Viper's thread - Life on the Deshaan

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...’And of course, I’m only an uneducated Westerner.’ I said. ‘But it seems to me that… outside of Red Mountain itself, the most hostile environment in Morrowind is the ashy area around Molag Mar.’

All my Elven companions immediately started shaking their heads. The two Telvanni insulted me under their breath.

’Barring the fire mountain itself, sera.’ The Indoril said. ‘The most hostile, toxic, and in general uninhabitable part of Morrowind is the Deshaan Plains.’

’Indeed.’ His companion said. ‘Toxic environment, toxic mer. Mounds of useless poisonous salt, soil so stained with chlorine or other acids that normal plants refuse to grow, wind storms that blow that salt into your eyes, nose, and skin, acid rain, wild skyrenders, noxious fumes, and worst of all, the Dres, who are possibly even more heathen than the sorcerors here.’

‘It’s so poisonous, I read a poem written by some Dres once, describing the landscape, and I felt ill just thinking about it.’ The Telvanni woman said. ‘That, and the poem was just that bad.’

‘Yes, Dres are not good poets.’ My guide said. 

’They are not really good anything.’ The Telvanni woman said. ‘They’re mad. You’d have to be mad to live in the Deshaan. Which is just as well, because I think if you aren’t mad, you probably can’t survive there either.’

-- A Dunce in Morrowind v2, by Frolja Silver-Blood

 


...Sometimes, some of the exotic salts from underground get swept up onto the surface – usually through some sort of water irrigation problem, then tossed about through the wind until it winds up in some puddle of acid and colours it with all sorts of strange patterns. Waters and acids seem to encourage the salt to clump together and form crystals – but being that they emerge from or near acid and acidic fumes, they seem to crumble very quickly and drop in heaps again.

Salt terraces with pools of chlorine provide some of the few elevations on the plains – most are shallow enough that anyone well prepared won’t be too bothered by stepping in them, but some of them are deceptively deep. In these areas with high chlorine, you seem to get some sort of mold, or moss, that seems to thrive off the salt and float on the chlorine. Indeed, it seems the Deshaan hosts many unique molds, probably all as poisonous as each other. Lucky for everyone who lives there, these molds don’t seem to be found on the underground water.”

-- East Empire Company: Deshaan Report, by Artorius Marandae.


”...When dealing with Salt Beetles, use a longer knife. First remove the tail over a bucket, so you don’t spill the venom all over your shoes. Then, stick the knife under the head carapace, and separate all the connections with the thorax around the body.  Start shaving off the head carapace until you can whittle it down to the trunk and throat, the most valuable part of the beetle. Don’t worry about the eye mesh – it might help protect the beetle’s eyes, but it’s worhtless to a mer.

These beetles have a natural water filter in their trunk – they can drink the most toxic water on the plains and none of the poison will get to them.  Don’t sever the connection from the trunk to the stomach – you can remove it carefully, and clean it either for yourself, to sell.”
-- Hunting as a Profession, by Sarys Dres


”...’What’s that you got there?’ I asked him.

He looked at me as though I’d urinated on his mother. ‘That, outlander, is a beetle water pack.’

’Beetle?’

’Salt Beetles. We remove the trunk, throat and stomach intact, and we use it to collect water ready filtered. You can wack out most of the poison from the trunk and then it’s ready to drink.’

’Why would you want to drink out of a bug’s stomach?’

’The alternative is dying of thirst.’ He said. ‘Any more stupid questions?’

I paused. ‘What’s with all them belts?’

’Because, outlander, if you’re caught in a salt storm, the last thing you want is getting poisoned salt all over your skin and inside your clothes. You have to keep the Zoarskin buckled tight to keep the salt from getting underneath.’ He said. ‘Can we stop talking now?’

’Well hang on a sec. You’re wearing some sort of high platform boots so that you can keep most of it out of the chlorine, right?’

‘Yes.’

’Why’s your guar barefoot?’

’Guar don’t wear shoes outlander.’

’Horses wear shoes.’

’I don’t know what a Horse is, but only an outlander would be foolish enough to make shoes for animals.’”
-- A Dunce in Morrowind, v4, by Frolja Silver-Blood


“...Salt lamps are believed to have soothing effects by the Dres – not because of any magical properties, but just because they look nice, which is as sophisticated as their sense of aesthetics really gets. A dres home will have mostly stone furniture. Nobody buys furniture made out of salt brick, because you can’t guarantee if someone just sold you something made with those poisonous salt pyramids you see so much of here, and if you knock over a candle or something, you could suffocate on those noxious fumes that the Deshaan is so famous for. 

