Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mob Justice in Restenford

From the Rumor Table:
"The warehouse guard dropped dead a few days ago during a scuffle in the inn with two half orcs, but I saw him that very night and the half-orcs were found burned to death at the edge of town."

It's not italicized, so we know that this gruesome tale of lynching in Lendore is a true story.

Consider the phrasing: the half orcs didn't kill the warehouse guard; he "dropped dead during a scuffle" as if the ol' ticker gave out mid-brawl.  And then he shows up later that night apparently no longer dead, but the half orcs have already been put to the torch.  Can it be any more obvious that the brawl was staged to present the thinnest veneer of justification for a racially motivated lynching?

And again with the phrasing: the half orcs were "found" burned to death; as if their immolation occurred without the general knowledge of the villagers.  Even though their corpses were right at the edge of a very small town; the kind of place where half-orc-burnings are not likely to go unnoticed--if not downright celebrated.  Despite the tone of mystery this rumor seems to impart, the villagers were more than likely complicit in the offing of the half orcs. And yet because of the tone of mystery, the villagers--or at least some of them--are likely ashamed of it, or at least aware that others might disapprove, and so have tried to distance themselves from the event.

Furthermore, this rumor is also interesting in that its purpose is solely to provide flavor for the town.  There is no adventure related to the half orc lynching, unless one chooses to link the half orcs to the band of thieves* camped out on Bald Hill.  It would seem that the story is meant to let us know that there is a deep vein of intolerance in this sleepy, little chaotic-neutral village by the sea.


The only perpetrator of the event that we know of is the warehouse guard, so let's get a better look at him.  From his description at location 26:
"The "old man" who poses as a mere caretaker is really a grizzled but tough fighter named Welcar"
It's interesting that the guard merely "poses" as a caretaker.  What is he in reality if not a caretaker?  Presumably, M. Lakofka meant that Welcar's combat aptitude made him something more than a mere caretaker--he's a 4th level fighter--though it hardly seems an unusual career choice for a retired fighter to take up a gig as a security guard.
That's Wellcar releasing the hounds.

Welcar also has two guard dogs that he takes to work, each having a collar which "nullifies sleep spells for mammals."  These collars are described as being given by his employer, who just happens to be the ever-lovin' Peltar; further evidence of the sorcerer's trust issues/paranoia.

But more to the point; does Welcar's involvement in the conspiracy to eliminate the half orcs somehow imply Peltar's complicity with the action?  Perhaps not.  But look at it this way: this is a tiny town, Peltar is going to find out that his security guard played a significant hand in the lynching of some half orcs, yet the security guard acts with impunity.  Peltar is nominally the second in command in town--though, in actuality, his authority is supreme.  If he felt that the security guard acted out of line, his position would require that he take action against his guard either directly or by advising his sock puppet Grellus to do so.  Yet he does nothing.

On the other hand, they're half-orcs.  Had they been true orcs, the militia would have been in full muster by the time the dudes got within a stone's throw of the town wall.  That half-orcs were allowed to enter Restenford, much less patronize an inn, might actually speak to the openness of the community.

But still, faking your death to execute someone under false pretenses? That's pretty devious. The message: Watch your step, outsider, or you're next.

* Oddly, this gang is repeatedly referred to as a "band of thieves" when, in fact, they are orcs.  Furthermore, the activities they engage in--ambushing the unwary--fall more within the realm of banditry than thievery.  In D&D, where terms like thief and bandit and brigand are all very much codified, it's a strange choice of words. Lakofkaesque, even.

3 comments:

Jay Murphy said...

Right, confusing. What was TSR intending for this module?

Lee said...

Late to the party, but am I the only one who saw "half-orcs burned to death" and "appeared to die" and thought that it was Pelltar who did in the half-orcs? The guy's got a lot of magic, why couldn't he do that killing?

Timrod said...

That's certainly a valid interpretation: there's no denying Pelltar could have done it all on his own. And perhaps it really is a mystery to the rest of the village residents. Maybe Welcar really did die in the altercation with the half orcs and was raised somehow, though Faldelac is the nearest cleric with the capacity to do the job.

Also, it could also depend on who is telling you this rumor; if it's Pelltar himself, then is he covering his own tracks or is he truly in the dark about who offed the haffos? Who tells the tale is very likely to determine how the DM manifests the scene in the game.