Thursday 2 March 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #61: Dead Ends and Caverns of the Scarp

 One hex northeast, three north of Alakran.


Legend has it that the seven elder gods of Urighem raised the Scarp during the First Epoch, as a wall to protect their tributary empire from the dragons and demons of the Land of Fire and Shadow far beyond Dulsharna. In any case, the Urig Empire soon enough crossed this boundary of red, brown, and orange sandstone. It varies from three to six hundred feet in height, dividing the lands in its steep and sheer ascent from the plain, badlands, and hills around it.

Desire for alternate crossing places has led humanity at various times to indulge in fits of exploration of the Scarp, seeking in vain for a cave or gully that lets on the other side. Well, if they found such a thing, they would have kept it a secret, no? A map showing another crossing fit for camels, when Dulsharna knew better days, would have been worth a solid-gold throne, and even now would excite considerable interest. In this spirit, and seeing that this hex has several badland dead-ends to the east, here is a d6 table of what might be found in any given section after much diligent exploration (1/4 chance plus successful Nature skill check that one of these features is found in a 5-mile stretch after 5 full days exploring.) 

1. Dead end box canyon. Scratched on the end wall, in the ancient script: "Here I run no further. They approach! If you read these words, know that I, Gergo of Eryptum, stood and died for the lies of a King!"

2. Frustration climb. A series of ledges and handholds looks like it can reach a notch between peaks on the ridgetop. In truth, perspective is playing tricks, and it only reaches a ledge halfway up, but with magnificent views of the country all around for at least 25 miles.

3. Thorny fissure. A crack in the stone face at ground level, barely a yard across, is choked with thorny vines, and where it ends cannot be seen. If the thorns are cleared away, the crack continues 30' before ending -- no way through the Scarp, but there is a leather sack with 400 gp in it, the coins minted a couple of centuries ago.

4. Cave shelter. Wider than it is deep, this sandstone hollow at ground level has eroded over a floor deposit of shale, which bears the charred bruises of old campfires. Very old, almost invisible petroglyphs show humans (?) hunting a wild animal unknown in these lands today - the horse.

5. Pillared cave. Unclear whether erosion or digging created this narrow crack, a 10' climb up the scarp, that opens up on a 10' x 80' winding gallery, doted with irregular pillars of yellow sandstone, floor to ceiling. What is clear is that someone has used it as a shrine, with a crude wooden statue of a bird-footed woman (maybe demon ruler of the dead, Ereshkigal?) at the end of the passage. The gallery gets chillier as it winds on, clue to a wraith that haunts the statue.

6. Lost passage through! This 4' square cave entrance 30' up the Scarp dips and rises, twists and turns, and has four dead end branches going 100-1000' each, but at the end of it all reaches its and, clogged with packed sand that, if cleared, opens up under an outcropping at floor level of the Scarp's other side.


  1. Maybe I missed this in an earlier post, but it's hard to follow an atomised per-hex breakdown: is one side of the scarp uplands, and the other lowlands? Or is it a "wall" of stone? I did reread hex #4 just now but am not certain...

  2. Yeah, I have a somewhat weird definition of "scarp". It is basically a wall, but there is some inequality between the elevation of one side and the other.