Rather than shelves, poorer Dres find it cheaper to have satchels stringed together on leather and hooked onto the wall.  Shelves, for some reason, are much more expensive here than elsewhere in Morrowind.”
-- East Empire Company: Deshaan Report, by Artorious Marandae.


...The only guideline for where the slaves were supposed to dump the salt was ‘Anywhere, as long as it’s not near anything important.’ Apparently, the beast pens aren’t considered ‘Anything important’, or perhaps the local guar and skux don’t mind the salt – the translucent shadesails that they stuff together to protect the beast pens certainly wouldn’t be of much use in keeping salt of that magnitude out. I asked the Plantation steward about this policy.

’Slaves aren’t predisposed to order and following rules.’ She said. ‘If you told an Argonian where to toss the salt back while they’re toiling with the saltrakes and saltshovels, they’d probably miss, or get salt all over the crops or other slaves instead of where you actually wanted it to go. It’s hard enough to get them to throw it into the piles. Besides, we make sure they shovel it away at the end of each week anyway, otherwise our crops would be ruined in the next wind storm.’

I replied, ‘Sera, I have my own plantation back in Orethan with a number of Argonian slaves, and I find that they’re more than capable of understanding ‘Place waste here, in these barrels’, or, ‘ Look before you toss dirt to make sure you don’t hit anyone.’

’Yes, I’m sure.’ She said. ‘But your Argonians are not inhaling and swallowing the salt everyday, or going deaf from skyrenders buzzing right by their ears, or having standing in wells of poison everyday, for years. I think it damages their brains, really.’

’If the environment is so hazardous to your slaves,’ I asked, ‘then why are you so careless with them?’

She shrugged. ‘It’s not like we’re short on them or anything.’

-- Proper Slave Management, by Indoril Arys.

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reserved post for future whatever

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Responses:

To the book excerpts:
They are all interesting and might be good as assets in their own right if fleshed out to complete books or as fragments of books. I’d suggest adding them to the asset browser.

Image 1 (landscape)
I like the diversity of ground features on here: there’s cracks and crevices, salt, lump dirt, etc. It keeps it interesting. The colors are a bit bright (the green mainly) but otherwise fit my personal preferences for colors (I like them!)

Image 2 (the bug)
This is definitely a weird looking bug and I like it. The snout and eye are definitely reminiscent of the sixth house, which is good, but we might want it to be a little bit less directly the same if that makes sense. I definitely like the scorpion tail. Brown is a good drab color for this, though it might be interesting to see some bright colors. Or maybe having it not stand out would be good. I like to imagine the wingy bits could make it fly but could be interesting as attack surfaces also (sharp, maybe?)

Image 3 (the suit guy)
I like the idea of a heavy suit made from skins, though this one (as has been mentioned elsewhere) is a bit reminiscent of a hazmat suit. If it looked a bit more alien that would be nice. Platform shoes are an interesting idea, though probably one hard to do in-game. Maybe they would have overshoes? Special boots definitely makes sense though.

Image 4 (the window)

We’re imagining that both metal and wood are in short supply in the Deshaan, so probably most dres would be using alternate materials— sewn hides, wicker baskets, pottery, saltstrap leaves, concrete, etc. So I think the pouches on the walls are probably a good way to show this though they’d be more common rather than just for the poor.

Image 5 (salt)

I think the dres are probably going to have lots of overhangs, for shade and protection. I can’t imagine they’d bother to protect animals outdoors with full tents, though. Any animal worth anything is either immune to the salt or has a way of dealing with it. They might have maybe some partial shelter that the animals hide in like chickens in a coop. If that makes sense.

Salt piles would definitely show up somewhere— argonians shoveling it like snow may be a bit much but it’s a good image. I’d like to think they’d just toss it ouside the walls or perimeter so it’s someone else’s problem or maybe helps protect the camp, or something. This might be a good point to put some lore on, like “when you set up camp, make sure you dig down deep until you break the main layer of salt. That way your tents don’t get blown away in the night” or something like that.

