Welcome, traveler, to Gulch. This town ain’t much, but it’s ours, and we’d appreciate it if you’d not muck about in our business, thank you very much. You might be tempted to dive under the surface, get to know the people here, and try helping them out. Don’t. That’s just going to piss someone else off, you see? Best to fill up your car and keep on moving on.
Ty Pitre & Norn Noszka
Ty Pitre & watabou
A Modern Day Setting
Gulch has been designed as a “starter town” of sorts for games set in modern times. There are plenty of great towns out there for starting a fantasy campaign (like Fishtown and Mautbek) but we wanted to cook something up that you could use with more contemporary characters.
If you’re running a horror game, Gulch is tilted enough that you can seed in cosmic horrors and serial killers.
If you’re running an urban fantasy game, Gulch has strange characters that can be easily adapted to your game’s mythology.
If you’re running a strict no-fantasy game, Gulch is wide enough that you can use it for several sessions worth of modern day questing.
A Day In The Life
Gulch is situated somewhere in the badlands, accessible by paved road from the north and west. Both roads lead to highway onramps. The terrain around the town is punctuated by narrow gullies, steep ridges, hoodoo rocks, and loose stones. Scrubs, crooked trees, and other resilient vegetation grow along the riverbeds. The town is situated along the Pronghorn, a wide and deep river which cuts through the canyons in a winding, snaking path.
Gulch as a town is big enough that it’s hopeless for transient visitors to learn the names of everyone but small enough that anyone from out of town is easily identified. Many folks come into town to hike the trails marked out by the Gulch Hiking Association, which range from light walks to grueling overnight adventures.
Two groups also call the surrounding area around Gulch home, locked in a bitter turf war. To the east, the Midnighters rev up their dirt bikes and ride through town doing wheelies, taking what they want. To the west, the Ivory Owl Radicals hide out at their opulent ranch with their stallions, thinking themselves kings of the badlands and acting not dissimilar to their rival counterparts. Everyone in town deals with the two gangs to their own chagrin, but there’s no hope coming from the sheriff station to settle the grievances.
If the group is already in Gulch it can be helpful to start a new session with a spark and hard framing to get the party involved.
- All of your clothing is dirty and needs a wash. Session begins with the group arriving at the Sudsy’s.
- You’re out of food and just managed to snag one of the two carts at Bull’s—much to the chagrin of one of the locals.
- You’re piled in your vehicle, stopped at a red light, when you can hear the whine of two-stroke engines. The Midnighters ride up all around you, hooting and hollering.
- You’ve just sat down to order breakfast at Duke’s Diner when the Ivory Owl Radicals pile in, raucous and demanding enough tables to seat them all. Kerry Duke kicks out visitors before locals.
- You’ve filled up for gas but nobody is at the counter at the Gas-N-Go. (Ethan Bell is outside and around the back awkwardly flirting with an almost-receptive Mikaela Bullock.)
- Sirens flashing, Sheriff Simmons pulls over the group. Session begins as he’s asking for the driver’s license and registration. He’s going to want everyone to sign up for at least one of his apps.
- It’s pouring rain today and everyone is staying inside. Session begins as you’re driving by the Old Water Tower and see Terry Hoyer, in the middle of the street, dancing in the downpour.
The Surrounding Area
The area around Gulch is scrubby badlands with rolling hills and not much in the way of shade. It’s easy to get lost out here. Only the roads directly connecting the highway are paved—everything else is dirt and mud.
A maze of singing slot machines and card tables. Twisting lanes that draw visitors closer and closer to the center of the casino’s web. A pleasant rosy smell that eases the worries of a troubled mind.
Hair, as black as the moonless night sky, running just past her shoulders. A cherry-red power suit, cut in a deep V, with the stilettos to match. Perfectly applied lipstick on plump lips.
Tarot Card: The Hanged Man (contemplation, sacrifice, patience)
Resources: casino funds, loyal employees, a fierce unstoppable drive.
- Geri’s concerned that Locke doesn’t have a life outside of work and wants to find him a counterpart to ease the burden. She won’t take an out-of-towner, but if someone could headhunt the right candidate within Gulch she’d pay a handsome finder’s fee. (Finding someone who doesn’t have a deathly fear of Locke is nearly impossible.)
- A local poker star legend, Samara Stone, frequents the casino but is finding less opponents to face as of late. She tips the house well and Geri wants to drum up some suckers for her to play against. (If Samara loses she will hold a violent grudge and is good friends with gun-toting Rod at Blackwolf.)
- The casino was built on an abandoned military base, and while Geri has removed any sign of it on the surface, the bunkers and connecting tunnels underground remain. If someone tries stealing from Geri she has Locke throw them through the heavy iron door in the basement of the casino. The only way back out again is finding another exit—avoiding the rabid animals, traps, and former employees previously banished.
Geri runs her casino from her elevated office at its center, watching over her domain and lounging in a wraparound crescent shaped sectional couch. Below, slot machines spread outwards from the center like a web, littered with poker tables, roulette wheels, and craps. Gamblers and card sharks wander the casino, never quite able to escape, unaware of the deliberate trap they’ve stepped inside.
Locke (brooding, gruff), a former bounty hunter, is head of security and Geri’s lover. He’s got no problem roughing up the troublemakers before tossing them out.
- Locke has, on three separate occasions, paid Magpie at Bull’s Market to import a bag of expensive artisanal coffee beans for Geri. She has, unfortunately, forgotten about him each time and sold it off the shelf. Locke needs those beans, either from the residents Magpie sold them to or the next order that should be in today or tomorrow.
