For Christmas last year, my brother bought me the Zombie Survival Guide desktop calendar, which I have dedicatedly read every single day for the last year for fear of being unprepared when the inevitable zombie uprising occurs. Though this isn’t the oddest place I’ve found inspiration for my campaign setting, or even the first time I’ve found such inspiration in this calendar over the last nine months, it is the first time I’ve been struck since starting to write this blog.
On August 28, the article was as follows:
These are easily the most frustrating places for an underwater hunt. Their murky waters make diving next to impossible. Their root-riddled bottoms confound echo sounders. In most cases, their shallow bottoms make it easy for a zombie to simply reach up and either grab a hunter or capsize his boat. Hunting in large numbers with extensive use of searchlights and probing poles is the only proven method for sweeping this environment. After one of these arduous campaigns, you will know why so many tales of terror have their origin in the swamp.
Now, I have used swamps very little in my campaign setting as any sort of focus for stories and/or adventures. However, in the main campaign area of the Crescent, there is an area called “the Fens.” It is a swampy land that I have described as being filled with “trolls, lizardfolk, and hags, who constantly fight against each other.” However, I am now not satisfied with that particular ecological list. I think I like the idea of a swamp in which many dead have risen, but for some reason, cannot escape. However, the locales cannot just stay away, because they have some sort of valuable resource that is gained from those particular swamplands. Therefore, the people must occasionally make dangerous forays into the Fens, and risk death and worse from the trapped zombies beneath the surface of the water.
Here’s what I think. About a hundred years ago, about the time the Crescent was first being settled, a deadly battle (for a reason I’ve not decided yet) broke out between two large groups of people in an area of land called “the bowl.” The bowl was a wide dip in the level of terrain, with steep rocky sides, and was prone to occasional floodings. Anyway, during the battle, one of the groups was quickly and vastly overpowered by the other, which used superior magicks to slaughter the group. The bodies of many hundreds of people were left to rot. Soon after, a storm of which the likes had never been seen in these parts rained for a solid week, the Tyle River overflowed, and this particular low-lands area (which was already water-logged from previous rain storms and other occasional floodings, as well as a tributary from the Tyle recently formed by irrigation workers in Wellnaught) became the swampy land it is today. Beneath the surface, due to violent deaths of so many, coupled with the rage of their bodies being left without proper burial rituals taking place, all those who died arose as undead. However, with the very steep slopes into the area, and without the ability to swim or reason, the zombies cannot escape from under the swamp, and must suffer an eternity of waiting for cap-sized boats to deliver prey.
On a small island in the middle of the swamp grows a very rare and precious plant called “Silvertip,” which the people of Wellnaught harvest to create a very durable fabric that is traded all over the lands. It is unknown why this plant only grows on this island, and attempts to harvest it elsewhere have met with failure. Also, the ‘Naughters (as they’re called) have been able to collect the various swamp gases to use for alchemical purposes. They have two important reasons for risking danger in the Fens. Therefore, on scheduled events, they will go out into the Fens to do this harvesting, often with paid protection. Sometimes, a ‘Naughter will travel alone an make it back just fine, but often, those who risk such foolishness for wealth are never heard from again, and are rumored to become part of the growing army of undead beneath the surface of the swamp.
This gives me the opportunity to have PCs hired as bodyguards for ‘Naughters, as well as for them to risk exploration on their own for the potential or riches or treasures from the undead hordes.
I love it when inspiration strikes.