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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
    Mobius Twist's Avatar

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    Jul 2009

    Default What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    Custom world DM, here, reaching out to the hivemind for ideas.

    I set the start of the campaign in an open steppe where a collection of "civilized races" are settled around a massive macguffin, while multiple semi-unified tribes of goblinoids roam the open plains in a mongolian-like itinerant society.

    Now that I started out there, I realize most of my adventure hook planning was going to either take place in political turmoil between the two societies or encouraging the players to travel outside of the region.

    So, what can I fill the void of barely-hilly emptiness with that fits? A rainy summer season causes the area to temporarily become inconveniently muddy. I threw in a hook of eroded hillsides exposing tombs or previous construction of indeterminate age, but repeating that too often will cause players to ask just what kind of advanced civilizations existed in the area prior and that's a major revelation to be saved for later. Hordes of mutant, fire-breathing horses with tentacles, maybe?

    In the same vein, I'm not sure what major wildlife would be encountered on such a plain larger than a bison, or more dangerous than a typical pack of wolves. A giant roc has nowhere to put down a nest and a bulette would probably have to hunt dozens of antelopes a week to sustain itself.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground

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    Oct 2014

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    It sounds like you'd do well to start by reading up on moorland, and looking at some pictures.

    As far as natural dangers go, in addition to mud you might want to consider lightning, tornados, blizzards, and during the dry season, fires. Herd animals such as bison or aurochs are dangerous in themselves, and because they come in very large groups, they could potentially sustain rather sizable predators.

    Rocs, as you mentioned, are probably out unless there's a mountain range within 100 miles or so for them to nest in. However, dragons that have their lairs underground, like the one in Beowulf, would probably work. Subterranean ambush predators like bulettes and ankhegs would work, given large herd animals to prey on. They might also hibernate part of the time to conserve energy. Almost any variety of unusual canine would be a natural fit, along with giant insects and dire or otherwise non-normal versions of species that normally live in grasslands.

    Since you mentioned tombs, undead come immediately to mind. And any kind of terrain could have areas influenced by other planes (maybe relics of gateways created by the same dead civilization that built the tombs).
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Colossus in the Playground
    Eldan's Avatar

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    Jan 2007

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    Are you restricting yourself to fields? Because if I think (uninformedly) of Mongolia, I think of deserts and mountains, as well. And once we start to include things like the Siberian mountains, we can bring in one of my favourite weird location inspirations, Lake Baikal.

    Which is just this stupidly deep lake that makes a perfect location for some aquatic aberrations like Aboleths. And in the real world, the Lake Baikal region is one of the focal points for Tengrism, the native mongolic religion. Which ties into mountains again, which seem to have often been holy sites. So, I'd probably diversify the landscapes a bit. Which then allows you to bring in afforementioned giant magical birds, which fit the mythology well. I'd also throw in any kind of magical horse you can find in the various monster manuals.

    If we go up to Siberia, extinct megafauna, perhaps? Mammoths, giant bears, lions, wolves, rhinoceroses?

    Edit: also, because you mentioned goblinoids, what aboutBarghest? An infernal spirit that can take wolf and goblin shape makes for an interesting focal point for a shamanistic religion. You could for example change the fluff to be about goblin shamans calling down wolf spirits to possess them.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-01-12 at 04:08 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
    Mendicant's Avatar

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    Apr 2015

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    I second ankhegs and land sharks. A steppe with wide expanses of land that turns muddy in certain seasons seems almost custom made for subterranean ambush predators.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Protecting my Horde (yes, I mean that kind)

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    Think less steppes from Mongolia an norther China and go with moors. Moors are usually characterized by hills, large ones, or even the occasional smallish mountain range, valleys that have wetlands, and a lack of tree cover. The UK is your prototypical moor, but huge swaths of Patagonia are moors as well. In northern, or sufficiently southern, climates moors are kind of this inter-tundra region, and in other regions the soil just doesn't support tree growth (usually acidic and shallow).

    As for animal life. Mongolia has a bears, the regions of the Eurasian steppes have bears. North American steppe ecosystems have bears. Ergo: bears. Or dire bears. Whatever you want.

    Dire lions can work, African lions already live in a grassland. Dire badgers/wolverines. Snakes are pretty common in steppe regions, so why not scale that up. Purple worms, behirs, all kinds of stuff. As for prey: dire llamas. Argentina has steps, Argentina sort of has llamas, so why not? Mammoths and woolly rhions would have roamed steppe regions during early human history, so you can always go with a herd of mammoths/mastodons or woolly rhinos?

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground

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    Dec 2014

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    I too am building an empty steppe region, and I’ve been stocking it with prehistoric megafauna mostly. I strongly suggest YouTube-ing “PBS Eons” and taking a look at the beasties they cover. Bone-crushing dogs (Dinjeer in my setting), bear-dogs (Boros), entelodonts (terrormouths), and postosuchus (rock leaper) are all excellent starting points for why this region was never settled. I also built a custom rule set to make traveling more dangerous without increasing the amount of paperwork or number crunching.

    Since the steppes in my game are beneath the shadow of a volcano, tremors, toxic gas, and obsidian fields are all hazards to navigate. Besides that, I’d have large herds of prey animals, fires, and the fact that it’s almost impossible to hide on the steppe be your main threats.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Jul 2015

    Default Re: What sort of unusual things would you expect to find in a muddy steppe?

    Steppe doesn't become muddy in the summer. That simply doesn't happen unless you're talking about rare (like once-per-decade or less) unusual heavy rain conditions. Steppe is covered in grass, and the grass absorbs the rainfall (steppe can in fact flood without becoming muddy because of thick grass cover). Steppe is muddy in the spring, when snowmelt temporarily overwhelms the ability of streams and wetlands to handle the runoff and the grass has not yet greened up.

    Steppe environments are an ideal location for ruins, because changing rainfall patterns over time cause rivers to relocate over time which forces settled civilizations to shift location on a timescale of centuries. They are also key locations for tombs. Nomadic societies often bury their dead in large mounds with extensive grave goods (in Asia these are known as kurgans). Historically these were regularly plundered for their riches. In a D&D style campaign these make for ideal mini-dungeons with numerous traps and undead guardians.

    Mines are also a useful hook. Steppe areas may have abundant mineral resources, especially gold, but native nomads have difficulty operating large scale extraction and smelting efforts. This leads to abandoned mines as adventure locations and also the possibility of leading rich caravans from one settled location to the next while under constant threat from nomadic raiders.

    As for wilderness monsters, a number of fairly traditional D&D beasties are associated with the steppe. Griffons most notably - Scythian art is positively bursting with griffons - but also various cat, horse, and deer related entities like displacer beasts and krenshars. Anthropomorphic hybrids of the plains, like Lamias or Scorpionfolk, are also a good fit. The key feature of the steppe is actually one of distribution. Steppe life involves large herds of herbivores (usually ungulates but also some proboscideans) engaged in migrations to locate high-value forage or safe rutting and breeding locations. This happens both naturally and when induced by nomadic stockbreeding cultures. The result is that you have a patchy distribution with potentially extremely high density of megafauna in a region for a short period of time, while density is otherwise very low.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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