Monday, February 27, 2012

Scenes from Wampus Country: Expeditions

"Very well, gentlemen, it is settled.  Let us ride forth, locate these so-called hobgoblins, and stab them profusely until gold comes out."
Trappers make their rounds in the hills of the Snowdeeps.
"All I'm sayin' is, what are the chances all three tunnels have traps in 'em?  Seriously, guys.  I mean, I'm dreadful sorry about your cousin, but let's not lose sight of why we came out here."
"No, sir, the language in our adventuring charter is quite clear on this point.  Even if some half-baked priest did in fact perform the ceremony, your horse does not count as your spouse for our purposes, and we will not spend treasure held in common to resurrect it.  You'll just have to buy another, and that's final."

All There In Black & White

"Just a moment, Burridge.  Allow me to finish digesting the Gazette.  It's half-past-nine on a Sunday, and I'm certain that whatever that lich at the door wants, he's not a barbarian."

By dint of being a melting-pot, Wampus Country favors a common tongue based on certain well-known Western Kingdom languages, with assorted loan-words.  Nearly everyone in the Wampus Country can communicate with one another via this tongue, and it is only recent immigrants who maintain much fluency in other languages of the Kingdoms.  Some residents have a passing facility with the tongues of the sub-men, or the Old Tongue language of the fairies and stone-dwarfs, but this is less common.

All PCs in Wampus Country are assumed to be fluent in Common, and at least semi-literate.  Literacy rates throughout the region are surprisingly high; this is in part because of the value placed on self-education (the self-made man of Wampus Country must be tough, to be sure, but being able to read books and newspapers is very valuable as well).  The truly well-educated - including most sorcerors and priests - may be fluent and literate in several languages, including those of holy scriptures and moribund civilizations.

The Golden Bugle began as a one-woman operation, the dream of  young Cecilia Popper.  Since her untimely death at the hooves of a herd of fire caribou, several investors jointly run the newspaper.

Printing-presses of varying cost and complexity are spread throughout the region.  A number of periodicals are currently in print in parts of Wampus Country.  Of particular note are the newspapers found in River-Town (two dailies and a weekly) and Thistlemarch (The 'Golden Bugle' is printed twice a week).  Print shops will eagerly take coin to produce a run of posters or notices, and can print and bind books as well, albeit at greater expense.  Short works of fiction and poetry are generally printed on cheap pulp stock and sold for a dime or quarter, depending on the length of the work and the fame of its author; save the cover, these volumes are typically not illustrated.

There has, of late, been a rise in popularity of large-format periodicals printed with many illustrations.  Some of these are "gentlemen's magazines" which include articles on firearms and hunting, frontier life, tales of discovery and adventure, and practical matters, combining this with short fiction, illustrated in black-and-white or sometimes color.  Agricultural magazines are also strong sellers.  These periodicals are sold at around eighty or ninety cents, the printing costs defrayed by the copious advertising within the magazine (often half the pages are adverts).

Popular periodicals include:
The Golden Bugle (twice weekly newspaper, Thistlemarch, b&w, 5 cents.  Fairly straightforward small-town newspaper)
River-Town Gazette (upscale daily newspaper, River-Town, b&w with some four-color on front page, 15 cents.  Covers headlines, but best-known for its society page and racing results.)
Morning Herald (daily newspaper, River-Town, b&w, 5 cents.  Has politically-outspoken editorial page which often skewers public figures with cartoons.)
Johnson's Weekly (weekly newspaper, River-Town, b&w, 10 cents.  Reputation as a gossip rag; nevertheless, popular outside River-Town as well, as its lascivious articles contain entertainment value long after the date on the byline.  Good recipe content.)
True Adventure Tales (magazine, partial color, 80 cents.  The truth of many of these tales is subject to debate, but most of them seem at least grounded in reality.)
The Free Farmer (magazine, b&w, 80 cents  Agricultural content, primarily.  The Free Farmer also prints an annual almanac.)
Frontier Living For Independent Gentlemen (magazine, color, 95 cents.  Combines frontier-skills content ("How To Skin & Roast An Owlbear") with entertaining articles and fiction, as well as the latest catalog-page adverts from major manufacturers.)