- An overbearing pang of jealousy has struck Locke as Geri has been leaving the casino at night and he doesn’t know who she’s out meeting. Geri knows his tricks too well to be able to stalk her, but perhaps some unpredictable out-of-towners could do the job. (It’s a 50/50 chance that it’s either Mansfield Kensington to run a money laundering scheme or to the Riverside Motel to help out the abused women staying there.)
- Locke’s old bounty handler, Mister Utopia, has a new big job but Locke’s out of the game. The bounty, Reggie Wells, was spotted heading towards Gulch. Locke’s willing to pass the job on to anyone competent enough to handle it. Wells shouldn’t be dangerous (he is actually quite dangerous).
Matching deep, still water pools surrounded by an oasis of vegetation. Oppressive canyon walls encircling the pools. A seemingly endless depth.
Tarot Card: The Moon (secrets, uncertainty, illusion)
These two pools, called “The Twins” by locals, are about a half hour hike straight out of Gulch. The hike, made of tight turns and narrow canyons, is impossible by car or truck, though horses and dirt bikes can ride the trail. The pools are both unfathomably deep, separated by a shelf of flat rock that’s perfect for sun tanning.
When the characters arrive at The Twins, roll 2d6 on the table below to see which two groups are occupying it.
|Members of the Ivory Owl Radicals are trying to kick out the other group for “harshing their vibe.”
|The Ivory Owls are holding an impromptu club meeting here with Percy Fitzcharles going up against Mansfield Kensington for control of the club. Interlopers will be rudely turned away or roped into the conflict.
|Locals from Gulch haul up boomboxes, beer, and grills to celebrate a big event.
|A mass of locals have crowded both pools. Sheriff Simmons and his deputies have come to break things up, but he’s really trying to sell app subscriptions.
|Camilla Lanzo and her hangers-on show up to lounge. Camilla works her way into the good graces of the other group.
|Camilla Lanzo is here, sans all of her followers, with either Mansfield Kensington, Blaze, or Magpie.
|The Gulch Hiking Association, led by Drew Cook, has arrived, angry at the other group here for despoiling nature.
|The GHA is here in full force cleaning up after another party and trying to install signs to prevent people from coming here. Drew Cook blames the group that just arrived for last night’s mess.
|Out-of-towners, having heard about the spot, invade the area and act belligerently.
|Three party buses worth of college students have trekked up to the pools and are throwing a rager. The Tattered Romeos are performing wonderfully and their music is riling up the out-of-towners beyond reason.
|Members of the Midnighters gang are cracking beers and teasing the other group relentlessly.
|The Ragman holds court like some fey-king of old, seated on his dirtbike while all of the Midnighters sit cross-legged around him. He revs the engine to punctuate his words.
A single door in the scrublands leading down into the bunker. Old rusted pipes and squeaky steel hinges. A drop into darkness where a missile once was.
Tarot Card: The Lovers (unions, balance, bad choices)
The entrance to the missile silo is a single door that leads down a staircase. Rusted hinges prevent the door from fully closing. The stairs lead to a fallout bunker, and from there, to the silo itself—the missile removed. The drop in the silo is long and deadly with steel walkways falling apart and threatening to plunge into the depths.
The bunker has been renovated into a ramshackle living space, complete with too many sofas, an icebox filled with rotten food, and a lane of old arcade machines. All around the bunker are dozens of mannequins each dressed neatly in various outfits and posed as if living in the space. In the main part of the bunker there is a wedding ceremony set up, complete with audience, chaplain, and bridal party. The two places where the couple would stand are empty.
There is a storage locker in the bunker that was filled with cold-war era weaponry, but all that remains are the dust marks of the missing M16s and MREs.
Cornelius (meticulous, resourceful) is the owner of the bunker and has placed (and dressed with stolen laundry) the mannequins. He had chosen one to finally “settle down” with and was in the middle of the wedding when the Midnighters broke in, left him for dead, and stole his spouse-to-be along with the military gear. He is now camped in secret outside of their gang house waiting for the right opportunity to strike and recover his blushing bride.
A junkyard of dead cars and trucks out amongst the scrublands. Torn apart engines and parts taking up every inch of space. A half-hearted ceiling fan in a ramshackle shop failing to keep the heat down.
Derek Foster (he/him)
Scrawny, grease-stained, old glasses held together with masking tape. Leaning back on an old lazy boy, watching with sharp eyes. Smelling of engine oil and expensive cologne.
Tarot Card: The Devil (excess, materialism, playfulness)
Resources: tools & parts, mechanical knowledge, loyal children, shrewd deal-maker.
- Derek has become obsessed with capturing the creature that lives in his junkyard, tormenting him. His two children are too damned lazy to help but he’s got an extra rifle for anyone willing to stake out the yard overnight. (The “creature” is Lottie Meyer, the lead guitarist for the Tattered Romeos, visiting Sammy on business.)
- Every few days, the Midnighters ride through the junkyard, smashing windows, throwing firebombs, and doing sick jumps on their dirt bikes. Outnumbered, the Fosters have no choice but to cower and hide. (The Midnighters feel justified—the Fosters beat up and robbed one of the gang a few weeks ago, kicking this feud off.)
- Erin has taken a liking to Mansfield Kensington and his good looks and perceived riches. Derek approves (mostly of the riches) but knows that Erin isn’t up to his standards. He wants her to head into town and get a makeover. (Erin is incredibly high maintenance and almost impossible to chaperone.)
Derek runs Foster’s Autobody like a lazy cat, lounging about in an old red lazy-boy in the shop while his children, Erin and Sammy, scuttle about. Erin (materialistic, petty) is obsessed with fancy and flashy objects, especially the newest cell phone and American firearms. Sammy (hedonistic, petty) can’t get enough of his vices: drugs, food, alcohol, and flesh.
