Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Nature Of The Steppes

The Nature of the Steppes

Many have wondered why the great steppes have not given rise to one of the Great Cultures of Glorantha.  They fail to understand what may be found in the depths of Pent, for it is something that far outstrips the concept of a Great Culture.  The steppe holds the possibility of producing a new culture, one that will outlast the others, one that may bury at least one of the others beneath a tide of blood and ash.

There is no one culture to be found here.  It is a vibrant blend of cultures current and fragments of cultures past, following a melting pot of spirits and gods, seething as they blend into one another, people and spirits and gods becoming something new as a new balance is found.

The land is harsh and unwelcoming, the summers hot and dry, winters frozen and deadly.  Six seasons are observed, in Kralorelan fashion, with the year beginning at Spring Equinox.  The Six Seasons are Defrost, Dryland, Wetland, Richland, Frost & Ice, lasting 7 weeks each. The people mirror the land in many ways, yet in truth they welcome all-comers who are strong enough to win themselves a place.
The great explorer Bu Shan of Canduth made his way from Teshnos to Chern Durel, and from there began his life’s work ‘With the Fire of Solf, into the barbarian West’.  He doesn’t appear to have entered the Redlands, but otherwise criss-crossed Pent for three decades.  He divided the wide lands into seven different areas, separated by climate, flora, fauna, and inhabitants.

Firstly, there is the Shan Shan Fringe.

Second, the Eastern Steppe.

Third, the Hot Lake in the midst.

Fourth, the Rockwood Fringe to the South.

Fifth, the Tundra and the Littoral, to the North.

Sixth, the Central Steppe.

Seventh, the Western Steppe and the Redlands.

Our initial journey will follow his path and pattern, but the inhabitants will be dealt with separately.

The Shan Shan Fringe
Broken foothills during Dryland
Bu Shan started his journey cautiously, accompanying a group he named 'the Sixteenth Sent Children', apparently an Ignorant trading party, along the edges of the mountains to small clans of hsunchen they already had relationships with.  His vivid descriptions of the arid valleys, so much in contrast to those of his homeland, have been credited with making his writings such a success.
He was a scholar as well as a zealous devotee of Solf, and during this three year expedition he was able to observe the land in some detail.

Season           Low         High        (Celsius)
Dryland          0           10

Wetland          6           18

Richland        -8          8

Frost           -16         -7

Ice             -16         -3

Defrost         -4          8

Flora – Grasses, Sagebrush, Milk Vetch, Tumbleweed, Fir, Blue Poppy

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Sorenzar Eagle, Giant Bats

Predators   Pack Spider, Urgarugar, Red Fox, Tiger, Storm Tiger,
            Ghouls, Romal

Large Prey  Goat, Sheep, Donkey, Yak, Panda, Gangan

Small Prey  Mice

The Eastern Steppe during Defrost

Eastern Steppe
Having been cursed with a respiratory disease, and being unwilling to allow any foreign healer near him, Bo Shan had to spend the next two seasons recovering his strength.
He then contracted with a group of Pentan traders from the Haralika Barog to accompany them as they moved amongst the tribes of the nearer step.  This journey took a further year and a half, and while his data is sketchy from this initial visit, the fact that he would have to travel this way repeatedly in future years allowed him to discover more.

Season                  Low         High        (Celsius)
Dryland                 10          22

Wetland                 12          26

Richland                -4          12

Frost                   -34         -4

Ice                     -34         -12

Defrost                 -12         13


Flora – Grasses, Sagebrush, Rhubarb, Milk Vetch, Tumbleweed, Hazia

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle

Predators   Pack Spider, Urgarugar, Red Fox, Fell Wolf, Romal

Large Prey  Horse, Cattle, Pig, Reindeer, Donkey, Mastodon

Small Prey  Steppe Tortoise, Shrew, Hare

The Hot Lake
The approach from the north west during Dryland
His Pentan guides having eventually revealed that they had hidden much from him, believing him to be a Kralorelan spy, Bo Shan heard from them tales of a miraculous land, filled with riches and towered cities and strange creatures found nowhere else on the steppe.  He set off with a small bodyguard of Ignorants, and after a long search discovered the Hot Lake city states.  (He doesn't specify the duration of the search, but continuously rails against the 'proverbial stubbornness of the Ignorant', as his bodyguards kept to their faith and were amused and irritated in turns by his desire to convert them.)  Here he discovered that riches did not mean the same thing in Pent as it did in Teshnos....

Season                      Low         High        (Celsius)
Dryland                    0           18

Wetland          12          26

Richland         -4          12

Frost            -10         -4

Ice              -13         -3

Defrost          -3          13

Flora – Grasses, Barley, Tumbleweed, Spruce, Elm, Apricot, Pear, 
        Apple, Peach

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle

Predators   Red Fox

Large Prey  Horse, Cattle, Goat, Pig, Sheep, Reindeer, Donkey

Small Prey  Steppe Tortoise, Shrew, Hare

Aquatic     Sea Serpent, Fish, Crab, Lobster, Urchin

The Rockwood Fringe
Steppe Eagle atop a broken Darkness-era  Uz Baskolith
At the Hot Lake Bo Shan met up with his former travelling companions of the Haralika Barog, and persuaded them to accept his company again.  This time their path led along the edge of the Rockwoods, all the way to the edge of the Redlands.  This was to be a significant journey of discovery, and his recollections of seeing a herd of bison (a beast that was new to him) stampede over the pack spiders that were hunting them is regarded as a high point of Teshnan literature.

