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II.i. Features of the Land

(image generated by the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas, 1999 Wizards of the Coast. All rights reserved.)

Anvil: The Land of Fate contains two great "anvils" - the Genies' Anvil of the High Desert and the Great Anvil of the Haunted Lands. These are inhospitable and deadly places, searing by day and often freezing by night. Neither anvil ever sees rain, and duststorms continually sweep across them. Even the boldest and most experienced desert riders think twice before venturing into these regions.

Badlands: Sharp and forbidding, badlands are laced with steep ravines and deeply eroded canyons that are still being carved by erratic downpours.

Barren: A rocky terrain not dominated by any particular land feature, a barren is arid and rough. Some light vegetation may exist, but it is typically insufficient for grazing large herds.

Cliff/Plateau: The average elevation of Zakhara's desert plateaus is 2,500 feet. The edge of the plateaus occasionally rise steeply forming 2,500 foot high cliffs.

Desert, Open: Desert lands showing no other terrain feature on the maps are open tracts of sandy desert. In general, such areas contain shifting sands and a variety of small dunes.

Dune, Barchan: This is a crescent-shaped dune, typically located at the desert's edge. The "horns" of the crescent point away from the prevailing wind.

Dune, Seif: A seif (or "sword dune") is the largest of all dune types. Like a whaleback dune, it runs parallel to the wind. Unlike a whaleback, however, a seif has a sharp peak, is very rugged, and can extend for hundreds of miles. The space between two seifs is virtually swept clean of sand and forms a rocky path known as a gassi.

Dune, Star: A twisted mass of rising sand that resembles a starfish, this type of dune is created in an area that has no predominant wind. Most star dunes lie at the very heart of a deep desert or at its edge.

Dune, Whaleback: This great, curve-backed dune resembles an enormous beached whale. The dune can measure up to 100 feet high and two miles from end to end. Its form runs parallel to the prevailing wind.

Grassland, Seasonal: This grassland is barren most of the year. During seasonal rains, however, the apparent wasteland comes alive with wildflowers and grasses.

Haram: A Haram is a holy site. It may be a place of religious miracles or legendary heroics, or it may be the site of past triumphs over the unenlightened. Some harams are venerated by kahins and certain mystic groups, who view harams as places of power. Travelers may often find a hospice at a haram, expecially if the haram is near (or is itself) a popular stopping point.

Zakhara's most significant haram is the Golden Mosque in Huzuz, which contains the House of the Loregiver. All enlightened Al-Hadhar (city-dwellers) strive to visit this mosque during their lifetimes, and so do many Al-Badia (nomads).

Another famous haram is the Desert Mosque, located at an oasis midway between the city of Qudra and the Genies' Anvil. The Desert Mosque is frequented by enlightened nomads, caravan drivers, and other travelers.

Harrat: A harrat is an area of volcanic debris. It may contain the weathered remains of old lava flows or the sharp, newly laid materials of recent eruptions. In either case, travel may be difficult.

Kavir: A kavir is a crusty salt flat that lies directly over a sea of black mud, making travel treacherous. The salt has crystallized and routinely expands and contracts, giving the surface the appearance of a glacier. The slimy mud between the cracks may appear shallow, but it rarely is.

In Zakhara, the greatest kavir lies just west of the World Pillar Mountains, home of the savage yak-men. The kavir and merciful Fate have helped isolate yak-men from the rest of Zakhara.

Lake, Alkaline: This is an evaporating, mineral-laden body of water, usually surrounded by salt flats, without an outlet. The water is bitter and undrinkable unless it is magically enhanced.

Zakhara's most famous alkaline lake is in the High Desert, at the bottom of a valley called the pit of the Ghuls. The surface of this lake lies more than 1,000 feet below sea level. Though its edges are shallow, the bottom quickly drops toward the center, and the ultimate depth of the lake is unknown. The lake is a source of valuable minerals, including bromides and table salt, but its resources are still untapped. Let the name be a warning to all who might wander here: this valley is teeming with ghuls and restless spirits.

Lake, Seasonal: A seasonal lake may be nothing more than a salt flat during the dry season. During the rainy season, it may provide drinkable water and briefly give rise to vegetation.


Mangrove Swamp: This swamp represents a mazelike forest of trees whose roots are partially submerged (usually below dark, almost opaque water). Such swamps may spread to create new "islands" beyond the land from which they originated. Travel by boat or mount is restricted to cleared channels. Individuals moving through a mangrove swamp on foot must climb from bole to bole.

Mountain: Most of the mountain ranges in Zakhara rise no higher than 1,000 feet above the desert floor around them. This includes the small, low mountain, ranges scattered across the plateau of the High Desert, though their actual elevation may be up to 3,500 feet. The Tumbling Mountains of southern Zakhara reach heights between 5,000 and 6,000 feet; they're considered medium mountains. The World Pillars have peaks exceeding 15,000 feet; they're high mountains.

