Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Laveen - the Orctown Slums - History and Present Conditions

In centuries past, Laveen was a paradise on earth, a glittering, cool oasis on the southern edge of the Phoenix desert. Situated near the confluence of the Gila and Salt Rivers, nestled at the base of the Estrella Mountains, Laveen seemed to be planted by the gods themselves, as the ancient tales recounted. Such tales of divine origin hold in the minds of many even today, owing to those magnificent magical orchards.

Magic Orchards

The magical orchards of Laveen are an amazing sight to behold. Irrigated by ancient trenches bringing water from the Gila River, the miraculous orchards produce fruit continually. Year round, for as long as stories have been told, the Laveen orchards pour forth their bounty. Trees of all kinds are found there, including many otherwise foreign types that will grow nowhere else in Arizona. [Many an ambitious farmer, scholar, or magician has spent years trying in vain to propate Laveen fruit seeds outside of the Laveen fields, but all attempts have thusfar ended in failure. Whatever great magic sustains the trees in that zone prevents them from taking root elsewhere, it seems.]

The Ancient Hohokam

In centuries past, when the footprint of the Noble Ones was new to these desert regions, Laveen was the center of human habitation in the Phoenix desert. The city of Laveen was the last living remant of the ancient Hohokam civilization. The civilized Hohokam were of the same racial stock as the Dineh, but were gentle, friendly, and refined, in stark contrast to their wild cousins. The Hohokam welcomed our Noble forefathers, and provided us with valuable supplies and knowledge in our early days in these hostile desert lands. At a time when Aryan encapments were small, weak, and primitive, Laveen was a mighty jewell in the desert, a friendly home to all races, and a point of cultural enlightenment.

Yet it was Laveen's urbane openness and domestic blessings that proved to be its ultimate downfall. The natural blessings of her magical orchards proved a magnet for the slothful and decadent, and in the end, it was not an external invasion, but her own festering weakness that led to her ruin.

The Rise of the Half-Orcs

Laveen's half-orc population, which started out as a small pariah group [looked down upon with disgust even by the urbane Hohokam], gradually grew out of control. While the Hohokam used the blessings of their leisure to express their artisitic and cultural genius [scores of their finest intellectual productions can be found even today in our libraries], the half-orcs used their leisure for little more than drunkenness, violence, and promiscuity.

The Night of Long Spears

By the time the Hohokam began to become aware of their growing danger, it was too late. In one fateful day, which began with an attempt to arrest the half-orc gangs leaders, the Hohokam's fate was sealed. In what is still remembered by historians today as the Night of Long Spears, the half-orcs of Laveen exploded in an orgy of violence, slaughtering the Hohokam men, women, and children with abandon, gleefully drinking their blood and feasting upon their bodies in the streets of Laveen. [Some Hohokam managed to escape, and today a few clans in Buckeye and Tempe trace their lineage to those horrific events.]

Subsequent Collapse

Of course, the glory that was Hohokam Laveen was quickly torn down by its new half-orc masters. Hohokam archetecture was torn down; today the half-orc swarms domicile in piles of rubble and lean-to shanties. Laveen's impressive hydrolic engineering, which provided running water and sewage disposal throughout the city, fell into ruin; half-orcs today seem content to live in their own fith. The half-orcs of Laveen today are the most corrupt race in the known world, enabled by their magical trees to devote their full time to drunkenness, vice, violence, and sex.

Chaotic Conditions Today

The Orc-town Lord provides some measure of governance to what can otherwise best be described as anarchy. The Orc-Town Lorship is little more than a criminal syndicate designed to exploit maximal wealth from the slums, and the office tends to change hands with alarming rapidity, as rival gangs and general uprisings overthrow previous Lords. When conditions are not in total chaos, the Lord can be counted on to run a profitable business selling the fruits from her orchards to the outside world. The Lordship also specializes in raising revenue through kidnappings of various personages from the civilized world, with special targeting of Der-juden merchants and Aryan nobles, when possible.

Due to its terrible living conditions and overpopulation problems, Laveen is a source of continual lawlessness throughout the region. Aryan military leaders have periodically attempted reprisal actions against Laveen, but the results of such expeditions have been uniformly counterproductive. The only time the half-orcs seem to acquire motivation or organization is in response to external attacks, so our policy towards them is usually neglect, allowing them to consume themselves in violent dissipation rather than risk stirring them up into organized hostility. The prospect of filthy hoards of Laveen half-orcs streaming towards Tempe, which is after all, within a day's journey, is a daunting one indeed...

Adventuring Hooks

--The son of a high profile Tempe nobleman has been kidnapped, and is being held in the Orc-Town Lord's dungeon. A military expedition is infeasible, but a small group can be sent into the town, in disguise, to effect his rescue.

--The new Orc-Town Lord is distressingly competant, and appears to be uniting the half-orc clans, with the intention of forming a grand army to sack surrounding settlements. A small group is sent in to foment dissent, and assassinate the new lord if possible.

