Today, for some of the old players, it’s the old supplementary introductory handout sheet for the continent of Sere’ados – a subsection of the world of Malavon. If I can manage to get a decent scan of one of the maps, I’ll add that as well.
Sere’ados is a “wilderness continent” – wracked by natural disasters, tropical diseases, tribal savages, and deadly plant and animal life. “Civilization” tends to occur in patches – isolated by wilderness and towering mountains. Despite a few larger realms and the eternally squabbling “small kingdoms”, the most typical realm of Sere’ados is the “pocket realm” – a tiny patch of some often-ancient civilization built around some tiny protected area – the “pocket” – or special resource. Usually isolated, and so protected from predators and diseases, they can be found in hidden mountain valleys, on small islands, and around water sources in deserts or savannas. They perch on towering peaks, nestle beside rain-forest rivers – and hide within perpetual mists. Each a unique surprise, and each hell to reach.
Major Political Entities:
Parack is probably the most ancient realm of Sere’ados (unless some pocket realm is older). A holdout against the ancient Dragorean Empire, Parack survived the Cataclysm as well, albeit with massive losses and extensive damage. It took generations to cope with the climactic shifts alone – even after things settled down. Parack subscribes to the “Egyptian” mythos – albeit with some modifications – and the requisite enormous priesthood. Most of the priesthoods seem to control some extremely odd “magics” in addition to the usual clerical ones.
The Small Kingdoms occupy the plains and rolling hills around the Rhonn and it’s tributaries. While they tend to squabble endlessly among themselves, they also tend to unite fiercely against external intrusions. Most of them are founded, run, or taken over by adventurers of various types – but it rarely lasts for more than a generation or two. Someone else always comes along. As a rule, would-be empire builders get jumped on by all the other small kingdoms – and hence the area tends to remain a patchwork of petty kingdoms. That the Rhonn floods unpredictably, and can be counted on to wash out the most productive land when it does, tends to destabilize things even more.
The Valentir Highlandsare the rubbish-heap of history in the small kingdoms. A few, narrow, passes lead into a tangle of small, nearly impassable mountain valleys. For millennia, defeated leaders, remnants of tiny kingdoms, odd cults, occasional “adventurers” – and peculiar peoples – have taken refuge in them. Most have vowed to return. They never do. Despite any intentions, the resources of a tiny valley (or, if they’re lucky, of a two or three linked valleys), are simply not enough to support such ambitions. On the other hand, prying such a group from its natural fortress is far more trouble then it’s worth. Visit any ten valleys in the Valentir Highlands and you’ll probably find eight religions, nine ethnic groups, six languages, two races, and eighty or ninety quarrels – not counting the occasional hermits. A valley usually supports a population of (1D4+1) x 500. Most such groups are provincial, clannish, and convinced of their own superiority. Those who weren’t gave it up or got swallowed up by newer groups ages ago.
EnVaria is a recent addition to Sere’ados. Founded by the Varia, an intruding extra-dimensional race, it was (is) rabidly expansionistic, swallowing up the smaller native settlements and tribes in it’s path. After a few recent setbacks, the Varia have been building up their available forces and consolidating their grip before starting another outwards push. While the realm is, of course, dominated by the Varia, they have also brought in a few Yataran (cat-centaur slaves) and Elshor (an otterlike race). While the Varia are fairly primitive in many ways, they are extremely prolific and are natural flyers, an advantage which they exploit unmercifully.
Telmedr was originally founded by exiles / refugees from Ho’jin and, while it has changed quite a bit, still preserves the Ho’jin traditions of respect for elders, ancestors, and scholars – and of appointing administrators by competitive exam. A hilly realm with extremely stable politics, Telmedr has been stable for several thousand years, and tends to regard all outsiders as barbarians of one sort or another. Given that the small kingdoms are their only real neighbors, this is understandable.
Malinlassor, stronghold of the elves upon Sere’ados and greatest of the hidden realms, conceals at it’s core one of the oldest powers of Malavon – the Aursuntelyn. Natural foci of life, binding, and nature magic, these immense trees appear immortal and eternal. For at least two hundred million years the Aursuntelyn have endured every power directed against them unharmed. Whether a myth or near-forgotten history, elvish legend claims that the Alfar tapped the powers of the Aursuntelyn to create the Moonrowan – and that the “trees” themselves occasionally “give away” bits of talismanic wood… No new Aursuntelyn has been seen outside of legend.
The Sekmoran Union is a quiet, placid (and static), chain of villages that runs along the tropical and semi- tropical east coast of Sere’ados. While it’s protected by the Arristan mountains, and is relatively isolated, that alone seems insufficient to explain thousands of years of defenseless changelessness. While there are a few indications of some sort of group mind effect, the true explanation is unknown. The nearby small kingdoms are too quarrelsome to investigate in any case.