"That's plum interestin'.  Says here I have syphilis."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Forty Questions All At Once

An ill-fated expedition far upriver, or 'beyond the bend'

Ability scores generation method? 3d6 in order, swap two of ‘em if you want.
How are death and dying handled? 0hp is out, -10 is dead.
What about raising the dead? Doable - for a price. And I don’t mean gold.
How are replacement PCs handled? Level 1.
Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group, for now.
Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Nat 20 does max damage.
Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Nope. Perhaps you’d like a nice bowler hat.
Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Only if it’s a deliberate gamble; if I tell you it’s likely you’ll hit a friendly and you do it anyway, that’s on you. Depends on the combat setup.
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? I strongly recommend you wear shoes with traction.
Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Yep.
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yep.
How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Encumbrance not so much, although it’s important to know what’s on your person and what’s actually back on your mule. Resources? Yeah, we track money, ammo, and spell components in Wampus Country.
What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? Training is not required. You’ll get your new spells semi-automatically (ie, if I’m doing my job right, you’ll have had plenty of opportunity to pick up new ones). Levelling up happens in downtime, not mid-sortie.
What do I get experience for? Glory (killing monsters, winning battles), Discovery (exploring new places, finding weird stuff, visiting legendary sites), Fortune (money, treasure, related items like deeds to land etc), plus awards for Cleverness and Dumb Luck.
How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Description first, die roll second. I prefer description.
Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Depends on the party size - my current group is 8 PCs and one NPC guide. Running a smaller group, I’m fine with retainers. I’ve yet to decide on morale rules because it hasn’t come up yet.
How do I identify magic items? Best choice: find someone that knows about such things (a witch is always a solid choice, but the costs are...strange).
Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? There are a number of minor (and sub-minor) magical items around which can be purchased, gathered, or brewed (including potions).
Can I create magic items? When and how? If you’re a magic-user, you can create items once you’re higher in level. For everybody else, best bet is trying wacky stuff (“I douse my shortsword in the beast’s blood while it’s still warm...anything happen?”)
What about splitting the party? I’m not a fan. Please avoid it if at all possible, for my own sanity.

"Honest" Fergus Clench, bounty hunter

What is the deal with my cleric's religion? Unless you’ve decided to play a Scorpion Cult priest, your cleric is probably devoted to one of the many many lesser and strange deities of Wampus Country. Please invent something interesting, and we’ll go back and forth to flesh it out as the game moves on. Start basic, please. “I am a priest of Orgoth, the Three-Eyed Oak. Neutral.” That’s plenty to get rolling, let it develop in play.
Where can we go to buy standard equipment? General stores and outfitters in towns are the safest bet, but a lot of mundane stuff can be picked up here and there. Don’t forget to ask farmers what they have to sell or barter, you never know what’s in that woodshed.
Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? River-Town. It’s gonna be spendy.
Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? The Witch-Queen of Sugarplum Castle.
Who is the greatest warrior in the land? Depending on who you ask, either ‘Thunderbolt’ Black or Seven-Fingers of the Cloud Rabbit barbarian tribe. Or maybe Sweet Johnny Peppermint, if he ain't dead yet.
Who is the richest person in the land? If you count land and head of cattle, could be any one of a number of ranchers. But you’re talking about looting sweet sweet gold, aren’t you? In that case, see #4 and bring as many meatshields as you can afford.
Where can we go to get some magical healing? Closer to civilization, find yourself the local Scorpion Priest. Further out? Barter with a witch, if you can. I recommend the Stump-Witch east of Thistlemarch - she’s the least homicidal.
Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? Poison and some diseases, hit up that parish priest or a barbarian shaman. Everything stranger than that, go see a witch. Or a mountain-fairy, if you can find one.
Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? Afraid not - those things are found back in civilization. However, magic in Wampus Country is a little on the fairy-tale side, so you can learn new spells from all sorts of magical creatures - witches, fairies, elementals, demons...if you can meet their price. There are other human sorcerors around, but not many, and they tend to cap out around 5th level.
Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? Thistlemarch has an alchemist, an apothecary, and the learned Doctor Hornapple. River-Town, being bigger and more ‘civilized’, has even more.
Where can I hire mercenaries? If by ‘mercenaries’ you mean trained professional fighting-men...yeah, there aren’t a lot of those unless you want to poach employees from one of the bandit gangs. If you mean desperate, amoral men willing to carry your bag and shoot at what you tell them? Anywhere.
Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? Nope. There is no central law in Wampus Country. Might come across a town with some weird rules now and again, but writ large, it’s anarchy.
Which way to the nearest tavern? There are several in Thistlemarch, and roadside saloons are not uncommon along the merchant trails.
What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? Right now we mostly have a problem with gravekinder and sub-men.
Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? Like major wars with armies and stuff? Afraid not. There are often ranch wars and posses headed out to whomp on barbarians, though, if that’s to your taste.
How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? River-Town’s where you want to head, son. Big-time gambling there, as well.
Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? The Web of Darkness, if you believe they exist.
What is there to eat around here? This tavern’s supper tonight is barbecued venison, corn dodgers, river-clams, grumbleberry cobbler with cream, and an orange soda, coffee, or lager. If’n you want a chocolate bar at the end, that costs extra.
Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? Suicide option 1: head up to Big Eagle Mountain - the caves up there supposedly contain a lost city of the ancients. Suicide option 2: bust down the door at Sugarplum Castle and raid the Witch-Queen’s treasury. Less suicidal but probably mythical option: find your way to the City Behind The Moon.
Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? We don’t have dragons here, son. If you’re looking for a large beastie with a hoard, though, you want to head east to where the Stormcrow sleeps in a nest of woven platinum; or you could trek northward into the Snowdeeps and see if that whole “gigantic soul-eating demon” thing is just a story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Best Little Whorehouse in Wampus Country


