The Haunting Of Floating Cow Ranch
You are Lakeview’s
finest most affordable investigator. A
sleuth, a detective, a private eye.
Penelope Piecatcher has hired you to check on her uncle, the excitable Morgan Bridger.
He bought some land from a shady developer out in the wetlands of Cooper’s Kettle, and had the harebrained idea to raise cattle out in the bog.
That was about a year and a half ago. At first his correspondence was regular and enthusiastic. But over time it became more infrequent. And for the past two months, he has stopped responding entirely.
Penny attempted to contact the locals to check on him, but they were unhelpful, repeating things like “bog witch” and “lowing beast” and “cursed.”
This adventure is about change. How people, geographies, and landscapes change and erode over time and become something different.
There’s also a lot of ambition, facing death, grappling with mortality, and worrying about one’s legacy.
And there are lots of mutant cows warped by foul necromantic magicks.
It was written to be played with Wicked Grin but can probably be adapted to other systems without too much trouble. I believe in you.
Just because it has stats doesn’t necessarily mean you should fight it. Each creature has a Mien table. Use the Mien tables.
This entire adventure, just like the scenarios within, is presented to you as an open-ended question. There is no written conclusion or resolution. It’s all up to you. You can do it. I believe in you.
Morgan Bridger refused to listen when the locals laughed at him for trying to raise cattle out near the bog.
He simply wouldn’t hear it. He burned with determination to succeed. But then all his cows drowned. That was over a year ago. He’s been shut up inside his ranch house, and nobody has seen him since. But recently there have been strange noises and hulking beasts lurking in the shadows.
You begin your adventure in the bog as you approach Bridger’s ranch.
Atmosphere: It is boggy and muddy. Slow burning peat and pockets of natural gas mean that portions of the bog seem to always be on fire.
Bog: Thick belching mud and small bog fires make progress slow. Three things catch your eye all at once:
A delicate fawn timidly approaches a watering hole. It doesn’t see the hungry Crocogator sunning itself on a log, still as stone.
A giant Carnivorous Plant is slowly digesting a small salamander that is struggling to free itself.
A bloated Mutant Cow carcass, Exploding (1), floats half buried in the moss. You won’t notice its mutant features unless you take a closer look. If you prod at it, it explodes.
🔎 Note: The players can choose one of the above to engage with. If ignored, the crocogator will eat the fawn and then flip away into the watering hole; the salamander will be digested; and the cow will sink into the bog.
Gate: You arrive at the ranch. The gate is hanging off its hinges, slumped open. A faded sign above the gate once read “Bridger Ranch” but it has been crossed out by some vandal and now reads “FLOATING COW RANCH”. Below that somebody in a different hand has scrawled, “HONK IF YOU LOVE DYING AND BEING DEAD”
Pasture: A pair of Mutant Cows (4) are grazing here on moss.
Corral: Where the cows used to live. One Mutant Cow still lives here. If you can call this living. There is an entrance to the abattoir in the back of the ranch house.
Ranch House: A simple single story ranch house in slight disrepair. Bridger lives here. There is a sign on the front door that says, “Gone fishin”.
Atmosphere: a spooky abandoned house that is just starting to revert to nature.
Entry/Hallway: The front door is ajar. The hallway is long, narrow, and dimly lit. You hear a scrape and a shuffle coming from the first door to the left.
Study: Peat burning stove, desk and chair, books. Investigating the bookshelf reveals some books on anatomy and biology. A Magic Tome is hidden here and can be found with a successful challenge. The papers on the desk reveal sketches of cows. Arcane runes are scribbled in the margins.
Laugh at me, will they? I’ll show them! I’ll bring them all back! Bigger and better than ever. Who’ll be laughing then? Me, that’s who. No, they’ll never forget the name Morgan Bridger!
Bedroom: A lumpy bed. A plywood crate at the foot contains blankets, cellar key, and a charcoal sketch of a human skull with sparkling jewels in its eyes. A hasty scrawl beneath the sketch reads, Inside my head! Won’t let me sleep!
A dresser full of moth bitten shirts and overalls and some waders. Nightstand has a lantern for reading and a novel open to a passage about an evil Wyrm at the center of the earth giving birth to a monster.
Kitchen: Oven. Peat burning stove. Eating nook. Remains of a hastily prepared meal. A sedate, corpulent Mutant Cow (3) is here snacking from the fridge.
Abattoir: A slaughter room. Saws, scythes, pitchforks, knives, cleavers hang from the walls. Congealed blood pools around a drain in the center of the floor. A pile of discarded offal has attracted an Organ Grinder which hides in the refuge. A large door leads outside to the corral.
