Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wermspittle Introduction

The walled village of Wermspittle clings to a rocky escarpment and is surrounded by dark, menacing woods and steep ravines, treacherous gorges and avalanche-prone trails that only the goats really know. It sits ensconced like a well-entrenched canker up along the jagged face of a particularly disreputable pass through gloomy and desolate mountains that could be anywhere that has a dark reputation for heresy, witchcraft or unspeakable things. Mostly abandoned, more than half deserted, Wermspittle is a run-down place, once intended to be a fortified bastide, a bulwark against the darkness. Now it is a place that doesn't even appear on most maps or cartularies. Its name has been expunged from the tax rolls of those who founded it. Only fools or the very desperate seek out such dubious shelter amidst the fog blackened woods where the wolves do not howl alone.

Squalid and pocked with all the slow-rotting signs of perpetual neglect and untended decay, the hovels, homes and households of Wermspittle often leave a great deal to be desired. The alleys are more like tunnels or rudely worked caves cut into the foundations of the crumbling buildings or the mountainside itself. The streets are barely any better and one does not speak of the sewers. They were never fully completed and the architect in charge of them went mad in the course of overseeing their initial construction. Every engineer that has followed the original architect has been served by the Sewer Militia, a hard-bitten group of tunnel-rats and spelunkers who fight the things that have since moved into the sewers below Wermspittle. It is this Sewer Militia that has discovered the warrens, mazy-ways and myriad tunnels that lead outwards from below the foundations of their fortified town to the nests of ratlings, ghouls, and worse. It is the duty of the Sewer Militia to defend the lower regions from armed incursions, invasions and so on. But they are short-handed, new tunnels are being dug all the time and the deeper down one goes, the older the passages are...and there were things moving around in those dark, damp regions long before any human first trod through the thick layers of dust and debris.

But it is illegal for the Sewer-Militia to speak of these things in public.

These are difficult times. Plagues ravage the bandit-riddled countryside and the airships rarely come any more. Merchant caravans must fight their way across vast tracts of war-ravaged and plague-pocked wilderness, through still-burning ghost-towns, past hordes of savages or looting bands of former soldiers turned mercenaries or bandits as if there was any real difference. And refugees still struggle to make their way to Wermspittle as though it could offer them some measure of safety or sanity. But alas, safety is a rich man's illusion, and sanity is in very short supply in this place that was designed to be a sort of asylum for too-powerful heretics and too-rich mad-men. What was once a place of exile and isolation has become a refuge and a sanctuary for those who would flee the terrible wars, the horrendous plagues, the paroxysm of madness and devastation that has lain waste to numerous empires great and small alike.

Where once Wermspittle was a strange place to be avoided, it is now the only hope for those who have fled the insanity that has consumed their palaces, manors, villages or hovels alike.

The shanty-camps of refugees cluster about the walls of Wermspittle like so much flotsam or garbage along the banks of a polluted river.

Most of two-thirds of the walled lower-city is abandoned and in ruins. More than half the fortified upper-city is likewise cordoned-off and given over to shadows, whispering miasmas and prowling beasts.

But not all is broken-down and depressingly primitive. Wermspittle has many semi-functional fountains and municipal wells fed by a patchwork system of buried cisterns and a series of no less than seven different aquaducts that remain in varying stages of completion, each one larger and more elaborate than the last and each one located farther up on the main slope or delving deeper into the vast caverns within the very heart of the great mountain. The most recent attempt at building an aquaduct was abandoned after the unfortunate demise of the architect. He spontaneously burned to death while convalescing within the Viscountess Mathilde's Manor beside the Great Municipal Park of the Third Cistern. The Viscountess' Manor is the highest building within the ancient bastide, after the abandoned observatory of Doktor Gretzmalk, but no one considers the old observatory to be part of Wermspittle proper. Indeed, it is more akin to some sort of architectural hallucination or transplanar intrusion than any sort of reputable or acceptable landmark. No one mentions that place if they can help it.

There is a great deal that it is best not to talk about, at least not openly, in Wermspittle, lest someone or something might hear and take an interest or exception.

Originally the first walled village of Wermspittle was built in-between three different, previous settlements or fortress-sites, all of which were ancient, ruined and seemingly abandoned. The so-called First Keep still stands and the original road, massive three-part draw-bridge and bridge-towers likewise remain intact and fully functional. The heavy gonnes ensconced within the batteries overlooking the most accessible crossing-points along the Suryava and Daivalla rivers however have not been maintained for more than a century. The old degenerate nobles and tainted aristocratic families who were exiled to this place embezzled the funds provided for the defense of this place until only recently and now only the Wall Guard and skeletal conscripts from the militant ossuaries and shrines provide any sort of credible defense. But no one has attempted to lay siege to Wermspittle in centuries, and none have ever been successful.

