A Campaign Setting for Risus
by S. John Ross

The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.

- Arthur Schopenhauer

A Diamond in the Rough?

This is the unfinished draft of a "micro-worldbook" project I never got around to finishing, but it's 98% done anyway (I never finished the maps, for example) - Someday I'll probably give it a genuine finishing treatment, but for now I figure it's a shame to let it sit in the shadows gathering dust. That's what the Player Characters are for, at Tyburn Tree -

Welcome to Tyburn Tree

Each PC in Geezer has a private room at Tyburn Tree Estates, a wooded old folks' home ("assisted living community," the director insists) deep in the green hills of American suburbia. Tyburn Tree covers several acres, including a small area of private forest, still undeveloped (there may be a duplicate facility there someday, if funds allow).

Life at Tyburn Tree is dull but pleasant. Everyone has a small private room they can furnish as they please; everyone has basic cable TV service; everyone eats a diet planned by an on-site nutritionist. The tenants gather in the Activity Center to play boardgames, socialize and do crafts. Once a week, there's a field trip to a local mall or shopping center. And of course, visitors are allowed during most daylight hours - assuming anyone wants to visit. Some geezers are luckier than others, in that respect.

But a Geezer campaign isn't about the dull routine of Tyburn Tree, not about the clockwork universe of Nurse Edna and Doctor Brines - When the nurses aren't looking (or when they can be distracted) the geezers wheel and hobble into the world beyond!

Character Creation

Create a Geezer character with the usual 10 dice. Starting clichés may not exceed four dice (although it's assumed that some geezers were much more powerful in their prime). To get in the mood for character design, just rent Cocoon or Grumpy Old Men or On Golden Pond, or catch a few episodes of The Simpsons or The Golden Girls. Some sample geezers:

Michael "The General" Vickers

Description: Most just call him "The General." To hear him talk, he's led a thousand men to death and glory in every war since the turn of the last century. He still wears his uniform - faded but proud - and keeps his brass buttons and shoes polished to a perfect finish. He barks commands, salutes, and frequently confuses those around him for his old war buddies, especially "Stinky," "Tommy" and "Macintyre."

Clichés: Delusional Old Codger (4), Retired Soldier (4), Wheelchair Athlete (2)

Gertie Winningham

Description: Gertie's hair used to be long and blonde; now it's long, dry and gray, but she still brushes it and cares for it carefully each day, and expects everyone to acknowledge that she's beautiful. She's got as much natural authority as the General. She was once married to "a very rich and powerful man" named Donald, and she considers herself something akin to royalty. She's spoiled, vain, and imperious, but not unkind.

Clichés: Queen Dowager (4), Former Actress (3), Faded Socialite (3)

Ned Mussels

Description: Ned's purpose in life has boiled down to pinching every girl's backside he can reach while maintaining balance in his walker. He's especially dangerous when the geezers take field trips to the mall, where he's decided that teenage girls think he's charming enough to allow him to get away with just about anything. Most of the other geezers know that Ned used to be the Apparition of Justice, a grim enemy of evildoers and criminals. Ned seems unwilling to discuss it on most days, turning the subject back toward panties.

Clichés: Dirty Old Man (4), Elderly Vigilante Detective Living in Painful Denial Because He Caused His Sidekick's Demise (4), Fighter Pilot (1), Urinary Catheter Juggler (1)

Its traditional and useful (but not strictly necessary) to have at least one cliché defining just what type of oldster the geezer is - a Jolly Grandpa, a Hateful Old Bitty, etc. Some of the geezers are nice, some are naughty, and some are downright vile - but they're all heroic, when the chips are down. See the table for some handy random ideas (roll twice). It's equally useful to have a profession-style cliché with something like "former" or "retired" tacked on, to indicate what your geezer was in the Glory Days, and what might be again, should the need arise (and it will). Celebrity clichés are very handy for geezers, too: you can express a lot by assigning a few dice to clichés like Mick Jagger, Ronald Reagan, Ruth Gordon or Bob Hope (film buffs may prefer "classic" geezers like Lionel Barrymore circa 1946). Common Tools of the Trade for geezers include catheters, walkers, wheelchairs, power scooters, canes, umbrellas, little yappy dogs (smuggled in the room!), knitting needles, and adult diapers.

1 - Chatty old Bag
2 - Crusty old Bat
3 - Dirty old Battle-Axe
4 - Eccentric old Bitty
5 - Flatulent old Buzzard
6 - Flirtatious old Codger
7 - Hateful old Coot
8 - Indulgent old Crone
9 - Jolly old Duffer
10 - Kindly old Geezer
11 - Lovable old Gentleman
12 - Mad old Goat
13 - Maudlin old Grampa
14 - Mean old Granny
15 - Miserly old Hag
16 - Pious old Lady
17 - Senile old Man
18 - Silly old Widow
19 - Sleepy old Widower
20 - Wise old Witch

Tyburn Tree: Locations & Characters

The Nurse Station: Nurse Edna is the head nurse at Tyburn Tree, and she considers herself a kind of "bad cop" lieutenant to the almost syrupy niceness of the directing physician, Doctor David Brines. Nurse Edna frequently stalks the halls like a watchful Amazon warrior, determined that every one of her charges is safe, content, and absolutely not exceeding the boundaries established for their diet, habits, and lifestyle. When she's not on patrol, she's always at the reception area/nurse station at the center of Tyburn Tree, organizing what amounts to a small army of nurses who seldom dare cross her.

