Fridays Unleashed 2-13-2015

The next fiction vignette explores a question many of you might have: where exactly did that gator get his giant gun? Longchops has been infatuated with the accouterments of mankind for years by the time the Hogwash scenario in the Unleashed Adventure Kit begins, but once he was a simple gatorman living in the Widower’s Wood, preying on unfortunate travelers who wandered too far off the path.

Longchops opened his eyes. He’d been dozing, floating silently, with only his eyes and snout protruding from the water. The subtle splashing of potential prey had awakened him.

A human waded through the water toward him, a warrior covered in the steel skin those soft people wore into battle. The man held a heavy rifle high above his head to keep it out of the wet.

If he passes within ten feet, I will eat him, Longchops thought. When prey offered itself so readily, who was he to deny it?

The human moved closer, and Longchops gathered himself to leap. Loud splashing and ripples in the water made him pause. The human whirled around, bringing his rifle to his shoulder. The splashing grew louder, and three farrow emerged from a stand of cypress trees some twenty yards from the human’s position. They were slaughterhousers, heavily armored pig-men wielding long poleaxes.

The human pointed his weapon at them, and thunder filled the swamp. The lead farrow stumbled backward, a fist-sized hold in its breastplate, then collapsed into the water. Longchops knew slaughterhouser armor was thick, but the human’s rifle had blown through it at a range of more then sixty feet.

A hunter could use a weapon like that, Longchops thought.

The remaining farrow charged. The human backpedaled, fumbling at his belt for another rifle cartridge, though Longchops could see the farrow would reach him before he could reload. The man flipped the gun over, grasped it by its barrel, and swung the improvised club at the first farrow, which knocked aside the blow with its poleaxe.

Excited by blood in the water and the nearness of prey and impressed by the human’s resolve, Longchops decided to make his presence known. The gatorman moved swiftly through the water and rose up behind the human, eight feet of scale and muscle, pole cleaver at the ready. The weapon sprayed muddy water and bits of swamp detritus as he brought it down between the first slaughterhouser’s shoulder and neck, cutting deep into the farrow’s chest. The slaughterhouser fell over backward into the water.

The human spun around and brought his rifle up to defend himself. The second farrow, unfazed, seized this momentary advantage and swung its poleaxe with a great grunt, removing the human’s head from his neck in a spray of warm blood.

Irritated, Longchops thrust his pole cleaver forward like a spear. Its blade plowed through the slaughterhouser’s throat, nearly taking the pig-man’s head off.

The swamp grew quiet, and the rich, coppery scent of blood filled the air. Longchops waded over to where the human’s corpse had sunk beneath the weight of armor and gear. He reached down and brought the body to the surface, relieved it of the rifle, and let the headless corpse sink again.

Longchops opened his long, toothy jaws in a gape, the gatorman equivalent of a smile. The spirits had been generous today, providing a bounty of fresh meat and a powerful weapon. He slung his new rifle over his shoulder and went to gather the corpses of the farrow. He’d need to sink them—farrow meat was always better when it had time to soak a bit.

Like all the characters in the adventure kit, Longchops has different paths to explore as he gains experience. His Monster Hunter career gives him abilities like Hunting Ground that are useful when facing off against larger and more powerful creatures. Longchops begins with Hunting Ground [Swamp], which allows him to track and prowl through swamps with greater skill, but like the Specialization ability in Full Metal Fantasy, Hunting Ground can be taken multiple times. Each selection makes the character adept at negotiating a different terrain type. Our canny gatorman can also pick up the Skilled Trapper ability to make his traps more difficult to spot.

Though Longchops is also a talented brigand, he’s not particularly drawn to waylaying trade caravans for the goods they carry—honestly, he’d be more interested in eating the horses. Nevertheless, the Brigand career gives him a number of compelling abilities that play into the hit-and-run style the ambush predator enjoys. In addition to Onslaught, which allows him to shoot his rifle and charge in to take a good bite out of his target, Longchops can pick up abilities like Ambush, Camouflage, and Backstab. With talents like that, the gatorman can erupt from the closest pond or patch of undergrowth and rip apart anything unlucky enough to be within range of his impressive jaws.