The main problems with jungle adventuring are the heat and humidity. Soldiers and adventurers do not wear heavy metal
or padded armor unless they have the advantage of a Fire Resistance Ring, Coolness ring or spells vs heat. Only leather and hide armor are commonly worn. Characters who insist on wearing heavy armor run the risk of suffering heat stroke; there is a 20% chance per hour of this occurring. Magical spells or items can negate the heat. However, the rainforest humidity plays havoc with metal armor, causing it to rust at a rapid rate. Weapons of steel suffer similar fates.
Pack animals are available for sale in the trading cities. Animals from outside the Dark Continent cannot be brought there, due to prevalent hoof-and-mouth disease carried by local flies. Native-born animals are immune, but others will catch the disease in 1-4 days, become weak and sick, and die in another 1-4 days. In addition to
normal horses, oxen, and donkeys, the PCs can buy tamed water buffalo. These are docile animals with the same statistics as wild buffalo. Their encumbrance and weight limits are equal to those of a draft horse.
Natives may be hired in the trading cities as hirelings on expeditions. They are skilled at a variety of tasks: bearer/porter, pack-animal handler, valet, or spear bearer. Pay for these men averages 1 sp per day, more for dangerous journeys. If more than ten are hired, one will be a village headman in charge of the others, paid at a rate of 1 gp per day.
Disease lurks in the air and water of the tropics, and is carried by insects. People who are not native to the Dark Continent have a base 5% chance per day (non-cumulative) to catch some form of disease. This chance increases to 10% in swamp areas and to 75% if untreated water is consumed. There are two types of diseases: debilitating (70%) and fatal (30%). Debilitating diseases reduce a character’s Strength by one point per day, until the Strength score is down to half the original value, rounded up. There is a cumulative 10% chance every day that the disease will break on its own. Once the disease breaks, Strength is recovered at one point per day of rest.
Fatal diseases rob a character of one point each of Strength and Constitution every day. When one of these abilities drops below three, the character must make a system shock survival roll, based on his or her original Constitution, not the reduced score. Success means that the
disease breaks, and the character will recover one point each of Strength and Constitution for each day of rest. Failure means that the character will slips into a coma and dies in 1-3 days. If a character contracts a fatal disease, there is a 20% chance it is the dreaded jungle fever. The rules for this are the same as for other fatal diseases, except that the rate of loss and recovery of Strength and Constitution is two points each per day.
When reducing the Strength of a fighter with exceptional strength (18/01 or higher), reduce the score to 17 the first day. Note that a heal or cure disease spell will cure a disease at any time. Anyone who recovers from a disease without the aid of magic is permanently immune to that
disease. Magical curing grants only one month’s immunity. There are dozens of strains of debilitating and fatal diseases. Immunity to one strain does not guarantee immunity to any others.
Weapon choices must change in the jungle. Small to medium weapons (swords, axes, maces, etc.) cause no problems and are often used by the native kingdoms. Polearms, and the infantry block formation based on them, are unwieldy in the jungle. Siege weapons, such as catapults, are hard to move in the dense jungle or trackless Savannah.
The natives of the tropics have adapted well to warfare there. The warriors wear light armor equivalent to leather. Their shields are large and oval, providing more body protection than round shields. The preferred weapon is the versatile spear, which can be used one-handed with a shield, two-handed, when mounted, or can be thrown. Knives, warclubs, and machetes are common melee weapons. The bow or blowgun is used by many tribes. Javelins are used by some Savannah tribes. Unique or unusual weapons such as the bola, throwing blade, and a variety of spears (leaf spear, barbed spear and heavy spear) are found here. Most of the natives carry iron or bronze weapons, and a few of the more primitive tribes use bone or stone weapons. The only steel weapons found in native hands are not made by them, they are either traded for or stolen from outlanders.
The natives tactics emphasize ferocity and cunning. They excel at
ambushes, and will drive home their charges into the teeth of any resistance. The native kingdoms have organized armies of trained soldiers equal to anything found in the north, and sometimes of far larger size than feudal armies. The most fearsome allies of the natives are the diseases that lurk in the drinking water. Northerners have no natural immunities, and the diseases spread like wildfire through their military units.
For a northern realm to conquer the Dark Continent would require a tremendous investment in acclimatizing soldiers, forming units without polearms or cavalry, and recruiting regiments of clerics to combat disease. This is beyond the capability of most realms, and the rest have not felt confident they would win such a war. The one attempt to establish a beachhead on Delos by a nation was met with abysmal failure over five centuries ago, as hundreds of elves from west of the Memeryan Sea landed on Delos after a long ocean journey. The elves attempted to conquer the native tribes and exploit the continent, but they fell to attrition (both disease and battle) after a few decades. Their ruined towers, fortresses and keeps (along with their magic items) can still be occasionally found in the depths of the jungle. The Dark Continent remains free because of the land itself.
