The Storms

Exploring Storm Valley is not easy, due to its wildlife and the violent storms that rage over its surface constantly. Places of mystery still exist here, and even those spots that are on the map or spoken of by travelers are by no means fully explored. Characters will have to undergo a series of grueling treks in order to penetrate even one of Storm Valley's mysteries, with no guarantee that they will come back alive with the knowledge they gained.

Storm Valley is one of the largest valleys on the world of Cretasus, covering an area equivalent to one entire hemisphere on Earth. This is not all land, however. The "mainland" consists of a vast irregular circle of land with as much area as the three continents of the Old World of Earth (Europe, Africa, and Asia). Closer to the center, like an internal layer of an onion, is the Tempest Sea, so called because of the frequent storms that lash its surface. This sea is equivalent in size to the Atlantic Ocean of Earth. In the very center of this sea, and the valley itself, is the island continent of Carsonia, which owes its name to its discoverer and first explorer. Equal in size to the combined territories of Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea, it is a self-contained world in its own right, with mists concealing whatever features and wildlife may dwell there.

Naturally, the first thing one notices about Storm Valley is the nonstop cover of storm-wracked clouds that cloaks the entire valley. These clouds descend to the tops of the great mountains that surround the valley, but come no lower, as if they are actually supported by the mighty peaks. Beneath them, there is an entirely separate weather system, which operates just as it does on Earth, with clear weather, clouds, and rain alternating in regular cycles. Explorers attest that the most pleasant days in Storm Valley, weather-wise, are those when the local weather is cloudy, but not rainy, because "clear" skies give them a nerve-wracking view of the violent storms that constantly rage above. Even when the storms are invisible above the local cloud layer, they can still be heard; the constant roar and rumble of thunder is the major background noise of Storm Valley.

The storms themselves are spectacular affairs, with mile-long lighting bolts constantly darting from one boiling cloud to another, or to the tops of the great peaks that cut off Storm Valley from the rest of the planet. Accompanying the thunder and lightning is the roar of the wind, for the air currents above this valley are in constant turmoil. The difficulty of flying in such an environment is one of the main reasons why the valley has been so little explored by humans (or aliens, so far as anyone knows).

Flying any kind of aerial vehicle into the maelstrom of clouds, wind, and lightning above Storm Valley requires a Pilot skill check to stay aloft. However, the storms are so violent that the DC is 24 rather than the usual 20. A typical trip through the storms lasts long enough to subject a pilot to at least three skill checks.

The only bit of good news is the sheer distance between the storms and the ground. A pilot has time to make a heroic lastminute effort to regain control, meaning a ship may still survive the trip. Although the passengers and crew will be shaken up, they will have taken no real damage, and the same goes for any equipment stored in the hold. The pilot gets one attempt to regain control in the stormy upper atmosphere (DC 24). If that check fails by 6 or more, the ship crashes; if by 3 or less, the ship plummets into the calmer lower atmosphere, where another check is possible (DC 20) before all bets are off.

Failure to regain control means a crash landing, wherein the ship itself will be a total loss. This leaves the party to make a fun-filled return trip on foot through one of the mountain passes -assuming they can find any, that is. Those who manage to maintain full control of their flying machines will see the wrecks of predecessor craft scattered at long, irregular intervals throughout the valley, and rumor has it that some of these craft are not of human design.

And when it comes time to go home, the pilot must struggle upwards back into violent storms for at least three consecutive skill checks.

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