Anauroch - Part One

Design: Monte J. Cook
Editing: Jonatha Ariadne Caspian
Interior Art: Daniel Frazier
Cartography: Dennis Kauth
Typography: Nancy J. Kerkstra
Production: Paul Hanchette

A Great Man's Journeys

The man known as Ibn Al'Arif was not easy to track down. Once found, he remained largely and maddeningly deaf to entreaties for cooperation. His stubbornness and pride are great faults, not only of the individual, but of all his people; in fact, these characteristics demonstrate the failure his folk will always make of diplomacy and coordinated endeavors... but I digress. Nevertheless, Ibn Al'Arif's aid in compiling information regarding the strange desert of Anauroch proved invaluable. In fact, I would deem it impossible to attempt a similar task without his aid. There exists, in all likelihood, no one who knows as much about the desert, and the secrets that it holds, as does he. These secrets are many, and some are quite startling. To be sure, more stirs in the savage realm of Anauroch than first meets the eye.

Ibn Al'Arif - translated, the name means Son of the Great Lore - refused to speak of his life's history in an organized fashion. He would tell what he had seen and learned, but nothing of what he has done. I, however, have learned - through sources varied and numerous (and some suspect) - much of his sordid past, and relate it here now.

Born son of the sheikh of the tribe called Maurani, Ibn Al'Arif is of the people called the Bedine. Among them, he is known also by the title the Wandering Son; no one speaks his true name. The Bedine are desert nomads, the only humans to call Anauroch their homeland. Almost without exception, the tribes remain in that region of vast Anauroch known as the Sword.

The Maurani were once a large, powerful tribe. They roamed the entire length and breadth of the Sword in their quest for survival. At a tender 16 years, Ibn Al'Arif became sheikh of this powerful people when his father was turned to stone by the fearsome gaze of a basilisk.

No one with knowledge of what happened next will speak of it, and the thread of the story wears thin to breaking. How long Ibn Al'Arif remained as sheikh is unknown to me, but he lasted at least a full year. no small accomplishment for a green boy, you will agree, once you have read his report on the Great Desert - probably longer. But the desert is harshest on the passions of youthfulness. The end of his reign came abruptly when the Son of the Great Lore made a serious mistake, a bad decision, likely prompted by his fierce temper.

His tribe abandoned him. Barbarous as it seems, such is their right, by custom, when they disagree with their leader.

Ibn Al'Arif found himself alone in the desert, too proud to retract his blunder, watching his people go. Loyal retainers and immediate family may choose to remain with their sheikh, but none of the young man's family did so. It is said of this precipitous moment the tribe actually split into two tribes, both of which still exist today. Neither tribe speaks of its former sheikh.

When a man is left alone in the Great Desert, even if he is Bedine, it is assumed he will not survive long. The desert has a way of swallowing lone individuals, and they are never seen again. Not so with Ibn Al'Arif. He wandered Anauroch alone.traversing not just the sandy Sword, but the far, obscure regions known as the Plain of Standing Stones and the High Ice as well. He braved elements whose battering has crushed many a larger, less tenacious adventurer. He faced creatures whose magical natures make them feared and reviled by his own people.

He was even captured by the insidious evil forces dwelling in the Underdark below Anauroch. Instead of surrendering to their will, the Wandering Son bided his time, recruited his strength and his cunning, and escaped.and from them gained knowledge that he alone, among humans, possesses.

No other man is as well-equipped to tell the tales of all those myriad creatures that dwell in the Great Desert. Even what I know of these mysteries comes in great part from my discussions with him. The following account, in Ibn Al'Arif's own words, shares all the information he would give regarding the ecology of Anauroch.

Part One: The Lands of Anauroch

Despite what outlanders think, Anauroch is not all sand dunes and days of endless heat. Only the region called the Sword fits such a description - and even then, the statement does not prove true for the entire Sword. However, berrani, or strangers to our land, often cling to poetic generalities and ignore specific truths. This is why they do not live long in Anauroch. The Bedine often say, "survival is in the details." (For a lengthy discussion of desert survival, see FR13 Anauroch.)

The Sword

The Sword sweeps around the southern part of Anauroch like the curved blade of a Bedine warrior. It surrounds the other desert regions and provides a buffer between them and the outer lands. To enter Anauroch is to enter the Sword.

It is a realm of dunes and dry heat, with only a few, widely scattered oases to provide the blessing of water. Occasionally, one encounters the white, glaring crust of a salt pan, a scoured, pebble-covered plain, or barren, rocky mountains and hills (whose rumored-to-be gold-filled interiors often draw foolishly unprepared, soft, honorless outlander prospectors and miners) . . . but for the most part, the Sword is an endless sea of sand.

It is also the realm of the Bedine, a proud, noble people unknown to most outsiders. A word of warning to those entering the Great Desert: You will find the Bedine a greater potential danger than any of the fearsome beasts which roam the naked waste. Do not cross the Bedine - you will not survive the experience.

With this caution always in your mind, let me tell you briefly what a berrani must know of my people. Do not dislike them out of hand. Unlike outsiders, the Bedine are an open-minded people. They only react with hostility if they are angered.

The Bedine always give strangers a chance to prove they can act with trustworthiness and honor. Most outsiders they encounter, however, are brigands and evil wizards (whom the Bedine call "Black Robes" and you may be more familiar with as "Zhentarim"), so a few among my people have a prejudice against paleskinned strangers.

In a way, however, this prejudice is a blessing. Because my people assume a stranger to be without honor (until he has proven otherwise), they usually allow him a chance to surrender should he anger them to the point of battle. No such offer is extended to another Bedine.

