The Sonoran Desert


At dawn, a blood-red sun hangs sullenly over a burnt and tortured landscape. Some is nuclear desert, poisoned by the side-effects of attacks on the great coastal cities of the Ancients. About 150 years of radiation exposure has created new and terrible lifeforms, and played havoc with pre-existing ones. It is a vast land of living nightmares.

The desert is a simmeringly hot (especially in summer) dust bowl skinned of cacti and even the most hardy vegetation on its surface, where winds shriek and howl as they hurtle over the landscape. If a storm sweeping in from the ocean drops rain, it is a curse rather than a blessing – the rain is so alkali that it can strip a man to the bone in shrieking agony.

Yet some life survives. In the nooks and crannies, or in the depths of caves, some familiar living thing may be found. There are also the types of bacteria that live in sulphur springs and the like, able to neutralize chemicals or use and reshape the molecules to build their own bodies. These live deep enough in the sand to avoid the rainfall, but shallow enough to tap it as ground moisture. Other micro-creatures live at the surface because they thrive on the alkili contaminants. And there are the things that eat microscopia. And the bugs that eat them. And the insectivores. And eventually, at the top of the chain, a few Sep, incredibly rare but almost certainly lethal when they do appear, each one needing a vast territory to keep itself fed.

In the hot desert, the landscape consists mostly of sand and some patches of rock, sticking out like islands in a sea of sand. The baking sun strips moisture away from the body by day, necessitating travel by night. This hostile land looks utterly lifeless … and the PC’s, should they choose to enter (or be forced to), should find skeletons and mummies of dead creatures about as often as they find something living.

The desert stretches from the Gulf of California partway up the slopes of the Sierra Occidental. In Arizona, it extends as far northeast as the ruins of Phoenix and along the mountains of central Arizona. A small projection crosses the Colorado River and extends westward towards the ruins of San Bernardino. This northwestern prong is barely habitable. The desert does not extend as far north as Las Vegas.

There are no peoples living permanently in the main body of the Sonoran Desert. The peoples around it do not remember its correct name; they believe “Sonora” refers to a destination (a paradise or a city or some sort of mythic land) on the opposite side of this sea of sand.

from “The Deathlands” series

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Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2019 by Brian Judt, all rights reserved. Permission is granted to use this information, and the maps for personal (non-commercial) use only.


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