Cellar: Deep gouges scratched into the locked door. Steep stairs lead down below the kitchen. Dark, cold, damp. Hunks of meat hang from hooks on the ceiling. Floorboards are torn up: a ladder climbs down into a damp earthen tunnel.
Sarracenia didn’t listen when they warned her about the dangers of dark magic.
After the incident, the witch’s library sank slowly over hundreds of years into the bog. Bridger unknowingly built his ranch house right on top of it. She calls out to him in his sleep, haunting his dreams. And when he discovered the library far below the floorboards in his cellar, he also recovered her skull. It speaks to him. It speaks to anybody who will listen.
He thinks he can use her to bring his cows back to life. She thinks she can use him to find a new body for her to live in.
Atmosphere: The library has been swallowed by the earth. Mud and stone and roots and vines press in all sides, crumbling the walls and pressing up through the floors.
Sunken Library: Water is waist deep and cold. A water logged Magic Tome can be found here with a successful challenge. Two large, well-read, poorly-fed Eels may decide you are edible if you linger here.
A Bookwyrm perches high up on top of the shelves. It has taken up residence here and considers these books to be its hoard.
Barricade (3): Hastily built water-break keeps the water in the library out of the other areas. Difficult to climb. Clear the barricade and risk letting water out and flooding the surrounding areas.
Laboratory: Beakers, pipes, long worktable, and a gurney. Somehow a Mutant Cow has gotten down here and is running amok. A hidden hatch leads down to the Sea. (See Chapter 3: Yrsa The Drowned.)
Growing Vats: Inert bodies suspended in tubes, potential vessels for Sarracenia. A Wandering Husk is here.
Bedroom: If you approach the bed, you notice something moving beneath the rumpled covers. Pulling back the covers, you discover that a large snail has taken up residence inside Sarracenia’s skull. She is rather indignant about it. The skull vibrates as her voice emanates from somewhere within. She will try to convince you to continue her work and find a new body for her. The husks aren’t cutting it and Bridger is proving to be an inept pupil. He can’t even successfully raise a cow from the dead.
Most of Sarracenia’s recent work is based on observing and interacting with the ghost below the laboratory, a discovery she only made in recent years. She sent Bridger down there several days ago to try to converse with the ghost.
Yrsa didn’t listen when they told her to surrender.
She sailed her longship, The Dragon Bear, inland to escape her pursuers and eventually ran aground, capsized, and sank. Today the wreckage of The Dragon Bear rests far below the library. And its captain, the dread pirate Yrsa, is cursed to be drowned every night by her one true love, the sea.
Atmosphere: Salty and briny. A cold breeze flows here making eerie whistles and moans. A pirate ghost haunts this area, also making eerie whistles and moans.
Rocky Shore: The hull of the capsized longship can be seen in the distance cresting the waters like the spine of a large creature. Beyond the ship, you can just make out an ice sheet. A lone Hydra Crab is here. You hear a distant voice whisper, Stay awayyyyy.
Cold Cold Sea: Jellies and blind cave fish. A hairless Merbear and a horse-sized Tardigrade lurk in the depths. They argue about which of them is a “true water bear of the sea”.
Wreckage of the Dragon Bear: You swim up into the air pocket from below. The longship is narrow but long.
Cargo Hold: A small pile of statuettes, pearls, jewels, and gold.
Captain’s Quarters: Yrsa the fearsome She-Bear is here.
Brinicle: a hollow icicle in the ice sheet that leads down below into the deep deep dark.
The people of the valley didn’t listen when god told them she loves them.
Deep in the rocky caves below the shipwreck is an abandoned altar to a forgotten god.
Atmosphere: Ice crystals form on surfaces. Veins of precious stones can be seen in the walls. It is dark. Luminous lichen and fungus provide dim light.
Brinicle: White salt rocks. Bridger is here. After visiting the temple, he has lost his bravado and is in the middle of despondent existential crisis. He’s given up on clearing his name and having a legacy.
What was I thinking? That resurrecting a bunch of cattle would be my legacy? What foolishness. What’s the point! To die but wish to live forever? To live forever and wish to die? To shape the earth only to be forgotten?
Lost Temple: The Warden stands guard before the temple. It refuses to let you pass unless you agree to and win a riddling contest.
Altar: A dagger of ice is all that remains of the iceberg that carved this valley and created the bog. Inside, Moraine rests.
Breath Attack (4), Magic Spell (1), Magic Spell (1)
Dragonkin the size if a large house cat. Its scales are a radiant purple pink. It has two small forelegs and a long snakelike body. It has small beady eyes and is slowly getting more and more farsighted much to its consternation. It devours stories.
