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Urzud and the Borean Valley throughout timeby DJ Hartel
I'd like to map this area (circa 1000 AC), but due to limited cannon there is not a lot to go on. So in order to better understand the area, I'm proposing a discussion of what it could be like in the various eras which I think can be broken up as follows:Blackmoor DA series, Blackmoor Empire invasion (Pre Great Rain of Fire), Post Apocalypse - 2300 BC. I'm adding in some thoughts about what the inhabitants were up to to get an idea of how they affected the landscape. After 2300 BC that I think there are enough fannon and cannon I don't want to bump into.
(This is a rough rough draft which probably has typos. I will try to follow with a series of maps to illustrate the various time periods.)
Prehistory Valley Origin
A long long time ago (depending on the campaign this could be thousands of years, or millions) the area where the valley is was an underwater sea. The escarpment to the east of it now was present but the land itself was under water. There may actually have been two escarpments, one on the western side as well. Also during this time frame, I believe the Prismatic stones would have been initially created or formed.
Edit - I've been reviewing the maps of the precatacysm, both the hollow world, and ones by Lozompatore (with updates by Simone Neri) and the Black Mounts would have been east of the region. Still no change is needed, as the glaciers would just not been able to reform the the escarpment.
The river itself would have changed courses many times, and I imagine there were mini freshwater seas present several times though it's early history. They eventually drained out to the ocean, allowing for a wide valley with a large river within. The river would probably be somewhat volatile in that it changed it's bank often without whim or reason.
Note: I am modeling this off of the great lakes region's geological history. It's the one I know the best.
Borean River Valley - Blackmoor DA series
During the Blackmoor DA series Urzud was the homeland of the humanoids. It has been like this since the first tribe found itself on the river. A river culture, but one with much volatility. The race was not breeding true at this time, so any number of creatures could be found in one of the many city states. They were also reincarnations of evil people, which cause many dictators and blood thirsty mad men to come to power. The river valley was often awash in slaughtering and killing sometimes for as little as one beastman appearance fell out of favor.
Also at this time the dragons looked upon the area as their own personal lands. They disregarded the beast men. Were a dragon to fall to one, their brethren would look down upon him as weak and foolish to fall to such pitiful creatures. The prismatic stones (GazF) were easily accessible here in the river valley (either cliffs or hills). The dragons used these to help boost their rites of ascension.
The land at this time was pretty wild. The beastmen at best had shanty village/towns along the river. There probably wasn't any large attempt at creating any lasting structures or roads.
Blackmoor invades Borean River Valley, founding of Urzud, Blackmoor Empire expansion (3200 BC)
At some point Blackmoor has a huge war with dragonkind. Eventually a truce is made and the gemstone dragons are banished. The Borean Valley becomes accessible then, as there are too few dragons to effectively patrol the area and chase any Blackmoorian humans out.
The history books that most quote state that the purging of the beastman race was the crusade Blackmoor undertook to keep their lands safe. I personally think, that was the "cover" popular reason. Their main reason was the Prismatic stones. The Earth Shaker has one that powers it, and I imagine it powered cities defenses and other things.
Urzud was first and foremost founded as military - Prismatic Stone research facility. Once it was discovered to be loaded in these stones (along with the a bunch of dragon bones from the millenia), it was decided by the government (and probably some corporation interest) that a permanent city needed to be founded, the area settled and cleared. They figured people would have been sick of killing off beastmen by then (they been fighting either them or dragons over their timeline) so they worked with some of the religions and had an incentive sign for the Crusade.
If you notice, they didn't kill off the beastmen. They drove them to Hyborea which didn't have ready access to Prismatic stones. I think they didn't persue them farther because from a monetary reason, there was no monetary value gain going there. The valley itself formed a good barrier, but augmented with magical sensing towers, possibly specially breed flying creatures, they pretty much had the valley locked down. Anything related to a Beastman would not get past the DMZ between Hyborea and Borea.
