Remoras Prairie (3.5e Environment)
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|Perhaps there is a harsh sort of beauty to the prairie, but the locals are hard-pressed to see it.|
Is there a thing more cruel than war? The Troubled Years seem to argue that there isn't. The relentless march of history has already trampled away the knowledge of what started that continent-spanning strife. In truth there was no one war, but hundreds of smaller conflicts plaguing the lands, and in 2830, the greatest of them sprung up in the north.
The vast prairie of Remoras was once a hardy land, but the earth has now been permanently scarred by the war that was hottest in the last seventy years of the Troubled Years and continues as skirmishes and cruel ambushes to this day. There are no forests, for the wood fed the cogs of war; no hills, for they've been mined for hungry iron. Nowadays, the prairie is flat, ugly and broken.
Remoras prairie is a choking place. The air barely moves and the summer heat, while never overpowering, is a constant bother, which doesn't truly relent even in the winter. The landscape is blotched with small, scraggly bushlands and the broken remains of villages and forts. The rivers that run through the prairie are slow and weary, and animals born here are scraggly and mean.
Some say the land is cursed. The skies above Remoras prairie are nigh-constantly cast over. The clouds are dark, and offer little in the way of rainfall. When the rain comes, it is one of the only times the prairie can be considered beautiful. The air constantly tastes ever so slightly of ash. Likewise, water drunk here sometimes has the faintest tang of blood. It's as if the land remembers the frenzy and the fire.
Remoras prairie is a land of one, relentless season. All year round the weather barely changes, with the only difference between summer and winter being a slight variance in temperature and rains being slightly more common towards the beginning of prime midseason. That's why, when folk elsewhere celebrate the end of the year for the harvest, the people of the prairie celebrate the beginning for its rainfall - a blink-and-you'll-miss-it respite from the constant strife.
The rainfall (DMG, p. 94) of the prairie is thinner and lighter than elsewhere (only a -2 penalty on Spot and Search checks), and usually lasts for around 1d20 minutes - but if it rains once in a given day, it's likely to rain a dozen more times on that same day. Thunderstorms brew up often enough, usually towards the north, but the air remains still and the storms tend to be drier than elsewhere. When it's not raining (which is almost all the time), dust devils are quite common.
Something is wrong with the prairie when it comes to things rotting. All matter, whether foodstuff, water or corpses, goes bad twice as fast as normally, no matter how well it's stored. This shows in the look of the place: everything seems to be decaying. Copper roofs go green with verdigris in just years, the few trees look bent and haggard, and all manner of insects constantly crawl and buzz everywhere.
As for the terrain, most of the prairie counts as battlefield plains (DMG, p. 91), turning to desiccated grassland plains only in the very western and eastern edges. This monotony is broken up only by occasional hills (DMG, p. 89), gentle inland and rugged near the mountains. There's something about Remoras prairie that makes it hard to navigate even for the skilled - chalk it up to the uniformity of the lands, or else to cursed luck. In either case, travelers are constantly at danger of getting lost (DMG, p. 86), and the DC of the Survival check not to become lost is increased by 2.
|The abominations of Dead Illusk are not always content to haunt those halls alone.|
Life is stunted in Remoras prairie. Those born in the prairie can always be told apart from those born elsewhere, for they're invariably shorter in stature, scrawnier, and even tend to have shorter lifespans even if they leave their land of birth. The coats of wild animals are muted in color and often patchy. Birds (of which there are droves) molt their feathers constantly. Furthermore, there seems to be some sort of painful resignation that settles on those who spend too much time on the prairie: they settle into a life of battle, to constant fear and anger. They give up.
Savage tribes of humans, dwarves and goblins are practically the only humanoid inhabitants of Remoras prairie, except for those who are only visiting. They tend to live lives constantly on the move, vying for the meager hunting grounds and best spots along the muddy rivers. They wage constant wars on each other, and when desperate or driven, with more civilized areas as well - perhaps they no longer know how to stop. Some tribes specialize in this sort of raiding and make their "livelihood" through constant pillaging - and the weakened Fort Brunid can do little to stop them. But no matter their lifestyle of choice, these tribes will almost invariably attack outsiders on sight.
