Welcome to Crapaud!
Crapaud (Toadtown) is an example of how continued exposure can make even the fantastic mundane. It is a small village in a moderately large kingdom, residing in lands that are dangerous ( but not too dangerous) and raising a product that is exotic to outsiders and boring to the natives. It is an excellent place for PCs to come from, because the environment gives them every reason in the world to want to leave.
Or, as one player put it "Boy, and you thought moisture evaporators sucked!"
The Geography of Toadtown
Toad Town is located on the Greenbriar River, a northern tributary of the Charity River. This places Crapaud, or Toadtown as it is generally known, in between the crook of the Y that the rivers form through the Midlands. At this point the Greenbriar is small and swift, and divides the town in half. There is one bridge connecting the two halves, and many skiffs that people use and maintain communally under the oversight of the local Reeves. Toadtown is the town farthest north on the Greenbriar, so the existence of a bridge that would bock river traffic isn't really important.
The woods have been felled for a significant distance around the town, giving a grassy lawn for several hundred yards on either side of the river. Sheep and goats are raised on the east, gardens are planted on the west. The town is of wood construction (obvious given the amount of available timber) and spacious. Each family has a decent amount of room. The town is divided as such: the wranglers are on the north Greenbriar (Warts to the West, Bufons to the East), farmers on the west side, shepherds on the east side, fishers and traders on the south Greenbriar. The center of the town holds the businesses that support and are supported by the town's peculiar industry..
Even past the cleared land, the forest has been timbered, more to the east than west, and the goatherds will lead their animals into the lesser forest to graze. Beyond that east-west (or immediately north-south), the forest starts deep and thick. In all directions except south it gets even deeper, and more dangerous. Few people have any cause to head north up the Greenbriar; the wranglers do it sometimes, but even they don't go very far. The last people to seriously attempt it were a group of outsiders who came in a decade ago. This quartet claimed that they had proof the Greenbriar reached all the way to Gnarl Ford on the Badger River, near Kendall Keep, the farthest north point of Daniel's kingdom. They may have been right, but if they reached Gnarl Ford, they never can back to Crapaud to tell anyone about it.
Politics in Toadtown
The town is in the realm of King Daniel the Wise (called Dana), and in Mignonette (pronounced min-ya-net) County, which runs from Toadtown south and west to the Charity river. Mignonette is ruled by the Countess Anne. Toadtown is lucky to be directly overseen by the aged Armiger Kenneth and his resident family (his wife Estelle and his younger son Kendrick, who is an Elementalist, and the mentor of Harrick. Kenneth has three older children but all are off serving in the army. Kendrick stays here to defend the town and keep the peace with his father, as is his duty.
There are two reeves in the town, Emmett and Emmanuel. Emmett is 20 years older than the other reeve, and was a trader on the Greenbriar for years before an optimate recommended him for the reeve position. Emmanuel was just retired here, having served under one of Kenneth's other sons, Keith, as a supply sergeant. They work together to transfer orders from the Armigers to the people. They are also the 'long arm of the law' in Crapaud, and are OK at their job, given that the town has almost no crime. Sure, some things go missing, but they usually turn up. The families of the Reeves (and Emmett has several children and a couple grandchildren) act as deputies, and his eldest daughter, Samantha, is expected to take his position when he retires. Samantha is the current women's toad-wrestling champ, but is facing stiff competition next year from Robin Bufon.
The town has one Optimate, that being Teague Tanner, the head of the Tanner clan and the main driving force to the aggressive marketing of Toad Products. He is friendly (if distant) with the Armiger, since the two share a desire to see the community improve. Sometimes Kenneth holds Teague in check, sometimes he pushes him forward, depending on the old man's current ideas. Since Optimate is not always a titled position, but sometimes a purely mercantile one, Teague desperately wants to see himself titled by the count, and for either he or his heir to be given the Crapaud area to oversee when Kenneth dies. Whether this will happen is unknown, but no doubt Teague is greasing the wheels. He is commonly assumed to be the most powerful man in Toadtown after the Armigers, so much so that the Reeves and Deputies never bother him, and seldom visit the Tanner complex outside Toadtown proper.