Well situated at the crossroads between several notable towns, the Diamond Peacock is a saloon, inn, and house of ill repute.  The Peacock has grown into a massive, three-storey structure, plus external kitchen and stables, and the entire affair is painted a striking indigo color and roofed with blue shingles coated in sparkling quartz-dust.  The saloon portion can easily seat twenty; the lounge, another twenty.  There is a flophouse-style common room (eight beds) and four rentable overnight suites, not counting the six rooms reserved for entertaining customers.  Although the Peacock is by no means a general store, some common goods are kept in quantity and sold at a premium to those too desperate to wait until arriving at Thistlemarch or River-Town.

The Peacock is managed by Miss Delilah Drumm (thief 7), a former River-Town mobster (primarily racketeering) and occasional tomb-robber in her youth.  Miss Delilah employs, at any given time, nine or ten “girls” and a dozen other employees, including handymen, roustabouts, a bartender and a cook, and two stable-hands; the arable land behind the Peacock is worked by a family of sharecroppers in Miss Delilah’s employ.  Musicians often stay at the Peacock, playing in exchange for a reduced rate.  

Of note is the Peacock’s head of security, a hulking troll called Nigel, who came down from Big Eagle Mountain and, upon seeing the Diamond Peacock, wisely decided to never return to the catacombs.  Nigel is affable enough for a troll, and is always dressed in the latest fashions, although he prefers rather garish combinations of clashing plaids for his waistcoat and trousers; he is the only person allowed to carry a weapon within the Peacock, and his choice is a very fine steel-headed mace on which the girls have kindly painted butterflies and ponies.

Miss Delilah is a shrewd entrepreneur and very protective of her property and employees.  The girls themselves are independent contractors who renegotiate their rates and cut with the management quarterly and can depart at any time.  Miss Delilah is always on the lookout for new talent; further, she does not allow her employees to rob or pickpocket customers, understanding that goodwill must be built for the legend of the Peacock to spread.  Customers who stay overnight are given a small copper broach with a spray of purple-dyed chicken feathers as a memento.

The bordello makes extra money via contract assassination; the mattress in Room Four is actually a mimic.  The girls feed it table-scraps and bones between jobs.

On nights of the new moon, the ghost of Henrietta, a working-girl who was strangled by a customer some years back, walks the halls of the Diamond Peacock; Henrietta does not interact with employees or customers, but paces around aimlessly, silently mouthing the phrase “beneath the second stone” every few minutes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Strange Secret of Echo Valley

Amongst the hills north of Big Eagle Mountain, there lies a small, verdant valley the locals call Echo Valley.  Those few outsiders who know of it, avoid the place, having been shooed away by the residents.  And surely the valley is a kind of paradise worth defending - flush with swaying pines, grumbleberry bushes and fruit trees, and thick with deer.  The small town at the base of the valley, surrounded by idyllic farms, seems quaint enough.  But the secret of Echo Valley is amongst the most bizarre in Wampus Country.

The original Tanner cabin, Echo Valley.

Jim Tanner moved to Echo Valley some years ago, with his young bride Lena.  They built a small house, worked the land, and hunted the plentiful deer.  After a few months, a grizzled swagman called One-Eyed Pete came riding through, and hired on as a farmhand.  For weeks, all was well - then poor One-Eyed Pete was killed when he fell off a roof.  To remember the man who had helped them get their farm off the ground, the Tanners named their baby boy Peter.  In fact, little Peter even bore a resemblance to One-Eyed Pete; thankfully the timing was such that there was no question as to the boy's parentage.

As the months turned into years, little Peter came to look more and more like One-Eyed Pete.  Finally, when the boy was five years of age, he had an accident that cost him his eye - the same one old Pete had been missing.  Suspicions stirred in Jim and Lena Tanner's hearts.  And those suspicions were confirmed later that year, when Jim Tanner - another Jim Tanner - rode into the valley with his young bride, Lena.