Does: concepts, textures, youtube vids, admin stuff e.g. PR, handbook, assets, small website things. Activity level: wildly unpredictable. Still active. Find me on Discord.

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I loved reading this. It brings a lot of life and color to the Deshaan & Dres society. 

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Viper, do you mind if I put your Deshaan Surface art and your beetle art up on our galleries and show them around on our media sites?

Does: concepts, textures, youtube vids, admin stuff e.g. PR, handbook, assets, small website things. Activity level: wildly unpredictable. Still active. Find me on Discord.

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no, go ahead. i’m going to add the full version of the books that’d make good ones to the asset browser, then cross-post these to the brainstorming threads and get to work on the other concepts i’ve been thinking about regarding the skyrenders/deshaan etc.

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new concepts, finally.


”Most sane and normal people don’t want to traverse the overland in the Deshaan plains. Necromancers, of course, have no sanity, or decency.

If you are a Necromancer, the plains present an interesting opportunity – there is little will to hunt criminals on the overland because of the dangers, and there is therefore, little risk of being discovered by Ordinators, or casual adventurers more capable than them. They acclimate themselves into wild Skyrender Hives, and then they have a nice, easily defended fortress with which to practice their dark art in, because only idiots barge deep into the underground chambers of a Skyrender Hive.

And, to make things sweeter, the carelessness with which the Dres handle their slaves presents another opportunity. It’s not uncommon to find an Argonian rotting in chlorine – and the chlorine is good for rotting away even Argonian flesh. While normally, a Necromancer has to take a body, and hope wild animals might clean the bones of their flesh over who knows how many days, and hope the bones aren’t discovered or stolen by a nix-hound, mostly bleached and rotted corpses and skeletons for use can be found near any plantation. Simply get a guar to carry it for you, and you have a functionally endless supply of skeleton warriors or zombies.

Thus, this is my ultimate concern about Necromancy in Morrowind – many are comfortable, and believe that Necromancy has been almost completely crushed in the land, but I fear that if we are complacent about the potential threat of Necromancers establishing a reliable, consistent hold in the Deshaan, we could have a big problem on our hands before we knew it.”

-- “Concerns about our Security”, Morvayn Arys


”A parasite is something that sucks onto a host, and leeches the life out of it, giving nothing in return. In contrast, a symbiote is something that attaches itself to a host, takes from the host, but gives back to it in return. Symbiotes co-operate with other life. Some symbiotes become so ingrained into other creatures, the boundary between the host and the symbiote might start to blur. Of the intelligent races of Tamriel, none can really be called parasites or symbiotes. Yet something strange happens in the Deshaan Plains of Morrowind.

Skyrenders are Mephalic bugs, wasp-like, that live in giant hives dotted around the Deshaan. These hives are made of giant cuboid salt crystals, mashed together with dead, rotted organic matter. Skyrenders are scavengers mostly, and not hunters. They eat carcasses whole, bones and all, and they build to their hive using the dead rotted matter, which they barely even digest before excreting it from their giant, poisonous stingers. It’s not uncommon for Skyrenders to practice cannibalism – in fact, it seems to be the norm. When one dies, the others eat it as quickly as possible, and use their remains as pastes, or building materials to connect the giant salt crystals into place.

They don’t need to do this to eat – that’s why the carcass matter is scarcely digested. There are streams of red, silky jelly inside the Skyrender hives, and this is all the nutrition they need. But they use dead, organic matter, and they harden it with a web like paste, and they use it as a building material. Some of the things they build inside their own hives seem beyond just an animal instinct, and deserve closer study than they get. I have heard of Skyrenders who build pillars and pillars inside their hives, and carve square patterns into it with their stingers, not for any particular purpose. Sometimes they just pile skulls together, without eating them. Unsettling, almost writing-like scrawls are often carved into the walls. 

The dead matter no longer rots once the Skyrenders have treated it properly, but it does change over time, becoming thick, heavy, and strong, while still staying flexible and soft. It’s colour changes too, sometimes going a bluish colour, most of the time going a reddish or greyish one, and the smell dies down – but blood sometimes, still apparently drips from the ceilings.

