I really enjoyed Kids on Bikes when I picked it up at Gen Con. I knew that I needed a small town for the players to be based in. It needed to be simple – but relatively complete, with lots of stories and legends for players to latch onto for possible adventures.
Welcome to Mystique.
This town can be plopped down in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio – you make the call. It is generic in nature. I’ve tried to provide enough color and characters to feed a lot of different adventures.
Enjoy and use!
- McGreggor’s IGA. Ozzie McGreggor’s IGA is the grocery store for the town. It’s small but is almost always well stocked.
- The Barber Shop. For men in the town, this is the social network. On Saturdays the town’s leading citizens sit for hours talking about the football games The barber, Drake Coy, is a wealth of information.
- Jacobson’s 5 and 10. This department store is on three floors (two and a basement). Toys and household items are in the basement. The old oak floors creak in this place and it still has a lunch counter and a large candy selection.
- Trimble’s Hardware. Musty, dusty and everything you might ever need – Trimble’s is where you go for everything from a handful of nails to tools. You can buy anything here from guns to dynamite. Old Man Trimble is a drinker and is often found asleep in the afternoons if there are no customers. He hates kids “There’s no toys in here boy!”
- Sugar’s Rexall Drug Store. This is the town pharmacy and is well known for its gift card selection. There are big leather chairs in the back of the store near the pharmacy counter, almost always filled with an elderly person.
- The Hole In the Wall Liquor Store. This store is renowned for its alcohol in the back and magazines and comics in the front. The magazine rack has wooden covers over the girlie magazines or the more risqué subjects (like Saga). The comics rack is a favorite place for kids to congregate (no reading more than a minute).
- The Mystique Public Library. Miss Harper, an elderly woman, runs the library with an iron fist. She does not tolerate talking children or anyone digging into the seedier past of her hometown, which she loves. Her husband died of a stomach ailment and rumors still circulate that she poisoned him.
- The GAR Hall. Long ago converted into a local history museum, the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) hall has a Civil War cannon out front. The curator, Robbie Biggs, is a creepy old man but knows many of the town’s secrets and is a great source of historical information. On Halloween, the kids like toilet papering the cannon and pyramid of cannonballs…it is something of a local ritual. The hall is creepy and there are rumors of people seeing ghost soldiers outside of the hall.
- Mystique High School. There is a persistent rumor that a student in the 1940’s killed himself jumping off of the roof holding onto a large umbrella. His ghost is said to haunt the third floor of the building. This rumor of the death is true! Timmy Jenkins jumped off the roof in April of 1958. Some accounts say he was pushed by older boys, but most claim he jumped all on his own. He lingered in the hospital in Pottsdale where he eventually died. The boy accused of pushing him is Fred Axman, a bit of a local bully even to this date. He is constantly being arrested for something and is said to have a vicious streak for anyone that crosses him. He is the adult Biff Tannen of Mystique – “What are you looking at butt-head?”
- Mystique Middle School and Elementary
- Blake’s Marathon Station.
- Burger Chef – the town’s only fast food restaurant. The parking lot is THE hangout for kids on Friday and Saturday nights, especially the older kids. Cars and bikes are parked there, music comes from open car windows.
- Mystique Court House, Sheriff’s Office, and Jail. Sheriff “Digger” Roberts is a Korean War vet.. He was a top-notch law enforcement officer when he was younger. After a high-speed chase one night that resulted in a carload of kids being killed, he turned dark and bitter. No one blames him, except Madeline Ferguson, whose son Ray was one of the victims. If she sees Digger, she makes a point of walking up to him and spitting in his face. He just wipes it off. He’s abrupt with kids and will not tolerate underage driving. The sheriff has his own personal demons from his wartime experiences. Rumor has it his wife left him because of his “night screams.”
- Brigg’s Café. This tiny little diner has a juke box in the corner and is a favorite spot for kids to hang out after school. It is a greasy spoon that closes at 7pm every night. Brigg’s also serves ice cream and on a hot summer night, when everyone is cruising the gut or hanging out downtown, there can be a line into and out of the café.
