Posts Tagged ‘Parian’

The illegal drug industry has fascinated me for years. As neither a contributor nor consumer, I’m (thankfully) on the outside of the industry looking in. Everything about the process is gripping and utterly illicit – growing, manufacturing, smuggling, buying, selling, and consumption. I’m not alone. Drugs have captured our imagination in critically acclaimed television shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Weeds, and many, many other ways. Movies, books, comics, and more have all sorts of stories related to the drug industry.

I’m lucky enough to work for the National Geographic Channels. One of our most-watched series is a program called Drugs, Inc. which goes inside the billion-dollar industry of illegal drugs. The series features in-depth interviews with dealers, kingpins, enforcers, users, and police with crazy access like I’ve never seen. I was part of a team assigned to promote the series in its fourth season and here’s the launch promo we produced:

(Note : If you want to learn more about how this promo was made check out this post from my boss Andy Baker on his killer site – The Client Blog.)

All this is to say that drugs have become a huge part of our everyday world. It is some people’s only source of income, it is some people’s family business, and it is some people’s complete and utter addiction.

Exploration Age’s Drug of Choice

Orange spice

When sorted, smoked, or ingested the vasiseing flower’s orange pollen causes great jubilation and energy within the user. The vasiseing pollen, more commonly called orange spice or simply orange, is highly addictive. Heavy users become dependent on the substance and can eventually lose their lives to the stuff.


Orange spice was first discovered growing wild in the Paxa Forest of Parian by soldiers in The Emperor’s Military. They found that after smelling the vasiseing flowers their mood was enhanced and their movements and reflexes were quicker. They harvested the flowers to share with their platoon and soon the entire nation became aware of the wonderful effects of orange spice. They figured the source of the effect was the flower’s pollen and so they began harvesting the substance. Farms were erected and Paraian’s merchants began selling orange spice over seas.

However, it soon became clear orange spice had some terrible side-effects. Many users developed a dangerous dependency which made them spend all their earnings on the drug. As these users ran out of money they began to live in squalor and turn to crime to get money to feed their addictions. Others would take too much of the drug and overdose, which has a variety of random effects including death.

As these effects became clear the drug was outlawed in Findalay. Initially, Parian was upset with these developments as the country was the main supplier of orange spice, but as its citizens’ eyes became open to the effects on their people, the emperor outlawed the drug as well.

In many ways this action was too little, too late. The trade was established and the addicts created. Soon an international black market for the stuff was created. Today this same illegal market exists today, bigger and more profitable than ever.

Orange Spice Cartels

The orange spice trade is now controlled by cartels, small and large. Each cartel is a competing corporation in a business with no ethics and ruthless tactics. They are at war with law enforcement and each other.

At the head of each cartel is a boss. Each boss has his lieutenants who are responsible for a territory. They supervise the growers, smugglers, hitmen, and falcons within a given region, which could be as big as an entire country for larger cartels or as little as a city neighborhood for the smaller cartels. Cartels also have assets, folks not on the full-time payroll and outside the organization, but who can be tapped for a specific task when the need arises.

  • Growers – These are the people who grow the vasiseing flowers and harvest the pollen. They often have to farm in secret fields deep in the forests, or magically enhanced greenhouses so their activities are kept private. They keep these areas well-guarded with soldiers, animals, and traps. Most growers are based in Parian, but there are a few grow operations in Findalay and now Verda.
  • Smugglers – The most creative and charismatic people of the orange spice trade are the smugglers. They have to keep coming up with original ways to hide the orange from law enforcement and they must be bold enough to lie, bribe, and murder (when necessary) to keep from getting caught.
  • Hitmen – Kidnaps, thefts, extortion, assassinations, and all-out wars are the specialties of the cartels’ hitmen. They deal with problems in the most violent ways possible. Publicly when the cartels want to send a message, quietly when they don’t.
  • Falcons – The lowest level operatives of the cartels are also some of the most important. The eyes and ears on the street, falcons monitor and report the activities of law enforcement and rival cartels while serving as street dealers. Falcons are the merchants selling the drug to individuals.
  • Assets – Anyone could be a cartel asset, a bribed city watch sergeant looking the other way when a huge shipment arrives, a merchant with a kidnapped daughter allowing a smuggler to use his ship, or a politician being blackmailed into pardoning a group of thugs. Assets are manipulated by the cartel because of their job or position within a society. Usually a bribe is the first way a cartel will try to manipulate a target, then intimidation, blackmail, kidnapping, and violence come into play. It can be difficult to not give into the cartels’ demands. Even the smaller organizations tend to have assets in law enforcement and government, so there are few people one can turn to for help if a cartel comes knocking.

