Geographically, the Badlands are bordered by the Blight River to the South (a little below it, actually - by the Marg-beh-Mard desert, the border with ancient Nehekhara), to the West by the Black Gulf, to the North by the Blood River and to the East by the Worlds Edge Mountains. It is a harsh place, bleak and depressing, dominated by rocky moorlands and arid plains. The Dragonback Mountains follow the western Badlands coast and the Blind River and Blight Water flow into the area known as the Marshes of Madness. The occasional barrow or anceint ruin mark what remains of a long dead civilisation, known to human scholars as Morgheim, spoken of only in hushed tones, for fear of reawakening it's evil.
The Badlands is the major homeland of the Orcish and Goblinoid races in the Old World area since time immemorial, and they have since spread into the reachs of the Empires' forests, the Worlds Edge Mountains, the Vaults, and, of course, the Bretonnian mountains aptly named the Massif Orcal.
While the terrain of the Badlands is often rough and often impassable, the land is not bad as in poor soil. In fact most areas are fairly lush and there are quite a bit of tough plant life that graces the Badlands, along with strange strains that often appears in the rocky moorlands, they usually are very hardy, quick growing plants and lichens adapted to their climate. There are a larger number of predators amoung the Badlands' wildlife population, including Wild Boars, large cat species, Rock Rats and Wolves to nam a few. Large numbers of Orcish and Goblinoid tribes wander the Badlands, collecting what useful plants they find (especially the Shamans) and hunting what they come across for food. Roast Wolf is a favourite. There are many Troll, Ogre, Lizardmen and Minataur bands as well.
History of the Badlands
Some say the Border Princes are teeming with greenskin scum. Some say the Darklands hide whole armies of orcs and goblinoids, ready to attack an unsuspecting Old World at any time. This is quite true, and if the orish or greenskin races could but reliably unite under a single command for any significant length of time the Old Worlders would be hard pressed. One thing is certain: if any part of the Old World can be called a true homeland for these orcish and goblinoid races, it is the Badlands.
The Badlands was first populated by the greenskinned races long before Adare was a boy, as the nascent goblinoids emerged from the Darklands. They quickly populated the ancient Badlands landscape, which at the time included the area now called the Border Princes. At the time wandering nomadic human tribes also dwelled in the Badlands, warring with clans of brutal Orcs and Goblins.
Long before the time of Adare one of the great human civilisations of the time formed in the northern Badlands above the Blind River. This was called Morgheim. It was a corrupt and evil civilisation that associated with the powers of the dead and Necromancy. It grew to envelop most of the Badlands from Mad Dog Pass to the Marshes of Madness and pushed the goblinoids east once more into the Worlds Edge Mountains. Parts of the Border Princes were first formed by this ancient human civilisation. Over time it became inward looking and decadent. The period of expansion of this once blossoming civilisation came to an end and eventually a horde of greenskins led by the Warlord Dorkhan Redeye swept down from the Worlds Edge Mountains and all but destroyed it. Today all that remains of the civilisation are the forgotten ruins of Morgheim and many ancient barrows, burial mounds and cairns scattered across the Badlands. Evil things are said to dwell in these ancient burial sites still, and only the brave or the foolish dare to disturb them.
Following the destruction of Morgheim by Dorkhan Redeye, the greenskins re-entered the Badlands en masse, presaging many brutal wars over the best territory as they fought for possession of what was effectively once more a blank canvas for the orcs and goblinoids. Since then the Badlands has been predominantly goblinoid controlled. Although the orcs numbers have increased at the expense of the goblinonids.
In 1452(by Bretonnian historical reckoning) Bretonnian knights rode overland to the area of what was then the Badlands, north of the Blood River. Accounts differ but more than one version goes that they were on their way to Araby, slaughtering Orcs as they went, when they heard that the war in Araby was all but over. Thus were the lands that would now be recognised as the modern Border Princes came into being as they took war upon the local orcs and greenskins in the area and settled in the wilderness. Other accounts say that the Bretonnians settled in the area enticed by the promise of Dwarfen gold. Some accounts even suggest the Bretonnians were not the first to settle the area and that they merely helped the first embattled Imperial settlers slaughter the dominant tribes of orcs and goblinoids whose land was available for the taking. Be that as it may, the official historical records of both Bretonnia and the Empire state that the Bretonnians were the first to settle in the Border Princes.
