Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Visit to the Treasure Vault (Part III)

Art by Stephan Peregrine

While Flying Buffalo's Treasure Vault is intended to be generic enough to accommodate a multitude of fantasy settings, there are hints of a consistent background environment scattered throughout the book.  I suspect that this is part of author Steven Howard's effort to “interlock” the non-player characters as proclaimed on the product's cover.

Page 20 tells about the Warrior Queen Harmon, “the beautiful conquerer of much of the continent some seventy years ago.”  However, four pages later, the legend of The Eye of Gamel – a precious stone – indicates that King Farelis gave that stone to Harmon no earlier than fifty years ago (“when the Kingdom of Farelis was conquered by Harmon”).  You see, “The...eye has been missing for 250 years having been lost during the siege of the temple by godless barbarians.”  Then, “It reappeared nearly 200 years later in the treasury records of King Farelis III.”  Yet the following paragraph states that the priests of Gamel have been “anxious to retrieve it...for over 250 years.”  They would not have been looking for the stone for more than 250 years if they only lost it exactly 250 years ago.  If we assume that the first reference to 250 years should have instead been 270 or 275 years, the mention of “over 250 years” makes more sense and otherwise conforms to the notion of Harmon's conquest “some seventy years ago.”  Anyway, at some point there was a “tumultuous revolution which led to Harmon's death.”  Apparently, Harmon established several “secret treasure troves” prior to her demise.

The “godless barbarians” responsible for the disappearance of The Eye of Gamel may be associated with Konig the barbarian, “a famed adventurer and a great leader of men” whose similarity to any Robert E. Howard property is surely coincidental.  The legend of Konig begins thus:
Many years ago, a tribe of mountain-dwelling barbarians were captured and enslaved by a group of power-hungry wizards.  Konig, a member of that barbarian tribe, was working in a silver mine when he dug through to a big cavern where he found [a magic item that provides significant magic resistance].  What happened next is not clear, but it is known that Konig led the barbarians in a revolt against the magicians, who were powerless to stop them.
Konig is also associated with the magic sword Firebrand.  It seems that Konig recovered the sword from “the heart of an active volcano that went dormant for just three days every hundred years.”  Konig “returned it to the volcano just prior to his death.”  Page 14 indicates that the next dormant stage will be in 19 years.

Firebrand was one of four 'swords of the elements' which “were forged in ancient times by the legendary Elemental Lords so their chosen champions might do battle.”  Each sword is representative of one of the classical elements and their hilts are depicted in the image above.  How the swords were named is not explained in Treasure Vault, but I suspect that the Elemental Lords held a contest to see who could come up with the crappiest name.  The winner was Earthor, the earth sword; Aireon and Waterrel – the air sword and water sword respectively – tied for second place.  With the swords, the Elemental Champions were evenly matched against one another.  For whatever reason, the Elemental Champions were abolished and the Elemental Lords “allowed the swords to fall into the hands of mortals.”  The current possessor of Earthor is described as a detailed personality.
     ABNESS FROND.  Half-elf.  Ht: 5'6".  Wt: 130 lbs.  Age: 50.  Fighting prowess: good with any type of sword, otherwise poor.
     Abness is a fairly typical pre-middle-aged half-elf.  His hair is long, blond, and braided in the back.  His not-quite-human eyes are deep gray.  His slim body is quite muscular, particularly in the arms, shoulders, and chest.  Abness makes his living as a swordsman.  He does several different sword tricks, including fighting with a sword in each hand, juggling swords, and fighting three opponents at once.  He is taciturn and secretive, altogether an uncommunicative sort.  If pushed, he will reveal a little of his past and allude to “friends in high places.”
     Abness does indeed have friends in high places.  He has a natural rapport with birds.  He can speak with them, and they will obey his instructions to the best of their ability.  He is loathe to use this power in front of others, as he knows there are wizards who would love to dissect his brain to find out his secret method of communicating with birds.  He obtained Earthor when his best friend, an eagle, brought it to him.  He doesn't know where the eagle got it.
I would think that the ability to fight three opponents at once would be indicative of at least very good ability instead of merely “good.”  Anyway, in one 'scenario suggestion', the player characters “find out Abness' secret and are blackmailing him by threatening to turn him in to the Wizard's [sic] League.”  (Blackmailing a taciturn swordsman – or swordshalf-elf – who owns a powerful magic item and who can talk to birds is always a good idea.)  The other 'scenario suggestion' has the “birds...behaving strangely.”  When the player characters try to find the reason, they “stumble across Abness” and he attempts to protect his secret.  So, what's with the birds' behavior?  The 'scenario suggestion' does not explain.  As is evident, the 'scenario suggestions' have little to do with the magic item.  Although Abness is an interesting NPC, his connection to the magic item seems almost to be an afterthought.

The Elemental Lords could cooperate at times.  The Stone of Fire “was created as a joint effort of the Lords of Fire and Earth.”  In modern times, the stone came into the possession of “the great adventurer Paritobes Spring.”  For reasons not disclosed, Paritobes used the stone “to burn down the stables of the barbarian hero Konig.”  As a result, Konig evidently killed Paritobes and “The Stone of Fire has not been seen from that day.”  Konig would have no use for the stone since it “can only be used by those magicians who are able to cast fire-based spells.”

With regard to geography, the “Three Kingdoms” are mentioned twice in Treasure Vault (and are unlikely to be the Three Kingdoms from Chinese history).  The kingdom of Darkholm is referenced on occasion and may be one of the three.  The Orclands are also mentioned.  There are Dwarven Mountains, but there is also a remote Dwarf Island.

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