- The Post Office. There are three postal employees in Mystique. Mildred Turner runs the post office with an iron fist. Her two route carriers, Ben Waters and Barton Stain are good men – though Waters is a bit quirky. Rumor has it he has been seen off-route, sometimes in people’s back yards, sneaking in alleyways. He is rumored to be trying to sell some short stories, horror stories, based on events in the town to big time magazine. Most people think of him as strange.
- Harper’s Paint and Wallpaper.
- Luigi’s Bakery. Open at 6am and closing at 2pm, the aroma from this bakery fills the streets in the morning hours.
- The Cobbler Shoe Store. This is the shoe store in town. Men’s shoes on the right, women’s on the left.
- The Brass Rail Bar. This is the local watering hole. This is a dive bar at its best, with a haze of cigarette smoke always hanging in the air. A pair of moose testacies, stuffed by a taxidermist, hang over the front door. The floors are always sticky and the walls have old beer posters plastered one on top of the other as a bizarre wallpaper. One regular, almost always drunk, Fester Fishkill. He will often be found at the end of the bar or staggering home. He warns kids – “stay away from that Mill Pond!” Word is his son drowned there years ago.
- WZZK AM Radio. This small station has a window facing Main Street so you can see the DJ’s and news men at work. Kids hang out after school to watch through the window as the latest hits are played. The afternoon DJ, “Doctor Benny” is pretty popular locally, though he has had some run ins with the law in recent years. He’s a hippie of sorts, known for his non-medicinal use of marijuana.
- Rank’s Pizzeria. A small mom and pop pizza place. This is the kind of place you can go and play D&D if you want, as long as you order drinks and something to eat. Four tables – most of their business is carrry-out. Mrs. Ranks is a rotund lady who loves having kids in her place. Her daughter Margaret is a cheerleader.
- Episcopal Church.
- Elm Hill Cemetery. With a black painted wrought iron fence, this graveyard has two remarkable tombstones. One is a Confederate grave marker (which is odd given this is in the North). The other is a small stone marking “16 Bodies from the Reilly Circus Train Accident, September 10, 1938”
- Drapes Dress Shop. A large dress and fabric store.
- Dingle’s TV and Radio Repair.
- Forrest’s Dental Office. Dr. Dan Forrest is a third generation dentist. His father, Francis, still works with him – and favors using whiskey to numb his patients over novacaine.
- Mike’s Bikes. This bicycle shop also has a back room where Mike Flannigan also works on motorcycles. He always has projects going and welcomes local kids who want to sit and watch him work. Mike is seen as “cool” by most kids.
- Mystique Mills Power Company. This vine covered brick building uses the dam to generate electrical power for the town. Jake Cooper runs the power company – always decked out in bib overalls covered in oil.
- The train station. Back in the day, the train stopped daily in Mystique, but now it only comes twice a week. Trains roar on past this old wooden station. The loading docks are mostly empty now.
- Riker’s Lanes. This six lane bowling alley has a room that has been recently added called “Quarters” which serves as an arcade. The whole place smells of beer and cigarette smoke, but they do have six different arcade games. League night is Mondays.
- Mortimer’s Roller-Rink. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights – Mortimer’s has a mirrored ball and is often the site for dates or for kids to just hang around. The older kids like to pester the younger skaters – which sometimes gets them kicked out by Old Man Mortimer who owns the establishment. The parking lot on a Saturday night is a popular hangout.
- Walt’s Welding. The smell of ozone fills the air. If it is metal and you need it fixed – this is the place to come.
- K-Mart. Built five years ago, most of the local businesses hate the K-Mart – but almost everyone does shop there.
- The statue of Ira Gray. Mystique’s founder, Ira Gray, in his militia uniform, is at the center of the small roundabout. Gray is best known for leading early settlers in the driving the local Chippewa tribe from what is now the city. The original site of the Indian village is where the football field is now. Old timers say that if you go out on the right night in late May, you can see the spirits of those that died there…but that is mostly a story aimed at scaring children.