One of the largest cartels is the Rainbow Dragons, led by boss Juong Meral and based in Parian, but operating everywhere. They are rivaled by Sunset’s Children, another large Parian cartel led by boss Kerta Fernnath. In Aeranore, a small cartel called No Trace has gained some infamy as they have begun expanding into Taliana.

The cartels have begun moving into Verda, where the lawless land allows them to easily sell and transport orange spice. They have had success addicting colonists and the folk of the tribes at first, but the people of Verda have begun to wise up and many are wary of those peddling the stuff.

Effects of Orange Spice

Orange spice is a stimulant. It makes users faster and full of life, but leaves them feeling immensely down. A user can snort the drug directly, absorb it through their tongue, or smoke it in a paper or pipe. The going price for a hit (or one dose) of orange spice is usually around 1gp.

One hit of orange spice grants users one extra action during their turn for the next hour. After the initial effect wears off, a secondary effect kicks in. Users must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. A failed save means the target is intoxicated for the next eight hours. A successful save means the target is intoxicated for only the next hour. The intoxicated condition cannot be removed in any way, but it can be delayed by taking a second hit of orange spice, however the target risks overdosing (see below).

Once the orange spice’s secondary effect wears off, targets must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw or become addicted. Each time a creature makes this saving throw within a month of the last time he or she made another Wisdom saving throw to avoid becoming addicted to orange spice, the DC increases by 1.

Addicted creatures have a difficult time functioning without orange spice. When they aren’t using, addicted creatures are considered intoxicated and need to use just to function normally. An addicted creature needs one hit to function without the intoxicated effect for an hour and two hits to feel the effects of the orange spice outlined above. A creature can detox to lose their addicted condition, but they must not use orange spice for a month.

A creature who takes orange spice twice in a day must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or overdose. For every use of orange spice after the second, the DC increases by 1. When a creature overdoses, roll on the chart below to see the effect of the overdose.

d20 Effect
1 Creature dies
2 – 4 Creature is unconscious for the next 8 hours
5 – 7 Creature is paralyzed for the next 8 hours
8 – 10 Creature is blinded for the next 8 hours
11 – 13 Creature is deafened for the next 8 hours
14 – 16 Creature becomes frightened of another creature of the DMs choosing for the next 8 hours
17 – 19 Creature cannot stand and is prone for the next 8 hours
20 Creature considers all other creatures it can see enemies and attacks for the next 8 hours


Let me know what you think. I know these rules are a little complicated, but I figure the mechanics make orange spice seem addictive and dangerous while also making them a little attractive. The complexities here are meant if PCs choose to take the drug, and many won’t. GMs are encouraged to have NPCs react to the drug however they like.

A Quick Note

So today Mike Mearls revealed in a Legends and Lore article on the Wizards of the Coast D&D site that they’re creating some form of Open Gaming License for the new edition of D&D. He said that it won’t be ready for launch until 2015, so all of Exploration Age will probably be available for a modest fee at that point as well. This gives me lots and lots of time to get the math right for things like new backgrounds, feats, monsters, magic items, and rules modules. In the meantime, take this survey to help me figure out what the price of an Exploration Age Campaign Guide pdf should be. Thanks!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Parian is a place unlike any other. The humans citizens have a rich cultural history of art, poetry, music, food, and more. Everything its citizens do they do for one man – he is their ruler and their God.


Wrong emperor.


Parian is a country that’s home to one man – Emperor Quan Denang. Everyone else in Parian is just living in his world. Quan is the supreme leader, the one and only God in the eyes of his people. His rule is absolute and there is no error in his judgement. The emperor is stronger and smarter than any other living being alive.

When the emperor dies, a new emperor takes his place – traditionally a son or brother, but any male relative of the Denang Dynasty may be appointed by the emperor in his will or on hid deathbed.

Emperor Quan has a contingent of one thousand elite bodyguards and the world’s largest military at his command. While his people believe Quan is one in a long line of infallible Gods, he does have a court of advisors – who are often the ones blamed and punished when the emperor makes a mistake.

