The Mana Wastes are the devastated strip of land that lies between the once-warring nations of Nex and Geb. Its major political entity, the Grand Duchy of Alkenstar, is technically a fiefdom of Nex, but in practice the region maintains strict neutrality between its two powerful neighbours.1
- See also: Timeline of Mana Wastes
In ancient days, the region that would become the Mana Wastes was known for its natural beauty, which inspired the dwarves of Dongun Hold's artworks. When Osirion expanded south, the pharaohs left the dwarves alone, as did the petty rulers who succeeded them after Osirion abandoned these lands before the conflict between Nex and Geb.2
The conflict between Nex and Geb lasted over 1,400 years, from -892 AR and 576 AR. What started as minor skirmishes eventually escalated into full-fledged battles, with vast armies, powerful constructs, summoned monsters, and relentless hordes of undead clashing on the battlefield. Over the course of centuries, control of Dongun Hold shifted back and forth between Geb and Nex. Eventually, the dwarves of the Sky Citadel made the difficult decision to retreat from their ancestral home and sealed off the entrance to their formidable fortress. This act effectively abandoned their lands, which were subsequently ravaged and transformed into desolate, mystical ruins.3
The dead magic zones, and the region's many dangerous inhabitants, meant the Mana Wastes were avoided by all sensible creatures and remained largely unexplored for centuries. In 4588 AR, a wanted criminal named Ancil Alkenstar fled from Nex into the Mana Wastes in the hope that the dead magic zones would prevent his magic-dependent enemies from locating him.
Alkenstar made his way to the ruins of Dongun Hold, and over time established the nation of Alkenstar there out of others also seeking sanctuary in the Mana Wastes. He also contacted the hold's dwarves, and the new nation soon adopted the dwarves' greatest invention—firearms.
The region has usually been at peace with its neighbours, but the forces of the Gorilla King have made regular raids from the nearby Mwangi Expanse. The most notorious of these raids took place in 4690 AR, when the raiders were able to escape with an experimental bombard.1
Altered magic zones
The war between Nex and Geb turned once-green fields into a wasteland, but it also altered how magic works in the region. The devastation created areas devoid of magic—pockets where magic simply does not work at all. In other areas, the laws of reality themselves have been damaged, and magic becomes dangerously wild and unpredictable. This is known as primal magic, and it sometimes lashes the land with spontaneous waves of raw magical energy. These areas are not stable, often alternating between states of dead magic, primal magic, and normal magic, although the primal magic state is the most common.45
To make matters worse, another by-product of the war is that carnivorous plants, sandstorms made of shattered glass, and poisonous fogs roam throughout the Wastes, seemingly intent on killing anyone brave enough to attempt to pass through this wilderness.63
The Grand Duchy of Alkenstar is the only part of the Mana Wastes with a functioning government as it sits in a large dead magic zone. It is currently ruled by Grand Duchess Trietta Ricia, a noted scientist known for her upbeat demeanor. While the Grand Duchy is theoretically part of Nex, it is effectively independent and the Grand Duchess maintains a policy of strict neutrality with respect to Nex and Geb. The Grand Duchy's location within a dead magic zone allows it to act as a safe meeting place for rival factions that also make it a place of refuge for runaway slaves and those seeking to avoid justice elsewhere. The growing importance of firearms means the Grand Duchy's influence is increasing, however, and it could soon become a major force in the region in its own right.13
The Mana Wastes is effectively a narrow strip of land between Nex and Geb in eastern Garund that runs between the Obari Ocean to the east and the Western Ravage region of the Shattered Range to the west.7 To the east, the sprawling lowlands give way to the desolate Spellscar Desert—a harsh and unforgiving landscape of twisted rock formations and sandy dunes. Water is scarce, and the relentless sun scorches the earth during the day. Amidst this inhospitable terrain, one can find the remnants of shattered and enigmatic ruins, remnants of an ancient civilization that existed long before the destructive conflict of the wizard-kings. These ruins possess an otherworldly aura, hinting at a time of great power and mystery.3
Within Alkenstar's domain in the Western Ravage, the scarcity of magic allows for a semblance of normality to prevail. However, in the Spellscar Desert, a different tale unfolds. The desolate wasteland is plagued by relentless currents of unbridled magic, supernatural storms, rifts in the fabric of reality, and other catastrophic remnants of the ceaseless arcane cataclysms caused by the wizard-kings' warfare. These extraordinary phenomena wreak havoc on both the land and its inhabitants. At times, these disturbances migrate northward along the Ustradi River or are carried across the plains of Geb and Nex by unrelenting winds. The storms often manifest without physical form, but they are accompanied by the haunting march of ghostly armies, disconcerting murmurs that echo for hours, showers of razor-sharp metal shards, and other abominable phenomena that inspire terror.3
Outside of the civilised environs of the Grand Duchy, the monstrous inhabitants found in the Wastes include sand krakens, elementals, erratic constructs left over from the war, spectral soldiers, barghests, rifle-carrying mutants, hill giants, ogres, ettins, and calikangs.813 The giantkin conduct raids nearly every year against the city-state when they are not embroiled in fighting each other. After enduring years of losses caused by the destructive power of Alkenstar's firearms, they have reached a breaking point and decided to launch an assault on Dongun Hold in a desperate attempt to seize its riches. Their relentless raids on the Gunworks have proven fruitful, as they have acquired numerous longarms, pistols, and even cannons. The largest giants, wielding these cannons like rifles, pose a significant threat to the defenders of Dongun Hold. The giants' objective is clear: to plunder the wealth of Dongun Hold and claim the devastating firepower for themselves.3
Prior to the war between Nex and Geb, there were a number of cities in the region. Only a handful survived the devastation, or were built later.1
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 110–111. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Impossible Lands” in World Guide, 79. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Impossible Lands” in World Guide, 79–80. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Magic of the Inner Sea” in Inner Sea Magic, 3–4. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Variant Magic” in Inner Sea Magic, 12. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Magic of the Inner Sea” in Inner Sea Magic, 4. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Impossible Lands” in World Guide, 73. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 58. Paizo Inc., 2008 .