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Motley Musings

Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 4:09 pm
by Siege
A random assortment of hastily scribbled notes and half-baked ideas for this slow-stew universe, beginning with that most indispensable ingredient of gaucho fiction and bronco books:


Back in ye olden days when this 'verse was a place of planets called on by spacefaring paddlesteamers I mostly used existing brands (Browning, Colt, Winchester), but this approach I've sworn off in favor of stuff made up out of whole cloth. So far these include:

Colchester "The pistols of patriots", Colchester is the most ubiquitous brand of revolver found on the frontiers of the Union. These guns are neither the most accurate nor the most reliable, but they are very affordable and most of the time they get the job done just fine.

Pacifier is a type of handgun carried exclusively by agents of the Holifyre detective agency. They are hand-crafted by master gunsmiths under exclusive contract, and said to be ensorcelled to bring unnatural accuracy to their rightful wielder -- and terrible misfortune to whomever bears them without the agency's condonance.

Hawke manufactures hunting longrifles. A typical Hawke rifle is a high-caliber, high-accuracy bolt-action weapon with a very limited magazine capacity, but as the manufacturer says: if you use a Hawke and you need more than one shot to put down your target, you missed and it's your own damned fault.

Joynson builds a variety of firearms but is most famous for its line of lever-action repeating rifles. Combining decent accuracy with the ability to put an impressive volume of lead downrange in a hurry, these rifles are a favorite among people who expect to be in hairy situations that require lots of shooting. Not coincidentally they have garnered a reputation as a bandit's weapon of choice, and those who wield them openly will be looked at with suspicion by honest folks.

Sterling is a catch-all name for a variety of weapons manufactured by artificers in Baptiste. They are universally made of a silvery metal only found in the swamplands surrounding the enclave, in an esoteric process that is more art than science. Sterling weapons are said to have all sorts of arcane properties, and are highly sought after (and thus inevitably expensive).

Sheridan manufactures weapons exclusively for the Union Cavalry -- but that doesn't mean that these guns don't frequently end up in the hands of others. Sheridan guns are compact, ruggedly reliable and can suffer seemingly endless abuse without breaking down. Unfortunately they are also very expensive and because they are by default property of the Cavalry it is illegal for civilians to posses them.

Dahlgren builds highly technical chain-driven revolver guns. Dahlgren weapons are heavy, cumbersome, difficult devices that go through ammunition like wildfire through straw, but once they get going they are astoundingly brutal. A Dahlgren gun will rip through the thickest wood and can even cleave stone. A single one of these weapons has the potential to fell a company of men in mere seconds.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:12 pm
by Booted Vulture
I love this.
if you use a Hawke and you need more than one shot to put down your target, you missed and it's your own damned fault.
In the brave days of yore before the fell beast 'public relations' was invented...

Still seems like a lot of those brands are very specialised.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:57 pm
by Siege
Most brands make more than one type of gun, but they are mostly well-known for doing one thing particularly well. Joynson for example builds an experimental self-cocking revolver with some expensive gearwork that turns a single-action revolver into a full-auto piece of gee-whiz mech, and Hawke builds long-barrel revolvers with expensive optics for people who like that sort of thing, but those are outliers you won't see much on the frontiers.

Meanwhile, I've been considering the Holifyre Detective Agency for a while, to what extent they could be considered good or bad guys and just how magic they are. I'm leaning toward their detectives being generally pretty nasty characters with a bunch of lesser hexes up their sleeves because... Well, because the idea of a well-dressed Holifyre agent riding into town with eyes that burn like hellfire is an image I particularly enjoy. That would by implication place them squarely against the Ministry however - the verse's designated good guy preachermen - and I'm not sure that's what I want. So I suppose I'd have to find a way to have these fellas ride a fine line that'd net the Agency a reputation as vile bastards who are however not completely without merit. To have them trending toward the demoniac side of the streets but still your best bet against some of the grisly gribblies out there. Hmm...

