30 July 2022

First Visit to Hommlet (Greyhawk Classics Campaign)


[Part 2 here]


3.1 First Night in Hommlet (Flocktime 5th)


After a difficult journey from Verbobonc, the doughty adventures— Erik (the mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (the high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee), and the brothers Godric (the human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth) and Cedric (the human cleric of St. Cuthbert)—arrive at Hommlet.


The party pauses on a small ridge above the village, which now lies to their south and southeast. To their left (east) stands an impressive Church of St. Cuthbert. It is finely crafted and its two stories peer down upon the village. Cedric forms a plan to visit the church the next day. The only taller structure that the party can see is a tower to the southeast, also on a hill, that stands several stories high. A swiftly flowing stream divides the village in two. South of the stream the party spies a large two-story building that they infer must be the region’s famous inn, The Welcome Wench.


Descending from the ridge, the party passes a trading post, a moneychanger, a smithy, and a couple of other commercial establishments, as well as a few farmhouses. Althaea is puzzled by the presence of a moneychanger in such a small settlement. Erik, though, is uninterested in anything other than the inn, so the party soon finds itself within The Welcome Wench.



Scattered about the common room are over a dozen customers. Among them are many farmers and other locals, as well as some merchants and their guards. The party notices a rough looking individual drinking alone at the bar. They suspect that this might be Zert (the swordsman mentioned by Gurth and Twick back at The Electrum Eel in Verbobonc). By the fire sits a young pale blond man dressed in blue; he is reading a book and trying to ignore the noise around him. Behind the bar work the innkeeper and his wife—the party already knows their names from Gurth and Twick: Ostler and Glora Gundigoot. Also working in the common room are three young serving women.


The party sits down at a long table. Althaea is suspicious of the young pale man reading the book and tries to keep an eye on him. Glora comes by the table to take the party’s order. Erik, in his usual spendthrift way, orders several rounds of the “Ghostpale Ale,” as well as fine meals of porkbelly and mushrooms for everyone.


Erik also orders drinks for the swordsman, who subsequently joins the party. He is indeed Zert, who chats amiably with the group. Erik enthusiastically relates the tale of the ambush south of Verbobonc to Zert, as well as the party’s goal of “finding adventure.” Zert offers to help the party in any of their future endeavours for an equal share of the loot. He is keen to use his blade “Betty” again soon. He also suggests that the bands of brigands plaguing the region likely are operating out of the Gnarley Forest, and is dismissive of the notion that anyone might be using the nearby Moathouse as a base. According to Zert, the Moathouse was utterly ruined following the Battle of Emridy Meadows a decade ago, and its rubble is unlikely to be habitable now.


After finishing up the first round of drinks, Erik switches to “Umberdeep Ale.” The shadowy brew packs a decent punch, much to the dwarf’s delight. Zert thanks the dwarf for his hospitality and retires for the evening. As the party discusses their plans, a tall pale man dressed in fine brown clothing descends into the common room. His jet-black hair is tied into a ponytail and his bright blue eyes indicate partial elvish heritage. Noticing the unusual group, he approaches the table and greets them in Elvish and then switches to Common.


Chatting affably, he explains that his name is Furnok, and that he is an accomplished “treasure finder.” With a brilliant smile, he produces some knucklebones and cards. Godric loses a game of knucklebones; Althaea subsequently loses a game of cards (“Emperor’s Folly”). Following the games, Furnok explains that he is in need of additional coin—more than he can ever hope to win off travellers in the inn—and offers his services as a treasure finder to the party.


Althaea asks if Furnok knows the young book-reader. He does, and somewhat amused by the elf’s suspiciousness, calls over Spugnoir. The young man explains that he is an aspiring mage who was accompanying a group of merchants through the Kron Hills when they were attacked by bandits. In his ensuing flight, Spugnoir lost his spellbook, and is currently working on replacing it while staying in Hommlet. His current efforts involve inscribing the few spells he has memorized into his new book, but he remarks that he hopes to find others to add, if possible. 


After a couple more drinks, the party decides to retire. They rent a private room on the second floor. It only has two beds, along with a table and a couple of chairs, but the party wishes to stay together in case the mysterious mage (from the ambush between Verbobonc and Hommlet) seeks revenge. Althaea cautiously casts “Alarm” on the door and window. Bedrolls are placed on the floor to provide sufficient sleeping places for all.


3.2 Preparations in Hommlet (Flocktime 6th – 7th)


The party starts the day with an elaborate breakfast. Afterwards Cedric and Althaea go to the Church of St. Cuthbert. There they are greeted by the aloof priest Calmert. When shown the letter from Bishop Haufren, though, Calmert’s tone becomes unctuous, and he asks Credric and Althaea to wait in the church’s pleasantly decorated audience chamber. Calmert then goes to fetch Canon Terjon, who arrives shortly afterwards.


Cedric describes his dreams of an evil rising in the region—a mysterious ancient nemesis of St. Cuthbert—and the information he gained from the Shrine of Istus (the shrine told him: “Travel to Hommlet, near the city of Verbobonc; those who follow St. Cuthbert there will aid you in your efforts”). Shaken by Cedric’s words, Canon Terjon mentions the increasing troubles with brigands and humanoids near the village, as well as the disappearance of Canon Y’dey (the previous head of the Church) a couple of months earlier. When shown the pebble with the symbol of the eye, Terjon remarks that he can recall no such symbol associated with the forces of the Temple of Elemental Evil a decade ago. Nonetheless, he surmises that it likely is used by some kind of secret organization. At the conclusion of their meeting, Terjon gives Althaea and Cedric a flask of holy water to assist them in their endeavours.


