Friday, December 17, 2021

Weird West, or Some Hoot-Hollerin' Hijinks for Weird North

Mood Music

Far from the titanium citadels of the Necrothanes, the unblinking gaze of the Blood Moor obelisks, and the shadow of the dinomancer-ridden Dank Tower, a tumbleweed ambles like an aimless toddler across sun-choked plains of brittle soil. The world has changed so many times, shedding its skin like a desert rattler. What is old is new, what is new is old, and nothing is saved from the long finger of the weird. 

Falls of the Colorado Chiquito

Weird North is a setting. It is a cracked world. An old world. A new world. A place somewhere in the acid fantasy dreams of Jack Vance's cat who had to put up with years of listening to the author prattle on just so. Weird North is a cheater's setting, to be entirely honest. It makes sense in consistent meta terms, at least as far as shared history or global effects and parameters are concerned, but it is still a cheat. A cheat, because frankly neither I nor my players really care that everything must make perfect sense. Perhaps some call this gonzo, perhaps some call this amateur. Perhaps, well, perhaps I don't have much vested interest in what most folks think about my mental gymnastics. The Post/Post/Post Apocalyptic genre is a toolkit and sandbox fit for the kings of recess playgrounds and Saturday morning cartoons. It is, at least, useful for my daydreams.

So, as the opening paragraph read, somewhere beyond the Infernal Planes where sophisticated devils roam free, or the Salveyn Mountains where the rocks hold quiet congress with their glacial progressive agendas, or the tin-roof huts of Shiv Town where free advice tends to cost you quite a lot, is the Weird West. No one has a proper name for it, it's just out there, dusty, covered in limp pines desperate for more rainfall and struck through with time-lost decadence. Archaeologists come here to study the remnants of the old demigod, Tarodyne Solutions, and the metal spires erected in her name, filled with all manner of arcane touchscreens and rotary consoles. Necromancers routinely pick over the great herds of dead grazing animals for their golems and undead lackeys. Raindancers perform their warped rites towards the sky as burning pillars of red light rain down at night, smiting the unworthy. Gunslingers and ranchers bicker with each other over land claims while the madcap innovation of the steam engine pushes borders outward and bridges windswept wastelands together with rails.


If you amble into the Weird West along the main gap in the eastern hills, you'll follow the Parsel River, churning and tumbling over polished rocks and skitting up eddies of sand and red clay. That takes you to Broker's Hold, a trading settlement with roads leading north to the Mesa of Storms, south to Blodkløften, and further west to the Ashwing Eyries (locals advise you to stay as far from both of these "points of interest" as you can manage). There are other settlements out here, of course, but they're far afield and a bit less connected to whatever vestiges of civilzation remain in these parts. Cooper's Razor, Thalugga, and K'ril Mala Prefecture are the closest, while distant haunts like Deltroit, Odelot, and Cleave Land sit on the shimmering horizon as warnings regarding intensive insularity and decay (rumors suggest that Cleave Land is vehemently opposed to its nearby mirror entity, Believe Land).

Some creatures you might meet in these here parts:

10 HP, 2 Armor, 18 STR, 6 WIL, trample and horns (d6, blast)
- Hulking green-scaled quadruped with wide horns and long, hooved front legs
- Can only be harmed with silvered weapons, especially weak to projectiles
- Critical damage: Gore with horns, causing internal bleeding, target is deprived

Dire Jackalope
3 HP, 4 STR, 16 DEX, flying rake (d6+d6)
- Unassuming and docile tawny rabbit with 2-8 point racks
- Can leap 20+ feet and land on a target with fangs and antlers

13 HP, 1 Armor, 14 STR, beak (d10)
- Huge, intelligent, six-limbed human-pterodactyl hybrid with secretive society and fell rites
- Rumored to be the offspring of heinous godlings from the Cold Dark
- Critical damage: save against corruption

3 HP, 18 WIL, doom gaze (d8)
- Tumbling foliage resembling and sounding like clanking, dry bones
- Forms into skull shapes and focuses eldritch light from eyes when provoked
- Critical damage: d8 WIL loss, 0 WIL transforms target into more Skullweed

Corrupted Sentry
6 HP, 2 armor, 14 STR, 14 DEX, energy rifle (d8)
- Metallic humanoid with broad shoulders and one large, red optical sensor
- Connected to other sentries by Tarodyne network, can quickly summon backup