Perhaps the most notable of all these councilors is Emperor Quan’s chief advisor. Symextrivilicus is an ancient red dragon titled Baron of All Affairs who has been advising Parian’s various emperors for hundreds of years. The dragon seems content to play second fiddle to whoever the current emperor is, but many cannot believe this is the case. It is unheard of behavior for a dragon to say the least, first to so involve himself in the affairs of mortals and even more so to then let others run the show. No one is sure what sort of game Symextrivilicus is playing, but many are sure he is playing one.

Emperor Quan has other under barons responsible for war, treasury, foreign affairs, domestic affairs, and emperor’s pleasure. All of these barons report to Symextrivilicus. In turn Symextrivilicus reports to Emperor Quan. Each under baron has his or her own staff who aids them in their business.

There are few consistent punishments for crimes in Parian. The soldiers enforce the law of the land at the emperor’s whim. If the emperor decides one day stealing is punishable by death, then it is. If Quan changes his mind and decides all thieves will serve jail time, become slaves, or have their hands removed, then that is the new law. One would be wise to listen every morning to Parian’s news criers for any changes or updates in the law of the land.


Parian has a long tradition of slavery. The very rich are able to buy prisoners of war, criminals, and the children of slaves to work for them. Supposedly slavers no longer illegally capture and sell foreigners, but it is well known that some pirates still capture ships and sell the people to Parian nobles who ask no questions.

Rowdy slaves are kept in line by enforcer-slaves who are shown favoritism, better living conditions, and more privileges and freedoms. All slaves branded in case they ever escape. Many treat their slaves fairly well, but it’s not a life for which most would wish. Marrial’s Masters of None have taken a particular interest in the slaves of Parian and works to secretly free them, though this is against international law.


Emperor Quan is God in the eyes of Parian’s people. There is no freedom of religion, believing in the divinity of the emperor, or Imperatism, is the only option. Infidels and heretics are tortured and executed publicly for all to see.

Quan has ways of proving his divinity to his people. He often gives public demonstrations of his power by creating fire and lightning out of thin air. While these displays are impressive, all mages could point out these are spells readily available to any who learn the craft. They would be wise to do so out of earshot of the emperor and any of his servants if they value their lives. Quan has also given public displays of power which show off how long he can hold his breath, how swords break against his skin, how he can read thoughts, and more. All of these could be explained away with the right spell, but to some it is real proof.

The divinity of the emperor is explained in the Denang Scrolls, an ancient holy text of Imperatism. In the beginning there was only Aliay Denang. he created Canus and the multiverse through sheer force of will and gave life to all creatures and plants. It was his gift to the world which he could take away at anytime. A power many Parians believe and fear Quan and all his ancestors also hold.

Aliay’s body grew old on Canus. For though He was God, it took all His might to keep the world moving and living. This took a toll on his body, causing it to age. Though Aliay could have lived forever, He passed on his divinity to a new body, one of His sons. Aliya’s old body died and His son was now God. Parian’s believe all emperor’s pass this divinity as their bodies age from maintaining the existence of the world.

Many in Canus, including some citizens of Parian, think that Imperatism is one of the most insane things they’ve ever heard. Others believe in the emperor’s divinity for not only does Quan display impressive might, he has clerics who pray to him and receive spells. Of course, when he commands the world’s largest military, many have faith in Quan as God for they have no other choice.


Other countries whisper rumors about Quan beyond him being a God or a mortal. There are all sorts of theories about his background and the Denang Dynasty.

  • Emperor Quan is not God, nor is anyone of the Denang Dynasty. Aliay sold his soul and his entire family to demons in exchange for power. Every emperor since Aliay has been possessed by a demon.
  • The Denang Dynasty is not a long lineage. Rather it is simply two generations of fathers and sons who are constantly switching places. Once the fathers become old, they absorb the youth of an unfortunate young victim. After turning young, they pretend to be the sons of their sons. This is a cycle which has been repeating so long neither generation can remember which is the parent and which is the offspring.
  • Emperor Quan is secretly a woman. Quan had a twin sister who died in a mysterious accident during a hunt as a child. Many believe it was actually Quan who died and his sister took his place. Quan’s soft complexion adds credence to this rumor.
  • Emperor Quan actually holds The Immortal Gift from the Line of Mara in the religion of Immortalism, Aeranore’s official religion.

