Dastardly Desert: Siwathi Surveyors

– by Alex Kugler


If you’re like me, and you’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy rpgs for what seems like forever (oh dear, I’ve already hit my gaming quarticentennial) then you’ve played every iteration of generic fantasy world, à la Middle Earth. Whether that world is Abeir-Toril, Oerth, Golarion or one that you and your buddies cooked up in the basement, odds are you started out running from town to town over rolling meadows and through the occasional dark and scary forest – before delving into a dungeon. And you loved every minute of it. But as you play and grow, gain experience, and level up as a player you hunger for new and exciting realms to explore, save… or terrorize.

Porphyra gives you plenty of options and one of those is the Siwathi Desert. With a loose backdrop hinting at Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights there’s a myriad of options both for one-off adventures, as well as long-term campaigns where you can really focus on the grit of survival in a less than hospitable environment – hope you’re up to date on the environmental rules.

There’s always the standard invasion of a pyramid full of undead, warring with the local flea-bags – I mean gnolls – or a war of succession involving the ever aging Ha’roun al-Rashid but this is only the surface of the adventuring potential. Tombs full of undead, gnolls, succession wars – those could take place anywhere, but the majesty of the Siwathi is the remnants of the elemental lords, the zendiqi, and the shifting roles of each.
There are twelve elemental lords resigned to living in the darkness, worshiped only by shadowy cults and the zendiqi. Each of the elementals formally known as gods rained elemental crystals into the sterile desert when they were banished from divinity by the New Gods. Each one of the elemental stones possess a tiny bit of the malice, hate, and anger of the elementals, but some contain more darkness than others.

There are so many options to terrorize…I mean play, with your players.

For example:

In the ruins of an old temple complex stands a tower and that tower has a complex mechanism inside, gears and motors – ticking around and around, looking suspiciously like something from the far-off Clockwork Lands, though these gears continue, unmuddied by time or sand. Atop the strange ticking tower, a clock keeps time, each number on the clock, has a depression designed for a stone of power. Eleven of the twelve stones have been found and placed in their respective slots, only a powerful shard of the elemental lord Kurofu the Shadow is missing from the Ticking Tower.

What’s going to happen when the final stone is placed in the tower?

This is where the real fun can begins You, as a creative and insightful DM can take your players on a carpet ride going in any direction you want. Are they going to try and find the stone themselves? And what will they do once they have it? Are they going to run into an evil cult dedicated to the resurrection of the elemental lords or is it an ancient doomsday device the elemental lords put in motion in the final days of the war they saw themselves losing? What would you have done? I’d have made a doomsday device powered by Sphere of Annihilation but, hey, that’s me.

With all the fun of the elemental lords you also have the terribly xenophobic, territorial, and somewhat unpleasant zendiqi. Winning over difficult civilizations can be a rich and rewarding roleplaying experience for players and DMs alike. This also gives your players an opportunity to play the xenophobes, on a holy crusade to reestablish the power of their fallen Lords. If you decide to play a group zendiqi you can even follow the path of their fallen Lords attempting to restore them to their rightful place.

The Siwathi Desert gives you a lot more options than a standard generic desert, and with a bit of creativity you can run an entire campaign based around the unique aspects of the desert, or simply drop a party there for a few levels of fun.

I hope I knocked few inspirations free in that brain of yours with my musings, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions or ideas.

If you are looking for books related to this post might I suggest:

  • Elemental Lords of Porphyra by Perry Fehr which contains background on all of the fallen Elemental Lords and their war with the New Gods of Porphyra.
  • For more player and GM information  on the Desert of Siwath and its inhabitants, I would recommend Heroes of the Siwathi Desert by Perry Fehr and Josh McCrowell.

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