Monday, June 15, 2020

#Zendikar #DnD Take 2: An Atlas for Zendikar

I have had a post on Zendikari "geo-background" in drafts for a long time.

While writing it, I realized these should form a big part of what shapes the Zendikar-D&D experience, so I studied a way to make them more important, without overshadowing the regular D&D character background, but complementing them with situational, Zendiakr-only features.

This led me to classify all the possible locations from which characters can come from, and come up with pseudo-unique features for all.

I say "pseudo" because when I realized they would be around 20 or more, I understood it was not feasible to do something completely unique for each of them, and I also realized that possibly Magic's Mana colors could help me classify them, so that those with similar colors could have similar features, or something like that.

The result has been something crazy: a table of 5x5 Magic colors with background locations for all of them.

Mentally addicted by the "weirdly satisfying" feeling of having classified all of Zendikar's locations important to characters, I could not help creating the same table for Zendikar's iconic ruins and expedition sites.

Realizing then that in Zendikar adventures are always a lot about getting to the place, other than just exploring the place itself, I also classified the dangerous locations that are too uninhabited or dangerous to be good for backgrounds, but are famous and/or represent interesting interludes for the typical adventuring expedition.

All these tables can be combined in one giant one, and I did so.
Note that the coloring of the "tiles" is to group contiguous or similar terrain/regions.
Do click for the full view!

Crazy, isn't it?

This whole process, to use a Magic analogy, kind of "ignited our sparks" again (mine and my friend-fratello Gonzalo's) and we decided to up the ante and embark on a project that for now we are calling Zendikar Atlas. It's going to mix geography, lore, story hooks, and adventures/mini-campaigns, to become a multi-volume gazetteer of sorts for Zendikar.

It's going to be published on Gonzalo's much more apt web project, Codex Anathema, as soon as we have the first volume ready, which will be for Tazeem.

Not much to say now, except more tiled goodness, showing you the group of tiles coming from Tazeem, in two different fashions: a conceptual map...

(The empty blue symbolizes the Halimar, bringing a physical map feature to the conceptual context..!)

... And the source: a filtering of the above table, including only what is inside Tazeem:

If you're wondering about the emojis' presence: I thought for someone who doesn't have a good knowledge of the plane, they would do a good job describing the places at a glance, although exactly in the case of Tazeem, I had to get a little too abstract, because there's only so many emojis out there.

If instead you do have some Zendikari geography knowledge but you think you never heard of some of these places, here is where the strange ones come from:

  • Tazeem's Calcite Flats: these are described mostly in Art of Magic: The Gathering: Zendikar, although briefly mentioned in the very first line of the original guide. It's what the island-continet is surroudned by, its beaches so to speak, although more of a tidal plain.
  • Wren Grotto: this is another place that was just quickly mentioned in the guide (quote by Ilori, merfolk falconer) as "the most beautiful place in all Zendikar", and expanded more in the art book. It's considered the place where merfolk breed and train giant falcons.
  • Tikal Harborage: this is absent in the original lore, but mentioned as the outpost of Thada Adel, The Acquisitor (a legendary merfolk thief) in the art book. Although there is no official illustration of it, I decided to associate it to what is probably my favorite illustration ever:

  • Ruins of Ysterid: these come from the original guide, although they are just mentioned by Piqua, of the Tazeem Expeditionary House, as a place at the bottom of a cave near Magosi Falls that will "poison you, boil you, and regurgitate your body up to the surface to be eaten by bloodbeaks." - Nice!
  • Lumbering Falls: these were admittedly just a filler, since I wanted to have a category for forests that were actually moving on their own ("living forests" is not the best way to describe them, since all forests are living..!). So it comes from the card with the same name, which although it could represent some place in Ondu or Murasa as well, I decided to attribute to Tazeem due to Blue and Green mana being the prevalent ones there. It could be a nice "trampoline" to get to Emeria's Sky Ruin, if you can get on top of it while it lumbers by.
    Here's the wonderful art:

  • The Jade Rooms: this is an even more obscure reference, probably the most obscure of all, since it comes from the forgotten one-pager guide to Zendikar, where a quote by Chadir the Navigator speaks of a Jade Room with capitals, from which he escaped, waking up on the shores of the Halimar. Due to the image conjured by jade being Green, I figured this could be a dungeon/ruin udner the Oran Rief (they also said there are such ruins under the forest, but never specified which, so this could be one of them), and made it plural to "rooms", to make it a more noteworthy location. It could also coincide with the dungeon that Gonzalo made me and a few other lucky players explore in his beautiful online Zendikar campaign, back int he days when we met in the official Wizards forum of old.
    I picture the place to be the one shown in the iconic and wonderful art of Summoning Trap:

And that's all for today, even if it's just one big teaser!
I hope you like where the project is going, and if you are another fan of Zendiakr lore and world, drop me a comment, and maybe you can even jump into the project yourself! There is surely a lot of stuff to write and figure out..!


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