A diversity of life in the ruins
The FringesThe outer ring of the Badlands is the most "normal" appearing region, but contamination still gets into the groundwater or soil. A few determined and hardy folk live out here, either because they prefer the lawless environment, or because they are the descendants of stubborn folk who never left. They tend to seem a bit "off" to others. A local dialect has developed over time.
The Poison LandsVegetation begins to look weak and straggly in this region. Some is extremely bizarre, from an odd purple grass to stunted trees that might be as dangerous as they look. Contamination is still at high levels, and respirator masks are standard equipment. Dust storms are a lethal danger here. This region is populated mostly by roving, savage bands of raiders who prey upon the Fringers.
The DeathlandsThe landscape here is pure nightmare fuel. Hardscrabble wastelands and blasted plains of black glass where the reactors once stood are the dominant features. Life in this area is bizarre to say the least, suggesting an alien landscape more than any previously-known earthly environment.
Fauna & Flora
Herds of wild cattle, buffalo, and wild horses roam freely over the area. Wolves, coyotes, and packs of wild dogs keep their populations managed. Wooded glades harbour deer. elk, and even some moose. Small mammals, such as racoons, beaver, weasels, and foxes are common, and there are a plethora of waterfowl. There is an incredible diversity of wildlife, and more of it than existed in the area prior to The Cataclysm. Flora, if anything, is even more diverse. There are lush tallgrass prairies, oak savannahs, lakeshore dunes, wild grain fields, shallow and rocky soils, wetlands, and deciduous forests. But the closer one journeys to the Deathlands, the stranger, and the sparser, life becomes. Odd mutations begin to reveal themselves, and many have started to breed true and evolve into odd new species. The most contaminated areas are barren deserts, some as empty as the surface of the moon is said to be.
Most people believe that anyone who wants to go into the Badlands to "see the sights" is an obvious lunatic. However, there are no shortage of lunatics in the world, and the Badlands attract curiosity-seekers and determined naturalists who want to observe this unique environment up close. Some enterprising Fringers have even begun opening up rudimentary inns to accommodate such travelers, and there are many who will work as local guides for barter (and just as many who will fleece the stupid "Outlanders" of their belongings and head into the hills without so much as a fare-thee-well.) Many such casual visitors are never seen again. The Badlands are an excellent place to hide if one wants to escape justice or persecution, so it also attracts fugitives, outlaws, misanthropes, and religious cultists looking to escape society for whatever reason. It is said that the Desperadoes have safe havens throughout the Badlands for just this reason, some of which are extensive underground complexes with advanced filtration systems -- and arsenals.
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Books in the Wyrd West Chronicles