Waves of ferocity from the Dwarfs, the Empire and the Border Princes have since caused the northern border of the Badlands to ebb and flow with the centuries. The area between the Howling River and Blood River has been the most historically contested between human, orc and goblinoid as long as any of the races can remember.
The Badlands is physically a semi-arid to arid, bleak landscape for the most part. The northeast is predominantly composed of semi-arid plains, punctuated by rocky patches and slagheaps left over from goblinoid excavations. This area connects with the southern Border Princes, with which it shares similar terrain.
The main three rivers of the Badlands are the Blood River, Blind River and Blight Water; all three flowing down from the Worlds Edge Mountains. The Blood River forms an effective border between the Border Princes and Badlands, though the exact border at any given time is constantly shifting. Nearby stands the contested fort known as Iron Rock. Once controlled by the Iron Claw Orcs, it is now considered Border Princes territory. The Border Princes will fight to keep control of Iron Rock, and the Iron Claw Orcs are equally eager to recapture it. The fort has changed hands numerous times. At the mouth of the Blood River, the apex of the Black Gulf, stands the Dwarf sea fortress of Barak Varr. Great Ironclad steam ships are kept here to be sent wherever the Dwarf nation (or at least what remains of it in the Worlds Edge Mountains) needs them.
Two major geographic features dominate the southern and northwestern Badlands. The first is the Dragonback Mountains, following the coast from the north and running at least half the length of the Badlands. The Dragonbacks tower high over the plains to the northeast, and rain coming in off the sea often finds itself unable to progress inland, instead falling on the mountains and their immediate foothills. This makes the narrow strip of land west of the Dragonbacks and its foothills highly valuable, fertile land. Tribes have fought wars over this land - not that Orcs are short of excuses to start fighting.
The second dominant feature is the ring of hills - of which the Dragonbacks form part - that covers and envelops the south of the Badlands. The arc of hills forms a natural basin to the east of the Dragonbacks, watered by the Blind River and Blight Water such that the area forms naturally wet marshland. Such wet conditions make a sharp contrast to the parched plains of the north. This natural basin is most commonly called the Marshes of Madness. The terrain in the marshes is wet, boggy ground where heavy wagons or knights armoured to the hilt would quickly sink in the deepest parts. It is said that long ago cannons and war machines carried south by human or dwarfen hands for purposes of war further south sank to the bottom of these marshes, lost forever - a lesson still drilled into the green recruits at the Nuln gunnery school today.
Large masses of armour-laded troops from elsewhere (most prominently the Border Princes) thus avoid the marshes; while land trade routes to Araby avoid the central Badlands for this same reason as well as an eminently reasonable desire to avoid the fighting of the orcish and greenskin tribes as much as is possible. One of the most established trade routes runs along the coast west of the Dragonbacks - often subject to tolls the dominant greenskin tribe in the area exacts if it allows such trade paths at all. The other recognised trade route is longer but considered by some to be marginally less risky. This weaves a convoluted route via Barak Varr and Karak Azul, avoiding Black Crag, Karak Eight Peaks and the Sour Sea, and thereon following the mountain rim until exiting the Badlands. It later joins the shorter trade route in the deserts of Araby. The Silk Road to the Far East also passes via Barak Varr and avoids Black Crag, before following Death Pass into the hazardous Darklands.
South of the Marshes of Madness the wet marshland gradually becomes dry plain again, before turning into desert as you continue south into Araby and the lands where some say the dead walk. The dead are also in evidence over much of the Badlands, though in a somewhat less active state. the whole land is criss-crossed with ancient seeming caerns, burial mounds, barrows and buried tombs, each potentially a verdant gold mine for any tomb robber that dared make his way across the land to try his luck. Stories continue to circulate that some of those who have braved the Orcs to travel overland to reach these ancient sites have discovered undying wights, wraiths and worse defending their tombs. Most famous is the site of the ancient, ruined and mostly destroyed city of Morgheim, said to have been a site of great darkness and evil in its day. The goblinoids generally leave the timeless tombs and ruins well alone, apparently out of fear and superstition as much as anything else.
