Archives of Nethys

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Infinite Worlds


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 72
Never ideal for an easy journey, mountain terrain varies greatly. Mountains can be glorified hillsides with very few trees, extreme ranges spanning thousands of miles coated in dense forest, and desert peaks with brittle climbing conditions relentlessly heated beneath a harsh sun.
The common hazards of even the most mundane mountains— steep cliffs, deep ravines with rushing rivers at the bottom, low oxygen, extra hours of night and weeks of winter, and the constant threat of avalanche and rock slide—are amplified all the more by the endless potential of science fantasy. Anything could await atop the next peak, from magically animated, ever-shifting stone to dangerous apex predators that can scale near-vertical surfaces with supernatural ease. Higher altitude also comes with colder temperatures, even on a sunny day. Nights can turn bone‑chilling quickly, and high winds might make it difficult to start a fire. Campsites must be scouted ahead, and mercurial weather conditions can turn deadly in an instant. Barren desert plateaus might pose a challenge for travelers whose equipment requires regular cleaning with water. Extra equipment weighs anyone down, with picks, oxygen tanks, and camping gear stuffed into oversized packs. Weather events, such as rain, can turn into ice storms at higher elevations. In warmer climes, desert heat and dehydration can quickly endanger unprepared trekkers.
However, where there is death, there is also great propensity for life. Mountain wildlife evolves to be nimble and quiet, often making it difficult to detect without magic or advanced technology. Sometimes enormous and covered in fur, other times slithering along the ground, these creatures have adapted to difficult circumstances and treacherous terrain. Even the rockiest, craggiest peaks are rife with lush moss, fat highbush berries, and edible weeds. Glacial runoff and deep-rooted springs offer crisp, clean drinking water. Small critters make for easy game, and dense, dry trees provide plentiful firewood. Medicinal herbs grow thick in shaded regions, though this highlights the need to know the difference between the edible, the medicinal, and the poisonous. Many of these delights are well-documented in guidebooks, but there is still ample opportunity for discovery.
Some mountains stand alone, formidable paragons of the form that hold great mysteries not just at their peaks, but along their jagged crevasses and treacherous rock faces. Others form extensive ranges that stretch for thousands of miles of seemingly endless elevation change, slowing all but the hardiest travelers to a crawl. At their base, mountains might ease into sloping, heavily treed hillsides or vast expanses of shale and eroded boulders.
Whatever shape their homes take, sapient inhabitants of mountain biomes turn to technological and magical solutions to mitigate the dangers of mountain living. Whether carving their homes into the rock, constructing elaborate, sturdy-strutted buildings among the cliffs, or even camouflaging their presence with boulder-size, rock-textured dwellings, mountain inhabitants are often as rugged as their surroundings.

Mountain Adventurers

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 72
Those who live in mountain climes gradually adapt to the lack of oxygen and become acclimated to high-altitude living (Core Rulebook 397), which also serves them well in worlds and environments with thin atmospheres.
On top of their physical adaptability, adventurers from these regions tend to come with a cynical humor and mental preparedness for worst-case scenarios and sudden catastrophe. Although mountain-raised adventurers are mostly individualistic, there is one trait that nearly all share regardless of planet, race, or climate: sheer rugged grit. Growing up in these unpredictable environments makes for hardy characters with relentless attitudes, whether upbeat or fatalistic.
Between the mines and other precious resources that flow from the mountains, these regions tend to attract those seeking glory and quick riches. Sadly, the mountains often provide neither. Often, by the time travelers reach these deposits, they find them already plundered. Those glory-seekers who survive often settle the area, usually passing down stories of the riches that got away.
Adventurers who hail from mountains often have hardy Survival skills born of necessity, while Physical Science helps them predict and adapt to their ever-changing circumstances. Those whose culture revolves around the spiritual draw of mountains might be well versed in Mysticism, while others might have a more economic bent, lending themselves well to any number of related Profession skills.
New arrivals to mountain regions face a steep learning curve and often rely on technology to fill in the gaps. With these resources required to live, newcomers find themselves operating alone or in small groups, as trusting the wrong people might leave them without the necessary equipment to make it through the next day.

Mountain Worlds

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 73
The vast majority of terrestrial planets have some kind of mountainous region, though the diversity of their wildlife and landscapes may obscure the common thread which links them. Planets composed entirely of mountains are often lightly populated—usually with small settlements scattered across peaks and valleys—and feature a great range of environments. The valley floor might be hot and extremely wet, while the mountain itself might be fully iced over and dry enough to crack skin. Desert mountains might be the inverse of this, with higher altitudes providing wetter conditions than the valleys.
Due to this diversity, flora and fauna have evolved to withstand many unique hurdles. Creatures accustomed to wetlands in other regions prefer to explore higher, drier areas, and many light-preferring animals have become accustomed to longer bouts of shady weather. All inhabitants have learned to live with big earthquakes and small aftershocks.
A commonality among most mountain worlds is a lack of moisture. Whether such planets are covered in dusty desert or bone-chilling ice, the air is dry and difficult to breathe. Face coverings and breathing apparatuses are necessary to avoid long days of upward crawls that slowly turn lethargic as throats crack and brains starve for oxygen.
Mountain worlds often experience outsized tectonic activity, rock slides, and avalanches. The damage caused by even small tremors can be catastrophic for valley cities or hillside homes. Mountainsides can be riddled with the bodies of fallen travelers, climbers, and prospectors. Due to the remoteness and danger of collecting these bodies, they are often left behind without a burial, and it is not uncommon for the undead to roam these vast ranges.