The Hidden Realms noted below may be real or mythical, more or less numerous, or violently different from the legends about them: in general, they are rumored rather than known. Given that many of them seem to be fairy-tale style archetypes, it can be concluded that either the rumors are distorted in the telling, that some realms intentionally pattern themselves after such tales, or that the various realms are old enough to be the source of such archetypes.
Amvara is a hidden valley and/or mountaintop fortress hidden somewhere among the towering, icy, peaks of the Tessera mountains. Supposedly it’s ancient, long-lived people are defended by an order of “monks” who possess a variety of (very strange) powers. It’s also supposed to exist slightly “out-of-phase” with the rest of the world and to contain marvelous devices, and treasures of ancient knowledge.
Mastin is a city built around a small lake, where a modest river topples from the mountains in a series of spectacular cascades, and creates a fertile, farmable, oasis in the midst of the savanna below. Reportedly, the main city is built around a pool a few steps above the savanna itself – and it’s inhabitants both fear to venture out at night and practice a curious and brutal form of adulthood rite / population control.
Karn is a city in the desert and a place of mystery said to be ruled by an ancient mage – who has harnessed the powers of both the “black well”, and the “tower of spirits”. Beneath it stretch the endless caverns of the ancient necropolis – and about it swirl the desert sands and the bones of ancient legions. Stories differ on whether anyone actually “lives” here at all, or whether the entire city is populated exclusively by the undead.
Chaffenarc is supposed to be a marvelous – and partly abandoned – fortress-city built into and around a peak by some “lost” people for some equally unknown reason. Some legends speak of a lost exploration party, others of a fabulous vein of mystic crystal underneath. Most of these tales agree that Chaffenarc is partially – or wholly – abandoned. Most also say that it’s defense systems, or whatever entities drove off the inhabitants, are still there and very active.
Iremfell, City of Doors, The Dreaming City, lies in a dimensional nexus. From there, it is terribly easy to open gateways across space, dimensions, and sometimes even time. Those conceived there enjoy a birthright of dimensional magic. The more “energetic” inhabitants go forth as raiders, plundering as they will across other worlds. The rest merely enjoy the decadent pleasures and cringing slaves their talents make it easy to acquire. It’s said that anything can be bought there – but that visitors should take care to avoid finding themselves as one of the items up for sale.
The Towers of the Fey are part dream, part magic, and part otherworld. A lushly beautiful realm that seems to warp time and distance, what is found there seems to depend partially on nature of the traveler. The realm is a land of wild magic, primordial lands, and creatures of faerie. Reportedly, simple art has powerful magical effects there, while the hidden towers house gateways/ shrines to the powers of order, chaos – or an abyss of nothingness. Travelers may emerge transformed, with new powers, deeper self-knowledge, or tales of meeting creatures out of nightmare. Others simply find joy and beauty and peace. While this realm is less than thirty miles across, it seems far larger once within it.
Goronkar is reportedly a city of monsters, a warped and inhuman realm of terrible creatures hidden beneath a perpetual overcast. A place of mist and slime and terror hidden within a terrible, hostile, forest. Few reach Goronkar – and fewer still return. The creatures which live there are said to treat humans as cattle. Oddly enough for a realm with such a horrific reputation, Goronkar is never supposed to have attacked anyone.
Darkforge is a realm torn between two overlords, in an apparently endless civil war. Unwary travelers are pressed into the unending battle which has devastated the realm. Unfortunately, the exits have long since been sealed with troops and magic. Both the “original” warlord and his rebellious general/offspring are said to possess enormous magical powers. No one knows why, in such a case, one or the other hasn’t simply left.
Terisis made up of a series of small valleys, deep in the mountains, overlooking the fjords below. It’s a quiet realm of farmers and great natural beauty. It’s also said to be a place of refuge for political exiles and similar victims, thanks to ancient wards, a definite lack of nosiness on the part of the populace, and some sort of “protecting spirit”/local diety/powerful loony who occasionally “rescues” them. On the other hand, it may simply be used occasionally as a gentle way of “disposing of” inconvenient rivals and heirs – or as a nice place to retire.
Felsenheimwas either built in, or swallowed up by, an enormous cavern, part of a far vaster complex – and has continued to live and thrive over the years. It’s supposed to be the center of an underground realm of vast extents. Felsenheim may be only a myth – but the Felsenheim Caverns certainly are enormous. Several scholars believe that the entire tale is simply an exaggerated account of Havangor, a cliffside “city” which looks out over the Everlin Forest.
Osvarim is a city which supposedly predates the old Empire of Dragorea. Over the millennia, the earth of the cities foundations has built up to such an extent that vast complexes supposedly lie deep underground. While this is probably nothing more than foolish rumor, some of the buildings, and certainly the ancient protective wards, apparently do predate anything else known, save for the planet itself. The city of Osvarin is notable for a curious taboo against prying around underground. This often leads to problems with the drains.
