This last week was a close poll, with the Verdas Jungle winning out by a single vote. It’s the home of the Bard, who’s also always getting in by the skin of their teeth, so that feels appropriate.
Verdas is one of those “this region could be the whole setting” sort of places, and its colorful setting, complex politics, and different tilt on standard fantasy tropes really appeals to me. I’d love to run a game here, fighting in and around the looming hegemonic threat of the Ivory Throne, dealing with ancient mysteries buried in the jungle, and playing in the largest city and democracy in the known world.
Let’s check it out, shall we?
This tropical rainforest covers most of the continental landmass south of the Kharzan Mountains and is bounded by Mergather Gulf to the north and the Quiet Sea to the east and south. While its coastline is composed of multiple short watersheds, the vast majority of Verdas drains into the the east-flowing Webiga River. Many different Speaking Peoples call Verdas home: kobolds, gajanana, goblins, kappa, and cuca among them, living in both cosmopolitain communities and homogenous enclaves. The interactions between these communities is often dizzyingly complex to foreigners from outside.
In rough political terms, Verdas is organized into a multitude of smaller states and independent cities, towns, and villages north of the Webiga, while the south is dominated by the sprawling Ivory Queendom. The gajanana queens of the Ivory Throne have a long history of seeing themselves as the natural rulers of the entire basin, which has led to many conflicts, armed and otherwise, with the smaller, northern states. Resistance to Ivory domination is a common theme in northern politics, often crystalizing around the democracy-loving city of Mazzantlindong, on the northern banks of the lower Webiga. Every defensive coalition or free states federation that arose in the north, however, collapsed shortly after the initial impetus for their creation has passed.
The entirety of the Verdas Jungle has been roped into a long-running trade war with the dwarves of Kharzan. The origins of the price-gouging and market-starving conflict arose three generations ago from a diplomatic incident in which the then-King Under the Mountain insulted the then-Ivory Queen. In communications he believed to be private, he compared the Verdas Jungle with Wildermarch and dismissed them both as primitive backwaters that could be exploited for raw materials in exchange for the meanest dwarven-manufactured goods.
In response, the elephant queen directed her ministers to create a trade fleet to export goods to Wildermarch. The Ivory Queendom had absolutely no naval tradition—their shallow-hulled river boats are unsuited to ocean-going—but their new, awkwardly-constructed ships successfully circumnavigated the Asfixis Caldera and reached Dion. Kharzan retalitated by cutting off trade with the Ivory Throne and selectively prefering rival states in the north. This in turn prompted the Ivory Queendom to cut trade with those states. The various municipalities of the north, many of which relied on trading with both of the two larger powers, were forced to choose just one.
Verdas was one of the last regions to capitulate to the Dread Tyrant, and by the time his influence reached the jungles, many saw submission as little more than the price of doing business. Tributes were arranged peaceably and very little changed in day-to-day life. The Ivory-Kharzan trade war continued unabated. By contrast, the sudden absence of the Tyrant’s tribute demands today means that all municipalities have suddenly found themselves flush with funding. This has led to a wave of civic improvements as well as a surge in military spending. Whether this turns into a tinderbox or a renaissance—or both—remains to be seen.
For next week, we’ve got a grab-bag of a whole bunch of goodies. Goblins (who need no introduction), the big meta-category of the Speaking Peoples, the big noisy city of Mazzantlindong, and the deadly geographical mystery of Asfixix Crater. What’ll it be?