Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Swamp Life: An Alphabet

Since we have one group of players headed to Frogport, and another getting ready to depart from there for a long eastward expedition, perhaps it's time to revisit Snollygoster Swamp.

Despite its simplistic name, Snollygoster Swamp is more than just swampland - it also incorporates marshes, creeks and rivulets, mud pits, and dry land.  And throughout the swamp live all manner of creatures, both sentient and dangerous, along with wondrous plants and long-forgotten secrets.

Let's see if we can do an alphabetical selection, shall we?

A is for Alligators
As one might imagine, Snollygoster Swamp is thick with alligators of all sizes, shapes and colors - from tiny yellow anklebiters to gigantic black-scaled monsters.  Of note - and rightly feared - is the double-gator, with a head at both ends, said to breathe balls of fire.  A few alligators, always very clever specimens, have taken to walking upright and living amongst men; most famous amongst them is the great detective Hercule Gavial, who has since retired to River-Town.

B is for Beer
One might not associate the wetlands with beer, but in fact Frogport maintains several small, beloved breweries which buy hops and barley from outside the swamp (usually low-quality) and then flavor their beer with local fruits - typically swamp-melon, mustard-bean, or honeysuckle.  It's an acquired taste, but it's the local brew, and quite affordable.

C is for Cricket
Frogs raise very large crickets as pets and livestock.  They range from rather musical housecat-sized breeds all the way to the equivalent of a Rottweiler ("guard cricket" = $40).  Some froggy wizards have crickets or dragonflies as familiars, which one supposes must be rather like a human sorceror taking a side of bacon as a companion.

D is for Dolomphious Duck
The dolomphious duck is the bogeyman of young frogs - a giant, snaggletoothed spoonbill, something between a mallard and a tyrannosaur.  Its fearsome jaws are most runcible indeed - runcible being a froggy portmanteau denoting something from which it is sensible to run.  Many a tadpole has spent a long waking night chattering beneath their covers after being told a tale of the dolomphious duck.

E is for Enterprise
The business of Frogport is business!  Traders on the river, farmers and gatherers in the marsh and swamp, snollygoster hunters, you name it.  Everyone has something to sell - and sometimes the product even does what it's supposed to.  There is always something to do in Snollygoster Swamp if you're willing to get off your duff and get wet.  Speaking of which, a pair of leather-like mostly-waterproof hip waders costs $12.

F is for Frogport
Everyone knows about Frogport, as it's the largest town in the swamp, and lies right on the river.  The port itself is a confluence of river traffic and the flat-bottomed boats which ply the swamp itself.  The population of Frogport is a mix of humans and frogs, with a smattering of goblins and other things.  Frogport is in many ways as much a vertical city as a horizontal one - treehouses and rope-bridges as far as the eye can see.  A few particularly large trees have been carved up into a series of froggy flats.  Frogport lacks a proper government by human standards, but the eldest of the frogs have great influence.

G is for Goblins
Swamp-goblins live here and there in the marshes - primitive little sub-men who wear spanish moss on their heads and mud on their faces.  They are dangerous in numbers, very stealthy, and deadly with their short bows.  A handful of swamp-goblins have fallen in with the frog ragtimers and moved to Frogport, considering themselves now 'civilized'.  Generally, the goblins worship a goddess called the Mud Mother; somewhere in the swamp is a permanent goblin settlement called Mudburrow which is a mix of treehouses and cave-dwellings.

H is for Hermit
Hidden from the prying eyes of men, the Swamp Hermit remains cloistered in an invisible tower.  He is a sorceror of great power, so they say, and fond of exotic pipe tobacco.  To step into his tower is death, and his servitors are bat-winged monstrosities the locals call "ghoulgoyles".

I is for Indigo
As in the purple-blue color of marsh-roses.  The purple roses grow wild in many places in the swamp, and are gathered to make dye (as well as tea).  The up side is that Wampus Country gets a lot of its purple dyes from Frogport, so this is the best place to buy violet clothing cheaply.  The down side is that locals will not warn you that drinking marsh-rose tea will stain your teeth blue.

J is for Jazz
With the introduction of brass instruments, the sounds of jazz, ragtime, and zydeco have taken possession of the young froggy imagination and will not soon let go.  It seems every frog in Frogport fancies himself at least a part-time musician, and several fairly impressive big bands have been assembled.  No saloon or streetcorner in Frogport is without music after dark.

K is for Kinkajou
Although more commonly known as a monkeybear, this arboreal relative of the raccoon is often hunted for its soft, golden coat.  It will come as little surprise that the monkeybears do not appreciate being hunted, and so have taken up arms; travelers are generally not molested unless they are seen to hunt, or carry the peculiar tree-traps which are the stock and trade of those seeking kinkajou pelts.  Targets are pelted with sharp stones and rotten fruit while the monkeybears produce a distinctive "danger" call - which inevitably attracts nearby swamp-ogres, who are too slow to catch monkeybears but do enjoy eating frightened humans.

"I will END you, hoo-man."

L is for Lizardfolk
A tribe of brownish-yellow lizard people live in Snollygoster Swamp; they are quite savage, and do not trade with men or frogs, greeting them instead with stone spearpoint and poisons extracted from the giant centipedes which stalk the high grasses of the marsh.