Three old drill sites, but only one still pumping. Chain-link fence surrounding the compound, hastily repaired in patches. Old trucks, rusted and refusing to start, lie in disrepair.
Leelah Trevino (she/her)
Oil-stained coveralls, tied off at the waste. Stress wrinkles winning the war across her face. Broad shoulders and a matching attitude.
Tarot Card: The Magician (willpower, resourcefulness, cunning)
Resources: a crew of loyal roughnecks, relatively well-functioning heavy equipment, hunting rifles, corporate backing (for now)
- Leelah is desperate for more roughneck hands on deck. She’ll hire anyone that comes around, regardless of their skill, to help work a shift on the rig. It’s grueling work but the pay (in cash, since Leelah is keeping this off the books) is exceptional. (The Midnighters and Cade Barlow will attack the site, trying to burn down Leelah’s trailer.)
- A Gilmartin bean-counter, Nash Hawkins, is flying in (by helicopter) in a few days. Leelah knows him—he’s a hedonist who loves booze, drugs, and gambling. Leelah knows that if she or her crew try to sweeten him up he’ll see through the ruse, but if another group were to show him a great time around Gulch he’d report back favorably to head office. (Nash has incredibly dark and twisted appetites and once he gets going he can’t be stopped.)
- Leelah is ready to try and find a solution for this once and all. If trackers can search the badlands and find Cade Barlow, she wants to offer him a truce and open negotiations to find a way to finish things. (Max Bell and his loyalists will follow anyone heading out to search and attempt to kill Cade Barlow if found.)
Leelah, the foreman of the site, is at war. Cade Barlow (equally resourceful) is an environmentalist dead set on shutting down the Gilmartin site. He is using every technique and trick he has at his disposal and Leelah has been charged by the company to take care of it.
Barlow has a small number of fellow activists with him, camped out in the badlands, but they aren’t his most precious asset. He has made a deal with Louie Dixon, the Ragman, and the Midnighters are lending their chaos to the cause. This has resulted in ride by fire-bombings, equipment theft, and countless property destruction.
Max Bell (rough and mean), Leelah’s right hand man, wants to take the fight to the Midnighters but Leelah knows they’re outnumbered and if they break from work they won’t meet daily quotas. If that happens the Gilmartin company will terminate all of their contracts.
Steel shacks barely propped up. The smell of diesel, gasoline, and grease. Charred meat forgotten on a grill.
The Midnighter Gang hangs out here, parking their dirt bikes and ATVs haphazardly wherever they manage to stop. No matter the time of day, there’s a party happening, with alcohol and cocaine in abundant supply. The lack of tight security is made up by the immediate and ruthless violence the Midnighters enact on trespassers.
The camp is made of a maze of tents and tin shacks, with the Midnighters’ dirt bikes haphazardly dropped anywhere. The Ragman’s shack isn’t any more special than the rest, but there’s a tense feeling in the air around it.
Louie “The Ragman” Dixon (they/them)
A dirty rag, caked with rusty old blood tucked into their belt. Perfectly curled hair. Slow to move, quick to strike.
Tarot Card: The Chariot (harness chaos, willpower, control)
Resources: a ruthless gang at their back, dirt bikes and ATVs, a sly cleverness, a playful and almost fey-like side to their personality.
- The Ragman will invite any interlopers who make it to the camp to stay the night and party with the crew. The nightly debauchery quickly escalates into a series of contests: knife throwing, log tossing, and a dance off. Time seems to slip for participants, as what feels like one night of events can end up being a full week away from Gulch. (Cornelius from the Missile Silo will take any opportunity he can to steal back his mannikin bride from Louie’s shack.)
- Steal Mansfield Kensington’s prized horse and Louie will offer their own mount as a gift—a bright green Kawasaki that seems almost alive, anticipating the rider’s movements and needs and moving with them. (The dirtbike, originally in amazing condition, will begin to break down quickly when not under Louie’s skilled hands.)
- Louie will approach the person in the group they find most attractive and, by chance, either have or know how to get the thing they desire most. Louie’s only request for the item or information is a single innocent kiss at midnight under the light of the next full moon.
The Midnighters weren’t much of a gang before Louie took over. The crew liked to party but mostly kept in their lanes. The Ragman was just someone’s shitty kid, tasked with maintenance on the machines they rode. One night at midnight they strangled the top dogs of the Midnighters with their rag, staining it red with blood, and by morning they were crowned proverbial king. That’s when things started getting dangerous.
An old fenced-in luxury estate with its own water and power supply. Stables for the horses and a mansion fit for a millionaire. Signs of disrepair and negligence are beginning to seep in.
Mansfield Kensington (he/him)
A round riding helm held in hand, douchebag white sunglasses, a polo shirt with the collar popped. Smiling with ten-thousand dollar teeth, not a strand of hair out of place. The voice of a lifelong debater.
Tarot Card: The Tower (disaster, sudden change, revelation)
Resources: horses, the best equipment money can buy, a gaggle of followers obsessed with martial arts, an impenetrable fortress.
- The Radicals are bleeding money but Kensington can’t let anyone know. He’s got a bead on a lot of cold hard cash — in the basement of Sudsy’s. He’ll split a cut with anyone who can get it. (Problem: Winter Harvey at Sudsy’s has been transferring the cash into a bank account slowly—there’s a lot less than there once was.)
- Percy Fitzcharles keeps causing problems for Kensington. He needs someone to follow his rival around and get dirt on him to turn the Radicals to Kensington’s side fully. (Percy has made a deal with Louie Dixon, leader of the Midnighters.)
- There’s a ton of work around the ranch that needs doing and Kensington will try and hire anyone that comes around to do it. The stables need cleaning, fences need repairing, dishes need soaping, laundry needs washing, and bathrooms need scrubbing. (Kensington will casually offer an exorbitant amount and then refuse to pay once the work is done.)
