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Wandering Wasteland: Sea of Shards

The northern reaches of the Scorched Lands are dominated by the Sea of Shards, a stretch of sand dunes that are endlessly shifting at the whim of the winds and dotted with strange ashen stalagmites that rise from the terrain. Traveling is difficult at best and landmarks are rare, always appearing or disappearing with the changes of the sand dunes. The few locals who dare cross this area are also superstitiously fearful of the ashen pillars, so much so that they avoid marking them as waypoints. This almost barren land is quite dangerous for any who brave it.

  1. The Fiery Apparition Haunt 
  2. Desert Terrain Hazards
    Sea of Shards
  3. Advance Scout Spire (CR 9 or 14)
    The servants of the Formian Queen have hidden exits from her vast Underworld empire among the many ashen pillars dotting the Sea of Shards. When close enough (within 500 ft.) telling them apart is simple—constructed mounds are made of hard-packed dirt and gritbut by then it may be too late, chancing that one’s presence is detected by formians scouts that scour the Scorched Lands (6 warriors and 1d4+4 workers who maintain the lair). There is a 10% chance a spire is of strategic importance to the Formian Queen and is also home to a formian myrmarch.
    There’s little to see from afar save for the shifting of patrol warbands that cycle in and out of the spire every few weeks. Adventurers may attempt to sneak to the entrance of the spire, but otherwise the beings within are alerted to their approach by warrior scouts and follow a pre-set plan of actions.
    When prepared for trespassers the six warriors assault intruders while the workers set about in activating a controlled cave-ins. After 1d10 rounds of battle the underground tunnels fall in on themselves, gradually collapsing the entire spire after 1d4 minutes. If a formian myrmarch is present it only takes part in the combat if it seems the party can be easily defeated; otherwise the elite servant of the Formian Queen is the first to retreat before the tunnels are collapsed. This defense ensures no trail is left to the Underworld complexes belonging to the formians.
    When trespassers surprise the creatures (or manage to foil their defense plan and enter the lair before it collapses) the interior of the scout spire has a simple chamber containing no treasure of great worth or any clues to the origin of its warband. [The maze-like tunnels that lead deeper could easily become an adventure arc on their own, but that is beyond the scope of this story. —SP] 
  4. Sand Traps (CR 3) and Sinkholes (CR 6)
    Due to the constantly shifting sands, the dunes in the Sea of Shards are riddled with natural sand traps (as per an ant lion’s ability) and sinkholes (as a camouflaged pit trap but Perception and Disable Device DC 28) to the unwary. The ground is rarely hard packed sand and many times seems to suck a traveler’s feet in, or for the truly unfortunate, one’s entire body.
    At the GM’s discretion, the sand that topples onto a creature that falls into a sand trap or sinkhole might trap them in without allowing them room to breathe. Without help from above the creature must succeed on a DC 22 Climb or Escape Artist check extricate themselves; otherwise suffocation rules come into play (in this case increase the hazard’s CR +2).

[Submitted by Stefanos “netlich” Patelis!]

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Wandering Wasteland: The Transgression

Scorched Lands reveal 1[The Transgression is a major element of the Scorched Lands and over the next few weeks we’re revealing the rest of it on next week’s Trap Tuesday! Stay tuned! —MM]

The Shard of the Sun passes over the Scorched Lands twice daily, once around midnight and again around noon (always 12 hours apart on a semi sun-synchronous orbit). As the planet rotates below the Shard is always between it and the sun during noon (or midnight) local time. The Transgression, as it is formally called, takes approximately one hour from the time the Shard appears on the eastern horizon until it passes completely under the western sky. During the Transgression a bright “second sun” appears in the sky emanating waves of heat and bright light; as the Shard reaches the apex of the noon sky temperatures rise drastically, reaching upwards of 240° Fahrenheit (115° C). Fortunately these extreme temperatures last for only “the dead 6’s”, (66 seconds) as the Shard passes directly overhead and the surface experiences the full blast of its power. This burning heat can be endured as long as one takes shelter or finds cover from the direct rays of the Shard; the nightly passing of the Shard has no adverse effects as it receives no power from the sun.

