This area building and design article was written by the god
, and posted on Nov 30, 2009.
I've always had a fascination with creepy stuff since I was a child. I watched shows
like the X-files and Unsolved Mysteries whenever I could. I loved reading about alien
abuductions, Big Foot and haunted houses. The Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy killings
happened in the midwest, within a moderate distance from where I live. The horrible
incidents were both revolting and captivating.
Recently, I've tried to take some of the essence of this fascination and distill it
into building fodder. My first real attempt to make a completely horror-based area
was the plane of elemental darkness. I recently restrung all the longs to try enhance
the otherworldliness thereof. I actually pulled some of the demon concepts from a
book idea my dad had been talking about writing for a long time. In particular, the
Blok Sabats and their peculiar charateristics are directly from an idea my father
Since then, undead things and horrible happenings show up in the ruins near the Aztecs
and Kookien as well as the Swamps of Sorrow and Q'thelas. One of the ones I'm most
pleased with is Hennepin Canyon in the Desolation of U'ras. The swarms of undead skeletons
at night with the appartions and dreams during the day give the region such a feeling
The Making of the Ash Desert
The Ash Desert has been long in the making. It has its roots in an idea that Shadowfax
and I had of a "Jo'Kerin Road" between Natchsburg (long before it opened) and Jo'Kerin.
Heart displayed mixed interest in the idea, and it was placed on the backburner for
several years. Subsequent events brought the idea to the forefront again, and Shadowfax
and I were faced with a conceptual dilemma -- Jo'Kerin is older and more powerful
than the comparatively young upstart Naginag Combine, which with its rapid expansionism
would pose a serious threat to the Lich King. The two powers would eventually come
into direct conflict, and an open road between the two would serve as a highway for
armies to march down. The two would need significant obstacles to separate them, ones
that would hinder both a highly adaptable, magically augmented force and a grinding,
mindless army of undead that don't need food, water, air or shelter. It would need
to be plausible that a small group, high level and specially prepared, could travel
the route. We wanted the two nations to be locked in a cold war across a vast distance,
fighting with political maneuvers instead of armies.
The Ash Desert would serve as part of this obstacle. An intermountain valley that
had been devastated by a volcanic eruption, the Ash Desert is incredibly dangerous.
The southern end would be covered in acidic lakes poisoned by volcanic ash, modeled
after the soda lakes of central Africa. The middle portion is the actual magma flow,
where a planar rift spews out hordes of fiery, aggressive elemental creatures. The
northern portion is the most benign, a sea of ash dunes populated by aggressive crag trolls.
Fire, acid and trolls would chew apart undead creatures marching through it as surely
as it would murlocks and nagas. I decided that Jo'Kerin would probably have an outpost
nearby, and so I made the ruined village in the magma fields (the first town I've
built under the new mapping system, in fact). The monastery on the west side was built
by the Order of Harmony, a monastic organization dedicated to neutrality and peace
that Shadowfax came up with. We've been working on integrating it into various places
I designed the first level of the monastery to be benign, but obviously haunted. Players
would encounter several strange events before having to fight any monsters. The idea
was to build tension, mystery and also to give players the opportunity to leave if
they found the enviroment too distrubing.
I wanted the Lich King's servants in the monastery to be unlike any other in the game.
I went back to Eastern European mythologies, the birthplace of the modern vampire
and the werewolf, to find suitable material. Most people don't know that vampires
and werewolves split off from the same mythos. Shapeshifting, cannibalistic, post-human,
night-bound creatures with specific weaknesses abound in the tales of this region.
They are really the same, with origins in the strixes, stygian birds or streghes of
ancient Greece. I found several variations of the streghe mythology and picked the
aspects that best suited my purposes. The choice of streghes had other effects. They
would have to have a Mother, so I had a suitable "boss" mob. The haunted monastery
now had a more precise location, being less than half a night's travel from the lake
of blood on the south side of Jo'Kerin, so the streghes would have a place to feed.
Streghes would also be tough to kill, so I made some special effects for players to
enjoy (hehe). These effects later got recycled in the form of my rabisus.
The mylings in the basement have an origin worth recounting as well. Mylings come
from Norse myth, the spirits or possessed remnants of children that died of illness
but later the idea of being unbaptized was attached to it. I just borrowed the name,
really. Shadowfax once told me something he heard in Venezuela, about an old Spanish
monastery that was being unearthed. In the basement they found a tunnel leading to
the basement of a nearby convent. In the tunnel were tiny bodies, the remains of babies.
It was apparently quite scandalous.
I want to point out that the mylings in the basement aren't meant to imply that those
poor old Order of Harmony monks were doing something unseemly. They have coed monasteries
and don't take vows of chastity. I placed the Midwife down there to convey the idea
of it perhaps having been a birthing suite or an infirmary. I just liked the imagery
of players poking around in an old tunnel, and hearing sounds in the walls, then suddenly
having little tiny dead fetuses falling out of the ceiling on them.
Putting it All Together
Most of Draak's areas
on the mud begin as an
early concept sketch
Recently, Dentin created a new mapping system and a new mapper, and the quest for world continuity/linearity
began. It turned out that Jo'Kerin was actually just over the mountains from the Combine
instead of being a vast distance away. There would be no room for the Ash Desert,
let alone any of the other areas we were thinking of implementing between the two.
The Ash Desert was hastily pulled apart and put back together. It's north-south orientation
became more east-west. It was placed north of the Salt Flats and Rud'Jali Desert (Ubar)
and south of Jo'Kerin. It is (supposedly) surrounded by mountains on all sides, with
a pair of narrow passes leading inward. It still serves as a buffer between Jo'Kerin
and the Naginag Combine, though its positioning is different. The Jo'Kerin Road will
eventually be opened, but it will instead be a narrow mountain road, with dangerous
creatures watching over it, still unsuitable for an army to march through. It will
not go directly to Jo'Kerin, just into the general region.
We will be adding more to the general area in the future. We are planning on adding
more wilderness areas such as expanding the Elwood and adding some underdark. Our
next project will probably be completing West Naginag, Ooahu and the Order of Harmony's
monastery of Sutton Vu. This will complete the mainland infrastructure of the Naginag
Combine and will allow us to start focusing our efforts on the capitol city of Naginag,
across the Behr'rooj Channel.
We hope players will enjoy the work we put into the our areas.
BACK - Alter Aeon Article Index