Sunday, September 29, 2013

Evocative Place: Salar De Uyuni

Okay, so I was cruising around on Google Earth (because I've always loved maps and Google Earth is awesome) and I noticed a huge white patch in the Andes in South America.  I assumed it was a large area of snow-capped mountains but I zoomed in anyways.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is the world's largest salt lake, the Salar De Uyuni.  And not only is it a massive salt lake of over 10,000 km2 (4,000 mi2) but it has a massive dormant volcano, Cerro Tunupa, looming over it on the north edge.  How cool is that?  In addition there are "islands" of rock outcroppings rising above the flat "sea" of salt.  The locals mine the salt to sell and flocks of flamingos migrate there for the winter breeding season.

This is obviously a cool location.

But I'd already made up a location like that for my last game.  I called it the Salt Sorrow.  Two hundred years before the current game time the entire region north of the players' home town was a vast expanse of marsh forest laced with rivers and lakes.  It was ruled by a dynasty of black (water element) dragons.  But a curse laid by the human pharaoh-vizier to the dragons turned it all to desert and salt flats.  There was an oasis in the middle where a tribe of ogres lived, making money charging a toll for access to the water to travelers and salt miners.  In a remote section of it were the remains of a massive palace of the black dragons with much inside to discover.

Now having read up on Salar de Uyuni I'd update the entire area with more cool elements, such as a layer of briny water below the top crust.  I'd swap the migrating flamingos for something more fantastic, like giant dragonflies.  Every year during the winter massive monsoon rains dump enough rain to form large brine pools into which hatch hibernating shrimps.  The dragonflies come to feast and breed, attracting in turn predators which seek to feed on them and their freshly-laid egg masses.  But the dragonflies defend their eggs, savagely attacking any intruders.

And take this photo (from Wikimedia Commons) of salt piles there.  Imagine that they are 150-200 feet across and equally high and each is riddled with caves, tunnels, and burrows.  One might even be fitted with windows and doors as a place to live (or dungeon to explore).  Or imagine that they are a mile across and high and each one home to a separate clan of lizard people or weird salt mining dwarves, each feuding with the others.

( Luca Galuzzi -

Now a location needs encounters.  I don't usually make up "proper" encounter tables with percentages for things because I don't want the party to get trashed by something inappropriate.  Instead I make up an encounter list and select from it as seems best.

Salt Lake Creature Encounter List
Achaierai [CR 5]; only found within 1 mile of shore; lay their eggs in the shallow brine layer under the salt crust, very aggressive in defense of egg sites
Ankheg [CR 3]
Basilisk, Salthide [CR 5]; white shiny scales; CR 28 to spot against the white salt lake background
Bat Swarm [CR 2]; night only
Camels [CR 1]; migrating across
Caryatid Columns [CR 3]; wandering from the damaged dragon palace
Earth (salt) Elemental, medium (CR 3]
Giant Centipede [CR 1/2]
Gnolls [CR 1]; hunting party with hyenas or slaver party
Lizardfolk, Saltscale [CR 1]; hunting party or holy warriors looking for captive to sacrifice
Ogre [CR 3]; patrol, will try to charge toll else attack
Purple Worm [CR 12]
Salt Mephits [CR 3]
Salt Wights [CR 3]; night only
Saltman [CR 3]; as a Sandman, but made of salt rather than sand
Skeleton [CR 1/3]
White Pudding [CR 6]; CR 30 to spot the white puddings against the white salt background
Will-o'-wisp (night only) [CR 6]
Wraiths [CR 5]; night only
Zombie [CR 1/2]; died from lack of water, thirsting for the blood of the living

No comments:

Post a Comment