First, quickly go over the current implementation of the region. This stage is about taking stock of what we have to work with.
What does it currently look like?
A quadratic ash basin, surrounded by mountains on all sides. It has three sections to it: the west is very mountainous, transitioning into the Velothi mountains, the center is a bit more open and hilly, and the east is pretty flat and barren.
What is in it? (Settlements? Whose?)
To the east is Arvud, a Hlaalu outpost-town with merchants and accommodations for travellers (by Silt Strider or on foot). In the southern centre is the Ishanuran Camp, one of the major tribes of the Mainland. Some Hlaalu outposts are situated on roads entering and leaving the Armun Ashlands: one building on the pass north of Arvud, one on the pass south of Arvud, and then the outpost in the mountains east of Arvud.
What is the general purpose of the region? Why does it/should it exist?
What is its narrative role?
Zero, it provides an actual Ashland, something that was severely lacking on the Mainland.
First, while the region is no longer really controlled by Redoran, Redoran land is characterized as being harsh and infertile in various ways.
Second, it gives room for Ashlanders, which allows us to further explore their interactions with various factions. It also acts as chokepoint to Hlaalu expansionism, putting greater importance behind their securing the Thirr.
Third, the Ashlands provide a vast, untamed and nearly uninhabited wilderness region in the west which can reasonably be filled by all kinds of challenges and populated by a variety of threats. So it provides a reprieve from the surrounding, largely more settled and safe regions.
What is going on there? (ie. is it challenging wilderness, or does it play an important role in commerce, pilgrimage, etc.?)
The Armun Ashlands is part of the true "Path of Veloth", the route taken by the Chimer during their exodus to the east. The eruption of Red Mountain and all the ash in there make it infeasible for that role in pilgrimages, so the current Path of Veloth is led south of them.
There is limited commerce. Arvud is a merchant outpost, and both it and the isolated nature of the Ashlands attract smugglers and toll-dodgers. There is some commerce between the Hlaalu and the Ashlanders.
The rest is challenging wilderness, with ancient caves and towers. A vampire clan is also located in the Ashlands.
What is the identity of the region? This stage is about establishing the general appearance of the region.
Who inhabits the region?
Hlaalu in Arvud and Ashlanders of the Ishanuran tribe are the main inhabitants. Minor Ashlander (outcast) camps exist. Vampires operate all over the place, but are concentrated in the west.
A few smugglers, desperate outcasts, and a small Twin Lamps cell or two make the Ashlands their home as well (by hiding in caves near the two north-south routes).
Dangerous critters abound, of course.
What are they doing there?
The Hlaalu are keeping the routes open (both the north-south, the west-east, and the secret tunnel). The smugglers, merchants, Twin Lamps, Camonna Tong agents, and all sort of shady or desperate characters are using the routes. The Ashlanders herd shalks and trade with the Hlaalu for foodstuff and iron (?). The vampires are becoming more of a nuisance by infecting and converting people whenever and wherever they can.
Of note are the mines of the Armun Ashlands:
1) Ebony mine, large and with dangerous lava in its depth. Possibly lost or abandoned for any number of reasons.
2) Iron mine, an Imperial penal mine, with the Hlaalu in charge of the prisoners
3) Kwama mine, seems to have been mined before, but has a skeleton somewhere - hit by vampires?
4) Another Ebony mine, not quite detailed, but large and connected to a bandit cave
Who used to inhabit the region (especially before the War of the First Council)?
There was limited Dwemer presence at the edges of the region, especially in the southwest near Kragen. Tribes and clans that would largely become Ashlanders and Redoran inhabited most of the region, eking out a living in a harsh, but not desert at the time, landscape. It was more or less an extension of the modern Roth-Roryn region in landscape, flora and fauna.
What did they do there?
Very little, as it was an uninteresting region. The Dwemer delved into lava and ebony, and the Chimer clans eked out a living as they did in Roth-Roryn.
How densely populated (and where) is the region?
Almost uninhabited, with population not extending much beyond the known settlements and nearby caves.
What is the layout of the region? This stage is about discussing the implementation of the region in broad strokes.
