Americana (3.5e Campaign Setting)/Environment
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Americana does feature a number of creatures that might be familiar to other fantastic worlds, such as the dragons, and in general it's not too out of the question to find anything from any other fantastic realm in Americana provided a good reason can be come up with for it being there (planes-hopping wizards are not a good reason, being an unknown in Americana). Some have, indeed, worked their way into their own niches.
One of the most familiar are the Guardians of Rushmore--griffons and giant eagles, with the latter commanding the former, and both living in nests on and warrens in and around the holy Mt. Rushmore in the center of the continent. The Guardians are generally unconcerned with the affairs of the rest of the world, and apart from their own survival are entirely devoted to keeping Rushmore safe from potential threats--including weather. The giant eagles are known to be able to speak, and indeed to speak more fluently than some native Common speakers, and it is presumed they hold considerable knowledge of Presidism and the Presidents, but they keep such knowledge close to the chest if so. It can also be safely presumed that, being closely tied to the religion of free will, they would see divulging this information as guiding the religion in a particular path and thus shortchanging the whole point. All of which is presumption--they aren't telling. The gryphons are clearly intelligent, but show no ability to speak. It is rumored that some of the Natives have been able to tame and ride them into battle--a rumor which has also been spread about the Atlantean Secret Society, and the truth of which is still unknown. The giant eagles could easily bear riders of any species wherever they could fly to (which is a big range), but they have yet to be seen doing so.
Alligators are long, scaly reptiles who live in the wild swamps that stretch along the southeastern corner of Americana. Generally passive and shy, they can become very aggressive if their young are threatened or they sense opportunities for food. They feed on fish and small animals, and will almost never go after prey larger than they are. The largest examples have been known to attack deer and things smaller than deer (such as goblins or kobolds), but generally will easily back down when presented with a threat. Their jaws present an interesting quirk of nature--while the muscles used to close them are some of the strongest muscles known for a creature of their size and give them an extremely powerful bite, the ones that open them are weak enough that a man can hold their jaws closed with one hand.
Some people say these giant reptiles are the less formed cousins of the eastern lizardfolk, though never where one of those lizardfolk can hear. While far from the truth, the physical resemblance is unmistakable. The Okeefa tribe is known to have tamed many, treating them much as humans would treat favorite dogs, and they make exceptional combatants under their care. Some Atlantean paladins from the regions closer to the marshes have alligators as their holy companions, as well.
No-one is quite sure where the Cloud came from; all anyone knows is that when you sight a fat grey bird with black tailfeathers in the sky, you get indoors and prepare to stay there for a while.
The eastern part of Americana is menaced by a massive group of migrating birds that the locals have named "the Cloud"--grey birds with black tailfeathers that otherwise resemble pigeons, but have a dark, intelligent light in their eyes. Alone, they pose as much threat as any pigeon-sized bird. They are never alone. Through means unknown, the Cloud possesses a hivemind--every bird can sense the thoughts and activities of every other bird in the species. The bulk of them fly together in a massive, numberless swarm that can take days to pass over and is so thick it blots out the sun--hence, "the Cloud". They have an herbivorous diet, trending strongly to nuts and fruit--this is a problem when you speak of millions of birds. The Cloud can despoil an entire region if a big chunk gets hungry at once. At first, this drove settlers to attack with bows and guns to drive them off. This was a bad idea. The Cloud will defend itself if attacked, and while it doesn't eat meat, tens of thousands of beaks are effective enough at killing pretty much anything. It isn't aggressive in pursuing potential threats, however--all these birdbrains are still birdbrains, and it is entirely reactionary.
The Cloud can be driven off--killing enough individual birds will make it shy away, and a few repeated attempts will cause a permanent adjustment in the flight path. This is how the Nations have managed to contain it away from their borders thus far--with barrages of musket and cannon fire that cost some lives in the short term but have produced great benefit in the long. However, taking on the Cloud is a major endeavor even for a Nation-State, and most people just tend to leave it alone as best they can--and get indoors when they get hungry.