The Businesses and Families of Toadtown
The key aspect of Toadtown's economy is breeding Giant Toads. The Toads are native to the Northern Greenbriar, thriving in that particular climate. The residents of Crapaud have ways to use all parts of the frog except the ribbit. There are two extended families that handle the toad breeding: the Bufon family and the Wart clan. The Warts are the original toad wranglers, and with the death of their patriarch a few years ago the three brothers, their wives and children have started an internal bickering and power struggle for control of the family business that compares to Dallas. This has let the smaller Bufon clan make inroads into the toad market, despite having only one generation to work with (though Robin's older brother is recently married to the Initiate of Kisha's daughter). The people following this profession are known as Toad Wranglers. The preferred tool of a Toad-wrangler is a Toad-spear, which looks like a lower-case y, the crook being used to catch small toads to the ground or prevent larger ones from running themselves up the spear.
Since that is handled on the north edge of town, I'll move downstream. The center of town is home to a tavern/inn called the Greenbriar Inn (informally called the Toadstool), which has three whole bedrooms for rent. Given the amount of traffic in Toadtown, these are most often used by Silas Wart after fighting with his wife. This happens about once a month, though other times when kicked out he just vanishes for a while. The Toadstool is run by the Hostel family (John, Lisa, John Jr. and Liza), who despite their name are quite nice. The Toadstool is the main 'restaurant' in town, and does brisk business as a tavern; most nights the dining hall is 1/2 to 3/4 full for the evening meal. Depending on who's around, this may include entertainment (some citizens are quite skilled).
A common site at the Toadstool is Jenkin Trapper, also known as Old Man or Red-nose Jenkins. Jenkins is famous for his routine of coming in from a trapping run with a variety of non-toad animals, selling them, and then spending the rest of the money on drinks at the Hopper. When he's out of money (which might be days or weeks), he goes back into the woods. Since he's generous with his cash when he has it (buying rounds), and is a quiet drunk who doesn't bother anyone (though he sometimes spins mad delusional stories while in his cups), the Reeves leave him alone. Plus, his non-toad animal supplies are in great demand.
The center of town also boasts temples to both Kisha and Mathelwyn, a carpenter, a cooper who doubles as a ship-wright, a smith (iron is scarce, and he works mostly with bronze), two bakers, a butcher, the man who keeps the town's four donkeys (rented for use in heavy work), and a weaver. There is also the Armiger's estate (a walled yard with a large house inside it), which contains a shrine to Gabriel.
There is also a chandler named Isaac, who came into the town about 14 years ago. He was brought in by Teague Tanner and the Armiger, and proved skilled at making candles and lamp oil from darn near anything. This fortunately, included toad byproducts, letting Isaac set himself up in the community rather smartly. Isaac Chandler is a very clever and industrious man; he used a sum of money he brought with him to make a large order from the river merchants for staples such as cloth, needles and the like, and set aside room in his store for them. Thus his shop quickly became a general store on the west end of Crapaud, and he opened a second, smaller one on the east end. Isaac has his house outside of the town proper, so that he can maintain his several small beehives, that he uses to provide both beeswax and honey for his store. He has three assistants, Jillian, Sabrina, and Farrah, who watch the shops for him during his frequent absences at his house/workshop or hives.
Further down river we have the community of fishermen and river traders. The traders are the ones who bring the toad products to the rest of the midlands, and bring the goods from the rest of the midlands here. The river merchants are strong limbed men who row against the current to get to Crapaud, who are also fonts of lore on the outside world. This makes them dashing and romantic figures, and the youth are cautioned to not compromise themselves. One of them, Henrietta, is a native daughter to one of the goatherds, who is now owner of her own boat; she and her ever-changing crew of three will stay in town longer than most other traders, giving the crew a chance to meet the locals and Henrietta to wander the woods that her parents taught her as a child. She is in town about once every other month.