As you can see Emperor Quan and Parian have more going on than meets the eye. What do you think? Do you want Parian to be part of your world?

Also I’m reposting this survey and looking for answers! Please take five seconds and answer. Thanks!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I have yet to write a lot of material about Parian, the nation to Findalay’s West ruled by an emperor who considers himself a god. Check out the excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide below.

Map of Parian

Map of Parian

In Parian there is one man who holds all the power. He is not just a political leader, but the only true force in the world as far as his people are concerned. In their eyes he is God and to say anything else would be a heresy punishable by death.

How does one man get all this power? How do his people not riot in the streets? Emperor Quan has the strongest military in the world at his command and his command alone.

The Emperor’s Military

Don’t mess with Emperor Quan, dragon!

In Parian the armed forces as a whole are referred to as The Emperor’s Military. This simple and direct title is so all might know to whom the military belongs. There is no question Emperor Quan is the owner of all Parian.

Parian’s soldiers swear an oath to serve and protect the emperor with their lives and obey his every command. These oaths are reinforced by the attitudes of fellow soldiers and superior officers. Members of the military are constantly reminded of the importance of their job for they must protect and carry out the divine will of Emperor Quan. These reminders come written in handbooks and posters, verbally communicated by fellow soldiers, and from the emperor himself each day via a mass sending spell. It only takes a matter of days to brainwash any recruits who aren’t already 100% on board before signing up. Every member of the military is ready to give his or her life for Parian and Emperor Quan.

Another reason Parian’s soldiers love their country – they get the best treatment. Good meals, good pay, and they are well-respected by others for their position. Soldiers receive the choicest treatment at most businesses because the folk of Parian either love or fear them. Their undying loyalty to Emperor – gives them singular purpose and focus that makes them determined and terrifying.

Branches of Parian’s Military

  • The Emperor’s Army The largest branch of Parian’s military is definitely its standing army. The army breaks down into specialized units of foot soldiers, front-line pole-arm fighters, tiger-riding cavalry, siege weapon operators, grenadiers, riflemen, archer snipers and more. They train constantly, even when they sail to war in the cargo holds of massive, specialized galleys. Member of the army are tortured to death if they run from a battle or surrender so they fight until the bitter end.
  • The Emperor’s Navy While Marrial is known for its fast ships, Parian is known for battleships of enormous size. Huge battleships with rows upon rows of cannons spell certain destruction for enemy ships. The men and women of Parian’s navy are disciplined, clean, and trained in hand to hand combat. Unlike the specialization of The Emperor’s Army, The Emperor’s Navy expects its personnel to be well-rounded and capable of doing every job at sea.
  • The Silent Fury There is a smaller unit of specialized militants which answer directly to Emperor. These elite ornithopter pilots drop bombs atop strategic targets. The ornithopters can be carried and launched from large naval vessels or the land, making them versatile. The hot-shot ornithopter pilots are famously arrogant. They see themselves as superior to the other branches of the military because they are literally above it all.
  • The Emperor’s Hand There isn’t much known about this secret branch of the military and when asked about it Emperor denies its existence. However, Parian moles have been discovered throughout Findalay in some information-sensitive areas. These spies have been known to call themselves The Emperor’s Hand. How much they know and how many spies there are remain to be seen. Their exact purpose is unknown to any other than Emperor himself. In addition, it is whispered by the folk of Parian that The Emperor’s Hand has undercover agents watching for rebellious activity domestically.
  • The Emperor’s Armor Parian’s cream of the crop warriors are chosen for the highest of honors. Emperor Quan has 1,000 elite bodyguards who have risen through the ranks of The Emperor’s Military. They are his personal shadow and protectors. Their tongues have been removed so they may not speak of any strategy or secrets they witness during Quan’s meetings. They communicate to one another with a unique sign language and are required to pray to Emperor Quan eight times a day.

Joining The Military

They want YOU!

Joining The Emperor’s Military requires passing tests of physical fitness, mental acuity, and ethics. Ethics is the most important of these for bodies can be shaped and minds can be molded, but what is inside one’s heart cannot be changed. The members of Parian’s military want men and women to join who are undyingly faithful to their country, emperor, and fellow soldiers.

These feelings are commonplace in Parian, since everyday life is full of propaganda, patriotism, and displays of support for the emperor. The military also uses these tests as a screening process. Those who do not pass the ethics tests are not just barred from The Emperor’s Military, but depending on the severity of their failure they could be exiled, imprisoned, or put to death.