How would the things within the region (dungeons, settlements) be arranged?
Relatively evenly distributed, but there would be more dangers towards the west, whereas the east would be more barren aside from the settlements.
How do we want the player to experience the region in-game?
Generally, the player will only be led through the region for quests, mostly along the roads and settlements. A few high-level quests will pull the player further off the beaten track. Beyond that, exploration of the region would largely be through the player's own initiative, so it wouldn't hurt to sprinkle some interesting rewards for exploration here and there.
Interior & Exterior Implementation
What changes need to be made to bring the exterior of this region up to date?
What assets that we currently have should get used?
Rocks (as used in the Roryn Bluffs file) and possibly ash ponds in the east.
What existing assets need to be modified?
Some of the cliff and ridge assets need some fixing, mostly their collisions, UV maps and vertex shading, also some seams. Not a major issue for the Armun Ashlands at the moment, and the issue also applies to other regions using those models. The TV rocks 09, 12, 14, 15 and 16 would be great as RM ones.
What new assets (models/textures) need to be made?
A greater variety of small and medium rocks (just retextures will do)
Rytelier made some new Ashland assets, but these should perhaps mostly be kept for the Ashlands in Telvannis, which might be more vertical. They should be used sparingly in AA if at all.
Atmospheric and ashy assets, such as sounds (which have been worked on), blowing ash effects (Melchior Dahrk might be able to provide some) and drifts (P:C has used the Bloodmoon snow drifts with sand retextures - see T_Cyr_TerrSandGC_Heap_01 which uses the pc\f\pc_terrain_sand_01.nif mesh), might enhance the region, especially the sparser east. The release would not have to wait for these, though.
Should they ever become available, new creatures are desired as always.
What CS work needs to be done?
1: The general layout of the Armun Ashlands needs a slight overhaul. The ridges in the interior are forming a crisscross, showing cell and claims borders too readily, instead of more natural formations (perhaps mostly east to west). The distribution of Ashland rocks in the east and Red Mountain rocks in the west should be retained.
2: Roads and paths should be more detailed and presentable. Although some paths should be secret it should "look" like it is a path to follow and not ignore. The old Veloth's Path could do with some hints of its identity, especially near the secret tunnel. Perhaps patches of fancier paving, open burials (check Aanthirin), a well hidden shrine or two.
3: Some open areas could do with some closing off, to add a tiny bit extra of that maze like feeling.
4: Detail wise, more hillsides need the terrain rm rocks 02 and 04.
Using the new RM cliff pieces is also important, as some parts of AA has odd looking cliffs that could do with a touchup
5: Southern border could do with some added elevation, using said RM cliff assets and natural terrain shapes. The land should rise up gradually to the south and then have a lip which falls down to the Othreleth valley. The mountains should be broken up somewhat on that side, but should definitely be kept in the eastern pass. The idea being that, rarely, some ash blows down into the Othreleth Woods.
6: The eastern part of the Armun Ashlands, which is currently essentially undetailed, requires additional vents, pools, a few rocks. However, the flatness needs to be retained, with ash-drifts added to preserve a more desert-like atmosphere.
7: An entrance should be added to the eastern exit of Neen, the secret tunnel that connects to Aren Manor in Aanthirin and once was (sort of) part of Veloth’s Path. The entrance should be (and face) due west of the eastern exit, at roughly the same elevation, and should be well hidden and unassuming.
What sort of interiors would this region have (caves, tombs, etc), and in what proportions?
A few tombs, perhaps one or two more Velothi towers, one Chimer stronghold, a few outlander outcasts (anything between no or two yurts), and a few caves inhabited by smugglers, outlaws in the run and vampires.
In particular, there are a few unlinked interiors that can be used here. One Dwemer ruin could be at the far end of the bridge of the ruin in [-11, -27], if the other is placed in AA it should probably also go relatively near Kragen Mar. If the OM ruin is used it should be on the eastern edge of the Ashlands, but it would probably be better used in Roryn’s Bluff.
How many of each type of interior are needed?
While the southwest is generally fine, there are more interiors needed in general.
