Saturday, September 17, 2011

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this (Night's Dark Terror, Session 4)

I missed session 3, in which the party defended Sukiskyn from goblin raiders. Although they were repelled, the goblins did manage to steal a large number of horses were stolen and in session 4, we went after them, under an agreement that we’d be allowed to keep half(?) of those we recovered. We tracked the goblins to a small, human settlement a few hours away, recovered the horses and brought them back to Sukiskyn. In the morning, a small of group of men approached Sukiskyn, explaining that their own settlement had been attacked and Stefan (brother to Pyotr, our host at Sukiskyn) had been kidnapped. More details can be found here: Soladain, 10 Thaumont AC 1000

This rest of this post is a rambling editorial, looking at why my character Pavel, the cleric, is on this adventure or why any cleric goes on any adventure.

It’s kind of stupid to ask, “Why does my character even want to go on this adventure?” A good answer is, “Why are you even here in my basement?”

But you'll keep reading anyway. Some other answers . . .

Because you’re the strongest, smartest, most generally capable man in the village and if you don’t go kill that Thing, it will come here and kill all of us.

Because you’re too lazy to work, too imprudent to save . . . too shiny to go without and too sexy to care . . . and that Thing is sitting on a big pile of gold.

Because that Thing’s as old as the world and it . . . knows things.

Because you took care of a lot of widows and orphans last week and preached a bang-up sermon yesterday and by golly you deserve your day to recharge like anyone else! And maybe, besides the Thing, there’s a vampire in that cave, and you can kill that, too.

With clerics, it’s hard. Although most members of the priestly caste are insulated from danger, life's random deprivations, even the need to go out and make a living, there are some who exile themselves from the comfort most other adventurers are, at least nominally seeking. In Pavel's case, he was a young acolyte who went into the wilderness for twenty years. That’s long enough to go crazy, and not long enough to get back.

The adventure associated with Night’s Dark Terror is pretty straight-forward: help us get these valuable white horses for a cut of their sale price. That could happen in our world. Goblins and ankhegs take the place of rustlers and injuns. Or to be more narrowly contemporary, speed traps and intestinal worms. (It's just the horses who have worms. Probably).

And the low-fantasy realism of it makes it even harder to explain why the priest-man is there.

He has access to very powerful painkillers and anti-biotics.

In the last game, he was also able to warn Allelle, an Elf Fighter/ Mage about the dangers of consorting with goblins. About an hour after we met a goblin in a tree—whom Allelle communicated with using the disgusting creature’s own perverted language— we met another elf, a woman, who was living in the company of goblins, and whom we shot dead. Slippery slope. Lie down with dogs. (Some of the sharper members of the party think she may have been a hostage, but don’t tell Pavel.)

Pavel is a Traldaran, and has a strong suspicion of not only non-humans, but even non-Traldarans—i.e. Thyatians. At the goblins camp, they found dead prisoners in the huts and almost his first thought was, “Are these Traldarans?” Is it still Xenophobia when those who aren’t your kind want to eat you? (Either literally, with the goblins, or metaphorically, in the case of the Thyatians who are consuming Traldaran resources and obliterating Traldaran culture.)

Pavel rejects the creature comforts of civilization but he hasn't necessarily adapted to the wilderness either. Rather, he endures. And maybe deprivation and fear associated with the wilderness are in some ways easier to grapple with the spirtiual threats presents by city life. Or even outpost-in-the-forest life.

IMG_0230 by Brayo
IMG_0230, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

One of the great features of D&D is the leveling system and the qualified expectation that a band of impoverished adventures will one day be heroes. And this gives some credence to Pavel’s otherwise baseless “prophecy” that this is not just about horses and getting paid, but at some point we will be called to do something really important in the service of Law. (Never mind that Pavel may be the only Lawful member of the party, that’s all part of the prophecy.)

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