Slavery was not unknown on the continent even centuries before the first explorers from other lands arrived. Native tribes often took prisoners after battles fought with rival tribes and these unfortunates were sold, used as slaves, or sacrificed. The arrival of Taranthian explorers almost 200 years ago brought an outside influence into the politics of slavery on Delos.
Taranthian slaver caravans move into the native lands across the continent, searching for small villagers or stragglers to put into chains. The native kingdoms are not usually targeted, as they have large military forces to discourage such predation. The usual targets are the more primitive and isolated villages. Men, women, and children are taken, and the elderly and infirm are slain or chased off. Once captured, the natives are chained into long, single-file lines and marched to the coast. Some die on these merciless treks. On the coast, the natives are packed tightly into ships for passage to the eastern lands. Many more die on the voyage. The slave trade is an inhumane practice of cruelty and death. Of late, the Tzulan empire has captured entire Ashante villages and sold the natives to the Taranthians as slaves, a huge source of conflict between the two nations. Other slavers include the orc pirates in the southern isles and the serpent men and their allies.
Several of the northern nations have set up friendly trade agreements with the nations of the Dark Continent. These nations have a vested interest in fighting the slave trade, since without the native tribes their source of many trade goods are slowed or stopped entirely. Thus, the merchant houses based out of Port Maugre and Nidik have been known to hire mercenaries or adventurers to destroy slaver bands wherever found. Unfortunately, these efforts are not united or systematic. Thus, the slavers are able to move from area to area and continue their evil trade.
The Dark Continent is a wealthy land. The mineral wealth alone includes the most valuable metals: gold, platinum, iron, copper, and silver. Gemstones are found in many places, but mainly are of low value. There are rumors of ancient diamond mines lost somewhere in the mountains. No one knows exactly where they are. One item that is rarely thought of as valuable is salt; this item is valuable in many Azuran cultures. The Dark Continent has valuable salt deposits in its hills. Products of nature are another source of wealth. Spices are abundant in the forests, including pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Resinous saps are tapped from trees and made into incense and perfumes, A few types of wood, such as mahogany and tropical cedar, are found in the forests. Many animal hides are valuable, including leopard, zebra, giraffe, cheetah, rhino, and hippo. Ivory is taken from elephants and hippos, but at great risk to the hunters.
The native kingdoms manufacture some items valued in the north. Art objects of bronze, gold, and ivory are exported, as well as more practical items such as cedar or mahogany chests with elaborate carvings. Fetish and walking sticks, totem poles, and other items with native carvings are highly valued. It must be remembered that Native kingdoms do not understand most forms of Azuran currency; they value cowrie shells, glass beads, steel weapons and gold nuggets as much as traditional gold or silver coins. Often times coins will be melted down to form jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces and other accoutrements. The majority of coins found as treasure will be from foreign or ancient empires, including mintage from the ancient Ashante empire, the Taranthian empire, the Weymerth League, Elven empires, and even vintage Lyrian coins (which may be worth more to collectors and sages than their actual coin wealth).
There are three major native kingdoms on Delos, each with a dominant ethnic type. The Tzulans, Ashante and Kongons each control a portion of Delos, although the borders are nebulous and often fought over. In Delosian recorded history, several times a kingdom has ruled the entire continent. However, within the last century there has not been one controlling empire, another “time without kings” period in the continent’s history. Instead, all three of the above named tribes have their own rulers and kingdoms.
The Tzulans are mighty warriors, and they control the eastern half of the Delosian continent, from the city-state of Nidik to the Great Swamp on the south. Their lands include jungle with the wide savannah and scrub to the southeast. On the eastern shore of their kingdom are settlements of the Taranthian empire, and at this time an uneasy truce exists between the tribes of the Tzula natives and the Taranthian merchants and slavers. The Taranthians and their allies have promised not to take Tzulans as slaves in return for being allowed to set up a city and fortress on the eastern shores of Delos and not be attacked. In return, the Tzulans trade slaves to the Taranthians for steel weapons and supplies.
The Ashante are merchants and farmers, and all their empire is rain forest on the north and north-western side of Delos, from the City State of Nidik to the great river Achebe. Their lands are all jungle with areas cleared out for raising both crops and domesticated wildlife. They trade with the merchants out of Port Maugre, as well as the Kongo tribes and others. They are somewhat advanced, and relatively peaceful although they have been engaged in border wars with the Tzulans for centuries (the area between Nidik and the river Xonmo has been disputed since the Ashante drove the Tzula back across it in the last war). The are excellent hunters and farmers, and barter with other tribes within their territory for what they need.
