The sun and I are not on good terms.
We’ve got an uneasy sort of détente. It stays out of my realm, and I stay out of it’s. For the most part this works for the both of us. I only need to go outside when travel to work or the game store. But then, all I need do is scurry through the sun’s realm from my front door, to the car door. And since I live in the pacific northwest (the Seattle area) the sun often doesn’t even show up to harass me during that jaunt. Clouds and rain do, but I get along with them just fine.
Then I let a woman with plans to become an ecological scientist move in with me. This was a bad idea. Every so often she drags me, clawing at the carpet, into the natural world. I try to explain to her that the Sun will view this as a breach of our unofficial treaty, but she seems to think that I’m just being melodramatic. Somehow she doesn’t view the sun bombarding me with potentially lethal radiation as proof enough of its malice.
One minor benefit of these harrowing excursions is the inspiration I’m able to draw from them for my games. As I’ve mentioned many times before, reality is filled with amazing facts, many of which can be used as inspiration for gaming. Today I encountered a number of different natural environments at the two nature reserves we visited. And there, I discovered three things which I thought might be fascinating to use in a game.
At the first location we visited, we saw this large space filled with nothing but mud and death. Apparently this area is, naturally, an estuary. Simply speaking, an estuary is a meeting of fresh water and salt water, where rivers reach the sea. When early settlers moved into the pacific northwest, they blocked off the salt water, and used the land around the estuary to create an orchard. The land has since become a nature reserve, though, and the dike blocking the salt water was recently removed. As it flowed back into the landscape, it killed off all of the fresh water plantlife, resulting in this deathlike landscape. In a few years, salt-tolerant plant life will reassert itself. Until then, however, tell me this doesn’t look like a perfect environment for undead to live in? There’s nothing visibly alive out there. Just dead plants, murky water…and mud-caked undead ready to attack foolish adventurers?
As a game master, you really don’t need an excuse to create an environment, since most of your players probably won’t be too picky about how a given environment came about. But if you strive for accuracy, just put an abandoned settlement and a dike that crumbled from age.
It was as we were looking at this creepy landscape that my ladyfriend also took the opportunity to tell me about Bog Bodies, which you should totally check out if you’re a fan of undead stuff like I am.
The second location we visited is apparently somewhat unique to our area, and somewhat mysterious as well! Scientists are not entirely sure what causes the formation of Mima Mounds, which are sort of like tiny hillocks. The tallest are a little taller than an average person (about 7 feet), and they apparently occur primarily in areas of plains/prairie. What I found most fascinating about them, from a tactical perspective, is that they are almost invisible. Since the entire area is a field of grass and small plants, it can be extremely difficult to identify the mounds. In the picture above, they are only clearly apparent because that photograph includes the treeline for them to intersect. Check out this photo where the mounds don’t block your view of the trees. I promise, there are a bunch of mounds in this shot:
This would be an absolutely perfect place for an ambush. Particularly for small creatures like halflings, gnomes, kobolds, or goblins. Four or five of them could hide behind each mound. The small field I visited today could cloak several hundred warriors, all able to appear instantly to charge across the flat ground between the mounds.
Wikipedia has a panoramic image of the field I visited today. It’s almost 12mb so it takes a moment to download, but it’s a pretty impressive view.
Finally, there was this crazy moss. Neither of us was even able to identify it, so I can’t share any solid information on it. It was growing absolutely everywhere on the Mima Mounds, in huge patches as large as 7-8 feet across. It was so prolific we assumed it probably was not actually dead, yet it sure as hell didn’t seem alive. It was completely dry and brittle, crunching under our feet as easily as snow would. And a lot louder than snow would as well. It would be impossible to sneak up on anyone through moss like this.
On a final note, as we were leaving to head home, we met Spiderbro. He was a bro.