Chariots of the Gods?
The history of interstellar contact with Vanth is discussed on p. 27 of Encounter Critical (Second Corrected Edition). Vanth is a planet in the Medieval Rim of the galaxy, where peculiar physical laws exist that allow the aboriginals to practic what is called, un-scientifically, “magic”. Under the guise of “angels” and “gods”, the Vulkin Star Empire operated a starport, called “God City” by the planetary inhabitants, in the harsh and forbidding North Mountains. Trade ensued for years until the crash of the interstellar navigation grid, cutting the starport off from all contact with the Empire. With the flow of imperial trade goods disrupted, the millions of stranded galactic citizens and traders were forced to venture out from their secure enclaves and make first-hand contact with the local cultures, pre-industrial but using so-called “magic”. Predictably, the impact of alien visitors on the natives (and vice versa) has been unpredictable.
Almost a dozen years later, who is the “typical” Vanthian, if such a being exists? Does he come from the distant stars or the soils of Vanth? Was he born on another planet, or is God City the only home he has ever known? Is she the forbidden love child of barbarian nobility and a chivalrous captain from beyond the stars? For every question of this sort, the answer is “Yes!”
GAME ON, BOLD ADVENTURERS!
The former Vulkin trading port for Vanth. When the navigation grid for the local sector crashed eleven years ago, “millions” of interstellar travelers were stranded here. Eventually, when supplies began to run out, the survivos were forced to leave its confines to seek their fortunes.
The Icy Lake of Hori
These bone-chilling waters form a barrier to those who would approach God City from the southeast. Here dwell the Floemen, blue men who charge exorbitant fees to ferry travelers and their wares across the lake in craft carved from huge chunks of ice. Those who wish to avoid the highwaymen of the Great West Road must deal with the Floemen, or brave the dangers of the mountains to the north. But someone claims that the Floemen’s doom is nigh, thanks to secrets found in the bottomless depths of the lake itself. Are these the ravings of a madman, or does hidden power lurk beneath the realm of the Ice Boats of Hori?
The impenetrable mountains to the north of the realm of Vanth. From west to east are located God City, the Fissures of Death, Castle Crane, Castle Noth, the Iron Dwarf King’s realm, Angel Barrows, Hoarfrost Citadel, and the Pass of Death.
When God City was a thriving spaceport and King Vafthergrint the Open-handed sat fast upon the throne, Castle Noth was a wealthy bastion thriving on the trade between the Vulkin trading post and the City of Blackhawk. Now that his young and peevish heir, Pippershot II, has taken his father’s place, evil times have befallen the lands where ale and gold flowed freely. S
Known for the huge mechanical devices that dropped boulders upon besieging armies in ages past, agents of Castle Crane’s aging, heirless ruler, Prince Parchmort, slink forth on some mysterious quest. Is he bent on resurrecting past glories, or creating new ones?
Fissures of Death
Old Vanthian lore claim that these cracks into hell were closed up by heroes ages ago, but that Vulkin blundering reopened them. The Vulkins claim that the cracks were opened by groundquakes decades before they established God City. They deny the claims that awful monsters have been coming forth in greater numbers since the sector navigation grid went down, but why are sending more and more troops into these mountainous regions lately?
A centuries-old kingdom, with the hoard of a thousand conquests, is frozen beneath this blue-white glacier, a curse from the gods for its past atrocities. Now, however, the slow flow of the ice-river is uncovering thing that many would rather remain entombed. Has the power of the gods failed, unleashing the frozen dead of Hoarfrost, or has something else dared meddle in the domain of the damned?
The Pass of Death
This ancient roadway is, to many, synonymous with “a foolish, agonizing death”. Said to be built by gods, giants, or dragons in eons past, the kingdoms of the North Mountains are ever vigilant for threats from the East (such as Darth Viraxis, the Zombie Princess, and the Klengon Colonies). Some say that it should be destroyed to block the path of invasion; others say that it could just as well be used to invade the realms of evil. What to the strange, abominable carvings along the walls of the pass mean? Are they a warning from the long-extinct creators, or a potent weapon waiting to be unleashed?
When the Vulkins still claimed to be “angels” and “messengers of the gods”, they dared venture onto the sacred grounds of a backward, warlike tribe. The trading expedition was slaughtered to the last individual, their caravan’s goods lost and cursed. Other Vulkins sealed off the entire region with a phasic barrier to preserve the secret of their true identities, leaving the tribe to perish on its sacred ground. After so many centuries, the force field still stands. What remains of the lost Vulkin treasures? Has the tribal holy ground retained its sanctity, or has the blood of natives and aliens tainted it beyond redemption?
Wonderlands (Funfair Nomads)
Wandering tribes of carnies, mutants, and clowns, locked in an eternal cycle of alliances and deadly feuds for the dwindling supplies of fuel and marks (customers/victims) of the desolate boondocks known as Wonderlands. Their stock in trade is entertainment, of the “win-or-die” variety… and, since the games are invariably crooked, they’re more like “win-AND-die”.
The Steel Warlords
This region was sparsely populated coastal region before the sector navigation grid went silent. However, in just over a decade, the land has become a hotbed of industrial activity. Though living creatures have quickly disappeared from this area, streams of cyaborgs and robodroids march forth from the assembly lines to take their place. Automated fortresses ring the perimeter, while cyaborg tank units patrol for any living thing that dares intrude upon the realm of the Steel Warlords. The Amazon and Wookie Freeholds and the Ape Sultans are casting wary eyes upon their neighbor, dreading the advance of phasic might upon their jungle strongholds.
