Monday, March 25, 2013

[Vanth] The Scraplands

Here's what I've put together so far on the Scraplands...

The Scraplands are a region of scrub-covered hills, bleak mountains, radioactive ruins, and harsh wastelands south of the realm of the Steel Warlords. They are the home of the Numerikahns, an alien human race who settled here almost three centuries ago. They arrived in waves of colony ships of the vast, slow generation type, and brought with them an entire ecosystem and new way of life. They found Vanth already occupied by native life (and no few species of alien life as well), but were able to find a region relatively devoid of effective competition on the eastern shores of the Southern (or Salty) Sea.

The Numerikahn colonists were Neo-Catholic Objectivists exiled from or fleeing from one of the older Earthican colonies. They may have been from Gamma Terra, Gamma Delta, or even Earthica IV itself; after generations on the ships, their history was somewhat garbled and propagandized. They found a primitive robodroid society in the region, which they promptly conquered and enslaved (according to their creed, artificial life forms have no souls and thus no rights). Several decades later colony ships of Planetary Apes arrived in the region; the apes were promptly arrested as illegal immigrants and sentenced to life imprisonment. As their children had no way to gain legitimate citizenship, they too were arrested and sentenced upon birth. The apes formed a mid-level slave caste between the robodroids and the humans.

The colonists built a loosely-unified confederation of independent city-states that ruled the lands today known as the Scraplands, the Steel Warlords, the Mutant Jungles, the Forbidden Wastes, the Ape Sultanate, and the Amazon and Wooky Freeholds.  Each city ruled a large rural “province” filled with villas, plantations, oil fields, and mines worked by apes and robodroids; here and there were small private homesteads of the more independent-minded (and often isolationist) settlers.

Around 150 years ago the robodroids and apes rebelled in what became known as the Great War of Apes and Robodroids. After more than a decade of war, including the extensive use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the hiring of amazon and wooky mercenaries on the part of the apes and robodroids, the cyborgs won. Most humans retreated to “redoubts” built deep beneath the radioactive, poisoned earth. The more isolationist groups remained on the surface or retreated to the mountains; these are the ancestors of the mutants and the Nuzark mountain-folk of the Hidden Caves.

The cyborgs, today known as the Steel Warlords, founded their own realm in the remaining fertile valley; robodroids were second-class citizens, but as they were able to lord their freedom over the enslaved humans, they remained docile. Over the intervening century and a half they have cleansed and transformed their great valley into a lush paradise where humans labor in the fields and factories under the watchful eye of their robodroid taskmasters, while cyborg lords luxuriate in decadence in their palaces, cities, and towns.  Prior to the return of the humans from the redoubts, they used to mine the minerals of the Scraplands; today they let the Scraplanders do all the work, then simply take what they want in “retributive raids” when they need it.

The planetary apes built their own realm in the jungles to the north under the leadership of the Zensunni Orangutan prophet, Zaiush ibn Zaiush; they, too, enslaved the local humans, while other humans survived in wild bands. Both groups of humans are primitive due to biological agents found in the jungles; the slave class humans are less primitive as the apes feed them fruits that counteract some of the biological agents. The wild, savage bands are of stone-age level and cannot speak, but if taken out of the jungle, they rapidly regain their intelligence, as the agents halting their development are plant-based. The apes rejected most advanced technology on principle, as it was what was used to keep them oppressed, so today their tech level is low, only around that of the late 19th century on Earth, though they have more advanced rifles, pistols, and some other weaponry. The orangutans dominate the faith as imams (teacher/priests) and through the office of the Caliph, the gorillas rule through the military under the rulership of the Sultan, and the chimpanzees serve in pretty much all other capacities.

50 years ago the worst of the poisons and lightest radiation finally faded from the southern lands, and humans once again returned to the surface. Most settlement of the land came from the three major redoubts, Fort Axler, Fort Johnstone, and Fort Matheson. The humans of the Hidden Cave Redoubts of the Nuzarks are considered more primitive, country-bumpkin cousins to the settlers descended from these three redoubts. When they returned to the surface, they discovered that tribes of mutants, descended from humans who remained on the surface, lived in the wastelands above. These, and the various robodroid settlers of the Scraplands, were all shoved onto small reservations within the first decade of settlement; muties and bots can be found elsewhere in small numbers, especially in forts and villes that enslave them, but only on the reservations are they generally free from the depredations and insults of the Numerikahns.

