribes of goblin bedouins survive on the meat of desert monsters and moisture they gather through various means: they are expert seekers of water. They still need to bolster their stocks with city-bought goods now and then. Such tribes can occasionally contain people of other races, but goblins are by far the most common.
Under the sand of the western part of the desert, hugging the eastern end of Caragos Eavorn, live the dunedelver dwarves. They are hardy and durable like their race tends to be, and uniformly grim and quiet. Dunedelvers have networks of underground cities and tunnels built deep below the sand, and they migrate from location to location according to their needs and religious whims.
The natural fauna of the desert consists of scorpions (both gigantic and normal-sized), as well as a few hardy specimens of other animal races. The deeper into the desert you go, the rarer such animals become, although some claim that near the ruins of ancient civilization that can sometimes be found near the heart of the desert, the animals take on monstrous features and thrive despite the heat and cold and lack of sustenance.
The children of the titans live in the very heart of the Red Wastes. Fire giants live in cities as old as the world, brooding on their former power and practicing dark magic. Due to their influence, as well as the influence of other ancient beings (such as efreet) hiding in the desert sands, the deep desert is a dwelling place for many unearthly creatures. Mephits of the dust, earth, fire, salt, and steam varieties are common in the northern edge of the desert. They are occasionally captured and cultivated for their strange powers and as exotic pets. Remember that on Pansaer they are a naturally-occuring race, not Outsiders.
|1d3 fire giants and 2d6 hell hounds
|1 fire giant and 2d4 salt mephits
|1 Gargantuan monstrous scorpion
|1 greater anubal warden, 1d3 anubal wardens and 2d6 giant jackals
|2d6+4 bat swarms
|1 dust, 1 earth, 1 fire, 1 salt, and 1 steam mephit
|2d4 Large monstrous scorpions
|1 anubal warden and 1d3 anubal hounds
|1 Large fire elemental and 1d4 Medium fire elementals
|1d4 dunedelver sun-placaters of Auri (3rd-level cleric) with the Sun domain
and 2d4 dunedelver marksmen (1st-level ranger)
|1 Gargantuan monstrous centipede
|1d6+1 goblin brigand-bedouins (2nd-level rogue)
|3d6 giant jackals
|2d4 Medium monstrous scorpions
|1 fatigued minotaur
|2d6 stray carriomantic zombies
Points of interest
The coastline of the east contains many smaller towns and cities that durade the hot desert by sticking close to water, but Al-Auri is not one of them. Built much farther inland, Al-Auri is a religious city devoted to the worship of the titan of the sun. The city manages to survive in the inhospitable desert only through massive amounts of imported goods and especially water. This import-heavy trade costs a fortune to the citizens of the sun god's city, but to them, this is not a problem.
This is because Al-Auri is incredibly rich. The city's status as the only inhabitation deeper into the Red Wastes means it has claim to all natural riches in the area: deep excavations around the city provide the city with a constant influx of gold, silver and especially jewels. Al-Auri is often called the Golden City or the City of Jewels, and the greatest gemcutters and jewelers in the world come from here. Al-Auri also trades with both bedouins and dunedelvers, as well as deals with adventurers and thieves who loot the ruins of the Red Wastes.
On a darker note, Al-Auri also makes a fortune from slave trade. While the more cilivized parts of the eastern kingdoms can use carriomantic servants fashioned in Dharuum or Irid and Eros, the rest of the east (especially the coastline) relies on slavery for cheap labor. Al-Auri is the center of slave trade, catering to slavery of both labor and sex. Rumor even speaks of Aurite fanatics sacrificing slaves in the basements of the city's palaces.
No one can deny that Al-Auri is a beautiful city. The riches the city produces contribute to an opulent semblance. Gilded towers decorated with mother-of-pearl rise above the fine roofs of buildings and palaces, and the higher castes and the Shah live in luxury. If only this luxury wasn't based on the blood and sweat of those who can't complain.
City of Winds
Folklore speaks of a time when Auri walked the earth, after his and his pantheon's glorious defeat of the usurper gods and primordial monsters. In this time he and his brothers and sisters sired many sons and daughters: the giant races. Those most like Auri are the fire giants, with whom Auri lived for years in a city fashioned by him and by his brother Morran - the City of Winds.
Some say that city still exists. Deep in the heart of the Red Wastes, in a place where the sun never sets and the flaying wind never settles, the eldest of fire giants hold counsel in halls the likes of which will never be built again. Some adventurers claim to have visited the city, exhibiting artifacts they claim to have plundered and speaking of sights they claim to have seen.
It's more likely that they've visited one of the other ruins in the desert. There are countless ruined cities in the Red Wastes, some from prehistoric times and others from failed attempts to tame the wilderness. Most are covered by sand, but the greatest jut out from among the dunes like the bones of dried-up gods. Fire giants make their homes in some of these ruins, still bitter that they never gained the rulership of Pansaer that their titan parents promised them.