The Hidden Caves
Tales are told of a lost underground civilization, crypts stuffed with jewels and gold, diamonds the size of oxcarts (including the ox), and other treasures enough to drive a dwarf mad with greed. How anybody ever saw them in the first place is a mystery, for everyone freely admits that nobody has ever found the location of the Hidden Caves. Many have tried, much to their regret; even stoic Vulkin treasure-seekers have wept openly with frustration over this paradox. Major Mace Mattock, foul-mouthed Space Hero extraordinaire, says he has a foolproof scheme to solve this enigma at last
- and he’s recruiting fools at top dollar to foolprove it!
The Shunned Towns
Among the many popular travel destinations of Vanth, the Shunned Towns are not among them. No outsider has visited them since before the Vulkins came to this world (and every wag claims a different reason for the enshunmant). Who would dare to break the age-old decree? Who would risk unknown censures, anonymous maledictions, and long-forgotten whammies to learn the potentially wallet-breaking truth of these towns’ dark secret—at no guarantee of life, limb, or dramatic purpose?
For the ultimate in big-game hunting, there’s no place like Dino Island. This is every hunter’s caveman fantasy on steroids—powerful, kill-you-dead illegal steroids. In fact, there are so many specimens of prehistoric megafauna and their phasically-charged kin that had the decency to go extinct on more civilizaed worlds, that the biggest mystery of all is the nature of the food source that keeps them all alive. (When questioned about this, a noted and notorious big-game hunter to quip, “They take turns eating each other.”) There are many other mysteries there, however, such as the ancient, bejeweled ruins buried beneath the enormous roots and creepers of the deadly jungle that grips the island in its fetid green tendrils; who could have carved out a civilization in such a lethal environment? And what treasures did such a hardy folk leave behind?
This City of Bloodhaven
Originally a haven for the Pirates of the Sea of Great Peril, Bloodhaven is the nexus for trade across the southern part of Vanth, where everything can be found — services as well as goods —for a steep price.
The City of Blackhawk
The Zircon of the Mercenary Coast, Blackhawk’s history is writtenin its frenzy of architecture. Dozens of madmen, monarchs, and revolutionaries have tried to overwrite the legacies of their predecessors, burying whole layers of the city beneath newer, loftier structures. A large portion of the city’s economy derives from exploitation of the endless layers of the buried city by the convoluted, chaotic bureaucracy of guilds, temples, and brotherhoods that dominate city politics. Complicating matters is that the endless catacombs are still inhabited by creatures eager to protect their subterranean domain. Fortune favors the bold in Blackhawk… but even the beggars are bold in this city of dungeons!
The Horse Tamers
A race of intellectual horses, who train, herd, and sell a race of bestial humans.
The Waepeta Sorcerer Palisade
The grim fortification that broods above the landscape is the least of this eldritch fortress’ defenses, for within this dark domain dwells the enigmatic Sorcerer. For decades, the only visitors to his vast, ruined pile have been at his whim and under his power. Some say that it was he who engineered the destruction of this sector’s navigation grid to seal off Vanth for his own purposes. Is he the the calculating master of every Vanthian’s fate, as some claim? Or is he a pitiful little man, hiding behind a crumbling facade of phantasm?
Eavestrough Faerie Haven
It’s been called the last refuge of the Faerie Folk, but something is not right in the land of the Wee Folk. Those who venture within bring back tales of foot-long brambles, rapacious will-o-the-wisps, and shrieking, alien haunts; many wayfarers do not return at all! King Pinkbottom Bellywiggle has withdrawn all diplomatic contact from neighboring realms, and rumors of a massive buildup of boggarts, hobgoblins, trows, redcaps, and other unseely types has been observed (often by travelers who have since had their eyes poked out by elf-darts). Has the Faerie King fallen prey to evil forces, or is the presence of aliens and their technology to blame for the Twilight of the Faeries?
The Phasic Swamp
Long used as a dumping ground for malfunctioning alien technology and phasic toxins, the Phasic Swamp has an even more ancient history as a sacrificial site of the darkest type. Rumored to be a portal to some blasphemous underworld, scores of criminals, princelings, priests, and anonymous wayfarers have met their fate in the tangled, fetid depths of this blighted bog. Since the Vulkins started using the swamp as a phasic waste dump, things have gotten even more interesting; documented rumors of phasic demons, magic-using radioactors, and cannibalistic wardoxy cults of the Mad Computer God. In addition, practically everything that dwells within the swamplands suffers dire mutations — which may actually be an improvement in the lives of the degenerate Swamp Folk who have made this squalid wilderness their home since time immemorial.
The Mercenary Coast
True to its name, the Mercenary Coast is indeed the single best place to recruit warriors-for-hire in all of Vanth. Many an adventurer has begun his (or her!) (or its!!) career flocking to the banner of a company of sellswords. Every type of combat is represented here, from arbalest and blunderbuss, to bonespears and eon blades, and everything in between. Surprisingly, there is little violence between the companies of doughty death-merchants, unless they are hired to do so; they follow the Code of the Mercenary, which discourages combat for non-mercantile reasons except for formal duels, tournaments, recreation, and sport.