Webber's Post

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Contents

Webber's Post (Proposed Starting Location)

"This was a town once. A real town, not twisted concrete and a few dull-eyed souls too cowardly or too stubborn to flee. A society, not a history exhibit encased in snow." Webber's Post Citizen

General Information

There are no more than a few dozen regular citizens left in Webber's Post. Most gave up and headed south years ago, as the winters became colder and agriculture became a near-impossibility. More died of the fevers that came with the first great chills. Some continue to die every year, cutting wood from the forest six miles out of town and selling it on to travellers, protecting it from bandits, or simply walking into Old Ma Death's chintzy house on the edge of town and paying her to shoot them dead.

The player, after years of wandering, has settled in this ghost town, running the dim, grimy little bar by the name of Last Orders with their partner, Matthias. There's not much made from it, only the food and fuel bartered by wanderers hoping to escape from reality with a drink or five - but just enough to survive. The player is going nowhere, with no prospects, no future - but for the moment, they're surviving. They make their own vodka from potato scraps - the player's vodka's even become rather famous amongst the nomads for having a truly disgusting taste but getting you blotto faster than anything else. The local men spent their days cutting wood from the forests and making the dangerous, slow journey home with it. In the evenings, they come to Last Orders and drink.

Some of the local girls hang out at Last Orders. Occasionally they sleep with a wanderer for a little bread in one of the back rooms, and it helps them stay alive a little longer. Sometimes a local father will find his daughter working there, drag her away and beat her; sometimes he will acknowledge her with a sad, grateful nod. It's just the way it goes.

There is no official leader in Webber's Post; no real communal aim. Every family looks after themselves - but some folk will always show a little charity to others who aren't doing so well. All of the settlement's energies are focused on getting through another day. Some look to the player for guidance, others to Moe, the old, fat doctor who hoards the medicine and vaccinations and barters them out at frequently harsh prices. Occasionally, a young couple will get together, and marry, without a fuss - the town will play out the wedding ritual, rolling out the vodka from Last Orders and having Matthias conduct the ceremony...but most often now, it's not love that drives the union, but necessity. There are less and less young people in Webber's Post. And as Moe gets older, more paranoid and inept, more and more women are dying in childbirth.

Last Orders

Candle-lit, grimy and dim, this is a place where tired and broken men come to forget where they are and who they are. You sleep in the back, playing cards with Matthias in the day, recording your thoughts in your diary, and in the evenings you drink with your customers, exchanging gossip, even flirting, as the local girls try to charm the occasional traveller or barterer. It's repellent, and it stinks, and the rats scurry about the floor and the walls...but it's home.

(Quest/NPC ideas)

Solving a heated discussion between a father and his daughter about her, er, trade, through persuasion or by threats, or simply by punching the man out. Matthias' idea to build a water-tower for the town in the spring; just a character-establishing choice where the player could agree delightedly, show cynicism about either the future of the town or the usefulness of trying to help the community as a whole for free... The issue of the girls as a whole - does the PC try to take, essentially, 'pimp' money from them, or let them be? A young lad's been out all day with the woodcutters, working furiously hard - his adult friends claim that today he's a 'real man', and insist that he gets a real man's drink. Serve him alcohol, or refuse to? Bartering with the merchants in exchange for your alcohol - a neat way for the player to pick up a small assortment of starting-level goods. Breaking up a potential fight between the locals and the travellers.

Moe's Shack

The increasingly-hostile doctor locks himself inside most days, burying himself in his memoirs which, you suspect, contain a savage indictment of pretty much everyone in Webber's Post. Medicine he hands out now at near-extortionate rates, apart from to those he favours. When he is called out for a birth, he often comes too late, or is too sloppy. Occasionally, however, he will come through, but his growing belief that everyone in town is against him, (a suspicion which is becoming partly true)

(Quest/NPC ideas)

The player could schmooze Moe for medical supplies, threaten him (is there some way this could result in Moe taking revenge by drugging the player's supplies?) or break in secretly. Killing Moe would, of course, mean that there was no doctor at all in Webber's Post. A birth is taking place - the player can, if they wish, attempt to bring Moe out to help through bartering-negotiation, threats, persuasion...or, perhaps, attempt to deliver the baby themselves.

Old Ma's House

Old Ma Death, as she's come to be known - a nickname which, you suspect, she doesn't mind - sits out in her pretty little house by the ice-river on the edge of town, where she's lived for over half a century. Occasionally someone will come to her with some food, fuel, or an expensive trinket, and explain to her why they want to die. Old Ma will lead them out to the living room, sit them down on the chair in front of the plastic sheeting, and shoot them in the head with a long-barrelled revolver. Then, breaking the ice on the surface of the water, this frail old lady will dump the body below, letting the deeper currents carry it out to sea.

(Quest/NPC ideas)

A young man outside, known to the PC, who's considering going in and asking Old Ma to make an end of it all...

The Logging Collective

The old building where the cut wood is stored every night, and dried out as much as possible to make it serviceable as fuel. Every household stores their wood there, under the watchful eye of old Andersson, who ensures that nothing is stolen.

Tessa's Watch

About a mile out of town, in a lonely camouflaged tin shack on the slope of the hill, Tessa watches for bandits, wild animals or travellers on the road. In return, each household pays her a small dividend of fuel or food. Tessa doesn't mind being alone; in fact, she relishes the quiet.

(Quest/NPC ideas)

Just a chance for a chat, really, a 'safe' area for the PC as they enter the wilderness, and a chance to point out nearby quests without doing so in the awkward 'Hey, I heard there were some bandits on the road' NPC way. I.e., Tessa saw a bright light about two miles to the north a little while ago...she lit up her own beacon but nobody responded. She hasn't had a chance to investigate yet.

Aims of the location as a whole

An introduction to the setting, most obviously. I'd argue that 'themes' should be treated in much the same way as an author would treat them in a novel - they're introduced right at the beginning. So this is a chance to bring in the themes of the game that will be explored in detail later, as well as establishing the tone.

Secondly, this would be a simple way to have a player easily placed in the world without a) doing an 'amnesia' thing (Grr) or b) having not simply multiple origins at character creation, but multiple origins in-game (which would be great, of course...but a serious amount of pressure on the size of the game. If players have those multiple origins in-game, they're going to want them referenced throughout, and they're going to want to see the consequences of their actions in those origins. Fantastic to do, again, but such an intimidating prospect that it's worth seriously considering if it'd take too much time and draw too much writing-effort away from the bulk of the game.

In this sort of 'eking out a living in a very small settlement' start, the PC can have a past, which gets referenced...but it's in the past. And they can be dropped straight into the world as a character without the player feeling overwhelmed, because aside from gossip from travellers (which the player can pick up at the bar) neither the PC nor the NPCs around them really know a great deal about the larger picture. Enough isolation from the more complex elements of the setting to enable easy starting-immersion on the player's part, is my point. I'd actually love to start the player off in a city.

Thirdly - cliche though it may be, there's a reason it's a cliche. A smaller starting environment just works better for a controlled prologue - a way for the player to settle and the story to have a strong foundation before the scope widens out. You avoid the cliche by giving that small town its own individual character.

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