Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baron Grellus: Denizens of Restenford Part II


Getting back to the analysis of the personae of Restenford which began with Pelltar the Sorcerer, today I'd like to discuss the ill-fated Grellus, Baron of Restenford.  We know from the sequel that he is not long for this world--he will meet his end at the hands of an assassin in L2 Assassins Knot--but what do we know about Grellus the man?

While Pelltar's dossier is not particularly in depth in terms of providing a description of his character, it's downright verbose compared with that of Grellus.  The Baron's official write-up divulges only the following information: he is a chaotic good seventh level fighter, he's 44 years old, 6'2", 210 pounds, and has a beard and blue eyes, and his stats (S:18/53, I:13, W:13, D:15, C:16, Ch:12) and magic  armaments including a Sword +1 "Flametongue" and a ring of shocking grasp.  Nothing is said about his past, the history of his barony, or even his relationship with his family, counselors, or subjects.  At least with Pelltar we know that his 4 apprentices are fiercely loyal to him.  Of the Baron's household, only the captain of the guard is described as "a loyal retainer" though to whom he is loyal no indication is made.

Though we do learn that the Baron is married to the baroness Fairwind, with whom he has a teenaged daughter named Andrella, nothing is made explicit about their relationships.  We know from the Rumor Table that Andrella is rather anxious to become the next Baron of Restenford which speaks more to her ambition than the nature of the Baron himself, but it tends to imply that she sees him as more of an obstacle to her own goals than as a revered parent.  We already discussed that there is probably a fair amount of tension between the Baron and Pelltar over the latter's occupation of the castle's tower, resulting in a bit of an inferiority complex in the Baron, and that Almax the Druid may also have something on the Baron in terms of political clout in the community--much as a longstanding parish priest might hold greater sway over the hearts and minds of a small community than its elected leader.  Now we learn that even his daughter might be lacking in respect for the dude.  It seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the Baron is not a highly regarded leader.

What has he done to earn such a low opinion?  Is he a capricious leader?  Since he seems to hold such little sway over his subjects, he hardly seems in a position to exercise the sort of tyrannical powers that might make him unpopular.  Has he been an absentee liege lord, spending his time off fighting wars?  If he were an effective military leader it seems highly unlikely that he would stand for Pelltar's occupation of the tower.  Obviously the people--including Grellus--hold Pelltar's sorcery in greater esteem than Grellus's sword.

Perhaps the all-knowing Rumor Table can help us further understand what makes Baron Grellus such a weak ruler.  As always italicized statements are false, according to the Author.
  1. he is land poor and nearly penniless,
  2. he has an unguarded fortune hidden under the castle
  3. he has a statue that turns into a man,
  4. the Baron is chaotic evil
  5. there are evil people in town despite what he has to say on the matter. 
Rumor 1 regarding his impoverished financial state reveals that perhaps he doesn't spend much money on the upkeep of his realm.  Since the statement about his poverty is italicized, we can conclude that the baron does have money and likely draws a fair revenue from the lands of his Barony.  But he's not spending it on things that might impress the peasantry like, say, replacing the palisade with a more defensible stone wall, building a grander castle, or even funding an effort to eliminate the undead and giant rats that spew out of the old guard station in town.  Since he's not doing any of that, yet we know he's got the cash hidden under his castle--where it's guarded by his friend Djinn Balooshi--we can assume he's lacking in the administrative skills and political instincts necessary to wield his treasury as an instrument of governance.  He fails to see that the power of money is not just in the hoarding of it but in investing it.


Furthermore, the second rumor--which indicates that his fortune is "unguarded"--implies that the general population feels that stealing his fortune might be an option to consider.  Well, if the baron's not doing anything with it, why not?  Again, respect for his authority must be dangerously low if the populace is openly discussing the possibility of robbing their own liege lord.  Is it their chaotic alignment talking?  Sort of makes Pelltar's over-the-top security measures seem more justified.

The statue-man rumor is a reference to the Stone Guardians in the lower level of the Baron's castle.  Stone Guardians are a new species of golem and their presence in the rumor list is a warning that, when you do try to steal the Baron's treasure you should be wary of any statues.  But again, we're talking about raiding the Baron's castle here; the man can't get any love.

In rumor 5, Grellus's purported belief that there are no evil people in town reveals that the citizenry feels that the Baron is out of touch with the goings-on of Restenford and that he cannot be trusted to keep them safe from evil.  Add to this the perception that the Baron himself might be evil in rumor 4 and this might explain why Pelltar and the Druid are held in higher regard than the Baron.  In reality, there are only 1.5 evil people in town--Zardahl the Trickster, bait dealer/spy for the Duke of Kroten, and the schizophrenic Abbot Qualton--but only when he is in his deranged state--so who, really, is out of touch?   But again, the perception is that the Baron is either unwilling or unable to fight evil within the town. 

