Jusepe de Ribera
After an uneventful three-day journey south on the High Road, a guarded thoroughfare stretching along the Sword Coast, and the Triboar Trail, heading southeast, Dorn Greycastle and Riordan Xiloscient find themselves in the town of Phandalin. The adventurers do not know it yet, but there is a good reason that most of the bandits have abandoned their usual activities on the Trail. As they enter the town, the locals curiously ask for news from the cities and offer them various wares. At the probing of work, they eventually direct Dorn and Riordan to the Townmaster’s Hall where the Townmaster himself, Harbin Wester, will have some jobs waiting in return for coin.
As they enter the area, Dorn and Riordan notice a job board posted outside between the town’s inn and the Townmaster’s Hall. Dorn decides to knock on the door to introduce themselves and ask for work directly. They hear some thumping about and grunting, and then a cantankerous whispering voice moans, “If you’re a dragon, know that I’m far too thin and bony to make a good meal!” Dorn looks at Riordan and then announces himself and his partner, “We are Dorn Greycastle and Riordan Xiloscient. We are adventurers and have come to find work for coin.”
The Townmaster opens the door just slightly and peers through the chain braces. Dorn sees a portly and flushed face not unlike a vine ripe tomato. “May we come in?”, Dorn inquires. “No, no, no, no, no. There are three jobs posted to the board. Take the notices and accomplish the tasks and I will give the rewards as written. But you bring back proof! I will not be taken!” After Harbin has finished his bluster, he wipes his sweaty face and slams the door shut tightly.
“Pompous, cowardly ass,” Riordan says under his breath and squints at the door. Dorn seems unfazed by the encounter and makes his way to the board to grab the parchments. “Yeah,” states a man as he passes by, “that’s about any of us get out of our fearless leader these days. We haven’t seen him outside in weeks. And he sends his poor old house servant to run his errands, mostly for food.” The man shakes his head and continues on his way.
Dorn starts to read the papers. There is one quest to warn Dwarven prospectors of the white dragon’s arrival at an archaeological site, and another to warn the town’s midwife and to convince her to seek shelter in town rather than be alone at her homestead. The last paper implores the adventurers to go to Gnomengarde and ask for assistance in fighting the dragon with any useful magical items they may have invented.
And so, Dorn decides to warn the people first before going out to procure any weapons or magical items. They will head first to the Dwarven archaeological site and then to the windmill where the midwife lives.
The DM’s guide calls for Harbin Wester to be what I made of him and I hyperbolized his character even more so. As a player, I have run into this Harbin personality multiple times with each DM choosing to play him more-or-less the same, but with their own flavor of what I believe they see as failed leadership empowered. Sometimes he is more cowardly and quiet and shirks his duties. At other times he is obnoxious, indecent, and/or arrogant. He has directly yelled at others that he is the one in charge and he will not be ignored or left out of the loop.
We have all been under the command of what I title a boss (rather than a leader) and these descriptions of Harbin’s character by multiple DMs are the outcomes, or even outlets, of these real-life experiences.
And what of the reactions of the townspeople and our adventurers? From the man’s statements we see that Harbin is not well respected and maybe even hated. Dorn was taken back and shocked that the Townmaster would act in such a way and Riordan is disgusted. Regardless, Dorn decides to focus on the missions at hand. In the real world, poor leadership may not be so lucky as to employee a Dorn. Dorn seems to be accepting of the tasks because he genuinely cares, but these people will not stay for very long. And what is Riordan’s motivation? To get enough money to drink himself into a stupor at leisure but perhaps he would have brushed the whole thing off if Dorn wasn’t there to assess the situation and choose the right thing to do.
We seem to be able to qualify poor leadership better than good leadership. So, how would you portray Townmaster Harbin Wester? We could write a long list of what not to do. What does good leadership look like? Maybe a little harder to put into words, but we know it when we see it, and that is why the most important thing a leader can do is model the correct behaviors. And as we are all leaders, take some time to reflect on how you can model the way for others. Don’t peach. Don’t chide. Just walk the talk.
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