The fishermen consider themselves to be the most cosmopolitan of the Toadtown residents, because they spend the most time with the River Traders, and therefore are most in touch with the 'outside world.' (Terzin Bufon's parents were fishermen who tried moving further downriver, to the Charity itself, but they died in a boating accident). They spend their spare time reading whatever they can find and writing poetry, some of it quite good. The Fishermen do some fishing by net during the slow period, but usually do line fishing from the banks or by boat during the high-occupancy season. This assures an even amount of fish brought in spring-fall, and prevents any damage the local fish population (which was severely over-fished 20 years ago, and took several years to restore). There is one fish-market that the fishermens' wives run, selling the latest catches and smoking or salting the fish with communal equipment and pretty even profit. Many of the fishermens' families are inter-married, which gives this part of the town a very close knit feel.
The eastern edge of Crapaud is home to a variety of goat and shepherds, who use the several hundred yards of cleared land, along with partially forested eastern woods, to graze their respective flocks. Quiet and family oriented, they are also as a rule firm devotees of Kisha, and can get darn rowdy on her holy days. They also play soccer.
The slaughterhouse and tanner are in the northeast woods, on the barest edges of town, mostly to keep them away from the town. The patriarch of the family that runs these business was the Wart Patriarch's brother-in-law, Teague Tanner. Teague is just as much of a hard nosed businessman as his brother-in-law, and he runs the Tanner clan with an iron hand. This has made him very wealthy and very powerful in Crapaud. It also ensures that his death will result in a Dynasty to go with the Wart clan's Dallas. At eight buildings, including a workers dormitory and commissary, the Tanner compound is very nearly a town to itself, and Teague is only seen in town on holy days. All other times, you come to him when he summons you.
The western edge of Toadtown is the domain of the farmers, who use the timbered land for a variety of vegetable plots. The families in this area are much like the fishermen, being interdependent. There simply isn't enough tillable land in the area, so a complex arrangement of rotated crops is in force. The five main farming families rotate the growth of beans, corn, wheat, and assorted vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and beets). The farmers do their best to provide the whole needs for the community, but the river merchants still provide the majority of the town's grainpaid for by the Tanner family. The farmers desperately want to make the town self sufficient for vegetables and grain, and are advocating to the Armiger that more of the western land be timbered to give them more room; he has so far refused.
In those woods the farmers want to timber lie two houses. The deeper of the two is the one belonging to Isaac Chandler, which I discussed earlier. The nearer (abutting with the farmland) is the home, plot and workshop of Derek of Ambervale, the local healer. Derek came into town within a year of Isaac, and for much the same reason. With ready access to it, he has found many uses for Toad poison, from knockout drugs to a topical anaesthetic to a rash cure. He also has a moderately sized plot where he grows the herbs his field requires, and he will go on occasional trips further into the woods for more esoteric ingredients. Derek is a strong and willful man, and is good at getting any resident of the town to do what's best for them, even when they don't want to.
All told, the total population of Crapaud is about 400 people. There is only one non-human family, and those are Harrick's kin, who work on one of the farms.
Religion in Toadtown
There are two temples in Crapaud . One is to Kisha in her position as the goddess of community and domesticated animals, and one is to Mathelwyn in his aspect as the god of rivers and forests. Both of these shrines have about a half dozen initiates, who also act as other members of the community. The initiates of Kisha do odd jobs through the town, helping the shepherds, farmers and wranglers as needed during the year. The Initiates of Mathelwyn are also fishermen or hunters. The High Initiate of Kisha is a short, broad boned woman named Alonza. The High Initiate of Mathelwyn is an older man, thin and balding man named Robert.
There is also a small shrine to Gabriel in the Armigers estate; the two initiates there oversee funeral rights and keep the town's records. Neither of these are particularly high ranking, and there are no major services to Gabriel in Toadtown (unlike the ones for Kisha and Mathelwyn) though citizens can join Murphy and Ilea's if they so choose.
