Environment (Ricasa setting)
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As one might expect from the mishmash layout of Ricasa's terrain, the creatures you can find are quite varied, particularly from region to region. This is most notable in the northwest regions, where the terrain jumps in variety like a quilt stitched like a drunk, but to a certain degree it's notable all around the continent. So let's take a look at what you can expect to run into, and how you can expect to find them.
Of course, the most important part of any Ricasan country is its seaport access. Almost 40% of the continental foodstuffs came from the oceans at one point or another, and it's a pretty solid bet that any adventure or quest will eventually wind up coming sufficiently close to the sea for something nasty to try and drag characters off into the deeps.
Ricasan ocean life varies in size and variety depending on where you are on the continent. The Bay of Kolvet, for example, is one of the most thoroughly patrolled and actively watched bodies of water known to exist- you won't find giant squids terrorizing any stretch of coastline if the local Navies have anything to say about it. About the most dangerous creature you'll find in the Bay is probably a medium-sized shark.
The Orcopa Ocean in the west is similarly patrolled by the Styaleni, though it can get quite vicious if you venture out beyond their patrol limits. The Sea of Dreams in the south, however, is notorious for its vast array of strange sealife- everything from merfolk to sea elves have been reported as sighted in the Sea of Dreams, though few have ever been validated. Some areas are heavily patrolled against threats- such as Pyrite Bay and the waters off the White City- but the warm waters of the south can be quite dangerous to a ship without a decent mage.
The northern oceans are similarly dangerous, acting as both the launching point for the armies of the Northlands and the dumping ground for all the experiments their mages can cook up. The only saving grace is that the majority of the ocean is frozen solid to a depth of almost fifteen feet for a good three months of the year, and to a depth of eight for another four. It is best to hug the coastline if you have to travel this area at all, and avoid it by going overland if at all possible.
And then there is the Sea of Souls, which did not earn its name based on whimsy. The eastern ocean is extremely deep, and from its depths and long-lost caverns spawn an array of creatures terrifying both in their size and ferocity. Any good storyteller in Opridenik or Malania can tell you a dozen horror stories about that vast expanse, and though the coastline is relatively safe, no-one can ever be quite sure as to what will happen.
The Far Northwest- Calthoras, Northern Styalenuth, Northern Capraht
Northwest Ricasa is a gigantic shield of granite and iron, sitting as a nigh-impenetrable wall against the armies of the north. This does not mean that it is anywhere near safe, however- the cave-studded mountains, deep gorges, and trackless wastes of the northeast provide myriad hiding places for creatures suited to the terrain and the consistently cool climate. Packs of wolves, bands of northern savages, and the occasional giant can all be found searching the landscape for sustenance, and the caves and warrens hide an even greater variety of creatures, including some you might not have suspected. Many an army has broken here, and as a result the remnants take fondly to the cave systems- kobolds, goblins, and orcs being the big three names.
The Northwest is always a harsh environment, particularly in winter- heavy snow is almost a given during the winter months, and from the start of Zethon almost to the middle of Olida it is guaranteed to always be snowing, at the very least, with high likelihood of the weather worsening to heavy snow or snowstorms (though full-fledged blizzards are rare). Snow begins piling up right from the start of Zethon, up to a maximum depth of 1d4+4 feet- a figure which increases by another foot should a full-blown snowstorm occur at any time during winter. In other seasons, however, the Northwest is remarkably easy to traverse, being as it is mostly exposed rock and thin soil.
The Barren Westlands- Central and Southern Styalenuth, Southern Capraht, Farthest Western Serlithana
As the mountains of the north shrink, the land grows richer- meaning it goes from bare shale and sand to thin, rocky silt. Life is quite difficult in the hilly westlands and as a result little can be found here- the rule has become that the small survive, as the larger creatures who once inhabited the area have either moved on or died off due to lack of food.
Wild game is scarce all throughout the Westlands, especially in Capraht, where every speck of arable land has been claimed as such. As the country begins to turn green once more down south, where the Cictora and Cicada Rivers cut through the Westwold Hills, the game begins to come back- though you won't find much on the Styaleni side of the border.
Weather in the Westlands is similar to that of the Northwest, albeit much less severe- nothing worse than heavy snow has ever been recorded in this area. However, high winds are common on the relatively flat expanses along the shoreline, and in the summer heavy rains are not uncommon.
