As a die hard D&D player, one of my favorite things in the world is making characters. Any player worth his salt has a back up character or two in his back pocket. Gall Quicktemper is a Halfling Berserker, and here is his back story. It takes place in a world of my setting on the continent of Velouria.
Gall Quicktemper and the Pipe Weed War.
In the kingdom of Velouria, the burrow of Snapfire Hollow was known for two things, Halflings, and Pipe Tobacco. I know what you’re thinking, neither of those two things sound particularly interesting, and Halflings and Pipe Tobacco have gone together for time before man. What makes the Halflings in Snapifre Hollow different and what’s so special about their pipe tobacco that I’d want to hear about?
Well to start, the Halflings of Snapfire Hollow are not your normal Halflings, and the Snapfire Tobacco is not your normal tobacco! The Burrow itself was named countless generations ago after a bizarre and unheard-of property that all Snapfire Pipe Weed possesses.
I’m sure you’ve seen pipe weed growing before, in the times before it would grow everywhere, now not so much. But in the Hollow, pipe weed is the only crop. The soil has been specially treated so that they can grow it anywhere, and do it year-round! As a matter of fact, during the winter months the Leafbelly farm grows a special wintergreen strand that leaves your breath minty fresh!
Most tobacco plants grow green. Snapfire tobacco though, it grows in a literal rainbow of colors and beyond! Reds, Yellows, Blues, Greens, Violets, the afore mentioned Wintergreen strand is actually white! Unlike the plain old boring green variety everyone else sells, Snapfire Pipe weed keeps it’s vibrate colors long after they’ve been dried and delivered to their customers.
And it always stays fresh! It never goes stale. Supposedly in the vaults of Castle Veloruia sits a bone pipe filled with the freshest Snapefire Weed you’ll ever lay your eyes on. That is of course, unconfirmed.
The pipe weeds real magic though, isn’t in the color of the leaf. Nor is it in the color of the smoke, which is always the purest white. The pipe weeds real magic is in the spark! As soon as you light your pipe, and pull in a couple of puffs, the magic begins. Little tiny sparks, like fireworks, shoot out of the end of the pipe! The weed crackles and glows while little a tiny harmless light show hovers inches above the bowl!
In the hands of a competent smoker, the show can be absolutely stunning! The deeper the smoker inhales, the stronger the sparks. Whatever the color of the weed put in the bowl, that was the color of the sparks. Red, Green, Purple, Yellow, Blue, Burnt Sienna, Rainbow if you’re into mixing your strains. I wouldn’t recommend it though, each strain has its own unique taste and texture, all mixed together like that it can leave a rather unpleasant after taste in your mouth.
Burnt Sienna has a particularly pleasant nutty taste and sells quite well on the open market, it mixes rather well the chocolatey taste of the brown weed. Just stay away from the Black weed… Supposedly they carry all sorts of nasty side effects…. Probably an unfounded rumor though. No one was ever able to link any of those deaths back to the Black Pipe Weed, and believe me…. They tried. Why, Nutter Tom smoked black tobacco weed every day until he died from the cough, obviously perfectly safe.
The towns whole economy was centered around growing, selling, buying, shipping, Snapfire Pipe Weed. Unlike most Halflings, Snapfire halflings took to economics like no other. They just seemed to have a knack for it. They were very good at balancing supply and demand to maximize profits in a way unheard of. They were the smallest Burrow in Veloruia and they were by far the richest, not that they flaunted it mind you. They were uptight rich snobs, but in a charming easy going halfling sort of way.
When the burrow first took shape, it was a happy place, a place of families that loved their craft and tended the soil out of a devotion to the land, not for money. Once the town folk realized the demand their product took when it was introduced to the rest of the world, that all changed. The Larger farms, and families, started to buy out and consume the smaller ones. When money wouldn’t do they created arranged marriages that would cement one family as the leader over another until eventually, only two families were left in control of the weed.
Small halfling houses were slowly replaced by larger, multilevel homes designed to both embrace nature, but also show off their wealth and status. The Larger farms began to bring in outside workers and guards, soon a bustling human community sprouted up on the southern shores that supported the Hollow. The halflings though, were very guarded against their much taller counterparts and quickly used their wealth to keep them at bay.
