The Usuldare River flows southwest from the pine barrens that dot the slopes of the Endemi Mountains in a fast, cold rush. The river is too shallow and rocky to support logging. Where the river takes a sharp, westward turn lays the ruins of Perrysmill Crossing, the site of a terrible tragedy.
The town got its start as a trading post between the farms that dot the countryside north of the river and the sheep and cattle ranches to the south. For a long time it was famous as the home of a retired adventurer by the name of Rantinbur, a ranger who had previously worked for the king. Rantinbur was the unelected sheriff for over twenty years. A monument to his passing can be found in the cemetery outside the town.
Perrysmill got its name from the cider mill at the heart of the town. Osero Perry built the mill and his family maintained it until its destruction 35 years ago. Casks branded with the Perrysmill logo can still be found in many inns and taverns around the kingdom. Sadly, all of the liquor in the aging barns was lost when the town was burned.
When the lungfire killed or debilitated more than a third of his troops, Duke Ranbel found himself in a bind. His obligations to the king required him to supply two platoons of fighting men, but he lacked the money to hire more. He was also fearful of the backlash from a draft, so he decided to impose a series of small taxes on the craftsmen in his domain. The first of these taxes was on leatherworkers and it sparked what came to be known as the Tanner’s Revolt.
Perrysmill became the center of the rebellion as Dannick Lyndplain rose to be the representative for the scofflaws. Dannick was a cattle rancher who owned two tanneries in Perrysmill. In the beginning, the revolt was nothing more than speeches and flyers, but things started to turn sour when tax collectors were pelted with dung and driven off. The duke decided that a show of force was needed and sent troops to escort his tax collectors. This lead to the massacre at Old Randford, where thirty men were cut down in a nighttime skirmish that got out of hand.
The fighting increased in intensity over the next year, with the duke going further into debt to afford soldiers to put down the growing number of rebels. On July 15, the Stonehawk Company “laid siege” to Perrysmill, hoping to end the rebellion for good. That night, the commander of the company took an arrow to the shoulder while walking the lines. While the wound was not serious, the commander became outraged at what she perceived as an assassination attempt. The next morning, when the leaders of the village came to negotiate, she had them hanged. She then ordered her troops to set fire to the village. Everyone that made it out was clubbed into submission and hanged. She then returned to the capitol, believing that her job was done.
Her actions did not have the intended effect. As soon as word got out, the entire peasantry rose up, taking the bloodied noose as their insignia. Five weeks after the atrocity at Perrysmill, both Duke Ranbel and Radra Denoit, the commander of the Stonehawks, were found hanging from trees. Ranbel’s heirs were quick to rescind the leatherworker’s tax and to disavow their father’s actions during the rebellion. They also offered to rebuild Perrysmill, but Lyndplain’s children declined, saying that they believed the ruins had become cursed. That claim was never proven, and New Perrysmill was built three miles upstream.
Perrysmill Crossing was quickly overgrown, so much so that rumors began to spread that something unwholesome had been birthed from the massacre. Like the tales of curses and revenants, there is no proof of this, but people avoid the ruins just the same.
Using Perrysmill Crossing
Places like this invoke the problem of Checkhov’s Gun for me. On the one hand, simply crafting a history for a place can make it feel alive. When you do that, however, you run the risk of triggering the players’ plot hook detector. Something that detailed must be explored and if they come up empty-handed, they feel cheated. I’m also a fan of stories that explain why things are the way they are and taxes are something that often gets overlooked when developing a world.
- Perrysmill Crossing could be the home of a secret society that never quit fighting the Tanner’s Revolt. They might have a Robin Hood feel or they just might be descended from people who find allure in the life of an outlaw. It would be natural for them to use the bloodied noose as their calling card. If you like the idea of assassin’s guilds, this might be how the local chapter got its start.
- The new duke or duchess wants to erase as much of the history of his or her father’s failures and wants to begin by finishing the job of destroying Perrysmill Crossing. The PCs are hired to investigate the ruins and clear out any squatters.
- The ruins could have become a node for a group of warlocks or necromancers, who are using the ambient necrotic energy to summon or create monsters.
- One of Ranbel’s children (or grandchildren) might decide that their father’s death needs to be investigated. This might bring the characters into conflict with rogues, assassins or even a group of well-meaning adventurers.
- The dead have risen and are seeking vengeance.
Design Theory: Radra hits harder and takes less damage than normal soldiers because she is an elite that lacks ready access to a multi-attack. This gives her more of a “focus on one guy and beat him down” kind of feel. Her defenses were left at normal so that she didn’t feel too grindy. 3d8+6 is a sizable chunk of damage at 8th level, so the players will want to focus on her, though she can only do that every other round (Blood-Caked Blade does not mark).
Whispers of the Fallen will have excellent synergy with monsters that apply effects that a save can end. I would not pair her with ghouls unless I wanted an especially rough fight. A level 8 is an awkward match with level 5 Blazing Skeletons, but their abilities are a better fit with her than monsters with stuns, dazes and weakens.
The Burned Men
So I sat down to make a melee version of Blazing Skeletons that would be more compatible with Radra and this is what I came up with. The only thing I don’t like is that a pack of them have the potential to have a really good turn if they can set three or more PCs on fire, then chain Fan the Flames on all of them.