Those trying the direct approach will find Elminster unreachable. His scribe and secretary, Lhaeo, will ask the visitors to fill out forms and will be willing to set an appointment for several months in the future, but will have a variety of reasons why the sage is not available at the present time, such as:
- He is in the middle of an experiment.
- He is on an extended tour of the lower planes.
- He has just completed a battle with a type VI demon, and is not in the best of moods.
- He has just finished destroying a group of tattooed barbarians. What did you say your problem was?
- FRC2 "Curse of the Azure Bonds" Forgotten Realms adventure
Gatekeepers, for story purposes, are those who do not make the big decisions themselves - but they are the ones who control access to the powerful and important people who make the decisions, whether they are vizirs or secretaries. Thus, they generally serve as an obstacle in stories that must be overcome in order to speak to the people who can help the protagonists - and not one that can be solved by killing them, as their bosses will usually disapprove of killing their underlings and generally approve of their job of keeping people with inconsequential wishes from bothering them.
Game and Story Use
- The game master should figure out in advance what might make a Gatekeeper allow the PCs to pass. Sometimes it is convincing evidence that the PCs' concern really is urgent, with the emphasis on "convincing" - "You say the dead are coming alive and eating people's brains? Suuuure….". Sometimes it is a bribe or flattery. Sometimes it is a teleport spell or other means of physically going past them, but in that case they should be sure that the person they want to see is actually where they are heading and that they have a really good excuse for disturbing them, as otherwise they will be kicked off the premises… at least.
- Yes, this does effectively turn the gatekeeper into a very useful quest giver.
- There is also the possibility that a GM with a warped sense of humour could have a key NPC impersonate their own gatekeeper to inflict a secret test of character on the PCs.
- In a suitably fantasy or sci-fi setting the gate itself could be a gatekeeper (allowing for a suitable resident AI).
- The bosses' secretary or PA is the mundane version of this … although the receptionist could be at least as effective as a barrier.
- On the other hand, this can be taken up to epic scale - in the cthulhu mythos Yog-Sothoth acts as a sort of universal gatekeeper (and is also a universal key) whilst Nyarlathotep is something like a gatekeepr to Azathoth.