Friday, January 9, 2009

Eviction Proceedings at Tegel Manor

This post about Tegel Manor got me thinking about my (so-far) only experience of it, vicariously through one of my favorite Roger E. Moore editorials. Turns out I'm not alone in my fond memories of this particular gamer war story, so I thought I'd dip into my collection of Dragon PDFs and pull the editorial out to share with y'all.

It's wonderfully goofy and D&Dish in the best sense. Kind of reminds me of the time Tim and I managed to each land a stone golem of our very own (after disposing of their creator) and proceeded to paint tuxedos on said golems and use them as butlers (storing them in a portable hole when they weren't otherwise needed).

At any rate, on with the tale...which also, incidentally, is primarily in regards to stat inflation, a topic much on the mind of many gamers these days, I know...

(From Dragon #195, July 1993):

I hope Michael Brown won't mind if I talk about Thora in this editorial, since she was his AD&D® game character, but Thora's sometimes on my mind and her story is worth telling.

Once upon a time, there was a fighter named Thora. Thora was a perfectly ordinary character. Her highest statistic was a 12, I think. She wasn't particularly strong, smart, good looking, or quick, but she was dependable, fair, and stuck up for her friends. We couldn't ask for much more than that. I thought of her as what an accountant would be like as an adventurer: pleasant and neat, but not very exciting.

Thora had an average amount of magical equipment and had reached a middle level of experience in our campaign when a very unusual thing happened. The Dungeon Master (me) got hold of a copy of Tegel Manor, an old D&D® module published by a now-extinct company called Judges' Guild. Tegel Manor itself was a huge, rambling mansion on a windswept coast, abandoned and deserted by the living for many years. It had once belonged to a powerful, cursed family that had produced adventurers, criminals, and tyrants for centuries. When Thora got into a card game with the last survivor of that family, he put the deed to the estate in the pot and she won it. Thora now owned Tegel Manor and was free to move in any time--once she managed to clear out the undead.

See, the problem with Tegel Manor was that every one of the dead members of that cursed family now lived on in the mansion in undead form. They came in every size, shape, and flavor, from lowly skeletons to ultrapowerful vampires and liches. There were scores of dead things in that manor, and they were killers. One room had over a dozen ghosts, and one of the liches was an archmage. They most definitely did not want to give up their home to a living person, and especially not to someone who wasn't even in their family tree. The cowardly survivor of the family had tried for years to get rid of his responsibility for the manor (he was good at losing card games), but everyone he'd given the deed to had later sought him out and forced him to take it back. "You didn't say anything about the vampires or liches," they'd say in a peeved tone of voice, with most of their armor and clothes burnt off.

Everyone gave the manor back but Thora, that is. The first thing Thora did after the card game was paste a copy of the deed to the front of her +2 shield. The second thing she did was round up all her old adventuring friends and promise them low-cost housing in her manor if they’'d help her clean it out a little bit first. The third thing she did was march into the manor and begin eviction proceedings against the current inhabitants.

Thora was always the first one into a room. The door would smash open as she threw her plate-mailed weight into it, then she'd hold up her shield and deed to the skull-like faces of the startled undead within and yell, "I'm the new landlord! Get out, or you're history!" The undead would disagree with her assessment of the situation, so Thora and a battalion of lords, wizards, master thieves, and high priests would pour into the room. After some of the most savage property negotiations we'd ever had, there'd be another room cleared out.

Thora would take a moment afterwards to make notes on her maps about redecorating, water pipes, where she would put the cafeteria, and so forth, then she'd lead the group to the next room. Tegel Manor was huge, but she managed to clean out about two-thirds of it before the campaign wandered on to another adventure. Everyone who survived the eviction action was filthy rich. Thora moved in with a few other semi-retired adventurers, and soon she became famous as the landlord of the most dangerous condominiums in the land (they hadn't yet gotten rid of all the vampires in the basement, and the bloodrose outside sometimes ate visitors but she couldn't bear to part with it). She was a good landlord, too, very reliable.

Thora didn't have 18/00 strength or +6 battle armor, but she kicked butt and we admired her. I thought about her in an AD&D game I played a few years ago, and I made up a character that had no high statistics at all, just like her, but the group wouldn't let me use it. I was given a revised character with an 18/00 strength and 18 constitution. It just wasn't the same.

Thora, you were an average sort of character, but you were the most extraordinary ordinary hero I ever saw. Thanks for the memories. And good luck with the tenants in the basement.
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