The family farm is one of the classic American settings in fiction depicted with sentimental aura of naivete, an iconic example of wholesome family values. This upright persona of clean living is precisely the reason the setting of the farm is excellent for twisting into the fabric of a good adventure. Whether it involves a busload of teenagers being stalked by a psychopathic killer or a facade masking the secret base of a super genius bent on world domination, the benign and deceivingly boring country farm can hold many surprises. Even in a more family-oriented adventure, it is a good stalking ground for a talking animal and its crime- fighting buddies.
A key aspect of using the farm to host a scenario is the remoteness of the location. Especially in campaigns set in the early or pre-industrial eras, farms are generally isolated. While a few are a couple of hours’ walking distance from a small town, most farms are generally only close to other farms. Even in a modern setting the phone and power lines in this rural location are rarely underground, making them easy to severe to prevent characters from sending for reinforcements. Roads leading to farms are usually small one-lane dirt tracks during the pre-World War II era, and in modern times they are the very same roads with a (sometimes disintegrating) coat of asphalt. Sabotage of a vehicle or inclement weather can make escape from the area difficult, perhaps impossible, forcing characters to take shelter in the structures available.
Additionally the fields can be vast, almost maze- like obstacles to wander around in. During the day, players wandering fields of taller crops, such as corn or sugarcane, can loose their sense of direction and may require Easy to Moderate search and navigation rolls to get their bearings. At night, not having the sun and view of tall landmarks, these checks become much more challenging, adding +10 to the daytime difficulty If pursuing someone into, or through, a field of tall crops the person being chased gains a +2D bonus to hide and sneak attempts made within the field. Shorter crops, like soybeans or wheat, can provide some cover to those lying down or perhaps crouching, but the bonus is only +1D and is lost when the person moves. Searching for someone moving through a field from an elevated position or while flying may negate all, or part, of these bonuses.
Another phenomenon of fields, good for exploiting in adventures, is the crop-circle. These are clearings, within the field, that form patterns when viewed from the air. These patterns can be intricate, revealing pictures or complex icons. Crop-circles are made by placing a stake in the ground, attaching a rope to the stake, and leveling the crops with the rope by walking around in various patterns. It is a prank played on farmers, locals, and conspiracy theorists to make them believe aliens or other supernatural forces have visited the field and left their mark – perhaps even a message. Obviously, for adventurers, encountering the real thing rather than practical jokers is a distinct possibility.
In the realm of mundane encounters, characters may run afoul of the farmer, his or her family, farmhands, crop pickers, or livestock – including cows, horses, pigs, chickens, as well as dogs and cats commonly kept for security and pest control. If a call for help was made, the response of local law enforcement might be a semi-skilled deputy or fairly competent sheriff. In Wild West campaigns, this might be a problem as practiced gun-fighters often took jobs as law-enforcers.
Most locals will treat outsiders with caution and mistrust, giving a + 5 to + 10 modifier to all interaction attempts made against them. In some cases, when trouble is rumored throughout the area, the barrel of a shotgun might greet those approaching a farm rather than just a deaf ear. However, an injured character would likely be taken in and aided, giving the player a chance to interact and bond with the wary farm family. Of course, with the values of rural areas generally being more conservative, attention paid to a farmer’s daughter might be treated with more scrutiny and maybe even a shotgun wedding!
Generally, a farm consists of one house, a barn, one or two silos (or other storage structure), with a single road running to the house and bracketed by fields. The position of the house, relative to the fields, varies and is often based on geographic boundaries or land ownership. In modern settings, parcels of land are generally bordered by one- and two-lane asphalt roads to allow tractors and trucks easy access to the crops. Drainage ditches almost always separate the road and the crops. A few farms, orchards, or plantations have stables or dairies; however, the barn normally suffices for the basic needs of storing livestock.
Typical farmhouses generally have two to four bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room combined, a pantry, a living room, and porch suitable for seating several people. On a plantation, the main house can be quite ostentatious with four to 12 bedrooms, a study or library, a sitting room, a dining room, a separate kitchen, and perhaps even a ballroom.
Additionally servants (or slaves in some eras) quarters may be nearby; the design and quality generally reflect the owner’s philosophy and means. The area around the main house, barn, and other central structures usually has 10 to 20 meters of clearance from the fields or orchards.
Dairy farms have one or more large, oblong structures that have stalls for milking. The cows generally graze in pastures surrounding the dairy and are brought in twice a day for milking. In more high-production, corporation-owned facilities, the cows remain in the stalls the entire day and are milked automatically up to four times a day. Dairy cows are accustomed to the presence of people and normally ignore most intruders, retreating from anything threatening. Cows do sleep upright and, for reasons only known to the inebriated mind, tipping then over while slumbering is a semi-popular, though sometimes dangerous and difficult, rural activity. Once tipped, a cow can right itself, albeit clumsily, but heavily fattened cows may not be able to do it without intervention.
Barns are tall structures, generally five to eight meters, with a large open area on the first floor and loft above. On the main floor are the livestock, or in more modern settings the tractors and combines. The loft is generally additional storage, specifically for feed, such as seed and hay. In the barn are generally found the most lethal instruments on the farm, aside from a rifle or shotgun the farmer would have in the main house. These objects include pitchforks, scythes, saws, machetes, knives, axes, and most any kind of power or manual tool. Aside from an ornery horse or bull, these instruments generally make the barn the most dangerous building for players to enter on a dark and stormy night.