The valley at this time under goes a dramatic transformation. Urzud is built up as the primary government and trading city. Most of the prismatic stones go there before being shipped back to the the empire. Other cities I imagine also sprung up. I think the primary military bases would have been within 100 miles of various signally stations (for rapid response). Perhaps these were berths for Earthshakers, and Urzud's Earthshaker berths were at best back ups in case of emergency.
I am modeling this off of North America as it was built up over the last 400 years, though given the state of tech in endgame Blackmoor I imagine a similar build up could happen in 100 years timeline. This also implies things were done to control flooding, improve irrigation, reroute rivers into canals. Roads would be created and extensive mining into the valley's cliffs/hills as well. I also believe that the environment may have been magically heated up more to make it more comfortable with 100 miles of each city founded.
Post Apocalypse to 2300 BC
The great rain of fire comes and alters Mystara permanently.
I'm unsure if the Beast men moved back right away or slowly. I believe once they found out the area was undefended, they moved in like crazy. Also, the climate change they endured was extra impetus. Whatever the cause, they moved back in, grabbed all they could and dominated and destroyed anything in their way. Vandalism was initially a fairly often occurrence. However, after a few war parties and tribes disappeared into Blackmoorian ruins; the ruins were considered bad mojo and were only traveled to by the members of the various tribes who were out to prove themselves.
The beastmen have begun to breed true. Which is odd, but the link is modern day Dengothian Brutes. Beastmen genetics when mixed with other beastmen is always random. However, when mixed with a human or demihuman the traits of the parent goblin can be preserved. This was discovered during the previous timeframe and after many generations of mixing (often via slave taking and other things) the beastmen split into their respective races.
I have to wonder if they did things to cause beastmen sterility during their forced living in Hyborea (radiance fall out areas) that also encouraged the beastmen to take on human/demi human wives. Either way over time their genetics stabilized and it became a common cultural practice to kidnap human/demihumans wives as a sign status among the tribes/kingdoms. Note they still have a lot of randomness in the blood line but by 2300BC true bloodlines dominate the species.
(edited per pre cataclysm map review)
The Blackmoorian survivors would have had a mixed fate. I think a lot of them died. Some may have tried to set up a new civilization, but most of those who were left were eventually enslaved or killed by the Beastmen. Only a few actually fled the area. I imagine they moved into areas like that further up the river valley towards the Black mountains. They did not go southwest or west (Known World) as that area was known to be arctic lands (or atleast glacier covered lands). (As a side note, could have some kind of fallout or back up military facility been built in case of a mess?)
Within the southern valley it becomes colder as much of their prismatic stone magic was destroyed by being involved in the devastation that was wrought. I am imagining the landscape looks something like the surrounding lands of Chernobyl, wild magic and dead magic and radiance laced areas abound. Some dams break killing more people. Someone said mad max style adventuring could be had now and I whole heartedly agree.
After 2300 BC
Around 2300 BC I believe the area is fairly similar to the preBlackmoor empire days. Urzud is occupied in relatively decent shape. Other cities may or may not be occupied, depending on how much radiance is still left in the environment. The state of the cities is also subject for discussion, as some may have been made sturdier to resist warfare. Non military cities would most likely have degraded now. I'm assuming the humanoids have done all they can to strip the ruined of what could easily be gotten (from the accessible cities). The roads, water works and other environmental changes have mostly been destroyed by both neglect and vandalism. At this point there are other histories folks have written (cannon and fannon), which can be read.
I'm starting to research great river valleys on earth to get an idea of how it could look like. Lots and lots of google images and maps. I'm also looking at the lands around Chernobyl (and other nuclear disasters) to see how the terrain looks. As of AC 1000 I don't envision that much of the land is dead land, but more so wildly mutated land. I'm thinking some Athas influence in the sense that animals and plants are mutated into deadlier versions of things. So Athas, but greener. Around the tribal lands of the humanoids things are relatively safe, but 20 miles out and you're at the whims of some very nasty creatures.
