(11/4/02 12:16:52 pm)
| The campaign of the True Heroes|
We’re about to kick off a RttToEE campaign; who knows how far we’ll get! In any case, here’s the introduction to the hapless lackwits – sorry, PCs – who will be attempting to stem the tide of evil…
It’s all about publicity, and PR. No, not “DR”, PR. You see, your basic hero has two options: spend all his time receiving the adulation of the adoring masses, like, or actually do the heroic stuff that everyone seems to expect heroes to be doing. I mean, fighting dragons, repelling evil, putting restless spirits to rest, shooting intercontinental arrows and repairing sundered land-masses all take time, and even the mightiest of heroes can only be in one place at a time.
So, a long time ago, the heroes of the Known Lands — the real heroes, mind you — got together round a camp fire (there are actually a lot less real heroes than you’d think), and decided that Something had to be done. The pressures of the job were getting too much. Demands on heroes’ time were at an all-time high. What with public functions, opening new castles, naming ships, blessing small, wide-eyed children who scurried around streets barefoot, reassuring Kings, and all the other hundreds of appearances a decent, high-quality (say, Dragonslayer, 3rd Class) hero was supposed to put in, the amount of time actually spent Fighting Evil was starting to suffer.
At this most heroic of moots, as the mighty warriors honed their greatswords (making that annoying screeching sound that always seems to be just loud enough to prevent wizards from learning their spells), Hoolzool the mighty, a wizard of the 45th rank, and master of the nine known para-elemental forms, had an idea.
“It’s all about publicity” he announced, suddenly. “What we need are some fake heroes who can do all the, er, publicity stuff, while we can get back to, er, reading books and fighting evil. And stuff. Okay, maybe not. Fine. Just ignore me then, I don’t care.”
Despite Hoolzool’s self-deprecation, his idea was instantly accepted as the way forward: the New Way for heroes. Soon after the meeting, a new breed of hero was created: the Shiny Hero.
For many generations, the shiny heroes were the public face of the real, unsung heroes. The shiny heroes were all handsome. Even the half-orc heroes did not cause the usual spontaneous vomiting in onlookers.
The shiny heroes did not smell. The shiny heroes were good with children (i.e. they did not squash or ignore them, both things that true heroes had always found difficult). The shiny heroes were always where the public wanted them to be, i.e. in the public eye rather than actually off fighting evil.
Such is the power of self-delusion that the paradox of the same heroes spending all their time in public at the same time as spending all their time fighting the forces of evil was blithely ignored by the public, most of whom thought paradox was a type of vegetable that you had to prepare the night before you wanted to cook it by squashing the thing under a plate laden with iron weights.
With the predictability of an apprentice bard’s first ballad, as time progressed people started to “forget” about the true heroes; those heroes who actually did all the work (killing, dying, having sentient gloop fall on their heads and start corroding their armour etc. etc.).
The shiny heroes became the only acceptable kind of hero. Heroism was about how you dressed, how good-looking you were, and whether or not you unintentionally squashed small children on meeting them. The inane mutated into the heroic, and the shininess of your battleaxe became more important than the number of orcs you had killed with it.
Heroes had to be, above all, presentable, and, well, heroic.
Public demand for these heroes was insatiable, and soon, everyone and his nephew was strapping on a sword and stocking up on metal polish.
Well, nearly everyone.
For, to this day, there remain a few: a few *real* heroes. “How many is a few?” I hear you ask. The answer is, approximately , “five”. Five real heroes, who eschew the new, shiny generation of meta-heroics and the need to say “this is yours” before every sword-stroke. Five completely un-presentable, irascible, children-squashing heroes who find that the public has passed them by, frequently with their noses clamped firmly between podgy fingers. Five misunderstood, shunned, confused, dysfunctional heroes who stagger and lurch from one encounter to the next with a kind of masochistic serendipity.
Yes, there remain five such heroes; five true heroes, and this is their story.
So, let us meet these doughty adventurers.
Let us welcome GRUNTHARG, son of Gruntharg. He sits, keen as a knife’s edge, on a rock, his beady eyes surveying the skyline. His belly rumbles with the sound of a distantly collapsing temple. His hand grips a sword a full six inches longer than his mighty 6’ 6” frame. As we watch, thoughts begin to coalesce in a small chamber somewhere within his thick-boned head. Synapses fire; neurone after neurone is triggered in the rare blaze of a half-orc epiphany. Listen closely, and hear what can only be a thought forming, now slowly trickling from the brain to the muscles of his mouth. Wait, with baited breath, as his lips form portentous words. Listen, as speaks: “Gruntharg….. HUNG-ER-RY!”
Look across to KAINEN. There he stands, barely a sliver of skin visible beneath layer upon layer of armour. Cover your ears as he moves, clanging like the internal workings of a titanic mechanical clock. Look at the gouge in the ground his battleaxe leaves as he stumbles forward, lurching towards Gruntharg’s rock. Smell the sweat that collects in a puddle with his every step, a testament to a strange tripartite walking machine in which battleaxe haft serves as the third appendage in an endeavour too complex to be merely called a "walk". Strain to hear his words of wisdom, spoken with the insight of a true priest of Tempus, as he fires individual syllables towards Gruntharg, launching these word-fragments between long and painful breaths: “Grun-tharg... can't... be... hung... rey... a… GAIN!”
Turn now to THER, as he lunges tirelessly with his rapier. Hear his mantra, as he repeats to himself: “I am not a thortherer. I am a thortherer. I am ninja thortherer. I am not thizchophrenic. I am a thortherer…” Surely this is a litany that will strike fear into any foe’s heart!
Then, consider HINDRA, tall, demure and inscrutably elven. Sense the crackle of arcane energy that surrounds her. Move swiftly on or perish beneath that ice-cold stare...
Lastly, consider SNEEK. Look how his head darts backwards and forwards with the skilled practice of a veteran of a thousand battles. Surely only a fool would discount this behaviour as mere nervousness! Admire the bravery of one who would wage indiscriminate war against evil, whilst being barely 2’ 9” high.
Yes, admire these heroes all: the last five true heroes of the Realms, who unwittingly are about to face the horrors of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Salute them all, and wish them well.
+++EPISODE I to follow soon.
 Well, that’s not strictly true, of course. Elminster’s Ultimate Bifurcation allows multiple copies of the archmage to turn up and annoy the nine hells out of anyone who doesn’t have “Harper” as their middle name, but going into this kind of detail breaks up the dramatic flow of an introduction, which is why we won’t talk about it again. Ever. Okay?
 He was a bit shaky on the Ash form, if history recalls. History does not, however, recall the name of the historian who made this observation, and whose entire lineage was mysteriously wiped out by a giant flaming meteor. Such is the way of wizards. They’re all paranoid and insecure; not necessarily in that order.
 One of them is very small.
 Potential drawback: not all foes have a heart. Ther will learn, one day…