A lawless, violent and exceeding dangerous place – the Badlands is also of extreme strategic importance as it is the source of the largest and one of the last known deposits of the magical meteoric steel, Coronotite. And not just a small deposit either..
It is for this reason that the various factions in and around the Badlands are in a continuous struggle to control this precious and valuable resource.
While the conflict is endemic, the ramshackle fortifications near the main mining camp are currently controlled by the self proclaimed Hobgoblin War Chief, Kharag the Magnificent, and his private army of Hobgoblin warriors.
But despite superiority of numbers, weaponry and fighting prowess, their continued dominance is certainly not guaranteed..
While might and raw power rules supreme in the Badlands, there are a set of loose conventions followed by the inhabitants designed to prevent all out bloodshed – most notably the so called ‘Arena of Doom’ where trade or other disputes can be settled in the open in front of an excited and sadistic crowd.
In addition to all manner of misfits, freaks, anarchists, fugitives and cut-throats that hail from every corner of Eletreus – the presence of a second rare mineral deposit, called Lunatite, is responsible for causing severe mutations in unborn human children and has had a very unique effect on the local insect population, causing them to grow to truly gargantuan proportions.
While encounters with wild giant insects are exceedingly dangerous, over generations many human, mutant and inhuman tribes have learned to semi-domesticate these beasts and use them in all manner of ways in their daily lives. Giant ants in the mines, Giant bugs for transport and fighting, any use you can think of they already have, and while not teeming with such creatures (as they are vulnerable when they shed their carapace to grow, and it usually takes many years to reach maturity) there are enough to shock and surprise outsiders who spy them for the first time (hopefully in the distance from the relative safety of the heavily patrolled Great Western Road).
Due to these reasons, and the fact that even if without the threat of mutation (as it occurs in the genes of both males and females who spend too much time in this area, typically 3 months or more), the Aelutian Empire has not attempted to claim this region. Instead they reluctantly trade with Kharag and his gang of sadistic slavers and content themselves with keeping the Great Western Road to Silverleaf open..
Military: Approx 3,000 heavily armed and armored Hobgoblin warriors. Numerous mercenary groups and heavily armed militias. A Legion of 10,000 Imperial troops stationed at the fortress town of Batrion.
Language: An Aelutian dialect with many tribal and Hobgoblin words, especially insults and vulgarities.
MAJOR TOWNS, CITIES AND PLACES OF INTEREST
SILVERLEAF TERRITORY: The Easternmost town has a heavily fortified bridge and war barges to protect against incursions from the Badlands. They work closely with Imperial forces to achieve this and have been known to conduct joint raiding operations in the Badlands when attacks along the Great Western road threaten to close this important trade route.
GREAT WESTERN ROAD: Runs from Silverleaf to the Imperial Capital and is VERY well patrolled, both along the coast and the road itself – with Imperial troops stationed at the Citadel and Batrion and at many stations in between. While not considered to be ‘safe’ travelers that stay to the road are unlikely to encounter any serious trouble, but it is strongly recommended to travel in groups with the protection of Imperial patrols or private mercenary hirelings.
BATRION: In addition to providing protection to travelers and merchants on the road, in addition to a roadside fortress, Batrion is also the home of one of the most talented swordsmiths in the Empire and a large workshop where the majority of the Imperial Aelutian Gladius are made.
COUNT CARPATHIAN: The Vampire Count and his retainers control these dark and brooding lands. His small retinue of private guards largely keep to themselves and receive few visitors, but he is rumored to hunt isolated travelers on dark and moonless nights. Whether or not this is true has never been verified, for no-one has ever lived to provide eyewitness accounts. Just bodies mutilated and drained to the last drop of their blood.. Accusations leveled against him are strongly denied – with the Count, who does not hide his undead status, claiming he only takes the blood from his willing brood and ‘harem’ of female slaves. He has strong trade ties with Kharang and his men, and seem to have a relationship of mutual respect.
