Saturday, May 21, 2022

Return to the Freakness

 Once again Spring blooms in Wampus Country, and before we know it, it's time again for the running of the Freakness Stakes.  What spectacle!  What pageantry!  What an opportunity to make money or get stabbed in a crowd of drunks!

If this is your first time attending the Freakness, here are a few things you must understand:

* First, the jockeys must ride things which are not horses, and which cannot fly, and which are not man-shaped.  A triumvirate of judges look at each potential entrant, and If Your Steed Too Horsey They Kick You Off The Coursey.  Each running gets a smidge more bizarre; the days of zebras, centaurs, and skeletal horses being allowed on the field were over long ago.  If you find yourself without a more interesting mount and the Freakness is but a few weeks away, consider bribing a pink elephant or capturing a snollygoster - both are classic choices, and generally more easily available than a very-fashionable animated furniture.

* Second, the jockeys who win, place, and show are awarded bizarre magical items as prizes.  Typically these are not particularly powerful, but like many weird enchanted objects, can come in very handy in certain situations.

* Thirdly, whether you win or lose, there is significant prestige in competing and showing off your very weird mount.  If you finish the race at all, some wealthy businessman may try to purchase your steed.

* There is considerable official and unofficial gambling surrounding the Freakness, and not all of it has to do with the race itself.  You can easily get odds on which entrant will be injured first, that sort of thing.

* The Freakness Stakes is accompanied by raucous drinking and shenanigans in the infield, including the famous Outhouse Running Contest in which blotto contestants attempt to race one another across the tops of a long line of outhouses.

* In recent years it's become fashionable to wear enchanted racing livery, as follows.

Racing Livery.  A gaily-colored bespoke silken suit designed for horse-racing, and lovingly emblazoned with runes, glyphs, heraldry, and gang signs best representing the jockey for whom it was made (often a wizard themselves, or a hired halfling).  The racing livery provides a single step of armor class and may not be combined with other armor.  The enchantments on the livery allow the wearer to reroll one racing-related check per day, and provide +1 on the first saving throw made each day.  The gods are inclined to define ‘racing-related’ as including not only animal handling checks, but certain gambling ones as well, so caution is advised.

Prizes awarded at this year's Freakness Stakes include the below:

(Win) Periapt of Early Voting. This platinum pendant bears a worn cameo depicting a mule and a pachyderm in the act of mutual fellation. The wearer of the periapt automatically wins initiative in any non-combat, verbal situation, such as determining who said "shotgun" or "not it" first, or answering questions like "where shall we go to dinner?"

(Place) Epicenter Epee. In all other respects a sword +1 in the form of a fencing blade with a tiny tuning-fork mounted on the pommel, the epicenter epee has one special ability. When wielded against a creature made completely or partly of stone (ie a stone or clay golem, possibly a stone giant, living statue/caryatid, etc), the epicenter epee causes nanotectonic resonance waves in the creature (inflicting a further 2d6 sonic damage with each successful hit). If the epee ever manages to inflict five killing blows on these sorts of creature, the blade will shatter, but the remaining hilt and bell will act as a wand of earth and stone with 1d6 charges which telepathically communicates its command words to its wielder immediately.

(Show) Diadem of the Creative Minister. Placing this jewelled tiara on the brow of an an animal (including a familiar) boosts the creature's intelligence slightly and shifts its personality to enjoy problem-solving. Any critter wearing the diadem will offer fairly decent, out-of-the-box, and possibly terribly honest advice on one problem per day.

Precocious jockey 'Lil Bill' Onionsocks, winner of the Saltvale Junior Scurry just a few weeks ago, mounted astride his rallygator, Herbert.  Bred for swamp-racing across mixed courses of dry- and wetland, a properly-trained rallygator can be as speedy and responsive as any pony, with the added benefit of a congenital taste for rival children.

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