16 Dangers of the Riftlands
This week we have another guest post from Jesse Cohoon looking at the Riftlands.
The Riftlands are a new type of variable terrain that you can put into your game to give an added challenge, interest and intrigue to an already existing world. They are places of geologically unstability that are constantly in upheaval. Earthquakes, geysers, lava streams, and other geologic activity are common. The place is known for its unstable hills, cliffs, and valleys which crumble away underfoot if one is unwary. But the Riftlands weren’t always like this. There are whispers that they were the center of a technological apocalypse that changed the entire world, and remnants of a long lost civilization are buried underneath the ever-changing hills. Another theory suggests that they were caused by a war of the gods. A third idea of what happened is a mage opened a portal to a reality warping dimension and the energies unleashed twisted the landscape into what you see here today. Whatever the cause of the disaster, the Riftlands are, and will continue to be a dangerous place to be for the foreseeable future.
Despite the dangers, the Riftlands are a place of immense beauty and a homeland to a variety of races, many of which fight for control over the land, and all it contains.
Standing at the edge of a cliff, Mason, equipped with all his adventuring gear, surveys the lands below from atop the cliff. For as far as the eye can see there is the greenery of trees and a river in the valley, below. In the distance there’s the glowering of a volcano. He sighs, knowing that this awesome sight he beholds will be forever gone with the sunrise tomorrow. Such is fluid the landscape of the Riftlands.
- Runaway Technology. a giant machine of some sort is ravaging through the countryside. Innocents are in danger. It’s up to the PCs to stop the runaway machine and save the day or get them out of the way. The ‘technology’ could also be something like a golem on the loose.
- Abandoned Technology. Maybe the cataclysmic event that happened in modern day and most technology ceased to function, so it was abandoned and left to rot, but this particular type still works perfectly for some mysterious reason.
- Technology malfunctions more often. No matter how well kept the piece of technology is, something in the Riftlands causes technology to jam, work less efficiently, or break more often than normal. This includes nominally mechanical things such as armor being less efficient, clasps, buckles, snaps and zippers becoming loosened at the worst time possible, and even chemical concoctions (read potions, oils, etc) becoming unreliable or using causes unintended consequences.
- Verdant Growth. Because the Riftlands are so changeable, so too do the plants need to be. Oftentimes what would be a year’s worth of growth happens in a matter of minutes. This can give the illusion to the outsider that the forest has been there forever. This can clog trails, cut off means of escape, and entrap the unwary.
- Noxious Fumes. These can come from the ground from volcanic shafts, industrial areas, or the result of cleaning chemicals being mixed together (one classic real life combination NOT to try at home is bleach + ammonia = mustard gas). Bad air, a similar idea, can come about due to being stale. When there’s no fresh air to circulate old gasses out and new ones in, bad gasses can build up and make it unsafe to breathe
- Bandits attack those in the vicinity at random intervals, stealing what they can, kidnapping those they find useful as slaves, and killing those they feel would be more trouble later on. The PCs find out about their machinations, but are they powerful enough to stop the entire group?
- Ellusive Finds
- Crashed Spaceship: The PCs find a spaceship in the woods. How long it’s been there of what’s inside is up to the DM. It could be a Spelljammer ship or something from an alternate dimension that came through a portal.
- Disappearing Mage Tower: Similar to what happens in the Castlevania games, this mage’s tower only appears under certain circumstances. Something the PCs are looking for is in there, but they only have a certain period of time to get it and then they will vanish along with the tower. What dangers does it contain?
- Corpse of a Dead God. Eons ago, there was a war of the gods and one of them ended up dying, falling to the ground. Part of the body of the dead god can still be found if one knows where to look. Powerful artefacts can be made if one knows how (i.e. the various parts of Vecna)
- Portals. A portal opens up and takes the PCs to an alternate dimension or area of the world without warning. Conversely, the portal could be to another world altogether. Maybe they’ll find some of the people who’ve gone missing lately in their travels.
- Armies. An army is (or multiple armies in conflict are) marching through the area. Can the PCs avoid them? If not how will they respond? Are they friend or foe? How will these warring factions affect the PCs in the future?
- Irradiated Area. the PCs enter an area of radiation. The PCs could slowly come down with cancer or mutate if there too long. Another possibility is that the PCs could find something that is radioactive, such as a plutonium rod. A similar idea to this is taint, which is a substance that will stop at nothing to devour the world, though it can be cleansed and / or contained in a specific manner the PCs can discover.
- Earthquake. the ground shakes, causing those in the area to fall prone, fall down (possibly taking damage), drop what’s in their hands and/or have rocks or debris from higher elevations fall on them. Some areas are known for earthquakes to the extent that that enemies will lure their foes into an earthquake prone area, hoping that an earthquake will happen.
- Mutated Monsters. the monsters that the PCs run into could look like “standard” monsters, but have different skills/ abilities, immunities, and weaknesses. If the mutagenic effect is strong enough in the area, it could have been normal people that were warped into being these hideous monsters. Or the monsters could simply be aliens from another dimension or from space that crash landed onto this planet.
- Wild Magic Zone: Casting any magic in this area will trigger a wild magic surge. Casters beware!
- Restless Spirits: Spirits roam the countryside attacking any that approach too closely. The PCs need to find out how set them to rest, lest they bother others going through the area. See my previous article on this website to give you some ideas.
- Geyser. steam bursts forth from the ground damaging any who are in the area. This doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to steam, either. It could be made of superheated gases, ash, or even lava.
- Encounter with Fey. The PCs encounter pixies, sprites, leprechauns, or other such creatures. If this encounter takes place after they’ve gone to sleep, they may awaken to find themselves in another realm.
- Gravity Zone
- Different Gravity: Area in question has different gravity: Roll a 1d6
- No gravity
- ¼ gravity
- ½ gravity
- Normal gravity
- 1.5 X normal gravity
- 2 X normal gravity.
- Different directional gravity: Roll a 1d6
- 1 -2. Gravity is normal direction
- 3-4. Gravity is 90 degrees to any cardinal direction (1d4  north,  south,  east,  west)
- 5-6. Gravity does not exist (those in the area float up until gravity in the area returns to normal, when gravity returns fall as per normal, receiving appropriate damage.)
- Different Gravity: Area in question has different gravity: Roll a 1d6
- Flooding: Either still water that those in the area need to wade through, or faster running water that can sweep them away.
Using these dangers of the Riftlands can spice up your game in innumerable ways. Pick a few and give them a try.
About Jesse Cohoon
If you want to read more articles like this, check out my blog at fantasyroleplayingplanes.com.
If you want to read my some more of my articles not posted on my blog, they can be found on Johnn Four’s roleplaying tips website at roleplayingtips.com. I also am published at http://stuffershack.com/