Monday, June 20, 2011

The Clergy of the Big Gamble

In two previous posts, I've discussed the environs and the behavior of the Church of the Big Gamble; now I'd like to discuss the actual inhabitants of this little cloister in the woods.

There are seven clerics on the roster at the Temple with Faldelac running the show as the high priest (10th level).  He shares quarters with the High Priestess (9th level) who is named Auburn though no mention is made as to whether they are man and wife or platonic roommates.  Five more clerics share the other room; all curates (4th level), one woman--Myla--the rest men; Posted, Quall, Yulla, and Tellmar.  Again, we don't know if the shared quarters imply anything about the relationship between any of the priests.  And since we know virtually nothing about the deity that these clerics worship--except that he/she is most certainly not a patron to gambling--we don't know if they have sworn a vow of chastity, run a free-love colony, or have been surgically neutered.

The first notable thing about this gang--other than they're non-gender segregated sleeping arrangements--is that they are, as a group, going to be able to kick your party's ass.  Five 4th level clerics alone would give most parties attempting this module a run for their money, but tack on two high priests and--assuming that the MC doesn't run the clerics as complete schmucks--you're toast.  A second point of interest: they all have very high charisma scores.  They average 16.4 Cha, with three (!) of them having Cha scores of 18.  Chief proselytizer Faldelac, with a charisma of 13, is actually the least appealing member of the flock. In his forties, he is also the oldest, and, at 5'-9" and 100 lbs, an emaciated little twerp.  This and other evidence in the module suggest that Lakofka used Charisma as a measure of physical beauty.  Why, then, are the clergy of the "Big Gamble" so damn foxy?

Though Lakofka states that "This temple is an important site for the party" he offers no reason why this might be so.  Though they're not evil, they aren't particularly helpful either.  Despite proclaiming that "The clerics are an excellent source of information about Bone Hill" the only information they have to offer is that "some undead are there but they do not know the types or numbers" which is far too vague to actually qualify as "information" at all.   They are "generous as long as the party does not try to use the place as a hostel" so have fun but get out before sun down.  The clergy might buy a magic item at a reduced rate if it's useful to them--fair enough--and they might, if they take a liking to your party, offer to sell you their clerical services at non-bargain prices.  Where, pray tell, is the generosity? 
Big Gamblers: Ruthless and sexy!

The whole write up ends with the following warning:

"This is the best the party can hope for in the way of aid on their adventures in the area. If they attack the place the DM must be ruthless!"
Lakofka seems to be saying that the importance of this site is not in its purported generosity--of which there is no evidence to support--but to let the party know that no one cares enough about them to give them a free lunch, or even a discounted one.  It's a very hard-hearted message, in direct contrast to the sort of graces that friendly parties of literature often enjoyed; think Bilbo and the dwarves at Beorn's house.   Why must the DM be ruthless?  Why are the priests so stingy with information and aid?  And why is the church so impregnable?

The only references to the Church in the Rumor list (page 3) are quite cryptic and do not provide anywhere near enough information for anyone to bother to seek the place out: 
31-33: "The cleric on the hill is an honorable man. Go to him for help." and
74-75 "I have seen a high priest come to town from time to time though I have not met him.  They say he has a church somewhere within a dozen or so miles of town."   
Clearly, there is no one else to whom these rumours might apply, but they aren't at all helpful in finding the guy.  In fact the "cleric on the hill" bit is downright misleading; given the number and size of hills in the vicinity--there are several hills rising to over a thousand feet (9.72 m) above sea level--if you were to look for a cleric on a hill in the Restenford vicinity, probably the last place you would look would be on a tiny knoll hidden deep in the low-lying Dweomer forest.  Wouldn't "the Cleric in the forest " be more useful?  There are several forests to look through, so the PCs job isn't really done for them, but if they really need an honorable cleric, at least they'll have something to go on.

The players are given almost no clues that the clergy exist and even less reason to care.  Given their secluded location it is extremely unlikely that the CotBG is going to come into play unless your players are really gung-ho about finding those apocryphal evil gnomes that supposedly haunt the Dweomer Forest.  And if the players do find this place, it will provide nothing more than a moment of comic relief, and some trivial financial gain/loss.  The DM is going to have to force the issue if he wants this temple to be part of the adventure but to what end?   Whatever intention Lakofka had for this encounter, if ran as written, the players are going to walk away confounded as to what just happened and wondering why the DM foisted such an unsatisfying encounter on them--unless they manage to bed the Big Gamble hotties or heist their sizable treasure trove.  

This whole encounter feels like a bizarro version of the respites that I used to include in my dungeons when I was a kid just starting out in the game; little havens hidden within a dungeon where some old, decrepit-seeming dude would hang out and offer restorative crumpets and sound advice but, despite his genial appearance, he was usually a wicked-bad-ass wizard who would toast the party in a heart beat if they acted up.  I suspect that Faldelac and his crew were inspired by a similar urge in Mr. Lakofka, but manifested as the aloof folks you see before you.