M is for Massey's Men
The celebrated mercenary company known as Massey's Men are of the opinion that they de facto run Frogport; and they're not completely wrong.  They have numbers, and tactics, and are well-armed.  Although they sometimes do honest soldiering work escorting travelers or merchants, and occasionally hunt snollygosters deep in the swamp, for the most part they spend their time collecting protection money from Frogport citizens, then frittering it away on drink and cards.

N is for Never-Fear
A few months ago, one of the apothecaries in Frogport began selling a concoction he dubbed 'Never-Fear'; it is a foul-smelling liquid which, he claims, provides boundless energy and courage.  Single doses simulate several cups of coffee; an overdose replicates a potion of heroism, followed by sudden cardiac explosion.

O is for Oldstump
Oldstump is a well-known frog village which has thrived in its present location for generations.  The vegetation in the area is thick with edible fruits and vegetables, including cucumber and swamp-melon.  The village itself is home to several prominent frog families, and more than one respected froggy priest.

P is for Putrid Fen
Hidden amongst the weeping willows lies the Putrid Fen, a stagnant region whose pungent waters have a tendency to raise the dead.  Thankfully the undead creatures which rise here tend not to wander far from the fen, instead lurking beneath its waters, waiting interminably to prey upon the living.  A warning to travelers - it is not just men and frogs who rise from the fen; steer clear unless you relish trading blows with a zombie snollygoster.

Q is for Queenie
"Queenie", as the frogs call her, is an ancient dryad who embodies several dozen mangroves east of Frogport.  She has lived since before the frogs came, and knows much, but tells little.  Every few years one of her daughters comes of age and wanders off to live on her own, sometimes after spending a season living amongst humans and drinking liquor (this event is called RumSpring).

R is for Rejects
On occasion someone dies in the boggier parts of the swamp and is naturally mummified; when these bog bodies are found, the frogs call them Rejects, as the earth will not accept them.  Sadly, Rejects are sometimes cut up, with bits of them being sold as ineffectual talismans against evil.  Think twice before paying good gold for a bog-mummy hand to wear around your neck.

S is for Snollygoster (of course!)
The snollygosters are several species of large reptilian brutes which live in various areas of the swamp; some are slow-moving herbivores, while others are terrible man-eaters.  Snollygosters are difficult to slay and nigh-impossible to train.  There is, however, a strong market in snollygoster meat, which the fancier Frogport restaurants will always buy for a good price.  Locals have their own names for many of the well-known species, such as "clubtail", "death-maw", "shadow-stalker", and "OH GOD GET IT OFF ME".

T is for Toadsworth
Professor Ephraim Toadsworth, who runs the House of Curiosities, is said to be the most knowledgeable frog in Frogport; few know the flora and fauna of Wampus Country better than he.  The House itself is not very large, but holds many small artifacts which may be interesting to the student of natural history, including a shrunken gorilla head, a petrified mermaid, and a large prism unearthed from the swamp-mud.

U is for Underwater
Frogs have no difficulty breathing underwater, but men do; thus there is a brisk trade in aids to that sort of endeavor in Frogport, chiefly trinkets or methods learned (or stolen) from the Lakeborn.  The most affordable is the air-slug, a sallow little gastropod which, when inserted deep into the sinuses, extracts oxygen from water.  Being claustrophobic, air-slugs can only live in these conditions for a few minutes.  Caveat emptor - proper air-slugs are a creamy yellow color; the white ones are death-slugs, who convert water into poison gas.

V is for the Victory Pub
There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Frogport, but there's only one Victory Pub, situated at the top of a tree.  The Victory has tables sized for humans and frogs alike, several dartboards, and two snooker tables.  The pub is unusual in that it rarely hosts musical acts, preferring to allow its patrons to dine in peace and occupy themselves with assorted games of the non-card variety.

W is for Witch
As far as is known, Snollygoster Swamp boasts only a single witch, known as the Marsh Hag.  She is said to be nine feet tall, horned like a demon, and have a penchant for sucking the eyeballs out of still-living victims.  Her home is a giant snail-shell suspended in a massive spider's web, somewhere near the heart of the swamp; the swamp-ogres serve as her eyes and ears.

X is for "X The Unfathomable"
You mean you haven't heard of him?  How many frogs do you think run around with a shiny golden cape and a domino mask, protecting the citizenry of Frogport?  Look, I don't know who he really is, but one of these days he's going to get really hurt.  Especially if he keeps messing with Massey's boys...

Y is for Yak
Some sort of green swamp-yak lives out on the marshes, in small herds.  The frogs consider them bad luck and avoid them; at least one human party has set out to slay a few, never to be heard from again.  Tipsy toads at the bar posit that these ungulates are not yaks at all, but some sort of disguised demon on vacation from torturing souls in Hell.  It's difficult to argue with them - not just because they're drunken frogs, but because after a few centuries extracting pain from sinners, a couple of weeks just chewing your cud in the body of a yak does sound rather nice.

Z is for Zinda
There was once an ancient town, out in the swamp - although it wasn't a swamp then.  This place, which oral tradition tells us was called Zinda, was a marvelous construct of gleaming crystalline spires which stretched up to the sky.  Something terrible happened to Zinda, and it fell to bits; and perhaps that same something terrible created the swamp.  Makes you wonder...

1 comment:

  1. I'm working on a swamp project myself, so there's plenty of inspiration here. Thanks!