The Puchinegs are known as "The Clowns", or the "Clam Diggers". They dress all in white, with long tubular hats, and impossibly long noses, the tips of which often hang below their mouths. They are drinkers non-pareil and Celebrants of the Festival of Wine and Clams. Masters of physical comedy, staging plays for adults and children alike. They’ll entertain you, but dont piss on their parade, and don’t bother asking them their history or nature. They will just smile and offer you some clams and wine, or try to make you laugh.
While technically members of the human race, or at least assumed to be so, the Puchinegs have a bizarre appearance which allows the sages to endlessly debate their origins. Unusually tall, averaging well over six feet in height, almost all Puchinegs share certain physical characteristics. Almost to a man, they tend to have hunchbacks, barrel chests, and comical pot bellies. Their most distinguishing feature however, is their propensity for huge noses. Bird-like beaks with flaring nostrils, the fleshy tips of their noses tend to hang well below their mouths, adding to their bizarre aspect. In fact some falsely speculate that Puchinegs are related to trolls, or have troll blood in their veins. This is untrue, but the Puchinegs delight in the assumptions of strangers, and never confirm or denounce the suspicions of outsiders.
Despite their strange physical frame, the Puchinegs are extremely strong and quite coordinated, capable of acrobatics and impressive feats of strength.
Their atypical mode of dress is unique as well. Whenever attending the festivals and carnivals of Cilagros, the Puchinegs all uniformly dress in baggy all-white attire, punctuated by long cylindrical white hats on their heads.
They are always seen carrying sacks of clams, wherever they go, which they bring from their marshy homeland, as well as casks of strong, pungent red wine, which they are never without. Their propensity for drink is amazing, allowing them to quaff gallons of wine at a time, while showing little or no effects from the alcohol.
The origins of the Puchinegs are unsurprisingly clouded in myth and legend. They dwell in the vast, delta marsh south of Cilagros, city of Canals and Bridges, where the confluence of the Fano and Virgin Rivers, meets the Warm Sea. They have dwelt in this swampy land for as long as anyone could recall, emerging only during the Time of Festivals, when they arrive in Cilagros to kick off the two month long celebrations, which in Cilagros begins with the "Day of Song and Dance" and culminates with the original "Monsters Ball".
When in Cilagros, the Puchinegs work as clowns. They put on comedic performances in the streets, engage in pranks and various merriment, and most of all entertain children. The Puchinegs love children, perhaps because no one has ever seen a Puchineg child or woman for that matter in hundreds of years. Their society is completely unknown and the Puchinegs will never speak of it. In the midst of the Time of Festivals, the Puchinegs stage one of their own as well, The Festival of Clams and Wine, as its called. During this two day affair, the Puchinegs can be seen, eating their clams and drinking their wine in unimaginable amounts, gorging themselves, until they finally pass out in happy stupors, usually on a hillock just outside of the city. Anyone is welcome to attend this bacchanalia, though no one to date has been able to out-eat or out-drink the Puchinegs. While having no females of their own, the Puchinegs love women, almost as much as they love children. It is said that their comically large noses are an indication of another comically large feature, and many maidens and wives of Cilagros’ populace have, over the years, confirmed these raunchy rumors. Though far from attractive to most women, their lasciviousness and stamina is also legendary.
The Puchinegs do have a slightly darker side, but this only manifests itself if people steal from them, or if one or more of the Puchinegs witnesses any form of child abuse. At these times, they have been known to enter wild rages, and beat people to pulps with their powerful fists, crush windpipes, break legs, or otherwise assault the miscreants. Over time however, the people of Cilagros, have learned of the Puchinegs ways, and only the fool-hardy or exceptionally malevolent will dare mess with the otherwise pleasant and entertaining Puchinegs.
When they are not working as clowns in Cilagros, the Puchinegs can be found in the soggy flatlands of the Delta. Here they spend the majority of their time digging for clams in the wet soil, brewing their heady wine from gooseberries and wild grapes, and living their lives in peace in harmony with the wildlife of the Delta. They have no towns or cities to speak of, dwelling in tents and pavilions, often rasing stakes and moving to other parts of the marshland in perpetual nomadic style.
