Monday, November 7, 2016

Restenford and the Assassins Knot

It's taken me almost 6 years to get to the topic that inspired this bloggertation in the first place: the link between L1 Secret of Bone Hill and it's follow up L2 Assassin's Knot. Or, more specifically, how did the Lakofka's vision for L2 change between the writing of L1 and the final form of Assassin's Knot.

Garrotten: We're a suspicious lot.
For those of you not in the know, L2 starts off the day after Baron Grellus of Restenford has been murdered. Pelltar calls upon the PCs to investigate the matter because he's too high profile of a character to do the snooping himself. Plus he claims not to be interested in politics, even though we all know that he's been pulling the strings of Restenford for years now.


He may be too high profile to conduct the full investigation, but that doesn't stop him from inspecting the crime scene. And, fortunately, he's discovered three clues, each of which implicates, he believes, a separate person who was seen in Restenford on the night of the crime. Each of these suspects is a resident of the egregiously named town of Garrotten, a day's travel to the south. A search of the inns, drunk tanks, and brothels of Resty that morning turned up none of these gentlemen; clearly they've fled back to G-town one step ahead of the law. The case is ironclad, right?

Once the PCs travel down the coast to idyllic Garrotten which, as the name not so much implies so much as screams in gigantic, bright green neon letters, is home to a highly secretive assassins guild, will quickly learn that each of the suspects is a prominent, respected member of the community, Abraham the Innkeeper, Balmorrow the Theater Director, and Harpur the High Preist of Osprem. Each claims to have spent the entire day alone in their quarters and thus has no alibi, even though each lives in a communal residence in a small town where even a trip to the outhouse would fail to go unnoticed--it should be noted that the Garrottenford map is possibly the only published D&D material ever to include latrines. Surely at least a servant would have brought them their meals? Nonetheless, none of them has even the slightest motive to want the Baron dead, nor does any of them have the means to sneak into a castle and murder a dude who, despite being an incompetent ruler, is still a pretty tough fighter.

For those who don't know, here's the lowdown on the murder plot as written in L2 Assassin's Knot: the deranged abbot Qualton, suffering from psychosis induced by a psionic attack--how many D&D modules ever incorporated Psionics into the narrative?-- thinks that if he kills off the baron and marries his daughter, he'll get to be the replacement baron and move into Grellus's regal abode. So he makes contact with the assassins down in Garrotten. But since the Lord Mayor of Garrotten, who is actually a lady named Arness, is in bed with the assassin's guild--possibly literally?--she decides to use Qualton's plot to her own advantage. Ultimately, depending on the success of the PC's investigatory efforts, the assassins will kill off the Baron's wife and daughter and finally Qualton as well, leaving the Baron's seat empty for Arness to usurp. 

But by implicating three innocent and highly respected members of the community, the assassin has brought the focus of the investigation squarely onto G-town which is problematic for a few reasons:
  1. The assassin responsible for Grellus's murder is the head of the notorious guild of hitmen that gave Garrotten its name. Have you ever heard the expression don't shit where you eat? By extension, you should also not shit somewhere else and then intentionally leave a shit-stained trail of shit-scented footprints back to your dining room table.  Especially when...
  2. The baron's murderer is not only a professional assassin and CEO of the Garrotten A-guild, but also has a day job working as an advisor to Arrness, Lord Mayor of the town. Arrness is hoping to capitalize on the plot by filling the power vacuum created by the Baron's death--though let's be honest, he was never holding much power anyway. How pleased can she be that now, just as she is ready to set her putsch in motion, she has to deal with a team of investigators at her doorstep? Especially when...
  3. If the guild was looking for a scapegoat, they had the perfect patsy in the form of Qualton the Abbot, who, besides being thoroughly unstable--which they certainly must have learned when they vetted him as a client--is actually guilty of the crime since he hired the assassin in the first place! Frame him for his own misdeeds and let his psychosis shine through during the trial and your work is done for you; no one bothers casting a glance Garrotten-ward, despite its name.