No doubt you're starting to understand, as the Tanners came to, that there is something dreadfully wrong with Echo Valley.  Time seems to do as it pleases there - past and future colliding, even different futures, all existing simultaneously.  After the second married couple arrived, another Pete - a teenaged version - showed up, looking for work.  Then another  Then Jim as an old widower.  Then a pregnant Lena who'd lost her Jim in a war nobody else remembered.

This continued for some time, until there was an entire small town's worth of Jim and Lena and Pete, all of them at different ages, different points in their lives.  No two had identical memories, although there were commonalities.  And as the population increased, so did the weirdness of the valley - it wasn't long before they realized none of them could ever leave.  One of the Petes tried to leave, and he exploded into yellow vapor when his horse hit the ridge.  Whether he returned to some other point in the time-stream, or ceased to exist, nobody knows.
About a year ago a young, enterprising wizard named Axel rolled into town.  The Tanners warned him about the Valley, and told him it wasn't safe to stay more than a night before moving on.  But Axel wouldn't listen.  And by the end of the week, there were two more Axels.

These days Echo Valley has settled down a bit, and its population has remained fairly stable for the past several months.  Thirty-four Jim Tanners, twenty Lena Tanners, sixteen Petes, and five Axels now comprise the citizenry of the town and the farms surrounding it.  Visitors are forbidden, and the men-folk patrol the border of the valley carefully, usually with one of the wizards in tow.  There is a merchant who comes by the ridge every few months to trade outside goods for the plentiful leather and venison the valley provides, but he never comes more than ten or fifteen feet into the valley, and only stays about half an hour each visit.

The folks of Echo Valley are keenly aware that the situation in which they find themselves is untenable.  Thus far every baby born to a Lena has been a Pete, but there is growing concern amongst some of the elders that it's only a matter of time before one of the Axels impregnates a Lena and produces a Jim; it is perhaps inevitable, and they fear that day's arrival.  Further, they have become cognizant that all living things in the valley are effected by this strangeness now.  The pear-trees in the orchard grow ever closer together, sometimes springing up overnight.  And the deer which make for such easy hunting are replicating like rabbits, through a combination of breeding and the importation of time-swept deer from other pasts and futures.  One of the wizards - Handsome Axel - has been studying the deer, and documenting their degeneration; he believes that they are all the same deer, even the does.  Handsome Axel has not yet advanced his pet theory that all the Lenas - even the original one - are perhaps gender-swapped Jims.  Within a few generations, Echo Valley will either be overcrowded to the point of starvation or civil war on a micro-scale, or merely a fine habitat full of drooling inbreds.

Notable citizens of Echo Valley include the following:

Big Jim (42), the original Jim Tanner.  He is looked up to by many of the citizens as a de facto leader.  He is cautious in his dealings with outsiders and appears to care greatly for the well-being of his extended family.

Old Jim (69).  Old Jim is the wise-man of the village, often founding sitting on his stoop, smoking a pipe and stroking his long grey beard.  Old Jim hates all the Axels and would rather see them gone.

Clumsy Pete (29).  Clumsy Pete is constantly getting himself into situations where, by rights, he should be crippled or killed, yet he always manages to avoid losing an eye, arm, or his life.  A few of the Jims and Axels have been talking - perhaps fueled by cups of grumbleberry wine - and they're starting to think that every Pete is meant to be crippled, and that perhaps 'taking care of that' for Clumsy Pete would lift the curse.

No-Legs Pete (17).  This gregarious amputee will gladly follow anyone around on his trolley - especially outsiders - talking a mile a minute.

Lena 'the Knife' (28).  Bearing a steely stare, this Lena is best known for having dispatched a wayward bear with a kitchen knife, knowing that if the bear were allowed to live in the valley, it would soon become an entire herd of bears.  'Knife' is quick-witted and sarcastic, and wishes she could get some of the quieter Lenas to speak up around here.

Momma Lena (24).  Not the original Lena, Momma Lena is so named because she was pregnant when she arrived, and is still exactly as pregnant now, three years later.  It seems the Pete she carries is frozen in time, and her womb along with it.  She is understandably grouchy.

Axel Whitebeard (53, 5th-level mage)  Whitebeard seems to know the most about what's going on, phenomenologically, in Echo Valley, yet he doesn't always share what he knows.  If the other Axels figure out where he's hidden his spellbooks, they will assuredly kill him.

Axel Mushmouth (19, 1st-level mage)  An apprentice version of Axel who, soon after arrival, got into a fight with two Petes and took an axe-handle to the face, shattering his jaw.  He has a very difficult time casting spells, and is often relegated to gathering herbs and other components for the other wizards.