Before departing the church, Cedric visits the altar room. A life-sized statue of St. Cuthbert, holding a cudgel in his right hand and beckoning visitors with his left, stands behind the altar. The altar itself is a carved from a single piece of bronzewood and is decorated with an image of the saint’s crumpled hat, as well as smaller images of billets and star bursts. Cedric casts some of the church’s holy sticks on the altar and discerns the following two sayings of the saint:

·       “Evil which cannot be removed must be eliminated.”

·       “Preach quietly but have a large cudgel handy.”

Now infused with zeal and holy fervour for his cause, Cedric leaves the church. Althaea discretely rolls her eyes and follows. They return to the inn.


While Cedric and Althaea are at the church, Erik strikes up a conversation with a local named Elmo. The dwarf buys the villager a pint. Elmo seems to know the area around Hommlet quite well. Erik hires Elmo to guide the party to the Moathouse, offering him two gold pieces in advance, and another two gold pieces after they return.


Later that morn, the party goes to the Trading Post. Outside of the establishment’s door a shield and lantern hang from chains. On the shield is displayed a sword and a wedge of cheese. Inside. the party is greeted by two merchants, a sluggish obese fellow named Rannos Davl, and a tall, wiry individual with bulging eyes named Gremag. Erik and Althaea purchase some rations; Godric obtains a suit of studded leather armour.


Shortly afterwards, the party meets up with an armoured and surprisingly well-equipped Elmo. The villager guides the party along the eastern “High Road” out of Hommlet. After several hours of marching through the low hills and rough terrain beyond the village’s farmlands, the party arrives at the ruined Moathouse.



Art credits

- Pictures by Dave Trampier (from the original Village of Hommlet module).

- Hommlet map by Lavernius Regalis (from here).




25 July 2022

David Warner, RIP

David Warner was a very accomplished actor


But I’ll forever associate him with the character “Jon Irenicus” of the computer role-playing game, Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn.


Anyone who has ever played that game will recall his work for the lead villain. The opening lines will echo in my mind’s ear throughout the rest of my days:

Ahhh, the child of Bhaal has awoken.

It is time for more experiments...

RIP, Shattered One.

21 July 2022

Trailer for Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Here’s the poster for the forthcoming Dungeons and Dragons movie: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
As you might note, it looks like there’s an owlbear, mimic, brain devourer, displacer beast, and probably a mind flayer (or something with tentacles) in the movie.  
Some of the monsters mentioned above (owlbear, mimic, and displacer beast) appear in the trailer — plus a gelatinous cube and, of course, some dragons (black and red).
It looks rather heavily loaded with CGI. I guess that’s to be expected. The trailer is a bit too “busy” for my tastes. But the tone seems irreverent, which is good. And I quite liked the bit with the lute at the end. It could be a fun fantasy romp. I hope it is! 
If you have twenty minutes to kill, here’s a breakdown of the trailer from Chris Perkins and Todd Kenreck, focusing on the monsters and some of the locations for the movie. Unsurprisingly, it is set in the Forgotten Realms (Sword Coast region).

Addition (22 July 2022): Here's a list of the main characters and their D&D classes:
  • Chris Pine is Elgin, a Bard. Elgin notably wears a Harper pin in several scenes in the trailer, hinting that he might be part of the famed organization.
  • Michelle Rodriguez is Holga, a barbarian.
  • Rege-Jean Page is Xenk, a paladin.
  • Justice Smith is Simon, a sorcerer. 
  • Sophia Lillis is Doric, a druid. Doric notably is a tiefling and even has a tail.
  • Hugh Grant is Forge, a rogue. An early report from the movie described him as Forge Fletcher.

(From here.)

20 July 2022

My Top 10 Fantasy and Science-Fiction Films: 2001 A Space Odyssey (#10)

I thought it would be fun to write a brief post on each of my ten favourite science-fiction and fantasy films. All of these films are at least fifteen years old (most much older). I do think that there have been some excellent films released more recently (e.g., Rogue One, last year’s Dune). But if I still really think highly of a film after more than a dozen years or so, then this stability gives me confidence in the soundness of my judgement regarding its quality. Moreover, my sense is that over the past decade or so television has supplanted film in producing high quality, innovate works of fantasy and science fiction (e.g., The Game of Thrones, especially its first four seasons, Watchmen). In any case, since this is a list of my preferences, the fact that I first watched a number of these films during my late childhood and adolescence means that they invariably shaped my later tastes and views. I make no claim of objectivity here (although I do think that, with one noteworthy exception, the films that I will post about are objectively good).


Okay, enough with the preamble. Without further ado, here is my number ten: 2001: A Space Odyssey.


I think most film buffs, and not simply fans of science fiction, would agree that this is a classic, and rightfully so. It’s my second favourite Stanley Kubrick film (after Dr. Strangelove). I love that the aliens are truly alien and incomprehensible (enigmatic black monoliths). And it’s the first major film (that I’m aware of) to portray artificial intelligence (supercomputer HAL) in a plausible and compelling way.


As a youngster I found it a bit slow moving and the ending greatly frustrated me. Nonetheless, I appreciated even then its visual greatness and sweeping ambition. Fortunately, upon seeing it again later as a teenager (and subsequently as an adult), I came to appreciate its pacing and ultimate incomprehensibility.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).