Geisterwald is the ancient name of the immense forest in which you have lived your whole life. It is a harrowing, dangerous place – the forest itself holds untold numbers of physical and spiritual dangers, and the inhabitants of the deep forest are a direct menace to its civilizations.
There are a number of things one must keep in mind when imagining the Geisterwald and predicting its many dangers:
1. It’s alive … which might seem as though it is given, but it is best to think of the dense forest as its own organism, an entity grown fearful and mad with the passing of millenia. The forest does not have a consciousness per se, but it sometimes seems to have intent, or at least unintentional hostility. The forest is not a calculating foe, but it is as terrifying and potentially fatal as any natural threat from the real world.
2. It’s full … of hostile creatures intent on killing or eating you in a variety of ways, that is. The forest is populated with ancient fey, the spirits of seasons, mundane and magical beasts, intelligent and carnivorous plants, and psyche-devouring menaces of all kinds. Civilization has been carved out of the forest itself, over hundreds of generations, and that carving (and maintaining) has come at a heavy cost. Civilized people don’t always win these battles – for every settlement that has managed to preserve a somewhat civilized way of life in the frontier lands away from the few major cities, there are three or four that were devoured completely by the forest and its denizens, the remains of which lie covered in the bloody past. Even the cities themselves must be vigorously defended, and who knows how many civilizations have been lost to time?
3. It’s vast … in a way that can hardly be imagined. The forest is neither the remaining pockets of wildness in a world long dominated by the races of men, nor is it a frontier hinterland valued by civiliztion for its untapped wealth; instead, the forest is everything. Civilization itself is the intrusion on untamed wilderness. No believable person can claim to have seen the forest’s edge, and those who might be believed are no longer sane. That means that the forest is all you know. Humanity must preserve itself and its civilizations with no help from the environment, and whether humanity will continue is an open question.