Dead Pete (38?, vampire)  Goodness only knows what happened in Dead Pete's timeline before he got to Echo Valley, but he's definitely a vampire, and he certainly doesn't want to be stuck here.  Dead Pete spends his days in a shallow grave on the edge of town, and by night socializes with his family.  He primarily feeds on deer, which keeps him very weak, but occasionally he is forced to drink blood from a Jim or a Lena - he dare not feed on a Pete, for fear of creating himself.

((note: this all came about from a G+ post wherein Zak was asking for ideas regarding a city of wizards; I suggested 'unstuck in time', and thinking on that generated Echo Valley.))

Some Scenes from Wampus Country: In Town

Zelena Dire, 'Witch for Hire', is often seen racing up and down the  main street  upon her  three-wheeled velocipede.  Her prices are fair; her ex-lovers populate the frog pond behind the smithy.
Blind Billy Bux makes a meager living weaving pixie-nets (50 cents each).
"Oh my gods, Becky.  Look at her bustle.  She must be one of those adventurer-guys' girlfriends."
Astromir Vandergog, Alchemist to the Rich and Famous, secured strong publicity last year after finding the means for transforming the musk glands of a skunk ape into a cure for Miner's Mumps.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Religion in Wampus Country

First in an irregular series looking at religion, gods, and clerics in Wampus Country.

Wampus Country is home to a hundred tiny faiths, some particular to a town or family line. For most people, religion is not something which is practiced - in the sense of visiting a church, offering regular prayer, or seeking out a priest for advice. Wampus Country is a land of ill-maintained roadside shrines, luck medallions bought in the marketplace, and small cults which often fade away within a generation. If acquiring religious market-share is the clerics' game, then the Scorpion Cult has been winning for a number of years now - but even they have only a few avowed worshippers (as compared to people who will buy talismans from them or pay for auguries before important decisions and life events).


Scorpion Cult (Lawful) - The cult of the Scorpion is on the rise in Wampus Country, gaining new believers and sympathizers each year.  Lay devotees often wear a silver medallion with an image of the god, and there are plenty of casual believers who will rub a scorpion talisman or coin for luck or protection.  Although the Scorpion-Priests are relatively few in number, their ‘concern’ - the cult-owned businesses throughout the land - continue to prosper.  Some are known - like the Silver Scorpion Casino in River-Town, which attracts the rich and famous with its gambling-tables, or the various merchant and mining concerns in which they have majority control ; others are obscure, including innumerable ranches and farms and at least one school for orphan girls (actually a training-ground for holy assassins - but that is a tale for another day). 

 The Scorpion God, who has many names (some known only to his priests), favors patience, truth (when it’s convenient), order, investment, enterprise, and binding contracts.  Priests of this deity are often called upon to witness business deals, legal testimony (although there isn’t much law in Wampus Country), and deal with probate issues.  They are also known to place great faith in astrology, and read the stars regularly.  There is something definitely corporate or mafia-like about the Scorpion cult; they do not dabble in organized crime (outside of a crooked house at the Casino), but their fingers seem to be in everything, their cultists are ridiculously loyal, and they sponsor enterprising youths (such as adventurers) when the investment makes sense.  

“Hush, now.  Quiet and still.  Feel the earth’s vibrations.  Past, Present, Future - a concordance, a vitasphere, a road-map.  Time crawls forward slowly, the stars wheel and dance.  When opportunity arises, we strike with vigor.”  - Trask Vergin, Scorpion-Priest

Web of Darkness (Chaotic) - Whether the Web truly exists is a matter for some debate.  According to those who believe the Scorpion Priests (and, in truth, the clerics of several different lesser-known gods), the Web of Darkness is an association of foul persons and creatures who salute and worship a handful of evil forces - possibly evil godlings, demon princes, lying-devils, etc.  The Web of Darkness is characterized as influencing much of the ‘evil’ which goes on in Wampus Country - stirring up the barbarians, pushing the rapacious giants closer to civilized territory, and always searching for ancient artifacts which would grant the cult more sorcerous power.  Although surrounded by a nimbus of rumor, the Web does indeed exist - their symbol is a spider or stylized cobweb, and their influence is as broad as that of the rival Scorpion Cult.  The Web works with organized (and disorganized) crime, bandit kings, fringe death cults, and several subhuman tribes.

