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Larp: The Legend of Cottonmouth Hollow
by Warren Tusk
Cottonmouth Hollow is a magical kind of place.
That's what they'd advertise to the tourists, if there were any. But there aren't. It is a magical kind of place, you see, and magical places keep themselves hidden. Cottonmouth Hollow is a bit of the distant past, nestled deep in the heart of South Carolina, and the rest of the world just drifts on by. Let the outsiders keep their vulgar bustle; the Hollow thrives on its own peculiar ways, its own little local enchantments, and has done so since time immemorial.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Rookscroft family has lived in Stillwater, the secluded manorial estate down in the valley. And, as you'd expect from the plantation in an old plantation town, Stillwater is the beating heart of Cottonmouth Hollow. The Rookscrofts keep to themselves, mostly, all quiet and dignified-like -- but everyone knows that this is their little world. They own most of the land, they employ most of the people, the mayor and the sheriff and the school board all defer to them.
The rumors swirl around them, like you'd expect with any ruling dynasty. People whisper about murder and madness. Whatever the rumors say, though, they're the ones holding Cottonmouth Hollow together. When something has to be done, the Rookscrofts make it happen. If you're ever in a bad way, you take your hat in your hand, and you go to a Rookscroft to ask a favor. As the local joke has it, the crops wouldn't grow without the Rookscrofts...and maybe there's something to that.
And for as long as anyone can remember, the Circus Chimerical has been there on the outskirts of town, bringing wonder and amazement to anyone who steps inside.
It's around for only one week in the year, of course, in the middle of the fall. The rest of the time, it's out touring, performing in fabulously exotic places. But, however fabulous and exotic those places may be, they're just part of the glamor and the hoopla of the showman's life. Cottonmouth Hollow is the Circus's home. Everyone knows that. The show takes its performers from all over, but if you take a good hard look at the best ones -- the stars -- you'll see South Carolina faces.
The Chimericals cast a long shadow over the town's culture. If life seems a bit dull or prosy or confining, you wait for the show to come to town, because it will remind you what sparkle and glory are like. If you need something impossible, you go visit the flash gypsy salesmen or the mountebank doctors, because sometimes their potions and baubles can do what nothing on earth can do. And if you're really, truly desperate to escape...if life in the Hollow is unbearable, and the barbarous world outside doesn't seem any better...then you run away and join the circus.
But even the magic of an ancient bloodline, and the magic of circus glitter, have their limits. Times grow increasingly tough for the great powers of the Hollow.
Last year, for the first time that anyone can remember, the circus didn't show up at all. This year, Lucius Rookscroft -- the great Stillwater patriarch -- was found dead in the swamp behind the cathouse. And everywhere, slowly, the enchantment fades. New money and new ideas shake things up. The Hollow becomes ever-so-subtly more normal.
People are worried.
So perhaps it won't surprise you that the Rookscrofts are throwing a garden party this evening, and that they've invited the Circus Chimerical to come and entertain their guests...
The Legend of Cottonmouth Hollow is an eight-person mini-LARP about magic, sacrifice, passion, dynasties, circuses, small-town life, and the ways that life can stubbornly refuse to be what you really want it to be.
It's a very Southern Gothic game. Mature themes, in every sense of the term, abound.
Mechanics are light and simple. This is not a crunchy game.
The plot revolves around a circus, in part, and some characters will be called upon to perform. The exact nature of that performance is not pre-determined -- the game does not actually demand that you be up for aerialism or stage magic -- but certain PCs will be under an obligation to put together some kind of act. Song, dance, recitation, comedy, juggling, etc. might all be appropriate.
- 8-player maximum