Mother Swamp. The true centre of the world, at least to those sentient beings who call it home - the swamp that time forgot. Hidden deep within the moss-covered thickets of the Slumbering Woods, Mother Swamp is preparing for another leap of evolution.
In appearance, Mother Swamp is a mass of stagnant pools and overhanging water vegetation, most of which are almost unrecognizable to even the most talented herbologists. In the few square kilometers that make up its area, there are easily more forms of plant and animal life than the rest of the world put together. Mosquitoes and other less recognizable insects swarm over the thick, slimy surface of hundreds of puddles and ponds, and strange, unnatural creatures lurk just under the surface. A constant heavy mist hangs over the area and drips slowly off every leaf.
Within the boundaries of Mother Swamp, the air is so saturated with magic that a kind of abnormal concentrated evolution occurs. Within a few weeks, species can change tremendously to survive in their environments, ensuring that Mother Swamp's flora and fauna are never the same for long. In addition, Mother Swamp's primal energy dampens sentience, meaning that anyone caught within its boundaries quickly loses the will to act as a civilized being, instead falling back into the primal instincts that once held their ancestors in sway. Thus, any PCs who venture in will find thinking and intellectual reasoning becoming harder and harder, until finally they may snap and disappear grunting into the mist.
Back in the mists of time, Mother Swamp was the monumental place where the unthinkable happened: the first animals left the water and lived on land. Though many dwelt within the swamp for aeons, many also left seeking more territory, and unwittingly freed themselves from the swamp's primal restraints, allowing for the development of civilizations and the shaping of the world as it stands today.
The dominant species in Mother Swamp are the Fishkin, who have only recently crawled from the depths, a kind of mockery of the first creatures to ever set foot upon land. Through a freak twist of Mother Swamp's very evolutionary nature, they have developed an immunity to the intelligence-dampening aspects of the magical field, as well as to the many strange diseases that breed in the swampy muck - effectively using Mother Swamp's own rules against it. A very young race, the Fishkin have yet to venture into the outside world - yet their aggressive nature and viciously fast breeding make them a threat just waiting to happen...
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? Responses (10)
What happens to adventurers who spend more than a few weeks there? Do they adapt to their environment, fins, gills, lower center of gravity, loss of firm muscle, elasticity, stuff like that?
Just FYI, evolution is a result of changing environment most often, more than anything else. Even with the prescence of magic, it is likely that evolution would stagnate in a single environment. If you want to use the evolutionary aspect of this, may I suggest making the swamp change dramatically as a result of the magic, and allow the creatures to adapt magically as well. One week you find a mountain stretching to the sky(arctic conditions), next week it's a forest, next it's a swamp, next there's volcanos and such, but the creatures somehow survive. Maybe there's like 4 shifts worth of changes in any creature, making it part swamp creature, part mountain creature, part arctic, and so on, depending on what just happened. There could be an array of truly bizarre but explained creatures in there, with parts from many different creatures all hodgepodged into one, like a platypus or something(but even more bizarre)
MAYBE if you go that route, if a person can observe, from the outside, they can discern a pattern of the magic changes and perhaps predict what changes a denizen could expect to face. Maybe they need a specific set of abilities from the PCs, and if they agree, they must study the swamp to find the appropriate time to enter the swamp to get the changes they want. Fire resistance, cold tolerance, poison spit, water adaptations, you could make up a laundry list of things a PC would need to accomplish some goal, then send him in, have him change, and go for some mission, after which they can be magically altered back to normal.
Thanks for the input!
In fact, concerning the whole evolution deal, I was thinking that the creatures adapt less to suit their environment than to suit the adaptations of _other_ creatures, which have adapted in turn to protect themselves from the adaptions of yet others, and so on, in a sort of evolutionary 'arms race'. For example, a species of frog preys upon a species of fly, until that species of fly develops a poison, causing the frogs to develop a substance secreted by its tongue that counters the poison, making the flies develop vicious claws to sever the frogs' tongues, causing the frogs to grow thicker tongues, et cetera (all within a fortnight).
I like your idea too - although one might argue that it's no longer 'Mother _Swamp_' if it's suddenly a mountain range...
The only problem with an arms race scenario is that it has an upper bound. Eventually, one side will grow a weapon so awesomely good at dealing with the opposition that they will wipe out their opponents, or their opponents won't be able to breach their defenses. You quickly reach the point of the immovable rock vs the infinite force. We see this in nature all the time, creatures with no natural predators.