“Each murder victim collapsing in the bloody dirt makes a sound like gold coins on a saloon bar to the inhuman ears of our masters.  Let us deafen them, and be rewarded handsomely.”  - Zargor the Half-Mad, dark cleric and advisor to the Throatcutter bandit corps


Gloriana, Queen of Mystery (Neutral) - Resplendent in her gown of stars, the Queen of Mystery inculcates in her followers a pragmatic self-interest and love of material comfort.  To a Mysterian, the world is full of things just waiting to be taken - treasure, knowledge, land; but the cultist of Gloriana avoids sullying himself with base thievery in populated areas; such anti-social behavior is a demonstration of laziness and cowardice.  Why steal from your neighbor when you could ride into the wilds and take anything you needed from the land itself?  Gloriana represents the world’s plenty, and those bright enough to appreciate it.  Mysterians have a tendency to carry a lot of extraneous gear - just in case - and sometimes exhibit strange kleptomaniac tendencies, feeling that they have to take something with them from everywhere they go, whether it’s a napkin, pretty rock, or handful of dirt.

“I don’t care how heavy it is, we need to figure out how to get this back to town and sell it.”  - Roland, Mysterian priest

Taronja the Eternal (Neutral) - It is said that Taronja was once a legendary hero - or a legendary rogue.  So clever was Taronja that he found a means to immortality, and stepped out of time, projecting himself to the beginning and end of the universe and becoming a true god.  Taronja’s clerics advocate a form of balance which unifies opposites; their scriptures suggest an emotional distance from the material world and the constant application of pragmatic principles.  This faith is among the most philosophical of those known in Wampus Country, which makes it more academic than the average cow-puncher is willing to swallow.  However, devotees believe that they are an elite few, who may acquire their own form of immortality in time.

“Sure, we let the last one live, but maybe we should kill this one.”  - Quincy the Arbitrary, cleric of Taronja

Weeweauk, the White Mouse (Lawful)  - Strangely, the human followers of Weeweauk believe that their deity - depicted as a huge white mouse in a tuxedo - is also the god worshipped by actual mice.  Given that, their faith has certain taboos regarding the treatment of mice (brotherhood), rats (rivalry), and cats (hatred).  Mouse cultists - usually underdogs even before their conversion - are generally resoundingly mocked, but that oppression merely redoubles their faith.

“Laugh all you want, you bully.  We’ll see who survives in the long run.”  - ‘Cat-Skinner’ Henson

The Horned Baron (Chaotic) - Represented as a goat or horned gentleman or noble, the Horned Baron is the patron of hedonists, thieves, and liars.  The Baron is portrayed as not so much evil as self-centered and mischievous - but willing to assist his followers, especially if there’s a clever trick involved.  For that reason, a number of enterprising young men and women of Wampus Country - you and I might call them thieves - call upon the Horned Baron with regularity.

“The guard-post is marked on the map with a ‘X’, here.  I reckon if we time it just right, we can -- dammit, wench, we need another round of beer here!”  - Arnulf the Fatal Prankster

Monday, February 13, 2012

Elementals Are Not Boring

In wrathofzombie's latest post, he laments that elementals can be pretty boring, non-scary, and no fun to run, since they're neutral and of low intelligence.  When I read that, my hackles went up and I was ready to disagree loudly -- but then I realized that I never really ran elementals as low intelligence, or as 'boring' forces of nature.  Elementals in my games have always had a little personality, and I try to vary their appearance to mix things up.  Okay, so technically they're probably still 'low' intelligence as per the book, because they're summoned creatures and can't use their own creativity anyhow.  But would it break the game to change the INT stat to 'Average'?  Of course not.

Below are some sample flavors for the bog-standard elementals.  No stat changes involved, just a little personality and a shape to keep things interesting.  Try using one of these, or something similar, the next time you find yourself facepalming over the prospect of 'another boring elemental'.  If it's your PCs who are doing the summoning, giving the elementals personality makes them into a new NPC who offers a possibility of roleplay and repeat appearances ("Ooh, I hope I get Cap'n Slosh again!" is a tell-tale sign that this approach is working with your wizard!)


Ambrosius Phlox, Esq. - A roguish gentleman composed of fire, wearing a smoking-jacket with leopard-print lapels; his eyes are smouldering coals.  Ambrosius carries a lit cigarette at the end of a fancy holder; his flaming hair seems somewhat slicked-back, and he runs a thumb along his carefully-trimmed rockabilly sideburns when he’s thinking.  Ambrosius is a fire of passion, and will make lecherous overtures to any females present, even if he’s otherwise engaged in killing them by his summoner’s order.

Suicide Swarm - A thick swarm of fiery moths and dancing lights.  The swarm appears mindless, but will follow orders, swooping en masse to burn the enemy or set flammables alight.  The moths merge and split willy-nilly - where once there was one, three appear, and they recombine effortlessly as part of a whole intelligence.  The swarm is composed of sliver-remnants of the souls of pyromaniacs - a fire elemental of obsession - and given the opportunity they will torch anything within reach.