It didn’t take long for the smaller farms to die out, one by one blowing away on the wind until only two families left, the Leafbelly’s and the Woodhearts. Well, we also had the Quicktempers, but I mean come on… They were a joke. If they had been considered a legitimate family, it was well before memory. Their fields only grew the Brown and Black Snapfire Pipe weed, as well as a sort of yellow ochre that the called their own. Local economists felt that maybe the Quicktempers would have put up more of a fight if they had called their only viable weed something other than Yellow Ochre.
It was cheap, Angry, and smelled unpleasantly like peasant feet, much like the Quicktempers themselves. They were the loan hold out between the two families whose last names were on every other halfling in the Burrow. It’s comical though, how little of a threat they were. Their land was useless and neither family really wanted to burden themselves with that albatross.
Which was sad really, because Finnian Quicktemper, the patriarch of the Quicktemper clan, was ready to sell out, and was ready to sell out cheap. He had been ready since he was a boy. He hated the farm, he hated the Burrow, and unlike most halflings, He HATED pipe weed. It got all up in his whiskers and made him sneeze.
Every day at the Quicktemper farm was a new battle. The gods below seemed to push new stones up from the depths to chip his plow on every row. Locusts, Grasshoppers, Rabbits all liberally raided his stocks. Interesting fact, they all leave the black weed alone.
The farm made just enough money to exist. No matter how hard he tried to muss things up so badly that the bank was finally able to foreclose on the land, he always managed to squeak through at the last minute by the skin of his teeth. Little did he know, he had already defaulted on any loans he had taken out three times over but the banks were afraid to tell them least they end up the less then proud owners of what the locals called Black Death Farms.
It really isn’t his fault though, Finnian never wanted to be a farmer. He liked to paint and he liked to draw. As a child he was developing this new method of storytelling in which he would paint little pictures in an affordable paper book that would tell stories of local heroes. He had this one he drew about a halfling from another planet how could fly. It was a stupid idea that never caught on.
He wasn’t good at being a farmer, he didn’t like being a farmer, and he made sure that everyone knew it. Especially his only son, and heir to the lack of a Quicktemper fortune, Gall. Gall was named after the feeling Finnian felt towards his wife Hagatha after she dared to become pregnant. He loved his wife, but he wanted to be a father even less than a father.
As a farmer he could still drink himself to sleep every night and play his favorite game, “where will I wake up this time”. As a father though… Well… Let’s just say that behavior was frowned upon. Especially by Hagatha.
The families bad luck, as well as the Quicktemper named, could be traced back twelve generations to Oslo Quicktemper, the first of his name. Oslo was famous for his ability to eat. He came from a people built to eat, so his propensity to stand out as a serious eater among a race of serious eaters is astonishing to say the least. The actual story of how the Quicktemper name was formed has been sadly lost to time. What we do know is that it involved a Donkey, a Tree, and a Blueberry Pie eating contest.
The tree, which stands in the center of the hollow still shows scorch marks of the incident. The old timers babble on about the story in the incomprehensible gibberish their age, drink and pipe weed has lost them to, the punch line that floats out of the nonsense of unconnected syllables is always the same, “The Donkey went down with one PUNCH! And that’s why they called him Once Punch Quicktemper!”
At that point said senior usually fell off their rocking chairs laughing at a story only they understood. Studies have been done to examine the long-term effects of exposure to Snapfire Pipe Weed. The studies were performed by the Burrow of Snapfire Hollows mayor for Life Phineas Bosco Scaggwurth, so needless to say, they came back clear.
The burrow of Snapfire Hollow was literally littered with the scars of the infamous Quicktemper temper. From the scorch marks on the gathering tree in the center of town, the cracked window in the door of the old Pub Tavern, the missing railing on the Alabaster bridge, or even the missing left hand on the statue of the towns founder Horatio P Petalpot.
