Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I love this guy.

Brugg is one of the many denizens of the Seven-Pillared Hall. He's the face of the non-magical enforcers employed by the Mages of Saruun. He's your typical brutish, aggressive ogre, and players will likely butt heads with him several times over the course of the adventure.

His job is to "keep the peace", "collect protection money", and "act as muscle for the mages". It doesn't require the DM to read far past his Chaotic Evil alignment and his devastating Greatclub attack to know that Brugg isn't going to be buddy-buddy with the players.

In the ordinary course of events, this is the kind of bully players would swat in the opening act as a warm-up to getting down to the real dungeoneering. However, his status as an employee of the Mages puts him in a unique position.

There's no question that the Seven-Pillared Hall only exists by the grace of the Mages of Saruun. It's fear of their power that keeps everyone in line, and lets halflings, tieflings, duergar and drow commingle without murdering each other in the street. If a little rough-and-ready hired help is the price of that peace, it's a price most of the Hall's merchants are willing to pay.

As such, Brugg is a nuisance that players are going to have to put up with. Getting physical with the ogre may well have dire Mage-related consequences, which means that the DM can play Brugg as loud and swelteringly obnoxious as he likes for much of the adventure before the big thug finally gets his comeuppance.

It's good drama. Brugg brings a sense of tension to the Hall, and helps define its rough-cut frontier charm. He's the physical face of the Mages' magical muscle, which (as we'll eventually see) is critical in maintaining the Mages as a real, active presence in the story.

It's also good roleplaying. When players see Brugg threatening their new friend Rendil, they're going to have to resolve the situation without combat. When Brugg demands an "entrance tax" from newcomers, they'll need to pay up or do some fast talking. Brugg is a first step towards reversing Keep's "all combat, all the time" game philosophy, and if he'd been followed up with more of the same, Thunderspire could have been a memorable and compelling adventure.

What Brugg represents, of course, is the rival. He's the perpetual challenge to the players' superiority, a challenge that can't simply be erased by violence. Ideally, there'd be a Brugg in every adventure of every campaign. He's a spur that keeps players striving to be better, in the knowledge that their every mistake lowers them to the level of the peanut gallery.

I think, though, that the best part of Brugg was getting to put the awesome ogre miniature above on the table.


Maelora said...

Good points. I'd personally be more inclined to make him non-evil and just a loudmouth though, if I wanted to keep him alive as an antagonist. Maybe even give him a sensitive side that they could witness, causing his angry denials when they confront him about it!

However, I'm wondering how many new players would respond with immediate combat the moment he threatens them. Everything else in 4E tells them that all their problems must be solved with combat (unless the GM announces a Skill Challenge (TM) and tells them what rolls to make). Are they necessarily going to be aware that the Mages are far beyond their own levels? What's to stop them seeing the Mage as any different than Kalarel or any of the other stock 'Evil Mages' that fill 4E adventures?

It's definitely a welcome from the unending combat inherent in 4E, but it seems an odd time to introduce it.

Greg Tannahill said...

My guys were ready to go toe to toe with Brugg; I reminded them that Brugg works for the Mages, and the Mages are apparently powerful enough to make the Drow scared.

The mages had also got a recommendation from Winterhaven's resident sage Valthruun that established them as both powerful and largely benevolent. (That's a recommendation largely implied in the module as-written.)

It may also have helped that my guys wanted something from the mages - I had a character come down with a mysterious illness after the closing of the Rift that only the Mages could cure. That's not module as-written, though.

Thunderspire also wisely doesn't provide battlemaps for any of the Seven-Pillared Hall.

Last piece of advice I'd give the GMs is have the duty-mage Orontor come on stage before Brugg makes his first appearance, establishing both Orontor's general good humour and his implied power.

Brugg's not "scheduled" to turn up at this point necessarily - he's one of a large cast of auxiliary NPCs for the DM to use when and if needed - but I've got a lot of NPCs to talk about, I don't want to bunch them all up together, and as Brugg's the only NPC who comes looking for the players rather than vice versa he seemed like a good first step.

Maelora said...

All good advice, of course. And I know that my players would do something clever, like slip something into his drink or mug him in a back alley, rather than brawl in the streets. But I'm pretty sure that for new players, the moment you set that mini down on the table, they will roll a d20 and announce their initiative. That's precisely what they've done every time up 'til now, after all.

It doesn't help that as most of the inhabitants are evil, and/or 'monsters', the place hardly really qualifies as a 'point of light'. I think a new GM will need to spell it out to the players that this isn't just another series of areas to clear out with violence. Personally, I think it's an interesting set-up (getting the PCs to interact with monsters on a non-hostile basis), but it seems to run contrary to everything else in the 4E adventures.

Anonymous said...

What set is that mini from?, he's rather nice.

I'm on the fence about getting this module, I've heard some good things about it, but keep was a massive disappointment. I guess I'll wait for more of your blogs.

Greg Tannahill said...

Anonymous - The model is the uncommon Ogre Pulverizer from the Demonweb expansion for D&D Miniatures. That set was mixed in quality but the Large figures were generally pretty excellent.

Maelora - It just wasn't an issue for my group. The Seven-Pillared Hall is clearly a quest hub, none of the NPCs seem to have a real problem with Brugg, he's backed by the Mages, the Mages are both good and frighteningly powerful, and the PCs need to be in the Mages' good graces to get their job done. They eventually swatted Brugg later when it became character appropriate, just before the Well of Demons, but until then it was fine.

Keith said...

"the Mages are both good and frighteningly powerful..."

That's what I thought from all of the descriptions. Strangely, however, "Human Mage of Saruun" is listed as having an evil alignment.