The Offices: Doctor Brines has a large office with a view of the entranceway; the other senior staff members do, too. Doctor Brines is just a decade shy of geezerhood himself, really - a gentle, white-haired man who does his best to stay out of Nurse Edna's way. He and Kevin Sykes, the joking red-haired nutritionist, play rummy in the offices when nothing else is going on.

Private Rooms: There are two long wings extending eastward and westward from the facility's center, and each corridor is lined with identical-looking doors in a bouncy orange color. This, in turn, complements the deep brown color of the low-pile, skid-proof carpeting, and matches the paint on the aluminum safety rails. Within each room, though, each geezer keeps his own lifestyle and - often as not - a few secrets. Amanda Kellerman, one of the oldest of the geezers, keeps a powerful short-wave radio rig hidden carefully behind a wall-panel, where she serves as the dispatcher and "nurse watch" when the geezers are called out to adventure.

The Nutrition Center: The facility's kitchen is large enough to provide for everyone who lives here at both regular eating hours and special mealtimes that some of the tenants require. The dining area is an elongated room lit by skylights and filled with plastic greenery for atmosphere. There's also a small private dining room available in case anyone has a special family dinner, private birthday party or similar.

The Activity Center: The social nerve center of Tyburn Tree begins and ends here. There's a large-screen TV set, several tables covered in scattered checkerboards and art supplies, and couches. In a sense, this room is the Geezer equivalent of the fantasy tavern, where the PCs seem to spend most of their lives waiting for the next dungeon to come along promising all the loot they can carry. Sometimes, that's exactly what happens. On more ordinary days, there are lots of regularly-scheduled events here, to keep the geezers occupied: open house once a month, the monthly "generic" birthday party for everyone with a birthday that month, the monthly visit from a local barber/beautician, craft day, gathering for the bus to church, snack time, and (when the nurses aren't looking) the formation of betting pools on how everyone's weight will fluctuate at their next checkup.

Various Functional Areas: There's a laundry room, a boiler room, an emergency generator room (it will provide just enough power to make sure things like respirators are working), some therapeutic whirlpools, a tiny heated swimming pool, several maintenance closets, and a few hallway bathrooms (each room has a private one). Near the offices there's a miniature pharmacy. The resident pharmacist is the youngest doctor on the property, a pop-music aficionado and incurable sarcastic known only as Doctor Kidd.

The Grounds: There's a flower garden, a bird feeder, some transparently fake landscaping (including a plastic-lined miniature pond), and the groundskeeper's shed. Jose, the chief landscape man, likes to flirt with some of the female tenants. There are two mini-buses parked in the forward parking lot.

Adventures & Campaigns

A Geezer adventure can focus on the arrival of a new tenant, Tyburn Tree's occasional funding problems, the death of a beloved tenant (and the scandalous treatment of his legacy by his family), covering up for a tenant who needs to slip away for personal reasons, or just dealing with the fact that nobody seems to visit anymore. The nurses are the well-meaning foils, the enemies are anyone who abuses or neglects the elderly, and the constant pains-in-the-ass are the world full of young, disrespectful whippersnappers. Sometimes, the geezers even go into full on "A-Team" mode, serving as heroes to the downtrodden who have nowhere else to turn. Two seeds to grow into something fun:

  • The New Mall: An outside informants leaks to the geezers that the new Eagle's Reach Shopping Mall - the brainchild of mustache-twirling land developer Silus Sinister, is going to be somewhat lacking in genuine wheelchair friendliness. It will barely squeak by on the letter of the law, in an effort to keep the clientele young and sexy to attract trendy boutique stores. Somebody needs some serious ass-kicking, and the geezers have just the boot for the job.
  • Bennie's Special Day: Bald, smiling Bennie. It's his100th birthday next week and - thanks to Nurse Edna - it's been two years since he's tasted his favorite food, garlic bologna. Now, generally speaking, that's not only good for Bennie (his diet is very strict) it's good for everybody, since Bennie is capable of generating some incredible effects with his Flatulence Artiste (4) cliché. But on a man's 100th birthday, he deserves to enjoy a little garlic bologna, and the geezers must plan their escape into the outside world, barter for the goods, and get back in time to enjoy Bennie's special day.

Cumberland Games & Diversions

Copyright © 2005 by S. John Ross. Risus, Risus: The Anything RPG, Cumberland Games & Diversions and the distinctive logos associated with each are trademarks of S. John Ross.
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