Now, I don’t want it to sound like the Quicktempers were dangerous. They weren’t. No matter how angry they got, they were still Halflings. They never beat their children or abused their spouse. At the forefront they were quiet, simple, peaceful folk who sometimes just got so fed up with their life that they lashed out at the world around them. Typically, they ended up the butt of some joke.
The local townsfolks found them to be a source of amusement not something to tip toe around.
Local school kids liked to follow them home and annoy them, because they thought their swearing was funny. Dilly Grasswrinkle, the proprietor of the Carriageless Horse even put up an ebony frame around a hole in the bathroom that was made two generations ago when Daven Quicktemper lost at cards and got so mad at himself managed to fall off the commode and put a very sensitive peace of himself through the bathroom door.
Legend says that the size of the hole made Daven very popular with the more open-minded town folk. To this day you can still peak through the framed hole and watch the men do their business in the small room…. For the life of me though, I don’t know why you would want to.
I would like to step back for a moment, and tell you a little bet about the Woodhearts and the leafbellys. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about the youngest Quicktemper, Gall, and his father Finnian in a few moments. I feel you need to know a little more about the lay of the proverbial land to properly understand how a peaceful, fun loving race of people ended up participating in one of the dirtiest, and bloodiest wars the land of men had ever seen.
Maybe not ever seen…. But for little people it was very bloody!
The Woodhearts and Leafbellys were Snapfire Hollow’s oldest families, and both families were willing to fight to their dying breath to prove that they were the ones who original came up with the idea to Monetize Snapfire Pipe Weed. Truth be told, it wasn’t either of the families. The first batch of Snapfire Pipe Weed was sold completely by mistake to a lost gnome named Woodson who thought he was buying some shingles for a barn he was failing at building for a cow he had fallen in love with thanks to a curse by a bored minor deity who had lost a bet, and now had nothing better to do then screw with the life of a poor gnome and his favorite bovine companion.
The two families fought metaphorically and physically for countless generations. In the beginning it was the Woodhearts that had the bigger farm and were not afraid to lord it over the lesser farmers around them. Not that a Woodheart ever farmed their own fields, didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The Leafbelly’s though were more than happy to get their hands dirty. They always tilled their own soil, and they were the first family to “Suggest” another family deed their farm over to them so that they could lord their wealth over the vile Woodhearts.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about halflings being a peaceful bunch, and Usually they were. Maybe it was the unusually high humidity in Snapfire Hollow, maybe it was it was something in the weed itself, or maybe it was just good old-fashioned greed. Either way, as time went on, the families grew more and more violent with each other. Eventually the Leafbelly’s turned into nothing more than well-dressed thugs and the Woodhearts turned into cold hearted sociopaths.
Meanwhile, everyone in town that wasn’t named Woodheart or Leafbelly slipped away in the night to live in a or less hostile environment, or they gave up and picked a side. The Quicktempers though, they could see what was happening. They could smell the trouble coming on the wind, and they didn’t like it. Like their name would suggest, they grew angry and they grew mean.
You know…. For Halflings.
The Pipe Weed war started off a long time ago, it started out as a cold war between two families who just didn’t like each other. Neither one of them were able to outright attack the other family, so instead they hired thugs from outside the hollow to do their business. They’d hire thugs and assassins to burn fields and steal crops.
It was on the third moon of the New Year that the war went from missing carts or roughed up merchants to outright physical violence. It all started, late at night, and what would follow would be the bloodiest war in the history of halfling kind. By the time it was over the town of Snapfire Hollow would be burnt away, the remaining inhabitants who didn’t flee would all be dead, and two families would have seemingly caused it all.
Truthfully though, unbeknownst to both the Woodhearts and The Leafbelly’s, they weren’t the ones who started it. The Violent war, the end of the cold war, that took almost exactly one month to wipe an entire burrow off the map was started, rather by accident, by none other than Gall Quicktemper and his father, Finnian.
Well… Maybe not so much by accident, at least where Finnian was concerned.
Life on the Quicktemper farm was hard, and life as a Quicktemper wasn’t a happy one. Sure, like all halflings they took great solace in their creature comforts, food, drink, that sort of thing. But it didn’t matter. Life always seemed to come down harder on a Quicktemper then it did on the rest of the world. The only thing that seemed to keep them going, was that stupid farm that they spent their day tilling.
Gall’s mother, Hagatha, was not born a Quicktemper, (I mean… Obviously, it would be weird if she had…) but she grew into the role quickly, but she loved that farm and she loved the hollow, she was from a place outside the burrow, far away and across at least a sea or two. She didn’t know how ugly the real face of the people could be. Thankfully, due to a sickness caused by an odd pain in her gulliver, she didn’t live long enough to see her beloved hollow destroyed and her farm burnt to the ground, she never got to see what the people really looked like.
She died three days before the third moon of the New Year. They Buried her behind the farm on the second day before the third New Moon. On the day before the Third New Moon Finnian walked into town and began to drink. The morning of the Third New Moon of the New Moon, the local tax processor finally decided it was time to put the Quicktemper family out of its misery and delivered a foreclosure notice on the only home that Gall Quicktemper ever knew, all while his father slept in a ditch somewhere between the bar and home.
Not that Gall liked the farm anymore then his dad, but his mother loved it, and if it was good enough for her, he supposed he would have to put up with it. Four days ago, he had been able to see his future before him, like a straight line. His schooling was finished, he already knew a trade. He’s find a handsome halfling that he could settle down with. They’d work the fields together and eventually adopt a wayward child. They’d grow old together. He always assumed his father would die early of the drink, he was honestly surprised that it hadn’t happened yet, and they’d take care of his mother until the end.
It would be a nice life.
That was before his mother died though and changed everything. Without her, he was a different person. Gall never realized what a calming effect she had on his life. His temper took over and he cursed the gods. Gall was glad to see him walk away into the town, even if he knew he’d have to pull him out of a ditch somewhere, just so to have a few minutes to grieve without him though.
Still though, he had a plan, and he’d find a way work through it. That letter though, that changed everything. He no longer had a farm to take care of. Now it would just be him and his angry drunk dad. Boy, that’s sounded like fun. Gall always tried his hardest to avoid the famous temper that gave his family their name. He was a nice kid, a happy kid, or at least he did an amazing job of faking it.
As the sun set and the third Full Moon of the new year began to crest the horizon, after spending far too long sitting in his mother’s favorite drinking chair and reading the letter repeatedly, Gall finally broke. He grabbed a flail Morningstar that had hung over the fireplace as long as he could remember and headed out into the night, intent on trouble.
Sometimes, when the crops grew too big, or demand waned, the locales had a way of keeping supply down to help drive up demand. They would do controlled burns to lessen the crop, and the soot always ensured the next crop grew strong. The burns, called Snap burns, usually attacked a party atmosphere due to the beauty of the fireworks created when the fire would hit the plants.
Gall had attended several of these events. That being said, he never really paid attention to the logistics of said event. He never realized that they wetted down surrounding crops to keep the fire from spreading. He never noticed the piles of dirt and the men ready to throw it on any errant fire that threatened to do more than it was asked to do.
So, when Gall Quicktemper tossed a torch into the Woodhearts southern field, he thought it would burn out quick like the fires he always saw as a kid. Had he stayed to watch the damage, things might have gone differently. But he didn’t. Instead he snuck off towards the Leafbelly’s farm and tossed a torch into their northern most field.
It had been an unusually dry year, so both fields went up in flames relatively quickly. Instead of staying to watch the damage, Gall hurried home in hopes that no one would notice him, and that he wouldn’t get caught. Thankfully, they didn’t, and he didn’t.
By the time the alarms were raised, both families were way too busy to realize the other family was going through the same thing. It took all night and most of the day to stop the fires. By the time it was done about Half of the Leafbelly’s crop was destroyed and about a third of the Woodhearts. Each group assumed that it was the other group that started the fire. In a fit of exhaustion both families issued orders for their guards to march upon the other.
The families, and their guards met in the middle of the alabaster bridge. Matron Woodheart took the lead and spat verbal poison at the eldest Leafbelly in attendance. They bristled back and forth for a while, but Matron Woodheart refused to swing first, and Dabby Leafbelly refused to punch an old lady, lest his cousins mock him for it.
