It is a place that misses no opportunity to remind you how deadly it is.The surface of Araea is a blight-blasted wasteland, where rocky deserts are scourged by continent-spanning storms beneath uncaring stars. Perhaps more than any other part of Araea, mankind is not welcome here; Blight drowns the world in poison, and monsters rule the lands. The sun rises every day like a terrible omen and blinds those used to the darkness below. It is a place where cold cuts like a dagger and the wind scream with fury, where the night sky burns with a thousand fires and meteorites crack open the earth. The surface, with its damnable sky and endless vistas, is a yawning expanse unlike even the largest cavern. Only the brave, foolish, or desperate seek their fortune from the Surface.
I can't tell you why. Something about it calls to some of us, like a funeral dirge that has us walking merrily into this bloody sunlight. If I had any sense, I'd be back below, but I can't. I have to see what lies beyond the next hill and canyon.Desolate and forbidding, much of the Surface consist of cold, rock-strewn deserts, broken up by jagged mountains and monolithic glaciers. Rare patches of wild colors bloom across the wasteland as blight-eating flora and alien geometry, like rents and bruises on a savaged corpse. The skies are usually bleary brownish-grey, cloaked in a constant swirl of dust, ash, and poison. Even on clear days, the sky is the color of rust. It changes during the charged storms, with lightning arcing across the heavens and paints it with a vivid multitude of hues, streaked with incandescent fury. These are most frequent during the Season of Storms, when the entire Surface is doused in cosmic gloom. The Surface is a place of extremes. Cracked arid plains stretch to the horizon, vast mountains that claw at the clouds, and broken rifts in the earth all mark the land. Everywhere, the impact of meteorites and other celestial visitors dent mountains and riddle the landscape with craters vast enough to hold cities. To the far south and north, ice dominates the landscape in endless vistas sculpted by howling, angry winds.
Such places are sometimes said to be the home of gods and devils, residing within the gale-carved palaces of ice and bone.To the dwellers of Araea's underground, the Surface is a temperamental creature. Unlike the caverns, the Surface change as the year pass through four distinct seasons; the season of Fire, season of Dark, season of Earth, and the rare, shifting season of Storms.
Season of FireDuring the Season of Fire, temperatures soar, and ice melts. Temperate regions become unbearable as they bake beneath a suddenly angry sun, while the cold parts of the Surface become tolerable. Hungry beasts and mobile flora emigrate during the season of Fire, in search of water and fresh prey. Mankind is no different, using the season to gather water and resources from regions otherwise inaccessible.
Season of DarkOpposite to the Season of Fire, the Dark season is filled with long nights and freezing temperatures. Ice creeps across the land, reclaiming any water that may have melted during the season of Fire, and life flees before the rising darkness. All work ceases, and only survival matters. The cold can get so fierce that a traveler might freeze to death between one step and the next.
Weather, season, and even day and night are novel concepts to many who have spent their lives deep within Araea. Those who visit the Surface must learn fast that they are in a place like no other.
Season of EarthSet between each of the other seasons, the season of Earth is a time of calm. The temperatures settle, dust storms fail after spending their fury. It is more transitory than the other seasons, marking no set dates as much as when the Surface is almost hospitable. Expeditions and wars are both launched during the season of Earth, in the calm before the land grows angry once more.
Season of StormsDuring the season of Storm, the world is shrouded in gloom and the skies are tinged with otherworldly hues. Storms of lightning and plasma illuminate the darkness and wound the world. The Season of Storm comes and goes at unknowable whim, though always years apart. Through some fluke, the storms scourge some of the Blight from the Surface, allowing rare access to usually blight-tainted places.
Regions of the Surface
A different kind of Hell, everywhere you go.Humanity's few, fumbling steps into the Surface world have led them to a scattered, far-reaching realm. While most of the world is shrouded in a haze of Blight so strong it rots flesh from the bone, there are places amidst the poison where humanity has gradually staked a claim. Only a few parts of the known world are connected with each other, with most being islands among the Blight. No boundary matters save these impenetrable lands of Blight, carving the Surface world into a few distinct regions.
For every success, a thousand corpses rot beneath the sun, but mankind is nothing if not persistent.