The Kongo tribe are hunter-gatherers, and they have the smallest of the three empires. Their territory is mainly the southern half of the continent, including the low lying river delta and great swamp. They are engaged in constant warfare with orc pirates, and this along with their isolated nature (the great river Orbo and river Setomo define it’s west and east borders respectively) have held their society back in terms of technological advancements. They mostly use bone or stone weapons, live primitively, and do not often trade with other tribes. They are excellent fishermen, sailors and hunters, and most villages are self-sufficient. They are unlikely to engage in mass combat, preferring to retreat and attack by surprise when the terrain can be used to their advantage. Unlike the other empires, many Kongo tribes have mutually beneficial relationships with other entities that allow them to survive against the elements and other monsters…alliances with orcs, dragons, and especially intelligent lizard-men tribes are necessary in order to battle the many enemies they have.
In it’s history, Delos has had many other empires and native types that have rose to prominence and then disappeared, or been absorbed by other tribes, left Delos for the many islands surrounding it, or been destroyed through warfare. Remnants of these tribes can sometimes be found in the deep jungles or in isolated areas of Delos. Among these are: The Mbantu, a nomadic island race that inhabits the island groups surrounding Delos, although some small settlements may be found on the rocky shores here and there on Delos itself; the Xonmo, an isolated race that dwells in and around the great volcano in the center of the Forbidden Plateau, they are very primitive (caveman level), worship fire and have fire priests; the Tembu, an offshoot of the Ashante race that was once it’s own empire but absorbed by the Ashante empire; they are more flamboyant and outgoing than their Ashante cousins and often rise to positions of power or influence in Ashante tribes; and the evil Tcho-Tcho, the demon-worshipping tribe of darkness that serves the god Shadow and lives in the city Leng on the Forbidden Plateau.
Traditions, religions and taboos
Many of the traditions of the Delosian natives are unusual to outsiders; some such as ritual sacrifice and cannibalism, are seen as primitive and repugnant. However, these traditions must be understood or at least recognized by outsiders or disaster may result.
Each empire has it’s own traditions, and each tribe within an empire may have it’s own unique taboos. Some of the tribes value war more than anything, while family might take the highest priority among some. Below are some generalizations of most Delsoian natives:
Children and the elderly are held in high regard. Most families have as many children as they can support, and the amount of children a married couple has can lead to a position of importance in the tribal hierarchy. A man or woman of age who dies unmarried or childless is seen as a failure or cursed, and native Delosians will often be married and have families by the time they are teenagers. Since most Delosian parents are busy with survival, children are raised by their grandparents until they are of age (usually 16, but sometimes 12 or 13 in some tribes). The coming of age ritual in most tribes can involve a quest for an item, a journey to a certain location, killing a certain totem animal or opposing tribe member, or another important activity. Once the ritual is complete, the native is accepted into the tribe as a full member.
Delosian natives who become adventurers and do not settle down are seen as perpetual children and not respected within their villages. A certain amount of “sowing of oats” is expected, but any native not being married or having children by age twenty is treated differently than most “responsible” members of the community. Anyone not married or with family by the age of thirty may be shunned or expelled from his tribe unless extenuating circumstances exist (for example, the village shaman, witchdoctor or tribal hunter may be made an exception based on his contributions to the village).
Most village leaders are the elders of the village, as age is respected for wisdom and knowledge it brings. Some exceptional ancestors that showed great wisdom are honored and remembered within a village for decades after they have died. The Delosians believe their ancestor’s spirits watch over them, and their funerals are often celebratory affairs especially if they dead elder has led a productive life. Disturbing the dead (raising skeletons and zombies) is seen as the ultimate taboo, and necromancers or evil priests that do this are killed by whatever means necessary and will not be associated with under any circumstances.
The God Umgawa is the head of the Delosian pantheon, and the most worshipped god on the continent. Neither good nor evil, Umgawa treats all worshippers and priests equally, believing in survival of the fittest. Many natives worship Umgawa and also placate other gods of the pantheon or the elemental gods, although the other gods have their shamans. Other members of the pantheon are aspects of other Azuran Gods, and are demigods: Merci, Goddess of fertility and growth (Altreya); Axea, God of war and battle (Kazull); Horus, God of sun and Light (Lurell), and Ert, God of death and the underdark (Inari). Other gods worshiped include the Elemental gods, and some forbidden gods such as Seth. Outlander gods are usually never worshipped, although occasionally a native will become a worshipper or even priest of an outlander god if they are indoctrinated early enough. In general, adult Delosians will never convert to outlander religions.
Taboos are small quirks that tribes exhibit that are often incomprehensible to outsiders. However, taboos must be obeyed and often battles are fought because one or the other has been unintentionally broken. Each empire or tribe have their own taboo, and outsiders are urged to carefully learn them before interacting. Some common taboos among tribes are: discarding arrows that miss when fired, as the wood is cursed; never using steel weapons; fearing magic and putting mages to death; never eating meat except on holy days; eating the hearts or brains of defeated enemies; having certain colors be lucky or unlucky; avoiding certain animals while on journeys, and dozens of others.
4 years ago