The Desert

Created for PodGunner Command at Digital Iris LLC

Sampled from Development Documents

General Information:

The planet is very desolate at first glance. Much is either wasteland, desert, or rock. Even along the planet's oceans most of the land is either high cliffs with now beach, or clay choked soil that can only grow scrub brush. Only in the cultivated territory of the Yavnam will there be more than a trace of water and green foliage. The sky is a pale green, with a dark green haze that hangs in the air like a fog, getting thicker during the dry season and thinning during the planet’s rainy season. This haze is caused by the various airborne algae that live in the atmosphere. These algae grow on the rocks and sand during the rainy season and, once the dry season starts, dry up and are blown into the air along with their spores. The algae then enter a hibernation cycle, using nutrients from the dirt in the air and the sunlight to stay alive until the next rainy season brings it and it's spores back to the ground. Due to the arid nature of the planet, the poor soil and the treacherous terrain, every resource is precious.  


The Yavnam are native to Horus and the planet’s only sentient species. Omnivorous predators with large chests and arms with thick, shovel-like claws that drip acid, they cut an intimidating picture to outsiders. Despite those appearances, they are a quiet people, preferring to hunt and grow food for their families and dig out new homes under the surface of their planet. They have developed their planet’s meager resources into a civilization connected together by the ties of trade and religion. Crystalline gems or minerals as currency, along with a barter system if they lack currency. Each location sells different items, depending on what they have a surplus of, with most selling animal-based products, weapons, clothes, or tools of various materials. Metal items, plants, fertile soil, and water are especially valuable in less developed locations. There are large cities, harbors, and farms in more prosperous areas, but this article is focused on one small village near a particularly strategic point. 





This village is located around a river that flows through a canyon. Most of the Yavnam of this village live in the walls of the canyon.  Seen from the outside, canyon walls are riddled with holes, ranging from small windows for airflow to larger doorways. Large wide holes at the foot of the canyon would lead into the tunnel pens. These large holes will be surrounded by animal tracks and blocked by a large fitted rock prepared for this purpose. The small window holes might be covered with cloth shades or left open. In contrast, the entrance holes would have small melted claw holds or joins for ladders, which will have been pulled up, and would be blocked with fitted stone entrances.


The village's tunnel systems are complex and have been developing for a long time. There are two types of tunnels.  The first type is the road tunnels which act as connecting points between tribes, other canyons, or holy locations close by. The others are the home tunnels where the village Yavnam live. Some of the entrances to these tunnels can be found scattered along the walls of the village's canyon. Inside, the tunnels branch out, maze-like, as they link up with each other. The lengths of these tunnels serve as the entrances for the tribe member’s home burrows, different work areas, storage rooms, and meeting places. The Yavnam carve these tunnels by weakening the rock with their potent acidic spit and digging away with their long acid-coated shovel-like claws.


During the dry season, the river dries up, forcing the village to break out their stored water reserves. During the rainy season, the entire village is focused on collecting as much water and making as much fertile soil as possible.


Glassware and pottery are common in the village, usually created along the river in the cool of the night, and they have developed various forms of agriculture cultivation, mostly with algae collected during the rainy seasons and filtered out of the air with sheets of cloth hung set up around the top of the canyon walls and by the entrances to the village. The nets are collected by the women of the village and the collected algae is scraped off into nutrient pools inside the Tunnels to grow.  


The animal grazing areas, for the herd of domesticated animals, are one of the few places in the village that are green. These pastors are cultivated and watered to encourage plant growth and are fenced with bone stakes. (These grazing areas are near the village manure piles, where the animal’s waste is collected for tanning, fertilizer, and other uses. Dried, the manure is used as fuel for the fires of the village.) Bridges arc over the river, made of giant rib bones and tied together with strips of leather or cloth. Small boats, made from bone frames and covered in leather, are stored along the river bank

The villagers fight with bow and arrows, clubs, knives, and a range of traps that vary from pit and spike trap to dumping acid on enemies. They tend to use ambush tactics, traps and ranged attacks to hunt the various animals that range around the desert. This hunting helps stock the village’s larder and can be used as trade goods. Sometimes, a trapped animal is added to a village’s domesticated herds.

A Canyon with a river running along it's base, snaking out into the horizon.

The main location seen in the game would look something like this.

Image taken from

A photo of an ancient ax made of a sharpened rock blade.

A possible example of a tool that would be used by the village priest during ceremonies. The wood would make it too valuable for everyday use.

Image from


The various different jobs in the village are broken up along gendered lines, with the women doing most of the organizing, preparing, creating, or growing, and are considered too valuable to risk as hunters. The men of the tribe hunt for food and supplies above and do most of the tunnel digging. The children of the tribe act as apprentices to various groups until they reach maturity when they will choose where they want to work.


Each tribe has led by tribe elders, which is as much a title as an age. The Elders are elected as representatives of the different groups in the tribe, like hunters, crafters, or priests and report to the Head Elder. The Head Elder of each of the tribes meet together once a year to decide on alliances, marriages, trading needs, criminal punishments and discuss new discoveries or problems.


Crime is rare in the Yavnam villages and cities, partially due to the small communities and the personal services required to pay for minor crimes and partially due to the violent nature of their punishments for major crimes. The punishments of criminals vary with the crime. Mild crimes such as small item theft are sentenced to indentured servitude to the person they stole from. Murders, rapists, and the thieves are held in a sacred and secure location until the yearly Holy Day of the Yavnam, where the Elders of each village and city will gather together to hear the evidence against the criminals. Those guilty of their crimes are hung by their ankles, then their acid sacks are punctured and their hands are cut off. These criminal are then left to bleed out, while their victims and the victim's families watch. The criminal's removed hands are given to the victim's families. This punishment is considered the most severe possible and also marks them as a sacrifice to their God. 


