Happy new year! It’s January 1st, and that means Loot The Room’s new schedule is kicking into gear. Welcome to the relaunch, and 2018’s first post.
Back in November I posted some books and their contents. One of those books was A Bestiary of The Blasted Lands. I liked the names of some of those monsters enough that I wanted to stat them up – but first, I wanted to know more about the place they inhabited. Welcome to the Blasted Lands.
(If you’d prefer, you can download this post as a PDF here.)
Inside the Blasted Lands
The Blasted Lands are a lightly-detailed sandbox area designed to be dropped into your tabletop roleplaying game of choice. Although it is designed with 5th edition in mind, there is no crunch here (although a future post will detail some of the monsters of the Blasted Lands, with appropriate stats).
What Is Known
The Blasted Lands is known to the outside world through stories and myths, and the (probably exaggerated) tales of those few adventurers who have ventured into the lands and returned to tell the tale. Most people know only a few solid facts about the place: that it is bordered by an enormous steel wall, and that the lands beyond that wall are tainted by the weird touch of the fey.
The Blasted Lands were once a dense, primeval forest. Some six centuries ago a great war was fought within the woodlands there – a war between the elves who made that forest their home, and an invading fey army. The war raged for decades, and the great magics summoned during the fighting tore a rift between the Prime Material Plane and the Feywild. The blast of arcane force that this produced scorched the land, transforming it from verdant forest to a harsh, blasted wasteland filled with weird, fey-twisted creatures and strange geography.
The wall was constructed half a millennium ago, a great expanse of steel a hundred feet high that runs along the outer edge of the Blasted Lands. The wall has not been particularly well maintained; it is coated in a patina of rust, and has begun to be reclaimed by nature. There are no gates or passages through the wall, and despite the neglect it has suffered there are not yet any known openings in it. But it is a wall, and no matter how tall it is, it can always be bypassed by a taller ladder.
Once over the wall there is a short transition from grassy scrubland that butts up against the base of the wall to the Blasted Lands proper, which is a barren desert of rock and not much else. Tall, jagged mountains ring the land to the west, giving way to flat plateaus of onyx that loom over the rocky desert – the Onyx Steppes. Strange, twisted plants that resemble shimmering crystalline structures dot the desert itself, along with the occasional grove of skeletal trees that have been transformed into obsidian sculptures.
The area is usually still and silent, and time seems to stand still. Day and night do not occur naturally in the Blasted Lands; it is always noon, the sun always directly overhead. Night falls in small localised patches, seemingly at random; the sun vanishes from the sky like a torch being extinguished, and the temperature plummets to far below the freezing point of water in a matter of seconds. These patches of night can be seen from outside, appearing as dark blotches on the horizon.
Navigating the Blasted Lands
The map is presented as a hex map, comprised of 1 mile hexes. Since there is no overall campaign or adventure arc presented here, you should feel free to use the map and locations as you see fit. The keyed locations described below are the most immediately obvious (or well-known) to those traversing the Blasted Lands, but there is undoubtedly plenty more to be found out in the wilderness.
Locations of Note
Just beyond the Onyx Steppes lie the Amethyst Hills, an expanse of rolling foothills that have somehow been transformed into huge clusters of amethyst. Their glittering purple glow acts as a beacon on the horizon for travellers crossing the wastelands to the north. These hills, and the jagged peaks of the mountains to the west (which are also formed of huge outcroppings of amethyst) are the source of the River of Dust.
As the land dips down from the foothills of the Amethyst Hills, it forms itself into a miles-wide valley where the ‘waters’ of the River of Dust feed into this wide lake, before continuing on to the Everbright Gorge and the Shadowfall.
The dusklake is just shy of half a mile deep at its centre. Its waters are dark and murky, comprised of the same shadow waters as the River of Dust. The surface is covered in a thick layer of ash that coats the skin of anybody foolish enough to venture into the water.