There are those who believe the Ignobles and their cronies to be far too arrogant and complacent for anyone's good. Agitators and demagogues have arisen to challenge the corrupt gentry and things might be on the verge of changing in Wermspittle...but whether for the worse or for the better remains to be seen.

The new model bastide that was to serve as the core of what would grow to become Wermspittle was originally laid-out with a series of good, straight streets intended to form a series of squares and plazas that would attract merchants, vendors and traders to come set up shop. They never came. But the plague did. Construction ceased with half the population succumbing to the plague. What was expected to be a thriving nexus of trade and commerce became yet another overflowing cemetery and a dismal place where partly finished and abandoned buildings outnumbered the occupants three or more to one.

To this day the dead, be they restless or content, outnumber the living by a significant factor.

The barricaded inner-villages of the Upper and Lower sections of Wermspittle have grown peculiar in their  isolation and decay as more and more foreign refugees huddle behind the tunnel-riddled and crumbling walls.

The shadows are tangled in memories in Wermspittle. There are those among the touched who listen and recount the things that they overhear being whispered in the alleys betwixt unseen things and those who would remain unknown.

Where once the streets were intended to run straight and true, they now wend and wind and twist back upon themselves like a writhing mass of worms freshly pulled from the rocky soil by a grave-digger's spade. The carefully laid-out plans of long dead architects and forgotten planners have been overtaken by make-shift barricades, chained together series of heavy manlets, hastily piled-up walls of rubble and debris. New tunnels are being dug to connect isolated sections even as bridges and put into place to link together neighborhoods. The walled-in Upper and Lower sections of the old city are surrounded by an urban wilderness or ruins, abandoned buildings, and cut-off districts.

It is a strange old place, much haunted and folded in upon itself many times over as though collapsing under the weight of all its sins and secrets. It is as if all the emptiness of this place outweighed the occupied sections. Wild beasts have taken up residence in overgrown gardens. Toothsome snails slither along the cracked and peeling walls of the damper areas. Weird roots grow bloated beneath the floors of empty houses. Feral children, changelings and throwbacks of various sorts congregate behind the heavy chimneys of the rooftops, despite the danger posed by hunchbacks, prowling grotesques or worse things. And there are worse things lurking within the cellars, the closets, and the attics of this dreary place. Things that feed, and things that whisper, and things that take more than just their name from the dead. The streets are not safe at night. The surrounding woods and the near roads are even more treacherous whether they are obscured by the lingering fog or revealed by the pale moonlight. As bad as it might be in Wermspittle, it is far, far worse on the outside.

Bar your doors. Fasten the shutters. Make the Signs of Protection. Hang a charm or talisman in the window if you can afford one. Light a candle or two and wait for the morning to come. It usually does. For most.

Welcome to Wermspittle.

13 comments:

  1. excellent post, very evocative and expansive, this is definitely finding a place in my campaign.

    Cheers!

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    1. Hi Damian. Thanks for the kind words. We've been reorganizing all the Wermspittle material and there will be a Player's Guide and Gazeteer sort of thing coming along soon. As you can see from the developments in Bujilli Episode 39 onwards, as well as in both the Cold Roads, and Weak Points posts, there are many Adjacent Worlds and Parallel Realms where alternate versions of Wermspittle exist...

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    2. That's great to hear. I am hoping to start up a Crypts and Things game soon and plan on using Wermspittle as the home base for the players.....
      Muh-hahahahahahahahaha

      Cheers

      Damian

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    3. Now that sounds interesting. We'll have some maps coming along soon. We'd really like to hear how things go with your group!

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  2. You took the Dung Ages and cranked it to 11--and added crawling things to taste.

    More plase. :)

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  3. @Damian: Thanks! We'll be rolling out a lot more Wermspittle stuff in a couple of days.

    @Trey: We're working on it. The fiction is going really well, and we're looking for a good home for a series of short stories dealing with a very peculiar group of specialists working out of Wermspittle...

    would it be okay to run some fiction vignettes here do you think? Or should we keep them over at the Gj blog instead?

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  4. A fine introduction to a perversely attractive location. Damian's right - evocative it is, and richly so. A place to feel. It's great to get the bigger picture like this too, to see what all the magic so far weaves into.

    For me fiction vignettes would work fine here, but you could also do teasers here with a link to Gj.

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    1. Thanks--we have really enjoyed exploring Wermspittle and it is becoming one of our most popular, and most well-developed settings. It has taken on a life of its own...so to speak.

      We plan on running a series of Wermspittle vignettes at the Garrisonjames blog, so as to keep the copyrights/etc. easy to sort-out.

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  5. I think the fiction vignettes work here.

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    Replies
    1. We're going ahead with the vignettes, and will make sure there is a link to the other blog. There are some new characters we're excited to be writing about...

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  6. Fascinating and dark setting. Been enjoying reading the various bits and pieces, very intriguing and thought provoking.

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  7. Thank You! We're having a lot of fun exploring this strange place. Glad to know that we're not alone...especially in Wermspittle...

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