The Half-deserts are the outer region of the Great Desert of Near Harad, a barely-inhabitable strip that separates more fertile lands from the burning wastes. They border many lands, including the northern lands of Far Harad to the south, the Southron Coasts to the west, the Gulf of Harad and the Inner Seas to the east, and Harnennor, the desert of Lostladen, Mordor, and Rhûn to the north.
The Half-deserts are dominated by a mix of sand and barren dirt, and feature considerably more vegetation than the Great Desert itself. Arid grass dominates the region, though dead bushes and cacti can be found here as well. Oak trees, both stunted living ones and dead ones, are a common sight in the Half-deserts, struggling for survival in the sandy soil. The only animals that call these lands home are hardy camels and vicious desert scorpions.
Like in the Great Desert, players travelling through the Half-deserts will periodically suffer damage from the heat of the sun. Players can mitigate this damage by wearing Harad Robes, by staying in the shade, or by only coming out at night. Those choosing the last option should be wary of scorpions, however, who swarm when the sun goes down. Also like in the Great Desert, there is no rain in the Half-deserts; instead, players will experience periodic sandstorms while travelling through the region.
The Half-deserts are home to the Harad Nomads, a hardy people that still follow ancient Southron ways of life. These Men have no permanent homes and roam all over the Great Desert, but they primarily make their camps in the Half-deserts and along rivers, making a trip to the Half-deserts important for Near Harad-aligned players. Nomads and their Guards can be found quite commonly in the Half-deserts, which are the closest thing they have to a home.
Upon entering the Half-deserts, you earn the achievement "The Great Desert".
Note: Both of these sub-biomes are technically sub-biomes of the Southron Coasts which generate in this biome.
Harad Desert Riverbank
Rivers flow through the Half-deserts at various points, usually bound for more fertile lands. These include the Lithnen south of Harnennor, the Khandwater east of Lostladen, several rivers near the Gulf of Harad, the rivers Harlanhir and Haradruin on the borders of Far Harad, and the mighty river Althrassir, which keeps the Southron Coasts fertile. Where these rivers flow through the Half-deserts, the Harad Desert Riverbank sub-biome generates, despite not being marked on the map. In these regions, you will find a lush environment that mostly resembles that of the Southron Coasts, with sprawling fields of grass, oak, cedar, cypress, and palm trees, and plenty of wild animals. The Nomads tend to gather here, and the player can find their outposts in this region, though not their larger encampments. Ancient Harad Fortresses can be found here as well. This sub-biome can only be found in the Half-deserts, as no rivers flow through the Great Desert itself. As in the Oasis, it rains in the desert riverbank, unlike in the Half-deserts proper.
Near Harad Oasis
This sub-biome is quite rare, and can be found across the Half-deserts. Referred to as the Green Jewels by the Southrons, Oases are patches of fertile land that usually generate around small lakes. The Oasis sub-biome is virtually identical to the Desert Riverbank, with sprawling fields of grass, oak, cedar, cypress, and palm trees, and plenty of wild animals. The primary difference between the two sub-biomes is size, as Oases only cover a few chunks each.
Nomads spawn in Oasis sub-biomes more commonly than they do in the Half-deserts proper.
Upon entering an Oasis, the player earns the achievement "Jewel of Harad."
In the Half-deserts, the following biome variants can be found:
- Steppe - A very flat version of the biome.
- Barren Steppe - A steppe, but with no trees. Structures generate here very commonly.
- Light Forest - A lightly forested version of the biome.
- Dead Forest - A version of the biome forested with dead trees.
- Oak Shrubland - Forest covered lands with a lower tree density than regular forests, but with a very thick undergrowth of shrubs.
- Hills - A hillier version of the biome.
- Forest Hills - A forested version of the hill variant.
The Half-deserts are home to many settlements of the Nomads, as well as more ancient structures from days long past.
- Harad Obelisk - Simple sandstone shrines that can be found across various regions of Near Harad. Built by the Southrons in honor of Sauron, they are built around central columns topped with open flames.
- Morwaith Mercenary Camp - Camps where the Morwaith Mercenaries reside, waiting for players to hire them. Built around Tables of Command, these camps contain up to four tents, which feature banners of the Morwaith or of Near Harad and contain reed baskets with loot, vanilla crafting tables, and either Morwaith or Haradric crafting tables. These camps also feature small farms with eight wheat and practice dummies scattered around the vicinity.
- Nomad Outposts - Small camps that can be found in the Half-Deserts and Riverbanks, home to caravans of Harad Nomads. These small settlements contain no more than eight tents all told, all made of white and brown wool supported by wooden fences. Outposts are built around large tents, which feature ornate carpets, seats for groups of Nomads, a double straw bed, a furnace, a cauldron, a vanilla crafting table, and a reed basket with some standard loot. These tents are surrounded by smaller tents, which contain a pair of beds, a vanilla crafting table, a furnace, and a reed basket with loot. Harad Nomads spawn in these tents and in the surrounding area.
