by Gabor Lux
“In the wastelands beyond civilisation, raw might triumphs over all: he who can best others by weapon, treachery or magic holds wealth and power. But not even the wealthy and powerful are immortal, and the wasteland is more powerful than any of them. This module contains the description of a desert outpost where crafty adventurers can find shelter and get involved in dark designs; the descriptions of caravans and NPCs who may become strong allies or implacable enemies… and two adventures for those who would test themselves against the power of the wasteland.”
“The Quean Wastes is the second large supplement I have created from the materials of my Wilderlands campaigns. Unlike Zothay, which was a medium-sized city state treated in a compact and thorough manner, Queans Waste is much more modular. Beyond some simple background information, it is essentially a colourful mosaic of locations for use by the Judge. There are multiple mini-dungeons, a village and no less than four small strongholds described herein, with a number of ruins, relics and lairs to round out the picture. Together, they form a sort of perspective into how I imagine the setting, and how I use it in actual play. In several ways, this use is divergent from the officially released Wilderlands materials, which should be evident on a brief perusal. A number of differences have been noted in the next section. Such changes aren’t just accepted, they are highly recommended – as it has been written elsewhere, „please alter, illuminate, expand, modify, extrapolate, interpolate, shrink, and further manipulate all contained to suit the tenor of your campaign.”
Description and contents: The fragmentary materials that eventually came together in the introductory module/sourcebook Törött Puszták (Broken Wastes) have origins in my third Wilderlands campaign. Indeed, were it not for Clark Peterson and Bill Webb’s decision to entrust me with The Tegel Project, it would have formed a weighty sandbox module and a companion piece to The City State of Zothay under the title The Quean Wastes. That piece about the wastelands is not kidding: the original random encounter table has entries for the “Beast of 1000 Eyes”, Chimerae, Type I. Demons and Snakes, Big Fucking. The original ambitions of the project were never fulfilled, but the core elements of it were relocated to Fomalhaut, and have seen publication in Fight On! Magazine. At its full, the supplement would have included:
The Tower of Birds: “Deep in the Desert of Regulator and half a day’s march from the ancient road of great stone blocks that crosses it, stands the Tower of Birds, a bare stone finger overlooking broken lands. Whether it is a structure manmade or natural, the degraded surfaces do not tell: intermingled with rough cliffside are polished walls and buttresses, peering windows and a great cleft that cuts through the crown, high above the wide base. The Tower of Birds is not sought by most travellers. Only those who are maddened by thirst will leave the regular road and, choosing a lesser path of jumbled and half-buried concrete, strike for the lifeless hills to follow the circling birds that ever fly in one direction. Theirs is often an unpleasant fate, because while there is water here, it is not easily given.”
Larissa’s Lair: Small keep of desert bandits which may become a home base for the properly inclined. Unpublished.
Jarmoco: Village of miners following the harsh tenets of Morg. Unpublished.
Black Baron Pass: Fortress of Dhazi Kathari, the man holding the pass against bandits and enslaves the beggars who walk the roads. Unpublished and never fully mapped.
The Pass of Alvan Vorodan: A shunned place and prison of a god who had been broken by his rivals. Loose notes.
South March Tower (now Stone Gullet): “The tower of Stone Gullet is a fortified garrison in the Desert of Regulator, a refuge from desert brigands, monsters and evil mirages. Here, caravans from the western lands may rest before they embark on their seaward route; likewise, the tower protects the city state of Khosura from dangers known and imagined. In time, the round structure was supplemented by a walled courtyard, a new wing and finally small houses and workshops clinging to the courtyard walls. Stone Gullet today is a place to rest while on the road, a haven of safety from which to seek adventure, but also a locale where trouble may be found – if one seeks it hard enough.”
Wasteland Travellers: A collection of four caravans and 20 interesting NPCs who may be encountered on the road or in Stone Gullet. Some of them were written for a reversed murder mystery scenario where one of the PCs was the murderer acting under demonic influence; others were added when the fort was relocated to Fomalhaut.
Crypt of the Zombie Lord: Small but vicious tomb-robbing scenario that’s bound to claim a life or two. Unpublished, and too small to stand on its own.
The Temple of Hekate: A place to seek magical items and divination, or try to rob the priestesses. Unpublished, and lacks a real conflict to encourage player action.
Design notes: Much as the unpublished foreword states, this is the sand that goes into a sandbox. The adventures and encounters are sword&sorcery-inspired with a touch of the unreal. I imagined the wastelands surrounding the roads as truly dead places where reality does not have a complete sway over the land, and evil dreams intrude where it breaks down. The strongest elements of the package, I Thirst, The Tower of Birds and Stone Gullet make for a formidable sequence that can put a campaign on track right from the start, and Wasteland Travellers is a good source for memorable minor NPCs (since many of them were written later, some of Fomalhaut’s weirdness creeps into what was originally straight-faced sword&sorcery). The other civilised sites have a lot of adventure hooks in store for a party that actively seeks conflict, but they may seem lacking for “default good” adventurers whose philosophy is to avoid it. Nevertheless, survival is a great motivation and it worked in both campaigns the materials were used. In the first, action started with the player characters exiled into the wastelands by the men of the Invincible Overlord for unknown infractions, and eventually ended with the partial destruction of Zothay by undead hordes from the sea; in the second, the arc was run as an immediate sequel to Systema Tartarobasis, and concluded with the party’s capture in a failed kidnapping attempt and their consignment to Khosura’s Pits of Lamentation.