Some of my readers may have heard of Grognardia, another blog about D&D (and fantasy literature and movies, other RPGs, and more recently the advertisements that appeared in Dragon magazine.) Very occasionally Mr. Maliszewski posts about Morgan Just, a favorite PC from one of his old campaigns. How boring does that sound? But I don’t know, maybe it’s because Mr. Maliszewski is so good at what he does, or maybe it’s because he isn’t writing about his *own* character, but about someone else’s, I really enjoy these posts. Enough that, I’d like to write about my one of my favorite PCs belonging to one of my players: Brockway Smith—later known as Brockway Smith-Brockway.
The center of my home campaign is Alyan, a continent that might be called a high medieval version of Middle Earth. The land, both town and country is generally beautiful and peaceful, the elves hold considerable power, but exercise it infrequently, and there are little pockets filled with hobbits, here and there. Plus there are real cities, and well-maintained roads, temples, and coastal maritime trade. But ambitious as humans may be, the Elves make sure they don’t get too—well— human. Thus, Brockway, the son of a blacksmith in Erah, an idyllic village governed by the light touch of a mirthful and much-loved sheriff/bard (yes, a literal Mary Sue character—my own PC from another campaign), really had to work hard just to get out of the shadow of all of these nice nice people.
Brockway started as a fighter, but with the intent of changing classes to become a magic-user. This is hard to do in Alyan. The Elves are proprietary about magic. If humans are allowed to understand it, it will probably be bad for humans, and definitely be bad for the Elves. Nevertheless, Brockway traveled to the foot of Grey Mountain, seat of the Elf king, and made his appeal. Right place at the right time. In fact, one branch of the elf school had fallen under some kind of curse, and only humans could fix it. (Rahasia? Kinda)And, in return for doing so, Brockway was taught the rudiments of magic.
But Alyan proved too small for Brockway. Although he found small opportunities for adventure(for instance, Horror on the Hill), the Elves were reluctant to teach him new spells, and the rare human mage he encountered had little to teach him beyond cantrips. Plus every time he went home to Erah, he found that tales of his heroic deeds had preceded him, only to be recast as buffoonery by that mirthful and much-loved sheriff/bard who gently governed the village. But in his commerce with the elves, Brockway learned that they were so jealous in hiding the secrets of their magic for very solid, rather than theoretical, reasons. Alyan had been invaded in the past, about a century ago, by magic-wielding humans from a place over the sea known vaguely as “the Ori Lands.” The people of Alyan would not have repelled the invaders without the elves and their magic. Wouldn’t that be all the more reason for the humans of Alyan to also learn magic? Maybe, but Brockway didn’t have time to argue with elves, and so he found a captain willing to take him to the Ori Lands, so that he might seek out a teacher among the elves’ ancient enemies.
The Ori Lands are a mish-mash of what Occidental people once called the Orient; Brockway’s adventures were confined to an area inspired by the 1,001 Nights. This was, of course, liberating for the DM as it let me use some adventures that were just wrong for Alyan, such as B4 The Lost City. Brockway wasn’t that impressed by the Magi of Usamigaras, and was asked to leave Cynidicea by a temporary confederation of Gorm Brothers and Madarua Sisters. (Brockway’s player also ran Ophelia, a Cynidicean priestess of Madarua who once fought alongside Beatriss in the Sisters campaign against the Yuan-Ti who had taken up residence in the lower city.) All the same, Brockway had other adventures in the desert and finally got to do big things for big people (Pharaoh, Oasis of the White Palm as well as several home-grown adventures) and got properly rewarded. Besides gp and xp, he found a proper master, married his master’s daughter, and began to gather a small, but formidable posse of like-minded adventures, including Elamurix, a renegade elf who had no qualms about trading magical secrets with humans who had spells of their own worth sharing.
And then, for some reason, it was time to go back to Alyan. The reason might have been that Brockway had learned of an evil cult that was a threat to Alyan, but regardless, the defeat of this cult soon became Brockway’s primary goal. Alyan’s nascent maritime industry was threatened by pirates, and these pirates, it seemed, had a safe haven on an island some undisclosed distance from Alyan. On the island, there was a temple, and destroying this temple was the best way to end the piracy. That was Brockway’s theory and the Elf King went along with it, agreeing to fund the building of a ship and give his moral support as Brockway gathered about 100 adventurers to go attack the temple—about a dozen who would enter the temple itself, while the bulk remained to guard the ship and ward off any counter-attacks, with a few high-level adviser-types provided by the Elf King himself. In some ways, the Temple proved to be kind of like the Cave of Chaos all over again, in that the forces of evil were obviously too disorganized to actually mount any formidable attack against civilization and goodness. (There was, for instance, no naval shipyards, and once Brockway & Co. arrived on the scene, the pirates seemed to desert their former protectors to seek out a new safe haven.) But there was glory and treasure to be had, and despite the casualties (most notably, Elamurix, killed in a troll ambush against the party on their way back from the Temple to their ship), Brockway selected several teams of heroes and heathen-slayers to dig down to the lowest level and met Zuggtmoy, Iuz, and St. Bocrates (my slight variant on St. Cuthbert) along the way. I don’t think he entered “the nodes,” but he did more than enough to make him a hero (and a believer). He returned to Alyan and received a plaque, a finely-crafted model of the ship with 24kt gold hardware, and a coat-of-arms (complete with a double-barreled last name). He was a good enough sport to return to Erah, where he proved that he was the good-natured one all along—laughing along with half-mocking songs, when he could easily and half by rights level the whole village and toast its sheriff-bard.
And then the elves invited him to come to Grey Mountain and have funded his on-going magical research ever since.
Recently my friend who played Brockway suggested that he was “kind of a lout.” Although many others said this, I don’t think it’s fair. He was a tall poppy, and as DM, I ‘m proud to say that like both people of Erah and the Elves of Grey Mountain, I never once gave him an even break. He was cautious when he needed to be, but never cowardly, taking his place on the front line when he wasn’t casting spells, and sharing magic items with his henchmen. As of this writing, he has discovered in the library at Grey Mountain, a reference to the lost tomb of Acererak.