When planning a trip through the desert, you generally concern yourself with three priorities: water, food, and, shade. While water and food certainly top that list, I think many people would happily go without food (and a little water) to get some shade for most of their hot, daytime, desert journeys. Everybody always forgets the scorpions! Although the eastern region of the basin is more dry plains or rocky desert than a true sandy desert, these priorities are still very valid and concern all of the travelers that must cross the eastern stretch of land. Luckily, there are those that seem to thrive in such environments that are working to make the trip less deadly.
Welcome back to Groundbreaking. Randal here, bringing you the next bit of lore to flesh out our little world. I haven’t really touched the eastern region yet, and I have some nifty plans for it, but I wanted to provide something that was pretty simple with a touch of unusual.
The Setup. While the dwarves are the undisputed (also uncontested, or perhaps untested) masters of the lava tunnels below the surface, there is another group that maintains that title on the surface. About 10 years after the dwarves took residence below, their attempts at controlling the population of giant scorpions led the creatures to spend more further east where the lava tubes thinned out, which meant more time on the surface. To keep themselves focused on their own goals in their tunnels, the dwarves had put out a call to adventurers and sell-swords to continue the extermination. The first to answer the call was a halfling that went by the name Hannibal the Hungry, a self-proclaimed master chef that specialized in insect delicacies. He greatly underestimated the size of a giant scorpion. The second to answer the call was a group of relatively new (and surprisingly young) adventurers of oread descent, by the name of Rock and Company. After a brief meeting and negotiation for funding from the dwarves, they began their task in earnest.
The Company. A young group when the deal was struck, Rock and Company was comprised of six young souls full of ideals and dreaming of riches. Barely a hundred years between the lot of them, they made up for their lack of experience through dedication, teamwork, and the natural gifts given to them by their heritage. Their leader, a woman known only as Sandy, was the youngest among them, but made no attempts to hide charm nor bardic talents. She commanded the respect of the group, and treated each equally with the respect she was given. While she was closer to her cousin Mica (and Mica’s mate Peri), she in no way treated them as more than the others. Her second in command, Slater, was a little more refined in his manner and appearance, but also more deadly with a blade. His two boyhood friends, Basal and Alab (twins), are as loyal as you can find, and never leave his back unguarded. The two groups met while ditching prep school, and after a fierce but friendly encounter, their fates intertwined forever. They spent their last school year naming their group and themselves while finding and planning their first foray as adventurers.
The Change. After a few months they began to realize that the advert for keeping the region safe from scorpions wasn’t about the dwarves’ desire to help travelers, but was about covering for a problem they had created. They approached the dwarves and demanded that they stop hunting the scorpions, as it was their fault. Confronting the dwarves did nothing but make them realize how outclassed they were, both in experience and strength. Oh, and funding. They now had no income at all, but wanted desperately to stop the dwarves from further harming the region. As their group included a ranger (Mica) and a druid (Peri), Sandy tasked them with learning every square mile of the region that the scorpions were invading so that they could find a solution that didn’t include extermination. Slater and the twins were tasked with looking for other funding, while Sandy openly (and childishly) declared a “cold war” with the dwarves.
The Causeways. The first few years were very rocky for the group. They spent just as much time scraping food together as they did exploring, charting, and working. Eventually, they found a way to perform their self imposed regional protection of both the wildlife and the travelers that became more abundant as the region became more populated. By fully learning and charting the terrain and life therein, they are able to provide escort service to passing caravans that will include as much water as needed and as little danger as possible. As the decades passed, they began to take in others that preferred the isolation and dry climate, to include a gnoll with elemental powers and a number of half-orcs looking for a fresh start. It was after a half-orc named Izzy joined with her architectural background (studied at college before a series of events ran her from the city) that they conceived of the idea of using some magic and hard labor to create roadways that were easier to travel and included water collection devices that also doubled as shade and shelter. As they expanded their network of rest areas and safety zones, Rock and Company began to make a better profit on their caravan escort duties. Regardless of the distance from her declaration against the dwarves, Sandy’s desire to give them their comeuppance has not dwindled in the least.
GM Note. I originally started this thinking only about druid and/or and elementalist using magic to build roads and the occasional stretch of wall to block winds and provide shade. Ultimately I felt that was too simple an idea and expanded it to be more of a highway rest area analogue.