Wild beasts and warlike tribes are not the only thing to stalk travelers in the prairie. Nasty things spawn in the gloomy quiet of the land. Shadows dance of their own volition, and some are born with the power to control theirs. The hunting trophies of the tribes often include pelts and horns that belong to no mundane creature. Dead Illusk, a scar of the north, further bleeds horrors into the prairie every now and then; these twisted fiends and malnourished nightmares are invariably some of the worst threats in Remoras prairie. Perhaps the land truly is cursed.
|d% (Easy)||d% (Hard)||Encounter||Average EL|
|—||01-05||1 purple worm||12|
|—||06-11||1d4 daughters of roses, one of which is menstruating||11|
|—||12-17||1 greater shadow and 1d4 cultists (7th-level Shadowdancer)||11|
|—||18-22||1 bloodfire oozeMM4 and 1d3 pyromancers (3rd-level sorcerer)||10|
|—||23-27||1 effigy of Dead Illusk||10|
|—||28-35||1d6 hook horrorsMM2||9|
|—||36-42||1 rogue eidolonMM2||9|
|01-07||43-51||1 frost giant and 1d2 five-headed cryohydras||9|
|08-15||52-59||1d6 goliath archers (2nd-level fighter) riding as many giant stag beetles||8|
|16-22||60-68||3d6 heavy-set zombies||8|
|23-30||69-75||1 centaur royal messenger (2nd-level knightPHB2) and 1d6 centaur attendants||7|
|31-38||76-83||1d3 minotaurs and 1d6 war-bulls||7|
|39-49||84-95||1d3 dwarf geomancers (3rd-level adept), 1d3 dwarf brawlers (3rd-level warrior)
and 1d3 dwarf throatcutters (2nd-level rogue)
|58-66||—||1d4 dire boars||6|
|73-80||—||1d8 fatigued, blinding sickness-carrying (-2 Str) deserters (3rd-level fighter), one of which is blind||5|
|81-89||—||2d4 human cannibals (1st-level ranger)||5|
|90-96||—||1d6 pit vipers and 2d6 of their young in a concealed pit||4|
|97-100||—||1 locust swarm||3|
Points of interest
One thing seems to unite all of the prairie: war is a way of life. Hundreds of cultures and dozens of races clash and mix in the north, but all invariably come to venerate combat as a means to an end, and are drawn into the bloodshed. Even when a new, peaceful group tries to enter the area (like The Healing Hands, a peace mission of Groke), it soon finds itself transformed (in this case, The Killing Hands).
But some are strong-willed or indeed cowardly enough to dismiss their basest urges. Where is the place for them? In Coward's Cove, a massive cave complex that's excavated into the northern bluffs facing the High Sea of Ahti. Established some time after the Troubled Years were over (no official records exist), Coward's Cove became a respite for those who chose peace, pacifism or love.
Lofty ideals, but the practice is hardly that. Coward's Cove is defined by its nonviolence, and in a violent land it had to have a way to stop foes from just toppling it into the sea. The Cove turned to sating the warrior's other pleasures: it became a black heaven, where the vices of soldiers from all over the prairie can be sated. The original inhabitants live in fear, having to cater to the whims of men and women who could easily butcher them to a man.
Everything takes place in Coward's Cove: gambling, drinking, prostitution, you name it. The only rule is no fighting, but this is mostly ignored, since the Cove's inhabitants have no way of enforcing it. Still, life is certainly more peaceful here than elsewhere in Remoras prairie. To make sure no inter-group clashes take place, an emblem of the current visitors is hoisted into a massive flagpole at the top. If for example a regiment of western soldiers spots the bone charms of an ogre war party in the pole, they'll know to wait for their turn.
The fires of the wars that still rage in Remoras prairie have to be constantly fed by wood, men and iron. The former two have to be exported - the local supply is running dry - but iron is plentiful in the north. This might be a contributing factor to the endless struggle.
When it comes to iron, no mine can come even close to the deposit of ore that is Ferros mine. Named after its most sought-after ore, Ferros nonetheless also contains copper, nickel, even trace amounts of silver - it's just that iron is the most valuable in the prairie, even if elsewhere the other ores would be more expensive.