Small earthquakes are common in the Badlands and Darklands area. The reason for this is unclear, with explanations including the activity of the gods under the ground (The Duke of Below is most commonly credited by humans telling the tale), the land itself reacting to Dwarf mining in the nearby Worlds Edge Mountains, and suggestions that the tremors are the birthing, summoning or waking of dark gods and foul unnatural creatures (a theory aided by the predilection of the area for large numbers of ancient forgotton barrows and tombs). The greenskins of the area are rarely rattled by these 'quakes and readily either dismiss them or proclaim them to prove that Gork himself protects the area in the name of the greenskin race.
Landmarks and Famous Places of the Badlands and Surrounding Area
Probably the greatest landmark of the Badlands is the towering peak of Mount Bloodhorn among the Dragonback Mountains. Situated on the eastern edge of the Dragonbacks, its lower slopes do not enjoy the fertility the mountain range affords the strip of land to the west, though many tribes enjoy the rivers and streams before they reach the lower slopes or coastal Badlands. In former times the peak was called Mount Ekrund and occupied by the Dwarfs as a base for mining the mineral rich Dragonback Mountains. Its slopes have long since been overrun by the greenskins and many goblinoid tribes now dwell in, on, under or around Mount Bloodhorn. Rumours persist that Skaven tunnels intersect the lower tunnel excavations inside.
Misty Mountain is also infamous. It rests close to the banks of the Sour Sea, and is famously the place where the Goblin Warboss history names Grom the Paunch came to prominence. Grom is said to have eaten a plate of Troll meat that left him sick for days but which eventually left him with a large girth and no need to eat much ever after thanks to the Troll meat constantly regenerating in his stomach. He also formed one of the largest recorded Waaarghs in history, taking ships to the Elven lands of Ulthuan, where he was finally defeated.
Uncomfortably close to Death Pass, Karak Drazh was once one of the great Dwarfen holds of the Worlds Edge Mountains. Now it is ruinous, in greenskin control and more commonly referred to as Black Crag. Traders travelling the Silk Road to the Far East avoid it where possible.
Nearby Karak Eight Peaks, below Death Pass, is another casualty of the Goblin Wars now deserted by the Dwarfs, and has many Goblin tribes in its vicinity. The most well known of these tribes is the Crooked Moon tribe that controls the ruined dwarfhold and which is led by the infamous Goblin Warlord remembered as Skarsnik . The Dwarfs have attempted to recapture Karak Eight Peaks many times, none of which attempts could be claimed to be spectacularly successful. The best that could be said of them is that in at least some of them the Dwarf contingent survived to either retreat where they came from or take refuge within the ruins of Karak Eight Peaks.
Further south, Karak Azul is one old Dwarf hold of the area that the Dwarfs retain control of and a key stop on the trade route to Araby.
Weather and Climate in the Badlands
Rain falls commonly on the warm, humid and fertile strip of land west of the Dragonback Mountains. Tribes of Orcs and Goblins live here that can subsist on animal husbandry and agriculture. Life is generally tolerable here at any time of the year. In the summer the land is fertile and the sun is bright and warm. In winter rainfall decreases and the smaller streams from the Dragonbacks freeze but the temperature and rainfall are kept adequately high by warm, humid air currents coming in off the sea.
The Dragonback Mountains themselves are generally warm sun-bathed slopes in the summer. The tropical rain off the sea keeps the western strip of fertile land and the mountain foothills well watered; the western slopes become verdant expanses of conifer forest. The relatively parched eastern slopes grow less abundant foliage. Winter sees the highest slopes freeze, and become snow-capped in the cases of the very highest peaks like Mount Bloodhorn. The conifer forests recede on the western slopes, while only the hardiest foliage survives on the eastern slopes. Life becomes generally harder and the animals hungrier.
