Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Medicine

This is an idea that I've been kicking around for a little while, a seemingly idyllic little town that is held in thrall through occult magic.


Bad Medicine

In some ways, the little town of Smith's Crossing might seem like an ideal community. Consisting of a few businesses and private homes on the western bank of the Mississippi River, its citizens live in relative comfort and almost never have to deal with the crime and other such problems that are all too common in the American West. This is especially noteworthy given the fact that the town sees plenty of transients coming through it, people whose travels have brought them across the river as they seek their fortunes on the western frontier. While locations with that kind of traffic are often plagued by drunkenness, theft, vice and violence, Smith's Crossing has no such problems. 

Of course, if people knew just why the town is so peaceful, they'd not be so approving: In truth, the people who run the town keep others in thrall by creating poppets for every local, dolls crafted in the likeness of each person, infused with evil magic and some trace of material—such as hair, a little blood, a finger nail, and the like—from the victim's body. 

The Grand Tour
Refer to the map of Smith's Crossing to find the relative positions of the different establishments. 

A. The Landing
The first people to inhabit this area were Big Jean's parents, former slaves who set up shop in the area, cutting and selling wood for passing riverboats. Although it was hard work, it provided them with a chance for freedom and independence that they hadn't previously known. Now Big Jean runs the place with his wife, Mama Celeste, and their two children. 

The primary feature of the Landing is a broad wooden pier that juts out into the river. Jean and Celeste live in a small cabin, which consists of a main room and kitchen (A), along with bedrooms for the parents and children (B and C, respectively). Behind the cabin there are five big, long stacks of firewood, some eight feed wide and six feet tall, along with an outhouse.

Big Jean
Big Jean wasn't given his nickname for nothing. He is a big, big man, standing well over six feet in height and weighing more than two hundred pounds. His muscles are hardened from years of cutting down trees, sawing and splitting them into logs, and then stacking them to dry. For the most part he is a gentle soul, happy to let others go about their lives without trouble—but, should anyone threaten him or his own, then they're in for a fight.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d4, Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Survival d6, Swimming d4, Tracking d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 6
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Illiterate, Loyal
Gear: Clothing, axe (Damage Str+d6).

Mama Celeste
Mama Celeste possesses two notable gifts: she can influence the loa, and she can see those beings who—for whatever reason—are unable to move from this world into the next. These abilities she uses to help those who seek her aid, working as a healer and a spiritual adviser. Those efforts are in addition to working alongside her husband in his labors, and keeping a small garden along with a few chickens.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d4, Healing d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Survival d4, Voodoo d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Voodoo), Ghost Sight
Hindrances: All Thumbs, Code of Honor
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10
Powers: Boost Trait, Divination
Gear: Clothing, knife (Damage Str+d4).

B. Storehouse
This large, thick building is constructed from mud bricks with a timber roof. It has two sets of broad double doors in the front—one at ground level, and one elevated for use with wagons. There's a single door along one side, too, for people when they come and go. Inside the storehouse, a sloping ramp leads up to a platform (A) inside the raised doors, allowing for loading and unloading. There's also an enclosed office area where the bookkeeper works (C). Most of the space, however, is filled with tall wooden shelves containing crates, barrels, sacks, jars and the like (B).
Two laborers pull guard duty here at all times. 

Godfrey Werner, the Bookkeeper
In addition to running the general store and storehouse in Smith's Crossing, Godfrey Werner also acts as a spy for the Smith family. Indeed, his job gives him an excellent opportunity for keeping tabs on other people's business, since he is the only purveyor of most household items and other goods for miles around. Should anyone start buying items that might indicate a plot against the Smiths, he can report dutifully to them. As a reward for his services he enjoys a comfortable situation with access to many of “the finer things” in life. That also means, however, that he'd be willing to consider a better offer from another potential employer, especially if it becomes apparent to him that the Smiths are about to lose their control over this little frontier town.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d4
Skills: Gambling d4, Investigation d8, Knowledge d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command
Hindrances: Greedy (Major), Sluggish
Gear: Clothing, Derringer (Range 5/10/20, Damage 2d6, RoF 1).

These fellows are strong, but none too bright. They do as they are told, be that loading and unloading goods, or even silencing the occasional upstart who doesn't recognize the blessing that the Smiths have given to the people of this town.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Swimming d6
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 7
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Mean
Gear: Clothing, Colt Navy .36 (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), Bowie knife (Damage Str+d4+1), chewing tobacco.

C. General Store
Situated next to the storehouse is this single-story wooden building, the place from which Godfrey Werner buys and sells foodstuffs, tools, clothing and other such goods. This includes most items from the Gear section of the Sixth Gun RPG, except for armor, explosives, and firearms and accessories. The shopkeeper can order those other items, of course, but it can take a month or longer for them to be delivered. 

