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Licensure note

The original Level 186, which this is a sublevel of, is owned by Wikidot user Sethron.

The MEG, from whose perspective this is written (other than italicised portions which are written from The Helping Hand’s POV), is the property of the Backrooms Wikidot collectively.

This level 186.1 is copyright Umbrellix. It is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike version 3.0, in compliance with the licence terms of the original Level 186.

Level 186.1 - The Desert Plain

Datum Value
Survival Difficulty Class Habitable
Safety Safe
Security Sustained Communities
Entities High entity count, possibly hostile

Level 186.1 is a sublevel of the 187th level of the Backrooms.


Level 186.1, also known as the Desert Plain, is a high steppe (called a desert) plain (actually a valley, albeit with little slope) of unknown length and around 1000 kilometers width surrounded on one side by mountains and on another by cliffs.

You’re here for one of two reasons. Either you have committed an unforgivable sin, but I see goodness in your soul that somehow outweighs it, or perhaps you asked me to show you purgatory. In the latter case, if you want to leave, you may at any time. In the former, I’ll tell you when you can leave, unless you decide that actually this is a neat joint. Just don’t go cliff diving. Nobody comes back from that. Same as the Valley.

The year cycle and day length is the same as in level 186 - 547, 36 hour days, and 45 or 46-day months. Rainfall and snowfall totals about a third that typical in the valley. The weather is more extreme, with temperatures as high as 46°C in early summer in scrubby areas (the monsoon relieves), and as low as -48°C in the heights of the mountains, though the lowlands rarely get temperatures below -3°C. This sublevel was created desolate, apart from the vegetation in the arroyos and the reliable monsoon rains, but has been raised solely by the actions of the Sinners and innocent wanderers to a place arable and almost habitable. There are now forested places, and some of the rivers, which were once seasonal washes, flow well enough for hydro-power, which is used primarily to thresh and mill (as most residents are used to the absence of electricity from the parent level, so they do not attempt to generate electricity).

I told them I turned the electricity on here, because I know the relative lack of water would make their steam engines a liability. I think they’re used to it being off - seeing as I banished them from their home where electricity didn’t exist, and all. I don’t mind. If they used the dams for electricity, maybe the rivers would stop flowing. I doubt it though. They were smart enough to only siphon off a small amount of the arroyos into their powerhouses. They know they have to maintain a delicate balance to have the things they need to survive.

The Republic of the Valley claims this area as a territory, but does not have effective control, and warns against voluntary travel. Diplomatic relations, to the extent they occur, occur through the Republic’s Department of Reclamation, as well as Corrections.

Flora and Fauna

Some of the wildlife, including domesticated crops and animals, is essentially identical to the parent level, although sparser, and these are also technically invasive species. Subtropical desert species are native here - various cacti typical of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts of the Americas are the most prominent examples, but various desert ironwoods, as well as palo verde, nopales, and Asian saxauls, are also known. Of animals, one may expect coyotes, Gila lizards, certain insects, the mule deer, the jackrabbit. All have the same blue change as the Valley’s wildlife.


Sinners from 186

Sinners from level 186 are the primary entities here, and make up the majority of the population. They were generally hostile humans who adopted 186 as their homeland, committed an unforgivable sin, but were given a bargain by the aethereal Helping Hand: you can prove your worth in a hard-scrabble arid plain where the rains are reliable, but very low, or you can accept your destruction. They are identical to humans and are sentient. It is perilous to approach them, as they are convicts, but in your stay here, you are likely to have to for trade, victualling, seed, setting up irrigation (most are occupied in agriculture), employment should you choose to settle, or during conscriptions for maintaining the infrastructure that made the region more habitable.

I’m not proud of them. Well, that’s a lie. I am. They took a survivable Hell, a place I made difficult, but habitable, as a punishment, and made it Heaven. However, I can never forget the evils they wrought. They aren’t going back home. They know. Their families know where to find them. Their twee little desert country can only be a pallid imitation, no matter how verdant their hard scrabbling makes it, and no matter how much of their precious water they unleash upon it.

The Helping Hand

The Helping Hand is the same Helping Hand as from 186, but is generally just called God.

Bases, outposts and communities

The baddest among you, made docile by the promise of desert redemption if they could survive the first year, made much of life on hard mode. They’re not great people - they enslave (to a degree), they are former murderers, and other unspeakable criminals. But they’re very knowledgable. From the time this was a bivouac of 50 of the worst I could perhaps forgive, they corralled each other to mine some rocks and figure something out, which turned out to be damming some washes and building ponds near where the plants were taller. Was it self-preservation? Was it mutual kindness, which would then evolve into a form of mutual serfdom? Did their phones turn back on, perhaps for the last time, and did they learn how to catch the waters from desert peoples on Earth? I know which, but I will never tell. I expected them to perish, but this place is survivable, deliberately so, and I gave them a chance.

