The Dead Wastes is an original setting I have been constructing, off and on, for the better part of a decade. I have yet to use it as the backdrop of a campaign; mostly for the fear of having players welcome it with a less than thrilled reception. That and I personally felt that it was never quite ready for release.
World building and character development is probably the most fun of any part of game design. If I could get paid for simply putting word to paper, that is what I would do; too bad I don’t have enough time to start another career. In my opinion, as a serious gamer, you could have the best mechanics, art, or other features, but if the story and world are boring and weak then the whole game crumbles.
I built the world of the Dead Wastes upon layers of history. There were definitive elements that I needed in the world, so I created reasons why they would exist which led to a detailed history. Some of the elements were: a vampire nation, mysterious steam technology, and a barren wasteland brimming with the undead. The following is a brief history of the world of the Dead Wastes:
Beginning with the ruins of technologically advanced Nadori Empire, which disappeared over millennia ago, the world of the Dead Wastes began to take shape. This expansive empire had covered much of the known world and some of its steamtech still survives to present day. Many cities and some villages have grown around still functioning mechanica, but are unable to comprehend the design well enough to create their own. After the demise of the Nadori, a nation led by priests of Sidar (the god of the sun), gained dominance over the northern core, Aurincia. Its capital city of Sidarius was founded upon the site of an ancient underground temple dedicated to a dark god, Tenebrous. Sinister dreams of the forgotten god crept into the minds of the overly ambitious. Soon a cult of sorcerers, and not a few priests, had rededicated the shrine to their new dark lord. As members of this cult rose in prominence in the senate, an unwholesome movement began to suppress the church of Sidar, or any other god for that matter. There was a mass of exodus of clergy, and eventually Sidar stopped answering the prayers of those who remained. This is primarily because the cultist aristocrats who now ruled Sidarius had made a bargain for power with the dark god during a cosmic even called the Long Night, the and in return offered the souls of the city as payment. The sorcerers got more than they bargained for when a massive vortex opened up above the city and bathed it in tides of acidic blood. A host of vampires with legions of undead soldiers marshaled through the vortex to take control of the city. The sorcerers were transformed into undead liches, bound in service to the city that now belonged to Tenebrous’ minions. They became known as the Undying Magisters, powerful sorcerers in eternal service the vampire host. The vampire host baptized the city in blood and renamed it Stragus, the Darkstar. Using the magical might of the Undying, the vampires consecrated the Obsidian Obelisk, a monolith charged with negative energy. This monument to their dark god powers the Barrier Dome, which kills any living thing to pass through it as well as blanketing Stragus in darkness, fending off the lethal energies of the sun. There was one horrific side effect, however. During the Dome’s creation, a shockwave of negative energy blasted the landscape for leagues around the city, destroying all signs of life and resurrecting people, animals, and even some plants as the living dead. This area teeming with the Shambling Horde (as these mindless undead are collectively known as) has become known as the Dead Wastes. These events happened over one hundred and fifty years ago.
The vampires rule over the remaining human citizens of Stragus, which has become a stylish metropolis lit by gas lamps (a technology unearthed by their grimlynn servants) and patrolled by magically animated horseless carriages. While the humans are oppressed and yearly tributes of young men and women are enforced, strict but tolerable living conditions have been established.
About fifty years ago, the ruling vampire caste discovered an asset living deep below the surface of the city streets. A colony of grimlynns had burrowed into the caverns where the temple of the dark god resided. These diminutive goblin-like creatures had a knack for making the broken remnants of Nadori mechanica work. The vampires soon asserted their dominion over the grimlynn and put their aptitude for technology to use.
Within the Dead Wastes, a few dozen ghost towns and a couple of small city ruins are populated with the living dead. Most of the undead are the mindless rotting flesh and bone types, zombies and skeletons, but the dead have been evolving. New sentient versions of the Shambling Horde have been reportedly organizing their mindless kin. What is behind this horrible development is still unknown.
There are societies outside the reaches of the Dead Wastes that avoided the cataclysm that destroyed all life inside the perimeter of the Wastes. The coastal kingdom of Stahlhelm is on the verge of an industrial revolution. The Sidaran Theocracy maintains the lands they claimed after their exodus from Sidarius, spreading the word of their god from New Sidarius. The secluded shores of the island city-state of Arcanicum are renowned for their abilities in the magical arts. The tribal gundar of the eastern savannahs roam the endless fields of grass. The frozen peaks of the southern mountains are home to bear riding brutes that mercilessly defend their borders. The mysterious and isolationist nations of the fey and goblinoids also survive, but few who cross their borders ever return.
This is just an introduction the world, and I realize some of the races, nations, and locations have little meaning without some context. The following post will dig deeper into the Dead Wastes and explore some of these locations and expose details about the cultures and nations.