Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Populating the Wastes

As I begin to think about the local adventure area, the first thing I need to come up with is, well, who the heck lives there.  In my last post, I decided to focus on the north eastern part of the map, particularly the Northern Wastes.  The terrain is dominated by a massive bog, and I’ve rolled that the major industry in this location is, well, industry.  My first thought was that this is a liquor producing place (the various berries that naturally grow in bogs have long been converted to sweet and potent alcohol), but Brian sent me an excellent link regarding Norse bog iron production, which is part of a truly fascinating site.

So, thanks to that, Wikipedia, and Google, I have some solid ideas.  The average person lives either in a tiny village or a small family farmstead.  The architecture is based around sod walls and turf built longhouses, which contain all of the family’s cattle and goats.  The people survive with their light farming, their herds, fishing, hunting, and gathering.  Vast fields of berries (blueberries, cranberries, cloudberries, huckleberries and lingonberries) are harvested for both consumption and for distilling into liquor.  The berries are too fragile and bulky to be effectively transported to the cities, but liquor is far easier, and therefore more profitable.   The people also gather peat iron and smelt it for the manufacture of iron weapons and tools.  Unlike most peasants in the land of Galicia, pretty much every man and most women in the Northern Wastes are armed—many also have some kind of armor.  There is no lord or guard in this wild land, and each family must stand on its own. 

For Man is not alone in this land.  One of the things I learned poking around Wikipedia is that bogs are often home to carnivorous plants.  Well, if that is true in our world, then there’s no reason some kind of plant men can’t live here.  I flip through the Monstrous Manual (as well as Paizo’s Pathfinder SRD, as it sorts monsters by type, something the MM doesn’t do) and fail to find anything that fits.  Most of the plant men are supposed to live in tropical/semi-tropical places or underground.  So, I’ll create my own—the Mossmen!  I’ll write up their stats later, but for now I’ll say they are the most native of the inhabitants.  In fact, I’ll say the Northern Wastes are not a purely natural phenomenon.  In fact, the land was devastated in one of the many Imperial Wars, as the Elves unleashed vast and powerful magics on the land, permanently warping it.  As a result of this devastation, the land was changed from its once rolling green hills dotted with gnomic villages to the boggy waste it is now.  Over time, some gnomes changed to the vile goblins, while others became one with the land and were the ancestors for the Mossmen.

For generations the Mossmen and the Umbrians lived in relative peace.  There was some violence, but the two groups gradually learned to respect each other’s boundaries.  The humans traded the Mossmen iron tools and weapons, and in exchange the Mossmen traded peat (the major source of fuel not only in the Waste, but in the more urbanized Maas river valley) and tolerated the humans hunting parties.  Now, humans can (and do) harvest their own peat from the bog lands, but the Mossmen are able to grow particularly potent and rich peat which is far superior to anything the humans can offer. 

This delicate peace is currently under threat.  The humans of the Maas river valley are recovering from the chaos of the Galtic invasions, and starting to grow numerous.  They are looking to the lands of the Northern Wastes, and seek to drain the bog and bring the land under cultivation.  The native humans (generally referred to as “bog people”) view this with alarm—their own way of life is threatened, but the demand for iron, liquor and peat promises wealth.  The Mossmen do not yet know or trust these valley humans, and are even more concerned.

Secondly, there are the goblins.  Scattered bands of these monsters have long plaqued the Wastes, but recently their numbers have increased significantly, and they’ve seem to become more organized, launching kidnapping raids against isolated human settlements.  The reason for this is the recent arrival of a juvenile Black Dragon!

Ok, I know I said last post I didn’t want to throw the party up against a dragon to early.  But, I have some very compelling reasons.  First off, I rolled “dragons” on my races table for Galicia, and haven’t done much with them.  Second, the area is a big swampy bog—I mean, how can I not include THE iconic swamp creature?  Third, speaking of iconic, the game is called Dungeons & Dragons.  Dungeons are easy to come by, but Dragons?  Pfft.  They need to show up in more games.

Finally, and most importantly, Dragons are cool. 

I don’t know what the Black Dragon is up to yet—probably trying to gather up a hoard and get him/herself established, and is using the goblins as his minions.  I might come up with a better idea later.
But, the area needs some more creatures: a land is more than a few villages and monsters to slay.  The World Builder’s Guide breaks these down into a couple of generic types—locals, non-locals, Small Herbivores, Large Herbivores, Carnivores, and Monsters. One could add a few more categories, I imagine, but we’ll stick to that list for now.

Locals we’ve already covered above.

Non-locals could be anyone we’ve discussed before.  Some options include: Centaurs, Adventurers, Galtic explorers, Priests out to convert the locals, or a merchant from Furrst hoping to cut out the middle men and deal with the Mossmen directly.

Small Herbivores—rats, mice, variety of birds, chipmunks, woodchucks, badgers, possums, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, minks, shrews, muskrats, and a variety of fish and insects.

Large Herbivores—Deer and Moose

Small Carnivores—weasels. Raccoons, foxes

Medium and Larger Carnivores—Wolves and bears

As for Monsters, we already have goblins and a Dragon.  The Mossmen would fall under the “local” category.  But we need more “bog specific” monsters, so I’ll add Molds, Giant Insects, giant leeches, shambling mounds, Giant Toads.  Hrrm…I might add a pack of Owlbears to that list, just to give something satisfying to fight besides goblins.

Obviously, this won’t be all that’s in the land.  Later on I’ll be placing specific “adventure sites,” ruins and lairs and the like, which probably will have unique monsters.  If I end up with something like an undead haunted ruin, then zombies or bog mummies will probably find themselves added to the above list, but it’s a good base line for now.

Finally, a note about population density.  As was determined back in “Subsistence andSettlement Patterns” this area is sparsely inhabited.  Per the World Builder’s Guidebook this means there will be 3-8 villages, with a total population of 1,000-2,000 people.  Most likely, I will divide this up among the main races we discussed above—1 or 2 for the Mossmen, 1 for the Galts who are just starting to move in and drain the bog, 2 or 3 for the native Umbrian “bog people” and maybe 1 full scale village of goblins.  Obviously, I won’t know for sure until I actually sit down and work up the map, but there’s what I’m thinking of for now.


  1. So Mossmen are botanical gnomes, size small? I must admit I had already conceptualized them looking like Mossman from Masters of the Universe. They should at least have a Texas accent!

  2. Damnit Brian--why do you insist on coming up with better ideas than me? Ok, they're now big swamp thing looking dudes carrying a honking mace...

  3. You have forgotten shambling mounds. These are CLASSIC D&D monsters. Cannot be forgotten. And tough as crap...

    Hey - read up on the Marsh Arabs on the Tigris and Euphrates...


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