There’s plenty of things to do in the City for the up and coming Murder Hobo. Giant face-eating naked mole rats fill the sewers. Crime syndicates riddle the dark alleyways on the seedier side of town. Good Government ministers are actually evil and evil are good and all await dramatic unmasking at the hands of Heroes.
But the big money adventure is far away from the City – very far away – in the Unexplored Frontier across the sea. Tales slowly waft back across the waves from that strange place. Tales of strange monsters, horrible pirates, wars for freedom and independence, rum, and cities of gold. The few surviving Murder Hobos return home high-level, storied and filthy rich. They say the Frontier’s lands are full of adventure and wait for someone cunning, smart, and with a sharp sword to swoop in and make their name.
A sort of madness gripped the City’s populace. No hero was too big, no story too great, no far-off gold mining venture too risky for their tastes. Nothing was as amazing or interesting than the Unexplored Frontier.
Into the mania stepped, quite literally as he disembarked his ship, His Highness Baston Kale, the Lord, King, Conqueror and Tehei of Purotu, a small, unknown, far-off country on the Frontier. Ruggedly handsome, lover of audacious medals, and sporting amazing sideburns, Baston Kale’s legend preceded him. He’d fought in a battle for independence to wrest a land from the clutching hands of a giant red dragon and its minions. He stole a three-masted frigate and took to the high seas in privateering and piracy. He stole an entire island, buried his treasure, and sold the island to other pirates at a profit. He married a princess (here she is). He was max level, had multiple attacks per round, and took many attacks of opportunity. Baston Kale was a Hero.
Or so he told everyone the moment he came ashore. And the people loved him.
Baston Kale’s first stop was with the Transmuter Bankers. His country, he said to the Bankers, was bright and beautiful. It was a land of prosperity, a solid foothold in a far off land brimming with opportunity and riches. He wanted to sell military commissions, land rights, and noble titles to encourage Murder Hobo emigration to help civilize the place and expand his newly founded paradise city of Gunnar on the beautiful coast of Purotu. All he needed, see, was a massive loan, because Murder Hobos are expensive.
The Transmuter Bankers worked their sort of strange alchemy and transformed Purotu Mania into money. The bankers underwrote the Purotu bonds* at an astounding 6% dividend paid semi-annually. They issued neatly engraved bond certificates into the City’s financial markets in the name of Lord Tehei of Purotu, Baston Kale. And they walked away.
Why they did this, no one knows.
The City speculators went into a frenzy. Everyone who was anyone in the moneyed City had to invest in Purotu bonds. Why, they could get in on this amazing opportunity at the ground level. Get in now before the chance evaporates! 6%! Gold laying on beaches! Dungeons filled with rare and exotic magic items dotting the coast! The place is filthy rich! They’ll make their money back plus some! Reach into your pockets, find gold between the couch cushions, because we’re all investing in Purotu!
Enthusiasm turned into quick cash. Money streamed into Baston Kale’s pockets.
The suddenly wealthy Baston Kale was the toast of the City. He purchased a building in a fashionable district which he dubbed the “Purotu Legation.” On the wall, he displayed an enormous and ornate map of Purotu for all to come and examine. He promised to sell acres for pennies to Murder Hobos so they could establish their bases for further exploration into the Frontier. He printed his own money decorated with palm trees and romantic, far-off islands for use in his exotic Frontier country. He claimed the Bank of Purotu would not only honor the script, but would offer fair exchange for gold.
The Purotu craze was everywhere. An adventurer named Harry Harington “Aide-de-Camp to His Highness Baston Kale” produced a best-selling travel guide called The Beauty and Splendor of the Purotu Coast. The book promised adventure, wonders, and mostly naked, friendly, and suspiciously Elven natives frolicking on perfect white beaches. Baston Kale hired bards to compose ballads about his far-off Kingdom and paid them to sing the songs in bars while standing suspiciously close to Questgivers. He painted and sold pictures of his beautiful capital city, Gunnar, with its wooden broadwalk, its identify kiosks, its Inns and its equipment stores. From his Legation-cum-Townhouse, Baston Kale threw enormous banquets for enthusiastic Murder Hobos and gave away so-called native made hats.
