ToEE: The Village of Hommlet

My last session was spent mostly futzing around in Hommlet, looking for side-quests. I found quite a few, even including a couple of combat-oriented ones. A woodcutter wants me to drive giant spiders out of a grove of deku trees, which I thought were more of a Zelda thing than a D&D thing. That was fairly simple, but there’s an armorer who wants me to prove my worth by bringing him the head of a giant. I’ve actually found a giant — specifically, a hill giant, the least of the giant races — minding his own business off in the skeleton-haunted battlefield where the Circle of Eight defeated the Elemental Evils in their last go-round. It’s going to be a while before I pose a threat to him, though. These side-quests are not necessarily things you can do right away.

In fact, that seems to apply to the non-combat quests as well. One person has a sick child that can only be cured with a Heal spell, which requires either an 11th level cleric or a fairly expensive magic item. Another wants to join the town guard, but they won’t let him, for no very good reason. I talk to the person in charge, using my highest-charisma character, but he simply refuses. What do I do about this? Look for another side quest, I suppose. The “talk to the guard boss” quest is still in the quest log, and will remain there until I chance on something capable of changing his mind.

The law-and-order enthusiasts of Church of St. Cuthbert are in quite a lot of the quests, as either a consumer of goods or a source of drama. In the pagan setting of the World of Greyhawk, the Cuthbertites are an obvious stand-in for Christianity, a relatively new faith with an emphasis on proselytizing and conversion, and not everyone in Hommlet likes them, even if they did save the village from a demon some years ago. There’s been some suggestion that they’re more interested in collecting tithes and asserting their authority than in doing real good. They’re definitely guilty of the crime of being uncomfortably pushy. In a more morally-murky campaign setting, like Planescape or Shadowrun, this would be enough to flag them as potential enemies, but here? However imperfect their judgment as individuals, I know that their hearts are Lawful Good. Evil has its own temple. It’s nearby, but outside city limits.

It’s been observed that the implied world-view D&D isn’t particularly medieval, and owes at least as much to the tropes of the Western as it does to fantasy literature. Hommlet definitely fits this thesis: it’s your basic frontier town, a minimal self-sufficient community where everyone has a job directly involved in keeping the town running, except for some suspicious outsiders down at the saloon. Perhaps this is why I’m so instinctively distrustful of self-proclaimed authorities like the Church of St. Cuthbert. They violate the ethos of rugged individualism.

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