? HP, 20 DEX, slippery suffocation (d6 to STR)
- Animated pools of oil which can assume vaguely corporeal shape
- Can only be harmed by environmental effects like freezing or fire

Cassandra Hoss
8 HP, 3 armor, 16 STR, 16 DEX, sharpshootin' blunderbuss (d10+d10) and bowie knife (d8)
- Bounty hunter with salvaged titanium plating under her poncho
- Arguably the best shot in the wilderness, acclaimed hired gun and trophy shooter
- Crippling alcoholism, cannot function without easy access to strong liquor

Hoop Snake
3 HP, 14 DEX, bite (d6) or whipping impact (d6)
- Tough, leathery serpents which roll up on themselves like bicycle wheels
- Can slither, side-wind, and rocket forward with enough rolling momentum

Sourdough Animus
10 HP, 3 armor, 12 STR, 2 WIL, gluten hammer (d8)
- Carnivorous, roughly humanoid shambling mounds of lactic bread dough
- Born out of weird forces in population centers, a scourge on isolated homesteads
- Weak to fire, but able to spread and propogate quickly in water or grain storage

Smiling One
3 HP, 1 armor, bony fingers (d8, blast)
- Groups of 2d6 appear like inert, folded-up child skeletons with elongated heads
- Can move alarmingly fast, attacking with long hands and over-extended jaws
- Critical damage: save against corruption

Ancient Aymara mummies

While all six original Weird North archetypes (Contender, Warden, Dirtfriend, Oraculary, Curator, and Sepluchrite) fit perfectly well in the Weird West, here are four new archetypes specifically tailored to this part of the setting, but are also complimentary with other regions of play:

Not big enough for the both of us

Bonus Gear:
- Dueling pistols (d6+d6) or sawed-off (d8, blast, short-range, bulky)
- Half-stocked bandolier
- Impressive hat

Quick Draw: Whenever you face a ranged attacker at range, your attacks are enhanced

What vendetta can't you forget?
1. What they made you do in the war
2. That one who swept away your lover
3. Those monsters who killed your dog
4. How you traded your soul for skill
5. When they humiliated you in public
6. How you've been extorted in dire debt

Begin with one. Gain another when you recover a Treasure or best a rival.

Rambler: You can take two points of fatigue per inventory slot.
Teetotaler: You don't drink a sip, but any intoxicated attacker is impaired against you.
Prospector: You can sniff out natural resources at all times, especially those buried.
Charlatan: Deals made with strangers are always favorable, but you gain a reputation...
Officer: Your ties to the military command respect and favors from other soldiers.

Time Traveler
Strange things are afoot...

Bonus Gear:
- A curious, time-lost garment (1 armor)
- Mysterious, useful tool from a different era (save against corruption to use)
- A journal filled with eccentric insights across the years

Temporal Dissonance: Save against corruption to shift 1d4 minutes forward or backward.

How did you get here?
1. Arcane incantation
2. Souped-up time vehicle
3. Lost a bet with a demigod
4. I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens
5. Wish made by someone else
6. Unfortunate accident

Begin with one. Gain another when you recover a Treasure or solve a paradox.

Tourist: Your HP is always doubled if you're awkwardly out of place to bystanders.
Layabout: You always know where to find rest, relaxation, and kind folks in the know.
Memorist: You can recall facts from the future. Lose 1d4 WIL permanently for each memory.
Doomer: It always goes downhill. You're unaffected by madness, confusion, and hope. 
Savant: You choose (rather than rolling) when you gain an aspect of any kind.

Talking Animal
Some animals are more equal than others

Bonus Gear:
- Comfortable barding (1 armor)
- Cross-back satchel (+2 inventory slots)
- Basket of root vegetables

Natural Knack: You speak with animals, sense weather changes, and desire shinies.

How are you able to think and speak?
1. Uplifted deliberately by magic
2. Uplifted deliberately by technology
3. Spiritual possession, willing or otherwise
4. Forged a pact with a greater power
5. The Stars Were Right
6. Sheer primal willpower

Begin with one. Gain another when you recover a Treasure or make an unconditional friend.

Moontouched: You can conjure bright moonlight around your body and share dreams.
Thoroughbred: You're a prime specimen. All reactions or social roll results are +2 for you. 
Wildhide: If you're forced to make a STR save in melee combat, your attacker loses 1d4 STR.
Huckleberry: Other animals are amenable to harmless small favors for you. It's requited. 
Truffler: Your sense of smell is unparalled and can pick up even deliberately masked odors.