Heroic Examples

Why can’t everyone be more like Klaus?

Those soldiers who exemplify themselves in battle are held up throughout Parian as heroes and examples to its citizens. Soldiers can achieve instant fame through deeds in battle, though usually ones which involve personal sacrifice and help reinforce what makes a model citizen of Parian. Every hero raised up by legendary stories has a political motive behind the move.

Some of Parian’s most storied heroes killed traitorous friends or spouses, laid down their lives to personally save an emperor, lost limbs or organs taking on a horde of enemies, or somehow chose Parian and an emperor over other meaningful personal relationships. These stories are told to children from the time they are young as bedtime stories and nursery rhymes. Quan has a number of bards in his palace ready to be teleported across the country and sing the praises of heroes who are doing right by Parian.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Dragons are world-weary and few. I’m a huge fan of these creatures. Who isn’t? When the fourth edition of D&D launched I loved the variety of dragons in the game. I used them everywhere. They served as main villains, but also as mounts for bad guys, guardians of temples and artifacts, beasts that were summoned by wizards, powerful allies, combat companions alongside the PCs… you get the idea. After all of that I’m a little pooped out on dragons and they’ve lost some of their majestic pizzazz for my players. I know, I know. I blame me. So I’m taking a different approach.

However, I also don’t think dragons should be shut away in ivory towers, reserved for epic level encounters only. They are in the name of the game after all and a big part of the attraction. If you can’t see a dragon in your fantasy life when can you? (Seriously when can you see one in real life, if you know, please tell me.) As a player I’d feel cheated in a dragon-less campaign and as a DM I’d have a big dragon-shaped void in my gamer heart.

Dragons Are Special

What do you mean I ain’t special?!?

In Exploration Age, dragons should feel special, but not wholly inaccessible. The PCs should all know of the greatest dragons from childhood stories. The mere mention of a specific name should make an entire tavern nod with recognition. Before a dragon ever steps into the PCs’ lives they should know he or she is kind of a big deal.

Along the same lines dragons in Exploration Age should never play second-fiddle to another NPC. They don’t serve as full-time guardians or mounts, those are jobs for animals, not great majestic beasts. If a dragon chooses to work with an NPC, it is for one of two reasons. First the dragon is clearly in charge, the scheme is of his or her design and the NPC is the dragon’s lackey. Second, the dragon and NPC appear to be equal partners in a scheme crafted by the latter; however the dragon still considers itself superior (he or she probably is) and allows the NPC to think of them as equals as long as their goals are aligned.

Dragons of Exploration Age are proud of their mighty heritage. Since the dragons of Canus only grow stronger of mind and body as they age, some dragons from The Birthing Dawn (the time when the dragons came forth from Canus’ core) are still alive. Though old age will not kill a dragon, he or she could still be put down by physical wounds. There is no known ritual that can restore a dragon to life once it has died, which is why some might choose to become a dracolich. If sword or spell strikes down a dracolich, the phylactery will bring the dragon back.

In general, dragons have grown world-weary of the affairs of mortals. While once their goal was world domination, most no longer desire power and already have a vast horde of treasure, either acquired or more-likely inherited. Dragons often look to gain something far more useful than items or kingdoms – knowledge. They have the time and strength of mind to become experts in all sorts of lore. Some might spend their time summoning other-worldly beings to speak with them, reading mounds of ancient tomes, experimenting with magic, studying the stars, talking to spirits of the dead, or even occasionally seeking out mortals of renown – all in the name of expanding their minds.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some dragons may grow so bored and nihilistic they seek their own death, so they begin raiding villages and country sides as a challenge to find a creature worthy enough of granting them death. Others may hunger for knowledge so ravenously that they kill other dragons and extract the knowledge of the victims’ corpses. Still others, mostly younger dragons, may become obsessed with gaining power or a larger horde and seek out treasure, minions and power, or enjoy the company and affairs of mortals more than most of their kin.