Mansfield Kensington is an ivy league drop out that came to Gulch to take over. Back in school, he was head of URLA, the Unorthodox Radical Leaders Association, where they would endlessly theory-craft the perfect utopian way to run a community, town, city, and country. After dropping out Mansfield declared it was time to put “action to words” and gathered up all the firebrands of URLA, purchased the old estate outside of Gulch using family money, and set off to prove their theories.
Unfortunately for him, Kensington has been fully cut off from his family fortune. He keeps this secret from the Radicals, but the money is drying up and the utopian lifestyle mainly consists of impromptu beer pong, polo tournaments, shooting contests, and endless martial arts demonstrations. When they want to put their radical ideas into motion, the club rides into Gulch and bullies the residents.
Sidney Sharp (addictive personality) serves as Mansfield’s number one lieutenant and puts anyone in place with her aptitude for karate, kung fu, and boxing.
Percy Fitzcharles (disloyal, cruel) is Mansfield’s rival, always pushing back on his plans and ideas. The Radicals are split almost evenly between the two, with the majority siding with Mansfield. If the balance shifted Percy would push the Radicals towards more violence and theft.
Gulch is a (mostly) quiet town that had its heyday fifteen years ago but has been in decline since then. A few derelict houses and abandoned lots become the hangout spots for teenagers looking to rebel, the only grocery store is run by an eccentric woman and her cat, and the main draw and money-maker is hiking tourism (and the annoying subjects that hobby attracts).
Ancient pumps and a cracked sign. Outrageous prices for food and candy five years old. Not enough cash in the register to break a twenty.
Ethan Bell (he/him)
Pimple-faced, perfect posture, reading an adventure novel.
Tarot Card: The Fool (innocence, free spirit, new beginnings)
Resources: innocence, go-getter attitude, the vigor of youth.
- Ethan wants to learn how to drive, desperately, and will petition anyone that seems receptive, telling them that nobody in town is willing to help him. (He is a terrible driver and will almost immediately crash.)
- Ethan keeps an old dirt bike around the back of the gas station: he wants to get it fixed up and then ride out and join the Midnighters, who come by the Gas-N-Go to fill up their jerry cans. (The dirt bike needs a new carburetor but Ethan is scared of the Fosters.)
- Drew Cook, the organizer of the Gulch Hiking Association, won’t let Ethan join, citing a number of ridiculous reasons. Ethan insists it’s because Drew and Ethan’s father (Max Bell, oil rigger at the Gilmartin Drilling Site) had a falling out. Ethan’s crush (Mikaela Bullock) is an avid hiker and Ethan wants to impress her.
Ethan can’t wait to get out of this town. He’s going to become a limo driver for big shot celebrities (he doesn’t have his license yet). When serving customers at the Gas-N-Go his mind immediately wanders and it always takes him at least a minute to count out someone’s change.
Aisles of steel shelving, bare in one section and overflowing in the next. Quaint homemade decoration contrasted with corporate big-brands. Only two shopping carts: one with a squeaky wheel, the other a tendency to veer. A friendly black cat, Starlight, perched on an old wooden barrel.
Margret “Magpie” Merriweather (she/her)
Ageless. Silver (possibly dyed) hair. Patterned clothing filled with designs of starry skies, cats, and stylized eyes.
Tarot Card: Wheel of Fortune (greater forces, cycles, inevitability).
Resources: rarely-wrong intuition, a basement full of strange mystical relics, a keen ear for gossip.
- Magpie’s cat, Starlight, keeps sneaking out at night and not coming home until the early morning. She wants someone to follow her and see what mischief she gets up to. (Starlight treks across town to the Blue House and sits near Camila.)
- Gurvinder Virk grows the best weed in Gulch and refuses to give Magpie a clipping so she can grow her own plant (the bad blood between them is from a bad breakup). He won’t sell his secrets to anyone, but surely he wouldn’t miss one plant among his many?
- A government auditor is coming tomorrow to look over the business for tax purposes. Unfortunately, Magpie doesn’t technically own Bull’s—that honor goes to a made up man named Barry Durstein. Magpie needs someone to be Barry for the agent and help them go through the tax documents. (The documents are in a terrible disarray and will not pass inspection in their current state.)
Magpie, a hippie that smells like tea leaves and cinnamon, runs the grocery store. Every Tuesday night she runs the coupon lottery—an event that brings the rich (looking to stay rich) and the poor (trying to save money and survive) together. She draws coupons of varying degrees (50–90% off!) for the attendees, though the event quickly devolves into a ruthless black market auction in the parking lot behind the store.
Looking for something at Bull’s is always a toss up—Magpie doesn’t care about supply and demand and orders “based on the stars” that week. Either there is an abundance or famine, typically of opposing goods. If there’s lots of fresh meat, there’s nearly no vegetables.
Mitsuhiro Takahashi (love-struck) helps out and runs the cash register when Magpie isn’t around. Nina Baker (struggling writer) stocks the shelves and does inventory overnight.
A black cat, dotted with spots of white fur like the night sky. Vibrant yellow eyes and a judging tilt of the head. A meow as soft as silk.
Tarot Card: The Hermit (guide, solitude, contemplation)
Resources: cat senses, uncanny cunning, an instinctual reading of people
- There’s a small butcher shop a block away from Bull’s Market. Starlight will follow anyone leaving the store and try to guide them to the butcher shop, pawing at the window. (The butcher hates Starlight and will try to chase her away if spotted and refuse to sell anything to her compatriots). If delivered fresh meat, Starlight will love you forever. She’ll return later from the shadows if that person is searching for something specific in town and guide them straight to it.