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:39 pm
by Ford Prefect
When I hear about these guys I think 'Pinkertons'. That might be the wrong image to have, but my impression of the Pinkertons is that they were pretty bad dudes in their own way.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:34 am
by Siege
The Pinkertons are indeed a major source of inspiration, and they were nasty customers (or could be, anyway). At the same time I'd like to make Holifyre not quite a carbon copy (the magic element will help in that respect ;)). I guess a good place to start could be to ask what sort of jobs a well-to-do Union citizen might want to hire a bunch of brimstone-breathing, hex-slinging detectives for. Any suggestions?

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:27 pm
by Ford Prefect

That's only half a joke, you'd think guys like this would do a really good business in acting as Furies in cowboy hats. That's a pretty obvious one admittedly. Hunting contract breakers is a little different but also probably appropriate.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:55 pm
by Siege
Oh, now there's a thought. Maybe there's a business of condoned assassination within the Union? Similar in a way to those 'wanted: dead or alive' posters in that if someone's been sentenced to that sort of thing you'll be just fine if you shoot them, except that law on the frontiers is an iffy prospect so you'd have all kinds of people putting out bounties on their former employer, the young man who rode off with their daughter, the railroad tycoon who keeps sending posses over, the prospector who's swindled you out of your gold claim and so forth. And maybe as long as the bounty is at least vaguely morally justifiable or in line with some obscure laws the custom would be tacitly tolerated, so there'd be a chance of Holifyre taking you up on it and sending an agent over to settle the matter for you.

At the same time whether a contract is tolerated or not might to a large degree be up to the local Sheriff, so agents would regularly come into conflict with the more upstanding types who have entirely different ideas about what constitutes a proper enforcement of the law.

"He has it comin', sheriff."

"We all have it comin', witch."

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:47 pm
by Siege
The Emancipation Wars was a series of conflicts fought over matters of sovereignty, taxes, slavery and resources by the Union and the now-defunct Red Ashe State, to the south-east of the Four Corners.

Red Ashe was a territory to the south of the Union, separated from it by the Bayou Tige and its surrounding swamplands. The territory consisted of a central upland surrounded by vast glades, marshes and innumerable rivers and streams that made it difficult to nagivate. It served as a natural border between the Union and the Caliora Empire, the unspoken gentleman's agreement between the Senate and the Viceroy being that if neither side claimed the troublesome, bug-infested swamplands it would probably be better for all.

That agreement didn't however prevent immigrants from moving into the nearly 200,000 square mile territory. Desperadoes, downcasts and fortune seekers drifted into the bogs. Lawless settlements and towns propped up around patches of high ground, and plantations were founded on the fertile uplands. The discovery of a particularly rich lode of ghost silver turned the boom town of Monument City into the de-facto regional capital. Eventually a cabal of rich planters, mine-owners and coalwine barons formed the Camarilla, an immoral pseudo-government that declared the territory independent and ruled what it called the Red Ashe State with an iron fist.

At first the Union was happy to deal with the Camarilla, seeing it as a source of order. It rapidly became clear that it was anything but. It was the Ministry that first reported on the degenerate dictats enacted by the Camarilla, sanctionining all manner of depravities in the name of its own gain. But it wasn't until slaving gangs began raiding the Union border cities of Beauregard and Baptiste that the Senate finally ordered military action be taken. The Union raised an army and crossed the Bayou Tige, starting a conflict that would take nearly a decade to resolve.

What became known as the Emancipation Wars started as a series of relatively minor military operations. Red Ashe was difficult to navigate even at the best of times and for a very long time the wars consisted mainly of Union occupation of settlements in the vicinity of the Bayou Tige, with all attempts to drive deeper into the wilderness curbed by Camarilla deceptions and ambushes. The notorious brutality with which the Camarilla treated captured Union troops took its toll on morale; roving bands of irregulars harried the Union lines, disrupting logistics and making it very difficult for the Union to make any progress into the territory, and as long as Union territory remained mostly free of harassment the Senate was hesitant to free up the funds to change this status quo – particularly considering that on the other side of the territory, the Viceroy was warily watching.

The stalemate wasn't broken until the Camarilla overplayed its hand and launched a massive surprise attack on the Union city of Baptiste, plundering it, killing hundreds of citizens, kidnapping hundreds more, and burning a large part of the town to the ground. It is likely the Camarilla hoped the raid would definitively break Union morale but it had the opposite effect. Enraged by the violation of Union territory the Senate gave General Rikers Washington carte blanche to deal with the Camarilla in whatever way he saw fit.

