Monday, December 16, 2013

[Urbis] Locations of the Cold Frontier - the Spring Seed Farm

Väterchen ("Father") Josef Grünblatt is one of the patriarchs of the Spring Seeds, a halfling sect worshiping Kortus, the God of Agriculture, natural deaths, and the cycles of the world. In addition to these aspects, the Spring Seeds also see him as a fertility deity and believe that halflings are his Chosen People as they are the most fecund of the civilized (i.e., agriculture-practicing) races - and one day, they will inherit the world simply by outbreeding everyone else, and they will usually have a dozen children or more.

The Spring Seeds are a growing religious and political force in the Siebenbund, yet Grünblatt was discontent with the situation of his flock. While his followers multiplied just like Kortus intended, their children frequently took off for the Big Cities, abandoning the faith and converting to Heathen Ways. This was intolable, as the children were the blessing of Kortus and the future of the Faith - so to preserve their purity, he decided to uproot his extended family and establish a new life in Nardhome, far away from Civilization and its corrupting influences. Four other families followed him into his voluntary exile, and today their settlement "Grünfelden" ("Greenfields") represent the largest outpost of Civilization in the Cold Frontier.

So, what does Grünfelden look like?

Imagine a large farm crossed with a Survivalist Compound and a Cult Hideout, populated by halflings. A low earth wall and a ditch surrounds the whole area - not enough to truly keep intruders at may, but largely as a marker of territory. "We are on this side, and you are on that side, and as long as everyone stays on their own side we will get along just fine." There are several watch towers which are occupied at all times, though often by juveniles. But the real defense system consists of the numerous halfling-sized tunnels that criss-cross the whole compound. During an attack, all the women and children will be evacuated to hidden safe rooms while the menfolk sneak around and snipe at the invaders with slings and crossbows from secret holes. At night, they will also lob magically glowing stones into the direction of the invaders so that they can shoot at them without any darkness penalties. They have frequent practice drills, which not only makes them fairly skilled at this but also reinforces that outsiders are dangerous and not to be trusted.

In general, they do not like visitors - or at least, Grünblatt and the other family patriarchs don't, and their attitudes trickle down to the rest of the population. They are also fairly racist, with only halflings receiving a warm welcome - if halflings arrive in a group with non-halfling members, the others will be tolerated for the duration of the stay but be given room in the barns with the animals, due to "space concerns", while the halflings will be given a nice bed and good food - but also be subjected to a fair amount of preaching. The hospitality will likely cease if the visitors paint the outside world in too glowing colors or otherwise encourage the younger members to leave.

Visitors will notice how many children there are, and how most of the women seem to be pregnant. Youngsters are generally married off to each other at the age of 20 - fairly soon for halflings - and are encouraged to start on their first child as soon as possible. While small children are frequently indulged, discipline in Grünfelden is fairly strict as there is always lots of work to do, and deviant thoughts are discouraged by all the shaming a close-knit community like this can muster, which is a lot.

In exchange, the community is one of the safest places in the Cold Frontier, and one of the biggest producers of food - the farmers really do know their agriculture, and having several powerful priests of the deity of agriculture on their side also matters a lot. They regularly trade fresh produce with the Trade Outpost, mostly for metal tools and supplies they cannot manufacture by themselves, but other than that they are largely autonomous.

All in all, the community should give off a fairly creepy vibe whenever the PCs visit - they are not welcome there, and they should feel that the cult is hiding some deep, dark secrets. Which is not actually the case, though a community that does its best to indoctrinate its children to follow its tenets, shun all contact with outsiders, and all but force them to have as many children on their as soon as possible may be bad enough for the tastes of some player characters (and players!). In this, they present a long-term dilemma for the PCs - should they ignore them or intervene somehow? And if they do intervene, what should an intervention look like? Putting an end to the self-perpetuating system of Grünfelden may mean shattering several large families, which will cause its own problems.

On the other hand, with some effort the halflings can be won over as allies. Despite their racist attitudes, they have no problem with hiring outsiders to get rid of troublesome monsters or raiders for them - while most of what they can offer is food, their leader is capable of raising the dead or providing almost any other healing services needed, though acquiring those services will require some major effort on the part of the PCs. The community won't be happy about the growth of the colony and the new waves of settlers, but if the PCs are respectful of their beliefs (and possibly willing to help them "retrieve" errant community members), they might be willing to agree to peaceful coexistence and trade, in which case they would represent a major boost to the agricultural output of the colony. But if relations sour, they will dig in and fight all intruders to their home to the bitter end... or simply pack up and vanish deeper into the wilds of the Cold Frontier.