The Illandian Desert (3.5e Campaign Setting)
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The Illandian Desert is a large desert, six hundred miles in diameter. It is not meant to be a stand alone setting, instead intended for integration into other settings that take place on a material plane.
It is an unforgiving place, but not a cruel one, and most Players who aren't city soft should at least survive long enough to leave if they accidentally wander into it.
The Illandian Desert is actually more of a multi tiered place than most people realize. It is a circularly shaped region, but an imperfect circle, being folded and bent at places. In fact, looking from the air, one would notice a rough ringed pattern, dividing the desert into three sections:
The outer Desert
The Zone known as the outer desert stretches from the edge of the desert itself (~300 miles from center) to 110 miles from the center
The outer desert is very much so a stereotypical desert, with a smattering of cacti, a few watering holes, and a lot of sand. The outer desert has a small number of oases, most of which seem to drift from place to place. During the summer months, the Illandian Tribe can be found in this area, trading and hunting the animals on the edge of the desert.
This zone is only 10 miles wide, but in those ten miles, the altitude flies up 9000 feet. This area is scattered with a few man worn trails, but is mostly a series of jagged, mountainous cliffs. A few plants live here, and a number of large birds. There have been reports of Blue Dragons in this area, but the Illandian nomads don't talk about it.
The Dry Plateau
The Dry Plateau is a large plateau, about 200 miles in diameter. It's name is something of a misnomer, because it contains more oases than anywhere else in the desert.
If you know where to look.
The central desert contains a slightly larger number of animals and plants, all desert varieties. The Illandian tribe winters here, seeking out iron nuggets and hunting the surprisingly lush fauna and flora located around the Hub.
Points of Interest
This mountain, rising just 1000 feet over the base of the plateau, is the central location for the Illandian tribal life. Navigation is carried out with the hub as a central point. It is the location of the Shrine of the elders, and the shrine of the Guardian. It is also the location of the only permanent settlement farm in the desert, watered by evaporation irrigation. This is where the elders live, who tend the farms, due to the believed effects of longevity that are said to come from being so close to the guardian. Whether this is true or not is unknown, but the elders tend to be unusually long lived, and have a strange prescience when it comes to the time of their own deaths.
This word, which roughly translates to "The walking village", is the name the Illandian Nomads give the small mobile towns that form during the summer months. These villages can usually be found fairly easily, and the tribesmen welcome most strangers.
The Iniameya always has the following fixtures:
A sleeping tent, where the nomads sleep. Visitors are usually offered their own tent.
A supply wagon, which contains all the food and materials the tribe has gathered. There is rarely anything more valuable than an iron nugget. Nomads do not take kindly to thieves, and will kill them if discovered
Minimum of three craftsmen tents, where jewelsmiths, blacksmiths, stoneworkers, and other craftsmen may work.
A central fire.
The falling cliffs
Along the south eastern stretch of the Cliffs, there is a section known as the falling cliffs. Legend tells of how in the past, many tribesmen threw themselves from the cliffs in an attempt to reunite with spirits of the dead, who often appear there. There is a small trail that runs from the top to the bottom of the cliffs there, and shrine to the falling.
The wandering oases
These appear anywhere in the desert, wandering illusions that appear at the break of day, and vanish as the sun rises again, appearing in another location.
The Illandians can, on rare occasion, mark a point for the oases to appear, but it's more of a polite request to the Guardian, and if it is used too often, (s)he will ignore them.
The shrine to Elders and the Guardian
The shrine to the Elders and Guardian is a small shine, tucked into a cave at the top of the hub. Not much to look at, it is comprised of a pile of ritually carved rocks, a small altar for water offerings, and an exquisite blade, made in the style of the Illandian Blade. It is named the Cryi Masu, and it is the Guardian's personal weapon.
This is the place where tribesmen go during their coming of age ordeal to create the whetsheath for their weapons
This small grove grows on the north face of the Hub. Not a grove in the traditional sense, it is simply a large clump of a local variation of ironwood, which grows in bush form. This wood is used in the production of weapon handles, and sheathes, because of its apparent timelessness.
The Guardian is the embodiment of the Illandian desert, and has a fair level of control about how the land behaves. (S)he can be both genders, but always appears as one or the other. (S)he either appears as a human, or as a spectral blue dragon. (S)he carries a spiritual doppel of the Cryi Masu, which has the same traits as its physical twin. The nomads in the area have a close connection with the Guardian, and (s)he can effect a sphere around them with a 5' radius, even if they leave the desert.
(S)he can be petitioned, but does not respond well to worship, viewing it as a weakling trait to be dependent on another being.
Illandian tribesmen can contact with their ancestors, petitioning them for help. Usually, the request is something within the spirits grasp, like a petition for truth or information. Occasionally, Illandians will allow their ancestors to possess them, but this is done rarely, and only in the most dire circumstances.
The Illandian Tribe
The only native people in the area, the Illandian tribe is made up of humans, although they have been removed from most of humanity for so long that they view themselves as more children of the desert than Human. Even their own name, Illandian, come from an ancient word that means 'Sand'.