The River of Dust and the Dusklake do not contain water. Instead, their substance is composed of shadows that have been given physical form. They flow like water but have the texture of very fine sand – a texture which is experienced in the brain but that seems to bypass the skin entirely.
Nobody is sure of the exact origin of the shadow water, but the consensus is that there can be no shadow without the existence of something to cast the shadow. Some believe the waters are the shadow of an ancient elder god, and that the waters provide a means of communicating with this entity.
Being in contact with the waters results in negative side effects that grow worse over time. The table that follows gives the effects of being in the shadow water. Whether these effects are reversible is left to the GM’s discretion.
Time Submerged Effect 1 minute Your skin takes on a grey pallor, and all food tastes like ash. 2 minutes You become sensitive to sunlight, though your ability to see in the dark is heightened. 3 minutes You heal less effectively than normal, recovering only half your normal amount of health when resting. 4 minutes You become resistant to the effects of magical healing. 5 minutes Your physical form begins to unravel, as your body begins to transform itself into shadow.
Carving a jagged line across the wasteland, the Everbright Gorge is a mile-wide canyon some 800 feet deep. It is so named because night never falls at any point in the gorge; indeed, no shadows are cast in the gorge at all. It is believed that they are drawn towards the darkness of the shadowfall and somehow consumed by it.
The lantern dunes are an expanse of deep, shifting sands that cover the northeast of the Blasted Lands. Some explorers have reported sighting lanterns drifting unaided among the dunes. They seemed to be somewhat intelligent, reacting to the presence of travellers and attempting to lure them off-course into the sand. It is not known whether these are a natural phenomenon or some kind of fey creature (or, as some suspect, a form of will o wisp). Whatever they are, the dunes are named after them.
The lantern dunes are also home to the dangerous entities known as Living Dunes, enormous predators that live among the sands and hunt anything with a pulse and meat on its bones.
Remnants of the magical blasts that broke the land, the Onyx Steppes are huge ledges of solid stone jutting up out of the foothills of the mountains to the west of them. At their highest the cliffs are around 300 feet tall. The steppes are the nesting grounds of vulgores, the strange horned birds that drift over the desert in search of carrion.
River of Dust
Stretching from the Amethyst Hills to the Everbright Gorge by way of the Dusklake, the River of Dust is a waterway of liquid shadow. Nothing lives in it, and nothing grows along its banks. Those who spend time near the river begin to hear whispered voices emanating from its depths, chattering nonsense in a multitude of languages.
At the eastern end of the river of dust is the Shadowfall, an 800 foot tall ‘waterfall’ that crashes into the Everbright Gorge. The shadowfall is the only portion of darkness inside the gorge. Where it meets the ground of the gorge, a small pool of shadow slowly dissipates into nothingness as it is extinguished by the eternal brightness of the gorge.
Hazards & Encounters
The following are some examples of the kinds of encounters adventurers might come across in the Blasted Lands. This is by no means an exhaustive list; the Blasted Lands are a weird place imbued with fey magic, and there are all sorts of strange and dangerous things to be discovered here.
- Deep in the central wastelands, where magic is at its most frayed, some adventurers have reported witnessing the sand forming itself into crude copies of them and their groups and attacking with brutal ferocity. These creatures – if they are creatures – have become known as doppelsanders.
- A broken road stretches out into the dunes for miles, straight as an arrow and lined with tattered banners that flap in an unseen breeze. Then, as suddenly as it started, the road vanishes beneath the sand again.
- The flowering oasis is the first waypoint for anybody hoping to cross the Blasted Lands – a pool of pure, clear water ringed by lush vegetation that (usually) follows a normal day-night cycle. It’s the perfect place to rest up and prepare for the next leg of your journey. First, though, you have to convince the cactus-folk who control the area to let you in, and their price is always high.
- Crossing the Onyx Steppes is fraught with danger – not least because of the pools of shadowsand that dot the area. Indistinguishable from the black onyx ground, these patches of shadow water have drowned many an unwary adventurer.
Compass rose by Deven Rue.