Bands of Green- Calthoras/Canadia Border, Canadia/Capraht Border, Kalantar
Very little heavy woodland exists in Ricasa- though the existing swathes are constantly trying to claim a larger space for themselves, the rabid axes of the western woodcutters are just as constantly slicing away at the deciduous forests for more wood, to act as both fuel and material for the post-Trial War-reconstruction efforts. As a result, very little wood remains in natural-growth forests, and much of the wood is either bought from Kalantar or Bastion, or harvested from organized "tree farms", the newest of which are just beginning to come to fruition.
Those natural forests which remain are either in isolated clusters along the Canadese and Styalenti seashores, lining the river valleys of southern Styalenuth, or accumulated mostly along the western and northern edges of Canadia, with the largest being the superbly dense Laculis Forest on the Canadia-Calthoras border. The species that once lived in the woodlands have either died out, adapted to life on the plains, or moved gradually either up or down the remaining forests to reach the Laculis or Kalantar respectively. This has resulted in extremely high concentrations of tiny-to-medium creatures in the Laculis Forest, making it a highly dangerous trek.
Those forests connected to Laculis or Kalantar are by this point very nearly empty of any major life save for humans- concealing defensive outposts in wooded terrain is a tactic much beloved of Canadese defense tactics. The seashore forests and valley forests contain what you might normally expect from any deciduous forest- assorted semi-harmless critters, the occasional wolf or bear, an owlbear or two, and every so often, a member of the old Black Armies who's "gone native". The forests of the Cicada and Cictora valleys are also favorite hideouts for criminals fleeing justice of any one of the surrounding governments, though the police forces of the associated countries are by now quite familiar with their layouts.
Kalantar, on the other hand, is quite the different matter. The elves are intent on maintaining the great woods there as a sort of natural preserve, of the days when the forests had a much wider expanse, and enact ridiculously harsh penalties on any loggers, hunters, or poachers who encroach upon the woods without their strict permission. Some logging is done in Kalantar, on the "corner" between Canadia, Capraht, and Kalantar (see also: Greenvale County), but this is kept under extremely heavy supervision.
It is not known precisely what creatures exist in Kalantar, since the elves know that those creatures could cause as much damage to the exterior balance as loggers could to their interior. Most wildlife larger or more dangerous than a deer is confined to the deep forests, away from the set paths through the land, but even the elves dread having to journey that deep in, as rumors abound of creatures being affected by the land's magic and growing to enormous proportions.
Ricasan forests are as a rule quite thick- only a select few forests in the chain-rims are sparsely wooded. By and large forests in Ricasa are either mediumly thick or extremely dense, with heavy amounts of thick undergrowth scattered throughout. As a side effect, however, the thickly-woven canopy shields the occupants from the weather, reducing all weather effects by one stage (snowstorm becomes heavy snow, heavy snow becomes normal snow etc.). For the basic weather effects, the negative modifiers are halved.
One partial exception to this rule is the thunderstorm. If a lightning bolt strikes anywhere in a Ricasan forest, it is almost certain to cause fire a la Forest Fire (roll a 1 or a 2 on a d8), and in snow storms the chance is even worse (1 to 3).
The Great Swathe- Central Canadia, Serlithana, Western Lamelloth
As has been priorly stated, Ricasa is flat. Very, very flat. On a clear day, a sharp-eyed man can stand in the lighthouse tower of Seiocol and make out the outline of the White City, clear across the continent. This wouldn't be possible, however, were it not for the Great Swathe.
Stretching from Sagewall in the Canadese north all the way to Goldport on Pyrite Bay, the Great Swathe is a vast expanse of plain, dotted by rivers and covered in the legendary assortment of grasses known to the plain- shufflestick and drifteye, sabergrass and wild wheat, cropbrush and sporeflower.
The plains make for marvelously relaxing travel, as the grasses blow this way and that depending on the varying breezes- that is, until you put your foot in a rat den and fall facefirst into a buried hornet's nest. Though the grasses may deceive you, the plains carry a stunning amount and variety of wildlife, and a lot of it is stuff you wouldn't expect to find there- displaced forest creatures, Alliance and Insider crazies, feral bands of old army monsters, summoning mistakes gone wrong, bands of pirates, bandits, or raiders- basically, bring a friend, there's plenty for everyone.