Mien: Charming | Tell Me A Story | Magnanimous | Generous | Prankish | Regal
Inept Necromancer (1), Inept Cattle Rancher (1), Stubborn Old Coot (5).
Bridger has made it down into the womb of the earth only to learn that legacy fades for even the most powerful of gods and men. He is quite distraught. Also, he’s kind of scared that the Warden knows about all his experiments on cows and might hate him.
Mien: Angry! | All For Naught! | Resigned | Nihilistic | Woebegotten | Self Pitying
An amoeba shaped plant covered in dew tipped spines. It can’t do much if you don’t touch it. But if you do, you’ll likely get stuck. And then slowly broken down and digested.
Mien: Digesting | Wilted | Famished | Sticky | Dewy | Yearning
Ornery (3), Crushing Jaws (2)
A fearsome bog beast. Its front half is that of a crocodile. And its back half is the front part of an alligator.
Mien: Ornery | Basking | Ambivalent | Peevish | Toothache | Conflicted
Electric (3), Constricting (2), Small Sharp Teeth (1)
Thick muscular body. This eel has spent a lot of time feeding its mind, but not feeding its belly.
Mien: Curious | Sanctimonious | Snobbish | Aggressive | Intellectual | Hungry
The fabled Hydra Crab! Two more appear for every one you squash.
Mien: Crab | Crab | Crab | Crab | Crab | Crab
Bear (4), Fish (3)
A fucking bear with the tail of a fish. You know how tuna is the chicken of the sea? It’s like that, except it’s the bear of the sea.
Mien: Lazy | Gonna Eat Ya | Territorial | Playful | Inquisitive | Lonely
Ageless Spirit Of Living Ice (10).
Millions of years ago, an iceberg descended from the mountains and carved out this valley on its slow sojourn to the sea. Moraine, a small shard of ice, is all that is left of that berg now. She shaped the face of the earth and of countless lives in this valley. But now nobody remembers her or knows her name.
Mien: Kind | Loving | Maternal | Helpful | Stern | Just
Gnashing Teeth (2), Restraining Tentacles (1)
A ghoulish, monkey-like imp that that feeds on flesh and carrion. Mostly jaws and jowls and four long noodly arms for made for grabbing and shoveling food into its mouth.
Mien: Hiding | Shy | Hungry | Hungry | Hungry | Hungry
Demilich Obsessed With Immortality (4), Persuasive Fast-Talker (2), Illusionist (1)
Once the renowned and feared Bog Witch of Cooper’s Kettle, Sarracenia is now an ill-tempered skull with purple amethysts for eyes. She is quite capable of speech and minor illusions and pyrotechnics. More than anything else, she wants a new body. Any body will do.
Mien: Furious | Haughty | Insulting | Wheedling | Sycophantic | Impatient
Extremely Durable (7), Adorable (2)
Tardigrades can easily survive some of the most extreme conditions on earth. They have eight jointless legs, each tipped with four sharp claws. They move about like they’re made of jelly.
Mien: Cute | Jiggly | Molting | Made Of Jelly | Wiggly | Absent Minded
Sarracenia stitched together a lot of different bodies as potential hosts for her spirit. Some of the rejects still wander around the library.
Mien: Just Out For A Stroll | Plagued By Memories | Compliant | Braaaaains | Defensive | Territorial
Minotaur (4), Riddles (1).
A creature with the head and tail of a bull, the body of a man, and the intelligence of a child. It loves riddles and jokes.
Mien: Sentinel | Lonely | Eager | Boastful | Overbearing | Pushy
Spooky Ghost (4), Viking Pirate Captain (4)
Yrsa was once the scourge of the seas, a fearsome viking pirate, captain of the Dragon Bear. Now she is mournful and defeated. Every day at high tide, she sinks down to the bottom of the sea and is drowned, only to return to her quarters afterwards. She yearns to escape her curse. She knows of a power below the ice sheet that might be able to free her, but is unable to travel there herself. Bridger passed through here some time ago.
Mien: Remorseful | OOOOooooOOooOOooOoooo!! | Fretful | Super Cranky | Currently Being Drowned | Wrathful
Mutant Cows start with a “Mutant Cow (3)” trait. You might add another 1 - 2 dice trait depending on how challenging you want it to be.
Roll 1d3 (or more) and follow underlined words to that table:
Each tome includes an action and a domain:
Use the first and/or second term. Or roll twice and combine.
For a classic element take the first word. For an exotic element take the second.
Original “Sea Farming Undead Ambition” concept by Panic Pillow.
Inspired by Maze Rats, Troika, Risus, and Deep Carbon Observatory.
Tardigrage by Yalik
Resources and further reading