AscharAschar is a land of angry earth and wandering fire, home to many numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Its mountains reach to the skies, and lava-carved valleys hide secrets in their shadows. No other part of the Surface has as grand or as many mountains as Aschar. Ash and smoke choke the sky while boiling magma cut brilliant wounds of light through the haze. The frequent eruptions have cast a shroud of ash over much of Aschar, and the flow of lava has scored deep gashes into the rock. It is a gloomy, cold place with the stench of ash and sulfur permeating everything. The city of Cha'im sits deep within the region, trading the lives of slaves for harvests of rich volcanic ash that they sell as fertilizer. In shielded valleys and canyons, life blooms from the same soil, drawing foragers and settlers. In addition, Aschar is the only entry into the Atharkam caverns, luring explorers to settle a whole new world of Araea's cavernous domain.
HēlaA cold, unforgiving land, Hēla lies to the far south of the known Surface world. It is a land of snow, ice, and stone, with mountains of ice and calderas of bubbling tar. Past the inhabitable tundra lies an endless glacier, so cold it is said to freeze thoughts as they are formed. Near unique among the surface region, Hela is home to vast, frozen lakes and frigid rivers called the Ṭhaṇḍu Lakes. From small ponds to oceans covered by glaciers, with vast fissures carved into the ice, such a bounty of water makes it more than worth it for many to brave its many dangers. Just below Hēla's frozen heart lies the Phrōjhana region of the Outer Shell, home to a handful of rugged settlers and hunters. Hēla's ice is a valuable commodity, and its dark waters hide life that ranges from blubber-ladened fish to hungry leviathans.
The Howling PlainsThe Howling Plains is a vast stretch of land along the equator of the Surface wracked by mile-long sand and storms. From the winds of these storms, the region gets its name as they scream down the vast, dusty expanse. In some primordial time, it may have been an ocean, but now only a barren desert remains, scarred with fissures, craters, and the bones of those slain by the storms. The eternal storms have flayed every part of the region, leaving only those who can endure or flee to inhabit it. The only path in and out is known only as the Road, a shifting trail of relative calm. When the winds howl once more, hunters and explorers bunker down in the Burrows and pray. Deep within the region, mountains resist the scourging winds and trap them within, creating a perpetual thunderstorm of such fury that the lightning strikes are said to never cease.
KagaraiWhen most denizens of the Inner Shell think of the Surface, it is often Kagarai that comes to mind. It is a craggy mesa, surrounded by mountains or Blight, home to both deserts and boiling swamps. With only tolerable levels of Blight, Kagarai is one of the most explored and exploited of the Surface regions. Those who mistake this for any notion that life in Kagarai is easy or the region friendly are swiftly corrected, for it is a bleak and dangerous land. Humanity is not the only one who has found sanctuary in Kagarai's relative comfort. Outside the horrors of the Shrouded Lands, few regions have as much or as varied wildlife. From the skittering horrors within the Pale Desert with its iron mountain or the living, primordial things that live in the boiling swamps, humanity shares Kagarai with much greater predators. Despite its dangers, Kagarai is home to several settlements, like Waypoint or the crater-city of Retak. Some are drawn here by promises of wealth or glory; others seek the freedom that comes only from a land that is truly wild and untamed.
The Shrouded LandsThe unexplored parts of the Surface are often referred to as the Shrouded Lands, regions where the Blight is so intense that humanity has no hope of intruding. Worse, they are home to beasts that drink the poison like it is water and grow titanic from the bounty. The borders to these places are fluid, shifting as the Blight ebbs and flows across the land - sometimes swallowing settlements in areas once thought safe. Other times, it retreats far enough to allow explorers and a glimpse of what lies there. Some claim to have seen a paradise, covered in abundant growth of mesmerizing colors. Others point to places like the Eternal, a plain where the Blight is so stark that corpses fail to rot away here. Among many Blight-Trackers, penetrating the Shrouded Lands is one of the most dearly held dreams. Others shun the Shrouded Lands as cursed and deadly, but escape is not so easy. From time to time, the creatures of the Shroud will emerge from its depths and visit devastation upon the lands beyond.