While as mentioned, the Puchinegs origins and true natures are unknown, there are many legends of the "Marsh Clowns" which circulate in the streets and sage guilds of Cilagros and other cities. It is said that hundreds of years ago, the Puchinegs migrated to the lush river delta, from somewhere far to the west, led by their King, a certain "Puchistos the Prophet". It is said that Puchistos had a dream, in which the gods of men and beasts, told him of a singular Scarlet Pearl, inside the Clam of Fate, which lay somewhere in the vast Delta south of Cilagros. It was told to Puchistos, that his people were destined to find this pearl, and the Puchinegs have been searching for it ever since. The veracity of these wild tales, cannot be determined, but they lend credence to the strange habits of the Puchinegs and their incessant clam digging and eating. Their "Clam Diggers" nickname obviously stems from this fact as well. If a learned man or woman took the time to explain to the Puchinegs that pearls are found in oysters and not clams, the Puchinegs would simply smile and shake their heads in disbelief, convinced of Puchistos’ vision.
Occasionally various folk, and particularly curious adventurers visit the Puchinegs in their desolate marshlands. The Puchinegs are never aggressive, unless threatened in any way. They do tend to speak little or none at all to outsiders, however, and never engage in their famous clown performances, much to the chagrin of the visitors. They do gently attempt to make the strangers "be on their way". If sly hints don’t work, the Puchinegs will invite travellers to a supper feast of clams and wine. The wine will usually do the trick, due to its incredible potency. Once the visitors are drunk and sleeping, the Puchinegs will pick them up, and carry them great distances, eventually leaving them lying in the muck, many miles away from their ever-moving villages.
No one has successfully figured out perhaps the most unexplainable mystery of all. Since no females or children have ever been seen, it is a matter of conjecture, as to how the Puchinegs reproduce, or whether they do at all! Nothing of their ecology, lifespan, or inherent biology is known, and the smiling Puchinegs offer no answers.
As a final note of interest, the Puchinegs are the inventors and originators of the sport of "Cruppe", or Badminton as its known in other worlds. Using a gummy substance from the indigenous dwarf rubber trees of the Delta, feathers of countless marsh birds, as well as the wood of the Accacia tree for the necessary equipment, the Puchinegs have introduced the sport, which over the last fifty years has become all the rage among the nobles of Cilagros. Watching these misshapen, big-nosed, giants play such a gentle, dainty sport, incidentally, is yet another aspect that puts smiles on the faces of Cilagros populace when the Puchinegs come at carnival time.
None. The only weapons they have ever been seen with are small clubs and clam-shucking knives. They are never seen without three things however. Sacks of clams, casks of wine, and all the necessary equipment for a rousing match of "Cruppe".
-One of the PCs can choose to be a Puchineg youth, who has left his tribe, in search of adventure. While technically human for game purposes, and NOT a separate race, a Puchineg PC would have improved strength, coordination, and stamina, while somewhat lacking in the intelligence and wisdom department.
-A bored and rebellious Puchineg latches on to the PCs and insists on travelling with them, entertaining them with his clown antics, while eating copious amounts of the groups food.
-The PCs visit Cilagros during the Time of Festivals, witness the performances of the Puchinegs and interact with the strange but lovable people.
-The PCs stumble upon a Puchineg village while lost in the swampy Delta. Hijinks ensue. What happens entirely depends on the PCs attitudes, but it is worth noting again, that the normally docile Puchinegs are fierce when angered, and nearly as strong as Ogres.
-A group of PCs exploring the Delta come upon a clam with a large scarlet pearl inside. If word gets out to the Puchinegs, one can only guess at their reaction at having their legendary "holy grail" found.
This submission was inspired by a painting I stared at for an hour last night. "Pulcinelle on Vacation", by the 18th century master, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. A take on the Pulcinelles (Clowns) of the famed Carnival of Venice and the Commedia dell’Arte