Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Entourage in Detail

The number of individual personalities surrounding the PCs in our campaign has increased to such an extent, including as it does henchmen, lackeys, and NPCs just a long for the ride, that it is now less precise to call this group a party than an entourage.

We’ve got a game coming up next week, so we could probably all do with a refresher on who everyone is. The picture below depicts the lot in what would be their most frequent respective postures. The description to follow outlines each character, from left to right.

Addy and Simkin (always a pair). Lackeys, 0 Level.
Role: Basically, they’re just there to carry stuff for the adventurers, and do menial tasks (gather firewood, set up and break down camp, cook, care for the horses, etc.) so that the adventurers can spend their time and energy on more important things. They have very few of their own possessions, so they can pick up a lot of the encumbrance that would otherwise slow the party down.
Goals: Having known only abject poverty their entire lives, they are content to live hand to mouth and be provided with enough to eat and a few coins here and there; thus far, they have never expressed any ambitions beyond survival from week to week.
History: The scions of peasant farmers of the lowest stock, they grew up living hand to mouth until even their own families couldn’t afford them. They formed a pair at some point, and took to roaming the countryside to eke out a living through seasonal labour, stealing chickens, and so on. When they met Dodge (see below), they attached themselves to him as lackeys, and have been following him around ever since.

Dodge. Fighter, Level 1.   
Henchman of Luna.
Role: Soldier under Luna’s command; proficient in sword, both bow types, and knife.  Supplies additional brawn for the PCs, and never complains about anything (nor, for that matter, does he talk much at all).
Goals: Live a life of adventure fighting for the cause of Good, and stay alive as long as possible. He would also like to remit wealth to his family in Posselau.
History: The third son of poor farmers in Posselau, his life was a struggle from the onset. He managed to obtain an apprenticeship to a blacksmith, but sought an opportunity to escape it soon after getting hit in the face with molten iron. Ran away once, taking refuge in a snake-infested cave, but was brought back and beaten severely for his transgression. Befriended by Hamish (see below) and learning of the existence of the PCs, he finally found a chance to leave Posselau (taking his lackeys with him).

Hamish. Cleric, Level 1.
Henchman of Luna.
Goals: Get as close to God as possible. Hopes eventually to retire to a secluded monastic life in old age and devote his life to more peaceful forms of worship than those currently necessary.
Role: Clerical knowledge of religion and healing. If necessary, can use cross-shaped staff as weapon with the shillelagh spell.
History: Was abandoned to a monastery in the far north as a child. For reasons not yet disclosed, he traveled south to Shropshire after having been swindled of all possessions. Has worked as a scribe, and taught Dodge to read and write in Latin. When rumours of the PCs and their reputation came through the church in Posselau, he persuaded Dodge and his lackeys to seek them out and petition to join them.

Waleran Thayler. Cleric, Level 3.
Role: Draw lightning down from stormy skies to annihilate opponents; fight with javelin and war hammer; heal the entourage’s wounds.
Goals: Wealth and power foremost, and fame secondarily.
History: After a sketchy and troubled youth, fell in with an underground temple of the Sami pagan deity Horagales, who blessed him with the power to call lightning. Still aligned with the temple, he adheres to the cult’s dietary and lifestyle restrictions, remaining celibate to maintain his magical powers. Mostly. Has had sex at least once, and really wants to again. His big ears and weird face tend to turn most women off, though. 

Luna. Paladin, Level 3.
Role: Ridding the world of evil; fighting; healing.
Goals: Serve the Lord; eventually acquire holy steed and holy sword to further this goal.
History: The eldest surviving daughter of the master groom at Ludeforde Castle, she had the opportunity to absorb her father’s skill with animals as well as noble decorum and connections within the Earl of March’s household. Her natural beauty and inherent religious devotion, enhanced with her charisma and prowess with weapons of war, set her on an inevitable course to travel the world on a holy quest. Somewhat unexpectedly, she has not yet expressed any desire to leave Shropshire.

Llewellyn Fjord. Bard, Level 2.
Role: Magically inspire and augment the power and prowess of the other adventurers through music, song and stories; fight with bow and sword when circumstances require. 
Goals: Fill the world with beauty and music, and have a smashing old time in the meanwhile.
History: Grew up somewhat sheltered in the remote reaches of western Shropshire, just inside the Welsh border. Was always so gifted with music that his talent seemed almost supernatural; and in pieces of history gleaned from his grandfather, suspects that there are some very bizarre facts surrounding his parentage.

Tabetha Hawthorne. Bard, Level 1.
Henchman of Llewellyn.
Role: Provide genius insight and scholarship, and music (especially harp and vocal) to augment the benefits of Llewellyn's; also a gifted archer, and will use the bow in combat when necessary.
Goals:  Ultimately, peaceful rest in Heaven when the Lord deigns to release her from the misery of mortal existence.
History: Clearly suffered something tragic, the details of which are shrouded in mystery. Travels with a horse called Richard, after the crown prince Richard of Bordeaux.