- Starlight is obsessed with the Old Water Tower and wants to climb to the top of it. Terry Hoyer thinks that she is a harbinger of evil and scares her away when she comes around. If someone distracts Terry enough that she can ascend the tower she’ll look out over town from her new favorite perch. Later on, she’ll bring that person something valuable.
- A trio of stray dogs in Gulch has taken to hunting Starlight whenever she’s away from Bull’s Market. They are worthy adversaries and Starlight will need to call upon her friends and allies to defeat them.
Asphalt and faded paint lines. The skeletal remains of a big box store, abandoned and locked up. A mound of shopping carts pushed into the ditch.
A few years ago the Shop-Smart corporation opened up one of its big box stores in Gulch, and less than a year after opening, it shut down and moved out of the town. What remains behind is the dilapidated building and the three-times-too-big parking lot for it.
Most of the time the parking lot is abandoned apart from the occasional car with sleeping traveler or drug deal. However, on Sundays, the lot fills up with classic cars as the Smokin’ Axles Vintage Club meets up, drawing in collectors from Gulch and beyond.
Harvey Steele (covetous) runs the Smokin’ Axles and has a collection of twelve cars kept in storage somewhere outside of Gulch. He is a retiree living out his days in Gulch but the topic of his past life and career is a highly gossiped-about mystery. Harvey’s collection, contacts, and leadership have grown the club to a decent size, and on the major Sundays (once a month) the lot is almost completely full and becomes a roaring tailgate festival.
A long bar stretching the entire room. Cigar smoke and spilled liquor. Sticky floors and bowls of old peanuts.
Doyle Davis (he/him)
Trucker cap, big mustache, and a mullet. Thoughtful and slow to respond. Skeleton tattoos.
Tarot Card: Death (change, endings, decay)
Resources: abundant supply of liquor, loyal locals that he’s helped in the past, insights at the bottom of a whiskey glass.
- Doyle has had bad feelings about Duke’s diner ever since Kerry took over from her father, Kurt, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. There’s something unfinished about the whole thing. (Kerry killed her father and his body is wrapped up in the diner’s deep freeze.)
- Doyle, famous for his cocktails, has been offered an exorbitant sum of money from Mansfield Kensington to come out to the Radicals’ Ranch and tend bar during an upcoming party. Toby has refused the job so Doyle needs a barback or two to help him out. (Kensington will try to weasel out of paying after the event.)
- Doyle keeps trying to go see his friend Frank Harvey at Sudsy’s but the old man keeps avoiding him! Doyle just wants to give him one good handshake and thank him for all the service he’s done over the years for Gulch.
Doyle runs the Roadhouse with his husband Toby (jealous). While the bar isn’t large, it is the most popular place in Gulch to grab a quick drink. The lack of space means that not everyone can find a seat, and over the years an unspoken agreement has settled like silt at the bottom of the river. Who’s at the bar at any given time depends on the day of the week.
|After their classic car meet up the Smokin’ Axles Club spends their evening here.
|Punks from the Blood Smear stumble their way over for the Monday night special: cheap PBR.
|The roughnecks from the Gilmartin oil site pop in after shift change and start their weekend.
|A hodgepodge of residents from Gulch show up for Wing Night (Kerry Duke brings the wings).
|The Gulch Hiking Association, after their weekly meeting, meet up to try new cocktails.
|Locals avoid the place as out-of-towners take over the bar. Toby is in a terrible mood.
|The Midnighters ride into town. Louie always makes sure that the bar is treated with utmost respect.
Getting a drink made from Doyle always has him lending an ear to your problems. He has an uncanny ability to offer advice that changes your life, though sometimes that isn’t always for the best. The locals only start asking for help when they’re at the end of their rope.
An old two-story motel with eight rooms. Buzzing neon, cigarette burns, and stained curtains. Hikers and tourists coming and going at all hours.
Wanda Mintz (she/her)
Thick glasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a deep stillness. Intense eye contact that draws in even the strongest personalities.
Tarot Card: The Star (inner calm, faith, rejuvenation)
Resources: innocence, the town’s goodwill, esoteric knowledge, willingness to help anyone in need
- Wanda offered Terry at the Old Water Tower a free room and a meal but he turned her down—violently. She’s still worried about him but is too scared to check up on him. She’s got a care package ready for someone brave enough to take to him.
- Nicole Meyer and her son periodically stay at the motel when her husband Clyde gets out of control. Wanda wishes she would seek help but she always goes back instead. The sheriff won’t help, but maybe there’s someone who can stand up to him.
- Wanda wants to continue running her Rejuvenation & Reconciliation clinic, but Sheriff Simmons has confiscated her permit until she caves to his demands and buys her first cell phone and installs his apps. If anyone could get him to return the permit she would offer them a free first class. (The class is a mix between yoga, counseling, deep tissue massage, reiki, chakra alignment, acupuncture, crystal work, and tasseomancy.)
The Riverside Motel is a hotspot for tourists and hikers coming to Gulch. There are eight rooms available in the two-story building, but only 1d6 available at any given time. Each room is practically the same with two beds, a minimal bathroom, cheap wall art, and a barely functioning TV.
- Room 1: There is a constant dripping sound, as if water was being dribbled out of a pitcher. Surprisingly, this melodic remedy works to give the residents of this room the best sleep of their lives.
- Room 2: On the wall is a giant painting of ibis standing in a side profile. The main draw its the eye of the bird, which is filled with life and light. Meditating on the painting reveals a path to the thing you want.
- Room 3: Someone has scratched seven and a half eight-pointed stars into the drawer of the night table. Finishing the last star brings the carver an undeniable bout of good luck.
- Room 4: Someone has left a clay pitcher of water in the bathroom. Drinking from it unlocks an artistic muse and the drinker feels moved to create art.