In the northeastern semi-desert, conditions are bleaker. Rain is rare, water scarcer, and living conditions harder. The air is hot and dry; and what water can be found remains in water holes, oases of life in the arid landscape. All manner of creatures, be it greenskin or fauna, come there to drink. They are among the good places to hunt animals, though natural prey species are always especially nervous when drinking from these oases. Life must be strong to survive here and only the hardiest plants capable of surviving the bleakest of environments survive here to any large degree, year on year. At the oases rarer and less hardy vegetation grows - until the oases inevitably dry up. Some plants that shamans need for magical charms only grow at these oases. The summer months see blistering peak daytime temperatures with warm night temperatures. Temperatures fall sharply in the wintertime. The arid semi-desert plains become covered with frost and ice overnight, to be thawed with the first rays of the sun in the morning.
The Marshes of Madness stay wet throughout the year, as the Blind River and Blight Water never fully freeze. In summer the air is warm and humid with buzzing hordes of mosquitoes, marsh flies and other insects. The chirping of insects and the croaking of marsh frogs fills the air. In winter the marshes would grow colder than they do were it not for the tropical wind that blows inland south of the Dragonbacks. In the northern marshes, in the shadow of the Dragonbacks, the land grows cold and frost can gather. None but the smallest pools freeze, however. The southern marshes stay relatively warmer in the winter months. Right across the marshes life slows down. Some marsh grasses die while others persist. The marshlands drop slightly in water level as the rivers slow. Come summer the marshland pools are replenished by the fast-flowing rivers, the grasses return, the insects and frogs produce their broods of swarming young and life bounces back again.
Badlands Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna of the Badlands varies highly with region. The dry plains of the northeast support predators and scavengers such as wolves and wild boars who prey on a number of prey species, mostly small mammals that bury themselves in the dust or sand during the hottest times of the arid summer. Many breeds of snake frequent the plains, a number of them venomous. Also found are scorpions of varying size, and sand clams waiting in the dust or sand for unsuspecting creatures. Plant life is limited, but persists mostly around the natural water holes. Vultures from the Dragonbacks swoop down to help finish off the carcasses of animals that die here, alongside the other scavengers that can smell such carrion feasts for miles. Lions, hynias, wolves and boars of the plains are among the most common creatures to be 'domesticated' by the goblinoids - if they can be caught.
The mountainous terrain of the Dragonback slopes supports a generally different set of life. Large birds of prey, including eagles and vultures are often seen among the high peaks of the Dragonbacks, where they make their nests. Occasionally a brave or foolish Goblin manages to find a way up there and steal an egg, in practise few that try return. Rock rats frequent the perilously rocky crags, as do lashworms.
The marshland of the south sustains an altogether wetter kind of life. Large, twished, sinister wheeping trees and marsh grasses predominate the plant life, and large numbers of mosquitoes, marsh files and other insects are not uncommon. Thus marsh frogs also live there, feasting on the bounty of insects. Leeches are a hazard to those who traverse the marshes on foot, with possibly a very small number of chameleoleeches in the area. Other natural hazards include the bog octopus and the fen worm, crocs and alliagators.
The Darklands is bordered to the West by the Worlds Edge Mountains, to the North by the Zaborota lands of Kislev and the Mountains of Mourn, and to the South by Imperial Cathay. It is an arid, scarred land, where Chaos walks openly. A land aptly named, marked as it is by its dark past. It is here the Dwarves came to when they went East, and faced the threat of Chaos. Yet not even their steely Dwarven pride could stop what happened to them. Gradually, inexorably, too slowly at first to notice, they began to change, and the dark forges of the Chaos Dwarves were established in the Darklands, serving their dark god Hashut, the Father of Darkness. Indeed, it is unknown how Hasut was formed, but one possibility is that Hashut is what became of Dwarven god Grimnir when, hearing of the opening of the polar Warp Gates, he went off to fight it as best he could. Perhaps even Grimnir was too weak to resist the twisting effects of Chaos, and was reborn as evil Hashut. We will never know, but this is one theory of Old World scholars. Needless to say, the Dwarves deny it strenuously - in public, anyway.
Yet the Chaos Dwarves are not the only inhabitants of the Darklands, and many degenerate Goblinoid and Orcish tribes wander the land, shunned by their Badlands kin. Goblinoid Kaoshunters often come to seek out Chaos, to try to strike at it's heart. Few live very long - the fate of many a Kaoshunter has led to the cooking pot of their shunned kin (many turn to cannabalism, quite natural given the tradition of runt-noshing that exists even in the Badlands) or of the Chaos Dwarves.