BeastHolme is supposed to be a realm of nothing but animals – and one which transforms humans into beasts as they enter. Leaving Beastholme without the appropriate mystic herb/talisman/whatever is supposed to leave the victim trapped in animal form. A few nearby tribes are supposed to have figured out how to use this in a more selective fashion, transforming captives into “useful” beasts.
Areas Of Interest:
The Karregtan Desert would be dry savanna – but not desert – save for the fact that it overlies an immense stratum of limestone. Prior to the cataclysm the water table was high enough to keep the massive caverns full and the land fertile. Now they’re mostly drained – and prone to collapse – while the land above is desert. It leads to occasional sinkholes.
The Felsenheim Caverns are incredibly extensive and intricate. They underlie the Karregton, and may extend all the way to the edge of the Everlin. For practical purposes, they are beyond exploration. They also predate the Drow-Alfar war, and until quite “recently” were safely under water. The Felsen Enscarpment represents the boundry between the block-uplift of the Aurenceleb plateau and the Everlin Forest, which is watered by its underground waters. While hardly vertical – save for a few places – the escarpment ranges from 1500 to 3000 feet.
The Mistveil is a curtain of fog rising from a deep and narrow bay, where massive crustal blocks were torn apart during the cataclysm, exposing magma to the sea. This didn’t help things. (On the other hand, it wasn’t like they could get much worse at the time). Today the bottom is mostly solid – but numerous hot-spots ensure a continuous overcast and fog, along with a luxurious band of rain forest around the bay.
The Tessera Mountains are an isolated region of towering peaks. Thanks to plentiful rainfall and a tropical climate, even the steepest slopes are heavily overgrown, until sheer altitude begins to let tropical forest yield to snow and ice. The whole area still seems to be under the old binding spells, and so may be a good hunting ground for ancient relics.
The Linara Rainforest is towering, incredibly thick and layered, deadly, disease-ridden, full of parasites and the occasional savage tribe – and incredibly rich. Rare woods, exotic furs, biochemicals, fruits, spices, magical materials, gold and gems and drugs can all be found here in abundance – and all you have to do is find them and get out again. Telmedr maintains a few outposts on the navigable rivers, but they’re not popular places; they’re mostly used a penal colonies and as punishment duty for the troops.
Lake Temere is not only the largest freshwater lake on Sere’ados, but has no apparent outlet. It probably drains through the faults under the Escara Peaks, and so becomes the source of the Savin River. While there are rumors that the lake swallowed up some ancient city as it formed, they have never been confirmed.
The Harmaite Wilds are a stretch of hilly forests and grasslands nestled into the area between two ranges of mountains folded into being during the cataclysm. As a consequence, the area is incredibly rich in metals and mineral resources. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely prone to earthquakes, landslides, and vulcanism. It also borders EnVaria – a somewhat ambiguous situation.
The Savin River is primarily interesting because it runs through a small (but growing) rift valley. As the two continental plates interact, they produce massive tectonic activity; faulting, vulcanism, earthquakes, and landshifts. Overall, an awful place to be, but there’s always someone who wants something that’s being thrown up there. According to some tales, the crust is being forced apart by something that wants to get out – but no serious evidence of such a thing has been reported.
The Anrunceleb (“Sunrise Silver”) was named for the view from the great mountains which overlook the broad savanna plateau. An immense stretch of grasslands and scattered trees, watered by seasonal rains, it’s dried grasses can be immensely beautiful in the morning sun. Sadly, the region is nowhere near as hospitable as the impression it gives.
The Arristan Peaks are formed of folded sedimentary rocks with volcanic intrusions. They’re the result of a collision between a weak crustal block and the oceanic plate. Still rising, they are extremely treacherous and contain several active volcanoes. As might be expected from this, the land near their seaward bases is rich and extremely fertile.
The Everlin Forest is a dense hardwood forest, most of it at climax development. It’s relatively benign to the casual passerby, and even seems to “put up with” a bit of damage, but it’s apparently either inhabited by a particularly powerful collection of spirits or the trees themselves can animate a few of their number as “troops” to deal with major menaces. The situation is complicated by the presence of some particularly nasty insect species. The peoples of the Raft Culture often build new rafts here, but rarely stay for long.
The rough and hilly Istaure’ Forest borders the Small Kingdoms and Parack, albeit on differing ends, and fills the gap between the Arristan and Escara Mountains. It would be a major route – save for the concentration of magical power nexi in it, which makes traversing it tricky at best. The safest route is to simply follow the Mistalome River, but there are occasional disappearances and bizarre magical events even along that route.