- Room 5: The mirror in the bathroom is cracked. Looking deeply at your own reflection through the crack brings you a renewed energy, reminding you that you are not your past.
- Room 6: A small potted fern on the nightstand catches your attention. Watering it before bed brings about a restorative rest that heals wounds.
- Room 7: The water doesn’t drain fully from the shower, leaving behind a small pool in the bottom of the tub. The deluge from the shower smells of fresh mint and energizes the body to the point that you don’t even feel like you need sleep.
- Room 8: In the bathroom is a piece of art—an abstract painting that, when stared at for long enough, coalesces into the image of a naked woman. Looking at it for long enough reveals two things: that the woman has strikingly similar features to someone you know and a hint revealing one of her most vulnerable secrets.
Locked cabinets of hunting rifles, shotguns, bows, and pistols. Camo-centric clothing strewn about on the racks. The smell of boot leather and tobacco.
Roderick Deakins (he/him)
A buzzcut and a bad attitude. Muscles bulging with fresh injections of testosterone. A tender side reserved for the classics (movies, music, and cars).
Tarot Card: Justice (cause & effect, consequences, integrity)
Resources: guns, hunting gear, a group of guys who will do anything for a sixer of beer.
- Rod has finally found a hookup to buy a genuine World War 2 Sherman tank. He’s arranged to meet with the sellers at the old missile silo outside of Gulch. Unfortunately he can’t meet them directly to pick up the tank, but he’d pay handsomely for someone to do that for him and drive the tank back to Blackwolf.
- Rod is gearing up to hunt Sheila, a local mountain lion that has been terrorizing him. His boys backed out of the expedition and he needs a few good replacements. (There are two mountain lions. They hunt together and are smart enough to set traps.)
- One of Rod’s newest purchases is a souped-up dune buggy. There’s an upcoming rally race with a big pot and he wants to win, but needs someone to drive the thing. The only real competition is Louie Dixon. (The buggy seems almost like a thing possessed, and only the strongest will be able to handle it.)
Blackwolf has a bit of a notorious reputation around Gulch. Roderick is a famous troublemaker but business is good, only second in tourist money to the Gulch Hiking Association. The hunting around Gulch in all seasons is vibrant and plentiful and Roderick has an unexpected and uncanny ability to drum up business through social media.
The problem, from longtime Gulch residents, is that Blackwolf tends to draw in rough and tumble former-military types that overstay their welcome (usually at Roderick’s house, nicknamed the “den of thieves” by himself).
An old Ford Explorer police SUV out front. The building in disrepair, with the siding beginning to collapse. A fuel tank around back for the generator.
Garrett Simmons (he/him)
Shaved head and fashionable rimless glasses. A tailored-to-fit sheriff’s uniform. Smartphone always in his hand.
Tarot Card: Temperance (adaption, action and reaction, lead to gold)
Resources: military tactical gear, state backing, deputies, technologically minded hackerman, spyware on residents phones.
- Garrett’s apps are usually non-functional due to persistent DDOS attacks. He’s traced the attacker to somewhere in town but can never seem to zero in. (The hacker is Deputy Maria Lee’s partner, Leon Lee—he thinks the apps will cause her to lose her job.)
- Funds are drying up, as usual. Garrett wants the local businesses to invest but doesn’t have the time to visit them between development and less important work (sheriffing). He’s got a manilla folder with a presentation ready to go if someone were willing to advocate for the app. (The businesses in Gulch find the app distasteful at best.)
- Garret has a video call with silicon valley angel investors but internet around town is terrible. The Ivory Owl Radicals have the fastest connection, but there’s bad news: Garrett is banned from the grounds (he kept trying to solicit Mansfield Kensington for app development money).
Sheriff Simmons is more interested in selling subscriptions to his poorly coded (by him) phone apps than any sort of public service. He’ll take any opportunity he can to get others to install the apps. He has SHRFF (uber, but for police work), BRBE (venmo, but for bribes), and LOCKR (for bidding on things in the evidence locker).
Alvarez Martínez (competent but overlooked) is in charge of the phones and the office. The deputies are Troy Weathersby (gambler) and Maria Lee (stuck at the bottom rung of an MLM for “spirit-aligning mystical materials”).
The endless spinning of washing machines and dryers lulls the place to sleep. Two TVs hanging from the ceiling broadcast competing news networks. Gulch residents make small talk amongst themselves and pointedly ignore outsiders.
Frank Harvey (he/they)
Old and shriveled like a plant left in the sun. Tapping his cane on the linoleum floor. A courteous and kind demeanor and a squeeze on the shoulder.
Tarot Card: Judgment (awakening, purpose, reflection & reckoning)
Resources: a wealth of knowledge on every resident of Gulch, a considerable amount of cash saved up.
- Frank knows that Cornelius, who lives in the old missile bunker, steals clothes from the laundromat all the time. However, he hasn’t been around for a couple weeks. Frank is worried something happened to him. (Cornelius is camped out near the Midnighters waiting to take revenge.)
- Frank can’t remember the last time he had some fun and wants someone to drive him out to Geri’s Place and help him hit the tables. (Frank is incredibly lucky and can’t stop winning—Geri will hold a grudge against the people that brought him and try to make back the losses.)
- Frank has a vintage navy suit dry-cleaned and ready but the owner never picked it up. He gives it to one of the characters, asking them if they can find the rightful owner. The suit is incredibly flattering and a great fit with a small “MK” embroidered inside the coat. (The suit belongs to Mansfield Kensington and he will become immediately hostile to anyone wearing it.)
