Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Portsmaw (An Overview)

This is the mini setting for an upcoming Swords & Wizardry Light game I'm doing. If things go well at it's a nice fit, I'll further expand it.


Southern Ohio Farm Yard by Charles Rowland
The medium sized industrial and shipping town of Portsmaw is located on the northern bank of the Oh'yio River on the edge of a vast wilderness. It was founded over two centuries ago by separatists from the kingdom who wanted to live a simple life away from the law. They formed small communities around the river. Some of these have been flooded or wiped out by disease and/or predators but many still exist. Twenty years ago a handful of disgraced noble families, seeking to escape scrutiny in the kingdom settled in the area. They found the wilderness full of resources to be exploited and formed the settlements of Willsburg and Portsmaw. Initially the natives didn't like the outsiders, but many soon found themselves drawn into civilizations grasp by the vices the nobles brought. Old timers chafe under the new rules, yet many have taken to industry.

Portsmaw is ruled by a mayor and town council (most of which are firmly in the pocket of one of the Willsburg nobles). Most residents are human, though there's a sizable halfling population as well. The most prominent religion is a strange version of the sun god's faith, mixed with superstition and a bit of witchcraft.

Locations of Note

Flatboat on the Ohio by Alfred R. Waud.
The Esplanade - This town center serves as the hub of business in town. During the day it is the location of a farmer's market.

Oscar's - This is the largest metal foundry in the town. Several prominent smiths maintain forges here.

Matchhill's Laces - The halfing owners of the tannery employ many townsfolk, which is known for the sturdy leather shoes and boots they make (which is ironic considering halfings don't wear shoes).

Fort Massie - A garrison of the kingdom's army is stationed here. Some of the soldiers are good and honest, but many are in the pockets of the nobles of Willsburg.

Martin's - This two story building is the largest and best stocked general store in the community.

Dirty Franco's - This bar is truly a dive bar among dive bars, still music is played every night and the ale and beer is cheap and the women have loose morals.

The Royal Tavern - This tavern is on of the nicer in town and plays at being a respectable establishment, but it has it's fair share of bar brawls. It is adjacent to the Esplanade.

The Docks - There are several large warehouses on the docks, which were created to accommodate the large flat bottom boats that traverse the Oh'yio. Boss Tide has converted one of the warehouses into a gambling den that also serves as his home.

Surrounding Areas

Willsburg - This wealthy community is surrounded by sturdy stone walls and protected by a well trained, private militia. The residents are primarily mine and business owners, their personal servants, and outcast nobles from the kingdom.

McDermott Stone Quarry and Mines - Granite and iron are mined in this forested community.

Rotaway (formerly Knotaway) - This former logging community was wiped out by a mysterious plague a year ago.

The Bottoms - Workers toil in these boggy floodplains near the town to harvest peat for the town's consumption and export.

Personalities of Note

Stephan Haze (male human thief) - This plain looking man makes up for his unassuming appearance by being quite boisterous. The blowhard claims to be the voice of the people, but honestly only cares about himself and his cronies.

Father Bear (male human cleric) - This handsome young cleric is one of the most prominent religious leaders of the that follow the "old-time religion" of the sun god. He's a charismatic man that preaches moderation and tolerance (to an extent). He does a rather good job of keeping the more zealous members of his flock in check.

Ryn (male human magic-user) - The tall, plump bespectacled man is one the chief sources of knowledge and arcane magic in the area. He's rumored to be descended from the nephilim of legend.

Boss Tide (male fish devil) - The evil catfish-man gourmand owns several businesses. He appears charming, but should not be trusted. He does what he can to discredit Father Bear, including inciting his followers.

Mama Rose (female human witch) - This jolly full-figured redhead is a popular part of the town's nightlife. She is also a seer and will read the cards of those she feels are worthy (or have the right amount of coin).

Local Idioms/Vocabulary
britches - pants
"By the way the crow flies" - the shortest path between two points on a map (ignoring terrain and such)
chaw/chew - chewing tobacco, a common vice among natives
cornhole - a game similar to horse shoes, involve tossing small bags filled with corn into a target, popular among natives
"Don't do in the dark what you don't want brought into the light" - If you don't want people to know what you do, then do do it.
ghoulie - corporeal undead
"Gittin too big for your britches." - You're starting to think too highly of yourself.
haint - ghost or spirit (incorporeal undead)
holler - valley between two hills
kin - a family member (by blood or marriage)
nary - none
ornery - bad tempered
piece - distance
plumb - completely
preacher - cleric (which is itself a term never used by natives)
reckon - guess
shine - moonshine, extremely strong corn whiskey, sometimes tempered and flavored with sweet things
tote - to carry
townies - those that choose to dwell in the town, this is often used as a term of derision by more rural folk.
worsh - wash
yonder - a directional adverb representing a distant from both the speaker and listener


  1. Sounds interesting. Course I'm a sucker for mixing fantasy type stuff with americana.

    1. I am too. The Chained Coffin ( is one of my favourites. Most of this is based on my hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio (though for legal reasons, I'm going to mention that none of the npc's are based on real people). All of the location names are based on real places (which may be why a few of them are a bit strained).

  2. This is great! (And I'm sure it would be even greater if I were more familiar with the source material..."Dirty Franco's" for instance... :)

  3. Tell me where to open my Tallower Shoppe . . .