Ragnar Bjorgvinson. Barbarian, Level 2.
Former PC now under DM control.
Role: Specialist in battle axe, proficient in several other weapons, and can skipper a boat if that’s ever needed. Will generally do whatever the PCs, who are all more intelligent, tell him to do. 
Goals: Do as he pleases, take what he wants, and general satisfy his animal urges.
History: Grew up on the boats, as a mariner bringing shiploads of herring from Scandinavia. Walked away from service after a vicious quarrel with his captain when the boat docked at Bristol, met the party when they were still a small group, and joined them to a living by his axe. 

Hugh from Afar. Cleric, Level 3.
Role: Scholar. Only loosely associated with the entourage; not an official member. Sought to travel with them on hearing of Luna’s reputation for miraculous healing and other gifts of God. Currently engaged in writing a history of the region. Follows the party at a distance, learning as he goes; in a pinch, will provide clerical services such as healing and turn undead.
Goals: Gain knowledge, keep extensive notes, and keep a safe distance from actual combat. 
History: As a friar gifted with healing, helped to hold back the last outbreak of plague in the north. Parentage and upbringing unknown.  

When we left the entourage, they had just returned to the village of Clutune in the wee hours of the morning, taking refuge in a stable just as the rain began to fall. They had fled from the forest just north of the village with a monty haul of treasure with which they absconded from a desperate battle between an imprisoned demoness and her guardian spirit. Ten strong, the entourage are currently nursing their wounds while they pass the time till dawn, talking by candlelight and waiting for their adrenaline to subside. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Don Quixote Stayed Here

During an excursion into Spanish literature with a member of our campaign, mention was made of Don Quixote, and I recalled that within that doorstop of a tome is plenty of fodder for encounter, and even adventure, ideas for our game.
The text in my possession is P. A. Motteux's 1712 English translation, still the best loved by many. The language is delightful, but might present an obstacle to anyone whose primary literary exposure comes from the 21st-century internet; that is to say, the majority of the general public. These days, even when I write for the university publication, the 'readability index' through which my papers are run says that they're too difficult to read, and I'm commanded to rephrase things in a 'simpler' (read: less precise) manner.
Don Quixote should really be read by everyone, though; all the better if they can read the original Spanish. Since I'm fairly confident that no one in our campaign is going to read it cover to cover anytime soon, however, I feel free to usurp, bastardise and cannibalise that cornucopia of ideas for all that it's worth--as soon as we start playing again, which, by the way, seems to keep getting pushed further and further back.
Our next session is at the beginning of November.
I am working on updating certain players' spreadsheets in response to the claim that two of them have ascended in level. The bare mathematics of the total XP of one of these two, however, forbids me to interpret that he has.
In the meantime, I'd like to revisit the subject of lodging as I offer a gem of a description of an inn, which serves to remind us how, despite the austerity, a stay at an inn is a big step up from lying in a rain-soaked mohair tent with only a bedroll between earth and weary body.
One of the servants in the inn was an Asturian wench, a broad-faced, flat-headed, saddle-nosed dowdy, blind of one eye, and the other almost out. However, the activity of her body supplied all other defects. She was not above three feet high from her heels to her head; and her shoulders, which somewhat loaded her, as having too much flesh upon them, made her look downwards oftener than she could have wished. This charming original likewise assisted the mistress and the daughter; and, with the latter, helped to make the Knight's bed, and a sorry one it was; the room where it stood was an old gambling cock-loft, which by manifold signs seems to have been, in the days of yore, a repository for chopped straw. Somewhat further, in a corner of that garret, a carrier had his lodging; and, though his bed was nothing but the panels and coverings of his mules, it was much better than that of Don Quixote, which only consisted of four rough-hewn boards laid upon two uneven tressels, a flock-bed, that, for thinness, might well have passed for a quilt, and was full of knobs and bunches, which, had they not peeped out through many a hole, and shown themselves to be of wool, might well have been taken for stones. The rest of that extraordinary bed's furniture was a pair of sheets, which rather seemed to be of leather than linen-cloth, and a coverlet whose every individual thread you might have told, and never have missed one in the tale.
It's striking that a night's repose in such environs is sufficient to regain lost HP (as, incidentally, it was for Don Quixote, whose bangs and bruises from his most recent skirmish were somewhat miraculously healed by the next morning). That should underscore the necessity of at least a roof and indoor heating after a hard day's travels; all the more if the party is recovering from combat.
Historian Ian Mortimer, in The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England, reminds us that the medieval traveler's place of rest depends on where he finds himself at sunset. When considering the alternatives, when he has a chance to stay at an inn, he should most certainly leap at it. Innkeepers are aware of this, and are likely to charge accordingly. Mortimer calls innkeepers 'no-nonsense men, shaped like bears' who are accustomed to handling all manner of ruffians and other obstreperous clients. They have the power to turn a customer out without his belongings, or even without his clothes, if he fails to make good on the bill.
Thus far, the party have run into few problems with inns or their masters. Nonetheless, they should always be aware that they're lucky to be allowed to stay, lest they get any ideas about complaining about the smoke, the fleas and bedbugs, the barking of the guard dogs, the smell of stale beer and dog urine in the rushes on the floor, or the creaking of stairs and bodily noises of fellow guests coming and going in the night. The only option remaining might be to bed down with the elements, which at the very least will provide no recovery of HP, and very well might lead to infection and other problems.
Or perhaps they could take their chances in a cheap bed in a hospital, on ancient unchanged sheets next to a pungent leper.