Explore environments that can challenge even the most experienced desert dweller in Sandstorm, the latest supplement in the environmental series of D&D books. Information for both players and Dungeon Masters includes new races, spells, feats, magic items, prestige classes, and monsters associated with deserts and other wastelands. Also, as with Frostburn, read about specific types of terrain (such as supernatural wastes) plus the hazards associated with them. Our sneak peek includes a look at the formation of waste environments, races and feats, prestige classes, spells, and a new creature.
Formation of a Waste
A world can have many different types of wastes, which are most common in places where some sort of environmental degradation has killed off the normal processes that keep an ecosystem balanced. When an ecosystem dies, temperature regulation fails, life ends, and the sands take over. For instance, a waste environment could appear quickly near a volcanic vent where the extreme heat has killed local fauna and flora. On the other hand, a waste environment could take thousands of years to manifest, resulting from generations of overgrazing by primitive tribes that keep herds of grass eaters. More advanced civilizations are able to produce waste environments far more quickly by means of technology, magic, or other destructive or environment-affecting forces. A waste is not always a natural phenomenon, however. Intelligent species can sometimes create situations or events that cause the spontaneous or irregular formation of waste environments. Most have no idea that their actions could have such dire consequences. Lands, or even cast seas, that once bloomed with life can become empty wastelands as a result of some disaster or even the anger of deities.
Supernatural Waste Hazards
In desert wastes, where one's survival always hangs by the narrowest of threads, heat and thirst are not the only dangers. Many kinds of waste terrain occur in unnatural environments, such as on the Outer Planes, or are created through magic. In such places, magical and supernatural perils add even more formidable hazards to those of the mundane waste, although magic traps and supernatural hazards can occur anywhere.
Supernatural terrains and hazards are places where the earth is infused with deadly power, and most magical hazards can easily lure the unwary to dusty graves. Some supernatural terrains and hazards are noticeably different at a glance, such as the bloody tint of a red sea or the swallowing darkness of a patch of black sand. Other forms of supernatural terrain resemble ordinary terrain and can be identified only by someone who knows exactly what to look for.
A few supernatural waste hazards are magical without being particularly threatening, and desert denizens, such as the sand shaper (see page 76), put them to good use. Even those who can tame this awesome power know to always respect the magic of the waste, for it has risen up against countless conquerors and buried their mighty works and cities under mountains of sand and silence.
Avoiding Supernatural Hazards: Unless otherwise noted in a hazard's description, a character approaching an area of magical terrain at a normal pace is entitled to a Survival check to notice the danger before entering the area. The DC of this check varies with the particular terrain. Charging or running characters, or characters whose rate of movement exceeds the extent of their current vision, don't have a chance to detect the threat before blundering in. Usually, characters who enter dangerous terrain without noticing the danger complete their intended movement before becoming aware of it.
Example: Black Sand
Mundane volcanic lands sometimes feature black sand composed of ground-up cinders. Other than its striking color, such sand is no different from any other. However, magical black sand is a vile peril, whether on the scoured surface of Minethys in the Tarterian Depths of Carceri (where the Plane of Shadow overlays the Elemental Plane of Earth) or in lands cursed by foul magic.
Black sand is infused with shadowstuff and negative energy. A region of black sand literally swallows light; magical darkness rises to a height of 20 feet over the surface. Nothing short of a sunburst spell can disperse this darkness, and even then only for a period of 1 hour per caster level. In addition, creatures that come in contact with the sand take 1d4 points of damage per round from negative energy. Upon reaching 0 hit points, they crumble and join the black sand.
Example: Devil Dunes
The fastest dunes advance only a couple hundred feet each year, but dunes made of sand under the influence of unearthly winds or particles of unusually fine material (such as ground bone or glass) might move many times faster. A "racing dune" is a mountain of grit that travels at least 1 foot per hour -- often faster. It can choke an entire city in days, fill up precious waterways, and even smother sleeping creatures. These dunes, threatening as they are, pale in comparison with devil dunes.
Certain sand dunes seem to resent the disturbance caused by the passage of mortal feet across their surfaces, and seek to exact a grim vengeance for the presumption. These devil dunes move under their own magical power, rolling like great waves of sand as they pursue those who trespass against them.
Devil dunes measure 100 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 40 feet high. They move at a rate of 60 feet per round, as though blown by a powerful yet undetectable wind. They relentlessly pursue trespassers to the very edge of the waste -- the limit of their domain. As long as their prey travels upon the sands, devil dunes always know where to find it.
Devil dunes kill by enveloping their prey and suffocating it. When any part of a devil dune enters a square containing its quarry, the creature is allowed a DC 15 Reflex saving throw. If the save fails, the quarry is buried. Buried creatures take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute. Once unconscious, a buried creature must make a successful DC 15 Constitution check each minute thereafter or take 3d6 points of lethal damage until free or dead.
A devil dune seems almost like a living creature, except that no amount of ordinary damage can stop it.
A soften earth and stone spell cast on a devil dune reduces the dune's speed by half for the duration of the spell. An earthquake spell breaks apart a devil dune, which takes weeks to reform.
|An adventurer experiences the wastes.
Example: Wailing Waste
Where the winds blow constantly across the dunes, thin streams of sand pour from the dune tops with an eerie hum. Sometimes these singing sands are infused with a malevolent presence. Some claim that the spirits resent the presence of the living in their waste. Others believe the unearthly moans come directly from the planes -- perhaps a howling wind from Pandemonium, or cries from souls tortured in the red-hot vaults of Dis. Whatever the source, an area of wailing waste is detrimental to those who hear it.
A creature within the area affected by a wailing waste's sound must make a DC 15 Will save or fall subject to a confusion effect (as the spell, page 212 of the Player's Handbook) for as long as the victim is able to hear the sound. Blocking the ears with wax or something similar seals out the sound and grants a new saving throw with a +4 bonus to end the confusion effect. A silence spell cancels the supernatural wailing, and any affected creatures return to normal after 1d4 rounds. A bard can also use the countersong ability to help allies resist the effects of the wailing sand.