The Illandians are a kind, polite, if blunt people. They don't turn down people in need, and as a group they fluctiate between Neutral Good and Chaotic Good. They do not distrust magic and technology, but they are wary not to rely on it, since the Guardian holds that self-reliance is a virtue.
Gender Equality: The desert is too unforgiving to allow for such pettiness as dividing work between the genders. All tribesmen are thus equal, regardless of gender, in terms of training, jobs, and responsibilities. They are referred to, as a collective noun, as tribesmen.
Sand Children: The tribesmen, having grown up in the desert, and intertwined with the Guardian, know instinctively the layout of the desert, and are able to guess the location of oases, any Iniameya, and the hub, even during the night. They are also constantly linked to the Guardian, no matter how far from the desert they wander. This trait can be passed down through the generations, and if a tribesman leaves the desert, they can still pass the trait through their family by keeping the memory of their heritage alive. The moment it is forgotten, it fades. It is rare, however, that tribesmen ever leave the desert, and this has only happened twice.
Blade reverence: The Illandians have a religious reverence for weapons forged from the desert. They care for them and protect them as though they are an extension of themselves, and they forge their own blades.
No Illandian would ever sell his blade, nor would he ever allow it to be stolen. In fact, they will feel uncomfortable without it.
Note that this reverence does not extend to all blades, only the ones they forge. The cheap iron daggers the merchants sell are junk, for all they care.
The Illandian Blade
In the beginning, The Guardian forged Her Blade. Then He made it its sheath, which kept it eversharp. With this, The Guardian subdued the desert, and made it habitable. Then he took us under her wing, and nurtured us.
This is the beginning of the oral tradition of the Illandian people, the beginning of a lengthy story that takes weeks to tell in entirety. The symbolism in the Illandians favored weapon is clear, it is a copy of their Guardian's weapon.
If, by some horrible tragedy, a tribesman loses their knife, the Elder will forge them a new blade so that they can go out and either retrieve it or forge a new one.
Detailed information on the blade is Here
Coming of Age
Every new year, all tribesmen that became 18 the previous year undergo their coming of age ceremony. The ceremony is multi-stepped, and ends with the tribesmen becoming an 'adult', and subject to all the freedoms and responsibilities that come with it. The ceremony begins on the night of the new year, and ends the following night.
Step 1: Finding the Nugget
The first step of the coming of age ceremony tests their link with the desert. By means of a spell, they are teleported at random to a location in the outer desert. This part of the ceremony takes exactly an hour, although to those participating, time seems to slow, an intervention from the Guardian. Within that time, the tribesman must find a large nugget of iron, buried in the sand, which will become the core of their new weapon.
Step 2: Forging of the Weapon
This step, which again is subject to time dilatation, takes place from midnight until noon. Within that time, the tribesmen, using the insight of their ancestors, must forge their blade. While the spirits will offer advice, the tribesmen themselves must be the ones to forge it. Completing this step yields the beginnings of a personalized Illandian Blade. At this point, the blade still lacks an actual handle, and is just a blade with a metal core for a handle.
Step 3: Finishing the Blade
This step, which takes place from noon until evening, requires that the tribesmen go to the Ferivut to retrieve wood for finishing their weapons. In order to succeed in this test, the tribesmen must somehow find a way to convince the bushes to allow them some of their wood, since no weapon can cut through the Grove's timeless wood.
Step 4: Sheathing the Blade
This stage lasts from Evening until an hour before midnight. At this stage, the tribesmen use the excess wood the garnered from the last step of the trial to create Whetsheaths. These custom coverings will house their finished blades, keeping them safe from harm. This creation costs tribesmen nothing.
Step 5: Binding the Tribe
This final step involves the entire tribe, who join those undergoing the ceremony at the Shrine of the Guardian. The tribe performs a ritual dance, and they all offer spit at the altar of the guardian, in order to bind their tribe together. After completing the ritual, the initiate's weapons become bound to them, and they become bound to the altar of the Guardian.
After this, the initiates are welcomed as full tribesmen.
All tribesmen are bound with two things
The first one is their blade. The second is the Altar of the Guardian
Soul Binding- Blade (DC 17): When activating this skill, the tribesman rolls a 1d20 and adds their wisdom to the roll. On a roll of 17 or higher, the weapon appears in their hand or in the weapon's sheath, at the owner's discretion.
Soul Binding- Altar (DC 25): This form of soul binding, which works exactly like the blade binding, will teleport the tribesman from anywhere in the desert to the Altar. Processes exist that allow the user to teleport from farther away, but the knowledge has been lost, or forgotten.
It is possible, although rare, for a non-native to be adopted into the tribe.
In order to even begin along the road of adoption, the candidate must first earn the tribe's respect and trust. They must also gain the Guardian's approval and blessings.
After that, a one year period must pass in which the canidate lives with the tribe, slowly gaining the Sand Children ability. At the end of the year, the character will, if they have kept the tribe's good graces, gain the Sand Children ability permanently.
Once the ability has been gained, the Candidate must undergo a coming of age ceremony, with two major differences. The first difference is that the time requirement is abolished. The candidate has as much time as he or she needs. The second difference is that the candidate does not have access to ancestors or the Sand Children ability.
If the candidate can complete the ordeal, they are welcomed as a tribesman, no different from any other tribesman.