Frank Harvey has been involved in Gulch for as long as anyone can remember, running multiple successful businesses over the years (a car wash, a pawn shop, and a mattress store to name a few) but has settled into their “retirement” by operating Gulch’s only laundromat. He’s getting up there in age and completely blind, but still works as if he was in his early twenties.
Frank has an uncanny ability to read people with surprising accuracy and reveal their inner truths to them.
Winter Harvey (short-tempered, worrisome), Frank’s granddaughter, helps manage and operate the laundromat.
Big windows, bad coffee, busy as a bee. A long bar that the regulars sit at and chat with the cook. Old booths that could use a cleaning but won’t get one.
Kerry Duke (she/her)
Short, even in her combat boots. Piercing glare, disarming smile.
Tarot Card: The High Priestess (intuition, unconscious, inner voice)
Resources: Haunting dreams, the ear of the people, good food, good reputation, crack shot with a rifle.
- If Kerry could just get one damn good night of sleep she could rule the world. She’s heard that Gurvinder’s weed at the Lost Garden Greenhouse could do the trick but that bastard won’t sell to her. Something about her “aura” being off or some bullshit. Pick up some of the Cherry Dream for her and she’ll pay in favors and cash. (Gurvinder doesn’t trust Kerry and knows she wants the Cherry Dream. He’ll ban anyone he catches buying for her.)
- The weed is working but now it’s the damn stress keeping her up. She’s worried sick about Iris Cooper, one of her servers. The girl is hanging out at the Blue House too damn much and that place is no good for anyone. End that permanently so Kerry can finally rest easy. (Iris has been selling drugs to the punks at the Blood Smear for Camilla and doesn’t plan on stopping.)
- The real problem with Kerry’s sleep isn’t stress or substances, it’s that there’s been someone hanging out in the shadows around her place watching her. She needs someone to stay in her place tonight while she sleeps to keep watch. (Kerry’s dark intuitions get the better of her and she’ll try to kill her protectors. First on the list is anyone who dipped fries in their milkshake.)
Kerry’s dad (Kurt Duke) used to run the diner and she’s taken over. She killed him two years back (no-one knows) and keeps the body wrapped up in brown paper in the diner’s deep freeze. She hears things in the deepest, darkest parts of night and sleeps terribly as a result.
The best thing on the menu is the Ham-burger (pork) with the spicy fries. Pair it with a vanilla milkshake and you’ll get Kerry’s nod of approval. Just don’t dip those fries. Or else.
The two servers that help Kerry out are Patricia Ross (bubbly) and Iris Cooper (catty). The cook is Annie Ross (diligent). Kerry operates the diner like a circus ringmaster: half of her bossy bravado is really a show for the patrons.
Bright blue paint peeling off the siding. Sofas and armchairs everywhere, inside and out. Liquor and drugs flowing like water. Transient, ever-changing, unknowable denizens.
Camilla Lanzo (she/her)
Long, flowing hair that seems alive. Wearing an old trusty jean jacket and a tank top with a bemused, pleased look on her face.
Tarot Card: The Emperor (stability, authority, focus)
Resources: Sheriff Simmons under her thumb, eyes and ears everywhere, access to narcotics and the drug runners.
- The Ivory Owls robbed Camilla’s last shipment of uppers before it could arrive in town. She wants it back and is willing to manipulate anyone she thinks can retrieve the drugs. (Kensington is willing to give most of the drugs back amicably if Camilla gives them a discount and regular supply.)
- Two of Camilla’s neighbors are feuding and she’s brought them to the Blue House to adjudicate. If any out-of-towners are around she’ll bemusedly make them give a verdict. (One straight-laced neighbor insists that his cash lockbox was robbed, the other ex-con neighbor just bought a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle.)
- Camilla’s pissed after Kerry Duke banned her and any of the Blue House regulars from Duke’s. Camilla has a hunch that Kerry is hiding something and wants leverage against her. (Kerry is one of the few folks with enough influence to turn Gulch against Camilla.)
Camila is the town’s hookup for any and all illegal substances. She lives in what the town calls “the blue house,” named after its obnoxious paint job. It’s a known hot spot for parties and rowdiness, and the neighbors know better than to bother calling local law—Camila is funding his various app developments and he makes sure to look the other way.
Rusted metal chipping away. The derelict of a forgotten past, guarded by poorly maintained chain-link fencing. Colorful graffiti across every inch.
Terry Hoyer (he/him)
Beat up button-up shirt. Squinting eyes and a trembling mouth. A history of pain draped over him like a cloak.
Tarot Card: The Hierophant
- It hasn’t rained in two weeks and Terry is desperate for new visions. He believes that God is angry with him. He must make a pilgrimage up Elk’s Blood Mountain, but Drew Cook of the hiking club refuses to help him take the trail. (Drew fears Terry but doesn’t want to show it.)
- Terry woke up one morning, underneath the water tower, and his RV was gone! He’s been living in a makeshift tent and the sheriff isn’t doing anything to help. He remembers sharing a few drinks with an upstanding young man. (The Ivory Owls stole the vehicle to joy ride and left it out in the bush.)
- Terry has little memory of his past life but he knows he used to preach to crowds of hundreds of people. He is obsessed with the town of Gulch and believes that someone here is responsible for his memory loss and fall from grace. His only lead is a memory of a black gold locket. (He is easily persuaded with even a shred of evidence and will react violently.)
Terry was once an evangelist, working a circuit of revivalist meetings throughout the rural countryside. His own downfall remains unknown to him, along with most of his memories, but he knows that the key figure of his destruction is somewhere in the town. He wants to find them, and demand the answers he deserves.
One gift that he hasn’t lost is the gift of the future (or so he says). Terry lives in a makeshift tarp tent next to the town’s old water tower. Unused for some time, holes have rotted through it to the core. When it rains, the tower fills up, and then over the course of a few days it eventually drains out of the bottom. Terry watches the patterns on the payment from the draining water and from there he can divine the future. If treated well Terry is willing to give answers to all questions asked—but only after a great rainfall.