The mine itself is a massive open-pit mine. The path to the bottom winds itself around the pit, with ramshackle ladders and platforms to facilitate moving around. Tunnels snake their way deeper into the earth in places where the miners have found heavy deposits of the ore.
If there's one line of work in Remoras prairie with a shorter life expectancy than being a soldier, it's being a miner at Ferros. The conditions are horrible, the water available almost invariably tainted, and since the payment is a pittance, a miner gets practically nothing for his work except blisters in his hands and dust in his lungs. Still, the poor and desperate from all over the north come to Ferros - to some, it's still better than fighting.
Plain of Blood
During the last decade of the Troubled Years, the clashes in Remoras were at their hottest. One of the sub-skirmishes, a feud between a lord of the east and a tribe from farther north, ended on a dark day in the nighsummer of 2877. To the eastern kingdom, that day is known as the Offensive of the Plain. To the scattered remnants of the tribe, it is the Butchery at Torr.
The two groups clashed on a flat plateau in the eastern parts of the prairie. The tribe had thought itself strong: it had both the berserkers and the spirits on their side. Unfortunately, the lord had crossbowmen on his. The tribesmen were devastated long before they could enter into melee. No one knows why the lord's men weren't content with their victory and the tribe's surrendered, but they weren't. They descended into the plain and began slaughtering the weakened warriors mercilessly. The debaucheries continued well into the night.
Come morning, the plain was a changed place. Only a few of the tribesmen had managed to get away, while the eastern soldiers were forever changed. Whether it was because of some magic at work or just shell shock, no one can tell. Almost all of the soldiers fell into alcoholism or took their own lives, unable to live with the memories of the plain where blood flowed like water.
Nowadays, the plain stands as a testament to the futility of war. The tribe is gone, but so is the lord, destroyed by someone else's conquests. Only the plain remains. The ground here is like choking soot, the few scattered trees leafless and bent like hag's claws. Locals avoid the place like the plague, for those who enter it find themselves drawn to violent solutions to all their problems.
Examples of adventures
- A Beast of Legend: A boar of hideous proportions terrorizes the lands as it wanders through the landscape. No one seems to know where the monster comes from: some claim it's a natural inhabitant from the Thullian Delta, others insist it is Auri's anger given titanic form. However it came to be, the creature is unable to sate its massive body and thus permanently starved and mad - and now you're in its path. As you stare into eyes larger than a shield, you can't help to think of the creature as a deity: a god of this forsaken land, a god of hunger and madness and endless battle.
|Some people want to win, no matter the cost.|
- Grotesque Reinforcements: A kindly lady-of-war takes you into her manor for the night. You discuss the nature of war over a glass of quality brandy. She bemoans the fact that, even though she's a just lord to her underlings, their scarce numbers means that she is constantly threatened by her neighbors. As the brandy reddens her cheeks, she lets slip that there's something in the basement that should take care of the problem. Her eyes are hazy as she mutters that some things are worth damning your soul for.
- Making Friends Before the End: Two regiments of soldiers, each representing a different hostile faction, accidentally camped side by side in the dead of night. In the morning, when the weak sunlight revealed their banners to each other, the two groups had already bonded, and are now sending faked reports to their superiors about their "extended melee". Now the lord of one of the factions is about to arrive at the scene with backup, threatening to reveal the insubordination. Tensions are running high, and one would have to tread on eggshells if they were to convince the regiments one way or the other - should they resume the fight they never begun, attempt to slay the lord and his knights? Bloodshed seems to be the only way.
- Out of Place: An unexpected sight: in the middle of the barren northlands, there seems to grow a relatively lush glade. Flowers, which you feel like you haven't seen in ages, spring up from under great winding vines that cling to trees far healthier than you've seen elsewhere in this blasted land. What's more, wild animals and barbarians are nowhere to be seen - what a paradise!
- Unfair: A tribe of ogre magi have built their theocratic stronghold on top of an iron deposit, making them the unchallenged masters of their corner of the prairie. Since food is scarce, the ogres have developed a horrifying system: through threats of violence, they force nearby tribes and settlements not to leave, and wage mock wars with them in which the other side is allowed no real weaponry. The losers are sacrificed and eaten. Only some of the men of any given tribe participate in these fake combats. This ensures that the stronghold's food source won't run out.