But what really intrigues me is that evidence in the write-up in L1 indicates that the sequel was supposed to be set in Restenford itself, not in far flung G-town. A few clues exist that might give us an idea of Lakofka's original intent for the follow up module:
  1. Qualton, Abbot of Phaulkon, having lost his marbles because of a psionic attack, is intent on marrying the Baron's daughter in order to take over the Barony. His write-up in L1 specifically says to keep his lunacy under raps until L2.
  2. In addition to his other real estate in town, Pelltar has a lease on the tower in the Baron's castle. There is specific language in the terms of the lease that allow him access to the tower even in the event of the Baron's death. Obviously this was meant to allow the action of L2 to seep into the castle, but what kind of landlord signs a lease with that kind of language in it?
  3. The dude in the bait shop is actually a spy for the Duke of Kroten. This has absolutely no bearing on anything in either L1 or L2 but is an interesting tidbit that investigators might uncover while working over the denizens of Resty in search of clues.
In L1 it seems obvious that it was Lakofka's original vision that the PCs were supposed to be skulking about in Restenford looking for a killer, not wandering down to Garrotten. The indication that Pelltar would have access to the tower at the Baron's "castle" even in the event of the Baron's death is only significant if the plan was to have someone taking hold of the Baron's throne right away; someone who does not want Pelltar seeking justice for the baron's murder. This implies that maybe Pelltar has to surreptitiously hire the PCs to investigate the crime. Which would make sense if Qualton did manage to take over the Barony; obviously it would be in his best interest to obstruct the investigation at every turn.

Perhaps the bait dealer was intended to be a red herring to distract them from the case. Or else the Duke of Kroten had some beef with Grellus, and his spy was gathering intell. Or maybe he doubles as the point of contact for the assassin's guild. And perhaps there was never meant to be an assassins guild--maybe it was supposed to be Kroten who took out Grellus. 

Or perhaps Fairwind, the Baroness, was in on the hit, having been humiliated by the milquetoast Grellus's continued incompetence. That actually makes more sense from a quick transition of power stance since Abbot Qualton's insane plot was never going to see him on the throne. But judging by her "haughty" ways and lawful neutral alignment, it seems more likely that she just wants to put as much distance as possible between herself and this backwater burg full of rabble rather than sully her footwear on the streets of Resty ever again.

My suspicion is that TSR decided that they didn't want to spread the adventure out over two separate publications which would have required aspiring DMs who bought L2 to then go out and acquire L1 in order to be able to run the thing. Admittedly, I woulda' been pretty freakin' annoyed if I'd had to do that back when I ran L2 in the 80s. Remember, in the pre-internet days you could only buy what your local supplier put on the shelves, so if they didn't have L1, you couldn't just go track it down on AbeBooks or wherever. So, in order to make L2 a self-contained module, they moved the action down the coast and left Restenford in the dust. 

37 comments:

Lee said...

Glad to see you're back at this! I have no serious comment after this, except that I will be pulling out the older posts, and the notes I wrote for myself, again soon.

Lee said...

A further thought: if the Baroness wants out (and away from her loser husband), is she linking up with the Duke?

Or: is Faldelac responsible for scrambling the Abbot's marbles, either for this scheme, or for something completely different? Did he succumb to a trip into the ruins? So many options.

I started a variant of Restenford as a solo game for my wife years ago, I should pick it up again.

Dwayne said...

Quick comment. L1 stated that the stats for Andrella and Fairwind would be given in L2. This didn't happen. It appears that they were to play a bigger part in L2. The newer pdf leaves this out.

Timrod said...

Yes! Thanks Dwayne. I wrote this thing from memory--I couldn't find my copy of L1 until this morning--and clearly missed some nice bits.

Dwayne said...