Oasis: An oasis is a place where natural surface water exists in a permanent waterhole. Vegetation surrounding an oasis is lush, and plants that could not otherwise survive in the desert thrive there.

Plateau and Hogback: Much of the High Desert is located atop a great plateau, which averages 2,500 feet in elevation. In addition, the desert is broken by rocky hogbacks-prominent ridges with steeply sloping sides, named for their resemblance to the back of a wild pig.

Quicksand: In the desert, quicksand is a fine, powdery sand that gathers in depressions, posing a hazard to those who may stumble into it unaware. In areas where quicksand is prominent, travelers have a 20 percent chance of finding quicksand. An unencumbered person can float on quicksand, provided he or she remains calm (animals will panic and therefore sink). An encumbered or panicked individual sinks beneath the sand in 1d4 rounds.

River: Zakhara has two types of rivers: regular and intermittent. Regular rivers follow an unbroken path over the land's surface. They are always flowing, though the water levels may vary between season. In contrast, intermittent rivers disappear and reappear from the surface, flowing underground for a stretch; or they may disappear entirely as they flow into an alluvial fan or outcropping. Intermittent rivers are not wadis.

Salt Flat: A salt flat is an evaporated lake that forms a level, smooth, featureless expanse. Travel across this flat terrain is easy, except when the midday temperatures are extreme.

Stony Field: This rough wasteland is dominated by boulders that have been smoothed by wind and water. Travel here can be treacherous.

Trails and Roads: Outside the cities and civilized areas, Zakhara has no roads to speak of-no great highways or bridges. The desert is very unforgiving of paved or permanent roads. More common are simple paths, trod by travelers and caravans.

Trails are often little more than dirt paths kept clear by frequent use. These run along most coastlines, but they are not usually found in sandy terrain. Wadis can serve as trails in the desert, however, and may be treated as such.

Caravan trails cross the deep wastes of the High Desert and Haunted Lands, marking the passage of men and mounts. The trails are extremely wide, measureing up to two miles across. That's because the route is good, but the travel may be easier on clear sand.

Wadi: This is a seasonal watercourse that floods but once or twice a year, and is otherwise dry and solid. Many caravan trails follow the course of wadis, since the ground is relatively firm and even.

Well: Water from a well must be brought up from below ground to the surface, usually by a mechanism turned by human hands or by beast of burden. In general, a number of smaller wells may be scattered in the vicinity. The locations of such wells are often secret, known only to the nomads (or creatures) who have claimed them as their own.

Well, Artesian: Here water from underground rises to the surface to create a natural fountain. A few of the Pearl Cities are blessed with artesian wells, but they are rare elsewhere. Like oases, artesian wells may host a rich diversity of vegetation.

Major Points of Interest
Haunted Lands
Great Anvil
High Desert
Genies Anvil
Grey Jungle
Ruined Kingdoms
Salt Jungle
Al-Akara Mtns
Al-Sayal Mtns
Al-Suqut Mtns
Furrowed Mtns
Ghost Mtns
World Pillar Mtns

Features of the Coast and Sea

Coastal Cliff: This is forbidding territory at best. Craft can not beach here, and attempts to do so result in running aground on the rocks.

Coral Reefs: This area off Zakhara's coast is thick with coral. Travelers must make a seaworthiness check at -20 percent to avoid striking the reef. Reefs are host to a variety of sea life, from fish to monsters.

Deep Ocean: The seafloor lies more than 100 feet below the surface. Whenever seaworthiness checks are called for due to weather, travelers in deep ocean suffer a -10 percent penalty (in addition to all other modifiers). For this reason, most craft hug the shore.

Lagoon: A coastal water that is a warm, shallow pool. It is usually calm, for lagoons are sheltered by a reef, a sandbar, or the arm of an island. The bottom of a lagoon is typically sandy.

River Trade

Rocky Coast: Submerged rocks and outcroppings dominate this coastline. Large craft (those with a seaworthiness rating) cannot moor here.

Rocky Shoal: This area is dominated by rocky outcroppings. Travelers must make a normal seaworthiness check to avoid hitting a rock.

Sand Bank: This area is dominated by sandbars. Travelers must make a seaworthiness check to avoid beaching their craft, but their ships take no damage. Craft that have been beached must be hauled off or left to float free with the next high tide.

Sandy Coast: Sand beaches and dunes dominate this coast. All craft can be moored here. At low tide, large craft can be beached and cleaned of barnacles.

Seaweed: In coastal water, this is a spot where seaweed thrives, becoming a thick mass that can snag ships.

Shallow Ocean: The seafloor lies 100 or fewer feet below the surface.

Major Points of Interest
Crowded Sea
Foreigners' Sea
Golden Gulf
Great Sea
Sea of Caravans

2000 - 2004 Jonathan E. Bauder. All rights reserved by owners.