Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tales from the Graveyard

Barrow Island lies close to Empire Island in the Wyrd River. It’s the location of the City’s sprawling potter’s field, but its association with the dead goes back much farther. There are stately Dwergen cemeteries dating from the earliest days of colonization, and even unmarked Native burial grounds.

The only living inhabitants on the island are those that tend the graveyards. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, all the entire population of the island’s only village--some 700 souls--were found dead (and subsequently buried in a mass grave nearby). No further attempts at settlement were made. Still, the size of grounds to maintain and protect, and the large number of interments, necessitates a fairly large staff.

The graveyard staff (barrow men) are a clan of several interrelated families--”Keeper,” “Graves,” and “Digger” are among of the most common surnames. They’re usually a people of “unique” (one might say hideous) appearance, though their are exceptions particularly among the women. Whether this is from inbreeding, intermixing with their bitter enemies, the ghouls, or the dark influence of the island itself, is uncertain. Whatever the reason for their appearance, the barrow men are unperturbed by it--in fact, they seem to delight in the revulsion it sometimes causes in others.

The barrow men love a good tale, the more macabre the better--particularly if injected with a bit of gallows humor. They collect them, and swap them; the number known and their novelty are a measure of status among them. Any visitor to the island will almost surely be regaled with one or more depending on the length of their stay.


BARROW MEN (RACE)
Ability Modifiers: CON +1, CHA -1
Classes: All
Languages: Ghoulish
Racial Traits:
  • +2 to savings throws vs. poison, disease, or contagion.
  • horrify: If given time and opportunity (i.e. not in combat or other extremely active situation) a barrow man may enrapt listeners with a tale of horror. This works similar to the bardic fascinate abilty. After the tale is complete, a failed saving throw leaves the listener shaken with a -2 to all attack rolls and other checks for 1d4 rounds.

18 comments:

Sean Robson said...

Awesome! I love the homage to the old horror comics, like Vault of Horror; loved those as a kid.

Matt said...

Love it. Great homage!

Needles said...

Oh this is so stolen man & getting injected into my Thursday night game.
Awesome

The Drune said...

Nice. I loved the horror comics and horror comic hosts when i was just a little ghoul.

I want to mention that I was doing some historic research on a mid 19th century city cemetery and found accounts of local medical students purchasing bodies. Also, I have a friend studying in Scotland and the current archaeology building is in the old medical school building which is famously connected with similar incidents.

Bring back any memories from med school?

Banacek said...

When I'm drunk I speak ghoulish.

Trey said...

@Sean & @Matt - Thanks, guys.

@Needles - Steal away!

@Drune - Well, not this time around, but of course when I was first in medical school with in 1810...well, that's a different matter.

@Banacek - Nice. Do you chat up the ladies in it?

Risus Monkey said...

I love the whole idea of this and how well it would translate to other settings and model time periods. Consider this one yoinked.

Pierce said...

Yeah, i will echo Risus by saying that this concept would be fun and easy to transplant. "though their are exceptions particularly among the women."- I could see a whole adventure springing from that: "In order to court the grave diggers creepy yet beautiful daughter you must first clear out the ghouls from crypt 87."

Trey said...

@Risus - Yeah, that's exactly right. Yoink away. :)

@Pierce - Your thinking exactly what I was thinking--especially if you were picturing the the grave digger's daughter with a Betty Page haircut. ;)

Matthew Slepin said...

I can't remember if you are on Old Time Radio fan, Trey, but you might enjoy the first serial in Adventures by Morse< ("The City of the Dead") which is about something like this.

Trey said...

I'd say I'm a casual fan. I haven't heard that serial, but I'll certainly try to track it down. Thanks!

Justin S. Davis said...

Totally awesome stuff. Stolen!

Trey said...

Steal away, Justin. ;)

Matthew Slepin said...

Adventures by Morse.

Trey said...

thanks for the link!

NetherWerks said...

Great idea! These guys are wonderful!

Trey said...

Thanks.

NetherWerks said...

Unfortunately, the Fantomists don't seem to get along well with the Barrow-Men. There seems to be some necromantic rivalry or graveyard turf dispute going on perhaps. Better get the Spectral Arquebus loaded...