Glad to help. Also on p.18 there is the comment "Play is not likely to be conducted in the castle during this module but is very likely if module L2 is also used."

Ethan Hammonds said...

Has anyone ever made a decent map of the Restenford and Garrotten areas combined? I found a french attempt here. http://anniceris.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

Ethan Hammonds said...

The problems that I have encountered in doing so are that the pdf scans are not perfectly aligned and the hex sizes between the two maps are not the same. I've cobbled together a slightly better combination using paint.

Dwayne said...

Ethan I had never seen that site. Could you post your map? All I have ever done is to copy both maps and tape them together as best as I can since they are not a perfect fit.

Ethan Hammonds said...

I would love to post my map. Tell me how, because I haven't a clue.

Ethan Hammonds said...

Alright, Let's see if this works. Here is a link to the map I cobbled together in paint. https://goo.gl/photos/FbGJyhcWxHXahwRx7

Dwayne said...

Ethan Looks good. The best I have seen. Thank you. It is great to see others that are still interested in this module series. L1 has always been my favorite. I bought it when it was new and I could not wait until L2 came out. I ran many campaigns set in the Restenford area.

Timrod said...

Nice Ethan! I'll put a link to it here on the ol' site.

blahh said...

Fairwind didn't leave Resty after the Baron hit. She didn't add any magic defenses, add guards, nothing.

If I wasFairwind, I'd vacation for a spell elsewhere. Definitely not stay in the castle unless I was in on the hit.

blahh said...

I was curious. Fairwind is LG. The bratty daughter is LN.

I was always surprised that Pelltar sorta faded away after the daughter buys it. He's got s deed to his tower, right?

blahh said...

Fairwind was the dutiful wife. Daughter wanted the throne. Perhaps...?

Also are the following modules canon? L3 and L4?

blahh said...

One last thing. On the third Sunday, both the daughter and the loon gets snuffed by Tellish. I never played an assassin but I figure it's going to be a bit hard to do 2 hits at 2 different places on the same night... unless daughter and loon are together during the third Sunday.

Many thanks for stimulating the grey matter

Lee said...

Pelltar stuck around for "Priestly secrets". I've always been surprised, as a 9th level M-U, he didn't take over.

Where would the baroness go? I guess she doesn't trust anyone in town?

Timrod said...

As a lawful neutral, perhaps Pelltar holds the established aristocracy as sacrosanct?

Timrod said...

Blahh: I've never seen L3 but I've heard that the published version had very little in common with Lakofka's original and nothing at all to do with L1 and L2.

As for L4, I read (parts) of it when it first became available way back in Oh-ten; as I recall it starts out with a ship arriving in Restenford but then wanders off into parts of the island untouched by the preceding modules. It has none of the Lakofkaesque loose ends that make L1--and to a lesser extent L2--so intriguing. Where L1 was the ultimate sand box, L4 is one of those Lego sets with a quarter of a million specialized pieces and a 176 page booklet with step by step instructions on how to build the stands for the Hogwarts quidditch pitch.

As for your comments regarding the outcome of Assassin's Knot, I honestly haven't read the module in at least a decade. I suppose it's time I started ruminating on the ol' thing. But I like your insinuation that Fairwind and/or Andrella may have a hand in the plot as well.

As for offing loon and daughter: they do have an entire guild at their disposal, not just Tellish. Maybe Basmar or Philmar or Tranmar or Bilmar divvy up the work this time? But you might be right, loon and daughter could very well be in the same room if crazed Qualton somehow manages to seduce ambitious Andrella.

More importantly, after Grellus buys it--and definitely once Fairwind gets it--one would hope that Pelltar would upgrade security at the ol' castle. Or take Andrella into protective custody in any one of his paranoically guarded structures in town; even his freakin' warehouse is more secure than the Baron's castle. Huh, that might be fodder for my next post...

blahh said...