While the Shard of the Sun scorches the land below and destroys most life, a strange residual effect occurs in the Scorched Lands where its touch graces Aventyr—the entire zone is affected by a permanent endure elements spell. Any creature that spends at least 10 minutes in the Scorched Lands’ borders are affected by this phenomena and it lasts until 24 hours are spent outside of the zone, minimizing any heat dangers except during the direct Transgression (dangerous temperatures only exist for 5 minutes before and after the Shard’s direct passing; no environmental checks are required outside of this time.)

[The Transgression is by Scorched Lands writer Lance Keppner!]

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Wandering Wasteland: Ravine, City of the Sands

Ravine
Built into the crust of Aventyr in the central portion of the Scorched Lands is the city of Ravine, the largest settlement of the region. Hovels and dwellings crowd the sides of the busy canyon walls, while the surface level is left almost completely barren save for the sheltered guard posts and canyon lifts.. At the lowest level a stream of fresh, cool water runs throughout the canyon floor, created from a natural aquifer deep underground that runs south and west into the fissures. Pilgrims of all sorts have lived and survived here for centuries, each generation building dwellings closer and closer to the surface as space becomes more limited. The most prized and ancient of dwellings near the canyon floor are sought after and conspired for, often in the nearby market level’s giant lifts (spaced sporadically throughout to ferry goods to and from the surface on giant rock-counterweight scales). RavineSilver plated reflectors set up along the sides of some of the canyon walls reflect sunlight into special cutout terraces that, with irrigation from the stream, provide food for the citizens.

Ravine is run by an elected mayor that serves a five year term and all positions of power within the city are elected officials or appointed by the mayor.

RAVINE
N metropolis
Corruption +4; Crime +1; Economy +7; Law +5; Lore +6; Society +6
Qualities notorious, prosperous, rumormongering citizens, strategic location, superstitious, tourist attraction
Danger +20

DEMOGRAPHICS
Government autocracy
Population 75,000 (48,000 humans, 7,000 half-orcs, 6,000 half-elves, 14,000 other)
Notable NPCs
     Mayor Wells Sunprince (N Male half-elf rogue 13)
     Kara the Sun Flea (NG Female human investigator 5/bard 4) [this week’s Statblock Sunday! MM]
     Master Pilgrim Sandra Waster (LN Female half-orc ranger 8)

MARKETPLACE
Base Value 35,692 gp; Purchase Limit 225,000 gp; Spellcasting 8th
Minor Items *; Medium Items 4d4; Major Items 3d4

[Ravine by Scorched Lands writer Lance Keppner!]

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New Monster: Magna Graphia

Creature 7 Othnorian Firewalker

The creature in the distance moves with grace and speed, bounding across the blackened earth like a comet through the nights sky. As it draws closer you can see its body is composed of thick magma and hard rock, smoke and flames constantly issuing from its body. It is only now that you realize the beast is not running along the ground at all but is some how darting across flowing lava, like a human sized water-strider moving across the surface of a running river, made of melting stone.

Magna Graphia (Lava Strider)                                 CR 4  
XP 1200
CN Medium outsider (earth, elemental, fire, native)
Init +7; Senses Thermalsight (60 ft.), Perc. +9

DEFENSE

AC 17 (+3 dex, +4 natural armor)
hp 30 (5d10+5)
Fort + 8, Ref +10 , Will +4
Immune Elemental traits, fire
Weakness Vulnerable to cold

OFFENSE

Speed 50 ft.; lava walk
Melee slam +7 (1d8+2 plus burn)
Special Attacks Powerful charge (slam, 2d6+4 plus burn); burn (1d4, DC 13)

STATISTICS

Str 14, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 4, Wis 12, Cha 11
Base Atk +5 ; CMB +7 ; CMD 20
Feats Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (slam), Run
Skills Acrobatics +11 Jump +15, Perception +9
Languages Ignan

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Thermalsight (Ex) This ability functions like Blindsight but is based on the Lava Striders ability to sense minute differences in temperature and air pressure. While it is possible to effectively “blind” a Lava Strider using spells or abilities that generate heat and cold only those that have a duration longer than 1 round are sufficient to disorient a Lava Walker and must completely obscure any heat signatures (such as a Wall of Ice surrounding the entire party).

Burn (Ex) A lava strider deals fire damage in addition to damage dealt on a successful hit in melee. Those affected by the burn ability must also succeed on a Reflex save or catch fire, taking the listed damage for an additional 1d4 rounds at the start of its turn. A burning creature can attempt a new save as a full-round action. Dropping and rolling on the ground grants a +4 bonus on this save. Creatures that hit a burning creature with natural weapons or unarmed attacks take fire damage as though hit by the burning creature and must make a Reflex save to avoid catching on fire.