Young Adults in Toadtown
The peers of the PCs, these are the hard-working children of the various families. As is customary, it is assumed that the children will take up their parents' business, with the eldest child assuming control of the family when the parents die. Sometimes, if there is deemed to be enough business or too much friction, children demand their share and strike out alone, usually starting their own family in the same trade in Crapaud, but sometimes leaving all together. In the Farmer, Fisher and Herder trades, this doesn't really change things. For the town's tradesmen, it leads to either the children leaving town or starting up a new business on the opposite side of the river; this is why the town has two bakeries. It hasn't happened yet in the Tanner and Wrangler trades (not surprising, given the nature of the families).
For social groups, the children usually congregate the families who live near them, which leads to cliques of the towns youth. The Fishers are often seen as uppity or putting on airsreading poetry, gossiping about townbut can be dashing, charming rogues in the eyes of the local girls as they emulate the river merchants (who actually are dashing, charming rogues). The Farmers and Herders have a tendency to not get along, and there is fierce competition between the two in sports, especially the soccer variant that is common in town. The Armiger and Reeves work hard to keep these two sides of the river from arguing, aided a little by marriages between children of the two sides in the last few years. If current gossip is any indication, there is another one in the works; Tess Harvest and Gerald Ram are often 'missing' at the same time, bumping into one another in town and visiting a the shrine of Kisha often. It is rumored that the Initiates arranged clandestine meetings between the rival children to smooth the path of these marriages.
A common nuisance to your little band is Mortimer, the Carpenter's son. For some reason he thinks you guys are really cool, what with you wanting to leave town and not acting like the rest of the cliques. For several years he followed you around and tried desperately to fit in. Unfortunately, he was sullen, moody and sensitive and not very good at social interaction. He was also three years younger than you, and this just made things worse. Mortimer has been going off on his own lately: he had wanted to be an initiate of Mathelwyn, but that desire seems to have fallen by the wayside. He certainly isn't talking great pains to learn his father's profession.
Wendell and Quentin River are two of the fishermen community, and they firmly intend to follow Henrietta's example and get out of this town. They are also somewhat oily and don't look entirely scrupulous, doing their best to imitate the worst of the river merchants. They also disparage anyone else who talks about leaving the town, stating point blank that the only people who have any hope of getting out of here are them, and they're gone once they reach their majority. Their general air of arrogance and insolence has the Reeves keeping a close eye on them, and Emmanuel obviously suspects them in the recent thefts. They bristle under that, making the relations between them and the law that much worse.
Sherri Baker is another one of your peers, but she is missing of late. A pretty, vivacious girl, she vanished unexpectedly about three months ago. Her parents say that they sent her to apprentice to a city baker in Briarport (where the Greenbriar reaches the Charity), but given her age this seems unlikely. If the gossips are to be believed, the girl is pregnant (probably by one of the River boys, who aren't to be trusted, the little rakes!) and was sent away until she could have the baby without stigma.
There are Johnny and Reggie Wart, two of the Wart clan, who wander round town acting like general bullies and pests. They are often slapped down by the local Reeves, but haven't publicly done anything too bad yet. Mostly they are blowhards who think that their families prestige in the town should let them get away with anything. They are particularly belligerent to the Bufon family, who they fear are messing with their livelihood. It is interesting to note that none of the Tanner family (who DO have special consideration) act in this fashion. Of course, few of them are ever seen in town, and Teague would have their head if they disrupted the economy.
The one Tanner seen commonly in town is Edward, who is Teague's first grandson and is being groomed to take his fathers position when his father takes his Grandfather's. Edward is tall, strong, well spoken, attractive and charming. When in town he is mostly talking with Isaac or Derek, looking in on how the Toad-based industries are going, or talking with others tradesmen, seeing if there's anything the Tanners can do for their businesses. Given where Isaac and Dominic live, Edward has to pass through the farms a lot, who are the only people in town who don't like this pleasant young lad (an extension of their general dislike for the Tanners). Over the last few months he's also been acting as an ambassador with the Bufons, who were complaining that the Tanners were short-changing them on prices in favor of the Warts. That is no longer a concern, but Edward is still around the Bufon ranch quite a bit, checking in. The town gossips have Edward and Robin, the Bufons' eldest daughter, married in a year.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers