The Farmer and the Scuppernogs

Originally posted by waxwingslain:

My players are currently in Altaruk (investigating the paying of the Dragon’s levy) and are taking advantage of the lively theatre scene. Eschewing the amphitheatre, they’re spending time in the little underground clubs where the performances can be more critical of the sorcerer-kings.

When the sun sets and the shops of Altaruk close up, a small dry goods store known as Blink’s is taken over by a rowdier crowd than the housewives and minor merchants who frequent it during the day. The sign—which usually depicts a set of blinking eyes over a rather generic pile of merchandise—is unhooked and replaced with a more stylized sign depicting a cracked globe. The Cracked Globe, an underground theatre, is open for business.
Literally underground; the shop itself remains locked up, but the door leading into its basement (down a few stone stairs around the side) is opened. The shop’s basement is spacious (for a basement), holding 70-100 people; benches are formed of crates of cheap goods, and barrels of broy are rolled in and set up along the side. Bring your own mug and the “bartender” will fill it for a dragon per dip (or buy one of the mugs they have for the exorbitant price of a dragon).

The Cracked Globe Players charge half a dragon (five suns) for entry, and have a repertoire of two dozen plays ranging from the comic to the political that they work through, one or two per night. Shorter performances occur throughout the night before the big show…jesters, rhetoricians, poets, singers, musicians, dancers, and even Balican wrestlers can be seen from time to time at the Cracked Globe.

One of the players, a thri-kreen Athasian minstrel, is recruited to perform in tonight’s performance as the “thri-kreen druid”. I gave the player the script and gave her leeway to edit her lines as long as they didn’t change the play’s structure/meaning. When they perform, I’ll summarize what’s going on (I didn’t write out dialogue for all the characters–the farmer, the boy, etc–because it would be boring with only the thri-kreen druid being played by a player) and the player will read her lines (perhaps modified). It’s supposed to be a metaphorical story of how sorcerer-kings control their populaces, a way for revolutionaries to criticize the regime without being too obvious about it.


A tiny family farm a ways outside one of Athas’ city-states. The crimson sun shines bright overhead, and the barren desert stretches into the distance all around. A small farmhouse and a shack outbuilding preside over a dry garden patch.

THE FARMER and his YOUNG SON enter stage right. THE FARMER begins to discuss the scuppernong crop he hopes to grow this year. He’s found some fine seeds, and tells his son that these scuppernongs could be their ticket to a hand pump for the well, some draft kanks to pull the plows, maybe even a larger farm.

THE FARMER plants the scuppernong seeds in neat rows, measuring the distance between them with a ruler and barking at the YOUNG SON when he strays from the careful measurements. The sun sets and rises repeatedly as they plant, and scuppernong vines begin to appear from the neat rows. THE FARMER and the YOUNG SON move over the vines, assiduously snipping and cutting at any that stray from the neat rows. Finally the sun rises again and THE FARMER and the YOUNG SON look out over rows of brown, withered scuppernong vines. The crop has failed.

THRI-KREEN DRUID enters stage left. She asks for water and THE FARMER grudgingly gives her a dipper. He waves his hand at the withered scuppernong vines and gruffly asks for her opinion.

THRI-KREEN DRUID (studying the vines): Let them grow, steward of the fields. You have trimmed and cudgeled them into your idea of what a scuppernong vine should be, and it does not resemble what a scuppernong vine’s idea of itself is. Let them grow.

The FARMER snorts incredulously. DRUID bids farewell to the FARMER and trundles off stage right.

The sun rapidly comes and goes and a new season has begun. FARMER and SON are planting scuppernong seeds again in neat rows. As they begin to grow, FARMER allows them to grow more than he did before. To keep them “neat” (he tells SON), he stretches each vine out and tacks it nice and straight along stakes he has jammed into the earth. As vines curl off the straight stakes, he trims them. The sun comes and goes, and the crops wither and die.

DRUID enters stage left. She asks for water and the FARMER again gives her a dipper. She shakes her head as she sees his crops, tutting.

THRI-KREEN DRUID: No, no, no…let them grow free!

She leaves stage right, still shaking her head.

The sun again rises and falls, marking a new season. FARMER and SON are sowing scuppernong seeds, much more liberally than before, scattering them across the earth. They grow, and the FARMER restrains himself as they begin to spread wildly, curling across the ground. He talks proudly about the rich crop he’s going to reap as he fertilizes them. Suddenly, he pulls back, roaring—he has been pricked by a thorn, and a bright drop of blood glistens on the tip of his thumb. Enraged, he stomps offstage and returns wearing thick inix-hide gloves and carrying a sharp obsidian knife. He yanks each vine up and strips off its thorns with the knife, muttering curses to the elements as he does so. When he is finished, he surveys his work in satisfaction.

The sun rises and sets, and the vines wither and die.

The DRUID enters stage left. She halts as she sees the mutilated, withered vines. Her antennae twitch in anger.

DRUID: You were the steward of this land, and you have failed it. The scuppernongs depended on you for nurturing, guidance, and protection so they could survive in this harsh land, and you gave them naught but a little water. Thrice the scuppernongs tried to flower and fruit, and thrice you crushed them as they tried to provide a bounty. You do not deserve these scuppernongs, nor this land, nor this stewardship.

The FARMER hangs his head. But now the SON emerges from behind the shack and beckons the DRUID and FARMER over. As they approach, the shed swings back to reveal a small scuppernong patch growing behind it. The vines are huge, green, and lush, bigger than any yet seen. More importantly, they drip with green jewels—luscious scuppernongs. The SON explains that he has been tending his own little patch, letting them grow as free as they liked.

DRUID: The son is wiser than the father, I see.

Again the FARMER hangs his head. The SON suggests selling the scuppernongs—such a bountiful crop, though small, will tide them through until next year. The FARMER smiles and puts his arm around the SON, saying, “Aye, what a wise boy. I’ve learned my lesson, and next year we shall have the best scuppernong crop in the Tablelands.”


  • Note: I know scuppernongs don’t really have thorns–I decided that Athasian scuppernongs do, being hardier and more savage.

** Also note: an “alternate ending” exists when one of the NPC actors goes off script (he’s enraged by the “dictator learning his lesson” message). I’ll post it after I’ve seen how it goes in person within the next couple of weeks.

Originally posted by Raddu76:

This is great! Good job Waxwingslain! I really liked it.

Originally posted by waxwingslain:

Thanks. There are some things idiosyncratic to my campaign (“dragons” are ceramic gp, so called because they bear the Dragon of Tyr on one side and the sigil of the city-state they’re from on the other; “suns” are ceramic sp, so called because, obviously, they have the sun on the side opposite the city-state marker) that might need to be changed, but you get the point.

The idea for the Cracked Globe is that it’s supposed to be like going to see a punk band in a basement, or a repurposed church rented out at night, or an underground club–kind of ad hoc, crowded, cheap, people drinking, unregulated, etc.

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