Friday, December 2, 2022

Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk Part II - Violence & Bloodshed In Hommlet - OSR Commentary on T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax For Your Old School Campaigns

The Schemes of Freebooters, Charles Myers

I wrote Alexander Marcus & acquired  'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' playtest document. The other day I wrote about it & immediately I got numerous email questions & folks who were going to 'rip off'' the ideas . Rip away because when it comes to the backbone of a campaign its only as good as the first adventure for your players. Barbarian warlords need to acquire more resources & territory its the natural flow of things. Once the wars are over, the battles won,etc. what's left? Adventurers are sometimes left penniless & broke. 'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' has numerous systems to take care of such things but for a 'Barbarian Warlords of Greyhawk' campaign this sounds achingly familiar.

"Your party is now approaching the Village of Hommlet, having ridden up from lands of the Wild Coast. You are poorly mounted, badly equipped, and have no large sums of cash. In fact, all you have is what you wear and what you ride, plus the few coins that are hidden in purses and pockets" 

The village of Hommlet isn't simply another backwater village but a choke point against the numerous forces of the Flanness. The late Roman empire vibe of Adventurer, Conqueror, King fits right into the back end of numerous classic elements of the village of Hommlet. For a group of adventurers its far too tempting a target from a tactic stand point. There are supplies, equipment, food, weapons, possible allies, facilities for horses, and more. For a group of Conan style or pseudo style roman veterans this place is gold & players know it.

All of the events of Hommlet centered around the machinations of the Temple of Elemental Evil could fit into the general ideas & central themes of

'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook'. Take territory, grow it, hold it and become drafted into the overall all out war against evil happening in Greyhawk. Shades of Clen Cook's The Black Company anyone?

The moat house dungeon is only one small part of the action of Hommlet. Its the numerous & well fleshed out NPC's that make this classic module a good piece of fodder for a campaign starter. You've got tensions between between the Old Faith (Druidical) and the New Faith (St Cuthbert) just waiting to be exploited. The ecologies of the dungeon to the village  & its relationship to the temple which fits in with the sinks of evil sorcery from the ACK's main rule book's appendix. There are dubious traders, double agents, backroom deals, and more all centered around the moat house itself.

T1 The Village of Hommlet is going to take PC's from first to fourth level  which in Adventurer, Conqueror, King's system put's them right in the middle of the PC's adventuring career's. This means that not only are they at the top their game but several of the alternative adventuring  systems of 'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' can come into play. This sets things up very nicely for a more war gaming style  'The Temple of Elemental Evil' show down later on.  Why does this work? Because the players can't afford to leave the village of Hommlet unguarded. The place is adventuring base, hospital, and battle base. They will totally leave themselves wide open to attack.

'The Heroic Fantasy Handbook' ideally suits a barbarous Greyhawk campaign with the Sword & Sorcery elements in full effect. The violence & barbarously nasty aspects of this up point the genius of early TSR products & the flexibility of the creativity of the OSR. Greyhawk is the perfect venue to play this out & bring the players into a far more heroic role that the adventure's circumstances place them in. 

 There are a few reasons why a Barbarians Warlords of Greyhawk campaign would work for Adventurer, Conqueror, King:

  1. Warriors can't simply rely on wizards to do all of the occult 'dirty work'. The fact is there's going to be a lot more unknowns going into the moat house & battle. So players have to carefully plan for battle.
    "eldritch magic, designed to capture the flavor of heroic fantasy. Subtle but powerful, eldritch magic brings a new arsenal of effects into your game. Low-level eldritch casters can infuriate their foes, summon minor demons from the Outer Darkness, or call wolves from the forest. High-level eldritch wizards can call giant eagles from distant mountain lairs, lead foes into madness through corrupting dreams, or unleash the hounds of hell to hunt down their enemies" 
  2. Double dealing NPC's are going to be very dangerous. Spies, thieves, & scouts are going to be the rule & not the acception for Hommlet.Military intelligence is going to be your friend & will have to come into play far more.
  3. T1 The Village of Hommlet leaves the perfect opportunity to port over B1 Keep of The Borderland. The Caves of Chaos are the perfect engines for the numerous Temple of Elemental Evil humanoid forces of Chaos. 
  4. The Village of Hommlet represents a relic of Greyhawk's ancient past but it might represent its dire future in the hands of Chaos. 
  5. The treasures & spoils of Hommlet are the war chest for going on campaign against the forces of darkness the DM might want to up some of the treasures. 
  6. Sword & Sorcery echoes far more with the sounds of war then it does simply addressing 'another dungeon crawl' T1 is the stepping stone into this. 
  7. The forces of chaos should be far more aggressive then they would be otherwise representing the foreshadowing the coming war.
  8. Don't discount lots of investigative work & unknowns for T1. Change details, be consistent, & edit the modules & campaigns as you see fit. 
  9. Make a PC, NPC, or hireling be from the area to give the players a grounding & stake in the area. 
  10. T1 The Village of Hommlet can be used as a stepping stone into The Temple of Elemental Evil but there should be a number of barbarian side quests to wet the players appetites 

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