As plate tectonics slowly tears Sere’ados apart, it also gives rise to two major subduction zones, and their accompanying oceanic trenches, earthquakes, volcanoes, barrier islands, and continental mountain-building.
Unlike most of Malavons major landmasses, Sere’ados has few major, widespread, languages. Most of them are purely local, but a selection of those few which enjoy a wider distribution are noted below:
Oddly enough for a holdout against the elder Empire of Dragorea, the peoples of Parack speak Old Ermanic – Dragorea’s ancestral tongue. Understandably, the pure form is preserved only in temple liturgy, but they can usually communicate with those who speak other dialects with a little work. It’s also spoken in Osvarin, if as a secondary tongue.
Antorese, derived from Mandoric, the elder language of Ho’jin, is spoken in Telmedr and many of the nearby Small Kingdoms. Both Ilpanese (The current language of the Dragon Isles) and Ansoran (The current language of Ho’jin) are considered related tongues. Interestingly, an assortment of nearly-pure dialects of Mandoric have been preserved as “mystic tongues”.
Varisin, AKA “the speech of the people” is the only major language of the Varia, and has been widely adopted by their subject races (Especially the Yataran – whose native tongues are almost extinct except among the few “wild” tribes beyond the empire’s northern boundaries). While it has many different dialects, most of them are pretty similar as far as normal ears and vocal cords are concerned. The otterlike Elshor have numerous tongues of their own, but virtually all of them speak Varisin as well. Elshor languages include Orphal, Kime, and Rersinth. All rely extensively on signs for underwater communication, and are considered “related” languages.
Alveshen, the ancestral elvish tongue, is spoken in Mallinlassor – in what seems to be it’s pure form. Why is still a subject of debate – but most scholars agree it probably has something to do with the Aursuntelyn.
Vardicis spoken in the Sekmoran union, at least as far as anyone can tell. The place is weird. It’s also the primary tongue in Osvarin. Vardic is related to Old Ermanic, although exactly how is unknown. The Rom also seem to speak a version of Vardic – although they also seem to use a lot of private signals.
Azitlin, Mardas, and Tamere are spoken in a variety of dialects throughout the Linara Rainforest. Unlike most of the local tribal languages, this trio has some importance due to the potential profits involved.
Tradetongue is a rarity on Sereados, but characters can usually depend on finding someone who speaks it in any major city or associated with any major port. It’s a very limited language and tends to vary locally. Any group that depends on it to communicate is letting itself in for serious problems.
Telesian is spoken worldwide by the Raft Culture, and speakers can usually be found in any major port. It’s also a common tongue among the (few and scattered) inhabitants of the Everlin Forest.
Cor’See’A is the tongue of the Alceraath, a curious and tightly-knit group of small clans scattered across the continent. The Alceraath are apparently interested in Malinlasor and have a small colony in nearby Teris. A few outsiders have learned the tongue – but few have actually learned much about the Alceraath. Perhaps the language itself reveals something; it has many words for retreat, for fortification, for last stands, and for losses, but those for advancing, victory, and even for peace, are virtually forgotten.
Ostlin is fairly common in the small kingdoms, even if it is usually found in nearly impenetrable dialects and variants. Fortunately for the area’s wanderers, the various kingdom’s borders change quite often enough to keep isolated linguistic pockets from turning into new languages – very often.
At last count, Sere’ados has at least three hundred minor languages. These can be absolutely vital on rare occasions – and useless otherwise. Anyone who speaks two (or more) of the major languages will be able to speak 2D4 minor languages well enough to get along. (The GM will pick one off the list and give it an origin when, and if, he decides to have it matter).
The “Egyptian” beliefs dominate Parack. The Yataran seem likely to adopt some of the pantheons feline gods and goddesses – now that they’re on a world where gods actually respond to their worshipers.
The Celestial Bureaucracy – along with a few Shinto additions – dominates Telmedr, although Khoradan shows up occasionally.
The Aztec Gods are worshiped, and given their bloody sacrifices, in the Linara Rainforest, where human life is cheap anyway.
Primordialism, the worship of the elder gods, shows up in Malinlassor and in a few of the hidden kingdoms.
Khoradan is a philosophy and faith originally based on the worship of the Khynadori. by now it’s become a vaguely zenlike worship of a “higher power”. Most of it’s “priests” wield psychic powers and empyrean magics. Most of its sects recognize a dark power; Nergal the Perfector.
Vardan is the worship of the Drow and Alfar, and is fairly widespread among the more sophisticated tribes, who have recognized something beyond local spirits. As a rule, this is restricted to shamanistic cults.
The Lords Of Chaos and Order are popular in the small kingdoms – and are occasionally tied in with Vardan in one form or another.
Primitive tribes usually worship Dragons, Totems, and Local Spirits – while in the Valentir Highlands, and the Hidden Realms, almost anything goes.