Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Way of Wampus Country

Frontier gentlemen puzzle over a moral quandry.  Five minutes later, two were dead and one a eunuch.

Although some settlements have a de facto or elected sheriff or reeve to keep the peace, and Legion forts attempt to enforce a kind of law within their purview, generally speaking Wampus Country is a completely “lawless” place - a freewheeling anarchy, as it were.  However, folks do occasionally talk about “the laws” or “the Wampus Country way” - referring to several traditions which have remained constant throughout the frontier.

What You Can Defend Is Yours.  The basic natural law of Wampus Country.  If you can keep it, it’s yours.  This applies not only to personal property, but also to land - go and get it!  If you and your family head out into the wilderness and build a farm there, it’s yours.  No need to register the land with some central authority, although you might want to make sure you get along with any neighbors that crop up.  But the land is only yours if you can defend it - against savages, monstrous beasts, bandits, and whoever else comes along.  Usually neighbors in a settlement look out for one another, as it’s in their mutual best interest to do so.  However, there’s no reward but blood and death for attempting to engage in a scrap you can’t win, and there’s little dishonor in skedaddlin’ and coming back to get yours when you have the upper hand.  Thieves and brigands are common, but they are looked down upon - the man who has to steal from another is too weak to go out on his own and forge something new.  The ideal frontiersman is entrepreneurial, forward-leaning, patient, vigilant, willing to fight for himself and his friends, but also smart enough to know when to cut his losses and move on.

The Past Is Dead.  It is considered dreadfully rude - and perhaps “fighting words” - to inquire about or refer to someone’s personal past before they came to Wampus Country.  What you were before doesn’t matter - you’re here now.  The frontier is both a place of winnowing and a fresh start.  National origin, ethnicity, and old family rivalries fade away in the melting-pot of Wampus Country - at least, officially.  In some ways the frontier is remarkably tolerant of strangers, outsiders, and the downright weird.  If a two-headed mountain troll steps into a saloon, he’s as welcome as anybody else - so long as he pays his bar tab and doesn’t cheat at cards.  Note that this applies only to goings-on from the old kingdoms - you’ll certainly build a reputation here on the frontier, and folks’ll judge you by that.  The ideal frontiersman minds his own business, respects individual liberty, and is wise enough to know he doesn’t know a damn thing.

Fools Get What They Deserve.  The frontier doesn’t take it easy on you.  The stupid and foolhardy end up fleeced, exploited, or dead - and dagnabbit that’s the way it ought to be.  Mother Nature coolly eliminates things that don’t work right, and she’s especially harsh about it in Wampus Country.  If you lost money to a con man, don’t expect the locals to give you sympathy; if you don’t have friends to back you up and help you take your money back, that’s your own damn fault.  Mauled by a bear in the woods?  Should’ve brought your pistol when you snuck off to relieve yourself.  Killed a shaman in a knife-fight and now his ghost is haunting you every night?  Maybe you should’ve thought about that earlier.  Wampus Country storytelling is rife with tales of stupidity that ended poorly - or, conversely, amazing dumb luck.  There’s a fine line between boldness and dunderheaded behavior, and some folks don’t know which is which til they end up dead.  The ideal frontiersman is clever, skillful, courageous, and lucky.

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