- The mill pond and dam. A small dam generates power for the town. The mill pond and adjacent park are popular with kids. People like to canoe in the pond during the summer. Sawback Creek feeds the millpond. Many years ago the pond feed a saw mill and a grist mill at the site. The foundations of those structures are still visible near the dam site.
- The Bellevue Drive In. Located five miles west of town, the Bellevue is open from May to September annually. In recent years they have been showing some “strong R” movies and a lot of parents are up-in-arms about the changes.
- The Daily Chronicle Newspaper. Published twice a week, the Chronicle is headed by a grizzled old editor, “Major” Preston Drew. War vet, head of the Republican Party in town and sees his quest for truth in the press as some sort of holy mission. His little two person operation, in his mind, is the heart and soul of Mystique.
- VFW Hall. Reserved for weddings, parties, and anniversaries – this hall has a small bar that is opened three evenings a week for veterans. While the stonework building has seen better days, it is a hotspot for large family reunions or wedding receptions.
- Boxler’s Jewelry.
- Rainbow Furniture Store. The finest in late 1970’s furnishings.
- Hall’s Men’s Fine Clothing and Apparel. Suits and sweaters are common in the window of this store.
- This store has odds and ends from a lot of different families
- Nevelle’s Antiques. This dusty old store is filled with antiques and collectables and is run by Nevelle Ferd. He doesn’t like kids being in his store at all. His favorite line for anyone coming in with children, “Please keep your children on a leash! I cannot be held responsible for anything they break – but you will be.”
- Andrew’s Billiards. This billiards hall has been boarded up for years yet it still has the stink of spilled beer. Rumors persist that there had been a fight that had resulted in someone getting killed that closed the old hall.
Other Places of Interest:
The Alabaster. Situated two miles north of town in a wooded and hilly area rests rotting remains of The Alabaster. In 1870 the Alabaster was a state mental hospital until 1948 when it was closed due to a fire in the west wing that took the lives of 80 patients. While the damage was repaired to the facility, it lost funding and was closed. For a while it was used as a hospital, but that ended in 1952 and since then the old hospital has been boarded up. The hospital was a center where shell-shock victims from the Great War and WWIII were treated. Surrounded by a chain link fence, the facility is rumored to be haunted. Kids challenge each other to spend the night in the old facility which has suffered from vandalism. Teenagers have parties from time to time. The facility was rumored to use a lot of experimental treatments including shock therapy on patients. The equipment left in some rooms certainly validates that. The west wing is said to be exceptionally creepy. More than one person has claimed to hear the screams of spirits there or even smells like burning meat in the halls there. A nearby farmer, Gregory Hanson, rumored to be a former patient, is known to show up and chase off any trespassers.
Avon Labs. Three miles south of town, screened behind three rings of chain link fence, is Avon Labs. During WWII the government opened the labs, allegedly as part of the Manhattan Project. Strangely, it never appears in any history of the atomic bomb though. Five years after the war the facility closed down rather abruptly. The small brick two story building with a large attached metallic liquid storage tank is rumored to have deep underground tunnels and chambers. Locals alive at the time saw a lot of heavy earth moving equipment and a stream of dump trucks taking away rocks and dirt during the construction of the labs. The barbed wire on the top of the fence seems to be to keep people out, or perhaps, keep them in.
The secret facility rarely appears in the local papers – the people that worked there kept to themselves about their work. When the labs were shut down, a local sheep farmer, Jacob Abernathy, adjacent to the property, claims to have seen a strange green light envelop the entire structure and surrounding area. Two weeks later the government purchased his farm and Abernathy moved on to Postemville, some 15 miles away. Was it hush money? Another local farmer reported that six of his cows died along the fence facing the facility – but it has been attributed to some sort of illness.