--The phoenix firebird, while flying above the region on its way to or from its aeire home, was ambushed. A savage battle ensued, against what appeared to be flying demons or devils, in the skies immediately above Laveen. The magical faculty of Applied Spellcasting University quickly sends a small diguised party into Laveen to recover any feathers or body parts (phoenix or demon) to be found, which would be highly valuable to their magical research projects.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Arizona Adventures - Human, Demi-Human, and Humanoid Races

As a Dawn of Civilization milleau, there is a less cosmopolitan feel to this campaign. The races are not used to each other's presence, they do not live together, and rarely congregate together.

Humans

The main colonizer group are the Aryans. A militaristic warlike group, they seek to aggressively expand their borders and domains. The agricultural community at Tempe is the center of their civilization. Wickenberg and Superior are military forts guarding the entrances into their Valley homeland. Prescott is the armed mining camp providing the resource extraction for their weapons and tools. Their castle in Flagstaff is the source of their lumber economy. They are feudal in organization, with a variety of castes and classes, and they make up the majority of humans in the Arizona region.

The main native group is the Dineh. They are primitive tribal hunter-gatherers. They do not get along well with each other, as they are divided into various warring clans, nor do they get along with the Aryans. They live in small population groups in cliff dwellings near water sources, and are led by warriors and shamans. The occasional lone Dineh can be found in a civilized area, but the Dineh as a whole are more fond of raiding than trading, and hate civlization, technology, and magic.

The Celts can be found scattered throughout the region, but have their one central gathering place at Fountain Hills, with its magnificent magic fountain. The Celts are a druidic people, and live a very low-tech lifestyle close to the land, whereever they are found. They are not aggressive, and generally are the only group to get along reasonably well with the other races in the region. Despite their low numbers and simple lives, they seem to be connected to a much larger network which extends far out of the Arizona region.

The Monmores are also a colonizing group. Their homeland is far to the north, near the legendary Great Salt Lake, but they have two population centers in Arizona: Snowflake and Mesa. They are a highly religious people centered around magnificent temples. They are a polygamous society, with their patriarchs collecting small harems of young women, and their young men sent out into the world as missionary priests to spread the worship of their gods.

The Der-judens are a merchant race scattered throughout the settlements of the region, with their main settlement near Flagstaff. They are an insular people who specialize in the jewel trade, the slave trade, and money lending, but can be found involved in the trade of anything valuable. The Der-juden are generally resented for their gouging practices and overall wealth, and are rumored to be involved in some nefarious way with vampirism and other dark arts. Their trade network appears to extend outside the region of Arizona, but they are loath to share much knowlege with other groups.

Demihumans

The Dwarves are an ancient race inhabiting their underground caverns at Globe and Miami. They view all humans as barbarians, not really appreciating the differences between the various human ethnic groups, but are willing to trade with them when advantageous. Their metalwork, armor making and weaponcraft are the finest in the region, and are highly sought after. Their mortal enemies are the goblins and hobgoblins of the White Mountains.

The Elves of Arizona can be found scattered throughout the forest lands, but are mainly found near their home kingdom of Payson, in the middle of the enchanted forests of the Mogollon Rim area. The Elves are a magical race, both feeding off and sustaining the enchantments of their forest homeland.

Humanoids

Goblin tribes swarm the moutains of southeastern Arizona. They are largely primitive and disorganized. They wage perpetual war against the Dwarves of the region, and make regular scavenging raids against human settlements when the opportunity arises.

Gnolls inhabit the same eastern mountain ranges as the goblins, but their clans tend to congregate in the more northern ranges, especially where the mountains give way to hills and then plains.

Hobgoblin and Orc tribes can be found in large numbers in the rough forests of western Arizona, eeking out a primitive and violent existence in that land of giants and giant creatures.

The ugly miscenginated race of Half-orcs are congregated in their town of Laveen, along the rive banks of the Gila River south of the Phoenix region. The sacred groves of magical fruit trees that were long ago the gift of the gods to the first people, have been overrun by the festering hoards of half-orcs, in what is others call the Orctown Slums.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Arizona Adventures - Temporal and Cultural Setting

The temporal setting of Arizona Adventures is Dawn of Civilization. The civilized, magic- and metal-using humans are in the process of Colonization. Their mode of progress is agricultural settlement, harnessing the river valleys. Their culture is militarized, relying on fortifications to protect themselves from the wild inhabitants around them.

Non-civilized tribes of humans are to be found in small numbers spread throughout the state, in the Cliff Dweller phase of development. These tribal people are perfectly described by the Barbarian class of Unearthed Arcana. They are a warrior people, with shamans as their primitive magic users/clerics. They do not understand civilized magic or technology, do not trust it, and destroy it whenever possible (although they are willing to raid or trade for useful steel weapons).

These barbarians rely on hunting/gathering for their way of life, building their cliff-dwellings near the water sources of canyon rivers and creeks. Their language is strange, and their tribes hostile to the civilized colonizers. An occasional tribal barbarian can be found interfacing with civilization as a strange loner, and trading parties will occasionally be encountered as well, but raiding parties are far more common. The level of mistrust between native and colonizer is high.

