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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Broken River: A Thanksgiving Interlude

Broken River
Interlude: Little Big Chicken Ranch
by Mike (Rhishisikk) Kochis

For those following the Pellatarum threads, this is something that Erin picked up a while ago, played with, and then got all distracted by life. But, as she pointed out to me, it fits really well with what's going on in Broken River.

Little Big Chicken Ranch
Not all things a town is famous for are in the town proper. Some, like the Little Big Chicken Ranch, are on the outskirts, the farmsteads that make "civilized life" possible.

In a nutshell, the LBCR raises dire chickens, because they have the fortitude to survive the elemental mish-mash that constitutes yearly weather, enough mean on them to resist predators, enough meat to make it worth all the extra hassle, and are still able to be handled by normal humans.
To date, attempts to mimic the success of LBCR have met with failure, and usually needed adventurers to remove the rampaging territorial chickens.

The NPCs
Garvin Olvewaithe (commoner 5) is the farmer known for running the Little Big Chicken ranch, but much of the actual work of the ranch and the homestead itself is done by his wife, Marta (com 6, our most experienced commoner). He also employs a half dozen "caretakers", who rapidly rise to second or third level (or end up being torn apart by the foul-tempered fowl).

Their oldest child is only seven, but has already gained second level. Mimi Olvewaithe is terrified of the "clucking horrors", and swears up and down that she's going to do something sane with her life. In spite of this, she hauls feed, pesters the ranch hands, and generally gets underfoot the way in which only a seven year old can manage (and only a seven year old is still cute enough to get away with).

The Tenants
For stats on dire chickens, see Erin's article here.

There are two conflicting natures – the dire beast and the chicken. Marta discovered that the chickens take shelter when she bangs two metal pots together. However, the chickens are smart enough to recognize wielded weapons, and will swarm fearlessly to defense of "their" territory.

Unlike most dire beasts, the chickens have been raised together, and work as a pack or swarm rather than individual beasts. They have learned not to attack their fence of woven barbed wire, but every so often, one (or more) will flutter into the air and find themselves landing on the outside of their pen.

Like all dire beasts, they breed like a plague – if they weren't being constantly harvested for their meat and eggs, they would have already taken over the entire farm and destroy the surrounding landscape. There used to be a detachment of four soldiers from the town guard, until times got so desperate that they were needed elsewhere (but the watchtower remains at the crossroads between the four pens.

As noted above, there are four pens. These are connected by buried walkways, allowing the chickens a single "territory". Each pen includes an artificial "cave"*, where the females can lay eggs and the entire flock will retreat to if exposed to fire, loud noises, rainy weather, arrow fire, or other situations which just cannot be resolved by swarming and pecking (the default reaction of the chickens).

The fences of the enclosures are wood covered with barbed wire. Collectively, the chickens are capable of destorying the fences – but they've never been worked into enough of a frenzy to discover this. Generally speaking, only the lower-status members of the flock spend a lot of time near the fences.

At the crossroads between the four pens are a watchtower and several "feeding troughs", which rely on gravity to get the feed past the fence. Two spears (to fend off hungry dire chickens) are also in this area. Again, the owners and hands make very certain to keep the flock well placated.

Town Politics
The Olvewaithes are not much liked by their neighbors, who are convinced that they are raising monsters. In spite of over a decade of prosperity, they will never be trusted to control their animals. This means their feed prices (from their neighbors, at least) are higher; part of this is grudge, the rest is greed (the ranch is relatively lucrative).

This means that most of the feed is actually bought from Thornshire, Broken River's halfling community. When relations are strained, and the halflings stop exporting, this includes to the Little Big Chicken Ranch. The residents of Thornshire are all to well aware of the pressure this puts on the entire northwestern farmland, and the town in general.

Although being on the "safe" side of the river, the LBCR is a target by the nearby orc tribe. For their part, the Olvewaithes are indifferent to the "orc tax" and to picking up the occasional dead orc body out of the pens – it's just one of the normal hazards of business for them.

Druids, generally speaking, hate the LBCR for "caging" dire animals (and more than one druid has died attempting to set them free).

Every so often the Smuggler's Union will attempt to "export" one or more dire chickens to another farm; these efforts always end badly, and the Olvewaithes have stopped selling their chickens, to include fertile eggs. Not that this stops the attempts, but that's between them and the flock.

Adventure Seeds
Seriously? If you can't already see three potential plot devices, go – no, no, not going there. I apologize.
  • Escaped chickens are a fact of life at Little Big Chicken Ranch. Normally there are just one or two, pawing around the outside of the fences, and wondering how they got outside. But as your player's level increases, it may be necessary to cull the entire farm. (The exact number of dire chickens on the ranch at any given time is deliberately left vague.)
  • Mimi is just the cutest little budding adventurer ever. She also knows that she's small enough to fit in a backpack. This is a dangerous combination.
  • Dire chickens eat a LOT. This means convoys of feed (both grain and meat) crossing the farmlands, year round. This means weather, banditry, and wandering monsters.
  • The neighbors have a dichotomy of their own – they don't want those monsters near their farm, but they're also afraid that if they try to do anything, ALL the chickens will escape at once.
  • Every few years, some idiot gets it into their head that dire chickens are just bigger chickens. Surely they would make good pets, or could be trained as circus animals. Meaner than normal chickens, you say? Perhaps guardian beasts...
  • As with any industry that makes money, LBCR attracts its share of bandits and robbers. The signs "Trespassers will be fed to the livestock" do little to deter such individuals.
  • If you're attempting to cozy up to the local orc tribes, they routinely lose braves who choose to steal a dire chicken from LBCR as one of their combat trials. A more difficult trial is capturing one alive.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 * I asked Mike what he meant by "cave" and he clarified it as "a chicken coop covered with dirt on three sides and on the roof."  While this makes sense, I am rather fond of the notion of it being an actual dugout, wherein intrepid farmhands must venture into the warrens, like a tunnel rat, to retrieve eggs or die in the attempt...

1 comment:

  1. Erin! I can't believe you passed on the archetypical Chicken Adventure Seed - "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

    This would of course be suplimented by a harrowing road crossing side adventure...


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