The jaguar and its Americ cousin, the cougar, are at their heart different species of the panther, and have little physical difference apart from coat color. The listing of the jaguar here is to highlight its importance in Mexico, where it is considered a holy animal and an inspiration for the Empire's most elite fighters, the Jaguar Warriors. Wearing jaguar-skin cloaks and wielding clubs called macuahuitl embedded with razor-sharp shards of obsidian, the Jaguar Warriors are ferocious and completely without fear of death. It is rumored that they can transform into jaguar half-men far too broadly for there not to be a shard of truth to it, but how much is up for debate, as few ever survive an encounter with them as enemies to tell tales.
Harming a cougar is generally looked upon with ambivalence or even favor, depending on where in Americana you are--they are perpetual enemies of western ranchers and while opportunists in taking prey can be dangerous in large numbers, or commanded by a San Franciscan druid (who have close relationships with them). Harming a jaguar will at best require extensive explanation and penance and at worst make you the permanent enemy of the most dreaded warriors south of the Nation-States. While jaguars are killed in Mexico it is always done with the most extreme ritualistic respect, and the high priests are not afraid to sic trained jaguars on their enemies.
The common mosquito is a bad enough pest, and some of them get large enough you might joke about them being birds. Then there are the ones that make you stop joking.
The dire mosquito is a universal Americ threat, found equally in the rain-drenched forests of Seattle and Minnesota and the hot, steaming swamps of the Southlands. The Southern variant is approximately the size of a robin, while the Northern variant can get as large as a crow. As with normal mosquitos, the males feed exclusively on sugar-water and fruits, which would be pleasant enough. The females feed exclusively on blood, the fresher the better. A swarm of dire mosquitos can drain the blood from a cow in the span of an hour. Furthermore, anyone lucky enough to avoid being leeched of life has an even shot at dying from one of the myriad diseases these menaces carry; black rot, malaria, and Frisco Fever are some of the most common.
Dire mosquitoes are one of the most common problems facing the march of civilization and enormous amounts of money and effort have been sunk into both methods of exterminating the pests and preventing the diseases they carry. The Native tribes of those regions most plagued with dire mosquitoes seem to suffer from their effects less, and tavern-rumor says that they can control them and unleash them on their enemies.
The Nain Rogue
It is said, among the more superstitious in the Iron City, that when Detroit’s luck turns sour, the Nain Rogue is to blame.
Ever since the refoundation of Detroit, the city has run into--and usually over--frequent stumbling blocks. Though many can be blamed on foreign policy or Family infighting, some can truly only be called acts of the Gods--and usually, many that could be otherwise explained are. The most common attribution of these stumbling blocks is to the Nain Rouge--a violent, malicious spirit, whose name roughly translates in Elven to “Red Dwarf.”
The name is apt. Nain Rouge’s most common appearance is as a small creature with “skin the color of the last-lit day” no more than three or four feet high, definitely humanoid, with red or black fur boots, a pointed red cap, ragged leather clothing, and “eyes which blaze like red-hot coals”. Its teeth vary between being rotten, and between being perfect and pointed. Exactly what it is is still unclear, but the most likely answer is a spirit or ghost of some kind, given its abilities.
Various legends surround the origin of the creature, which did not begin appearing frequently until the 70’s but which has several sightings attributed earlier. The vengeful ghost of the first Dwarven King, come to retake his city from the humans who later claimed it. The ghost of Alexander O’Hern, furious at the state his glorious machine-empire has been reduced to. The current form of the old nature spirit Johnny Appleseed, who was said to have “died” when Detroit’s overworking exhausted the rich Northeast. Or something even older, something which followed the first humans from their home in legend across the sea.
Whichever is true, the Nain Rogue is a legend in its own right nowadays, and has an affinity for showing up just before--or just after--calamity strikes the Detroi. Its most recent appearance was also one of the most painful: the day before the Battle of the Ohi Valley, a childlike figure was spotted seated on the top of the Great Cog--and the day after, the Detroi survivors distinctly reported an unmistakable figure dancing among the dead in the valley, red eyes blazing.