There are many examples around the village of the Yavnam art style, which manifests itself in murals and carvings. The murals vary in elaborateness, ranging from small quick charcoal scribbles done by children to multicolored extravaganzas as large as a huge room. The subjects also vary capturing daily life, important events to the villagers, and grand events from their culture’s mythos.  These murals are painted with acid-scorched stone, ash, and plant dyes. The carvings are etched into rock and carved using the tip of an acid coated claw, the lines and divots have a glassy sheen to them. The carvings tend to be a bit more ornate, but also less story focused, instead of scenes they are of ornate plants or abstract shapes and patterns.

Ancient painting on a cave wall.

An example of the villages style when they paint on the cave walls.

Image taken from

Locations of Note:

*Note, The Wall Dweller’s god is considered as one God. His official statues show him in his two aspects, standing back to back with each other.  The Death Temple’s statue is positioned so that the Death aspect of the God faces the Temple Cave Entrance. In the Life Temple, The Life aspect faces the temple entrance, with the Death aspect facing the far wall.

A dark cave glittering with blue points of lights that highlight the darkness.

What the Life Aspect temple ceiling might look like.

Image would at

Temple of the God’s Life Aspect

This cave has a long narrow entrance, just wide enough for one person to enter at a time. This entrance leads to a large room with a medium side chamber.  The side chamber has four pallets, and a large bone table in the corner. Dried plants are hung from the ceiling and walls.  The large room has a statue of the god near its back wall, with the god’s life aspect facing the cave entrance. This stone Statue has been carved in the likeness of a Wall Dweller covered in plants that twine around its body and limbs. The statue has been stained green with a glossy sheen, and its face is covered with an embroidered and dyed cloth veil. Its upraised hand holds a glowing crystal. The God’s statue is lit by a number of large glowing crystals that flank the statue. A shallow moat has been cut around the statue and is filled with water during the rainy season. At the God’s feet are offerings of small crystal shards, small potted plants, and decorated jewelry. Plants and crystals surround the perimeter of the room, along with empty barrels for catching rainwater. The room is cool, with small holes drilled into the ceiling that looks like stars at noon, shining down thin beams to light up the cave.

Ancient cave painting of hundreds of overlapping human hands.

Hands of those who have been given justice, painted in the blood and ashes of those who committed the crime.

Image from

Temple to God’s Death and Justice Aspect

This cave has a large wide opening, that that would allow four Dwellers to enter at once. This entrance leads to a large central chamber with 3 medium sized chambers leading from it. The rightmost chamber serves as a village graveyard, with rows of small white ceramic boxes set in chambers carved into the walls. The middle chamber acts as a judgment hall and has a bare austere look to it. The leftmost chamber is used to prepare the dead for burial, and has a large tub of acid in the corner of the room, usually with a dead body or a skeleton at the bottom of it, and long tongs hung on the walls.


The Central Chamber holds the statue of their god with his death aspect facing the cave’s entrance. This statue has been carved from stone and stained white like bone.  The Death God’s fur looks matted, and his upraised hand has been stained brown and holds a severed Wall Dweller hand. He wears an animal skull, similar in look to an Earth’s velociraptor with longer teeth, on his head and pulled over his face so his eyes look out of its eye socket. The animal’s jawbone was tied around his neck with a leather cord and rests against the statue’s chest.   This statue is mounted atop a staired platform, flanked by various weapons, and with a carpet of red dyed leather laid over the steps. A set of measuring scales rests at the feet of the statue.  A large window is cut into the ceiling above the statue allowing a harsh beam of light to illuminate the god. Mummified Dweller hands are hung from the walls like strings of bunting, and a couple fresh hands have been left among the offering left on the statue’s stairs. These offering usually consist of carved bones, pieces of dried meat, or decorated weapons.

Research for this project:


Bone meal

Windmill history

Alien desert sky


Ancient glass making techniques:

Ancient Glassmaking—The Core-Formed Technique video

Invention in Early Glassblowing - The Road to Ennion with Bill Gudenrath video

Glassmaking History and Techniques by

Origins of Glassmaking by Corning Museum of Glass

Ancient Glass by History of Glass

Animal adaptations to deal with heat and lack of water

The Desert Adaptations of Birds & Mammals by DesertMuseum

What Types of Adaptations Must Desert Animals Make to Conserve Water? by Seattlepi

The cities carved into mountains

Petra Wikapedia

Petra museum exhibit

Ancestral_Puebloans wiki



Ancestral Pueblo Culture by

Ancestral Pueblo culture from Britania

Ancestral Pueblo home construction from NPS


Plant adaptations

Plant adaptations to desert conditions

desert_plant survay


Types of plants that grow in deserts

Top 9 plants commonly found deserts


Desert Plants by PlantWorld

​​Desertusa flora

Lists of various desert plants


​​Australia's Great Sandy Desert_by DesertUSA


Yearly rainfall levels

Sahara:  averages less than 1.5 cm

American deserts: almost 28 cm a year


How to make soil fertile

Make Infertile Soil Fertile from

Healthy Soil and How to Make It by The Spruce

Understanding and Improving Clay Soil

Creating Fertility Soil

8 Steps to Make Better Garden Soil

Fertile Soil


What causes deserts

Desert Biomes by

North American Deserts by Landau​​

Desert Geography by


Earth cultures that form in deserts

Australian desert

American Deserts

Desert cultures from Britania


General differences between desert cultures and forest/jungle cultures

Desert People vs Jungle people by DiscoverMagazine


Stone weapons

Bronze swords

Blowguns with poison tips

Hunters used a spear thrower, or atlatl, to propel the spear. Most atlatls were little more than a wooden shaft with a hooked end. The weapon’s hollow tip fitted over the hook. A quick snap of the arm launched the spear.