Some local kids have tried to work their way into the facility, only to have black suited men show up and escort them away. Clearly the site is monitored for some reason, but the locals sure have no idea.
The Hanging Oak. On a lone hill a quarter mile south of town off of Fisher Street is a massive 100 year old oak known as The Hanging Oak. This is where criminals in early town history faced justice. The high school kids have as tradition. On prom night they hold a secret ballot, not for king and queen, but for the “Treeing Ceremony.” The pair that are voted in are abducted, tied to the Hanging Oak, soaked in garbage and cow pies, ice water, and otherwise humiliated. It is hazing at its worst. Rumors persist that one young woman, many years ago, died as a result of this “tradition.” It is not a true story. Loretta Muir was the subject and she was mentally scarred for life by the incident and has been sent to the state hospital, only visiting her family on Thanksgiving. Her brother, even to this day (ten years later) is said to be tracking down those involved and extracting his own form of justice on them — or their kids. So far he’s stayed one step ahead of the sheriff.
Mystique’s Historical Events:
The Reilly Circus Train Accident. On September 10, 1938, a circus train derailed coming into the town, killing 16 performers, two elephants, and a hippo. The train wreck resulting in a huge fire. The locals buried the victims without an effort to identify them, in a mass grave along with the animals. The Reilly Circus went bankrupt as a result. Family members searching for their loved ones from the wreck were shunned by locals who wanted nothing to do with digging up the circus performers. Some loud voices in the community stated publically that, “these tramps and hobos and circus people were simply not the kind of people that should be associated with our fine community.” Some lawsuits resulted but ultimately the mass grave remains. In the past, some of the family members of the victims have shown up to cause public stirs, one of them dumping a bucket of paint on Ira Gray’s statue in protest over how Mystique has treated them. Several times someone has tried to dig up the mass grave – evidenced by the hole – but has not completed the task before daybreak.
Gray’s Massacre. Major Ira Gray of the state militia led an unprovoked attack on the Chippewa village on the site of the town in 1822. The official version is that the tribe had been raiding Gray’s camp, but his response certainly was overkill, leading to the slaughter of 22 men, women, and children. Gray was called Iron Beard by the survivors who cursed him and those that he lived with. It must have worked, because Gray dropped dead two days after the founding of the village of Mystique. The Gray family is wealthy and powerful in town, living in one of the three mansions in the town.
It has long been rumored that those that were killed were burned in the village where they died – which would have been the football field for the high school. That fits in with stories of strange happenings in that area. People claim to have been attacked by an invisible force – or that they have heard the cries of agony of the victims of the slaughter.
The Murder Spree of Victor Morse. Every family has a crime in its past and the Morse Madness is Mystique’s. Victor Morse made his money off selling trusses in the mid-1800’s and amassed a great deal of wealth. As a young man, he was known to be odd – out of sorts, downright quirky. In 1868, at the age of 18, something snapped in Victor. He killed his mother with a kitchen knife. He went after his younger sister Ruth with a fireplace poker. Ruth tried to get away, running upstairs after he hit her, but passed out at the top and fell back down. His baby sister Agnes was found on the front porch in a basket when the police showed up, alive and well, and clearly put there by her brother. Victor’s father, Anthony, has never been found but he has long been presumed dead. Rumors of where his body surface from time-to-time.
Victor himself was seen in the community for the better part of a week but never apprehended. He killed his girlfriend, Becky Jackson, with strangulation – and hung himself in the backyard of her family home in East Towne.
No one knows what drove Victor Morse to his murderous rampage. The Morse mansion still exists in town but during the home tour, no one is showed the staircase. It is believed that Ruth’s bloodstains on the oak stairs still remain and are visible. Another rumor is that there was another Morse child who was born deformed and kept in the attic – and that finding her is what drove Victor over the edge. The Morse family does not talk about the crimes and remains reclusive even to this day.