Everyone who was anyone was into Purotu-mania.
A few naysayers held up their hands and said, you know, something is a little off here. Six percent payout on bonds is an awful high return. And this book is not only poorly written but reads suspiciously like books from adventures of earlier Murder Hobos. Has anyone ever met this Harry Harington? Or heard of Purotu before now?
No one listens to the negative naysayers. Boundless optimism is the term of the day. Everyone knows the Frontier holds endless adventure!
Driven by thoughts of easy money in their heads, Murder Hobos, with their bright new shiny Purotu military commissions and promise of endless adventure from a staging point of comfort, fought each other for spots on Purotu-bound ships. In the end, Baston Kale had to purchase four frigates to load all parties with their equipment and mounts.
Baston Kale swore he’d follow along to Purotu on the next boat out.
After two months of hard sailing, the Murder Hobos landed in Purotu. They immediately learned these salient and highly important facts:
- One. There’s no city of Gunnar in Purotu. No Inns, no Questgivers, and no identify kiosks. Only some half-built lean-tos covered in vines.
- Two. In fact, there’s no country of Purotu. There’s only a strip of uninhabitable rocky shore and jungle-based death.
- Three. The so-called friendly Elven natives are neither friendly nor Elves. They’re angry, spear-wielding troglodytes.
- Four. The ships dropping the Murder Hobos off on the Purotu beach were not sticking around to take the Murder Hobos home. The Captain said Baston Kale didn’t pay for the boats to stay and they’re not staying. In fact, they’re already out to sea. Bye! Good luck surviving!
The Murder Hobos found themselves stranded on a beach in the Unexplored Frontier with no shelter, no immediate way to get food short of a Create Food and Water spell (which Clerics furiously cast), no way to lay hands on fresh magic reagents, no idea what creatures lurked in the jungles, surrounded by hostile and armed natives, and with inaccurate maps in hand. Without a doubt, someone was going to gain levels on this god forsaken beach. A lot of levels.
Baston Kale screwed them. Screwed not by a great fighter as they had been lead to believe, but by a bard.
Adventure was here. That much had not been a lie. The jungle was full of nasty monsters, unexplored ancient temples, forgotten dungeons, and tombs. Untouched magic weapons lay somewhere deep within the hanging vines, poisonous plants, and brackish streams with the man-eating fish. But survival was the first order of business. The second order was getting the hell off this murderous beach and somewhere with civilization.
The Murder Hobos cleared stunted trees from the beach and stood up half-baked lean-tos made of giant leaves. Wizards and Sorcerers burned through scant, currently irreplaceable reagents to cast fireballs and push back the vines. Fighters ventured into the jungles to fight and kill monsters, presumably to eat. Not all they brought back were edible. At least Murder Hobo Rangers with high enough Survival skills and decent rolls knew how to survive in weird and hostile lands.
The first weeks were a harsh learning and leveling experience.
Once life in the fake town of Gunnar stabilized and Murder Hobos no longer faced instant, vaporizing jungle death, they realized they were of a spectrum of alignments. Rifts opened over the smallest disagreements. Murder Hobos formed into armed camps on the beach. Good and Evil fought. Blood spilled on the rocks. One team stole what little stores they had from the now-escaped ships, piled them into a heap, and hoisted a black flag over them. They declared themselves the Pirates of Purotu. All others would bend a knee. The Good Paladins leapt on them. Swords zinged from sheaths with a snicker-snack. Murder Hobos numbers quickly cut in half.
Their numbers dwindled from jungle mishap, angry troglodyte murder, and at their own hands. Clerics ran out of diamonds for Raise Dead.
One enterprising Murder Hobo party survived the jungle. They climbed a nearby mountain and discovered a settled tribe of somewhat neutral, non-troglodyte, demi-human natives. Through Comprehend Languages, the Murder Hobos begged for food and asked about Baston Kale.
