Thursday, April 18, 2019

P is for Petra

[over the course of the month of April, I shall be posting a topic for each letter of the alphabet, sequentially, for every day of the week except Sunday. Our topic for this year's #AtoZchallengeRevamping the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in a way that doesn't disregard its B/X roots]

P is for Petra. No, not that Petra...I'm talking the Immortal "patron" of Karameikos, Queen Petra of Krakatos.

[I was going to write about Penhaligon, but in the end decided since the city doesn't even appear on the B/X map, it wasn't all that important. Besides, folks who really want to adhere to GAZ1 can find a lot of info on that town in B11: King's Festival and (especially) B12: Queen's Harvest. There's actually quite a bit of interesting juiciness in the latter adventure, though buried under flawed execution]

Allow me to revisit the "Song of Halav" one more time: the story of Traladara's misty past (as their legends paint it), is one of invasion by "beast-men" (gnolls; not the Warhammer variety). Three great heroes arise to meet the threat: King Halav, Queen Petra, and the mysterious Zirchev. At the final battle, King Halav managed to slay the Beast King in single combat but was slain himself. His companions (Petra and Zirchev) returned to Halav's home city of Lavv (whose ruins lie hidden beneath present day Kelvin) and ritually burned his body, whereupon all three heroes were spirited away by the Immortals...they will return again in Karameikos's greatest hour of need.

Some fan's Petra
Okay, that's all clear right? Here's the GAZ1 "true history." Petra was a high level cleric and queen of (ancient) Krakatos, south of Lavv. Widowed early during the gnoll wars, she joined with Halav and Zirchev to aid in repelling the monsters. Halav was slain by the gnoll war chief, but Petra later cast raise dead fully (the BECMI equivalent of the resurrection spell), and the three companions set off on separate Paths to Immortality (as per the BECMI Master set), eventually achieving their goals and becoming individual Immortals...and presumably venturing off to have 5th dimension adventures of the type described in Mentzer's Immortal rules.

I don't like it.

[what else is new?]

The Immortal set was (hell, it is) an extremely interesting rule set, and a very different way of looking at high level play. I'm not against high level D&D characters seeking a path to own AD&D character did the same "back in the day" (using the system provided in Deities & Demigods)...and isn't that kind of what lichdom is all about? But I think any player character that manages to achieve immortality (in any way, shape, or form) should probably be retired from play. The adventures of an immortal character (especially a demigod!) is really outside the scope of the D&D game as originally conceived. Really.

So, interesting or not, I'm really NOT a fan of BECMI's Immortal rules as an extension of D&D play (and this is true of the 1992 re-boot system Wrath of the Immortals). When I see its systems written into gazetteer backgrounds/history, my immediate reaction tends to be negative.

That being said, I'm not a huge fan of Petra as a secondary, female hero in the national epic. Why is she there, really? I'm not saying heroes don't have supporting casts, but the secondary characters tend to get written out of histories (or forgotten) when they don't do anything noteworthy. I suppose she's present to accept some of the "secrets of the Immortals" (*gag*) but other than that, she doesn't do much in the Song of Halav. Helps carry Halav's body back to Lavv for ritual burning is all. Surely, a high level cleric (high enough to cast raise dead fully, and a queen in her own right) would have merited more than an honorable mention.

Personally, since I've already decided I kind of hate everything Hutaaka, I'd re-write the Song...and the "true history" of Karameikos...quite a bit, in order to make it more B/X friendly. Here's how:

First cut all the capital-I Immortal stuff from the GAZ. I sincerely doubt that anyone is still using the WotI system (let alone the original Immortal box set) as a standard part of their D&D mechanics. If you guess, you can stop reading and move on to tomorrow's (B/X) post.

Next, assuming I want to retain an indigenous Traladaran people (who will not be devolved Nithians), I would remake Petra as the Traladaran goddess-mother from whom all good things come. A kind of Athena-like figure, she shows up with a bronze helmet, spear, and shield. It was Petra, through her divine oracle Lucor, who provided King Halav with the tidings of the coming beast man horde, and who counseled the Bronze Age warrior to take up his sword and organize/unite the Traladaran people.

Oh, wait...who's Lucor you ask? Well, per Dave Cook's module B6, Lucor was "a legendary local cleric" whose annual Festival takes the form of a Procession in his honor through the streets of Specularum, culminating in the cleric's statue being "floated out to sea." Each year the Procession of Lucor is led by "a woman of notable rank and importance," who I would suggest acts as a stand-in for the goddess Petra herself, symbolically showing the way for her ancient priest.

[GAZ1 mentions Lucor and the Festival of Lucor only once, by the way: in saying that you can find more detail of both in module B6. Um, okay]

My version of Petra
Using Petra as the indigenous figure of worship gives a little more "bite" to the religious struggle between the Church of Thyatis and Church of Traladara, which are of the same thing? It gives an opportunity to perhaps discover and recover (or loot) ancient shrines to this Bronze Age an "earth mother" type goddess, perhaps her oldest temples were subterranean caverns (i.e. dungeons) whose entrances in the deepest, darkest forests of the region were forgotten centuries before, when her shamans/druids/priests were run off and slain by marauding invaders (gnolls and, later, Thyatians). Of course, it goes without saying that Petra makes a potential goddess for clerics of Traladaran ancestry...or even Thyatians who have been "dream touched" by the goddess while living in her murky forests.

Perhaps, too, Petra has a shadowy and/or diabolic counterpart, traditionally worshipped by outcasts, miscreants, and sociopaths...a kind of "dark woodsman" lurking in places where unspeakable acts of murder, torture, and cannibalism took place. Something like a manitou or wendigo, but far more powerful. A vampire of the natural world? Possibly.

But regardless, do Petra justice and make her a larger character in this drama. Make her a real "immortal;" make her a deity. Have her be the Lady of Avalon to Halav's Arthur. Besides, it's not like Bronze Age clerics could raise dead, anyway.
; )

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