Strathbogie: "We allowed this Swamp Man (Mendel is his name, and he was once a carpenter in Lesserton before he got turned-on to Earth Magic) to lead us on an excursion where we walked a full day through swamp, marsh, bog, and quagmire-- and then a second day over a blasted heath but little better suited for the comfort and sanity of humans. And at the end of it all, there was a cave full of bones. Isden, with his eye for coin, found barely enough to pay for the hard-tack we've eaten on the way here and a bowl of soup at the Original when we return. But all the same, I'm intrigued by this Earth Magic, the two bowls carved into the rock of the cave, one stained, the other clean."
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Sometimes it’s you who gets justice and sometimes it’s justice that gets you. Strathbogie has never enjoyed the Centipede Races. But he knows it’s part of what makes Lesserton special. And so when Isden found an opportunity to get in with the fine folks who raise the best racers by collecting some young pedes from the swamp, he was honored to be a part of it. And it looked like an easy harmless way to make a living. Trek out to a little island of rock and spindly trees an hour out in the swamp, make the baby centipedes sleep, and then scoop then into sacks. But then things went South. Mommy centipedes showed up. (“The females are always the most vicious.”) The spindly trees and vines and weeds sprang up and pulled us down to the soggy turf.
And then one of the swamp people showed up to give us a lecture about letting wild things stay wild. He made us promise to let the centipedes go. And told us he could tell if he were lying. We agreed. And Strathbogie is trying to figure out how he does that trick of knowing when people are lying.
As I mentioned in my “reviews” of the Lesserton and Mor product, Strathbogie did recover his spell book, with interest, and justice, perhaps excessive, was done to the elf who had stolen it. It was a great game, with each of the PCs making an interesting contribution. Strathbogie bought some decent clothes and took a meal at the Platinum Pegasus, the one really fancy place to eat in town. Sure enough, there was an elf staying there. Strathbogie tailed him out, and watched him buy a horse. And he got a good enough look at him to be sure that this was the same elf who’d sold his spell book to the Platonic Order. But as I mentioned in my review, Lesserton is not the kind of place where you can expect much from the authorities. We didn’t consider reporting the theft and even after we knew who the thief was, we knew we’d have to deliver justice on our own. But outright lawlessness is not tolerated inside the city walls. His purchase of a horse told us he was planning to leave soon. So Thakko talked to his friend Hank who owns the stables at the city gate. The elf’s horse was there. Hank had a sense of when the elf was planning to leave town, and he agreed to add something to the horse’s feed so that it had some problems out on the road. Meanwhile, we prepared an ambush. Thakko and Isdn found a place to hide about an hour outside town. Isdn buried bug teeth in the road to serve as caltrops. Strathbogie hung around outside the gate.
Briefly, the plan worked. Not perfectly, but well enough. The elf wasted his charm spell on Strathbogie who would have been nearly useless in combat anyway. Thakko and Isdn were not especially well-hidden but the bug teeth were. We felt a little sorry for the elf’s hired guard who got mixed up in all this. But that's swamp justice for you.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Perhaps the best testament to the interest of Lesserton is the fact that our party has spent little game time in Mor. There’s enough going on in town that we’ve only ventured out on a few narrowly-defined missions. It’s also because while Mor itself probably contains dungeons, we haven’t been looking find them, and have experienced Mor as a “wilderness.” In some ways, Mor is not so different from Lesserton—some of our most interesting encounters have been with the Orkin tribes, who are of the type that put the “human” back into humanoid. We have not fought any of them (although there are rumors of more warlike tribes who might attack on sight) and have instead engaged them in trade.
Whether Mor is a “dungeon” or a “wilderness,” it is an expansive ruins and this type of setting is popular for good reason. The mirror image of the dirty little town of Lesserton, the ruined capital of Mor juxtaposes the grander of towers, temples, palaces, and fountains with weedy swamps and lots of beasties. Although the Mor Book includes a “dungeon crawl,” I expect that our adventures have been generated by random tables supported by concise descriptions of notable locations.
A glance at the Mor map shows that much of Mor is left for the referee to fill in. It seems that there is enough background description and random tables for the referee to run a few sessions as a way of introducing the setting and gauging player interest. I think my group has reached the point where we’re hoping for something meatier. Again, leafing through the Mor book, I don’t know that there’s anything ready-made. But as a player, I am curious about all those supposedly empty building, and I know that we haven’t even seen more than a small portion of the ruins. There’s a lot of “emptiness,” but the it doesn’t feel empty; I’m engaged enough to believe that there’s a lot more to discover.
What makes Mor most engaging are the constant subtle reminders of its connections to Lesserton. These connections are probably most evident in Lesserton. Many of the townsfolk will speak openly of their distrust or dislike of elves, and their “reason” (something about the elves failure to prevent the destruction of Mor) is so well-know that it doesn’t need to be said. Likewise, anyone who shows strong Orkin traits is regarded, with a mixture of fear and condescension, as being “from the ruins.” Then, when you’re in the ruins, those residents (the Orkin tribes) speak of Lesserton with their own mixture of wonder and disdain.
I should state directly, if it’s not obvious, that I’ve been playing D&D a long time and so have the other players. Less experienced players might have some frustrations with the PC's poverty, the slow level advancement, and the lack of signs saying, “This way to the Dungeon.” These issues could be “corrected.” For instance, there are a couple adventures included, including a mini-dungeon set in Mor. A referee could get this one going in the typical way (“you’re hanging out in the tavern and a stranger comes up to your table.”) To be successful, the referee might have to allow more standard character collection, so that thief characters could not only afford lockpicks but also know where to buy them. Some value would be lost—the way we got to know Lesserton was by, for instance, checking in at various potential purveyors of lockpicks. And likewise, when we entered Mor, we knew that we couldn’t survive more than one or two fights and were thus forced to negotiate with the Orkin. But maybe there are other ways to balance competing values.
In summary, I’ve very much enjoyed playing in both Lesserton & Mor, and having a hard time restraining myself from delving into the “DM-only” books more deeply so that I might start planning a session with my own group of players.