Oh yes, the natives knew of him. See, they were planning to take back their lands once the Murder Hobos finally finished killing each other or dying of misadventure. Baston Kale did think he owned the land the Murder Hobos camped on, but the tribe was taking it back. Baston Kale had violated the financial terms of their agreement, an agreement made besotted in rum. Baston Kale promised the tribe certain concessions and huge amounts of gold in return for renting acres of land from the tribe. Those concessions were not met and the gold never delivered. The land grant was null and void. The land was theirs.
The Country of Purotu did not, in any legal or realistic terms, exist.
The natives did offer the Murder Hobos an agreement: they would happily take them all in if the Murder Hobos swore allegiance to the tribe. And they would feed the Murder Hobos real, edible native fruits, vegetables and meats. But, the natives demanded actual gold for entrance into their tribe, not whatever fake Purotu money the Murder Hobos had stuffed in their pockets. Did they come with gold? The natives accepted only gold to allow Murder Hobos to stay on their murderous, insane land.
Oh, by the way, the natives were healthy, fit, and armed. Unlike, say, the Murder Hobos down on the beach.
One time offer. Take it or leave it.
What Happens in Purotu Stays in Purotu
Faced with the gold-demanding natives, the unpredictable jungle, the lack of food, and the constant death, most of the survivors decided to abandon the site. One brave Murder Hobo band lashed together an open boat from reeds and green tree trunks and headed up the unmapped coast. They sailed for weeks. Eventually thin, shaking, and levels higher, they came to known settlements along the Frontier. After explaining the situation about Purotu, the abandonment, the natives, and the survivors, the settlement’s commander sent back ships to rescue their remaining mates.
Once they deserted the desolate beach of Purotu, most of the Murder Hobos elected to take the first boat back to the City. Poorer and worse for wear (although with more levels and access to better spells), they returned to comfortable adventures of sewers, Thieves’ Guilds, and Liches.
Yet, some Murder Hobo survivors stayed on the Frontier. Now in an actual settlement with food, shelter and the rough standards of Murder Hobo living, they established a foothold. The lure of the jungle dungeons and tombs, not yet explored, was too much to leave even after the fighting, the bloodshed, the death, and the sad Clerics. They had the survival skills to survive in the jungle. Now they could do what they came to do.
Years later, they claimed sleeping under tarps along the jungle-encrusted rivers was quite pleasant. No one knows what happened to most of them. Perhaps they assimilated to their new, native land and leveled to max level. Some invaded the dungeons, walked out with the promised exotic magic weapons, and made themselves real local Kings. And some simply died by misadventure.
As for Baston Kale? He had pulled off a three-point fraud:
- Upon the local natives, who lent him the land in the first place for money he was never going to pay;
- Upon the Murder Hobos, who ran off to settle his country of Purotu and conquer the jungle in the name of dungeons and XP;
- And upon the City’s speculators, who gave him money to invest in his fake country.
Back in the City, Baston Kale first tried to sue the returning Murder Hobos or anyone who claimed his grants and titles a fake. Then, irritated and their fun bubble collapsing, the City threw Baston Kale in jail for fraud. Escaping in a daring feat of off-screen and hand-waved adventure, Baston Kale skipped town. He tried valiantly to fish for more funds and Murder Hobos for his fake country but no investors showed interest. Eventually, he slipped in the night to a ship headed to the Frontier, sailed off, and, presumably, disappeared into the jungle where riches and death awaited him.
The Transmuter Bankers were repaid in full. The initial sales of the bonds covered the principal of the loan with interest. This worked out quite well for them and they felt satisfied. This alchemy of transforming a completely non-existent country into gold was fascinating, but they put a repeat aside for later, more interesting magical experiments.
Bards. What would the Transmuter Bankers do without them?
- Bond markets are the ultimate in Alchemy. They turn government loans into speculation.
Writer’s Note: This all really happened. The guy’s name was Gregor MacGregor and he (successfully) conned Scottish peasants to emigrate to Honduras along the Mosquito Coast during the South American Mining frenzy. He really did raise bonds on a fake country. Much of this detail got ganked from an amalgamation old papers, ancient references thanks to ProjectMUSE, and old magazine articles. The wikipedia article above is pretty weak.
This is also a spiffy start to a greater than 5th level campaign.
Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games – http://www.patreon.com/VanityGames