I stumbled across a review of my 2016 DCC Halloween module The Sinister Sutures of the Sempstress yesterday. The reviewer gushed about this creepy nugget of mine, which I was glad to read because I’m fond of this little horrific trip into some bad neighborhood of the collective unconscious. Reviews fascinate me if only because I’m always intrigued by what people find behind my written words. All manner of inspirations and motifs can be read into another’s work–even if they’re not intentionally present. In this case, it sounds like I really need to play Silent Hill. I’ve long been tempted to pay a psychoanalyst to read my entire body of work and then make a diagnosis of my mental bugbears just to see what a professional thinks is at work in the haunted house that is my mind.
I’ve never been shy about my pride in the Shudder Mountains campaign setting for DCC RPG. Inspired by the works of Manly Wade Wellman, Appalachian folklore, and my own time in the Catskills, the Shudder Mountains is an unusual fantasy setting, one filled with a depth that far exceeds my own contributions to it. Although I’ve written north of 100k words for the Shudders by now, there’s still more to tell. Hopefully, fan demand will allow me to continue to do so for Dungeon Crawl Classics.
However, since I’d be writing that theoretical material for commercial release, there are certain limits to what I can legally include in the Shudder Mountains. Those restrictions don’t really affect me here since this is a place for me to freely share fan-made content. I intend to take advantage of that freedom and perhaps help others enrich their Shudder Mountain campaigns, while hopefully steering some traffic to the creators whose work I’m translating for DCC.
There have been two graphic novels published in recent years that I feel are blood relatives to the Shudders: Harrow County and Hillbilly. Harrow County is closer to Wellman’s work, in that it takes place in a relatively modern America. Hillbilly, on the other hand, is much like the Shudders as it’s set in a fantasy realm resembling Appalachia. While both are amazing, Hillbilly is the easiest to translate directly from graphic novel form to RPG material.
From time to time, I’ll be stating up some of the characters and monsters from both graphic novels and posting them here as supplemental Shudder Mountain material. In the meantime, I suggest you seek out both the first trade paperbacks of both Hillbilly and Harrow County to give yourself the proper background knowledge of their settings and inhabitants, and to put some well-deserved money in their creators’ pockets.
To kick off things, let’s begin with the hillbilly, himself. Rondel would serve as a great ally for your PCs during their explorations of the Shudder Mountains and likely has goals and intentions in line with the party’s own.
Rondel the Hillbilly
Rondel (5th level Warrior): Init +6; Atk Devil’s Cleaver +2+d7 deed melee (1d10+3 plus deed or 1d10+4 plus deed plus save or die vs. witches); AC 14; HD 5d12+5; hp 55; MV 30’; Act 1d20/1d14; SP crit range 18-20, Mighty Deeds of Arms. 25% magic resistance against witchcraft; SV Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +2; AL L
Rondel was born the child of an unwed mother, shunned from the rest of her. He was born without eyes, having only bare flesh where his eye sockets should be, and his mother’s people took this as proof of her sin. For this deformity, they considered the boy cursed. Rondel came of age with only a single playmate, a tomboy named Esther who lived near his mother’s lonely cabin.
In his adolescence, Rondel encountered the witch called Mamie trapped in a snare left by her rival, Eldora. Young Rondel freed her, not knowing at the time she was a witch, and Mamie rewarded the boy with a cleaver stolen from Lucifer’s kitchen in the bowels of Hell. Imbued with dark magic granted by Lucifer’s touch, the cleaver was anathema to witches, deadly to the touch. In addition to the blade, Mamie had one more gift for Rondel: his sight. Using a knife, she cut two slits in the bare flesh covering the boy’s eyes, allowing him to see for the first time.
But every witch’s gift comes with a price, and the first sight Rondel ever saw was his home torched to the ground and his mother missing. Mamie told the boy that Eldora had burned down the cabin and transformed his mother into a hog, who the men of the village then ate. Black tears ran from Rondel’s dark eye slits, forever staining his face.
It was then that the boy realized he’d been played a fool by Mamie and that the witch intended to use him as her instrument in killing her rival. Rondel swore a vow at that moment to kill every witch in the hills—starting with Mamie, herself. The devil’s cleaver took its first victim that day.
And so the story goes that “Rondel took up that cleaver and, having no ties, went up into the hills to wander, vowing to cut down the forces of darkness that preyed on folk, and many a strange adventure he had.”
The Devil’s Cleaver (1d10+1/1d10+2 plus special vs. witches): This magical weapon is a meat cleaver of tremendous size. Only those with a Strength of 14 or more can wield it single-handedly. It is a +1 magical weapon against most foes and possesses a bane against witches. A witch touching the devil’s cleaver must make a DC 13 Fortitude saving throw, taking 1d6 damage on a failed save and half as much on a successful one. When wielded in combat against a witch, the Devil’s Cleaver is a +2 weapon and, in addition to damage from a blow, a witch struck by the blade must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be automatically slain. While carried, the Devil’s Cleaver provides 25% magic resistance against witchcraft, checking against this percentage to determine if the spell affects the target before making any saving throws as might be applicable.
NOTE: The definition of “witch” and whether an opponent is affected by the cleaver’s bane is left to the judge’s discretion. Any wizard that is the servant of one of The Three would likely be a witch for purposes of the cleaver’s bane power. Other wizards and magic practitioners might also be subject to the bane even if they don’t consider themselves witches. After all, the Devil’s Cleaver gets its dark magic because Lucifer will have n servant rival his power and anyone who trucks with devils and demons might be considered a potential challenger for Hell’s throne.