Special Note: Southeastern Serlithana
South-eastern Serlithana, as has been noted before, has recently come under the dominion of the Pirate King, Feldiris. As an indirect result the grazelands and drumlins of the area have become populated by and large with Feldiris' special shock troops (emphasis on shock), settling in for their long campaign- and possibly life. Several valleys have been converted by physical and magical might into artificial swamps and marshes, home to creatures that most Ricasans can barely imagine in their nightmares. Worms, lizards, crocodiles, vipers, and oozes are all to be found here, along with the bands of semi-feral lizardmen that the pirates hauled across the sea as disposable troops (and who have proven anything but). Be well on your guard when traveling this area- though the locations are few in number, make a wrong step and you might suddenly find yourself staring something particularly nasty and acidic in the face.
Special Note: Southwest Canadia/Northeastern Serlithana
A particular band of land along the innermost rim of the Bay of Kolvet might well seem like the most comforting place on earth- here the warm southern breezes collide with the cool air sweeping off the bay, forming a sort of localized "hotspot" for winds. It's a very pleasant effect indeed, and ideal for working with aerial-based creatures like eagles or air elementals.
Just don't get comfortable. The air colliding here makes it a particularly nasty corridor for weather- storms can come and go in the blink of an eye, and the ones here are particularly fierce. With nowhere to shelter on the open plains, you'll catch the worst of them- especially if you get unlucky enough to witness the incredibly rare phenomenon known as a "tornado". Pray you don't- the things move faster than anything of this world can run and they're hellishly unpredictable.
The Golden Land- Lamelloth
For all intents and purposes, Lamelloth is identical to the Great Swathe in terrain. The only difference is that creatures in Lamelloth are extremely rare, having been hunted down aggressively by the government and the farmers themselves. Most of the time, a trek through Lamelloth will be a boring one- unless you happen to come across a creature either too tough or too big for the local groups to handle right off. That could get exciting quickly.
Darkened Hills- Northernmost Lamelloth, Bastion, Southernmost Malania
The forests return with a vengeance here- the Bastites have been extremely careful about keeping handles on their woodlands, as their survival relies on the thick woods as a natural barrier.
The result is that logging has not been as heavily advanced as in Canadia, and as a result of that, the woods here are much thicker overall than the surviving forests of the west- and much more heavily populated. Unlike the west, however, finding remnants of past invading armies in Bastion or Malania is rare, partly because the warring of that region has historically always been internicine (I.E., among themselves).
Bastion hill country is not to be taken lightly. The rough terrain combined with the hampering pine forests will cause problems for even the most agile adventurer, and when you've got a bear pounding up the trail the last thing you need is to trip and fall. Land travellers heading to Malania should always approach with caution.
Bowl Of The Gods- Malania and Opridenik
The Markaean Peninsula is noticeably tilted, even from afar; the land starts at sea level on the Bay coast of Malania and rises up to nearly a hundred feet high- higher in places- on the Great Cliffs opposite. Very little of the land is flat, thusly, and while the odd topography exposes minerals that make mining a heavy industry, it also inhibits animal life.
Thus, on the surface at least, Malania and Opridenik are relatively safe to travel. While the native life has never been completely stopped from being a threat, it doesn't come at you in waves like in the Laculis Forest or on the Great Swathe. Provided you stay aboveground and keep to the roads, a trek from Sanjinsky to Arcane Point should be rather uneventful- unless one of the notorious squalls blows up off the Bay (rain and wind).
Honeycomb of Rock- Opridenik
Underground, though, it is quite another matter. The Oprid dwarves have a tendency to follow the ore as they dig their tunnels, resulting in played-out holes being abandoned. And, predictably, these soon filled up with animal life- some of it aboveground creatures seeking food or shelter, but primarily creatures that lived underground anyways. As a result, the deeper reaches of Cove City have become a security and safety nightmare for the inhabitants, and a great danger for anyone who ventures outside the central city.
Though dangerous, this can also prove profitable- the Oprids are always looking for someone to help clear out the mines, and they always pay well.
Speaks for itself. While the Arcane Point is technically one of the securest locations on the continent (as well as one of the calmest due to the constant weather-shield spell), it can be very hazardous for someone who ventures in too far. In addition to the normal hazards appropriated with magic-users, some sections of the cliff caverns beneath the tower have been used in the past as dumping grounds for test subjects or failed experiments. Enter at your own risk.