Detroit is not overly religious or superstitious by nature, but it’s notable that since the end of the war the Families have contributed non-insignificant amounts of money to expanding and running the Marche du Nain Rogue, a traditional festival intended to banish the spirit for the next year. So far, despite Detroit’s continued bad luck, it seems to be working, as the Nain Rogue has not been seen--or it could just be coincidence.
The thousands of lakes that dot Minnesote country are said by the Natives to have mystical powers. Certainly they teem with fish, but when the Minnesote came to the Battle of the Ohi Valley to aid the St. Paulites they revealed that some truly terrifying things hide in their depths.
Giant Northerns are enormous variants of the Northern pike, easily reaching the size of a horse even with the smallest samples. They can move through the water as fast as a motorboat, with a great deal more quiet and a great deal more horrifying teeth. The casualties these mammoth fish inflicted on Detroit at Brownsville Ford are rarely spoken of, to avoid upsetting the stomach. Giant northerns are capable of astonishing acrobatics for their size, known to take down fish-eagles with massive leaps, and their diet consists entirely of meat. Wild giant northerns are few in number--the Minnesote did not create them, but according to their stories of how life in the North Woods was before the giants were tamed, they have all the interest in the world in keeping them under control.
There might well be more snakes in Americana than there are people--certainly there are more species of snakes than there are races. Three of them are provided here, partially for variety and partially because the first two illustrate the latter.
Good Kingsnake and Evil Kingsnake
The good and evil kingsnakes are a fascinating example of interadaptability in species--both are red, yellow, and black, and at a casual glance are indistinguishable. The evil kingsnake, however, is deadly almost instantly from its bite, while the good kingsnake is not. The only way to distinguish the two is the ordering of the rings--the evil has black rings encircled by yellow, and the good, yellow by black. As a result, identifying the two is very important to those exploring the southeastern swamps, and a popular rhyme states the difference:
|“||Red on yellow, deadly fellow. Red on black, friend to Jack.||”|
Exactly who Jack is has never been determined.
The emperorsnake is so named because those who claim to have seen it claimed it was most similar in shape and pattern to a kingsnake, in the most general sense. Generalities is where the parallels end; the emperorsnake is a huge, many-foot long serpent ringed with many colors with a frill of feathers around the base of the neck. It is easily visible, as it flies instead of slithering or swimming--a sinuous, hovering motion that resembles an eel's swim, but through the air. Exactly what it can do is unknown, as it has only been viewed from afar, being worshipped in some manner by an unknown tribe of lizardmen deep in the Potoma Marshes.
Even for Americana, this story would be far-fetched, but those who have conveyed the story are not known for lying. Something so outlandish escaping notice for this long seems unlikely, but the swamps are very extensive. Its size as related would almost make it qualify as a small dragon, but apart from Champ (who is far duller in color and not much for conversation) no known dragon or dragon-like remotely resembles the creature. Nothing of the like has been heard of in Americana, and it may well remain a mystery as there is little else of interest in that neck of the Marshes.
NOTE: Nobody has mentioned this thing to anyone from Mexico. They may be surprised at the reaction if they do...
|“||Not every animal walks on four legs.||”|
|—Reverend Father Uriah Iverston|
There are many interesting threats in Americana that don't qualify as beasts, though some of them might still count as monsters. Apart from your usual array of bandits, thugs, corrupt officials, and assorted human (or non-human) debris, there are some special categories of threats or potential threats that can be considered.
Disclaimer: The Archivist does not endorse anything that comes out of the mouth of Father Uriah Iverston.
That the great herds of buffalo have survived so long despite the ever-growing hunger surrounding the Great Plain is inexplicable in the minds of some. There are stories that the buffalo have protectors among the Natives there.