One among the ruin cities is especially notable. Those who have witnessed it (often only fleetingly) speak of a circular city at the bottom of a great depression among the sand. Sandstorms and exhaustion weaken vision and reason, but these witnesses claim that the city moves: it crawls slowly but surely across the desert, its buildings sometimes crumbling away, sometimes reforming from sand and clay. When asked of who or what lives in the wandering city, they refuse to speak. Perhaps the City of Winds is more than just legend?
Tomb of Blessed Ur
The capital of Dharuum was established in 2830 by the legendary sultan Ur, often called Al-Ur or Blessed Ur, who dared the wastes with his people and marched from the coast to the mountains. There, he built his seat of power, fed by the miracle of the Seven Wells and cooled by the shade of the mountains. Al-Ur had a long and glorious reign, at the end of which he was the first to receive the inhumation after the fashion of all sultans and shahs after him: the Crimson Rites, administered in his case by anubal Mafdet.
Every sultan of Dharuum receives his own tomb complex in the Red Wastes, built far enough into the desert to discourage grave robbers. Al-Ur's is the closest to the city, just some fifty miles north from the gates. The heart of each such tomb complex is the sultan's sarcophagus, guarded by masterpieces of artifice, summoned spirits, greater anubal wardens and reanimated remains of priests and warriors. The rest of the complex is sealed off and trapped, and the guardians of the tomb are determined to destroy all who enter, even if they claim to enter with reverence or to guard the tomb themselves.
Al Mehmed, known as the Crimson Sultan, is the five-times-great-grandchild of Al-Ur, awakened from his eternal rest by an unexpected mistake by Mafdet, the very anubal who buried Al-Ur hundreds of years before Al Mehmed's time. Al Mehmed originally had his place of operations in his own tomb complex, but on Mafdet's advice has moved his camps into and around the entrance of the tomb of Al-Ur. The deeps of the tomb remain unmolested: tireless guardians and vicious traps have seen to it.
If one wants to enter the tomb, they'd have to somehow evade or push past the entire force of Al Mehmed's armies and followers, disarm or avoid the many traps, confuse or slay the many guardians, just to reach the tomb. Perhaps an impossible feat, but one that would leave the perpetrator immensely rich: Al-Ur was buried with treasures without compare, as well as many armories worth of magical weapons, tools and trinkets.
The armies of the Crimson Sultan rally around the tomb, with his elite living on the excavated first levels of the complex. Dunedelver artifice and bedouin cleverness ensures that the sizable army nonetheless has relative shelter and nourishment in the harsh conditions, and the magic of Al Mehmed's anubals ensures tolerable conditions. The camp consists mostly of tents, with a few sandstone and clay huts for higher-ups and storage.
Examples of adventures
- Doorway to Disaster: A mirage? No, it doesn't seem so: an elaborate wooden doorway rises in the middle of the desert. When opened, the door leads to an opulent, labyrinthine palace. The master of the house, a kindly moustached man, invites you to feast with him and his myriad guests. Everything seems fantastic except for a lingering, unpleasant smell. In the middle of the meal, the illusion is lifted from your eyes: the wine is blood, the food is flesh, and the guests are cannibal demons. You could almost take them on, but when the master of the house discards his disguise, everything goes haywire.
|You don't need a ritual
to make horrible things.
- For a Drop of Water: The well of a small dunedelver hold had dried up. After some investigation, it is discovered that a group of goblin bedouins has began drawing moisture from the underground spring that feeds the well. The spring can only sustain one group, and the one left without has to face dire consequences. The decision to help one side or the other can have long-lasting consequences in dealing with the dwarves and goblins of the Red Wastes.
- Sacrifice to Sun: A particularly zealous sect of Aurites from Al-Auri has decided that the best way to honor their titan-god is to burn people alive when the sun is at its zenith. To hide this from the rest of the city, they scorch their human sacrifices in a great temple along with animal offerings and tons of incense, some of which is narcotic. To save the poor slaves trapped in the temple, one would have to face the ill effects of the stupefying smoke, the deranged cultists, and the horrible abominations their heartless sacrifices have given birth to.
- Sultan of Its Own Device: A powerful efreeti spirit has laid claim to a notable oasis, the only source of water for miles. The mad creature believes itself a grand sultan and padishah of the entire Red Wastes, and demands tribute for the right to drink from its "bath". These demands vary from inane ("Steal the fire from Auri's forge!") to demeaning ("Cut my toenails!"). The slightest show of insurgency against the self-appointed sultan is faced with aggression, both from the efreeti and the oasis spirits it controls.
- Unexpected Foes: The temperature drops fast, yet the sun blazes in the sky - what's going on? Before your eyes, the sand of the dunes is covered with unnatural frost, and the rocky outcrops begin forming icicles. Before you can react, the surface of the sand breaks with a blast of sand and ice crystals. A pack of ravenous frost worms is upon you! It seems the natural coldness of these unnatural creatures allows them to survive in the broiling desert; perhaps they hibernate during the night?