State of the Desert Plain

The State of the Desert Plain is much like the Republic of the Valley - an indirect democracy with a constitution and an elected head of state. It has uneasy diplomatic relations with the Republic of the Valley, which views it as a tribute state and a correctional compound. State institutions are much simpler than Valley Republic institutions, except for water rights, which were the first thing to become regulated when the plain was first settled. One census has been performed, in the year 2017, and roughly 850 people lived here, and there were also around 26 visitors and 14 foreign personnel, not including the MEG (who had all departed). The State claims the entirety of the plain, but only has control for the width of it up to the foothills, and 80 kilometers in length - mostly for want of enough people to settle the rest.

Most people live on homesteads, which are hamlets of 4 or 5 persons, usually have at least one well and sometimes have a functioning wash dam. There is no electricity on most homesteads, or if there is, it’s only on for 150 to 200 days (225 to 300 Earth days) a year, and only used for agricultural tasks such as milling, threshing, and drying - essentially until the millpond runs dry from a combination of evaporation, irrigation (most millponds are double-purposed as irrigation ponds) and use.

Capital District

The Capital District is a village, legally a city with a charter from the House of Commons, near the site of the initial settlement. It experiences a mild cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk, temperatures similar to a hot-summer continental-temperate monsoonal climate of Köppen D/Cwa), receiving around 75 cm of precipitation a year, concentrated in the Plain monsoon season, which tends to start between the 25th and 40th of June and continue for roughly 100 days. There are usually short flurries of snow in December, which are gone the same day, and the temperature rarely goes below -3°C. It has around 250 residents, and is the place most visitors stay.

(Note: the higher amount of precipitation still being semi-arid relates to the longer year, which is 820½ Earth days. The Köppen classification is applicable here, but thresholds calculated for Earth related to precipitation and yearly accumulations must be multiplied by roughly 2.25.)

Station Collins

They missed paradise. They missed the reliable rains. Somehow, they had the tools. They terraced the hill, and then forested much of the terrace. The monsoon, the wind from the cliff edge, and the plants they planted (which had been stunted by lack of water in the main part of the desert) did the rest of the work. Ten years later, this has turned from merely being the wettest place in the desert to a veritable oasis.

Station Collins is named after Ft Collins, Colorado, USA, in the Frontrooms, for its similar (albeit wetter; Fort Collins is a cold steppe and Station Collins is monsoonal continental) climate. It is a village, legally an unincorporated place in the unorganized county, largely on terraces in the mountains at 2 kilometers altitude, nearly 500km and multiple days' journey, the last few kilometers through forbidding terrain, from the Capital District. It experiences a cold humid continental climate with short, punishingly hot summers, bordering on semi-arid, and, due to orographic lift, more than a meter of precipitation, almost all of it rain during the monsoon, per year (Köppen: Dwb, bordering BSk). It has 91 residents. Much of the desert vegetation flourishes on the natural soils near the village, but the best adapted plants on the terraces, which have soil more similar to the poorest soils of the Valley, are the temperate annual plants from the Valley, and some hardier perennials. Springs which have developed from micro-aquifers in the terraces help to store the rainfall for use during the dry season, and have also turned one of the arroyos downstream of the village into a year-round river, as yet undammed, which still surges during the monsoon.

This settlement only has footpaths, for stability reasons, and ox or horse-drawn vehicles are only permitted on the trace leading from the second terrace, which is called the main highway. You are strongly advised to ensure your steed(s) can access adequate provender for more than three weeks of travel as while there are homesteads on the route which would be capable of supplying, most are hostile to travellers with animals.

The Main Trace

Every little stone was laid by hand, more or less, out to 10 leagues. You could drive a steam horse all 10 of them in half an hour. But why would you rush? Everyone gets the same 36 hours in a day, and by force away from the hustle and bustle of the bountiful green Valley, there’s no reason to rush.

The main trace is variously called The Main Trace, the main highway, the A-1, the intercity, and other such colourful names. It is a two-lane single carriageway, unpaved in most segments. The metalled section, in the Capital District and out to roughly 50 kilometers, is a crude, but well-maintained water-macadam, which was easily achieved with materials not far from hand. It is not recommended to exceed 20km/h, and the typical speed of traffic is 3km/h because it is mostly ox-draft. Cyclists and horseback riders caught exceeding the speed limit are typically verbally reprimanded upon return. Roadgoing locomotives, as well as being absent in the Plain, are strictly forbidden as a waste of firewood. Longacre grazing is not available.

The main trace connects the Capital Dstrict, some homesteads, and Station Collins.

Reception Station

The Reception Station is located in the Capital District, a couple hundred meters from the site of the initial settlement. It is in effect a motor hotel with a place to chain up various livestock, and the parkade is used to station and secure wagons. Electric power is not used. Lighting is accomplished using candles and wood-fired stoves. Vacancies are easier to obtain in the dry season. Sinners arrive all year round; visitors tend to show up during the monsoon, when temperate perennials green up and the weather is more comfortable. Your stay is free in the dry season, and is subject to service or payment during the monsoon.

