World:Hobbes FR Campaign/Campaign Info/The World/The Desolation
The Desolation is a vast expanse of wasted, war-torn fields. They felt the tramp of countless soldiers’ feet and drank the blood of humans and other creatures beyond imagining. Mighty engines of war and works of horrific magic slammed into the armies maneuvering across the countryside and left only death in their wake. So powerful was the magic involved, so pervasive the terrors unleashed that even now, centuries later, the lands remained indelibly marked by the legacy of battle. Where once were verdant plains and fertile fields now are only ashes and boiling craters of ooze. The Desolation does not bear the characteristic fires and brimstone of what many would consider in the traditional sense, but it is often likened to the Hells nonetheless. Smoking fumaroles and burning gas vents would actually enliven this land. Instead there is only the depressingly bleak landscape of gray fading into the haze of the horizon. Even the devils of the pits might find such a place unpleasant.
The Desolation stretches roughly 70 miles east and west and 50 miles north to south. Its southern boundary, marked by the tiny refuge known as the Camp, gradually rises to the stony hills that mark the northern edge of the civilized kingdoms. To the north the trade road passes another set of hills before, according to rumors, eventually entering a true desert land filled with oasis kingdoms, genies, and the exotic peoples known only in legends in the lands to the south. East the Desolation gradually enters a wild and broken land, more verdant but perhaps no less inhospitable. For here the lands are the homes of the many orc and goblinoid clans before finally reaching a little-visited and rocky sea coast. The western edge is the Desolation’s clearest demarcation as the sheer vertical cliffs of the Stoneheart Mountains march along parallel to the trade road, visible as a seemingly impassible wall of gray stone.
The climate of the Desolation is universally dry. A few gully washers hit in the late fall, but otherwise it remains bone dry. In fact, the ground stays so dry that there is an almost constant haze from whitish, powderlike dust that rises with the constant breezes. This haze lends to the overall gloominess and feeling of isolation and claustrophobia that is sometimes experienced on this otherwise wide-open plain. Occasional dust storms whip up and race south, usually petering out before reaching the Camp. These billowing white clouds are called bone storms because of the general opinion that the white dust is actually the powdered remains of the fallen soldiers’ bones trampled underfoot by the armies and then left to bake in the sun for centuries. Visiting necromancers have taken samples before and tend to concur that there is some truth to these tales. In the summer the temperatures rise as high as the 90s with an extremely low humidity, but in the winter bitterly cold winds come down off the mountains to the northwest and create conditions well below freezing for weeks at a time.
The Desolation is divided into four quadrants. These are clearly marked by the two roads that cross in the Desolation’s center. The landscape even tends to change somewhat, roughly corresponding to these artificial dividers. The four quadrants each receive their own chapter in this adventure and are called, going counter-clockwise from southeast to southwest, The Ashen Waste, The Chaos Rift, The Boiling Lands, and The Dead Fields.
The mood of the Desolation is always somber and depressing. Thousands of beings died here, good and evil, extraplanar and mundane, celestial and abyssal. It is almost as if the lands retain a memory of that time of strife and countless horrors. How many voices were stilled to never be heard again is beyond count. The wind seems to sing a funeral dirge, low and constant; perhaps it is the voices of those lost.
See this for a history of the Desolation.
Various extreme weather conditions can be encountered in the Desolation. Here is a summary of known weather conditions.
These torrential downpours rise suddenly as the moisture-laden clouds of the Boiling Lands blow over the surrounding areas. The foul vapors and toxins of the Boiling Lands poison these clouds and create acid rain. A DC 20 Survival check notices the formation of the rain clouds 2d10+10 minutes prior to the beginning of the downpour, so astute parties have time to make preparations for such events. The actual downpours only last 1d10+5 rounds before the air currents blow them onward. Any creatures exposed to the rain are dealt 1d4 points of acid damage per round. Cloth and other coverings shed the rain, so an adequate shelter can prevent the party members from being exposed to the damage-causing rain. However, each time a nonmagical shelter such as a tent or tarp is exposed to the rain there is a cumulative 10% chance that is ruined and rendered useless as a shelter in the future. This effect also occurs with clothing, leather goods, rope, animal harnesses, backpacks, etc, if they are exposed to a downpour. Metal, stone, and wood are undamaged.
These terrifying weather patterns form quickly and almost without warning. A DC 30 Survival check can detect the formation of the storm 1d10 minutes before it hits. The DC drops to 20 if the character has experienced a bone storm out on the Desolation before. A bone storm is very similar to a sandstorm but is denser with the powdery ash of the Ashen Waste. The blowing white cloud reduces visibility to 1d2x5 feet and provides a –4 penalty to Perception checks. A bone storm is a short affair that arises quickly and lasts 1d10+10 minutes. The tiny bone shards and bits of caustic dust that comprise the storm deal 1d4 points of damage per minute. If a member of the party makes a successful DC 20 Survival check, as a full-round action he can make preparations that make this damage nonlethal. This check can be made on multiple individuals and animals at the rate of 1 per round if it done prior to the coming of the storm. In addition to the damage caused by the storm, the fine, cloying dust carried on the winds sticks to everything, leaving a thin coat including the inside of mouths and nostrils. Those within the storm must make a DC 20 Fortitude save every minute or become blinded and begin suffering from suffocation until a wet rag is used wipe the eyes and nose or mouth of the victim. This is not possible while still exposed to the bone storm. If the Survival check for preparations was made prior to the storm, then that character receives a +5 bonus to these Fortitude saves. When suffocation begins the character can hold his breath for 2 rounds per point of Constitution. After that he must make a DC 10 Constitution check. This check must be repeated each round with the DC increasing by +1 for each previous check. If one is failed, the character falls unconscious and is considered to be at 0 hit points. In the next round he drops to –1 hit points and is dying. In the third round he suffocates and dies. Magical shelter such as tiny hut or a magnificent mansion provides protection from all of these effects as long as the spell lasts and remains sealed shut. Mundane shelter such as tents or spells such as rope trick protect from the damage but not the suffocation and blindness. A necklace of adaptation protects from any possible suffocation but not from the damage or the chance of blindness.