Technology in the Scraplands is highly variable. The inner-workings and heart of the redoubts are all generally very highly advanced, self-contained, and self-repairing (and completely off-limits save to the scientists), but the bulk of the tech used by the humans is techno-modern rather than techno-advanced. That found among the Upworlders or Settlers, which is what the settlers of the Scraplands are known to the residents below, is even more primitive; while the soldiers in the redoubts wield laser rifles, wear plastisteel armor suits, and ride ground effect vehicles, the Scraplanders usually have shotguns, bolt-action rifles, and revolvers (the Nuzark Hill-Folk have muskets), wear fedoras and dusters, and ride gas-powered motorcycles, dune-buggies, or live horses. No one trusts robodroids or any sort of thinking machines or “brain bots,” which severely limits further advancement and coordination. The most advanced robodroids usually found in use among the Scraplanders are steeds and smell-hounds of limited intellect.

Most of the new Scraplander settlements are divided into two basic forms: forts and villes. Both are little bigger than a standard village (400 to 800 souls); the Upland portions of the three big redoubts are the only town-sized settlements in the Scraplands (800 to 2,000 in the Upland portion). Forts are generally older, and are completely walled and even sometimes domed. Villes are open, like the towns of the Wild West of Old Terra. Both are usually associated with an oil field or a mine. The reason the Numerikahns settled this region of Vanth was its extreme richness in common and rare minerals and oil. The mines listed are just those of the more unusual and costly sort; coal, iron, and the common minerals abound, and can be found just about anywhere in the region.

Due to their relatively low technological abilities and the difficulties of travel in the Scraplands, the settlers built a rail system for mass transit of goods and peoples between the three major settlements. Earlier attempts to build the old road system met with disaster, as the Steel Warlords view any such developments as a threat, and the roads and their builders were summarily destroyed. Similarly, any attempt to use flying vehicles on a regular, mass scale was met with fierce resistance and ultimately failed. The Steel Warlords apparently do not view the railroad with the same attitude, as they have left it, and the Conductors, to their own devices (except when they raid certain shipments of minerals and resources they desire). They only bother motorcyclists, buggy riders, and horsemen who come too close to their border.

During the Great War of Apes and Robodroids (or G.W.A.R. as it is known) gravitic bombs decimated the more populated, western region of Numerikah, causing innumerable earthquakes and much fracturing of the earth. Thus, the Scraplands are quite hilly, with many fractured hills and broken ridges. Buggies with tall wheels and motorcycles are the only real way to travel, other than on the train or by horse or other steed. The countless arroyos, gullies, gulches, valleys, dales, and dingles across the landscape make it almost impossible to travel in a straight line. Even the rail system is much more haphazard than it appears on the map; often travelling eight to 10 miles in any five as the crow flies (not to mention the continual up and down amidst the hills and dales). Thus, the fastest one can travel even with gas and coal-powered vehicles is at best around 25 miles per hour, though a straightaway on an old blacktop road or wide flatland might tempt a driver to open it up to 60 or more…

The land is also covered in the ruins of the Numerikahn civilization. The radioactive ruins of El’Ai, Dah’Laz, Oma’Hah, and Dee’Mon are thickest, as many of the bombs used there were neutron bombs that left much of the cities intact… and to this day haunted by heavy radiation. But ruins of small cities, towns, villages, and isolated settlements can be found anywhere in the Scraplands. The similar ruins in the great valley ruled by the Steel Warlords were long ago cleared away and recycled. But one can hardly spit in the Scraplands without hitting an old ruin or relic from the G.W.A.R. or earlier.

Even older ruins are found in the sandy wastes to the south; they consist of tall ziggurats and old ruined cities replete with domes, ramps, and oil pits. These ruins were thought to have been the remnants of the old Robodroid Civilization that predated the arrival of the Numerikahns. By the time the Numerikahns arrived, the robodroids were living a primitive, savage life, divided into semi-nomadic barbarian tribes that followed the brewvelo (a form of bovine that produced alcohol rather than milk). As a way to gain control over the robodroids, the Numerikahns slaughtered and all but exterminated the brewvelo, forcing the robodroids to labor as slaves to get the alcohol they needed to thrive. No brewvelo are known to roam in the Scraplands, but they are said by legend to still be found in the lands beyond the Forbidden Wastes or perhaps in the plains south of the Lanthanide Wastes.

The jungles of the Ape Sultanate are troublesome for human-kind, as the plants there let off a biological agent that reduces the intellect of any human (including amazons, vulkins, remulans, or klengons though not including wookys, elves, dwarfs, or hoblings) within hours of first encountering it. If the victim consumes the proper fruits and vegetables that were designed to counter the effect, he can regain some or all of his intellect. If the victim leaves the jungle, too, the effect fades, though it can take days or weeks to regain full intellectual abilities (and depending on how long they were affected, the effects could be partially or wholly permanent).

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