Vehicles common to modern farmers include a tractor, combine, and a pick-up truck. During harvest, a 10-wheel truck may be rented to haul crops, but trailers for the same purpose can be added to any of the common vehicles. The tractor is used for tilling soil and planting seed, using a variety of attachments that it tows. Combines mow through fields and separate the crop from the stalks. Being run down by a combine or tractor can do severe damage to a character, as the blades and other instruments can rend flesh quite easily. Tractors and combines can range in scale from 6 to 12 with a Toughness of 30 to 50. They rarely can move better than 20 kilometers per hour (28 meters per round), and in a field, they can only do half chat speed.
Silos and ocher storage facilities for grain, corn, soybeans, and ocher crops vary depending on the type of crop. A silo is generally around five to 12 meters tall four to six meters in diameter, and holds about 10,500 to 2,500 liters (300 to 700 bushels) of crop per meter height of the silo depending on diameter. Modern silos have a vent going down one side of the silo from top to bottom, for climate control, and chis might make a convenient escape hatch for characters crapped inside.
Should a character be run down by a farm vehicle with one of the various attachments or harvesters in use, add another 3D to the collision damage. Falling, or being thrown, into a thresher, mower, plow, harrow, cultivator, or similar device operating but stationary does 6D damage, however this damage is only applied to the limb or limbs that get trapped inside.
Being buried inside a silo could easily prove fatal to anyone trapped inside. If buried far down inside the building, the character must make a Very Difficult climbing test to wade through one meter of the crop surrounding him. Critical failure with a failure results in 4D+2 of damage, unless the character has some way to protect himself from the weight of the crops such as an environmental suit, forcefield, or special regenerative ability. Every few climbing tests necessitates a stamina starting at Very Easy, increasing by +5 per check, and counting as an action, unless the character stops moving. A Critical Failure with a failure deals 5D+2 due to suffocation, but general failure prevents the character from continuing for 20 minutes. The character trapped inside automatically take 5D damage for every 15 minutes spent buried.
Things to See
+ Large tubular or small square bales of hay
+ Farming implements (pitch forks, shovels, spades, hoes, wide brooms, water hoses, etc.)
+ Hard, thick disk-like patties of animal manure
+ Large bags or barrels of plane fenilizer
+ Large bags or barrels of animal feed
+ Long wooden, plastic, or metal troughs to hold feed and water
+ Wooden rail fences, some topped with barbed wire, and materials for fixing them
+ Rows of vegetable planes and fruit trees and bushes, some with vegetables or fruits on them, de- pending on the time of year
+ See the “Apartment” and “House” entries far ideas on what appears in the farmhouse
People to Meet
Most farmers have 20 in most attributes (possibly 30 in Coordination and Physique), with lifting at +1D to +2D due to the hard physical labor they go through. The farmer is skilled in scholar: agriculture or a similar skill at +2D to +3D, plus repair and business skills of+ 1D to +2D. Farmers in Wild West and frontiers campaigns, or others with more intensive environments, also have a combat skill such as marksmanship or melee combat at 3D to 5D. Family members generally have 1D to 2D+2 in attributes, depending on age, plus skills similar to the farmer, though generally at lesser values. For a quick encounter, consider horses, cows, bulls, buffalo, llamas, and similar large animals to be scale 2 to 4 with Physique, brawling, and running skills of 4D. Give a +1D damage bonus for hooves and horns and +2D damage bonus for trampling.
Farmer: Reflexes 2D, brawling 2D+1, melee combat 3D+2, Coordination 2D, marksmanship 2D+1, piloting 2D+1, throwing 2D+1, Physique 3D, lifting 3D+1, running 3D+1, Knowledge 2D, business 2D+2, scholar: agriculture 4D, Perception 2D, know-how 2D+1, repair 3D, Presence 2D, intimidation 2D+1, willpower 2D+1. Move: 10. Strength Damage: 2D. Body Points: 10. Wound levels: 2.
Things to Do
+ A group of players’ characters, weary from travel, spy a barn in the distance and approach to find shelter for the night. As they draw closer, a shot rings out, dirt kicking up nearby, and a husky voice shouts, “Get off of my land!” Looking at one another, the characters must decide if they can reason with this man or if the next farmhouse might be a bit more hospitable. Of course the sun is starting to go down …
+ Barreling down a country road, the players’ characters race to elude a ruthless hit-man when they careen off into a ditch. Seeking cover, they run into a field only to find that the hit-man has killed the local farmer and stolen his combine. Turning the machine toward the characters, he drives at them intent on a messy end for the heroes. Should they head for the road or try to elude him in the fields?
+ A close relative of one of the players’ characters has invited the party to stay on her farm in order to “get away from it all.” In the middle of the night, phantom voices can be heard coming from the barn, drawing the characters out of the relative safety of the house into the yard. Perhaps the crop circles, gruesome cattle mutilations, and suspicious deaths of the past few days weren’t so coincidental at all. Meanwhile the “thing” waits with hunger and murderous anticipation for the characters to split up in order to cover more ground …