All right, it’s time to talk about a piece of real estate on Findalay that is near and dear to my heart – The Damned Lands. That brilliant little piece of world that is unexplored on the map. We can tell from its name, The Damned Lands, that things are… well, pretty bad. But what exactly is going on over there?
Keep the Mystery Alive
So there’s a few problems with writing about The Damned Lands, namely they’re supposed to be unexplored and mysterious so I want to leave a majority of their description to the imagination. Why do this? Well for one thing, Exploration Age needs some areas to be explored. I like the idea of having Verda be the habitable, resource rich area that has new life. It’s wondrous and beautiful as well as dangerous and exciting. The Damned Lands are a different kind of exploration – grueling, horrific, and alien. The rewards here need to be potentially even greater than in Verda to get adventurers to consider entering The Damned Lands. Mystery is a big part of the atmosphere and legend of The Damned Lands. It will help keep the frightful anticipation levels up while traveling there and keep players on their toes while adventuring in its depths.
However, enticement is also a big part of mystery. You need to have some information in order to make an area feel intriguing. For instance, many of us have played the popular childhood game Bloody Mary just to see what would happen. We played this game even though the best case scenario was nothing happened and the worst case scenario was an evil, psychopathic ghost of Queen Mary appeared and devoured your soul. Someone really should have done a cost benefit analysis there, but because rumor had it other kids had successfully invoked Mary, you went and tried it just to see what would happen. The danger of The Damned Lands will be enough to entice some.
When it comes to experimentation and risk-taking, I find many players are more cautious with the lives of their characters than they were with their own real lives when they were kids. This actually makes sense. Most PCs are adults and as adults, most of us don’t play Bloody Mary because we’re aware that at best and definitely-most-likely, it will yield no result and waste our precious time while at worst and probably not-going-to-happen we lose our soul. So we need to give just a little more information about The Damned Lands and that is – there’s some pretty cool treasures down there… and some people who spend a lot of time in The Damned Lands develop special powers.
The Other Guys
So there’s another issue with The Damned Lands. The idea of crazy, dangerous wastelands is not breaking new ground in D&D campaign settings. Eberron has The Mournland and Forgotten Realms has the Dread Ring. Heck, all of Dark Sun’s Athas is a horrific wasteland. I’m trying to be somewhat original here, but I must admit that the idea for The Damned Lands is stolen from these places.
So what makes this place different? Well, a few things as you’ll see in the description below, however I’ll point out a big one here. The Damned Lands have always been a mystery and yet the people of Findalay have always known they were there. Constantly drawing curious and fearful eyes, these lands have never had another name. They were always The Damned Lands and have forever been a mystery.
Another thing that makes The Damned Lands different is the crushing madness that can grip anyone who stays within its borders for too long. Known simply as The Madness, there is a real, palpable, nigh incurable insanity that can grip all but the strongest minds who choose to venture there. The Madness usually takes hold before any sign of developing a special power occurs, so often these powers come to an individual at the price of their sanity. Thus The Damned Lands have a few residents who once desired powers and are now broken and full of dangerous psionic energy waiting to be unleashed.
What Do We Know
More than half a million years before the start of the campaign, it is believe that within The Damned Lands there existed a peaceful race of advanced psionic beings. This mysterious race of people was able to erect a psionic shield around their entire nation which kept out the aberrants. The aberrants and dragons were so busy with their own war, that they paid the isolationist race very little attention as they tried to kill one another.
Then in roughly 300,000 BF the psionic shield was dropped and the entire country glowed hot with energy for hundreds of thousands of years. Even at night The Damned Lands could be seen glowing in the distance beyond The Deep Orc Mountains. Any who tried to make their way beyond The Damned Lands’ borders quickly became violently ill and died, their bodies cooked in harsh burns from the strangely irradiated landscape. The Damned Lands earned their name and the people of Findalay learned to respect that and steer clear.
Slowly, overtime, the glow of The Damned Lands began to soften and cool. Strange creatures, unlike any ever seen with weird psionic abilities began to appear in The Deep Orc Mountains. Then as the lands began to lose their glow altogether, animals and creatures resembling those from Canus’ modern day Material Plane began appearing with strange mutations and psionic powers. They were often crazed and violent.
Once The Damned Lands cooled, Findalayans began to explore the region cautiously. That’s when they began to discover ancient ruins of this once great civilization and its many unique treasures. Powerful magic items, certainly, but also rare bioorganic items that meld with an individual’s mind and body to grant him or her unique powers. They seemed to do everything from help with mundane chores and hobbies (such as a wrist implant which can make ones hands resistant to heat while cooking or an ocular implant that allows one to better appreciate the details of sculpting) to rarer more powerful implants (granting abilities such as growing detachable, projectile spikes out of one’s arm or a prehensile tail to aid in climbing).
Stranger still, when an extended period of time was spent in The Damned Lands, the folk of Canus seemed to unlock strange, psionic abilities within themselves. These abilities included mind-reading, telekinetic powers, flight, enhanced speed, enhanced strength, mind-control, regenerative properties, the list goes on and on. The more time spent in The Damned Lands, the more powerful these abilities seemed to become. However, the more time spent in The Damned Lands, the harder The Madness becomes to resist.
And that’s the big problem with exploring The Damned Lands. The Madness grips an individual like a vice, squeezing slowly and constantly until he or she cannot get free of its grasp. Not to mention the strange monsters that roam The Damned Lands infected with The Madness and the freakish weather effects that are harsher than anything one might experience anywhere else in Canus. The treasures above are difficult to come by – even those most seasoned adventurer is far more likely to find death or insanity than wealth and power. And considering the time it takes to develop a special psionic ability within The Damned Lands borders, it’s nearly impossible to gain a power without first meeting one’s doom.
Still, isn’t it tempting…