Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bara Gairo

Bara Gairo is a small farming town on the island of Cala Gairo, just a few miles to the northeast of Porto Liure.  There's about half a dozen such small towns located near Porto Liure, and Bara Gairo is representative, in many ways, of what all of them are like.

The inhabitants of Bara Gairo are Liurans, mostly, but they live in a kind of self-imposed exile of sorts.  While Gandesa--the island on which Porto Liure sits--is fairly large and contains a fair amount of arable land, Cala Gairo and its sister-villages provide much of the agrictulture that keeps Porto Liure fed; Gandesa by itself and the Liuran city-folk are incapable of doing so on their own.

There are about fifty homesteads on the island, and probably 350 or so people who live in Bara Gairo.  Ten of the homesteads operate small fishing boats that plough the shoals near the town for fish and shellfish.  These boats tend to be fairly old and somewhat rickety, although reasonably well maintained.  They are slow and adequate for the two day long milk runs to Porto Liure required to sell their stock, as well as prowling the local waters for fish.  At any given time, seven or eight will be in the area, while the others will be in Porto Liure or en route.  Another thirty to thirty five homesteads are farmers who grow olives, peppers, figs, grapes, and other crops, or who tend sheep and goats for wool, milk and meat.  The remaining families tend to gravitate towards other crafts--there's a blacksmith, an innkeeper, a couple carpenters, etc.  The basics required to keep a rural town operating reasonably self-sufficiently.

Bara Gairo harbor
The population rarely grows or shrinks significantly.  While plenty of children are born to the families in Bara Gairo, only a few of them will remain to take on their family's occupations, while the others will make their way to Porto Liure to find their fortune, apprentice to a craftsman of some kind, or take to sea on the crew of a merchant or pirate ship.  Since many of the adults are retired old sea dogs, this is seen as not only acceptable, but even desirable.  This also means that at any given time, a substantial portion of the population are veterans of some kind of combat experience.  They keep themselves relatively well armed and trained, just to ensure that an eager or desperate pirate crew doesn't find them easy enough pickings to be tempting.

A number of the people in Bara Gairo can also be seen as retired or reserve members of the Castiadas crime family.  Castiadas smugglers occasionally stop through the town, and Castiadas agents who find Porto Liure getting too hot temporarily occasionally hide out in Bara Gairo, living a quiet, unassuming life until it's safe to get back into town.

So, despite the fact that Bara Gairo is fairly sleepy and quiet, it's not completely cut-off or insular.  About 20% of the time, there's a non-local boat in the harbor, usually a semi-regular visitor from Porto Liure, but sometimes other traders or sailors with different motives.  And at any given time, probably 8-10 people will be in town who do not normally live there, two or three of which will be strangers; the rest of whom will be semi-regular.  Lima's Spirits is the inn in town; the largest building, and place where the farmers, fisherfolk and strangers alike are likely to congregate in the evenings.  And there's a small but cozy stone chapel maintained by Pare Haśteu, an Easterner with a strong accent despite having lived here now for decades.

Just outside of town, amongst the farms, is a run-down old stone building which has been sealed shut for years.  Nobody lives there, but it's commonly believed to be haunted, and strange lights and sounds can occasionally be seen after dark.  Local urban myth suggests that a sorcerer, looking for isolation, came to Bara Gairo years ago and somehow managed to curse the building, or was perhaps himself cursed to haunt it in some manner.  In fact, the haunted Osini house has become locally famous, and is the subject of a number of urban myths in Porto Liure itself.

Bara Gairo is designed specifically to be the kind of relatively quiet and quaint starting place so many RPGs like to begin in, but unlike some of the other such examples of the genre, there should be a slightly sinister cast to it.  Since many of the inhabitants are former gangsters or pirates, there are still ties to both coming through regularly--although quietly and discreetly, since it's also an important supply point for Porto Liure itself, and official notice can be brought to bear qiuckly if things look bad in town.  Furtive strangers could therefore be smugglers, assassins, hiding crime bosses or cultists--or they could merely be Liurans looking to escape from the ragged urban lifestyle, if they can manage to get away.  Some of them, in fact, are former residents who left as youths, but who return later, occasionally matured to unrecognizability, to see what has become of their former homes.

Aside from the village of Bara Gairo (and neighboring farms) itself, the island is rocky and steep, and covered with thick forest.  While it's a small island, and therefore doesn't hold very much in the way of large game, but some small white tailed deer and javelinas do make their way through the brush, hunted by rare cougars and some feral dogs that have lived untamed on the island for generations.  Occasional sightings of weirder things are reported, and in general, those of the village who like wandering the woods are looked at in askance; the villagers turn their faces towards the sea and away from the forest.

Deep in the interior, nestled among volcanic stones and hills, are the remnants of some past mysterious inhabitants--small stone cairns and carved standing stones, with brooding, weathered features and unreadable runes.  Disquieting half-heard noises can be heard near them on occasion, and there are persistent rumors of villagers who have disappeared near these standing stones, never to be seen again.

Coming soon: More specific hooks for things to have happen in or near Bara Gairo, and some discussion on how a campaign could start there, where it could go from there, and which themes and tone elements it would best serve.

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