Monday, October 20, 2014

A Once-Green and Pleasant Land: A Home of Our Own

I've been compiling a list of things I want to have ready to go for when I run the "Once Green and Pleasant Land" sandbox game.  Chris Kutalik's Hill Cantons is going to be a major inspiration for the actual mechanics of running the campaign; I've been reading through his older posts during my lunch breaks at work, and I really like the way he handled the early days of the Cantons; with a central town forming a base of operations for adventurers and assorted smallish dungeons within easy travel distance - and with story emerging from play, built collaboratively by the DM and players together.

So while there's a laundry list of things I want to do with the setting - I want to at least have seeds for dungeons, I want to have a year's worth of weather, astronomical and cultural events generated and laid out on a calendar, etc. - but first and foremost I think I should have a town to form a base of operations for adventurers.

Enter the Village of Wyrhill.

Population 470, mostly human, some members of the demihuman races.  The village is surrounded by a
crumbling stone wall, 12 feet tall at its highest points, and has only a single gatehouse, to the east, that still sees semi-regular repair.  There's enough arable, cultivated farmland surrounding Wyrhill to support the populace, albeit not particularly comfortably; even with the addition of hunting in the forest to the north and fishing in the nearby River Wyrd, few people go to bed feeling particularly full.  Some limited trade with the nearby villages of Dunwich-on-the-Wold and Stannthorp brings in additional food in exchange for flint drawn from the Wyrhill quarries.

While ostensibly ruled by Lord Giles the Fair, the local despot, in practice Wyrhill is controlled by Lord Giles' appointed representative, bailiff Jeremy Wicker.  A tall, pot-bellied man with a bad combover and a hang-dog face, Wicker tries to be "tough but fair," and spends much of his private time moping about how little respect he receives for his efforts.  He believes wholeheartedly in the value of laws and regulations, even in such lawless times as he lives in.  Among his less-beloved efforts at maintaining a civil society in Wyrhill is a massive price-fixing initiative, preventing merchants from raising the price of goods above a certain point to ensure availability - particularly of grains - for all.

There are two taverns in Wyrhill, "The One-Eyed Fool" and "The Archer's Flagon."  "The Archer's Flagon" is slightly more upscale (in that they strain the pigeon shit from their ale before serving it) and tends to be the haunt of off-duty guardsmen and mercenaries, but "The One-Eyed Fool" hosts the most destructive barroom brawls, courtesy of local bravo Big Joe.

The spiritual well-being of the Wyrhillians is seen to by Ogilvy, the Witchfinder Pursuivant and leader of a band of Hopkinites based out of a former church in the heart of town.  While not formally consecrated to St. Hopkins the Witch-Slayer, it is from this pulpit that Ogilvy preaches against the sins of sorcery, heresy and apostasy.  While Ogilvy's theological knowledge is sometimes vague, and his answer to questions regarding the afterlife are invariably to the tune of "How the hell should I know? I'm not dead, am I?" the passion of his convictions and his implacability at rooting out witches have most of the townsfolk convinced of his sincerity.

A few hours' walk north of Wyrhill stands the Abbey of the Bloody Savior, a fortified nunnery predating the Cataclysm in which a small group of female adherents maintain and abide by a version of the Old Faith; in keeping with the "suffering of Our Lord," they starve and whip themselves to bring themselves closer to God.

Just outside of Wyrhill stands Giles' Freehold; once a much larger and magnificent castle, most of the structure stands abandoned and decaying, the walls having been cannibalized of many of their stones to shore up the defensive wall around Wyrhill or the homes of its inhabitants.  Now reduced to a single fortified tower, the Freehold is the home of Lord Giles the Fair.  It is here that he holds court when he deigns to interact with the people he rules over.  The tower is guarded by the mercenary company known as the Sanguinary Swordsmen, and rumor suggests that the Freehold stands over a network of caves and tunnels.

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