Gargoyles and the UFW

This time around, I talk about gargoyles in the world of Untitled Fantasy Western.

In UFW the role of the indigenous population is played not by another human culture, but by gargoyles. The name itself is something that’s been applied by the encroaching colonists, just as the term Indian was erroneously applied to Native Americans.

Actual gargoyles are carved stone waterspouts in the form of strange and/or grotesque animals that direct water away from a building’s walls. Mythologically speaking they were believed to ward a building from spirits and protect it from evil. In the world of UFW I figure gargoyles developed along a similar line with the intent of warding off dangerous spirits, which actually do exist in the setting.

But most people in the world of UFW just think of them as ugly stone carvings, so when they ran into the inhabitants of the Badlands it was easy to apply the name to the bestial natives.

Physically Badlands gargoyles are large (easily a head taller than most men), bipedal but with the ability to run short distances on four legs, and possessed of a tough leathery skin that often has a rough texture to it. This skin is also normally colored to match the area in which one lives, which means a gargoyle curled up and staying perfectly still might be mistaken for one of the Badlands’ many boulders at first glance.

And you just might find one like that during the day, since gargoyles are crepuscular – that is, they’re more active during dawn and dusk. They’re also often active at night, or on days that are heavily clouded and therefore dim. They have an aversion to strong sunlight, and any caught out during the day will either find a shady spot to nap or, if the soil is soft enough, dig a trough in which it can curl up and rest (becoming the aforementioned boulder). Animals in hot climates often do this as a way to help regulate their body heat.

All this is not to say that gargoyles won’t become active during the day if they need to be. They just won’t be very happy about it.

Gargoyles have a loose tribal society. Family groups often come together to form what amount to villages in canyons, cave systems, or any of the Badlands’ many towering rock formations. They don’t usually war with one another, instead preferring a form of non lethal personal combat when individual or tribal differences can’t be resolved any other way. Authority figures within the tribe will oversee and verify the result of the match.

Technologically speaking gargoyles don’t have much. They can fashion weapons like spears and stone blades, but they are far more lethal with their teeth and claws. Those that don’t find suitably sheltered homes within the rock formations will fashion huts from the hides of the animals they kill for food.

Plenty of edible things live in the Badlands despite the name. Herds of animals similar to antelope graze the prairie, along with groups of larger ill tempered herbivores that fill the role of bison. I like the thought of gargoyles having tamed or domesticated some sort of small food animal to keep around, but I haven’t really decided on what that would be yet.

When it comes to magic the gargoyles have an easy relationship with the spirits. There are Spirit Talkers among them, just as among humans. They are often important among their people, and when the speak the spirits are quick to obey. In fact, Badlands spirits are even known to lend assistance to a gargoyle in need without being asked. As much as there’s a difference of culture between humans and gargoyles, so too is there a difference between the local spirits and the ones brought from the old world.

The history between the gargoyles and the encroaching settlers is shaky at best. Since gargoyles as we know them were meant to protect a place, so too do the gargoyles of UFW protect the Badlands. They see it as their ancient responsibility, and the settlers are an invading enemy.

There have been times when the human settles have tried to dislodge the gargoyles. Diplomacy isn’t an option. While the gargoyles have a language they speak among each other, they refuse to learn anything else and have little patience for teaching their tongue to humans. The only exception seems to be with human Spirit Talkers, which they hold in somewhat higher esteem.

Military endeavors have met with little success, often returning high casualties for the human settlers. At the time UFW takes place, an uneasy truce is in effect. The settlers don’t go into the Badlands or provoke the gargoyles and the gargoyles seem satisfied to leave the nearby towns and homesteads alone.


2 responses to “Gargoyles and the UFW”

  1. Ever see the Disney Gargoyles cartoon? Loved that show. Also, I love your spin for this world you’re creating. Good on ya.

    1. Yes! That was one of my favorite shows. Great stuff.

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