Buffalo Soldiers are a particular class of warriors among the tribes of the Great Plain, and as such can be either human, goblin, or elf--usually elf. Clad in great buffalo-hide cloaks and riding hardy mustangs, they are a class apart from any of the tribes, choosing to follow the call a short time after reaching adulthood. Those who are chosen see an image of the White Buffalo in their dreams, but beyond that little is known about the initiation to the order or the rites within. The Buffalo Soldiers ride along with the great herds in their cyclical route, shepherding them away from great dangers and simultaneously making sure the bounds of the Great Plain stay clear of enemies. When a buffalo kill comes, the Soldiers aid the warriors of the tribe in question in the process, making sure that the spirits of the great beasts are properly respected on their way along the cycle. They are welcome in any camp of Natives on the Great Plain and would likely be welcome in any Native camp if any of them ever left the Plain, but to date none have. They are a sight unseen in the cities of the Nations and would likely only go to any of them if something far greater than themselves impelled them to.
Buffalo Soldiers are masterful horsemen, and spend most of their lives in the saddle. They can survive in any weather and any terrain, and can pass undetected by any power in the world if they so want to. They are not luddites, for each of them carries a musket, but they also go armed with a knife and a ceremonial greatclub, carved from dark wood and buffalo bone. In combat they prefer to remain unseen as long as possible, picking off enemies from afar and getting in close only when victory is assured. They are ferocious enough fighters in close combat, but their numbers are few and they are best as skirmishers.
Buffalo Soldiers can also transform themselves, due to their connection to the White Buffalo--at any time they can either become buffalo themselves, or a half-man half-buffalo beast capable of inflicting enormous damage on anything that moves. This ability may be connected to the buffalo-hide cloaks they wear, but this is unconfirmed and certainly no-one in history has separated a Buffalo Soldier from his cloak and lived to tell about it. Use of the werebear stat block for all transformations is recommended, with appropriate alterations such as replacing claws with slam attacks.
The Dallas Outriders are Dallas' most elite military unit, tasked in peacetime with patrolling the far bounds of Dallas' far-flung territory. In war they form the most cohesive, highly-trained, and most effective cavalry unit in the entire world. Dallas typically uses them for covert scouting, but in the Battle of Peoria they became famous for their Charge, which left quite a few Outriders dead but shredded Chicago's lines and wound up felling King Horace. Today the unit is still recovering, as that lifetime of experience isn't something you can quickly replace, but their legacy is unmatched and any threat to Dallas is going to have to go through them first.
Dallas Outriders are superior horsemen, and spend more time in the saddle than not on some days. They are unparallelled survival experts, capable of making a fine meal and a warm campsite whether in the desert near El Paso, the brushlands up by Amarillo, or the marshes out by Galveston. They can track virtually anything over any terrain (within reason), can work with just about any animal, and keep up a pursuit to the fullest extent of human ability. In combat, the Outriders prefer to fight on horseback, using muskets or shotguns to harass and pick off enemies from a distance before finishing with a devastating cavalry charge. Dehorsed, they are capable of fighting either from range or in close quarters with equal efficiency. There is no standardized Outriders kit; apart from their saber, every Outrider provides his own gear, with a stipend from the state, and as such the equipment situation varies widely. None of them wear anything heavier than light armor, however. An adventurer rummaging through an Outrider's pack would find little they would be unfamiliar with, and would also have a huge amount of explaining to do seconds later.
Outriders are internationally famous thanks to the Great War but are beloved within Dallas' borders almost more than the King. In those nations opposed to Dallas the Outriders are respected but likely disliked. All Outriders have a strong sense of national duty and law; there has never been corruption in their ranks in the entirety of their history, and if such a thing was discovered it would shake Dallas to its core.
When Marion Hess was leading her army over the Pacifics towards what would become Seattle, a major chunk of the force became separated in the high mountains and lost completely. All contact was lost until many years later, when trading parties in the two northern passes began to be harassed and wiped out by unknown attackers. When Chicago sent a detachment to investigate, what they found proved truly horrifying. The lost detachment had survived... but what they had become turned the stomach.