Skyrenders are Mephalic not because they’re bug-like, and so closer related to the webspinner just because of that, but because they don’t seem to be entirely mundane. Skyrenders, at least some kinds of them, seem able to use very, very basic forms of magicka to emit light, or heal wounds. This is almost unheard of amongst normal animals. But Skyrenders are not normal animals. The layout of their hives is unsettlingly patterned and squarelike, with a strange mathematical, geometric precision, and rather than just building functional homes, they seem to create endless tunnels for the sake of it, or traps, for no reason. Those that work with Skyrenders stop being surprised, after a while, of finding a fresh dead body of some poor wonderer embedded whole and unchanged into a wall with patterns written on him, or a corridor that wasn’t there the month before, that only leads to a spiked pit, or to find the Skyrenders in circles, humming rhytmically at each other, ignoring everyone else. Their behaviour is deeply enigmatic.


The Dres are the only mer on the Deshaan, and they have a long history with Skyrenders. Mer of House Dres use the Skyrenders as transport, beast of burden, or cavalry in war. They learned long ago that a Skyrenders strongest sense is their sense of smell, and learned how to make Skyrenders trust them with that alone. But keeping a Skyrender hive useful for producing the trained Skyrenders that the Dres need is a difficult art in and of itself. The Dres build small colonies around Skyrender hives, and mer go into the hive bearing gifts regularly, of new carcasses, or sometimes of saltrice, or crystals, or just something that seems to catch their interests. They need to keep the health of the Hive, find promising Skyrenders when they’re young and before they develop into a Worker, so they can train them properly. They need to negotiate the apparent social politics that Skyrenders have amongst themselves. In many ways, the mer who work with Skyrenders, have to be able to live as a Skyrender.

I have met some of these mer. They are not like other mer. They are changed. Different somehow. They seem to stare at you for long hours, barely blink, and don’t react to much. But this is a subtle thing. They’re still the same mer they were before… but something’s changed, and I find it difficult to put my finger on what it is. So do they. They’re aware they’re different now. I’ve heard some mer start to eat the Skyrender jelly as their main meals, forsaking other food, and some find that they’ve been scrawling patterns inside their house while asleep, completely unaware. Skyrenders have a powerful effect on those who try to use them. The guards and warriors who ride them don’t feel this, it seems – or if they do, they don’t talk about it. But the rangers, and workers, who live at the hives and spend most of their time inside them, do. 

The Skyrenders, to give some credit to them, are said to be very appreciative. They bring the mer who live with them gifts, albeit usually corpses, skulls, piles of poisonous salt – but they expect their gifts to be accepted. They become attached to certain mer, and become distressed if some mer disappear for long periods of time. Some have told me that they suspect that Skyrenders even mourn dead mer, and others have told me, more distressingly, that if a mer dies inside their hive, they must memorialize them immediately, by sticking them into the wall and covering them in those unsettling square patterns.


Most Skyrender hives on the Deshaan aren’t being used by the Dres, but many are being used by rogue necromancers, and some, I’ve heard rumoured, used by factions of the abolitionists known as the Twin Lamps. They co-operate less with the Skyrenders – so perhaps they are less effected by the strangeness of these creatures. But other hives, I am told, are often found to have mer who’ve gone mad, covered themselves in the square patterns, cut off bits of their own flesh or whole limbs, and can no longer talk, but seem as bound to the Skyrender queen as the Skyrenders are, being found in the Queen’s chamber where her mutated and bloated, chaotic body is pasted into the wall with the eggs hanging around her. On their knees, staring up with a blank look as the workers sometimes do.

Some Skyrenders never co-operate with any mer. The Fal-hir – big, bulky, tank like, with vestigial wings – simply ignore mer, and never acclimate to them the way the others do. And the Fal-kom – tall, hairy, and with their eyes torn out by themselves – it simply can’t be told whether they accept mer or not. They are the most enigmatic, and magically gifted, of the Skyrenders. They simply float in a vertical position around the hives, slowly, observing even with their eyes torn out. 

The Skyrenders and the Dres have a symbiotic relationship. Indeed, it’s a Skyrender that’s on the banner of House Dres. And the mer who work with the Skyrenders for the rest of the House are the host organism for the Skyrenders, but one wonders if for some of them, the line becomes so blurred that the living things become one.”

-- Skyrenders, by Aluene Bennette.