Chromatic vs Metallic

In Exploration Age there isn’t a strict evil/good divide between chromatic and metallic dragons. Instead these general truths holds true:

  • Chromatic dragons can be found in Parian, Glacius, and Findalay.
  • Metallic dragons appear to be exclusive to Verda.
  • Chromatic dragons are quicker to anger and use their might and wrath to swing a situation to their advantage. They are more straight forward and demanding when dealing with lesser beings.
  • Metallic dragons are calmer and more level-headed in high pressure situations. They let their confidence and intellect win the day and prefer to have others fight for them, only attacking when there is no other option.
  • Surprisingly, these two types of dragons have always known about each other, or so they claim, but have had no known contact since they emerged from Canus’ core. The reason why is currently unknown, but it seems the dragons are not friendly.

Legacy of the Dragons

Exploration Age’s dragons are no longer active in the day-to-day lives of mortals, but that wasn’t always true. Drow and elves formed from the blood of chromatic dragons and share their love of knowledge, quick temper, immortality, and passion for life. They are fiercely proud of this heritage and call themselves The Dragon Children. Sharminds, gnomes, and dwarves fought against the chromatic dragons long ago, and their tales speak of the terror and violence dragons can rain down upon the world. Tieflings and dragonborn can trace their own creation back to the hands of metallic dragons. The dragonborn just recently learned of their lineage, but the tieflings have never forgotten their younger brethren, nor have the tieflings ever stopped hating the dragonborn’s existence.

The dragons influence can be witnessed throughout the world. Aberrant ruins tell tales of the wrath of the dragons, while abandoned nests tell tales of their caring, introspective natures. Tieflings have books and works of art from metallic dragons in their Spires. Dragonscale armor is more than practical, it’s a sign to others that you are a badass. Scholars may spend their lives dreaming of getting to sit down and access the mind and/or library of one of the more ancient dragons, while a village may live in fear because of their proximity to a dragon’s nest.

Stories are the largest legacy dragons give to the world. There isn’t a person on Canus who hasn’t heard at least a few tales about the majestic beasts as heroes or villains.

Do you agree? Should dragons be super special, but still fully integrated into the world?

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve already said that I want the world of Exploration Age to be accessible and interconnected enough that a party could experience all or most of Canus in a level 1 – 20 campaign. I also mentioned I wanted countries to be rich enough that a party could never leave one of their borders and complete a level 1 – 20 campaign. To do that means providing some adventure sites which are flexible. Meaning PCs could spend part of a single level interacting with a few of the NPCs and monsters in a given area or they could spend many levels in or returning to that same given area.

It’s confession time. I watched the Fox series Prison Break. Not only that, I watched the direct-to-DVD epilogue they made for it as well. Now, I know it’s not a great show by any stretch, but it is appealing to me in that I love prison break stories. I love documentaries about them, I love movies about them, and I love TV shows about them. Recently my girlfriend went to San Francisco for work and brought me back this comic book…

Ain't she the best?

Ain’t she the best?

So I have a weakness for prison break stories (and any entertainment involving a shark, but that’s another story….). I bring this up, because I’m going to talk about stealing another idea.

Prison Break Spoiler Alert!!!!

This isn’t so much a steal as it is an inspiration. The oft panned Prison Break‘s even more oft panned third season, centers around some of the main characters being thrown into and escaping a Panamanian prison after a few months after escaping an American prison. (I know… I know.) There’s a big difference between the Panamanian prison, Penitenciaría Federal de Sona, and their first  penitentiary, Fox River State. In Panama the guards have lost control of the inside of the prison after a violent riot. Now the guards man the walls and merely keep the prisoners contained, and anyone on the inside must fight for survival in a lawless world of criminals. Those in the prison have a life sentence, no matter the crime, thanks to the conditions.

So What Am I Stealing Exactly?

Essentially, I am taking the concept of Penitenciaría Federal de Sona, a prison with walls run by the guards, but with an inside that is a semi-anarchist city of criminals, and bringing it into Parian. I’ve been further fleshing out the nation and I was trying to think of some landmarks that would be interesting adventure sites beyond the normal ancient ruins and monster lairs. This seemed like a great idea. The adventure possibilities are numerous and unique. I’m taking the concept from Prison Break, but the rest of the story will be all mine! Mine!

 Welcome to Ragorn Zhul

Ragorn Zhul is a Parian prison in a deep desert wasteland. It sits atop an enormous 3000 foot tall mesa that has sheer cliff sides. The journey out into the desert is usually made by airship. One of the first things a traveler might notice about the adamantine lined walls of Ragorn Zhul are the huge, mounted arrow turrets, made to fire rapidly without having to reload. The second thing one might note are the enormous braziers along the walls and on top of each guard tower, which light up the perimeter like the sun during the harsh desert night.

