Phlensos Ursuma (CN male halfling Brd14) came by his barony the way most
bards make important friends and enemies -- making fun of politically
expedient targets. While entertaining at court in Airspur a few years
ago, Khrulis was deeply in his cups as Phlensos performed a dead-on impersonation
of Khrulis's main political opponent at the time.
was so amused that he immediately granted Phlensos the title of Baron.
Drunk, but not stupid, Khrulis didn't give Phlensos much land to speak
of with the title -- just a small area of slightly less than two square
miles in the Adder Swamp.
as a bard" (as the old saying goes), Phlensos decided to do something
with his unexpected windfall. He gathered his extended family of strongheart
halflings and built a small keep and playhouse on the most solid part
of the land. From there, he runs a bardic training school and a theater
for minstrels and acting troupes to perform in.
of bards from across Chessenta have made the trek to the tiny barony to
study and trade information. An entertainer's haven, Baron Ursuma welcomes
any bard or would-be jester who shows up and wants to study. (No one else
cares much or wants to risk a trek into the Adder Swamp to find the place.)
The Ursuman Amusement Emporium is not a secret, but only bards in Chessenta
generally know its presence and specialties. In the past few months the
Emporium has begun gathering a reputation for its breadth of offerings
and the baron's dedication to unexpected performances.
who do make the trek find a sturdy stone keep with room after room of
halfling-sized living space, an enormous hall for dining and holding court,
and an open-air theater that seats nearly 200 people. The theater gets
used a great deal. Shows run most days in a tenday, and the audience is
filled with an odd mix of halflings, drifters, and werecrocodiles who
lumber in from the swamps to see the shows.
include dramas and comedies, pantomime, acrobatics, storytelling, knife-throwing
displays, and more inventive offerings. One night a week is open stage
night when anyone is allowed to stand up and do just about anything. And
in the "anything goes" land of Ursuma, just about anything has
been tried at some point.
are playthings for Phlensos in his barony. In such a small space, where
most residents are related, formal law is unnecessary -- and therefore
becomes a means of entertainment. The Baron issues edicts and amendments
at the drop of a hat (sometimes concerning the dropping of hats) for his
own amusement or someone else's. Laws that the Baron has issued include
daily handstands for children under 50, a "Tossstones Day" every
tenday, and the requisite addressing of the baron as "Milord High
Poofy Trousers" when court is in session.
the ersatz baron seriously attends to some matters of state. Chief among
these is security. Soon after moving onto his fiefdom, Phlensos noticed
the constant wererat-werecrocodile war raging in the Adder Swamp. Rather
than become a casualty, Phlensos watched for a few days, and then approached
one of the stronger gangs of werecrocodiles. He offered them food, shelter,
and frequent entertainment if they agreed to act as the elite guard for
were having none of that, and only well-placed spells got Phlensos out
of the situation alive. But one werecrocodile did listen -- an individual
known as Grevas (NE male werecrocodile Rgr6). The draw of easy food was
strong for him, and the way the halfling talked and moved intrigued him.
Though at first he had planned to wait until their guard was down and
eat their children, the daily circus of halflings turned out to be enjoyable
for Grevas. Further, the veneer of legitimacy suited him more than he
thought it would. Within a few months, Grevas became "Captain of
the Ursuman Guard." Of course, Grevas represents the entirety of
the Ursuman Guard, but he's very fond of the title, and the halflings
give him a measure of respect for the protection he provides.
spends most of his day sleeping, but once or twice a day he does a wandering
patrol of the grounds. He is unforgiving and violent with intruders. His
reputation as a fierce fighter is well known among the wererats; his presence
alone is usually enough to drive them away. The werecrocodiles don't bother
him either. They don't want to live with the halflings, but they're free
to come to performances if they don't cause trouble, and most enjoy the
entertainment enough not to ruin a good thing. Most of them only kill
halflings when they're absolutely sure nobody will find out.
the sentiment is appreciated, the halflings of Ursuma are no pushovers.
Every one of them is trained in tumbling and knife throwing. They also
drill defense tactics every day in the guise of festive contests: Whistling,
knife throwing, distance spitting, wrestling, foot races, and log rolling
are favorites. While some of these seem to be quaint halfling pastimes,
all of them are actually barely hidden drills in home defense. Knife throwing
and wrestling are obviously applicable, although disguised by the presence
of ale. Other defense mechanisms are more devious.
the Ursumans have developed a set of whistling codes that can alert anyone
nearby of danger. Simple messages ("fire" or "wererats,"
for instance) can be relayed across the entire barony literally in seconds.
Next, most Ursumans carry small vials of hot pepper powder somewhere in
their belongings. The powdered pepper is painfully hot in a person's mouth,
but outright caustic when it gets in someone's eyes. Finally, the mostly
swampland of Ursuma is littered with logs that the halflings have dragged
in place. When wererats or unruly werecrocodiles decide to attack the
barony, the Ursumans lure them onto these slippery logs and begin rolling.
Anyone caught on a log with an Ursuman halfling must succeed at an opposed
Balance check or fall prone into the swamp muck.
from acting, story telling, and buffoonery, the "state activity"
of Ursuma is juggling. By law, any resident of the city for more than
two weeks must learn to juggle, and Ursuman law mandates daily "juggling
hours" between dusk and sunset. Unlike other laws in the barony,
this one is seriously enforced, though mainly by social pressure. Anyone
in the barony who cannot juggle is mercilessly heckled and becomes an
unwilling participant of passing games between skilled halflings. Knives,
torches, and axes fly dangerously close to heads and groins of those who
don't join in. As the sky darkens, juggling implements are often set afire
to provide light, and some halflings trade juggling clubs for real clubs
in case they need a weapon handy in the dark.
bard schools and baronies don't pay for themselves -- at least not the
ones without peasants located in swamps. Of course they charge tuition
to outsiders who come to study, but it's usually a pittance -- only a
fraction of operating costs to keep a household of several dozen halflings
and a school running. So to fund operations, members of the Ursuma family
hire themselves out as itinerant entertainers. Chessentans love their
bards almost as much as they love fighting, so a trained bard who's quick
with a knife is the most popular person in the alehouse most nights. After
a season on the road, Ursuman entertainers wander home again, bringing
a percentage of the take back to be "taxed" by the Baron. To
encourage proper reporting of funds, positions within the noble family
are given to those who bring the most money back.
of the Marsh" and "Chief Doorknob Shiner" positions don't
really have any responsibilities associated with them, but these halflings
eat first, get first pick of pipeweed shipments, sit in the best seats
at the Emporium, and issue orders to the halflings who came back with
the least amount of money. As a result, many of the Ursumans race to bring
the most money so that they can keep the entertainment going and continue
the history of the realm while having fun at the expense of the "politically"