The Ferris Wheel Accident of 1955. When the county fair came to town in 1955 no one anticipated that it would end in tragedy. There was a structural failure of the ferris wheel ride that killed four children. The carnival ride operator hung himself in the police cell where he had been taken for his own protection after the incident. Most troubling was that the investigation showed that someone had deliberately loosened a number of key bolts on the ride, most likely the night before. Why someone would do this and who is to blame is still unknown. Rides did not return to the fair for two years after the horrific accident.
The Bottoms. Every town has an area known as the wrong side of the tracks – and the Bottoms is it. Most of the homes here are small, with tiny yards, broken fences, with the buildings themselves being run down, many lacking paint in the last decade. Many were Sears kit homes that have long been neglected. It’s not uncommon to see a car on blocks in the front yard. This is the area where crime is more prevalent in Mystique.
Rumbletown. Built on some higher ground than the Bottoms and separated by a thick copse of woods, Rumbletown is pure middle class. Nice homes, well kept -a handful dating back to the 1800’s, they have larger yards and there is a sense of prosperity. It is also the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Neighbors watch out for each other’s kids.
Oak Hills. This neighborhood, along with East Towne, are older homes. Oak Hills is pristine and well kept. There are not a lot of kids in this part of town…it is mostly older families with long-term ties to the community. There is money in Oak Hills, though a few younger families have moved in, lured by the charm of Victorian era homes.
East Towne. The words, “old money” best describe this part of town. Older homes with large yards, fenced or protected from the street by low brick decorative walls or hedges – this is where the wealth of Mystique has settled. Here is the Gray Mansion as well as the Morse Estate and Warton Hill – the three mansions in town. This neighborhood is elite and shuns outsiders. Snooty blue-haired old ladies are the mainstay in this community – and many will tell any kids lingering around to, “get out before we call the police.” Who you are in this part of town is determined by your family name and who you are related to. It is very much a closed community.
Rackton. Rackton is a mix of old and new homes – some in bad shape, some pristine. There is not a lot of continuity in this community. It is a hodge-podge of people – a mixing bowl of wealth and poor alike. Rackton has a personality. It is often a place where people buy their first home and there is a strong sense of community there. Rackton tends to be the best of all of the other communities combined. Parents watch out for each other’s kids here.
The Fair Grounds. There are four pavilion buildings on the fair grounds, as well as a harness racing track and a barn. The rest of the flat grassy meadow where the fair is held is mowed and maintained as an open town park. The big elms and oaks that dot the area provide great shade and there are picnic tables scattered about to make it a great place to relax. The parking lot is a well-known make-out spot for the older kids and a target for the sheriff on his nightly patrols.
Life in Mystique
Cruising the Gut. Summer on Saturday nights is spent on main street. Cars park on both sides of the street and kids hang out. Older kids with cars cruise back and forth on Main. The police try and curtail “cruising the gut,” as it is called, but it is token enforcement at best. Everyone hangs out.
The Historical Society Home Tour. The first week of October every year is the historical society home tour. This is a chance for the historical homes in the town to open up for visitors to see them. Preparations take weeks and often food is offered in homes for those on the tour. The historical society sells tickets to the events and people come from over 100 miles away to see the stately older homes in the community.
The County Harvest Fair. The county fair takes place the last week of August every year for seven days. People come from all over the county to show off their fruits, vegetables, and prize livestock. The big event is the demolition derby and the harness races each night. The kids enjoy the carnival rides and food the most.
The Christmas Parade. Two weeks before Christmas is the Christmas parade. All of the stores are open and people fill the windows and sidewalks to see the floats, the marching band from the high school and the arrival of Santa Clause.
The 4th of July Town Picnic. Held at the fairgrounds, this is a town-wide picnic. There are several local bands that play and fireworks in the evening. Rumors are under the grandstands the older men bring in moonshine – but that’s not the real focus of the festivities.
So there you have it – a complete little town awaiting some meddling kids on bikes… Of course I realize now I could have sold this to Renegade Games. Stupid, stupid, stupid!