Thursday, September 14, 2017

Distant Thunder From T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax

 I've been gone most of today  on sewing machine repair calls but I wanted to really do a bit more OSR commentary on T1 The Village of Hommlet. This is following hot on the heals of yesterday's T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil commentary.

So the year is '86 & I'm going through a box of rpg books as gamers are apt to do. But I came across an odd little module titled the Village of Hommlet.

And it was in that same box that I came across a copy of the Dunwich Horror by HP Lovecraft. So in my mind the two locations are intertwined;

"When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.
The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation.
Without knowing why, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows. Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do. When a rise in the road brings the mountains in view above the deep woods, the feeling of strange uneasiness is increased. The summits are too rounded and symmetrical to give a sense of comfort and naturalness, and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especial clearness the queer circles of tall stone pillars with which most of them are crowned.
Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, and the crude wooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwills chatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic's upper reaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises.
As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their wooded sides more than their stone-crowned tops. Those sides loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep their distance, but there is no road by which to escape them. Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base of the hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. Afterwards one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.
Outsiders visit Dunwich as seldom as possible, and since a certain season of horror all the signboards pointing towards it have been taken down. The scenery, judged by an ordinary aesthetic canon, is more than commonly beautiful; yet there is no influx of artists or summer tourists. Two centuries ago, when talk of witch-blood, Satan-worship, and strange forest presences was not laughed at, it was the custom to give reasons for avoiding the locality."
The Dunwich Horror By HP Lovecraft 1929

Hommlet & Dunwich have many things in common, there are secrets upon secrets locally. The places are cursed in a certain sense of the word & twisted by their own internal poison. The land isn't right and there are ancient things about. Hommlet is the landing zoning for T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. The door into the forbidden world of the temple.
"In the module T1 The Village of Hommlet, the player characters must defeat the raiders in a nearby fort, and thereafter Hommlet can be used as a base for the party's subsequent adventures.[1] The adventure begins in the eponymous village of Hommlet, situated near the site of a past battle against evil forces operating from the Temple. The adventurers travel through Hommlet and are drawn into a web of conspiracy and deception.
The module is recommended for first-level characters, who begin the adventure "weary, weak, and practically void of money".[3] They travel to a town that is supposed to be a great place to earn fortunes, defeat enemy creatures, but also to lose one's life. While the town initially appears warm and hospitable, the characters soon learn that many of its inhabitants are powerful spies for minions of evil.[3]

The T1 adventure stands alone, but also forms the first part of T1-4. In The Temple of Elemental Evil, the characters start off at low level, and after establishing themselves in Hommlet, they gradually work their way through the immense dungeons beneath the Temple, thereby gaining experience.[1] T1 culminates in a ruined moathouse where agents secretly plan to re-enter the Temple and free the demoness Zuggtmoy, imprisoned therein. The Village of Hommlet module has been described as a beginner's scenario, which starts in the village, and leads to a nearby dungeon, while The Temple of Elemental Evil continues the adventure"
But is all that there is? Not on your life! Many of the best games I played in '86 & '87 centered in the countryside surrounding Hommlet. There were other abandoned villages, minor ruins, & other secrets scattered around the area.

Atlach-Nacha, Spider God by KingOvRats
There were far more dangers lurking nearby then simply the moat house dungeon T1 The Village of Hommlet suggests that Lolth is behind things and that's where my connection comes in with Atlach-Nacha. This changes up the temperament of T1. It gives a very weird connection aspect to the village itself and a deeper background to the moathouse dungeon. We get a ton of background on her from  The Seven Geases (1934) by Clark Ashton Smith. Zuggtmoy comes straight into the action and that's when things get really interesting. Her backstory gives her the depths that she needs to sustain the elemental cult. These days I'd really play up the Clark Ashton Smith & HP Lovecraft angle mixed with liberal doses of Algernon Blackwoods 'The Willows' style of alien horror/ future weirdness.

This of course ties in with the Dökkálfar of the Descent into the Depths of the Earth series of modules. Which is some of the weirder pulpiness of great old school gaming design.  For me this module represented 70's AD&D adventure location design at its finest, that is it gives you the location & its inhabitant monsters. This can be done by tying in the moat house dungeon with the underworld of D1-2 or linking in some of the adventure plot elements into the Village of Hommlet itself. Personally I've used the village as the adventure link in the over all plot chain.

I've hooked up part of the plot of Against the Giants with several of the were rats that were encountered in that module who were also working for the Dr erm the Dökkálfar who were part of the plot of King Snurre. This in turn hooks back in with the cults and NPC's of the moat house dungeon. Again there's a sense that this was a part of the underworld of dead gods, post 'Old Earth survivor monsters, mutants and more.

All of this gets back into the creating an underworld linked to both Hyperborea & Old Earth but that's another blog entry coming up soon.

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