Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pelltar the Sorceror: Denizens of Restenford Part I

One of my favorite aspects of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill is how information is often disgorged without the taint of judgment or explanatory backstory to bog it down.  This is not always the case, but it's certainly so with Pelltar, Sorceror of Restenford.  His write-up (p. 24) divulges this about him: he's a lawful neutral 9th level magic-user--hence the sorcerer title--and is described as "very imperious and highly independent." Also, he has 3 indentured magic users who are, we are told, loyal to him.  Pretty basic stuff.  But this information starts to gain meaning when we take into consideration the context. Pelltar, for instance, is lawful neutral in a town inhabited primarily by chaotic neutrals.  Even his purported boss--the Baron--is chaotic good.  How, then, does he cope with all these diametrically opposed rapscallions?  Does he sacrifice his principals to fit in?  Knowing that he is "very imperious and highly independent" would indicate otherwise.  Does he shut himself in, a veritable Omega Man holding at bay the teeming masses of madness outside his walls?  The exorbitant measures he takes to protect his properties, of which there are several, might indicate that this is more in line.

Pelltar not only owns a house, which he shares with his 3 underlings, he also owns one of the three warehouses in town and "has a deed to the tower" at the Baron's castle and "an agreement of entry even if the Baron were to die," a little foreshadowing for Lakofka's sequel module L2 Assassin's Knot.   An agreement of entry indeed; the tower is so heavily locked, trapped, and guarded (by skeletons of Pelltar's creation--what kind of man animates the dead for his own purposes?)  that Pelltar is the only person who can access it.  I can't imagine a scenario in which the Baron is not rankled a bit by this arrangement; the highest point and most defensible structure in his castle is off limits to his own garrison!  The tower--where Pelltar is able to quite literally look down on his supposed liege-lord--is a potent symbol indeed of who truly wields the phallus of Restenford.

There is little mention in this module of the actual relationship between Pelltar and Baron Grellus, we must insinuate everything from a few tidbits.  For instance we know that their is a chair for "the Sorcerer" on the second tier of the throne room, just below that of the Baron and his wife.  I think it safe to assume that the sorcerer in question is Pelltar and that he acts in an official capacity as an adviser to the Baron.  Also, the "Garrison Location Chart" indicates that the Baron and Pelltar are the only 2 persons who are likely to occupy the tower; there is a 3% chance during the day and 1% chance at night that the Baron can be found in the tower; presumably seeking Pelltar's council.

Another reference to the sorcerer and the baron can be found under the Druid's Home description on pg. 26:
"Almax [the druid] is second only to Pelltar in authority, after the Baron."
The odd phrasing--wouldn't it be more economical to say that the druid is third in authority if one meant to say so?--might insinuate that the Baron has less authority over his subjects than his title would indicate, ranking perhaps after not only the sorcerer but also the druid.  

An additional source of information is the ever-cryptic rumor list (italicized rumors are false):

"The sorceror has a number of magic users working for him"
"The magic user who calls himself a sorceror is only an enchanter"
We already know about his underlings; this rumor is likely included as a lead to help PC parties to find adventuring help.  This module along with T1 Village of Hommlet commit a fair amount of text to supplying NPCs who might be willing to join an adventuring party, which speaks to the way the game was likely played by the creators.  But the second rumor--a petty attempt to diminish Pelltar's status by asserting that he is a mere 7th level magic user--indicates a certain amount of ill-will towards the sorcerer.  Was the rumor started by someone in the Baron's household?  One of the sorcerer's so-called loyal employees?  Whether this sentiment is prevalent throughout the community or the opinion of only a few, it seems evident that someone feels that the man needs to be taken down a notch or two.