I like the concept, it's workable, but if you go that route, then very quickly the denizens of the area are going to be killing and defensive machines.
Most importantly, to be realistic, you're going to ALSO have things that are so ultra-specialized in their ONE prey species that they will be an utter CAKEWALK for any group of standard humans. With that degree of specialization comes a price, and the price is lack of generality, the lack of dealing with the new things that come along.
Unless, of course, the party comes along and starts doing their thing and finds the creatures adapting at an astounding rate. At some point, the creatures the party is fighting are effectively immune to all attack forms, and the predators may dine at their liesure. If you go that route, make SURE you provide a reasonable avenue of escape, otherwise you're looking at a TPK(total party kill).
Maybe that is the time limit of any scenario. The party must complete their mission and escape the area BEFORE the creatures fully adapt to their prescence. If they wait too long, death will become all but an inevitability. Nothing like a hard deadline to motivate a party, huh? ;)
I wouldn't say that evolution has an upper bound per se... though it produces many dead ends. An arms race may never stop, while all the actors keep changing, creatures without predators would be limited by their prey (and starving or adapting if it runs out), as well as parasites and diseases. Perfect killing machines can always be perfect only in given conditions, against a given opponent. And if someone is always winning the fight, then it pays to change the form of it, etc, etc...
I wonder if the raw magic-ness of the place was present before, or came to pass naturally in a magical world - where all living creatures trace back to a single place, magic will abound.
Evolution is a process of genetic mutation caused by the interference out outside radiation such as UV and the basic concept of genetic drift. In this situation, the outside stimulus is the high concentration of magic in the area constantly altering the basic structure of the local wildlife. Those species that are able to adapt to the basic enviroment and carry their inherent traits onto the next generation are the basic force of evolution. It is easy to confuse evolution with adaptation. The massive topography shift would likely destroy the majority of the wildlife each time it changed, and if a predator looses its basic prey, it to generally perishes. That, and massive topographical shifts just go against the magic saturated muggy feel of Mother Bog.
The Biological Arms Race - The dinosauria of the late Cretaceous period are a good example of the biological arms race. The herbivores began developing massively intricate defensive mechanisms, such as interlocking bone plate armor(anklyosaurs), massive horn and frill defences (Horned Dinosaurs such as Triceratops) and the mother of all defences, teh Stegosaur's double row of plates. According to Robert Bakker, it has been discovered that there were muscle grooves on the plates meaning that the dinosaur could move the plates in the same manner that a horse can twitch it's skin, or move its tail. The predators responded by growing larger and gaining thicker necks and more powerful jaws. This process was specialization, but it didn't always inbreed weakness. A triceratops wasn't easy prey for any other predator, it wasn't easy prey for anything.
The evolution that Monument describes seems more the like the Borg from Star Trek who are able to adapt and negate almost any weapon used against them in a matter of moments. And if you look at wildlife (not house pets, livestock, or zoo animals) it is fairly apparent that animals are not politically correct. Predators hunt and kill their prey, their prey attempts to survive by stealth, intimidation, or confrontation. It was Hoobs who said that 'Life is brutish, nasty, and short' or something along those lines.
I was working under the suspension of disbelief that the evolution was 'magical' in nature. If he's talking about a week to make a change as described in his comments about the frog and the fly, suffice it to say, the adaptations are going to happen at a 'borg-like' pace. I wanted to grant that magic could do wacky stuff, including evolving creatures at the rate of millions of years of evolution in a week's time.
In a place like this, it seems only logical that a creature facing sharp swords and piercing arrows and blunt clubs would adapt to avoid taking that sort of damage somehow, and in very short order.
I'm open to other concepts, of course, but taken logically, I can't see any other realistic option, given the setup of the scenario. Besides, wouldn't it be cool to have an environment react to you specifically and not just you in the generic?
Off topic, but... Hey, maybe there's a dungeon that conflicts with itself as the party passes by. The walls read the emotions and interests of the people passing, and try to construct a pleasing image on the walls, but the conflicting goals and ambitions of the party are likewise reflected in a painting that fights with itself for control and space. Hrm. Kind of too small for a plot, maybe just for flavor.
Oh this is cool. Love the atmosphere on this one. Swamps are always treacherous and this is a good one.
Love the 'primeval' tone to this. And if some denizens are needed...
A dangerous place to be. I like the regressing the mind thing.