3 Generations After the End: The Forests

This article is part of 3 Generations After The End, a post-apocalyptic setting suitable for any role-playing system.

The face of the world has irrevocably changed, three generations after the end. The landscape is divided neatly between vast swathes of desolate waste and gigantic, ancient forests. Arable land that has not become completely overgrown is an incredible rarity in the world, and all of that has long since been claimed by the warlords or the sorcerer-kings. Many of the remaining cities have been built within the crumbling remains of those left from before the end, crowding along the coasts of rivers, lakes, and oceans. These are almost invariably held under sway by the ineffable whims of the Priesthood. Wherever one can gain a fleeting sense of security, one also must have to sacrifice liberty.

Magic seems to have not only returned to humankind. The forests are, perhaps, the most dangerous place in the world. Technology begins to inexplicably break down and malfunction, the further one strays from civilization, but there is nowhere worse than deep within the forests, where technology just doesn’t work at all. Even more primitive implements such as compasses can often lead one astray; the magic imbuing the place seems to disrupt natural as well as artificial magnetic fields. This may also contribute to some of the more subjective experiences, deep in the woods; spending too much time in the wilds can lead to dizziness, confusion, exhaustion, and anxiety. These effects seem to be particularly bad to those with natural magical talent of their own; not only does magic frequently misfire or go astray, but but it is more exhausting for the caster to carry through. Worse, it seems that many flora and fauna within the forests and jungles seem naturally attracted to magic, zeroing in on the errant caster, often ignoring their companions completely.

Very few animals still dwell within the forests, and those that do are monstrous. The plants themselves, it seems, have become the chief predators, preying both upon each other, and anything else that wanders too far in whether for folly or for food. Many have changed into things unrecognizable from what they may once have been, developing bulbous, tuberous, vining, sticking, and piercing structures to assist in their predations. Nearly every predatory plant can exhibit short bursts of incredible growth, draining storage organs and shrivelling pseudobulbs in order to achieve these wild grasps. Roots, stems, and even flowers are often covered in minute hairs, which sense something brushing against them, or even walking over the ground above, and stimulate the plant to strike. These hairs can also serve another purpose as well; many are packed full of potent crystallized toxins, causing skin that brushes against them to burn, scab, or even necrotize. Many pollens serve a double-duty as soporific agents, lulling the breathers into a narcotic sleep. Spines and mucilaginous glands along the leaves and stems further serve to deliver the plants’ predatory payloads to their unsuspecting victims. Once bound by rapidly-growing vines, disabled by poison or injury, or simply exhausted from fighting back cruel nature, the plants slowly grow over their victims. Adventitious roots pour out of any part of the plant and dive into the flesh, drawing out nutrients as they exude enzymes that breaks down the tissue. Even calcium is drawn out from the bones, eventually, leaving nothing as evidence after only a couple weeks.

People venturing into the forests, whether for adventure or for forage, often do not return. Rescue parties are a rare sight; usually once someone has been attacked, there is very little chance of survival. Nevertheless, the sight of a scarred, scabbed individual is not an uncommon one within the settlements nearest to the forests. Some are even permanently disfigured from their experiences in the wild. It is sheer folly to venture within the woods alone, so oftentimes a member of an adventuring group will take a misstep and be attacked by feral foliage, and for the rest of their lives bear the marks of the encounter. Yet the incredible bounty promised within the forests continues to draw the brave and the desperate; despite all of the deadliness, there is also an abundance of edible fruits, roots, and fungus. Many nomadic groups travel from forest to forest, foraging and scavenging within for items of subsistence and trade, as well as for the components of valuable medicines which they can produce. It is unreasonable, therefore, to make any sort of attempt to destroy the forests wholesale, despite the threat they present, because it is counterbalanced by their incredible fecundity of natural resources.

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