Who knows...I'm tired of checking the roles and finding nothing new. And rather than be PART of the problem, I figure I'll throw down a little inspirational (I hope) reading. This excerpt is the Foreword to Land of Ash, a new B/X campaign setting in the works from Running Beagle Games. Enjoy!
My name is Varleth and I have seen the wonders of the ancient world in the fullness of its splendor. Flowering hills of rich, deep soil, not just dunes of sand and ash. Dark, moist forests teeming with natural life, not unholy monsters. Stretches of grasslands, unlike the blasted and barren plains of our own world. Powerful mountains capped with snow…frozen moisture which the ancients of Adeth possessed in abundance they took for granted.
Yes, water…it was everywhere in the ancient world running in trickling streams and mighty rivers; pooling in deep lakes, and filling salty oceans. And the rain…O, the glorious torrential downpours one could bathe in for days! Ponds and wetlands and cascading run-offs from the peaks...a true paradise the Old Ones took for granted.
What I say may amaze you, but I have oft been called an amazing individual. I am Varleth and I was born a traveler…one who - by dint of happy fortune - can project himself bodily through both space and time. I see you have heard the term…perhaps you have even been acquainted with one like me; we are not all that uncommon. But like other Gifted individuals that wander Adeth, we sometimes find it prudent to hide our abilities. Simple exploitation of the Gifted is one thing… when fear and ignorance band together, death rides not far behind.
Not that Adeth isn’t rife with death…I have traveled enough to see a hundred ways for men to die in this land, and know there are certainly more than I can imagine. Besides simple exposure, hunger, and (of course) thirst, the barrens are filled with more than choking ash and the occasional withered shrub. The monsters that hunt the broken lands live off whatever meat they can find, and wanderers are a good source of nutrition. The nomads that roam the wastes have a tendency to kill first and ask questions later, and their ways of slaying waste little water from their fallen foes. And while there is the occasional patch of nature or tiny oasis to be found, these are universally guarded by the druids, incredibly fierce in their defense against outside intrusion.
Lest you think city life makes one fat and happy, know you that death is nearly as sure within the City-States as it is outside their walls. A knife in the belly from a passing slight happens almost as often as a knife in the back from wandering the wrong, crooked alleyway. Nothing in the cities is free, and starvation and thirst are as rampant among the impoverished as it is in the wastes. Not that there truly is an “underclass” to the cities…most are sold into slavery, or sell themselves, before they perish from want. At least slaves are given to drink…after all, it is difficult to labor when suffering dehydration. But have you ever seen the slave children lap at the ashy ground for a few drops of spilled water? Can humans really treat each other as such? They can…I said 'nothing in the city is free,' but value is in constant flux. And the value of a person’s life is often lower than one would imagine.
Except, of course, the gladiators. Aside from the politicians and the priests, no one commands the respect that these celebrities do. Well, if they fight well and survive, that is. Otherwise they die, just like any other man. The Margul of course are not true men, but their blood is still red (if a bit darker) and it stains the arena sand just as readily. In the city, these ancient people are valued only for their skill at arms. Who knows if this was always the case?
But death in the arena is far from the most dangerous part of the Adeth City-States…even I have survived more than a few bouts (for I, too, was once a slave). Looming over all are the God-Kings, those rulers who have lived centuries and turned our lands into the ashen ruin it is today, using corrupted magic that devastates all it touches, a blasphemy against nature and against the Law of true Theurgy. Removed as they are from the people they hold in thrall, they still exercise their tyranny through the power of their temple knights…wizard-warriors, trained in black sorcery as well as the way of the weapon, they enforce the will of the God-Kings on a cowed populace. If not for the shrines of the Four Elements and their priests, there would be no solace at all for the people of the cities… all would be forced to pay homage and worship to those who have ravaged the land with their cruel armies and mighty magic. But how can one stand up to such creatures?
I know there are still ruins of the ancients left in the wastes. I have seen them: mighty fortresses buried in the ash and sand, entombed in blasted mountains. I have walked the ancient halls of one such stronghold…a fell place, inhabited with monsters and warded with traps against the unwary. It was also filled with treasure…wondrous items from a forgotten age and metals…precious metals of the kind so rare (like true iron!) as to command a fantastic price in the bazaars of the Adeth. Perhaps one of these ancient sites hold the key to throwing down the God-Kings; if not they can surely provide wealth to buy water enough to last us comfortably the rest of our days! I am Varleth and I have seen many wonders. If you would join me, I will show them to you. Adventure awaits!