Hi, everyone. I’m Karol, fellow Earthdawn devotee and proud member of the Legends of Barsaive team. Aside from the fun of writing and running modules for my fellow Earthdawn fans (feel free to say hi at a convention!), I’ve had the privilege of helping flesh out the rich world of Earthdawn by being a part of Elven Nations. We’ve gotten a great overview of the book, as well as details on the central conflict of the great elven kingdoms over the future of Oak Heart itself. Little has been known of two of the players in this conflict (Sereatha and Shosara) until recently, and there’s quite a bit to explore. We hope the book provides plenty of rich material to incorporate into your games and flesh out the setting.
The Wilds of Shosara
The most remote of the elven nations, Shosara is full of secrets and mysteries to unravel. An ever-present enigma is the land itself. The wilds of Shosara always seem to be pushing back the civilized areas, and maintaining a settlement requires a great deal of effort, skilled Elementalists, or both. The forest is quick to reclaim cleared areas, and the seas batter coastal settlements with storms and crashing waves. Many newcomers wonder why such a fertile, abundant land isn’t full of permanent settlements, and the rampant and dangerous growth of plant life is a major reason.
Animal life in Shosara is as chaotic and primal as plant growth. At first blush, the beasts of Shosara resemble those of Barsaive or the other elven nations, though the colder climate creates hardier animals than one might find in an area such as the Servos Jungle. Upon closer inspection, however, these animals always seem to be bigger, more dangerous versions of their mundane counterparts. Some even appear imbued with magical or elemental energy. This isn’t always obvious, so seasoned adventurers know not to take an animal’s appearance at face value. [For GMs: Shosara is a perfect setting for the Mask rules in the Earthdawn Companion. These allow for a lot of flexibility in building fresh new challenges for players from existing monsters, and the chaotic nature of animal life in Shosara makes a wide range of the Masks viable.]
Most alarming, and often dismissed as hearsay by outsiders, the land itself can shift and change. This usually happens in a subtle manner, such as a stream or game trail following a different path than it once did, or landmarks used for guidance in the wilds disappear. Occasionally, however, these changes are more sudden. The earth may shake only to reveal a changed coastline or a ravine turning into a hill overnight. Occasionally, islands come up from the sea floor one day, only to disappear the next. While this appears to happen at random, some believe the wilds have a mind of their own, occasionally changing to block or confound foes or other threats. Many Shosarans default to navigating by the stars simply because these are a more stable wayfinding method.
Scholars have tried to unravel the secrets of these strange properties for almost as long as Shosara has existed. There are countless theories that fall into and out of fashion as they’re endlessly debated in the Great Lighthouse, but they often fall into one of two broad camps.
The first group believes that the region’s heavy attunement to elemental magic is the cause of Shosara’s particularly active flora and fauna. The aura that suffuses the region seems conducive to infusing plant and animal life with the ambient magic of the world. While plants and animals brought to Shosara from other lands tend to find their growth accelerated and their natural abilities empowered, this seems to fade as they’re taken away from the region. Thus it is believed the unique elemental aura of Shosara simply promotes this kind of growth, perhaps a legacy of a land that Shosarans believe chosen by Jaspree.
The second group points to other phenomena such as Death’s Sea and believes that Shosara is the resting place of some extremely powerful being. To them, the rampant growth and changing lands are the unconscious or conscious efforts of this confined entity. More spiritual scholars believe this being is the Passion Jaspree, whose physical form rests somewhere within the island known as the Eye of Gwyn. The devotees and questors of Jaspree who tend to the island have resisted any attempts to conduct research into this matter. The connection between the Passion of Nature and nature suffused with energy is hard to ignore, however.
Yet other scholars believe it’s some other power, perhaps even a dragon, from a previous age. They claim Shosara’s environment is the result of a not-quite-successful attempt to protect against a previous Scourge that keeps this organism dormant. They believe the land changes in a largely protective manner, almost as if directed by a single will trying to keep the region from succumbing to Horrors. These scholars also believe that the land itself actually helped the Shosaran citadel get through the Scourge intact.
None of these has fully explained the strange phenomena of Shosara’s wilds, and so the debate rages on. Some scholars suggest that perhaps a combination of these theories could explain Shosara’s unique circumstances, but they tend to be dismissed as not intellectually disciplined enough to pick a side.
These only represent the most common conjectures as to why Shosara’s wilds are so… well, wild. Many others exist, and yet others wait to be uncovered by intrepid scholars. In the meantime, Shosaran merchants and adventurers are more concerned with what they’ll encounter than the thesis behind it, and the wise ones know to expect the unexpected — not just from the plants and animals, but from the land itself.