The Do'na are a vast group of human cannibals who live high in the Northern Pacific mountains, in a state of advanced barbarism. They remember how to fight as a unit, how to clean and maintain weaponry and armor, and to the horror of everyone have retained knowledge of firearms, but at about that point things end. Their society is a mystery, as they are hostile to everything that comes near them, and they eat the flesh of the dead--friend or foe. They are known to have a language, but one that is unintelligible to any known tongue. Chicago, Seattle, and eventually Yellowstone have all made attempts to root them out of the mountains for good, but they seem impossible to exterminate--if anything, their numbers seem to be increasing.
The Jaguar Warriors are the royal guard of the Emperor of Mexico, and are some of the most fearsome and legendary warriors in the known world. While most of the Mexican military is made up of commoners, and the officer's class of nobles, the Jaguar Warriors are a class apart, open to anyone who can prove themselves a capable enough warrior. They have even been known to admit Americs into their ranks, though mostly in a ceremonial role--and this has happened maybe twice in known history.
The Jaguar Warriors are outfitted with a black variation of the Mexican Army uniform and a jaguar-skin cloak with a jaguar-head hood that serves as the symbol of their rank. Their standard weapon loadout consists of a macuahuitl, a spiked, wooden round shield, and a composite shortbow and arrows. Some prefer to use a larger version of the macuahuitl and no shield, while others prefer a spear-throwing device called an atlatl and javelins over the bow. All their equipment can be assumed to be of the highest quality, but the Mexican Army keeps specific information secret. The Jaguar Warriors are based out of the Temple of the Jaguar, a vast complex that is half military base, half religious structure, and which is directly attached to the Imperial Palace.
While fearsome enough fighters on their own, rumor has it that the Jaguar Warriors can actually become jaguars--half-jaguar half-man creatures which can resist enormous damage and tear humans apart like paper dolls. This remains only rumor--if it is true, no-one who has seen it happen has ever lived to tell the tale.
OOC NOTE: Use the weretiger stat block for Jaguar Warriors in alternate forms, replacing information as appropriate. Jaguar Warriors can be assumed to have natural levels of control over their shapeshifting; whether this is always true or not is up to the GM, but any Jaguar Warrior who lacked that control would be confined to base until they had learned or otherwise obtained it.
The Secret Society
Atlanta's veneration of free will and good nature should not be taken as naivete. The Presidential City has many ways to defend herself and ensure that freedom remains free in the South. Some of these, such as her Army and her priesthood, are widely known and explored. Others are not. The Secret Society of Atlanta is known OF--their black-clad agents serve as the personal guard of the Grand Aide and the rest of Atlanta's religious rulership. Little is publicly known about them, however. They do not defend and police the faith in the same manner as the Holy Word's Ushers, for instance--that job, when it comes up, generally falls to the priesthood and the White Stars. The Secret Society's larger role is, well, secret.
The SSA is run by the Atlantean Department of the Treasury, to ensure it remains detached from the more traditional defense and faith-related Departments. It serves as personal protection for the most public members of the Atlantean government, and more extensively is in charge of security nationwide. The Secret Society is consulted on border defense, fortress construction, information security, customs and immigration, and just about anything where free will needs caution to temper it. Their structure roughly follows that of other religious orders, being headed by a Grandmaster and based out of a remote building outside of Atlanta proper, but little about their internal organization is known. Their ranks follow the rough racial makeup of Presidism itself--primarily human, with strong dwarven membership and certain percentages of other races. They are known to be devout Presidists, primarily devoted to Washington and Eisenhower, but remain removed from the day-to-day affairs of the religion at large and particularly from the occasional sectarian squabble that rocks Presidism.