- Nomad Encampments - Larger, rarer Nomad settlements that can only be found in the Half-deserts. These are home to much larger caravans, and are built around central wells, a rarity indeed in the desert. Two large tents can be found close to these wells, and form a ring with a chieftain's tent and a bazaar tent. The chieftain's tent is home to a Nomad Chieftain and several Nomad Guards, and features treasure piles, two double lion fur beds, two cauldrons, two reed baskets, a vanilla crafting table, a Haradric crafting table, tables with food and drink, and tethered, pre-tamed camels for players to take. Bazaar tents are the largest structures built by the Nomads, and feature all sorts of miscellaneous goods piles around three wooden stalls, where three of the four Nomad Traders (including armourers, brewers, stonemasons, and miners) can be found. Up to fourteen smaller tents can generate in a ring around these larger structures. Encampments are guarded heavily by the Nomads, who spawn in large numbers in them.
- Ancient Harad Fortress - Fortresses built by Haradrim of an age past, long since abandoned to the desert. These structures are mostly buried by the shifting desert sands, with the lower floor of the structure usually buried completely, but they are otherwise in remarkably good condition. Buried within them are reed baskets that can contain extremely valuable loot, including uncraftable Black Númenórean armour and equipment.
- Desert Pyramids - Massive pyramids of Haradric brick, which can rarely be found out in the desert. These towering monuments are topped with obelisks bearing the symbol of the Eye of Sauron, with a gold block inset for the Eye's pupil. An entrance, usually clogged with sand, can be found at the base of the pyramid, which leads into a network of tunnels and burial chambers. Two store-rooms with three stone chests each can be found branching off the entrance corridor, beyond which is a set of three burial chambers, featuring another stone chest each alongside the remains of a long-dead Southron lord. The corridor loops around these tombs towards the main vault at the back of the pyramid, which is walled off by bronze bars. This vault contains a desert scorpion spawner and a hidden Ancient Haradric Chest, which contains the pyramid's most valuable loot. In addition, there are three hidden treasure chambers built into the pyramid - one beneath the top of the pyramid and two more located near the store-rooms, all of which players must dig through the pyramid to unearth. Each chamber contains another scorpion spawner and another stone chest. All told, these pyramids contain thirteen chests, all of which can contain extremely valuable loot, such as Black Númenórean gear or Old-Haradric Sacrificial Daggers. Looters should take caution, however, as each chest has the chance to spawn a Harad Pyramid Wraith and some scorpions upon being accessed.
The Half-deserts are home to the Nomads, the camels they depend upon for travel, and a few other, fouler creatures.
- Harad Nomad - Civilian nomads of the Great Desert. In the Half-deserts, they can be found wandering around on their own sometimes, and can be found in greater numbers in their outposts and encampments. They will not attack enemy NPCs or players unless attacked, but will defend themselves with Haradric daggers if need be.
- Nomad Guards - Warriors from the shifting sands of the Great Desert, Nomad Guards can be found rather commonly in the Half-deserts. They wear Nomad Armour, occasionally with turbans instead of helmets, and use Haradric equipment, including swords, daggers, spears, and pikes. They can be found mounted on camels.
- Nomad Archers - Nomad Guards that carry Bows of Harad, who can also be found mounted on camels.
- Nomad Traders - Four Nomad traders that can only be found in Nomad Bazaars - the armourer, brewer, stonemason, and miner. Each will buy and sell items relevant to their profession. Unlike the other traders, the armourer will only trade with players above a certain alignment with Near Harad, and they can reforge your weapons for you, for the right price.
- Nomad Chieftain - The leaders of Nomad tribes, who command the guards that keep caravans safe. Nomad Chieftains allow players with sufficient money and alignment to hire Nomad guards, archers, camelry, and banner bearers. They spawn only in their tents in Nomad encampments, and wear Nomad Armour, minus the helmets, and carry Haradric weapons, much like their followers. They can be easily distinguished by their capes, which are red and embroidered with the symbol of the Black Serpent.
- Morwaith Mercenaries - Some of the fiercest hunters of the Morwaith tribes, these mercenaries rent out their services to the highest bidder. They can come equipped with Harnennor, Umbaric, Coast Southron, or Gulfen armour with Harad Turbans, and will use either Umbaric or Haradric weapons in combat. They spawn only in Morwaith Mercenary Camps, and players can hire them by talking to them.
- Desert Scorpion - These hostile mobs stalk the deserts at night, and attack on sight with their poisonous stingers. They can be extremely deadly underground, where they spawn in large swarms.
- Harad Pyramid Wraith - Ghosts of ancient Southron kings that inhabit the pyramids found in the desert. They come in two variants - one wearing Gulfing armour and carrying a Haradric dagger, and one wearing Coast Southron armour and carrying an Umbaric dagger. They will spawn with a bolt of lightning when the player attempts to access chests in the pyramids, and are hostile to all.
All the standard ores can be found beneath the Half-deserts, with the addition of Lapis Lazuli. Unlike in vanilla, lapis can only be found in Near Harad, albeit at the same rates and levels.
The Half-deserts are mostly devoid of vegetation, but not to the same degree as the burning wastes of the Great Desert. Stunted but living oak trees can be found here, struggling for survival in the sandy soil, together with many dead oaks. Trees are especially common in forest or shrubland variants. Aside from trees, arid grass, dead bushes, and Harad flowers can be found regularly in the Half-deserts, as can cacti and sometimes even berry bushes.
The Riverbank and Oasis sub-biomes are much more fertile than the Half-deserts themselves. Unlike the Half-deserts, the terrain in these sub-biomes is dominated by grass, and the regions feature flora matching the Southron Coasts. Flowers are more common in these regions, as are trees. Fruit trees can be found in riverbanks and oases, as can cedar, cypress, and palm trees.