I also think that the dragons may have enough numbers now to have re-established their presence in the area and probably are one of the bigger adulterants or guardians, but that might be situational (near the largest prismatic stones mines). Also, there could be a new, radiance mutated dragon species there that changed as a result of living so long with the radiance. (Not saying it uses radiance, just to open up the possibility of a new color of dragon and an explanation for it.)
Depending on how the Blackmoorians built their cities, some of them could still exist. Wooden buildings would be gone, but I imagine parts of the steel ones may be left. Any stone fortifications would be left as well (along with partial dams if they weren't destroyed). Most should be overgrown, barring radiance or other inhibiting factors.
The other consideration is that the land may have undergone some uplift, as the surrounding lands did (per the GazF series).
First map done
This map focuses on what Borea looked like pre-beastman. I made the map with the standard up = North convention (eventually I'll add in formal labels). I didn't have a lot of cannon, so I opted for a generic large river valley. It may need to be more forested in the western half, but the eastern half should give way to drier and drier climate until it turns into a little northern desert in places. I envision the western half as having a climate similar to the Pacific Northwest. Once you ascend the northern plateau you lose some of the warm winds and the trees become more of a pine type. If one were to ascend the southern plateau they'd eventually bump into the sea/great lakes in the middle of the continent.
I created this by taking the area blank white area in my Eastern Brun map, rotating it -90 degrees, then another -20 to approximate the axial tilt.
I'll aim to make what it looked like when the beast man lived there this week, followed up by the Blackmoorian occupation. I'd love to hear your guys feedback (Good/bad/indifferent)
What's the approximate latitude of the valley at this point?
I believe the river is between 45 and 50 degrees latitude (guessing from Simone's updated map). This would allow for the deciduous forest in the valley itself. Given the warm winds and water off of the area could be somewhat warmer being further north than that.
I'm leaning towards one of the swamps as the start for the Beastmen race. I believe during this time frame the Neather humans were here as well. Albeit briefly, as I do not think most tribes could deal with the more powerful Beastmen. The swamps would also be attractive as it's land that humans wouldn't initially live in, as it's harder to live. This is a HUGE valley, so I'm not certain if Hel didn't just seed a few areas here and there to see whatever bubbled up.
Does it ever mention how the Beastman first appeared in Mystara? I always thought their genesis was brought about via the evil reincarnated souls. Did they corrupt existing humans, or were they animals or did they pop up all new? Depending on how they came about affects patterns of settlement and stuff. If they corrupted an existing group, then they they could rapidly overtake an area. Where as if they came in new, they'd have to multiply first, then invade (repeat as necessary). The only plus I can think of is in the secondary one some Neather would be left in the valley, but probably not in the best positioning (This would also mesh with Gazf saying some Neather were left when Blackmoor occupied the valley).
Did some research last night, and looking at the migration maps and history timeline from the Hollow World boxed set. The Beastmen literally pop up within the Borean Valley. My current to do is to to think of best spawn points.
Also, if the Hollow world pre-cataclysm map is used, then the map I made is incorrect and would need to be flipped upside down. I'm not using the Hollow World Pre-Cataclysm map for my campaign, as it has many issues that I can't easily rectify ( i.e. The Known World being within the Arctic Circle).
AC1000 and beyond info:
Also, read this article about the radiation disaster at Chernobyl.
Even then the area around the plant will remain unsuitable for thousands of years. Asked how long before people can settle down and grow crops at the site, Chernobyl power plant director Ihor Gramotkin said: "At least 20,000 years." (Italics added by me)
Applying this to the Borean Valley means that in AC 1000 areas where there were reactors would still be radioactive to some degree. I imagine I could use the bad magic points from Alfheim's maps to represent them. I am proposing that there would be one or two reactors in the valley, the main power generator and a backup. The main reactor definitely participated/contributed to the great rain of fire... unsure of the secondary.
Adventure Hook: Depending upon the campaign there could be adventures to turn on/off this secondary in later time frames. Also, it could be utilized by the Shadow Elves if they are missing pieces of machinery that can't be made for the Chamber of Stars.