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My personal opinion is that we shouldn’t make the Skyrenders too symbiotic, as that makes them too similar to kwama and egg miners. Maybe something like there being two different strains, wild vs. domestic, kind of like dogs and wolves. And maybe like wolves, there are legends of Dunmer who are raised by wild Skyrenders (but plenty of stories of them being killed and eaten by Skyrenders, too).

I do, however, love the depth you’ve put into this.

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a significantly more detailed post about skyrender hive interiors.

alright, so briefly, a potential layout of a random skyrender hive dungeon. this is something that’s not particularly special and just out on the deshaan, but has some of the deshaan’s specialized abolitionist faction hiding inside. the passages are very square/rectangular, and a lot of more weird maze like stuff because that’s how the skyrenders would build. not much to say about the map layouts, they’re just for the pictures below, for reference. 

the int_corridor_whatever segment kits i’ve got here as being either pure crystal wall, pure necrotic fiber, or a mix of both. i imagine floors would be mostly salt crystal and less often necrotic fiber in most cases, but it couldn’t hurt to have them. perhaps there could be some necrotic fiber kit pieces that are blank in certain parts so they go over the top of pure salt crystal pieces? and can be used to make other kinds of lumpy corridors.

in addition – some bodies that might be sewn into the walls, including an argonian slave body, the patterns as i described them that you’d find scrawled onto things (be nice if it could be glow mapped), egg sacs (good source of ingredients), which are mildly luminescent, spike crystals which are just spiky salt crystals that, if possible/a good idea, could inflict some contact and poison damage, and the pillars as i described too, which are of various sizes. basically, a lot of potential interior features. 

 
  1. the entrance in the nestings cavern, that first passageway, where you can see to the end (where if you look real close, a body’s been sewn into the wall). spike crystals, patterns on the wall too, and a lone skyrender, just a normal one.
  2. still in the nestings, one of the dead end paths leading to a puddle drop with a lot of the inorganic material that the skyrenders couldn’t eat, mainly some levelled list objects, maybe a glass boots or fighters ring/mage’s ring, things like that. and some bones too, and some spike crystals to make the drop a little riskier. also, one single pillar  there.
  3. pretty hard to tell without colouring to be honest – it’s meant to be a part fiber/part salt door. but to be honest… why would skyrenders make doors? i feel like that’s a copout just to separate cave rooms. maybe cave rooms shouldn’t be separated to make it more maze like? or maybe it should be like “Thick Web Through to Fal-Sar Hive, Pillars”. i don’t know about this one.
  4. queens chamber – lutemoth’s queen is honestly much better than mine, so i just, put it inside the nest (since i still prefer my cube-y nest.) points of interest here are a lot of egg-sacs on the wall, square-y patterns on the queen, some fal-kom weird-magic-creepy skyrenders protecting the queen as well as a fal-hir and a random dunmer who’s just gone too deep down the salt wasp hole, covered himself in the patterns the skyrenders make. as well as some smaller, harmless skyrender workers. lots of actors for one room, but it’s pretty wide if you use the dunmer for scale. i reckon the queen herself should have some really good, and valuable alchemy ingredients. this is the big room in the middle of the queen’s chamber room
  5. one of the wide room in the pillars chamber. of note: two argonian abolitionists/escaped slaves hiding here with some bedrolls, and those leather-strap non-shelves that i posted to the dres settlements thing, nailed to the pillars. also more patterns and pillars in these rooms, a lot of Weird Shit going on in these places, hopefully the setting should feel as eerie and somewhat offputting as a sixth house base or a dwemer ruin the deeper you go (the fading lights and the noises in dwemer ruins and the desire to not encounter a damn robot really get to me).
  6. hm well i didn’t number any of them six, so
  7. a basic escaped slave who hides in a hive – covered himself in the patterns just to fit in really. now, i mentioned this for a dunmer too, and i have a concern that this kind of body retexturing and not clothes texturing isn’t really practical or properly feasible for the CS work. i don’t know enough about modifying this kind of thing to be sure. it could be just a very thin clothes thing, but that seems… unnecessary. it could just be patterned clothes as a result. or, it could be as the image says, skyrender chitin armour (which is something i think we should have anyway, as a medium strength but high enchantment potential light armour? definitely strongther than boiled netch and chitin anyway), which can be just as patterned to make it look something other than brown, and would certainly be favoured by anyone trying to scavenge in the deshaan.
  8. just a rough potential int segment of a passage to levitate up, but covered in damaging spike crystals.