Season          Low         High        (Celsius)
Dryland                    5                     14

Wetland          13          18

Richland         3           14

Frost            -3          3

Ice              -3          5

Defrost          0           13

Flora – Grasses, Sagebrush, Milk Vetch, Sweet Vernal, Tumbleweed, 

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle, Giant Bats, Gargoyle

Predators   Pack Spider, Urgarugar, Leaping Bear, Red Fox, Quenlarg,

Large Prey  Horse, Goat, Reindeer, Donkey, Gangan, Bison

Small Prey  Steppe Tortoise, Shrew

Tundra & Littoral
Wrangel Island tundra.jpg
Northern Pent during Richland
Bo Shan's return to the Hot Lake, some four years after his departure, coincided with a major punitive expedition by Kralorelan forces.  From a number of confusing comments in Book Five of his record, it has been surmised that he advised the Pentans on Kralorelan strategems.  This is, however, unproven.  The fall of the Hot Lake to temporary occupation certainly appears to be the trigger that leads him to journey into the inhospitable north.

Season          Low         High        (Celsius)

Dryland          -5          3

Wetland          0           6

Richland         -11         0

Frost            -24         -11

Ice              -28         -16

Defrost          -16         1

Flora – Scrub Grass, Sedge, Caribou Moss, Willow, Arctic Willow,

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle

Predators   Inora Fox, Nur San, Fell Wolf, Quenlarg,  Hollri

Large Prey  Reindeer

Small Prey  Shrew, Arctic Hare, Mice

Aquatic     Fish, Seal, Walrus, Whale

Tree on the Mongolian steppe (June 1997).jpg
Central Steppe during Wetland
Central Steppe
The clan that was sheltering Bo Shan normally included a large part of the Central Steppe in their range, and so it was that Bo Shan found himself there.  He was becoming fluent in several dialects of Pentan, and was appointed a diplomat for the clan.  His negotiations with the 'pit-grubbers' must surely be the earliest written record of the Gord Un, particularly in the light of his experiencing a 'Fist of Pain' curse.

Season            Low         High        (Celsius)
Dryland                      7                     13

Wetland           10          18

Richland          0           10

Frost             -30         0

Ice               -30         -10

Defrost           -10         7

Flora – Grasses, Sagebrush, Milk Vetch, Sweet Vernal, Tumbleweed,

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle

Predators   Pack Spider, Urgarugar, Red Fox, Fell Wolf, Romal

Large Prey  Horse, Cattle, Goat, Pig, Sheep, Reindeer, Donkey

Small Prey  Steppe Tortoise, Shrew, Hare

The Western Steppe & Redlands
Bo Shan's return to Jangi-Shar some twenty eight years after he departed it was quite ignominious, and his travel to Tesnos took another five years, thanks to the 'Fist of Pain'.
He was finally healed physically, but never recovered his composure sufficiently for him to resume his explorations.  The western portions of Pent were to wait another century before 
Ma Hejji of the Jankley Bor Green Ape Monastery journeyed to  Hortugarth in Imther on his quest for the Soapstone Stele.

  Season                         Low                High        (Celsius)
 Dryland                       6                      14

 Wetland           13          25

 Richland          0           12

 Frost             -5          0

 Ice               -9          0

 Defrost           0           12

Flora – Grasses, Milk Vetch, Sweet Vernal, Tumbleweed, Beech, Hazia,

Distinctive Fauna
Aerial      Steppe Eagle, Griffin

Predators   Pack Spider, Urgarugar, Red & Blue Foxes, Sakkar, 
            Fell Wolf, Romal

Large Prey  Horse, Cattle, Goat, Pig, Sheep, Reindeer, Donkey, 
            Sable, Brotard

Small Prey  Steppe Tortoise, Shrew, Hare

Bo Shan's nine volume masterwork has been challenged for accuracy, ignored by the Ignorant (preferring Ma Hejji's Plains of Basko) and even parodied by some mockers in Kralorela.  It has never been surpassed as a guide to Pent.

Temperature Note:
Some of the temperature differences between seasons seem dramatic – they are!  Overnight plunges or morning searing ascents are far from unknown.  Indeed, it is part of what makes the steppe so hard to survive.  Exploding trees are a well -known phenomenon on the first day of Frost Season in many areas.


  1. Hi. What are Urgarugar, Gangan and Romal. Looking for info so I could add them to Rq Encounter Generator.

    1. Are there any notes available on the above three...

  2. Ahh. found them with a better search...