Mountain Rules And Reference

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 73
A short but comprehensive set of rules for mountain adventure is available in the Core Rulebook on page 397. This section outlines the different aspects of mountains, from chasms to Perception checks. The Weather and Environmental Rules sections on pages 398–405 of the Core Rulebook also contain several relevant rules, particularly cold dangers and falling.
For equipment, the gear clamp (Core Rulebook 231) is useful for keeping items together while climbing, and having gems on hand to trade can help when encountering mountain-dwelling miners who prefer to barter solely in valuable minerals.
Perhaps the most famous mountain in the Pact Worlds is Akiton’s Ka, Pillar of the Sky (Pact Worlds 55), which is the site of many spiritual journeys made to its peak and a bustling market at its foot. Extensive and mysterious mountain ranges can be found on many planets, such as Castrovel’s Singing Range (Pact Worlds 36) or on the Liavaran moon Osoro (Pact Worlds 116), where settlements sit on mountaintops emerging from a sea of toxic gases.

Mountain Toolbox

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 74
See Biome Subsections on page 46 for advice on how to use the following tables.

Mountain Inhabitants

1–4Azata, tritidairAkata
21–24Dragon, blueDeh-nolo
25–28EmbriDust Manta
29–32EspraksaElemental, earth
41–44IkeshtiGlass Serpent
49–52MaraquoiMarooned one
61–64ReptoidMountain eel
69–72ShobhadRageshkor, rock
73–76SkittermanderScavenger slime
81–84Uplifted bearShotalashu

Mountain Adventure Hooks

D20Adventure Hook
1 A haunting call from a dangerous mountain peak has led travelers to their death since the end of the Gap, inspiring local folklore. The same mountain also harbors a rare herb that is key to cutting-edge bioweapon research.
2 In nearby foothills, mountain eels make for dangerous sport. When a rare white eel is sighted, trophy hunters from neighboring regions seek out an opportunity to be the first to capture the creature.
3 Starship mechanics and modifiers are invited to a retreat by a wealthy collector deep in the mountains. Once they arrive, they find that the retreat was a fabrication, and they have been lured for an extremely specific purpose.
4 A lucrative mining job comes with a critical downside: the ramshackle mine is heavily irradiated by an unknown source, requiring exceptional modifications to staffed mining equipment and personal protections alike—and that’s just to breathe.
5 An infamous space pirate is being held in severe lockdown conditions in a prison deep beneath a remote mountain. Rumor has it that they have a map to a large trove of fabled starship parts, which many parties would give anything to obtain.
6 Worshipers of a mountain range are so heavily against the proposed development of the area that they plan to force-crash an asteroid into its primary construction site, stating “If we can’t save it from slow death, we will give it the mercy of a quick one.”
7 Strong, little-understood mountain-born winds turn devastating when they carry deadly plant compounds straight toward a large city in a peaceful valley. Can the source of the contamination be found and cut off?
8 A mountain region has been the domain of a single rogue contemplative for what seems like an eternity. When the contemplative passes on, their journals are found filled with strange, apocalyptic prophesies that speak of the mountains coming to life. What dangerous truths lie in these premonitions?
9 When a disputed will leaves a small patch of fertile mountain range up for grabs, the local government announces that the territory is free to anyone willing to get there first and lay their claim.
10 An accidental explosion at a mine has broken a mountain into a thousand pieces and devastated the surrounding valley, littering the area with chunks of rock filled with precious gems. Word spreads quickly, spurring a rush for the valuable resources and upending the routines of several nearby communities.
11 A company-controlled mine has long held a monopoly on a much-needed and supposedly rare mineral. Rumors have begun to spread that the mine magically regenerates its minerals each day, and that the company is artificially restricting the supply to jack up prices.
12 A massive earthquake destroyed a mountain range’s network of exclusive resorts and hideaways for the wealthy. Now the site is in ruins, filled with unguarded riches and roaming undead, attracting the brave and foolhardy from across the system.
13 Archaeologists digging along mountains thought to be untouched by sapient creatures have uncovered evidence of a historic anacite presence. Stranger still, the deeper in the rock this evidence is buried, the more recent and developed the anacite technology seems to be, directly contradicting the geological evidence.
14 A city carved into a mountain bustles with activity and nightlife except for one week every year, when it must shut down to appease the great and hungry beast that crawls from its cave and seeks fresh blood.
15 A chasm-filled mountain range is known for attracting—and trapping—hapless climbers. During a recent rescue mission, several missing climbers kidnap their would-be rescuers to use them as strange tributes for an ancient, unknown evil.
16 Mountain farmers have long made money from illegal hallucinogens that thrive in nearby oxygen-starved climates. One such farmer mixes up his legal order of herbs with an illegal order of a powerful hallucinogen, sending massive quantities into the world.
17 In a valley river, the annual run of fish is a cause for great celebration. The festival lasts two weeks and brings in visitors from all over, including nefarious types who use the celebration as a cover for meeting in secret and plotting criminal acts.
18 When bolidas dig into an enormous gemstone deposit deep within a mountain, a great rush to the area ensues. The resident bolidas, however, are not so keen to give up their find; they ask for outside help to protect their claim.
19 A series of magical tunnels within a mountain swallow some of those who attempt to explore them in an endless time loop. Locals use the maze as the site of a ritual for entering adulthood, but an outsider recently went missing in the mountain, severely disrupting local customs.
20 Extreme sports are all the rage in a resort town adjacent to the highest peaks of a famed mountain. A high number of mysterious accidents have claimed the lives of many in recent months, but officials seem to prioritize keeping the resort open over investigating the cause.