Californ, the Eternal Jungle
“This ‘jungle’ as you hairy beasts call it, is a single living thing. And it does not like you.” – Arn-Sko, xesa clan leader of Yol.

Capital: Verdigris
Settlements: Ramble (1,000), Verdigris (8,000), Yol (3,000)
Ruler: Yorungar, Serpent of the Wilds
Government: Tribal (mahrog), Councils of the Undivided (xesa)
Races: Human, Mahrog, Xesa
Faiths: Moon cult, Saren, Sun cult
Resources: Exotic plants, herbs, wood, woodcraft
Languages: Common, Mahr, Sylvan, treespeak
Border Conditions: Restricted (Porphyrite border to the north and west; ocean to the east and south)

History
Californ was once just a good-sized tropical island between the Opal and Lost seas, dominated by a swift river and the pestilential North Delta. Its trees were tall and its undergrowth lush, but both were kept in check by sea storms and sandy shores. The massive surge of natural power that accompanied the arrival of the New Gods struck the valley of the Cal, and flooded the region with both life and death. Most of the life in the area was slain violently, turning to rot and ash, while the forces of nature reeled.

When all had settled, the isle of Californ had become part of the Land of Steam, a super-island of patchwork nations from other dimensions, named so from the clash of the sub-polar Frozen North and Californ’s tropical heat. When nature recovered, (with added territory) it did so with a vengeance. Trees and vines began to grow at a phenomenal rate, their roots digging deep into soil fertilized with the bodies of the dead. New life sprang up, magic and madness drawing upon the distant past to resurrect creatures long lost to the world. For the first time in ages, dinosaurs and megalithic animals walked the land again.

Weeks became months of mad growth and months stretched on into many green years before the flora of Californ finally slowed in its resurgence. The entire region became so massively overgrown that vines and myriad tree branches completely obscured the ground. Ruins of strange old civilizations were platforms for strange growth. As old plants died, new ones grew in their mulch, creating a later of compost and fungus hundreds of feet thick over the region’s root-riddled earth.

For a time, the proto-human mahrog were the only sentient life in Californ. They had to stay nomadic because of their constantly changing and growing jungle home. This bred agility, toughness and resourcefulness within them, teaching them how to survive on the move and make the most of their environment. Some of the fauna in Californ proved capable of domestication, providing beasts of burden and mounts for the primitive race.

The land’s only other primary intelligent life emerged after the mahrog had already achieved dominance over Californ. The xesa simply appeared into the world, emerging from long-dormant seed pods engendered from the merging of a long-dead human race and their vegetable predators. Their arrival terrified the mahrog, as the primitives believed that they were the vengeful plant spirits of their ancestors. Perhaps they were right. A long and vicious war broke out between the two sides, one that has raged for years, with no clear victor.

Fertility is a constant in Californ, ensuring fertile mating and high, often multiple birth rates for the mahrog. Xesa here reach their Time of Division much earlier here than in their typical haunts. These factors provided constant meat and mulch for the grinders of war, ensuring that neither side could win.

Current Events
What exists in Californ now is a tentative and fragile truce between the two races, a tense pause in hostilities that defines the entire region. The mahrog dominate, to a certain extent, from the ‘city’ of Verdigris, while the xesa have retreated from their front-line leaf camps to their overgrown ruin-cities of the north. The understanding of a ‘border’ is vague at best, and while there is no longer an active war, conflicts and skirmishes are ongoing.

Recently Californ has been receiving a massive amount of rain, even more than is normal during its months long wet seasons. The rain has driven dangerous fauna and flora out of the flooded river valley into xesa and mahrog territory. At first this was welcomed as a hunting boon, but the numbers are starting to become problematic. A temporary solution applied by both races has been to divert the streams of displaced life out of their jungle homes into the other nations of the Land of Steam through the natural gaps in Californ’s Porphyrite wall. These diversions have so far proven to be only oddities or nuisances for Californ’s neighbors, but it is only a matter of time before something powerful and dangerous crosses the crystal border and starts raging out of control.

A very few forward thinking members of both the xesa and mahrog races started pondering the eventual results of these unseasonably heavy rainstorms. All of their musings lead to the same terrible conclusions. If the rising waters and animals do not force the xesa and mahrog to climb higher, the constant rain is going to wash down life from the freezing upper branches of Californ’s megatrees.
In either case, they will soon have to deal with swarms of their homeland’s most terrifying denizen—the wooly mantis.

Settlements
The major settlements of Californ are:

Ramble is a large nomadic tent-camp that moves ‘with the moons’ in southern Californ. Containing many varied races but a majority of humans, the ‘Ramblers’ are those that seek to avoid ‘civilized’ society, and practice ultimate freedom of thought, action, and ingestion of foreign substances.

Verdigris exists within a gigantic monolith that appeared when the New Gods arrived on Porphyra. This obelisk is riddled with passages the mahrog use as lairs, creating a city of sorts that is constantly on the move, as vines grow to fill tunnels and die off, freeing others. The city-stone gets its name from the thousands of veins of copper ore that cover its surface, tarnishing in Californ’s humid air.

Yol is the largest of the ruin-cities of the bizarre xesa, Yol is home to nearly 3,000 of the plantfolk. The arcane skills of the xesa balance the mahrog’s greater military prowess, and the Undivided Council there are very interested in magic items from the outside world.

Intrigues

  • Bounty hunting outsiders (namely the PCs) might not immediately be greeted with hostility upon meeting with either of Californ’s sentient races. If they seem powerful and competent, they may be approached with an offer to attack the settlements of the other race. The xesa and mahrog have a truce, but nothing in that agreement says anything about using others to pursue the war.
  • There are plants and animals species in Californ that have not existed on Porphyra in millennia. While they would be valuable simply from a naturalist’s viewpoint, many of these life forms have magical or medicinal value. In the right hands, these plant and animal components could be worth a fortune.
  • The obelisk that houses the cave city of Verdigris is more than just a titanic rock; some sages say its concave pinnacle houses the fabled Theater of Arrival, which bears the keystones of the arrival of the New Gods. As such, the Californ Menhir might hold divine lore of unimaginable power, and wizards and wise men will surely pay handsomely for someone to investigate the claim.

See Also