TOWER OF THE WARLOCK: The reclusive Warlock is said to be a maker of magical weapons, specializing in powerfully enchanted daggers of ill repute. Like Count Carpathian, he receives few visitors and is believed to never leave his tower, which he wrested control from another Wizard who lived there before him some 200 years in the past. What the Warlock looks like is unknown, as is his personality and motivation, making him one of the most reclusive and mysterious residents of the Badlands. What IS known is that his lands are considered to be quite dangerous, with hideous creatures of his own mad creation roaming the lands around it. The tower itself is also the source of many disturbing and frightening events, ensuring the Warlock is left alone to his own devices, whatever they may actually be..
IRONTON: A Freetown of ruffians, wanderers, fugitives and other colorful characters, Ironton gets its name from the large deposit of pure iron ore that gives it its name and runs a successful mining operation there. The anarchic town is heavily defended by its own ad-hoc militia, and has resisted any and all attempts to take it over by the Empire and would be raiders from the Badlands.
MINING CAMP AND THE ARENA OF DOOM: Here the Hobgoblin Warchief Kharang rules with an iron fist – running a major mining operation on the deposits of Coronotite utilizing slave labor and giant ants. Kharang has been the self proclaimed ‘Overlord’ of the entire Badlands for nearly 2 decades, which is no small feat as most other previous controllers of the mine rarely hold it for more than a year or two at best before they are either killed or have their position usurped (and then killed). Here is also to be found the ‘Arena of Doom’ where disputes are settled in blood from all over the Badlands (and even beyond).
SWAMPLANDS: No-one goes in here. Or if they do, they don’t come back.. There is SOMETHING nasty in the swamp. The most reliable descriptions suggest it is a beast with a tall and lanky body, roughly 16 feet in height, with long arms and wide “hands” with three fingers each ending in a claw, its overall body vaguely humanoid in shape. It’s skin is tough and thick, twisting and knotting like the bark of an ancient tree. Across it’s long arms and broad back grow moss, ferns, and other swamp dwelling plants that have clung to the creatures hide, due to it’s long periods of immobility as it lies in wait for some foolish adventure to wander into it’s domain. It lacks any communication ability exempt for the ability to mimic human screams, which it uses to lure it’s favorite prey.
Because of it’s bark like hide and flora covered body, once submerged into the fetid waters of the swamp, it becomes almost impossible to tell apart from the rest of the swamp. At the base of it’s neck, a long branch like appendage protrudes, and, at it’s end, a small, dimly glowing light. The light looks similar to a lantern, shining from the depths of the moor. The light is bio luminescent, and produced naturally by the monster.
THE SLAG: If Ironton is city of wanderers, ruffians, and outlaw, then the Slag is where the drags from Ironton congregate. Murderers, mercenaries, madames, and other unpleasant occupations staring with “M” make up the primary demographic of this shantytown-come-old west boulevard. This said, while the permanent residents are those who even Ironton couldn’t abide, they get visitors from both in and out of town seeking to do business or let off a little steam away from prying eyes.
If you’re the decent type of renegade, who wants to survive away from the Empire and maybe after your hundredth bar-fight actually get down to marrying that serving girl and building a family: Go to Ironton. It is a town, there is a town watch, you’ll probably do just fine. If you’re currently the other kind of renegade and what you really want is to hire a courtesan/merc/thief/merc who does part-time as a courtesan and might rob you when you’re asleep, or buy drugs made of elf ears, or put out a contract on someone you disagree with: Go to The Slag. (And don’t lose your drugs to a mugger in an alleyway. There’s no watchmen here.)
BUG HILLS: The mountains are home to strange and insectoid creatures, as well as those who would tame them. A watchtower from days gone by rots by the river, the only remnant of the Empire expedition sent to map these lands.
THE DUMPING GROUNDS: The marshy woods near The Slag are a prime dumping ground for the bodies that the crime in the shanty generates. It isn’t a swamp, a good pair of boots is all you need to keep your feet out of the mossy mud, but be on the lookout for amateur gravediggers, hungry cultists, or hobgoblin raiding parties.
