The Four Seasons
An agrarian society, the Commonwealth is close to the wheel of the seasons. A halfling's life is built around the change of the seasons, the lengthening of days, the ebb and flow of weather. That's why Under Hill, By Water separates game play into four seasons. Each season is basically a single act in the life of your halfling and their village--the GM presents a scenario of village life, which the PCs explore. Each session (or two) at the game table should deal with one season's scenario. Once the spring, summer, and autumn seasons have been played, the halflings will celebrate Yule during the winter season and reflect about their previous year. This might increase their rank.
You All Meet At The Inn
Each season begins with the PCs sharing a table at their favorite local tavern listening to rumors of what's going on in their village. The GM rolls a scenario (worrysome things + social calendar + personal complications + rumors) using the tables below and tells the PCs what's afoot during that season.
Worrysome ThingsThe GM rolls once or chooses from the scenarios listed below. The GM can randomly assign the scenario to one of the PCs, or chose who it makes most sense for.
- One family has stolen another's prize cow, Mabel. Mabel gives milk sweet as cream and always produces two healthy calves each spring. This isn't the first time this has happened; the two families are always stealing Mabel from each other. Roll to see which two families are involved.
- Your crazy uncle came back from an adventure and is ruining the economy with gold. GOLD! Where did he get gold? He says "a dragon," but he's crazy. Anyway, convince him to stop using gold or else inflation is going to go through the roof.
- A actor's troupe has been circulating with an insufferably bawdy play called "The Milking Maid." The younger rascals like it, but the Matrons Guild of Good Manners objects. Things are about to get unpleasant.
- A particularly large dire-badger has been digging into a random PC's hole and escaping. He's proving to be more than just a nuisance. You might have to hunt him down.
- A neighbor's garden has been pilfered in the night. Is the culprit a hare or a young radish-stealing rascal? The neighbor offers a substantial reward to resolve the situation.
- Two young halfling sweethearts have eloped. Both sets of parents are offering a large reward if their marriage can be stopped and their child returned. However, your sweetheart believes in "true love" and wants to see the two married. What will you do?
- A halfling child was last seen crawling through the Hedge. Night came and he never returned. The bounders are organizing a search party to go find him. Will you join them?
- A mysterious Big Folk ranger has been seen sniffing around the Hedges for the past few days, and has been chased off by the bounders. Who is he? What does he want?
- Wolves have come down out of the mountains and their cries can be heard at night. The sheriff's office is giving a small reward for wolf pelts.
- The game begins at a random PC's hole. They are finishing up dinner when there's a knock on the door. It's a dwarf, saying he was invited. You don't remember inviting any dwarfs. Then another knock. And another...
- A competition is being hosted during the upcoming social event and a local jerk won't shut up about how they're going to win it. (If unmarried, beating him might help you catch the eye of your sweetheart.)
- It's a gardening competition and they have a huge pumpkin
- It's a stavin' competition and they want to knock you down
- It's an archery competition and they claim they're the best shot
- It's a beer pong competition and they say they're the local champion
- A neighbor's goats have gotten out of their pen and are running totally amok at the social event. Help him get them back!
- A travelling conjurer named Lathspell shows up claiming to sell genuine magical artifacts. You suspect he's just a charlatan and is robbing decent halflings of their coin.
- A particularly large gorcrow has been going around stealing people's jewelry. If you find his nest, you'll be able to get their jewelry back.
- Supplies ordered from the Big Folk from Overwater have been delayed due to a troll on the road. Nobody is willing to leave the Hedge to deal with it, but anybody that could reclaim those supplies would be a local hero.
- A close relative or friend of a PC has been placed in a lockhole by a sherrif for sheep theft. He claims he's innocent. What's the real story here?
- A wizard has come to town and started performing tricks for young halflings. Now 2d4 of them got big ideas about "adventures" and started getting themselves into trouble around the village (taking on boars, 'burgling' pies, exploring outside the Hedge). Round them all up and tell that wizard what you think of trouble-makers!
- You wrote your elderly aunt in a neighboring village a week ago and haven't yet received a reply. This is unlike her. Did the couriers lose her letter? Have you offended her? Investigation is necessary.
- An elderly neighbor hasn't paid his taxes in years. A determined young new tax collector has been knocking on his door every day and asking the PCs if they've seen where he's gone. The PCs know he's just in hiding. Will they help their neighbor avoid the long arm of the law, or tattle to the tax man?
- It's a random PC's birthday. It's time for a party! (But what if unwelcome guests or petulent relatives show up?)
Social CalendarThis trouble is happening in the middle of some important community event. What's happening in the village right now?
- Bad weather (late and heavy snows if spring, thunderstorm if summer, dense and creeping fog if autumn)
- Village fair
- Party hosted by random NPC
- Date of historical event (1. goblin battle, 2. village's founding, 3. birthday of important relative) being celebrated / reenacted
- A curious visitor is visiting the village (1. family of dwarf tinkers 2. wandering wizard 3. troop of elven rangers 4. travelling human bard)
- Market day
- March-moot (basically an election day/law-reading/grievance airing)
- Holiday (May Day if spring, Lithe if summer, and Hallowe'en if autumn)
Just Another Day in the VillageThe GM rolls once for each PC at the table. Reroll duplicates.
