|“||"And further still there are more lands, they say, but the Yellow Face is very hot there, and there are seldom any clouds, and the men are fierce and have dark faces."||”|
–Gollum, The Two Towers, The Black Gate is Closed
The Great Desert is a large, barren desert region located south of most of the familiar lands of Middle-earth. Located at the heart of Near Harad, the Great Desert is surrounded on almost all sides by the Half-deserts (with the exception of the Red Desert sub-biome, which instead borders the Sea.) The Half-deserts separate this blasted waste from Harnennor, the Southron Coasts, the Gulf of Harad, and the lands of Far Harad. The Great Desert takes up much of Near Harad, and serves to connect the various Southron peoples.
The surface of the Great Desert is dominated by a veritable sea of sand, the monotony of which is occasionally broken up by arid grass, dead bushes, and cacti. Nearly all of the trees found here are dead, and even dead trees are extraordinarily uncommon outside of dead forest variants. The Sun is merciless here, and the only animals that call these lands home are hardy camels and vicious desert scorpions. The only respite for travelers in this forsaken land are oases, a rare but welcome sight among the desert's burning sands.
Players travelling through the Great Desert 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. Additionally, there is no rain in the Great Desert; instead, players will experience periodic sandstorms while travelling through the region.
Rare groups of wandering Harad Nomads can be found in the Great Desert, along with their settlements; these hardy men are the only ones that dare to eke out a living here, though they usually stick to the Half-deserts. Their camps are few and far between, however, and the Great Desert is mostly deserted. These lands do, however, bear evidence to past settlement - many ancient monuments and fortresses can be found hidden among the desert sands. These ruins are surely the only reason that any player would dare to venture into this inhospitable land.
Upon entering the Great Desert, you earn the achievement "The Great Desert".
Great ranges of sand-covered hills rise up from the desert in several locations. The northernmost of these ranges of hills is the Emyn Lithnen, which is located south of Harnennor; three other ranges form a barrier between the Great Desert and the Gulf of Harad, while another range can be found in the southwestern corner of the desert. These hills are similar to the standard biome, but feature hillier terrain and rockier surfaces. During periods of inclement weather, it rains in the Desert Hills instead of sandstorming.
It is said by the Southrons that the easternmost sands of the Great Desert are scorched red by the rising sun, though few have travelled to this remote desert to verify this tale. The Red Desert is very similar to the Great Desert itself, except it is composed exclusively of red sand. This makes it a good source of red sandstone, and thus red Haradric Brick. No structures can be found in the Red Desert, as none have ever settled in this remote and desolate land.
This sub-biome is quite rare, and can be found across the Great Desert. 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 Great Desert proper.
Upon entering an Oasis, the player earns the achievement "Jewel of Harad."
In the Great Desert, the following biome variants can be found:
- Dunes - small, long hills that are the result of harsh winds blowing the sands.
- Steppe - a version of the great desert that's far flatter than others.
- Red Boulder Fields - a version of the great desert that's dotted with boulders of Red Sandstone.
- Hills - a version of the great desert with more hills.
- Dead forest - a desert forest of dead trees.
- Sandy scrublands - Similar to the normal scrubland but with sandstone instead of stone distributed throughout the surface terrain.
The Great Desert is mostly devoid of life, but a few scattered settlements of the Nomads can be found here, as can ruins from the distant 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.
- Nomad Outposts - Small camps that can rarely be found in the Great Desert, 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 Nomad settlements that can be found in the Great Desert, albeit exceedingly rarely. 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 Pyramid - 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 Great Desert is a perilous land, home only to a few hardy Nomads and the camels they depend upon for travel. A few foul creatures are much more common.
- Harad Nomad - Civilian nomads of the Great Desert. In the burning wastes of the Great Desert, they are only found in Nomad settlements. 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 in Nomad settlements. 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.
- 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 Great Desert, 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 Great Desert is almost entirely devoid of life. Only arid grass and dead oak trees, alongside rare living specimens, can be found in these inhospitable wastes, as the terrain here is almost entirely composed of sand.
The Oasis sub-biome is much more fertile than the desert itself, however. The terrain in this sub-biome is dominated by grass, and the region features flora matching the Southron Coasts. Flowers are more common in oases, as are trees. Fruit trees can be found in oases, as can cedar, cypress, and palm trees.
- Glflegolas did a regional spotlight on the Near Harad Desert, which can be found here. If you plan on visiting, make sure to check that out.
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