The Forbidden ZoneHumanity is not alone upon Araea. For ages, they have been visited by strangers from the stars, haunting the dreams of those who dwell on the Surface or stealing them away in the dark of night. Though mankind knows little about them, and most consider them nothing more than the blabber of drunks or fanciful daydreams, the Q'x are real. Deep within the Shrouded Lands, they have staked their claim to Araea, seemingly impervious to hazards that would reduce a human to rot in days. Only a handful have ever seen the Forbidden Zone and lived to tell of it. They speak of a land marred with great living crystals, of creatures that have no right to walk, and dream-like horrors emerging fully in flesh from thought and nightmares. Those who survive their abductions return home carrying the visitor's mark, with parts of themselves lost and replaced by metal. Whatever the visitors want and what part humanity plays in those plans is hinted only in their survivors' screaming nightmares.
Flora and Fauna
Never forget that we are strangers here. This is their domain.While humanity fumbles across a hostile world, life has since long adapted to the unique challenges of the Surface. Mighty Ārmara charge across the wastelands encased in armored hides that rival platemail, while the terrible Mahu'ca rise from their slumber to blot the sun with their wings. No matter what, all living things on the Surface have found some way to cope with the omnipresent Blight, either resisting its corrosive touch or outright feeding from it. Inside the Shrouded Lands, no other life is possible than one of symbiosis with the venomous Blight.
Mutations are common for all life on the Surface, afflicting many.Within the Shrouded Lands, pillars of flesh-like fungi reach towards the sky, and crystal-budding flowers crowd corpses felled by Blight. Carpets of roiling fungi devour the ambient Blight and are consumed in turn by the beasts of the Shrouded Lands.
The World Of Araea The world of Araea is divided up into four layers by its inhabitants, with the Surface at one end and the Far Deep on the other. The Outer Shell lies just below the Surface and continues downwards until it connects to the Inner Shell. It is there most of humanity survives, eking out a living deep in the darkness. Introduction to Araea's Geography
BlightA quiet, invisible venom that causes horrible mutation or wretched death, Blight is one of the most pervasive and insidious hazards of the Surface. It is also one of the least understood, despite its presence across almost all parts of the Surface, with entire continents shrouded in terrible storms laced with Blight. Travelers carry lead amulets to ward themselves from the venom, but superstition makes a poor shield. Mutations and blight-sickness are common fates for unprepared surface-explorers. Read More About Blight
Most of the Surface is hidden from human eyes by zones of lethal radiation. Only the most determined - and prepared - have ventured beyond the veil of the Shrouded Lands. Out of all the lands of the Surface, humanity has only seen a fraction.
Blood on the IceThe most common form of plant-life encountered by humanity on the Surface is the tough, blood-red algae that grow on glaciers and waters. Although many creatures consume the algae as their main source of food, it is inedible to humans. The algae feed on both sunlight and radiation, making it toxic for humans to consume.
Overland TravelGoing across the Surface is not always so simple as walking in a straight line. Continent-spanning rifts in the earth, shrouds of Blight, or the path of impossible monsters all make travel a complex affair. Travelers will often have to dip back below and navigate through tunnels and caverns to by-pass obstacles. At other times, a short journey across the Surface can cut past a journey of tangled, labyrinthine tunnels - but at great risk.
With barren mountains that pierce the clouds like teeth through flesh and frozen tundras beyond their base, the Aschar Region is one of the most dangerous of the Surface.
Hela - The Frozen Lands
Hēla is far to the south of Araea's surface. It is a cold, unforgiving land of frozen tundras and mountains of ice.
It's a great place if you're looking to freeze to death.
The Howling Plains
Wracked by eternal storms and violent winds, the Howling Plains lie near the equator of the Surface and sprawl for vast, wind-swept distances.
A blasted mesa, encircled by lethal blight, there is more to Kagarai than first meets the eye. From distant mountains that loom on the horizon to bubbling calderas of acid, Kagarai is a land of varied misery.
At least it's dry.
Most of the Surface world belongs to the Shrouded Lands; regions so blasted with blight that no human can hope to survive.
Isolated from the rest of the Surface by violent storms and deadly Blight, the Forbidden Zone is heart of the Q'x landing.