Lava Walk (Ex) Lava striders are able to move across lava as if it were solid ground, so long as they make at least one move action per round. Otherwise they begin to drown as normal and must pull themselves free of the lava before they may use this ability again.

ECOLOGY

Environment Temperate desert, plains
Organization Solitary, pair, pack (3-12)
Treasure Standard

Life is perhaps the last word that comes to mind when one thinks of the Scorched Lands, the blasted and cracked earth punished by the Shard of the Sun, and yet still life persists even here. Learned sages refer to them as Magna Graphia but are more commonly known as Lava Striders. These four legged elementals have found a home in a rather unlikely place, but they seem perfectly suited to the harsh environment they now inhabit.
Lava Striders are similar in a number of ways to magma elementals but have adapted to living in the material world and as such are no longer true outsiders. The four legged creatures are built for speed and power, their bodies composed equally of hardened rock, flowing magma and gouts of fire. Atop the rounded back flames arch and fly into the hazy air while a series of six protuberances spread equidistant around the creatures fiery hump constantly spew smoke and long streams of flame. The beasts heads consist of little more than a rounded stump of flowing magma, broken shards of dark slate pushing backwards to reveal bright molten rock. Long strands of dripping lava lash and dangle about the body and head, sending droplettes of quickly cooling lava flying into the air. Lava Striders are usually 5 feet tall at the shoulders and weighs 150 pounds.

Though clearly of elemental origin Lava Striders now call the material plane home and as such they must eat and sleep like other mortals, though what constitutes feeding and slumber for the Lava Strider may not follow conventional wisdom. They gain the majority of their sustenance from mineral deposits which they slowly subsume into their bodies but have a strong preference for worked or precious metals when available, making them a menace to adventurers in an already dangerous land. The process of melting and then consuming worked metal takes too much time to be effective in combat but unless protected from fire even magical items will eventually succumb to the heat.
Lava Striders are usually solitary hunters, their ability to move swiftly across flowing lava allows them to reach mineral sources even other creatures immune to the intense heat may not be able to reach. Packs of as many as a dozen Striders have been sighted but only at fresh volcanic eruptions or when bringing down dangerous prey (like a party of adventurers wearing delicious metal armor). Even in such circumstances their tactical behavior varies little, preferring to use their Power Charge to rush foes before fleeing swiftly and then charging again until their prey or they are dead.

HABITAT & SOCIETY

Though the vast majority of Lava Striders are found along the Scorched Lands they do exist in other regions, especially those with frequent volcanic activity but require extreme heat and rich minerals to sustain themselves. This often leads to interactions with other elemental and fire based creatures, but only those who use or require metal and minerals see much reason in bothering with the simple minded Striders. Red dragons have a particular hatred for the beasts, as they have been known to slip into the dragons treasure hordes and devour precious coins and magical equipment. A red dragon that spots Lava Striders in its domain will sometimes fly out to kill them directly, usually with spells and claw, or by sending out minions to at least chase the swift elementals away.
The reproductive habits of Lava Striders are not well known but scholars who have dared the Scorched Lands brutal terrain claim that the creatures bifurcate after consuming large quantities of minerals and precious metals. Young Lava Striders grow quickly when food is plentiful but show no more connection to their “twin” than they do any other of their species. There have been reported cases of Lava Striders consuming particularly powerful magical items made of metal and taking on strange arcane powers or growing to fantastic sizes, the fact that the creatures leave very little behind and that the mysterious energies seem to fade from their bodies with time make it difficult to confirm such reports.

VARIANTS

Magic Infused Lava Strider (+2 CR): When a Lava Strider consumes a magical item with a value of 3000 gp or more it temporarily absorbs some of that objects energy. For the next 2d4 days the Lava Strider gains a +1 deflection bonus to AC, its natural attacks are considered magical for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction and deal an addition point of damage (arcane or divine depending on the nature of the item) with each successful hit. The Lava Strider also gains SR 14 and becomes extremely aggressive towards those carrying magical items.

 

Magna Graphia (Lava Strider) by Jordan Kirk Ferguson (Mr.DTwenty)

Art by Nicholas Cloister