1 Chimer stronghold with Ashlander squatters.
2-3 small, abandoned Ashlander burials
2 ancestral tombs, one of them connecting to an Ashlander burial in its depths. (It was being renovated into a tomb when Red Mountain erupted).
1 Daedric ruin in the northeast, perhaps. There are also two Daedric ruin interiors we could use. (One unlinked interior from the old forums and Cicero’s showcase).
6 or so Ashlander camps, not all having yurts, only one having two yurts. One can be camped out at a Mehrunes Dagon shrine with no interior. (So ruined the shrine is exposed to the exterior), perhaps at the foot of the Dagon statue. The camp uses the ruins as a kind of natural defence.
1-2 Velothi towers. They can be on the small side.
5 caves inhabited by smugglers, outlaws in hiding and vampires.
Guidelines for the appearances of the interior (tileset, assets to use/avoid)?
Going small-scale here in the interests of getting claims done sooner is not bad. We don't want the release slowed down by massive, over-ambitious dungeon crawls in the Ashlands. Doesn't stop the occasional int from being made bigger, we just don't need to pull out all stops.
The tombs should not have any distinct house imagery. Any equipment should be very worn/damaged. No Tribunal shrines. In general, most of the ruins are pre-Tribunate, so incredibly ancient.
Generally the lavacave tileset should be used, pycave for caves carved (naturally or not) into rock.
Brainstorm/start a thread on the forums for “blurbs” for the interiors
1 Chimer stronghold: Ashlanders are squatting in it, so it’s basically being used as it would have originally.
2-3 small, abandoned Ashlander burials: These are burials of tribes that have been lost to time, the members either dying, being absorbed into house society or becoming outcasts. They can have some nice loot hidden in them.
2 ancestral tombs: 1. A tomb that connects to an Ashlander burial in its depths. (It was being renovated into a tomb when Red Mountain erupted). It can have more ashpits than standard tombs, and shouldn’t have any house or Temple imagery, including shrines. Equipment should be very damaged. 2. An ancient, pre-Tribunate tomb. Should be small and free of house or Temple imagery, including shrines. Could have more ashpits than typically found in tombs. Equipment should be very damaged.
1 Daedric ruin: a heavily ruined shrine to Malacath with no dedicated cult, but visited by various outcasts of diverse backgrounds.
The 6 or so Ashlander camps should have 5 yurts in between them (1x2 yurts, 3x1 yurt). One camp’s inhabitants have been turned into vampires. (Should probably wait for exterior implementation before setting up claims)
1-2 Velothi towers. They can be on the small side, with one containing a smuggler headquarter of sorts and one an old-school Telvanni (an isolated scholar who is too busy for this shit).
5 caves. 1 smuggler cave near the Arvud road, 2 vampire caves in the west, 1 Twin Lamps cave along the Kragen Mar-Bodrem road, and 1 outlaw cave wherever necessary.
Armun Ashlands Vampires
The Baluath clan is the oldest known vampire clan of Morrowind and was established in the earliest days of the Tribunate by means of a voluntary pact with Molag Bal.
The pact was made to gain power to resist the onslaught of Tribunate missionaries. This ultimately failed. The clan was discovered and slaughtered almost completely, their shrines destroyed, and the remnants fled west into the Armun Ashlands. To the Dunmer, Molag Bal became known as the Father of Vampires (in addition to his existing titles as corrupter of bloodlines and King of Rape).
The Baluath remnant took refuge in the Armun Ashlands. While all the province was covered in ash, it was isolated even then. They remain there to this day, wandering the wastes, preying on the occasional traveller or, mainly, the Ashlanders. They have no ancient or lair or organization, but recognize other clan members. Their powers include a chameleon effect and fortified speed in ash and blight storms, and an increase in sneak. They should offer a player vampire some quests, but nothing as sophisticated as the Orlukh. For all their history, they have been a broken clan.
As they are a remnant without a progenitor or an ancient vampire, they have no hq, merely some bigger or smaller hideouts, and no person with the “Baluath” surname should actually be a member of the clan.