Another useful source of information on castle denizens is the Garrison Location Chart.  Let's see what it reveals about the baron:

He is likely to be found in the following locations (italicized comments are my own):
  • Pelltar's tower--3%/ 1% at night; as mentioned, he's likely either seeking counsel from Pelltar--or trying to eliminate him.
  • Throne room--along with, quite literally, everyone else in the castle.
  • Fairwind's quarters--40% day/90% night; well, they are man and wife.
  • His own quarters--95% day/98% night; who doesn't like their alone time?
  • Lower Level--25% day/6% night, chatting with Djinn Balooshi?  Counting his treasure?  In the dungeons for some S&M play with Fairwind--who is, according to the Chart, the only other person in the castle who ever goes down to the lower level.
  • Servant's Room (20c) 1-2--nighttime only. Or perhaps when Fairwind is not in the mood the Baron seeks the comfort of a plump, young scullion? Nobility being no less resistant to carnal desire than anyone else, this is hardly unusual; but would Lakofka make the affair so explicit?  I fear this may be a typo. 
Down in the lower level, he has stashed a Ring of Djinni Summoning which summons his "good friend" Djinn Balooshi whom he summons only to renew the permanent illusion in the treasure room.  [Given the vintage of this module--1981--it seems highly likely that the phonetic similarity of the djinn's name to that of a certain popular though soon-to-be-deceased comedian of the era is not coincidental. --Ed.]  Therefore, Djinn Balooshi is the only other person who knows the location of the Baron's treasure--not even the Baroness knows where it is.  So we know that the Baron has some serious issues with money: he is afraid to spend it, and insists on handling every coin of his taxes personally.  The only person he does seem to trust is a resident of the elemental plane of air.  And can you get a much thinner pretense for calling on someone's company than renewing a permanent illusion?  The Baron is clearly a lonely man.

More than likely he was once a knight of some significance who served the Duke (or a higher authority) well and was rewarded with/condemned to a barony on the fringe of society.  But it seems his skills in administering a barony do not live up to his prowess on the battlefield; his realm is a chaotic land filled with dangerous criminals and monsters, his subjects are disloyal and openly discuss treason, yet he seems to take no action to address any of these matters.  His subjects rightfully seek authority in others; we have reason to suspect that the sorcerer and druid are held in higher regard than the ineffectual Baron. Also, his inaction in regard to the numerous rumors of violence in the area indicate that perhaps even his once-vaunted military achievements are beyond his current capacity; he has lost his nerve.  Despite his impressive frame, he is an impotent shell of a man.  Knowing that he lacks the respect of his subjects and even of his daughter--who, though only a teenager, is widely rumored to have ambitions for his throne even whilst still he sits on it--he holds desperately to the one truly powerful thing in his possession: the treasury.  

7 comments:

JoseFreitas said...

The Baron may have reached power in Restenford with the help of the Sorceror and Druid, they may be the ultimate source of his legitimacy, and may have helped secure the "official documents" from the Duke. Perhaps the Baron is a former adventurer who helped Almax and Pellor get rid of the former Baron. So this could be one of the reasons for the tension between them, as well as for the fact that the general populace doesn't hold him in much respect: they know he is just a figurehead the other two got into the position. Also, the Baoness Fairwind may very well be somehow related to the former Baron... daughter? Sister?

Timrod said...

@JoseFreitas: That's Great! Grellus pulled a Qualton on the previous baron, killing him and taking his daughter/sister/widow as a reluctant bride to give himself some legitimacy. That works perfectly!

Fairwind makes no secret of her disdain for him, so he knows he can't trust her and has thus hidden the treasury even from her. Meanwhile, she is secretly searching the dungeons looking for the treasure as she believes it is rightfully hers. She obviously lacks Pelltar and Almax's support since they backed Grellus in the coup, so she knows she has no future in Restenford. Instead, she just wants the money to get the hell out of town and set herself up in a nice townhouse in Kroten.

JoseFreitas said...

Obviously! :-)
And this puts a different spin on the daughter's ambitions. Clearly, the mother has told her about her past. Is she REALLY the Baron's daughter? Even if she is, she may become a problem in the future, as she might be the solution everybody is looking for to "resolve" the situation to everybody's content... the people, who know that the Baron is just a figurehead, and who may still feel some loyalty towards the old Baron.

Of course, a lot depends on what kind of guy the former Baron was, and why Almax and Pellor decided to get rid of him. Since they're not evil, they might have actually in the right side... since they're not Good, they may have been ruthless and/or manipulative.

bombasticus said...

Late to the party but your insight into Rumor Tables is brilliant. "We" know a story going around town is in italics, but there's still a reason that particular story is going around -- even if it's only those assassin infiltrators causing trouble.

Please tell me other people have been doing this all along.

Timrod said...

Thanks for coming, Bombasticus. I had nearly forgotten that this party was still going on. I'll have to post some more thoughts on this sooon.

Dwayne said...

Has anyone thought about the role the deck of many things may play? Maybe the Baron drew a few cards and became a 7th level fighter with a high strength along with a few magic items from the deck. That could be the reason the people don't respect him. He may have been a nobody before the deck and suddenly he was the highest level fighter in the area.

Timrod said...

Nice work Dwayne. The Sun card will get you 50k XPs alone; good enough to raise a 0 level schlubb to 6th level. Nobody likes a lottery winner, especially one who puts on airs and starts calling himself Baron.