Here, bite down on this...

Bonus Gear:
- An honest-to-goodness bonesaw (d6)
- A conspicuous bag filled with vials and knives (bulky)
- A stained, padded smock covered in pockets

Field Medicine: You can heal d4 attribute damage under duress, then the target is deprived.

What is your area of expertise?
1. Infection
2. Anesthesia
3. Dentistry
4. Amputation
5. Narcotics
6. Poison

Begin with one. Gain another when you recover a Treasure or stabilize a VIP at death's door.

Ossophile: You can animate bones into rickety, but useful, minor constructs. It's very creepy.
Collector: Medical billing is sticky business. You know if anyone owes a debt to anyone else. 
Tincturer: You can identify and mix herbs and natural reagents into useful tonics and balms.
Ironbelly: Years of hard living and study have conditioned you with immunity to all poison.
Anatomist: Your keen insight of the body allows you to add d6 DEX damage to your attacks.

Pyramid Lake

What would you find when you mosey into Broker's Hold in the middle of the Weird West? A bustling frontier town, rife with its own conflicts, passions, and opportunities, that's what. With the huge ink-black monolith dedicated to Tarodyne Systems looming on the northern horizon, folks here know that there's more than meets the eye to ordinary lived experience across the dust flats. 

Broker's Hold NPCs:

- Daniel Fyfe, freeholder. A man with big shoulders and small hopes. Wants to be a leader but doesn't know how to step up. Needs to feed his family but the Parsel River is running thin and his fields are underperforming.

- Magrosse, gentle AI. Ostensibly a human, but clearly a machine due to the hapless facsimile job of artificial flesh. Wants to form a family but doesn't have a lover. Needs to find a replacement power cell but is terrified to venture out and find one.

- Bonita Charles, rancher. A woman of prodigious talent and ambition. Wants to find her brother who disappeared near Deltroit. Needs to defeat Vasily of the Hive in a local political race, but needs much more financial support to do so effectively.

- The Vrock, wrestler. Huge bald man with unparalleled charisma. Wants to be the "people's champion." Needs to get back to the Infernal Planes because he is, in fact, a dimensional devil, but his mortal guise is slipping and cannot refresh itself for much longer.

- The Rev(enant), mendicant. Beloved but misunderstood wanderer. Wants to become a devotee of Tarodyne Solutions. Needs to find her family but is having difficulty because they perished several hundred years ago in a stellar raid and now she's a ghost.

- Fariq Mendelssohn Charbonneau, tycoon. Philanthropic leader of Broker's Hold. Wants to launch an expedition to the Three-Eyed Pyramid of Jaldoracht past the east mountains. Needs to "send a message" to Blodkløften but does not have enough firepower to leverage.

Broker's Hold rumors:

- You know how every few weeks its gets especially dark during the day? Not quite night, yeah, but pretty ominous all the same? I heard that Dante de Chavez heard a loud buzzing sound throb through the old silver mine to the west near those damned eyries just before the sky turned deep gray...

- WANTED: Loffe Skydancer. Dead or alive. Outstanding crimes include forbidden animal husbandry, necromancy, illegal carry of a phase blade, illegal treaty with a polygamy compound, and kidnapping. Supposedly owns a "krait jet," allowing him to fly through the air at will. Reward negotiable.

- Ever had a Dank Gulp? Supposed to be a delicious, fizzy drink out of Cleave Land. Some sort of import from a far way to the south, or, at least, inspired by some oldster who brewed a lot in an old tower. Sounds really good, but probably not worth the risk.

- I kid you not, a massive four-winged eagle flew over the flats yesterday and landed on a mesa, dropping off two donkeys from its talons. The donkeys' eyes glowed bright white and they spoke something to the eagle, who bowed and took off to the south.

- WANTED: Information related to or leading to the capture of four obsidian orbs seen rocketing through the evening sky south of the Hold every third day for the last two weeks. Reports of domestic disturbance, animal madness, and shambling shadows abound at each appearance.

- Old legend says that when the sun crests Das Butte just right, the light refracts into a hulking horse with a giant horn on its head, coming right out of the forehead. No, I'm serious! The horse whinnies and runs straight through the air towards the Tarodyne monolith and disappears.

Thanks to everyone on the NSR Discord who inspired me with many of the ideas here.

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