After the heated exchange, the families parted unsatisfied. No one was sure who made the first move, but as the parties just began to disappear from the bridge, someone on the Leafbelly’s side picked up a stone and three it towards the Woodheart clan. The stone connected with the back of Matron Woodhearts head with such force, that it cracked her brittle skull and spread her brains across her husband’s boots.
Well! As you can probably imagine, Poppa Woodheart, did not take kindly to seeing his wife’s brains slipping out of her head onto his kobold leather boots. Just in case things went south, he had the forethought to station a few of his hired archers in the trees on their side of the road. He yelled at them to fire, and they did.
BUT! As the arrows flew towards the Leafbelly’s they let their own archers that they had also hidden in the trees let their arrows fly. Within moments Leafbelly’s and Woodhearts were running around willy nilly screaming for their lives as hired help, family friends, and brothers and sisters all died around them.
The casualties were immense. Neither family expected the other family to draw first blood. Word of the fracture spread across the Hollow and soon neighbors were killing neighbors and friends killing friends due to decade old family alliances.
The survivors ran back to their homes and rallied their troops around them. Calls went out to some of the greatest mercenary troops the land had ever seen. Within a week the town was overrun by hundreds of trained killers! Things were so confusing that the groups didn’t know who they were supposed to be fighting so they just took turns fighting themselves! The common thinking was, whoever was left would share the gold.
Some of the local Humans though, they decided they were tired of curtailing to halflings and started to turn on their masters. Killing them in their homes and taking their gold as the houses and fields burnt around them. It was abundantly clear that the Snapfire Hollow way of life was over. Sparks jumped and flew into the skies from the burning fields as the roving hordes moved across them, killing everyone in sight.
The blood shed was astonishingly beautiful as the colored sparks danced through the air like fireworks. It was utter chaos that threatened to spill out of the hollow into the world around them. Surrounding burrows set up guards at the border to keep the fighting and the fires from spilling out into their lands. Soon the violence was posing a threat to Veloruia herself!
The war came to an end almost exactly one month after it started, at the crowning of the fourth moon of the new year. Snapfire Hollow was a small burrow at the southern tip of the land of Veloruia in the kingdom of Shattuck. King Weston was a wise man, and peaceful man. Unfortunately for the people of Snapfire Hollow, his son, Prince Franklyn was not.
Prince Franklyn was a cold petty man that his people Greatly disliked. That is until several years later, when after a failed attempt on his life, Prince Franklyn had a softening of the heart, but that was years down the line.
King Weston was on sabbatical monitoring the war at the great river wall when the request for help came in from the people of Snapfire Hollow. If King Weston had been on the throne that day, many lives may have been saved. Instead, Prince Franklyn declared the entire Hollow a war zone, and sent his personal troops in to clear the hollow of every living soul. The March was quick, the march was bloody, and the casualties of the hollow were almost absolute.
They came so quickly, that the people of Snapfire Hollow were not able to mount an offense. In the end members of both the Woodhearts and Leafbelly’s fought side by side against the Princes privately funded army. They put their differences aside to try and survive another day, but it was not to be. Both family lines ended abruptly in a dark pool of blood.
Handfuls of mercenaries and Hollow residents snuck away during the fighting and managed to find lives other places. The Quicktempers though, they were not among them. You see, Gall was unaware of two very important things. He knew he stated the fires, but he didn’t know he had started the war.
The other thing, and the more important thing, that he didn’t find out until exactly three minutes before his father closed his eyes forever, was that it was an angry Finnian Quicktemper who had been watching the argument between the two families, drunkenly from a ditch, who had lobbed the stone that took out Old Matron Woodheart, thus beginning the hostilities.
While most of the townsfolk fled, and died, the Quicktempers holed up in their fruit cellar. Finnian’s thought was that eventually the fighting would end, and the all the charcoal and ash left behind by the fires, would make excellent fertilizer. They’d be able to seize the land with everyone else gone and finally make a go of this and live the good life!
The Princes soldiers though, they had other ideas.
