Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Deep Is My Rabbit Hole

This sort of thing rubs me the wrong way. Specifically, this part:

It turns out that if you simply think "hey, there's a village of people here, maybe we can talk to them and figure out what's been going on" then the storyline starts to break considerably, and when the adventuring party starts to make peace treaties with them and get regular intelligence updates, a lot of later "OMG SURPRISE MONSTERS!" moments become less surprising. That's a good illustration of Fucked Up Trope #1: everyone you encounter, if they don't have a Special Plot Helmet, is presumed to be someone you're going to murder and rob, probably in that order.

Ok, by itself, yes, this points out an area where the Temple of Elemental Evil is surprisingly weak (especially compared to Keep on the Borderlands, Vault of the Drow, and especially Shrine of the Kuo-Toa). But that’s not his principal point.

Mr. Zungar’s pointing out the murder-hobos nature of D&D and asks, “Hey, what if we make peace with the hobgoblins instead of attacking them?”

To which I respond, and completely without sarcasm, “By what methods do you make peace with the hobgoblins?”

The hobgoblins are not some misunderstood noble savage, a more pure culture unsullied by contact with “civilization” or the magical brown people de jure. (Though I suppose in Mr. Zungar’s games they could be.) They are a race of slave-owning militarists who consider other sentient beings to be a delicious part of this complete breakfast. They’re medieval Nazis, or Spartans with the humanity filed off. Those who befriend the hobgoblins in the Caves of Chaos are likely to be invited to join them as they feast on plump merchant-and-wife. I don’t have ToEE in front of me right now, but I imagine the hobgoblins there are devotees of Zuggtmoy, demon-goddess of evil (and, one imagines, tasty) fungi. (Seriously, I could totally see Zuggtomy being an Underdark fertility figure, Goddess of the fungal fields, a sort of monstrous Persephone who seduces Hades and robs him of his fecundity in order to feed her legion of followers. Vault of the Drow kinda implies that she, and not Lolth, is the principal deity worshipped by the drow, and that Lolth is an upstart looking to instigate a coup.) In order to befriend the hobgoblins, will the PCs be expected to join the cult? Why not?

I think this is why I find Raggi’s vision of D&D so compelling. It’s a Dashiell Hammett world with swords. These guys might not be so vile as those guys, but nobody’s in the running for the title of actual, unadulterated good guy. It’s vice and greed and brutality and foolishness as far as the eye can see.

But that’s how I play D&D. Mr. Zungar is, of course, welcome to get all post-modern and deconstructive in his games. Others are welcome to go the opposite direction, declaring hobgoblins to be manifestations of the Mythic Underworld, shadows without personality and personhood, and thus “killable” without moral consequences.

Flavor to taste, y'all.


David Brawley said...

I agree with you. Pretty much everything/everyone is aweful in some way. It's just a matter of degree.

Fascinating comments on that thread though.

Joseph Bloch said...

Just FYI, Zuggtmoy is not mentioned in Vault of the Drow at all. What's happening plot-wise is that Lolth is the principle demon-goddess of the Drow, and it's the worshipers of the Elder Elemental God who are the upstarts trying to overturn the established priesthood of Lolth.

In fact, it's the EEG-worshiping faction that is causing the trouble with the giants in the first place. Hence we see a Temple of the Eye in both the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and the Halls of the Fire Giant King.

trollsmyth said...

Joseph Bloch: you're absolutely right! I had flipped things in my campaign because it made the transition from D3 to Q1 make more sense with my group. I'd completely forgotten this was my change and not how the module was written!

That said, how do people explain going after Lolth, since the natural thing to do in VotD would be to ally with the Lolth-loyal houses against those serving the EEG? The Fane of Lolth is clearly set up as the ultimate "dungeon" of the adventure, but it's just as clear that the estate of House Eilservs should finish the G-D combined series of adventures.