Ministry of Water Affairs

The Ministry of Water Affairs is the department charged with water management. From the earliest, water was the limiting factor of human settlement. For the first year, people survived on pretty much whatever they could find, and a few died.

Water Affairs executes the State’s water policy, and governs to some extent the level of agricultural and silvicultural production that may occur under the searing sun. If a well runs dry, Water Affairs has the authority to condemn property or restrict its use, and compel the construction of ponds and the planting of shelter species. They also have the power to conscript - to require work on public property on pain of confinement. This is used in mass levies to bring about the construction of dams, ditches, canals, culverts, wells, and other structures used to harvest water and monitor the water table.

Ministry of Fuel

The Ministry of Fuel regulates the quality and allowed types of fuels for heat sources, used in, for instance, Rankine and Stirling engines, as well as in homes in the State (practically in the Capital District and nearby areas). Because the atmosphere is not self-cleaning like in the Valley, the only coal allowed to be used is anthracite, which is so scarce it is only used for special occasions, and there is a strict quota. The usual choice of fuel is native thorn trees, which produce very little pollution when burned on an extremely hot fire but take some time to come back after felling. When available (the boreal hardwoods grow more slowly in the steppe, especially near washes that don’t flow continuously, so coppice has a longer rotation time - for a species that is normally cut every 2 Earth years, expect coupes every 3 level years or 7 Earth years), or at Station Collins (where water is so much more plentiful as to render these everyday fuels), aspens, birches and the Valley native blue fraxinus are used, which have superior characteristics as firewoods and, despite growing slower than in the Valley or on Earth, can be collected on shorter rotations than most of the desert thorns. Electric lighting, in use at the Embassy as well as in some of the more important State buildings, is also regulated by the Ministry of Fuel in concert with the Ministry of Water Affairs (as most Desert Plain electricity is hydropower, and as such must be authorized as a water right).

I don’t pamper them. They have to manage themselves, otherwise they gag on their thirst, and choke on their smoke. They learned this quickly, when they were little more than a bivouac. Nobody died of the smoke incident, but coal mining was banned (their orders, not mine) for a few years until a fuel shortage forced them to legalize anthracite, which is now quite scarce.

Valley companies and institutions

Industry and Power Group

The IPG maintains some operations here, mostly in support of Valley Reclamation’s mission to the Plain.

3 IPG employees are attached to a dam - IPG’s Embassy Row Power Station, named because it has a direct 6.6kV connection to Reclamation’s and Corrections' office building (called the Embassy by citizens of the State of the Desert Plain) on Embassy Row (there is no river on Embassy Row) - to ensure its operation within normal limits.

Embassy Row’s power station uses a power turbine from the Valley and a dynamo obtained by unknown means. This is also the most advanced power station in the Plain - most are just waterwheels in millraces - and IPG’s only electric power station (IPG has many coal-fired, and hydro-powered non-electrical agricultural and industrial implements).

Department of Reclamation

The Plain department of Valley Reclamation believes itself to be the legitimate water authority, but in practice merely serves as a bidirectional conduit for information on water conservation, and the aforementioned tense diplomatic relations. Notably, these and Corrections are the only Republic civil servants with electricity, computers and Wi-Fi. The electricity is generated at IPG’s Embassy Row Power Station on one of the larger washes and is usually available until early spring, for up to 500 days, the longest runtime of any millrace in the Plain.

Department of Corrections

The Valley Corrections Department - High Security acts as a liaison between the citizens and their families and friends in the Valley. They are affectionately called the prison guards, although their job is strictly bureaucratic. Their office, as well as Reclamation’s, is stationed at a point where those not damned can reliably noclip between 186 (where they land on Stonefort Island) and 186.1. Exile here is sometimes used as a judicial punishment in 186, even for those who the Helping Hand does not smite, so this site, which is used for moving messages between head office and the Desert Plain, is well-guarded.



If the Helping Hand smites you, and does not banish you to a dangerous level, you are transported here instead, to the site of the initial settlement.

You can enter if not damned by noclipping into a realistic painting of an arroyo in a desert on Stonefort Island in 186, or by crossing the east mountain range (which is a difficult trek on which altitude sickness is a risk and can be fatal; most have trouble with the passes and either die in an avalanche or return to base). In the latter case, you will route to an unknown dale, though successful travellers usually end up at Station Collins.


You can exit by being damned irretrievably, in which case you will end up on a dangerous level, or, if you are not a Sinner, by going to Embassy Row and asking for the way back to the Valley. You will be subject to some security to ensure you are not under judicial ban and then shown a short moving picture explaining how to perform the procedure.

If not damned, then if you can safely traverse the west mountain range, it should be a week from Station Collins, through tundra, to the Valley. You will need multiple oxygen candles until your aneroid starts showing breathable atmospheric pressures, as an electrical oxygen concentrator will stop working regardless of battery charge state when the snow depth markedly changes (as a function of re-entering the Valley, where electricity only works if it is used for biological functions, narrowly construed).