What constitutes honor? I should not have to describe what every child learns as easily as sand spills over a dune, but berrani can be dumber than cactus. Do not attempt to trick or steal from my people. Such actions are punishable by death. Also, avoid a Bedine tribe that is in water-pains. A Bedine does not refuse another water or food if he has it to give. But if he thirsts or hungers himself, he does not hesitate to kill to get sustenance.

Lastly, if you are a practitioner in the foul arts of sorcery, do not display such base talents among the Bedine if you wish to keep your head. It was magic that made the desert, and we will not abide its use. Most Bedine tribes simply banish spellcasters - but not all are so kind. And do not depend on some outsider's notion of mercy. There is no exception to any tribal rule. The Bedine craven enough to use magic does so secretly, or is outcast, living alone in the desert - a punishment the tribes consider as good as death.

One last caution: Travelers in the Sword should try to somehow learn the locations of such oases as exist. It is almost impossible to carry enough water to cross the desert without the blessing of an oasis.

The Plain of Standing Stones

Inside the sandy arc of dunes that is the Sword, the Plain of Standing Stones occupies most of the south central part of Anauroch. Despite its name, this region is hardly a flat, featureless "plain." The rocky, windswept area is filled with numerous stony outcroppings carved into pillars, spikes, and stranger shapes by the ceaseless, winding wind.

At first glance, the Plain of Standing Stones seems as devoid of vegetation and water as the Sword (and perhaps even more barren, which is why the Bedine never come here). It is not so. Sheltered valleys, deep gullies and other hidden spots hold cool streams of melted ice from the north. In these areas, life is abundant.

The High Ice and Beyond

North of the Plain of Standing Stones stretches a vast wasteland, covered with ice and dry, powdery snow. It is a land of perpetual winter. The barren emptiness is compounded by the disaster of bonekilling cold. The flatness is broken occasionally by deep crevasses and jagged rifts. Neither I nor anyone else knows how far north this frigid sweep extends, nor what might lie beyond.

Southwest of the High Ice, frozen sand dunes stand in rigid waves - a frigid extension of the Sword. Known as the Frozen Sea, the area is noted for the ancient cities that lie buried beneath its crusted sands. My travels have shown me that the Frozen Sea is not unique in possessing uncharted ruins. Indeed, such mysterious, hidden places can also be found within the High Ice, and even in the Sword itself.

Weather and Seasons

Although it may be hard for ulugarr - outlanders - to believe, every native inhabitant knows the weather and seasons are not uniform in Anauroch. The Great Desert is famous for its dry winds and deadly hot sun, but these are only one facet of the weather here. Wetstorms blow across the landscape, although they are rare, brief, and fierce as a giant eagle defending her nestlings. They often drench a small area with many inches of rain. It is difficult to imagine water as other than a precious treasure, but the sudden raging of runoff through a wadi can drown a camel, or sweep away an unwisely pitched camp.

More commonly, the hazards are scouring winds and the grains they fling before them. Sandstorms forming in the deep desert plague the region as a whole. Dust obliterates the sky. Dunes shift, and landmarks disappear, sometimes forever. Entire tribes can be buried alive by the shifting sands. The wind, flying across the surface of the dunes, roils in the troughs between them, rendering it all but impossible to maintain a steady direction.

Suffocation In A Sandstorm

In sandstorms, characters' line of sight shrinks to 0 ft.-3 ft.

(From Sandstorm): Exposed characters might begin to choke if their noses and mouths are not covered. A sufficiently large cloth expertly worn (Survival DC 15) or a filter mask negates the effects of suffocation from dust and sand. An inexpertly worn cloth across the nose and mouth protects a character from the potential of suffocation for a number of rounds equal to 10 x her Constitution score. An unprotected character faces potential suffocation after a number rounds equal to twice her Constitution score. Once the grace period ends, the character must make a successful Constitution check (DC 10, +1 per previous check) each round or begin suffocating on the encroaching sand. In the first round after suffocation begins, the character falls unconscious (0 hp). In the following round, she drops to -1 hit points and is dying. In the third round, she suffocates to death.

Such storms last 1d20 turns.

The temperatures drop considerably at night among the sand and rocks. Each reflects At'ar's burning glance by day, but neither holds her spiteful heat long when she is absent. Though I have traveled in the lands outsiders leave behind, where vegetation chokes the horizon and evenings are gently warm, I still cling to my boyhood delight in the chill of desert nights. The heat of the day may bake clay into bricks, yet third watch sentries just as easily see their breaths hanging like little sand clouds in the air before them. It takes only a little daylight for the sun to warm the land to scorching again.

Of course, the Great Desert experiences larger climatic changes beyond the day-to-day variations of storm and sun. The ulugarr El'Minster claims his home has four seasons, but I know he exaggerates. There are really two seasons, as we have here in the Great Desert - hot and cold, summer and winter. The winter is short in the dunes, being only three months long, but during that span the temperature plunges and the wind increases so as to make the Sword inhospitable to human life. Occasionally, a dry snow falls, white like the salt pans but lighter than dust. It does not last. Any moisture binds the sliding sand grains into a hard, slick surface. Most Bedine flee underground during this time, to fight the living beasts in the caverns under the sand, rather than waste away in the breathless chill above.

Climatic Averages for Anauroch*

Temperature (Summer)101° F**
Temperature (Winter)33° F.
Low Temperature (Year)11° F.
High Temperature (Year)110° F.
Annual Precipitation14 inches
* For the High Ice, average temperature is 18° F., Low temperature is -50°, while high temperature is only 31°.
** Daytime average. Nighttime average is 62° F.


Elminster's Ecologies