Inside the store, shelves line the walls and fill the center of the front room (A), which also has a counter for the clerk. There's a small office (B) in which Godfrey keeps his books, and a storeroom for extra supplies (C). Because Godfrey lives in the store, there's also a small kitchen (D), along with his bedroom (E) and another for his assistant (F). In addition to a strongbox containing $2000 in mixed coins and banknotes, Godfrey's room also holds his journal, in which he keeps track of people's purchases and speculates about what business they might be pursuing—which he reports to the Smiths, as mentioned above. 

D. Saloon
Across the main east-west street from the general store sits the Cantina, the only watering hole in Smith's Crossing. It consists of a main room (A) with a broad bar and thirty stools in the center, along with ten tables and chairs along the outside walls. Behind the bar, a door leads into the kitchen (B), from which one can access the storeroom (C) and the proprietress's bedroom (D). That latter area, in addition to containing Elizabeth Grey's extra clothing and personal items, is where she keeps a strongbox holding $500 in mixed coins and banknotes.

Elizabeth Grey, Saloonkeeper
Of all the people who live in Smith's Crossing, Elizabeth Grey has the best idea that something unusual is happening in town. That is because she chooses to visit Mama Celeste instead of Dr. Smith when she has a health concern. What is more, she has spent a good deal of time observing the locals, and has concluded that they don't conduct themselves with the same gusto and bravado as people in other frontier towns. While she doesn't know the truth behind these matters, she is curious about how the preacher's sermons can be so effective in stifling the impulses of these rustic and rambunctious settlers.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d6, Knowledge (Aread) d4, Persuasion d6, Shooting d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: +2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Attractive
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing (men's), Sawed-off double-barreled shotgun (Range 5/10/20, Damage 1-3d6, RoF 1-2).

Serving Girls
These women have a surprisingly easy time of it, given the peaceful nature of Smith's Crossing. Even so, Elizabeth Grey has asked them to look out for evidence of just why the town is so well-mannered. In return, they see her as something of a mother figure.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Knowledge (Area) d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing (women's), Derringer pistol (Range 5/10/20, Damage 2d6, RoF 1).

E. Church
Kitty-corner from the saloon stands this building, in which Malachi Smith preaches his sermons about sin, penitence and redemption. While they might seem like typical hellfire-and-brimstone chastisement, there's no denying that they're unusually effective in stamping out the more wicked tendencies among the residents of the town as well as the surrounding settlers. 

The church is a story and a half in height, with a bell tower that rises to a full three stories. It has two broad sets of double doors in front that provide access to the entry (A). From there, a spiral staircase leads up into the bell tower, while two more sets of double doors lead into the sanctuary (B). That room is filled with wooden pews, in front of which stands the pulpit from which Rev. Smith preaches. A single door leads into the back room (C), which contains the rear entrance, a single door. It also provides access to the storage room (D), which is lined with shelves containing all of the materials needed for conducting baptisms, weddings and other ceremonies, along with the study (E) in which the minister sometimes works.

Reverend Malachi Smith
A true believer in the Gospel of the Lord, Reverend Smith is convinced that his words are what keep the people of Smith's Crossing living good lives of hard work, honest business and mutual satisfaction. He himself is not really a bad person, suffering mainly from the sin of intolerance but working hard to help others with life's difficulties and their understanding of the Bible's teachings. He would be horrified to learn the truth of why this town seems so idyllic: that his brother and sister-in-law hold everyone in thrall through occult means.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge d6 (religion), Notice d4, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command, Natural Leader
Hindrances: Code of Honor
Gear: Austere clothing, clerical collar, copy of the Holy Bible.

F. Graveyard
Next to the church is the last resting place for those locals who've passed beyond this world. It is surrounded by a white-washed rail fence, with a gate in front that provides entrance. Inside the fence, seven plots have already been dug, filled and marked with headstones. There is still plenty of room to expand, of course. 

G. Smiths' House
By far the nicest home in town—with whitewashed walls and an immaculate shake roof—is this one, which belongs to the Smiths. It is two stories in height. 

The front door opens into a hallway that runs the length of the house. To the right is the parlor (A), which is filled with two comfortable sofas and an overstuffed chair. Across the hall from there is the dining room (B), which is dominated by a broad table surrounded by eight chairs. A door from the dining room leads into the kitchen (C), which boasts a modern wood stove and a long table for preparing food. A door from here leads into the pantry (D), which is stocked with all manner of dry goods, bottles, jars and the like. Opposite those two rooms is the housemaid's bedroom (E), furnished with a bed, dressing table and storage trunk. A stairway leads to the upstairs; what is more, a hidden door (Notice test at -2 to spot) opens onto the staircase that leads into the hidden basement. 