A tiny, former community-center recently restored. Hiking trail maps pinned up on every wall. One of the two bathrooms always out of service.
Drew Cook (he/him)
Grizzled face with leathery, sun-baked skin. Takes up space no matter how big the room. Always-right attitude.
Tarot Card: The Sun (optimism, energy, wonder)
Resources: Deep knowledge of the terrain, loyal members of the hiking association, tourist funding.
- A year ago Drew got stoned off of a cocktail of substances he procured (stole) from both the Blue House and the Lost Garden Greenhouse. He swears that a raven and a fox came to him, spoke, and put him on his new life course. He doesn’t remember what substances he used or what trail he was on, but if somewhere were willing to do some experimenting, he desperately needs to find the fox and raven again.
- Drew is overworked and overbooked, as two of his guides never showed up. He needs someone to chaperone a group of hiking teens. Mikaela knows the route—the chaperones just need to make sure everyone is safe. (Mikaela will abandon the hike to take a ride with Louie Dixon when he shows up.)
- Drew has a new hiking route that is incredibly scenic, but part of it needs to go through a cave system. He’s found the entrance and exit, but can’t find a way through the caves. (There is something dangerous living underground.)
Drew Cook runs the GHA, Gulch’s biggest “tourist moneymaker” as the hiking trails in the region draw people in from all over the country. He leads guided tours as well as helps more experienced hikers set their own trails and plans. From the club building he sells every piece of equipment a hiker could possibly need, only slightly marked up.
The people of Gulch are a bit wary of Drew, as only a year ago he was a good-for-nothing mooch and thief, but it’s hard to deny the complete turnaround he’s had.
Mikaela Bullock (risk taker) has been hiking since she was a child and is Drew’s go-to gopher at the GHA. She has a crush on Louie “The Ragman” Dixon.
Hayden Russel (jealous, troublemaker) is Drew Cook’s cousin, recently moved to Gulch and given a job. He hates hiking but doesn’t have any other prospects lined up.
Two longhouses of glass and metal framing. One is chaos, overrun with flowers, creepers, ferns, and countless unidentified plants. The other is law, neat rows of seedlings, potted plants, and the best topsoil in Gulch.
Gurvinder Virk (he/him)
A fatherly demeanor and glassy, half-lidded eyes. Hands clasped behind his back. Simple coveralls and a gardener’s tool belt.
Tarot Card: The Empress (sensuality, nurturing, nature)
Resources: The knack to grow anything, the best weed in Gulch, a deep friendship with Blaze (the lead singer of the local punk band Tattered Romeos).
- The last time the Midnighters rode through town Gurvinder noticed an exotic blue flower stuck to one of their machines. It must be growing near their clubhouse. He’d really, really appreciate if someone could head out that way and find him some of those flowers. (The flowers can be brewed into a floral tea that induces vivid, breath-taking visions and insights.)
- Gurvinder wants to repair his relationship with Magpie. He’s willing to grow fresh produce for Bull’s Market but needs a third greenhouse. Someone needs to drive to the nearest city with a truck and trailer and pick up the prefab supplies and haul it back to Gulch without losing or destroying it. (If Magpie’s desire for his weed comes up Gurvinder closes up and becomes upset and angry.)
- Gurvinder is growing more and more concerned about Camilla Lanzo in the Blue House. She’s left him alone but has been importing her own (inferior) weed and Gurvinder has felt the cut of his own profits. He’ll lose his business unless he can rectify this lose of supplemental income.
The dull thumping of bass guitars and boom-boom-boom of a drum set. Beer can ashtrays, bright graffiti, mismatched mildew-crusted furniture. Crusty punk loyalists lounging about, hazy smoke following them around like rain clouds.
A neon mohawk. Too many piercings to count. A jean jacket vest that has seen battle.
Tarot Card: Strength (confidence, compassion, bravery)
Resources: loyal punks, loyal fans, social media presence, a honed skill of musical prowess
- Gulch is hosting a battle of bands in a few days. The Tattered Romeos are the hometown heroes, but their rivals are coming in from all over the country to compete and things are going to get heated. Blaze wants to hire muscle to help out.
- The band’s amp blew out last night and they need a new one as soon as possible. There’s no store that sells what they need in Gulch but Lottie Meyer points out that she saw one at Foster’s Autobody. They would never part with it willingly, though.
- It’s time to stick a needle in big brother’s eye. Sheriff Simmons’ apps all run from a server farm in his basement and Blaze just got a tip that the sheriff doesn’t have any fire protection down there. Blaze is going to rally the troops at the Blood Smear—if anyone present doesn’t fall in line there’s going to be trouble for them.
The Blood Smear is a large townhome turned punk house, home to the punk band Tattered Romeos. Blaze, the lead singer, makes sure things are fair and honest with a zero tolerance for bullshit and cops.
The members of the Tattered Romeos are:
- Blaze, vocals and guitar.
- Lottie Meyer (dreamy), lead guitar.
- Iron Bill (brooding), drummer.
- Snotnose (hyper and aggressive), bass guitar.
Gulch is a living piece of work and this post will receive updates! Regular residents can look forward to:
- Fleshed out mini-adventures for dedicated questing.
- Detailed location one-sheets.
- Random tables to create more Gulch on the fly.
- Encounters and more spawning situations.
- More locations, more NPCs.
- Multi-session charged situations to help progress or put a stop to.
If you enjoyed reading Gulch and want to be kept in the loop about further additions (including the eventual production of a Gulch book), sign up to the mindstorm mailing list today!
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