Cap’n Slosh - A gigantic bearded head composed of water; his beard is sea-foam, and when he smiles, his teeth are seashells.  Cap’n Slosh has absorbed the very essence of ‘sailor’, and manifests as a caricature of a pirate.  He will shout “yar” and “avast” and “shiver me timbers” and the like while in combat, which he conducts by head-butting his foes as a crashing wave before re-forming as a massive pirate head, or swallowing them whole to drown them.  The Cap’n is particularly good at sinking ships, of course.

The Attackin’ Kraken - This squidlike creature is made of dark water from the depths of the ocean, and represents the mysteries of the deep.  It will lash out with its many tentacles and smack the bejeezus out of its foes.  As the Attackin’ Kraken moves, bones and gold pieces can be seen roiling within its watery body.


Larry the Landfill - This earth elemental is a huge heap of dirt and trash, rolling ever-forward as a ball or sliding like an amoeba.  Larry really enjoys his work, as he incorporates the people and things he destroys into himself, increasing his mass a little bit each time.  As he reaches out and crushes things, he can sometimes be heard saying “Mine” in a deep, dopey voice; he has also been known to fall into giggling fits (“a-hyuk, a-hyuk”) when he pulls off a particularly interesting or devastating attack.  Unfortunately much of Larry is decomposing matter, and he has a definite stench about him.

The Silica Contessa - A statuesque woman composed of glass, sand, and mica, the Contessa has the bearing of nobility and looks down her nose at everyone, even he who summoned her.  Her body takes the shape of the latest high fashion wherever she goes, and she has eviscerated many humans whilst wearing a stained-glass evening gown.  She goes about following commands with either an aloof, disinterested manner, or vocal disdain (“I find your suggestion puerile and plebian, but I shall follow your command, much to your inevitable regret.”).  The Contessa is not fond of sullying her magnificent glass claws with the innards of “meat-people”, and will certainly let you know it.


Tornadude - Although this air elemental has the now-classic ‘whirlwind’ or ‘cyclone’ shape, there’s something different about him, because he’s composed not only of air, but also of the thrill of flight.  First, his behavior is erratic - he refuses to take a straight path when he could instead carom wildly off of the environment as though he were a human skateboarder or parkour practictioner.  Secondly, he’s annoyingly vocal, always talking about “catching serious air” and crying out “whoa, dude!” or “radical!”.   Nonetheless, he is obedient to his summoner and may even compliment a wizard’s “totally groovy beard” before departing.

Lonely Chill - Among those elementalist wizards who catalog such things, Lonely Chill is amongst the most feared of the common air elementals - not because of her size, but her appearance and manner.  Upon summoning her, some inexperienced wizards may at first worry that their summoning has failed completely, since Lonely Chill’s manifestation begins as nothing but calm air.  In moments, however, a cool breeze passes, which then escalates into a bitingly cold wind.  Foes are cut by a multitude of small, invisible blades as frost appears on their skin and hair.  It doesn’t take long for Lonely Chill - an air elemental tied to those who die cold and alone of exposure - to finish her tasks, and as she wraps up, a ghostly little girl, her face an emotionless mask, can be seen in the center of the wind before it drops suddenly to calm air once again - and she is gone.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Not Too Shabby

Let's do it!  Break it dowwwwwn...

The above pie chart represents post-content here at Wampus Country thus far.  I ran the numbers for my own edification - I have a goal to maximize gameable crunch and inspirational fluff, and minimize personal musings.  I want Wampus Country to be full of stuff that can be used.  The 'gameable' and 'random tables' slices need to get wider!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Mouse Bride

"Once there was a cowboy who married a mouse.  And the mouse ran away so he chased her.  She made a little tiny snowman.  The cowboy threw things at the mouse, and she ran away some more.  Then the cowboy went home and stayed on the couch forever."   -The Boy

"I shall be your bride, if you will have me."

An expurgated version of "The Mouse Bride" appeared in one of those fancy magazines a few years back, but folks in Wampus Country know the whole story.

A young man had secured himself a patch of ranch-land - either purchased from someone else, or earned by deed, the story doesn't say - and had maybe twenty head of cattle and a little house he'd built himself.  But he was lonely out there on the plain, and wanted a wife.  Yet the first snowfall of winter had come and gone, and it was not the season to trek back west in search of a bride.