The fruit cellar itself wasn’t so bad. It was cool, and comfortable and had plenty of good pipe weed and food that they had stolen from other families during the chaos. It enough food to keep the two of them going for months, which is a lot of food for halflings. What it didn’t have though, was ale. Hagatha Quicktemper liked to drink, but only at night, and only after Gall had gone to bed. As such it was kept in a shack out by the outhouse. Every night, once Gall went to sleep, Finnian would sneak out to the shack and sneak some ale.
It was on the eve of the crowning of the Fourth full moon of the new year that Princes men finally found the Quicktemper farm. They crested the hill and saw the unburnt house and the pristine field, untouched because no one cared enough to riot over it, and through the moon light they saw the angry little halfling scurry across the yard and disappear into a shed.
It was a small group, only seven. They descended quickly upon the shed and waited for Finnian to come out. One of them called to him, and as he came out shot him in the leg with a crossbow bolt. Another shot him in the side. Still a third buried one his left shoulder, pinning him to the shed’s door.
His screams of pain awoke Gall, who, without thinking, grabbed his flail and ran out towards the guards. They laughed at the angry little halfling spitting blood and anger at them. Had one of them just shot him with their crossbow, things might have gone differently. Instead they got off their horses and decided to have some fun with him.
They drew their swords and started to advance upon him, catcalling him as they did. They expected him to back away, but he didn’t’. Instead he leaped forward so quickly, and with such surprising ferocity, they didn’t even register that Carl’s head had been bashed in until his body hit the ground.
Even after that, they were so shocked, they barely registered the blur of motion fly into the guard next to him and take out his knee with the flail. As the Guard, Dave, Hit the ground Gall twisted around him and chocked the life out of him with the chain of his flail, spitting incomprehensible words of anger at him.
At the point the remaining five started to pull together, realizing they may have made a mistake. Before they could react though, Gall jumped up and ripped off another guard’s ear off with his teeth before plunging his thumbs into the man’s eyes and brain, killing him.
Whatever Gall yelled at the other four guards before rushing at them was lost between the group of them. His voice was a grizzled knot of unintelligible gore, the guard’s eyeballs dripping from his thumbs and blood splattered every inch of his face.
It was at this point the guards noticed he was naked. They were being destroyed by an angry naked Halfling.
When he charged the four remaining guards, the guard in the rear did what was really the only sensible thing to do. He dropped his sword and shield and ran. The guard in front of him turned to run as well, but tripped on his friend’s shield. Gall jumped through the air and bashed the guards head over and over onto the ground until he was dead. One of the other three guards finally caught his footing enough to take a swing at him, but it was too late.
Gall impaled him on his own sword.
The last guard though, the last guard he took his time with. The less said about that the better. It’s fun to note that the guard who survived ran away and kept running. To this day he moves from bar to bar, lost in a haze of cheap wine, telling stories of the Angry Demon that wore the Halflings face and spit fire from his breath.
When all was said and done, Gall went to his father. Finnian used his last words to admit he may have lost his temper and tossed the stone that caused all this. As he died remarked that he felt really bad about what he had done and that maybe his mother was right and he should see a therapist.
Gall buried his father next to his mother and fashioned the guard shields into a tombstone for them. With both his father and mother gone, the farm held nothing for him anymore, even if his father’s theory about the weed was confirmed.
Gall realized that the farm had never been the right place for him. He didn’t want to stay in one place, he loved to travel, he wanted to see the world. Instead, he would leave the farm behind him, for someone else to find and hopefully do better than the Quicktempers ever could.
Unfortunately on his way through the kitchen, his sleeve caught on cabinet door and he angrily lashed out, knocking the oil lamp to the ground which set his rug ablaze, which quickly spread to the curtains and up the wall. The house burned down in minutes as Gall walked away into the world….
Angrily muttering under his breath.
Side note, Finnian’s theory was indeed eventually confirmed and the ash added an excellent smoky flavor to the weed that the new customers really appreciated. Prince Franklyn annexed the whole area and built his summer home upon the land, actually a few feet from where Galls parents used to be buried. A few years later he mysteriously had a change of heart and gave the land back to the residence and relinquished his hold on the weed production