The Secret Society are masters of making sure that whatever they're protecting stays protected. They are not afraid to take stab wounds or gunshots for their charges, and indeed those who do are looked upon very highly. However, this often is not necessary--SSA Agents are highly capable combatants, often hand-picked from Atlanta's police, army, and navy. They can enforce a perimeter better than any other group in the world, and are masters of both lethal and nonlethal combat--all members carry guns and some form of melee weapon, usually blunt. They are known to have some means of communicating with each other no matter where they are or what the circumstances are--likely magical, but the means are not known. There are rumors that the Secret Society has sworn a secret agreement with the guardians of Mount Rushmore, as well--in exchange for protecting the site, the griffons of Rushmore have consented to serve as mounts for Society members and Atlanta's closest friends. The Society stridently denies this, of course, and the giant eagles of Rushmore aren't talking.
|“||How can we help you find the Word?||”|
|—The motto of the Ushers|
Los Angeles values free will, if not quite as strongly as the Presidists--no man can achieve his greatest heights alone, but not with others holding him down, either. However, the Word requires interpretation, and just as sheep require a shepherd, a flock requires guidance. When it comes to preaching and instruction, that falls to the priests; when it comes to defense and reaffirmation of faith, that falls to the Ushers.
The Order of the Ushers of the Holy Audience is Los Angeles' most prominent religious order, financed in collection by the various churches. It acts as supplementary to Los Angeles' government in many capacities: Ushers advise the police force, provide theological counsel to the courts, and act as morale officers in the Army. Their knowledge of the myriad canons of the Word is unsurpassed, and their devotion to the Holy Audience and the ideals of Los Angeles is completely unshakable. To outsiders and citizens alike they are ubiquitous, smiling and helpful, always willing to offer advice and information on the customs and traditions of the city, and directions to anywhere that there might be.
The Ushers are based out of a theater in downtown New Compton--a pre-War building made of wood and concrete, done in a style unlike anything else in the city. The sidewalks in front are embedded with the handprints and signatures of hundreds of gods, showing their support for the Order, and are fastidiously upkept by lay members. Inside, the building is a veneration of everything the Holy Word exemplifies, outfitted with all the facilities and equipment to upkeep a holy militant order with membership in the thousands. Few non-Ushers have ever or will ever see its inside, however--at least, in condition to tell the tale. The Theater serves as both as heaven and hell--deep under the chapels and halls, interrogation rooms and cells stretch, and it is here that the enemies of the Holy Word find the Ushers aren't all smiles and bows. As the Holy Word's inquisitors, the Ushers ensure that the message does not become corrupted, and that no arm of the great church decides to turn on the others. They are inviolate, above the petty dialectic squabbles that rock the Audience. They are affirmation that the Word will continue to be heard, simply by their presence. They are Ushers.
The Ushers wear an instantly recognizable uniform: a red coat with gold buttons, matching red pants with a stripe down the side and creases sharp enough to cut yourself on, black shoes, white gloves, and a red cigar-box hat. This uniform never varies, despite race, gender, or Los Angeles' often intolerable heat--it actually breathes fairly well, though the armor sometimes worn under it doesn't. Ushers tend to be brought into the order as children, though particularly devout applicants have been accepted regardless of age. Ushers are universally given one weapon--a black rod with a spirit of light magic encased within, known as a "torch". This serves both as a powerful lantern, which can be directed to a beam or broad area effect at the will of the user, and as a devastating melee weapon. Ushers are not prohibited from carrying or using other weapons of any sort, but generally must supply these themselves. This has resulted in Ushers being extremely unpredictable opponents--one might fight with his torch, while his partner uses a brace of pistols, and the one that comes running to help is a master of Missouri fistfighting.
In combat, Ushers are as a rule above-average, with the more experienced members being extremely dangerous opponents. They have the support of a wide variety of Holy Audience gods, with most Ushers having multiple varieties of divine magic to throw into the fray, and you'll find no holier people on this side of the Pacifics. Ushers are Lawful as a rule, though their personalities and mores vary somewhat. The Order has experienced corruption and internal strife a few times in its history, but such things are rare and the punishments are unthinkable.
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