Goals for Druids: Reversing Desertification

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 15 July 2013

I like adding elements of environmentalism to my games. This came out in my article for Melora and in my Acadia game where one of the tensions I explicitly set up was between the ship builders and their need for a certain type of timber and the gnomes and other forest folk who made their homes in those trees. I recently heard about the underground forests in places like Niger and the work being done to make them rise again in an attempt to combat desertification.Apple ValleyApple Valley

Basically, in some deserts, there are stumps or seedlings of trees that, with care and cultivation, could turn into trees. If this is done, they not only provide their own goods, in the form of shade, firewood, etc, they also make the land around them more productive. We didn't know this because for years we destroyed them, allowed cattle to feed on them, and didn't prune them. Some farmers purposefully destroyed them believing that they would decrease yield. According to the article, in some areas crop yields increased 2 to 3 times after practicing these techniques.

Introducing in Game

There's a few ways one could introduce this in game.

  • Have local groups fight over land where these procedures aren't being used. Allow nature-type checks to be used to find out a non-violent solution to the conflict.
  • If the PCs leave the well-travelled roads, have one of the communities they meet practice this type of cultivation. If you are making a morally grey world, it easily could be one of the "monster" groups, similar to some groups of Horde in World of Warcraft. However be careful to not make this into a typical "savages" narrative that we find all too often in fantasy.
  • Make finding such a solution the life's goal of an NPC and have him or her ask one or more PCs to aid in the development of these techniques.
  • Providing Information and Implementing

    What information to provide and how to provide it depends on what type of game you are running. For instance, if the game is primarily about dungeon delving with very little social interaction, downtime, or character backstory, providing detailed information to your players about what needs to happen to produce one of these green zones isn't necessary and may be overkill. Providing a journal or tome that details this information that they can then redeem in town for rewards should work and, if the campaign goes on for some time in the game world, you can describe the changes that are occurring when the enter town after a trek.

    If the characters are interested in being more directly involved, I'd suggest doing some research on the techniques and the outcomes. Then decide if the PCs should research and experiment themselves on what techniques work best or if they are going to be more involved in the implementation stage. It all depends on what you and your players find interesting. This would be a great use for in-game-world downtime and I'd suggest going for simplicity and success over simulation.

    Also, remember that the challenges presented to the PCs don't have to be limited to finding information or providing physical labor. If you listen to Tony Rinado's story, you'll notice that he had to convince a lot of people, at many different levels of society, that this worked and was a good idea.

    Describing The Changes

    In the video, Tony Rinaudo discusses how the environment and the local culture changed due to these techniques. I'd suggest figuring out a time line for how this could change the local game world and play it out as either NPCs or PCs employ these techniques. Change the description as they venture outside of town. Have the NPCs thank the PCs for making it easier to get firewood or for the increased prosperity for town. Decrease the number of conflicts based on competition for resources. Add new people to the town, people who were enticed to come there based on the developments.

    What ideas do you have? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.

    Image: "Apple Valley" © 2012 Gwyneth Ravenscraft, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/


I've done something similar before, where Druids would choose a biome (forest, plains, mountains, desert etc) and be able to develop, care take, protect local species (and monsters) and improve the area. A lot of fun with NPC interactions and towns in the areas.

A wood nature spirit who had gone into hibernation is roused when the area revives and seeks to reward those responsible.

This is an interesting idea! Having personal side goals for PCs really helps develop their storyline.

This has given me an idea. I have made magic a cause, unknown by most, of pollution.

The players were seeking a way to help out farmers in a region with a drought. They learned of a "wizard" (as opposed to a mage) who could cast spells that could affect vast regions (realm magic.) They sought the wizard out and found out that although he could cast a weather spell, he informed them that it would greatly damage the boundaries between this plane and the other planes. The by product of magic damaged the environment in unseen ways. The greater the spell, the greater the damage. Although it would help the farmers it would ultimately damage the lands. He was in fact loath to cast any spells at all and spent his time researching magic theory.

They learned why the lands around great evil magic were always blighted...and that even the party's castings contributed to this magic pollution.

In my game should there be conflict between some druid sects and magic users?

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