One of the founders of our hobby and one of the most unsung contributors to Dungeons & Dragons, Len Lakofka has passed away at the age of 76.
Along with the many adventures, classes, spells, and rules he created, Len was also father of the Suel in Greyhawk, designer of their gods, and namesake of the Lendore Isles.
The value of his work goes without saying, but his presence will be sorely missed. The adventures of Leomund go on.
I was flattered that he should be interested in my opinion, so I hope I do a good job. Here it is:
In reading this story I see it to be a continuing saga of our “friends” from his previous stories of the Silver Wolf companions series. Animosity still permeates the relationships of this group in this story as well.
The story’s setting is very enjoyable. The companions are gathered ‘round the fire after their day’s journey. Telling stories ‘round the campfire can be found in any western tale and has its place here as well. Its very well done and a pleasant “change of pace,” as it were. I like it.
The writing is well done and the portrayal of the interpersonal relationships is much improved. Still, the antagonism between the group’s members remains palpable, there for all to see, just as it was in the first two stories. And it lacks explanation. What do I mean by that?
Amyalla thinks that Weimar is an “idiot” because he doesn’t know that Revafour is referring to Tharizdun when he speaks of the “Dark Lord.” I would point out, however, that if everyone in the Flannaess (even all of your PCs) knew who Tharizdun was, well, that would be one very “highly educated” World of Greyhawk, my friends. In “reality” most people in the Flannaess should not know who Tharizdun is. Why?
Tharizdun is an ancient Flan god who has been “locked away” for some thousand years (at the least). He should be almost forgotten, even by his own people, such as the Flan warrior from Tenha -- Revafour. However, the fact that Revafour does know who Tharizdun is only shows that Revafour is a “well educated” flan warrior and, as such, can be appreciated by the reader; after all, Tharizdun is to be found within Revafour’s native pantheon of gods.
So there should be nothing wrong with an Oeridian like Weimar not knowing which particular “Dark Lord” Revafour is referring too. In fact, it should be quite impressive that a halfling lass like Amyalla does know who Tharizdun is. For example, the 2E “Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings” helps us to appreciate that the halfling Amyalla shouldn’t know anymore about the “Dark Lord” than the Oeridian Weimar evidently does. According to page 74 of that book:
“Of course, for most halflings, the life of adventure seems a slightly mad choice of lifestyle — a road one takes out of dire necessity or because of profound misfortune . . . The halfling race, by and large, cherishes a pastoral existence full of comfort. As a people, they are remarkably lacking in ambition, content to dwell in a snug, well-furnished burrow, enjoying a pipe of rich tobacco and a filling, multi-course meal at dinner . . . Yet, for a wide variety of reasons, a few members of this quiet race do choose to embark on the path of danger, adventure, and possible wealth.”
And there we have “The Lord of the Rings’” hobbit, a.k.a. “halfling.” The gentle folk of “the Shire” had “heard of” the “Dark Lord,” certainly, but few, if any, could have actually named him -- Sauron. In fact, most of the human population of “Bree” couldn’t have named him either.
So, Amyalla no doubt learned of “Dread Tharizdun” while adventuring across the Flanaess and not “in high school” back home “in the Shire,” so to speak. So, why display such animosity at Weimar’s every spoken word, or action?
And the gnome Airk’s rancor towards Weimar too. Both Amyalla and Airk seem to strongly detest Weimar’s constant drinking and this is obviously the reason for their acrimony. And Revafour, himself, wants to smash a “bottle” (wineskin) of mead over Weimar’s head. So . . . why adventure with him? How many of us “hang out” with people whose lifestyles we dislike? Any of us?
And Amyalla still has a problem with the fact that the Aerdi sisters, Seline and Luna, keep the Olman, Ma’non’go, as a “slave.” But what upsets her even more is that Ma’non’go doesn’t seem to have a problem with that state of affairs, being “loyal to a fault.” And so she dislikes all three.
So, my “original” question from the first stories remains: Why this group of people? Why are they together?
In a World of Greyhawk that is mostly “gray,” where “good” and “evil” meld together, as C.S.L. likes to play it -- as opposed to “black and white” -- this is all “well and good.” The problem in this particular situation can be found in my question; Why are these particular people “together” in the first place? A satisfying answer to this question is lacking in all three stories.
That they can be together is perfectly acceptable in and of itself, it’s the “why” they’re together that’s “missing.” To illustrate:
In the former Great Kingdom the Knights of Heironeous and Hextor served together in cooperation -- in the Army. That is, in defense of the Kingdom. In all other matters they are diametrically opposed to one another, just as their gods and churches are. But in this one “common cause” they can fight side by side on the battlements and in the field and even save one another’s lives upon occasion -- when normally they would be at each other’s throats. Service to their Kingdom helps them to live in peace -- within the Army.
So, what brought the Silver Wolf adventuring group together? Where is the “common cause” which keeps them together, as an adventuring group? In the first story we are lead to believe that it was a specific adventure. Okay, that’s good. Now . . . why are they still together, far to the north of that original adventure? From everything I’ve been reading, they shouldn’t be.
Mystic-Scholar's comments are much appreciated, and some explanations are in order.
Looking back on it now, I see that one of the main problems with these early texts was that I was far too heavy-handed in trying to convey the notion that this was a darker, more unpleasant fantasy world. I spent so much time trying to create tension within the group that I neglected to give them some more proper redeedming characteristics.
I was actually trying for some subtext in the relationship between Luna, Seline and Ma'non'go-as I conceived it, he wasn't actually their slave, but was rather passed off as one to save face in Aerdi society after Luna and Seline's father brought him back. The ambiguous attitude they display was meant to make the reader question why things are depicted this way. I guess it didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped.
Oh, and Airk is actually meant to have both a military pick and a morning star as weapons. Hence why he alternates as both.
I really didn't have any feedback when writing these little vignettes, and it shows. One thing I'd really like to do is go back and rewrite them with Mystic-Scholar's critiques in mind, and hopefully present something that's more palatable and does both the world of Greyhawk and my characters justice.
To convey the "thoughts" and "images" you have in mind, you should add a little more "explanation" in the writing; such as the relationship between Luna, Seline and Ma'non'go. In writing it, you gave the impression that Ma'non'go was their slave. That is obviously the image you want the "group" to have of the situation, but it's also the image you left the reader with.
Always remember that the reader cannot "read" your thoughts on the matter; what you "see" in your mind. They only "see" what comes across on the page.
Also, it didn't really come across that Airk had two weapons. You need to find a way to bring that out in the narrative: "Finishing the cleaning of his axe, Airk set it aside and picked up his military pick." -- Or some such.
And don't forget the reason that they are still together. The original adventure may have gotten them together, but given that they don't really like each other very much, the reader must ask him/herself "Why are these guys still hanging out together?"
The story may be fantasy, but the personal relationships must bare some resemblance to real life in order for the story to work. After all, your characters are "just human," like the rest of us.
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