Economic Development

Due to the early state of development in Arizona, gold pieces are fairly rare, produced in only two places: the Royal Mint in Tempe, and the Merchant's Bank in Flagstaff. The economy in the cities will run on bitmetalism (gold and silver), but the rural economy is done mainly in barter. Non-human monsters and giants will have items and jewels but little in the way of gold-piece hoards.

The main agricultural center for the state is in Tempe, utilizing the irrigation of the Salt River. His Highness the King is based on Tempe.

Flagstaff is the main center for the lumber industry in the state. Other influential groups in the city include the Slavers Guild and the Magical Faculty of NAU.

The main mining center for the state is in Prescott, producing the various metals (precious and industrial) used in civilized society.

The Highway of the 17 Lords connects these three economic hubs (although the 17 Realms are in various states of organization and stability, and the road is not completely safe).

A secondary mining area is located around the Dwarven towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe. The Dwarves are an ancient and insular people, and there is little interface between them and human civilizations. They view all humans as dangerous barbarians, and are only slowly learning to appreciate the differences between the colonizers and the native tribes. Their metal work (weaponry and artistic) is highly prized for its quality.

Blythe is a fortified trading town at the intersection of the Colorado Rive and the Highway of the 10 Immortals. Trade in any direction through this point faces control and taxation by the powerful Merchant's Guild.

Giants and Humanoid civilization

These groups exist at a very primitive level of civilization. They can be expected to possess naturalistic weapons and armor (wooden clubs and spears, rocks, slings, leather armor). Only their kings and captains would be expected to possess anything metal or magical. Treasure would mainly be jewels and other objects stolen from dwarfs, elves, or humans. Goblins and Hobgoblins infest the southern forests, while Gnolls and Flinds hunt the northern forests. Overall, their social organization is low, mainly clans and tribes, without kingdoms.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Arizona Adventures - Physical Setting

The Arizona of this adventure is sort of a mashup of mythic and real elements taking place in the real physical Desert Southwest. Not unlike the excellent Burning City series, by Pournelle and Niven, which takes place in California and crosses into Arizona in the latest book, it is the magical meeting place of multiple races and civilizations.

Physical setting

The commonality of civilization in this adventure is bound by the physical watershed of greater Arizona. The centerpiece, is of course, the Colorado River, flowing down from Lake Powell through the Grand Canyon. The headwaters of the river actually start in way off New Mexico, up near Farmington, which mark the distant limits of the common civilization.

Further east of Farmington begins the headwaters of the Rio Grande, flowing down through NM into Texas, which define the neighboring foreign civilization. [These two civilizations were once connected by the Highway of the 10 Immortals (yes, I-10), but that highway connection has been broken down east of Tucson by the mysterious undead empire centered in Tombstone.]

The watershed flows northwards from Tucson towards the great rivers that cross central Arizona, the Salt and the Gila, which also eventually drain into the Colorado. The Colorado drains down through Yuma across Mexico and into the Baja Gulf, which will form the southern edge of the campaign map.

Campaign Areas

A great sand-dune desert exists north of the Baja Gulf, still in Mexico south of the Arizona border, providing an excellent local for Egyptian-style desert adventures. A great lava field El Pinacate sits at the center of this desert, offering a multitude of adventuring opportunities.

The Grand Canyon offers up a Lost World environment, chock full of dinosaurs, lizardmen, cavemen, etc.

The area of the Prescott Forest, stretching from from Wickenburg to Sedona, is Giant Land, including giant varieties of every type of animal and insect.

The area of the Tonto forest through the Apache reservation to the borders of NM is home to Humanoid and Demi-human civilization. Goblins and Orcs dominate to the east, with dwarfs along the western edge of the mountainous zone, and wild elves in the north.

The area of the Coconino forest along the Mogollon Rim is Enchanted Forest, full of every magical forest creature.

The Rocky Mountains to the north of Arizona are Dragon Lands, full of Giants as well.

The area around Tombstone is an Undead Empire, animated by some unknown evil force.

The Petrified Forest up along I-40: a literally petrified forest, home to monsters that turn things to stone.

The major human settlemenst: Tempe and Flagstaff, home to the good and the evil societies of Arizona. Tempe, home to the Applied Spellcasting University (ASU), the center of lawful human civilization. Flagstaff, home to the Necromantic Arts University (NAU), also center for slave trading.

Sin City, roughly of course, Las Vegas, on the far boundary of the map, home to devils and various other forces of evil. Sin City is the end point of Route 666, the Devils Highway, which follows roughly Route 66/I-40 across northern Arizona.

The northern plains and grasslands are contested by Insect Civilization, led by the Mantis Men.

Shiprock, located physically in NM, actually a gateway for inter dimensional Gith civilization.

Bullhead City, the homeland of the Minotaur kingdom.