The rest is history. Over the course of years General Washington literally burned his way through the marshlands toward Monument City. His troops torched every plantation, pillaged every settlement, and hung every slave-owner they encountered. So utterly definitive was his obliteration of Red Ashe that the regions through which the General passed are now referred to as the Burned Lands. After three years of constant campaigning Washington laid siege to Monument City itself; the Camarilla managed to hold him off for six months, convinced that the Caliora would intervene on their behalf. But the Viceroy did not. Shortly before the fall of their capital the Camarilla in an act of ultimate spite the executed all the slaves they still held; in response, Washington's troops showed no quarter once they made it over the palisades. They executed every single soul in the city - men, women and children alike - then torched the city and salted the ashes so that nothing would ever grown there again.

Rikers Washington then attempted to hunt down what few Camarilla survivors remained, but was recalled when his unholy zeal finally provoked the Caliora Empire. Believing the Union was about to claim the territory for itself the Empire's caballeros saw no other option but to move in themselves, and fought several pitched battles with Union troops before General Washington was recalled. The Senate brokered an uneasy cease-fire with the Viceroy, and this concluded the Emancipation Wars. The Red Ashe territory remains a no-man's land to this day, although there are now several Union and Caliora outposts within it that serve both to discourage a repeat of the past as well as to provide advance warning should either side choose to break the cease-fire. The biggest of these outposts are Fort Carrion on the edge of the Burned Lands, and the Caliora settlement of Trastornado on the Rio Helecho at the westmost edge of the territory.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:58 am
by Ford Prefect
Obviously we can draw parallels to the American Civil War, but I like the wider political tensions. It strikes me as a little unusual that Caliora Empire waited so long to intervene, but certainly if nothing else moved them, Washington burning most of the place to the ground would.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:36 pm
by Siege
The Caliora are mainly intended to be very, very far away. The Union, or at least its civilized territories, is also far away, but to get to the heartland of the Caliora Empire you literally have to traverse deserts and jungles where constellations shift and change above you, and mountain ranges from whose topmost peaks you can look down on the stars and worlds below you. The Caliora presence near the Four Corners is tenuous at best, and even though Viceroy Diego Cid Diaz de la Vega has a lot of troops under his command he is fully aware of how precarious his situation is. He's not going to commit to a war if he can avoid it, particularly not when posturing and maneuvering will accomplish his objectives as well.


Ghost Silver is a metal extracted from the swamplands near Baptiste and Beauregard. It is pearly and shines with a strange inner glow, and extremely difficult to work with. Forging an object from Ghost Silver requires a process that is as much religion as art, and the masters smiths of Baptiste say that once the metal been formed into an object once, it can never be remade into any other shape. They also say that Ghost Silver artifacts are alive in a strange, abhuman way -- and that the purpose of the artifact determines in large part its character.

Coalwine is a flammable liquid found in reservoirs deep beneath the earth's surface. Its color is dark red bordering on black, and it has a deep black cherry taste. Coalwine can, when vaporized and ignited, be used to power vast machineries. But with proper alchemical treatment it can also be consumed, which is highly dangerous even when the dosage is carefully controlled, but done correctly (either injected or snuffed) Coalwine consumption can give the user a longer life span, greater vitality and super-attuned senses -- at the cost of ones dreams and, eventually, soul.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:50 am
by Booted Vulture
Am I missing something or has Westwords turned in a single planet affair now?

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:43 pm
by Siege
The world don't end like it should. If you keep goin' in one direction you don't get back where you started like they said you would, and there ain't no edge to fall off either. There's just more mountains an' deserts an' crap keeps showin' up, except they got Shaheen in 'em and other weird poppycock that kills a man stone dead when he ain't prepared for it, or the stars change overhead and you can't find your way back home no more. It's a weird-ass place, the world, and these here Four Corners are about as far as folks in their right minds are willin' to go. Beyond, there's nothin' but badlands and crazy-folk and trouble waitin' to happen.

Re: Motley Musings

Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:42 pm
by Arty
Yes, I know it's been five years since the last comment, but goddang, this is still awesome.