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Currently in my planning for my campaign I have a desert region that would make for a great way to travel, except tribes of Monkeys are at war. One side quest I have planned out has the players end the war. One outcome is the tribes are united under the power of a hermit that has been witness to the war for years. The other outcome is one or both of the tribes are destroyed. Either way I want to evolve the area into a central hub for merchants and adventurers. The side quest will be put into action midway into the heroic tier.

What would be a good way to have this evolution happen so part way into the paragon tier the party could use it as a way to gather exotic items and travel easier? Should I introduce it in stages of completeness, or just keep them busy elsewhere then allow them to find it on their own?

--EDIT--

Forgot to mention the desert is not very large, and there is only the two villages and the hermits hut. It would take about 2.5 - 3 days to cross without stopping at the villages. Also the Monkeys war is about which village is correct on there system of rule(ones logical, the other chaotic).

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There are and were trade routes in history that went through the deserts, notably the Silk Road went through the Taklamakan Desert in Western China (Xinjiang province if you want to look it up on a map). Simply put, if there is a resource on one side of your desert province that people on the other side want, there will be a road through it or around it. Granted, I know nothing of your campaign but I would wager dollars to donuts that the trade route going through this desert region is at least partly the cause of the war. Since you outline two possible paths for the "peace" to take hold, we'll look at the scenarios individually.

The Hermit King

Likely if this war has lasted any amount of time, both regions have been using up resources on things that kill instead of things that make life better. If the hermit has any sort of power, he may be able to brow-beat the two factions into the peace, or maybe the warring countries pick him as the only person that each trusts to run things squarely. Regardless, he's now in charge and assuming he knows what he is doing, his first order of business would likely be to make sure that the region is as hospitable as possible. What I mean is he will want to figure out the feasibility of travelers/traders to make it through the area*. Are there reliable water sources about a half-day's travel apart? Oasis or town about a day's travel apart? If not, then figuring out how to get at least podunk towns at comfortable distances apart. Maybe in the dead center there is a 2-3 day slog through the desert, but have plenty of water and towns on each side so traders can stock up.

Trade will develop in 2 ways simultaneously. First, traders will expand into the desert by a trickle as they try to expand their trade networks. This trickle method starts with expansion to the "near" border of the desert, then a few brave souls will seek out new customers in the middle of the desert, and then moving to the far side of the desert, then to places beyond that desert. The other way trade will develop is that a noble or wealthy merchant will hear of a resource and finance a caravan to go load up and come back. They will likely have more gold to spend on things like food, bar maid's smiles and other "necessities" of life, but they are unlikely to want to sell much of their caravan's supply of the resource simply because Lord Fuzzy-britches would be most displeased if they brought him a sack of gold instead of the rare spices he ordered you to bring him back.

Annihilation

If both countries are annihilated, trade will likely take much longer to develop. I'm assuming that each country controls one side of the desert and the middle is something of a DMZ after this war. The first order of business would be that each community on either side consolidate resources and build/strengthen their respective towns/roads. As population expands, they will each likely send settlers (voluntary or not) to expand farther into the desert. When they meet in the middle, they will either work together or fight each other. If each country has a resource that the other country genuinely wants, this is the likely scenario for the two countries to form a somewhat lasting peace... although sooner or later the price of one of the resources will either go up or drop compared to the others "special resource". Likely there will either be hurt feelings or another war. However, that can also be centuries after your campaign ends if you prefer to not have a second war for that piece of desert muddy your campaign.

*Why would a hermit want trade/travel? Generally they wouldn't. However, once everyone trusts him to run things, the next likely scenario would be to try to bring in business to supply what the region cannot supply itself. As most campaigns are not long enough (read centuries), a little DM Fiat is a convenient plot-hammer to move the campaign in the direction you want.

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Wow. The Hermit King scenario is quite good. The Annihilation on is not quite as good(for my campaign). I realize I forgot to post the scale of the sides in my question. The conflict is two villages of Monkeys who think their system is better than the others. I'll give others time to answer first but you may be the winner of the day. –  RMDan Mar 26 '13 at 13:20
    
Also a bit more on the hermit. He is more over tired of only having bananas for food. –  RMDan Mar 26 '13 at 13:29

I'd say you should go with stages of completeness:

  • foreign healers come in to help the war wounded, maybe some of them stay -> PC's get better access to healing potions.
  • shady merchants come in to buy any weapons left around or which the villages don't need -> PC's get better access to some weapons.
  • recruiters come from mercenary companies to take away the veterans who want to sign up -> more quests
  • a merchant comes with the same idea to recruit guards for his caravan, maybe he leaves a shop to profit from the post war economy
  • a necromancer comes overtly or discreetly to experiment on any bodies left behind -> quest and merchant for Shadow/Arcane PC's
  • priests from the God of Peace comes to soak up in that post war euphoria and gain some quick converts, a prophet of the God of War comes to give them a "stern lecture" -> new temples
  • a desert focused druid comes around to asses the damage the war has made on the environment

    I know if I were a PC I'd like to see gradual progress in the area when I happen to go through it, the sense that life is going on and that a area is prospering in part to my efforts is the best compensation.

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I like the way you structured the transformation. –  RMDan Mar 28 '13 at 12:29

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