The guards that walk the perimeter of the walls are armed with heavy crossbows or longbows that shoot poisoned ammunition. Each guard is also outfitted with a special explosive lightning projectile to use in case the prisoners try to rise up together (lightning would hurt the inmates, without compromising the integrity of the prison’s structures). Trained giant scorpions carry the guards to the top of the wall and up the side of the mesa each day from the small village that serves as their home.

Inside the walls of the prison, chaos reigns supreme. Various gangs protect, punish, and provide for their own, each with their own unique structure. Loners don’t last long, unless they have unique skill or service they can provide while remaining neutral. Even so, the gangs will try to absorb those with any special or magical skill to work exclusively for them.

The gangs war for territory and supplies, form alliances, backstab one another, and engage in debauchery. The prison is unisex, so men and women can be found in the walls.

Surprisingly, Parian still throws criminals in the prison, particularly, those who need to disappear forever. The empire even takes prisoners from other nations and throws them beyond the gates of Ragorn Zhul – for the right price.

How Do It Come to This?

Ragorn Zhul wasn’t always this way. It was once the most secure prison in all of Canus. Some of the world’s most dangerous criminals ended up within its walls as well as political dissenters or suspected rebels.

In Parian, the Emperor rules and is worshipped as the God of his people. His rule is total and absolute. However, Emperor Quan is, in actuality, just a human.

Quan’s brother, Jiang, was appointed Governor of Security. During an inspection of Ragorn Zhul, a plan hatched by some inmates allied with guards led to the capture of Jiang. This plot was masterminded by an ancient elf wizard who was caught planning to assassinate Quan. Mistress Xalian Feyora hates the rule of Quan and would do anything to stop him.

Feyora demanded the guards leave and the prison and after freeing the inmates, she and the Emperor are at a standstill. Quan will not give into many of the demands Feyora has, but he also will not storm the prison for fear of his brother being killed. Feyora will not kill Jiang, since the Emperor’s brother is the only bargaining chip she has, and keeps her hostage hidden away, sending proof of life to Quan once a month in exchange for food and supplies delivered to Ragorn Zhul. Feyora wants her freedom and, ultimately, for Quan to step down, but will not kill Jiang to make a point, lest she lose her clout with the Emperor. Quan wants his brother free, but isn’t sure how to accomplish that without risking Jiang’s  life.

Feyora’s clout makes her an unofficial leader of Ragorn Zhul, but she despises tyrants and thus she lets the gangs run wild. They do respect her however, and they know she keeps the supplies coming into Ragorn Zhul. The gangs are all in agreement – Feyora is to be left alone and given whatever she needs when it is requested.

The Worst are Still Locked Up

While the gangs run around Ragorn Zhul, and Feyora tries to negotiate with Quan, there are others in Ragorn Zhul who are still under lock and key. Beneath the mesa is a network of tunnels where the worst of the worst and most powerful prisoners are kept.

Kept alive by ioun stones that remove their need for food and water, in magically silenced cells that prevent the casting of spells, these prisoners are kept below ground behind many trapped, secret doors. They’re meant to be forgotten. For one reason or another, these men and women were not killed, but needed to be shut away forever. But should they ever be discovered and released… things could become disastrous.

Prison Quest Ideas

So if I’ve done this correctly, this should be a place where I can have quests large and small play out. Here’s just a few ideas…

  • Agents of Parian’s government ask the adventurers to do some recon and find the location of Jiang, so that a rescue plan can be hatched.
  • The PCs are part of the above rescue plan.
  • The PCs need information from one of Ragorn Zhul’s inmates – they must get inside and find the individual, earn his or her trust, and get out.
  • The PCs must free someone from Ragorn Zhul. Perhaps one who was falsely placed there?
  • An ancient lich held below in the secret tunnels of Ragorn Zhul has finally had her phylactery uncovered. It seemingly cannot be destroyed. The PCs must enter the prison, find her, find out how to destroy the phylactery, and the end the lich’s life.
  • The PCs get thrown in the prison and must survive.

So there you have it. A nice place to visit, an even nicer place to stay. If I can have a few interesting locations like this spread throughout the world, it should make Exploration Age a world where folks will want to keep bringing their characters so they can uncover something new each campaign.

Now onto my idea about a school of sentient warlock sharks…

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