On the upstairs level there is a closet (F) filled with extra linens and similar things. Next along that side is Malachi's bedroom (G), furnished with a comfortable bed, side table, wardrobe and desk. Along the other side of the hallway one finds Dr. Smith's study (H), which is lined with bookshelves and contains a table and chairs along with an easel that the doctor uses for sketching and even painting pictures based on his study of human anatomy. Finally there is the master bedroom (I), shared by the doctor and Mrs. Angelica, which contains a large bed, a wardrobe, a dressing table and a storage trunk. While one can find clothing and mundane personal items in this room, the really incriminating stuff is located elsewhere. 

The stairs that lead into the basement bring a person face-to-face with the terrible secret of just how Smith's Crossing is such a peaceful town. That room is filled by two long, broad work tables, both of which are covered by dolls in various stages of progress. Those dolls depict various people from around the town and surrounding area, along with others from further afield. What is more, shelves lining the wall opposite the stairs are filled with these sinister little replicas, including all of the townsfolk except Big Jean, Mama Celeste and Elizabeth Grey. Mrs. Angelica can infuse these dolls, when necessary, with voodoo magic in order to inflict pain on those who, in her opinion, are not doing right. Each doll sits on a piece of paper containing the name of the person whom it depicts.

Refer to page 34 of the Sixth Gun RPG rulebook to find more information about the crafting of voodoo dolls and how they can be used to inflict harmful magical effects on unsuspecting victims from a distance.

Meghan Evans, the Housemaid
In addition to working as the Smiths' housemaid, Meghan assists them in their daily business—both public and illicit. To that end she acts as a nurse for Dr. Smith when he needs help and as a sounding board for Rev. Smith's sermon ideas; more notably, Mrs. Smith has secretly begun to tutor her in the practice of magic. Because of these activities, Meghan has become aware that Rev. Smith is being kept in the dark about the town's occult enforcement of social norms. Since she has begun to develop a real affection for the bachelor preacher, she struggles with the fact that he's being allowed to believe his sermons are what keep the townsfolk quiet and happy. Meghan hasn't been willing to tell anyone yet, as she rightly fears the wrath of the other Smiths, but in time she might be persuaded to speak out.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Investigation d4, Knowledge d6 (local), Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Voodoo d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Connections.
Hindrances: Cautious
Gear: Comfortable clothing.

Dr. Mordecai Smith
There are two things that visitors to this little town should know about Dr. Mordecai Smith. The first, which is public knowledge, is that he is a highly skilled doctor. The second, or which only two of his associates are aware, is that he uses his medical practice to help his wife keep the townsfolk and people of the surround farms in thrall through Voodoo. His part in the business is to take samples from each of his patients—locks of hair, vials of blood, and even the occasional amputated limb—and give them to his wife for use in making poppets (see below for details).
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d4, Healing d8, Investigation d6, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Luck
Hindrances: Obligation (Minor), Overconfident
Gear: Fancy suit, doctor's bag, book., walking stick (Damage Str + 1d4).

Mrs. Angelica Smith
While this little town is named after the Smith brothers, the real power behind it all is this woman who, on the surface, seems like nothing more than the young and beautiful wife of the country doctor. She uses her knowledge of Voodoo to create a poppet for every person from whom her husband obtains a sample, and then uses those dolls to inflict hurtful powers on those who act against her will. This she learned back east in her home town of Salem, Massachusetts. Additionally, she employs a number of independent agents—such as Jacques Lemaire—who also use magic to seek relics and lore in order to gain more power influence for themselves and their employer. Just how far her ambition might lead, and who could suffer as a result of it, is open to speculation.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d6, Voodoo d8
Charisma: +2, Pace: --, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (voodoo), Attractive
Hindrances: Arrogant
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10
Powers: Divination, Puppet
Gear: Fancy dress.

Other Homes
Most of the people who work in Smith's crossing live in small, rough but comfortable homes. While the exact details vary, some common features include a kitchen that doubles as a living room (A), a master bedroom (B), smaller bedrooms (C) and an attached storage room (D). There is an outhouse, too, of course. 


1 comment:

  1. Hey Nate, just found your blog... been going through and grabbing stuff (mostly your nautical stuff; a passion we appear to share in the game).

    Quick question... I noted that you had really dug into the PF ruleset with regards to vehicles... have you ever considered doing a PF conversion of of the theurgeme vessel from Stormwrack (3.5 WotC)?

    I would be especially interested in what your take on the stats for such a ship.