One night, over a bowl of warm potato stew, the young man was musing aloud about his marriage prospects, when he noticed a little white mouse on the floor, listening to him.  He smiled and rhetorically asked of the little mouse, "I'm a good man and a hard worker.  I don't suppose you'd be interested in marrying me?"  We can imagine his surprise and befuddlement when the mouse spoke, and replied in the affirmative.  "I shall be your bride, if you will have me," said the mouseling, "and I shall cook and clean as a wife would, and keep this house."  The man thought it over for a moment, and - on a whim - agreed; perhaps he was driven by curiosity, to see this little mouse attempt to cook and clean as a human woman would.

Thus the man and the mouse began to live, in most ways, as husband and wife.  While he was out handling the livestock, or digging fencepost-holes, or hunting, she was home, always busy.  She kept the house spotless - for, being lower to the ground, she could see specks of dirt which the man would overlook.  And she was a very fine cook indeed, preparing all manner of soups, stews, and roasted game.  At night, they would sit by the fire; sometimes he would read to her from a book, and sometimes she would sing mouse-songs to him, teaching him the legends of her people.

All was well for several weeks.  Then, one night, when the rancher returned home, he found his mouse-wife waiting for him at the door.  "My love," she said, "I am sorry, but the jackdaw tells me my father is gravely ill. I must return home immediately, and where I go, you cannot follow."  The man was cross, for he had grown selfish in his comfort these past weeks.  "Who will cook for me while you are gone?  Who will clean this house?"  His bride apologized again and again, and swore she would return in a fortnight, but to no avail - the rancher stomped about the house, grousing and cursing.  He even cursed her father's name - and that was going too far.

"I cannot abide this dishonor," said the mouse bride; "Though there has been much joy in this house, it is plain you are not the good man you claimed to be, to curse my family so and disrespect my obligations.  Our marriage contract is void."  And the mouse balled up her little gingham apron and threw it on the ground as she departed.  The rancher fumed for several minutes before he threw open the door and pursued her, knowing that although she skittered with great speed, his legs were longer and he was a fine tracker.

The young man tracked the mouse across the ranch, through the corral, and caught up to her at the crest of a hill.  "Stop." she said.  The mouse informed her erstwhile husband that she had paused on the hillside to see if he was pursuing her, and showed him the small sculpture she had made in the powdery snow.  "This is the god of my people; I have made this effigy that I might ask of it a simple question: am I right to leave you and return to my father's house?"

Angered, the rancher curled his lip and furrowed his brow.  With a single stomp he flattened the little mouselike snowman, and his bride tumbled backwards in fright.  Narrowing her gaze, she said "It would seem my patron has afforded me the answer indirectly."  And with that, she scuttled off into the frozen heather.  The rancher tried to give chase, even throwing rocks and sticks into the crisp undergrowth in an attempt to flush her out, but it was no use - she was gone.

Still cross, the young man trudged back home, cursing his bride, all mice, and their stupid mousey god under his breath the whole way.  When he arrived back at his hand-built house, he opened the door to find a stranger in his kitchen - a huge man in a white suit and top hat, with his back turned.  The rancher drew his revolver and commanded the intruder to face him - and so he did.  The young man's jaw dropped as he realized the interloper in his kitchen was a gigantic white mouse, over six feet tall, dressed much like a wealthy man; the immense rodent's fur glistened with flecks of rime and snow, and it seemed that its very fur and flesh were carved from the ice - save for a pair of iridescent, unearthly pink eyes.

The creature snatched the rancher by the throat as a round from the revolver caromed off the mouse-thing's chest, not even leaving a tear in the silken waistcoat.  With an effortless flick, the young man was tossed onto his own settee, his gun spinning across the wooden floor.  The enormous rodent was overtop of him in an instant, preternaturally fast, and looming with an evil glint in its pupil-less eye.  As the mouse-beast spoke, cold breeze issued forth from its mouth.

"I shall release you...when she forgives you."  And with that condemnation, the creature spewed forth a torrent of snow and blizzard winds, blinding the rancher, who could soon feel his limbs stiffening and his extremities going numb.  In moments, the willful young man was frozen - along with his sofa - in a large block of ice.  The giant rodent dissolved into mist, like breath on a cold day.

The rancher, they say, is still in that block of ice today, decades later.  Some folks know where he is, but they haven't attempted to free him - lest they, too, incur the wrath of the Mouse God.


1) Don't mess with talking mice.  They will kill your ass.
2) When considering the destruction of an image of a god, stop briefly and consider whether the god in question is small enough that He might be looking at that very idol right this second.
3) Adult mouse-women, like adult human women, are not likely to forgive you for being a total jackass once they've decided that's what you are.
4) Foolish adventurers who should happen to come upon that shack will probably immediately decide that freeing the guy from the block of ice is a brilliant idea.  It is not.
5) Worshipping a giant lab-mouse in a white tuxedo and top hat is pretty freaking stylish, all things considered.