Sunday, March 14, 2010

Orcish Lowlands - Petrified Forest

Long ago, immense trees covered the landscape that is now a high, barren, windswept plateau.  In the millions of intervening years, all traces of these trees have been obliterated... except in one valley that rises from the lowlands up into the nameless mountains to the west.  When an ice dam burst and released a torrential flood from underneath the ice caps above the valley, the giant trees were buried in a slurry of silt and slowly petrified.  As the climate of the world changed and the ice caps receded from the mountains above the valley, the silt filling the valley was gradually washed away by ages of glacial run-off.  

The end result is an eerily beautiful sight: an old growth forest, skeletal giants sedately spaced and reaching leafless branches futilely out toward the sun, stands as a mute reminder of a very different time.  Many of these trees were knocked over in the flood, making it difficult to traverse the valley on foot.  Agatization of the trees is quite common, and if some method could be devised to cut the trunks (which reach up to 40' in diameter!) and transport sections away they would be exceedingly valuable.  

end-on view of a broken-off agatized branch

The valley today is eerily quiet.  This is a result of the gargoyles that perch high in the trees, their stony bodies blending in perfectly against the massive trunks.  The gargoyles may be escaped shock-troops from the wars that ravaged the lowlands, or they may be a naturally occurring result of an environmental magic source in the middle of a petrified forest.  In any case, they are vicious predators that kill anything that moves.  They prefer to let intruders work their way far into the valley before making their presence known, as the gargoyles love the thrill of chasing victims through the difficult terrain.  In a grotesque parody of flesh and blood carnivores, they tear their kills to shreds with their sharp beaks as if they were eating them.  


  1. Beautiful, both in setting, and the photo.
    --I like the gargoyle touch very much.

    May I ask you to consider making them more than simple 'baddies', giving them a culture and rationale within the ecology of the sub-setting?
    --It seems (IMO) a shame to squander their role in the area simply to have monsters in the forest of pillars.

    You've done such a nice job with the rest of your Lowlands that I ask for more of your masterful touch, here.


  2. I have done so in my game. I have struggled with how much of my background to include in these posts (I am writing a blog here, after all, not a book!). In this particular instance, the gargoyle's presence is wrapped up with events that happened roughly 50,000 years before the present time, a blink of the eye in the geological time spans that produce such products as petrified trees, but a long time ago for a game product. I haven't decided yet how much of the general game setting I am going to include in the Orcish Lowlands posts - so far, I have been removing some of the more peculiar elements of the game world and trying to present the lowlands as a locale that could be dropped into other campaign worlds.

    More on this later, I guess.

    The short answer to your request about culture and ecology is that they are the product of "devil progenitors" which were released upon the world to procreate with every living species of plant, animal and insect. The devilish bloodlines of the progeny of these unions have been slowly diluted over time. In many instances, the first, second and third generations where much more powerful than even their devilish ancestors. The gargoyles are 1st generation devil progeny, but unlike most of their kin who found their power seriously weakened when the phylactory containing the source of the devil's power in this reality was stolen and placed on a comet, not to return for 50,000 years, the gargoyles were the offspring of devil progenitors and PETRIFIED living tissue. This had the unique effect of rendering the gargoyle's incapable of reproducing, but also seemed to render them immune to the effect of the phylactory hurtling away through space. Their power is tied, however, to the petrified forest, for reasons that I cannot go into in the space of a comment!

    That is a very simplified version. They are tied to the trees, and quite bitter about it.

  3. While I can understand your concern about the setting v. generic issue, I'd much rather see your setting than another generic product.
    --My opinion on this has been stated all over Bloglandia.

    Regarding the specifics you have shared, that is exactly the sort of stuff I'd rather read than something I could generate on my own with a hexploration table and dice.

    Best to you in either case, Carl.



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