Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Making hay while the sun shines...

I love that old adage. What it means to me, in this day and age, is that you've got to work while the muse has its talons in you, otherwise...it's gone. Piffft! Like morning mist under the hot sun, it just somehow disappears.

My daughters (10 and 7) have finally rolled up a couple of characters for a sandbox game of Labyrinth Lord. I was (and still am really) vacillating back and forth between LL and Swords and Wizardry. I finally decided upon Labyrinth Lord due to the existence of the thief. I know that there's a lot of hemming and hawing in regards to the thief and the part that class plays in the game, but I'm a fan. Simple and straightforward.

What I've got so far is a small town called Botkinburg (from C&C's Blacktooth Ridge), which I thought apropos since we've just returned from a trip to Germany and much of what the Chenaults have written seems to be very Germanic in name and feel. Let's just say it's the mood I'm currently in and go with that.

I'm using the Hruesen river from the Troll Lord Games setting as well...since, well it's there. Beyond that though, it's a crap-shoot. I've gathered all sorts of ideas from near and far and have yet to truly place them on a map, not to mention flesh them out. So, I thought I'd try and post a couple of ideas / locations per day (not likely, but hey, a guy can dream can't he?).

Up first, is the hermit from B2 Keep on the Borderlands. I've always loved the Erol Otis illustration and I always imagined that there was a lot more to the gnarly dude than the little snippet mentioned in the module.

So here's my take (apologies to GG if I'm treading on toes or messing with "canon".):

The Hermit of Tangle Downs is of an indeterminate age, as well as race. No one has spoken with him in ages, but he's also been a part of the local lore for as long as anyone can remember. The Tangle Downs is an area rife with danger, and the hermit sits right amidst it without a care in the world, with only a wild cougar to call companion. Now why might that be?

As previously stated, no one knows where the Hermit came from, he's "always been there". Which might seem to be the case, but the truth of the matter is, he's a dead wizard's "familiar" guarding a long forgotten library.

Long before this area was inhabited by humans, a stranger came out of the far east, some say from beyond the ocean, some say from even further. But the exact location has been lost to the passage of time. What is known, through old wives tales or just plain myth, is that he worked in the arcane arts and bent the forces of chaos to his will in order to build an abode. An ebon tower of basalt had sprung up over night. And within? There were none about, not elves, not gnomes, nor dwarves or hobbits, that were brave enough to explore that fell dwelling.

Long years passed, the wizard disappeared and the tower fell into disrepair...decaying quicker than natural. There are those that say that it was chaos claiming its own.

Today the Hermit sits and waits. He guards that which is invaluable; lore of the forgotten ages.

While the Hermit is interesting, what lies below is even more so. The ancient oak that grows twistingly towards the sky was at one time just a seedling in an old crumbling parapet garden, sitting atop the tower of that eastern practitioner of dark arts. The energies released from thaumaturgic circles and night-borne rituals eventually made their way to the tree, and over time fed it in a way that no natural rain or sunshine ever could.

Over the ages the tower crumbled, but the oak endured, as did the servant within. His master had died long ago, but the enchantments that kept him here were strong beyond imagining. Decades, then eventually eons passed and the lure of the knowledge drew him to the shelves upon shelves of books and scrolls. There he feasted upon dark thoughts and ancient, twisting wisdom until he had sated himself.

The ancient tree's roots slowly replaced much of the stone in that top tower room, the only room to survive the passage of time. And in so doing, a vaulted chamber of stone and living, enchanted wood became the resting place of much stygian learning.

These days the Hermit sits in a small, simple room within the tree, above the ancient library. He guards and watches as he's always done. And every once in a while, if the right question is asked, if the right tone of voice is used and the correct offerings made, the Hermit's mind takes fire and it is possible to hold discourse with him....For a short time. His knowledge of the arcane, of the places between places, creatures from the depths of the void and what once stood in the area, are beyond ken. He is truly a font.

But, this slight window does not remain open for long. The chaos of what slithers upon the pages below overcomes the rational, and he reverts, back to the mad Hermit that has forever dwelt in the Tangle Downs.


Scott said...

I try not to overly lionize the Old School, but this illustrates one thing I really like about the old modules. You get a short, evocative description, and then the author shuts up and lets you make up the rest yourself.

In far too many modern products, the module author would have provided you with the Hermit's backstory and motivation, and you wouldn't have had the fun of making that stuff up, or comparing it to the stories that other folks made up about him over the years. :)

Gamer Dude said...

I agree about over "lionizing" the old school, but one thing that I certainly do appreciate about the way most the older supplements and modules were written is that they're for the most part sans-story.

Funny thing though, I remember thinking, when I was younger, that the lack of story a weak oversight. Now I know a little better, or at least I "think" I know better. Rather than a collection of disparate parts, they wrote small interludes and expected the character's actions to tie them together as the story.

As I look at that type of setting through older eyes I find that I appreciate the freedom to imagine the things only hinted at.