Digging through L-4, it's noted that "Gregis and Pelltar adventured together nearly 20 years ago". Dude is captain of the guard at Grest. And "Brilman and Carlton were former guards from Restenford Castle. They were sent to the garrison at Grest by the Baroness Andrella." Grest has some Lord Companion ruler. Also Pelltar is mentioned in L-5, swapping spellbooks with several goodish MU, who are hanging out in evil Kroten. I'm surprised that Pelltar gets quite a few mentions in the latest modules

blahh said...

Why would a female ruler send fighters to a town she didn't control, when the capt of said town is old drinking buddies with Pelltar?

Pelltar might of used all of us.....

blahh said...

Captain of guard of said town. (typo)

blahh said...

Pelltar was a major wildcard character in L-1&2. See your above posts. L-4&5 might not be great modules but they are Len's, so they are canon. And Pelltar is still in the background...

Timrod said...

Nice work Blahh!

A few questions:
What role would the gender of the ruler play in determining where s/he would or would not send his/her guards?
Were Brillton & Cartman sent as reinforcements/advisors to Grest or did Andrella banish them? If the former then Andrella has,at the minimum, retained his services as Prime Minister. If the latter, perhaps the treasonous behavior that led to their banishment was performed at Pelltar's behest. And peraps he advised them to go to Grest where his old chum Gregis would set them up.

Also, I wonder why it is that Kroten gets a Duke and Resty a Baron but Grest has a Lord Companion and Garrotten a Lord Mayor?

blahh said...

I looked closer at L-4. "ENCOUNTER KEY TO CASTLE GREST This large fortress is constructed from funds raised by the towns of Bralmton, Restenford and Phaulkonville after the destruction of Castle Mid Trail eighty-eight years ago". Also the Lord commander is only the caretaker of the castle. "Obestor was knighted in Bralmton. He is caretaker of this castle and he owns the blacksmith shop next to it."

I'm thinking that the Barony of Restenford controls several towns besides Rest. Barony is rather strong for the Isles. The assassination of the baron caused a scramble to control Rest.

You know the back story of L-2. Guild used loon to further their goals. I'm thinking Pelltar used the assassination himself to put a plyable, scared, same alignment, "saved" by Pelltar from assassination, young woman as baroness.

blahh said...

So sending troops from Rest to Grest is within her powers as Baroness.

blahh said...

Also Len is very detailed oriented. Also from L-4In "L3: Deep Dwarven Delve, it is claimed that she returned to Lake Farmin. This is incorrect." That is in regards to the back story about wounded ranger which starts L-4.

blahh said...

This leads me to believe that any scrap of info in a Len module serves a purpose.

blahh said...

Finally, one of the MU swapping books will Pelltar is involved with a rather humorous destruction of a high lvl MU in Kroten. I read the incident and thought that it seemed so out of place.

blahh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blahh said...

The humorous death of MU in Kroten is in L-5a

blahh said...

Pelltar is Len's alter-ego. Pelltar has been in all 4 modules that Len wrote. In L-1 it states that Pelltar will NOT give up his wand if charmed. Also he's highly independent.

The DM is just the bagholder.

blahh said...

So in L-2, the DM is as clueless as the PCs. I betcha that Pelltar had a trap set up for the assassin on the third Sunday. Nothing's mentioned in module cause the DM is just the bagholder.

Timrod said...

Sigh, you're gonna' make me read all those L4 and L5 PDFs aren't you?

blahh said...

Nah. It's just bits and pieces in 4&5. BUT Pelltar is mentioned in passing in each. How many NPCs get named in 4 modules.

blahh said...

It all goes back to Pelltar is L's alter ego. Strange doings in L-1. Strange in L-2. Also mom and pops are both whacked on Sunday. I'm sure Pelltar did "A Speckled Band" on Tell. I wouldn't wanna cross swords with that grizzled old geezer guard in the daughter's bedroom.

Timrod said...

Nice Sherlock reference.