CAMP FREAK: When the mutant settlement was destroyed this is where the dregs fled to: increasing the size of a small camp of refugee Thorkanian males who years ago fled the tyranny of their female overlords several years previously, and in the last 10 years camp freak as it is now known has grown into a small town with a mixed population and a lot of tension. Many of the Thorkanians didn’t want the mutants settling nearby, and most of the mutants know it. Both are present in the town, but to say that they tolerate each other would be a stretch, and that they welcome each other an outright lie. The humans, assassins, criminals and a wise but murderous Warlock keep them together for safety and obscurity, but gang fights are common, and an outsider with no green in their skin tone or without an obvious deformity would do well to keep hidden, covered up, or disguised.
GHOST TOWN: Once a town of freaks, mutants, and untouchables it is now completely deserted after numerous assassin attacks depleted the citizenry and infested the town with angular shadows. The distress caused by one shadow was bad enough, but after several got in the chaos reached a tipping point and the ensuing panic fed the shadows even more. Any mutants that survived fled with the remains of their families and left the town empty. The shadows eventually starved though a few of the wry ones may still linger in and among the rotting buildings feeding on squirrels and scavengers.
A hermit or two still live in and around the town, dwelling in circular huts with furnishings made of bent sticks and furs where few angles are found. The hermits rely on the reputation of the town to keep away visitors, and on their own devices to keep away assassins.
Scavengers can sometimes be found searching the ruins for forgotten valuables, and some times a runaway or band of thieves will take shelter in one of the more intact structures, though none but the hermits stay long, and those that do may find themselves in a cultist’s net or drained to a husk by the creatures that lurk in the corners.
THE MURDER CULTISTS: At first glance, this lightly wooded, lightly hilled – and extremely spooky – area at first seems deserted. But it is actually one of the most dangerous and evil places in all of Eletrues, for it is the home of the the Temple of the Dead Hand, a cult of deadly assassins who leave, breathe and revere the act of murder above all things.
The cult is heavily involved in the darkest of blood magics, sacrificing their victims to an unknown and secret entity. The cultists and all dress identically, with identical skull faced masks that they fuse into their flesh so it may never be removed, and have no names. While they are assassins without peer, able to de-materialize and stalk their prey like a shadow, few hire them for they are not interested in gold, and the price they will take for their services, is the ultimate one…
BARTERVILLE: A trading village, a hub for the hill men, farmers, and occasional hobgoblin that want to buy local produce or good steel tools. The village consists of several stone hovels all around a central market of wooden stands and pavilions. Custom keeps thing civil, and those not welcome in Silverleaf do much of their business here. Consistent trade makes for an uneasy peace, and so for the most part, this is the most homely spot you will find in the entire badlands. You’re still likely to get a glare from the locals, and you may be denied service if they don’t like your mannerisms or looks, but you’re unlikely to be stabbed, and if you need to fight you’ll be asked to do it outside of town.
THE CARAVAN (MOBILE)
The caravan is a group of various merchants, blacksmiths, and food sellers. Known across the Badlands for their strong wines and fine wares, they have somehow remained neutral in the power struggle of competing factions and endless tribal warfare. The caravan is always flanked by numerous mercenaries to keep order in the camp and dissuade potential attacks from roving warparties. The caravannears are not defenseless either, many know the desert well and every man, woman and child is capable of defending themselves from the scum of the Badlands.
Those who happen to stumble into the camped caravan are happy to find plenty of food, drink and supplies, as well as festivities surrounding one of the many campfires, plenty of spiced wine and other merriment. The partying lasts until late into the evening, with many of the patrons passing out in a haze or bedding down for the night. Upon awakening at sunrise, they find nothing but smoldering fires, and wagon tracks in the sand. The caravan had disappeared into the night.
The caravan is constantly moving, never resting in one place for more than a couple days, visiting each of the major centers of the Badlands before moving on again. Those who wish to travel with the caravan are welcome, provided they have food and drink to share. The caravannears, unlike the rest of the Badlands, consider slaves as free, and treat them as such, much to the anger of the Hobgoblin Slavers.