Approximately 25 kilometers north of Marsilion the terrain starts growing rather hilly, and within another two kilometers the Badlands are considered to have officially begun. Signifying the end of usable farmland for a good distance, the badlands are host to only a few small and often nomadic communities, and is generally not considered a safe place to travel.
The badlands are the remnants of multiple lava flows that have hit the island from the central volcanoes over the years before the First Founding, before the volcanoes went dormant. Due to some peculiar effect having to do with the island's nature, or perhaps a simple quirk of the very odd water springs found in the area, the resultant flows eroded into a random assemblage of sharp and blunt hills and interlocking vallies, with very little flat land. Traversal is difficult, and takes days on foot - no cart can traverse the terrain, and even horses have difficulty.
Most rock in the region is lightweight pumice or other "bubbled" forms of lightweight rock, almost exclusively igneous extrusive. While some areas, due to the lack of soil and poor PH, are completely barren of greenery, many valleys have small trees and scrubs growing on them. Though finding local food can be problematic (although not impossible), water is not too hard to find due to the aforementioned springs, many of which run through said vallies, creating the occasional small oasis.
The badlands is one of the most potent sources of rarer metals on the island. Underneath the igneous extrusive layer is a wide variety of metal deposits, some of which are mined quite extensively. However, the difficulties in transporting the mined product out of the region mean that most deposits are simply not economical to extract, and so remain untapped. There are many deposits under the water table, but establishing a steam water pump and mining operation would be very expensive and difficult.
Almost no roads can be found in the region. Instead, anywhere small settlements (or military or criminal encampments) occur, tunnels can usually be found, dug into the rock. Some of these are former mine shafts, whereas others have been dug to facilitate transport - often in case of emergency. Saber's old compound (see below) made extensive use of such tunnels, as do local bandits in the region, for methods of surprise.
Inhabiting the badlands are a variety of groups.
By far the most common are small groups of semi-permanent nomads, who live off scrublands and small game, as well as their own acquired livestock. Many of these nomadic groups are culturally walled off from the rest of the island, and often speak their own languages and have their own (often offworld) states of dress and cultural traditions and taboos, making relations somewhat difficult. Indeed, many of these groups see the rest of the island as a threat and will ambush travellers in an attempt to steal their equipment and weapons, and possibly capture them as bargaining tools or slaves.
Nomad groups are generally unfriendly from the outset, but can be befriended by those with linguistical talent or those that are willing to overcome the language barrier. Of course, the nomads deciding to turn upon the PCs is always a possibility.
A small community of dwarves, kobolds, mole-men and other various races that prefer living underground. They have a small aboveground fort, located in the northwestern part of the badlands, and grow most of their food underground, in an extensive tunnel network system, which also provides housing. Unlike the nomads, English interpreters are available. They will often forge weaponry and other items out of metals they find and process, and the craftsmanship for these is often noted to be very fine. Such "dwarven" tools and weapons (including firearms) are highly sought after, and are unfortunately more common in the north of the island than in the south, owing to the difficulty of transportation.
The fort welcomes visitors, especially if they have money to trade or business to conduct. A highly mercentile society, although it is somewhat insular. Expect lots of suspicious looks if you're brought down into the tunnel network. They are a politically neutral power, and though they possess their own military have so far been too useful for the northern houses to risk destroying.
A small but lively community of banditry exists in the badlands. While only the hardy traveller or explorer passes through the rocky and difficult terrain, making pickings slim, the badlands provide a very secure place to hide. Almost all notable country bandit gangs on the eastern half of the island have a hideout somewhere within the layers of igneous rock. From these lairs they often run small sorties to rob miners of their loads or even travel inland to rob farms and merchants travelling in the plains.
A bandit encounter is generally of two types - the bandits will either be looking to force PCs to surrender, or disable them, to take any valuable items off their personage, or be running away because the odds do not favor them being able to take option #1 successfully. Bandits do not fight to the death and are generally in it to get rich, not die. They will surrender if it is in their best interests to, and run if the option is available.
Finally, there is the Marsilion Army. A company's worth of soldiers (100 men) is stationed in the southern part of the badlands, which is designated as a "safe" or "barrier" zone. While it only covers the southernmost two kilometers of the badlands with semi-regular patrols, this region is generally the safest, with very few bandits being brave enough to try something within it, and the Army keeps the nomads away, sometimes by force. The post is considered very important by command due to not only the potential of enemy special forces or saboteurs slipping their way towards Marsilion through the badlands, but also because Airbase Guardian is located within the foothills to the south, and must be screened continually to avoid threats making their way towards it. If encountered, Army personnel may stop and search any PC in the area as well as request the circumstances of their visit, but are generally not hostile and will not fire unless provoked, and will let all non-suspicious individuals go about their business. Anything suspicious (explosives, assassination weapons, military grade hardware) may prompt them to haul individuals in for questioning at the nearest field post (possibly one of the refurbished forts mentioned below), although they will be polite at least.
Some of the plants brought in from offworld have thrived in the badlands, such as sundew plants that catch the myriad of everpresent insects that roam through the area, and other plants that use small vines to snatch and ensnare prey to supplement their nutritional value. Since the soil, where it exists, is loose and provides poor nutrition, most plants are either hardy enough to survive with a minimal level of nitrites, "fix" their own (like cranberry plants with bulbs in their roots), or get their minerals by eating insects.
There are very few large predators in the badlands - anything bigger than a fox is extremely rare. Local rabbits are often caught by birds of prey, and a large number of rodents exist, often preyed upon by various fox and small wildcat species. Poisonous snakes and insects do exist and care should be taken.
The badlands was a strategically significant position during the First Infinitas War. Many raiding parties of indeginous tribes came from the badlands, as well as raiding parties from the northern powers. Marsilion protected herself by establishing a series of crude, earth-and-stone, miniature fortifications with small numbers of rifled cannon, manned by small 10 to 30 man crews, primarily made for area denial. These forts can still be visited today, and have their own tunnel network that connects each fort along the line. One or two in the second, reserve line have even been pressed into service as Marsilion Army field posts (see above). Occasionally small artifacts can be found. Many of the cannon provided for the forts were simply too expensive and not economical to recover, and as such were left in place.
Saber's first base of operations was located in the badlands - a collection of small tents, a semi-permanent garage, and a small tunnel network, hosting the initially small 80 individuals that made up the militia. The encampment relocated closer to the southern part of the badlands midway through the Second Infinitas War, and a new, larger hangar and miniature airstrip for their one-plane air force was established at the site, which can still be viewed today, although it's being reclaimed by the elements. It is abandoned today, most of it's valuables having already been stripped.