- One of your more unpleasant relatives is visiting and staying with you at your hole.
- One of your starting professional items has broken and you need to replace or repair it.
- A particularly homely-looking suitor has been sniffing around recently.
- Your parents are complaining that you're not living up to your full potential and wondering why you never visit them.
- A mangy mutt has been sniffing around your garden, digging it up.
- A younger relative has come to you crying about a local bully.
- A local puppeteer's most recent puppet looks a lot like you. You suspect this is insulting parody.
- Last month you lost a debt on a chicken race to a particularly annoying neighbor and now they're asking for [2d4] copper from you.
- You woke up this morning with a splitting hangover and no memory of coming back from the tavern. What happened?
- A distant great-uncle recently passed (sad), but left you a rare bottle of Greybodies '83 wine (nice!) from his cellar.
- Your flowers are particularly beautiful right now. They'd make an excellent gift for somebody special.
- A neighbor recently gave you a loaf of fresh baked bread and a tin of kippers. You'll have to send them a thank you note or present.
Other Rumors Heard Round the HearthOf course, these issues aren't the only thing going on in your march. The GM rolls on the rumor table to generate some buzz about other threads that can be followed. To keep the rolling quick and easy for rumors, two halfling family names are given at any point it's appropriate. The GM can roll or choose the most interesting one to fill that rumor.
- Mr. [Topher / Wastenot] has been kicked out of his hole by his missus for coming home drunk one to many times.
- Old Man [Tallfeller / Rumblo] has put up lots of signs about cutting through his fields. People say he's sitting up in a tree with a slingshot waiting to nail young rascals looking for a short cut.
- Jack o' the Green was spotted outside the Hedge shepherding a dozen trees to a new section of the Deeping Woods.
- Young [Odo Labingi / Priscilla Lightfoot] claims they saw a troll digging up a grave for bones.
- A dwarf visitor said he saw a giant playing nine-pins up in the mountains.
- The town drunk said that at 3 am during the last full moon, all the farm animals danced for a full five minutes before returning to normal.
- The Wild Hunt was heard blowing their horns as they rode by in the night, giving everybody nightmares.
- Fairy circles have sprung up just outside the Hedge.
- Elves were seen passing through the Vale on their way to the Grey Shores where they'll pass from this world forever.
- Goody [Biggerwaiste / Chubber] just gave birth to her twelfth wee one, even though she's in her late 60s.
- That rascal, the [Gaggler / Haywain] lad, was seen rolling in the hay with the [Measure / Nikkerbreaker] girl last community picnic.
- Miss [However / Hogspen] recently ordered a dress from another march. What's wrong with the dresses from our own march?
- The beer at [rival village's tavern] is actually quite good this season. It might be worth a nip over to taste it, if your local landlord doesn't find out about your treachery.
- After having watched a play behind the overlarge bonnet of Goody [Goldworthy / Greenhand], something must be done about wearing hats at functions. Would you care to sign this petition?
- Another march (basically a foreign land) was visited by a circus who accidentally let their "trained" ape lose. It ran around and caused much mischief. Was it ever caught?
- The dwarf king Throin the XIII (or was it XII?) recently died. The dwarves are in mourning.
- Ealdorman [Diggle / Dumblebee] recently received a very bad haircut and refuses to leave his hole on account of it.
- The Almanac says that tonight there will be a shower of shooting stars. Several families are staying up late to watch them.
- A naturalist neighbor is taking a survey of the local flora of your village. For every unique flower you bring back, they've offered a small reward.
- During the last rain, people say that they saw the River Woman swimming in the Water surrounded by an army of flying fish.
WinterLook at the total XP you earned during the spring, summer, and autumn. For every 3 XP you gained, gain 1 rank. Then, reset your XP count to 0 (regardless of whether or not you ranked up).
Roll ([Profession rank]d10 x 10 copper) to find out how much coin your halfling made during his legitimate business enterprises during the year, + (1 silver x rank). Lessen this total if they made any in-character sales during game play. If your character owes anything to money lenders, calculate interest or pay that loan off.
If you're happily married, you get a new wee one on a roll of 4 out of 6.
If you're unhappily married, you get a new wee one on a roll of 2 out of 6.
If you're not married at all, you get a new wee one on a roll of 1 out of 6. This is a scandal.
Talk about the things your character has achieved during that year. Share a pint with friends. Make new years resolutions.
After you've completed a year of Under Hill, By Water, consider playing something else for a little while. After all, you just had three to five sessions of playing little farming folk. Maybe your table wants to do something else. Of course, you can always pick up the story again and continue a new year. You might also hold games of Under Hill, By Water as an alternative to your standard weekly game if not everybody is available.
Alright. This was fun. I think this will be my last halfling related post for a little while.