"The legions of the Reaching Moon came a generation ago, desecrating our temples, destroying the Old Ways. In the lowlands and the towns, the hand of the Red Emperor is at the people's throats, but here in the highlands we still live free as the wind that roars over the mountain peaks. We are the Haraborn of Black Stag Vale, and our clan has outlived false gods, Western sorcerers, and the lies of dragons. The Red Moon now thinks she can break us, and bend us to her filthy foreign ways. I say Shepelkirt is wrong. When Argrath comes as prophesied, and tears the Red Moon from the sky, we will still be here, faithful to our gods, loyal to our ancestors, and mindful of the ancient ways..."

- Joddi White Hart, Haraborn Lawspeaker

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Recent Reviews

Sorry about the lack of postings.  There was a death in the family and I have been a bit distracted.  Updates on the campaign coming soon.  In the meantime, here are a pair of links to some recent reviews both of "HeroQuest 2" and "Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes," from RPGnet.

Friday, February 3, 2012


  • Episode Type: Attack!
  • Begin With: The characters are drawn by the sound of strange cries. They come across a flock of sheep (or half a dozen cattle, herd of deer, etc). The animals are all lying on their sides, bloated, foaming at the mouth. Closer examination reveals something squirming around inside the animal’s bloated stomachs...
  • The Situation: The creatures have been raped by Broo, and are now impregnated with Broo spawn. The Broo are still in the area, hunting, and may be back at any moment.
  • Lead Monster: The Broo are led by a larger, nastier specimen than the rest (all values are determined by Base +6, modified by the template below). He will try to capture, rather than kill his victims.
  • Accompanied By: Depending on how difficult the Narrator wishes the episode to be, there can be one or two Broo for each player character, with a Resistance equal to the Base -3 or the Base. Use the Broo template below;

Broo Keyword: Break-out abilities include Broo Customs, Broo Tradition +4, Club Fighting or Spear Fighting +6, Worship Mallia or Worship Thed +6, Head Butt +3, Know Local Area, Stealthy, Track -3

c : Chaos Feature: 1 in 3 Broo will possess a Chaos feature. Select one of the following or create your own; Absorb [Type of Magic], Armored Hide, Belch Fire, Demoralize Enemy, Drain [Type of Ability], Excrete Poison from Body, Fight Multiple Foes, Fight without Penalty Until Dead, Great Leap, Hardy, Immune to [Substance], Overpowering Stench, Reflect [Type of Magic], Regenerate, Resist [Type of Magic], Spirit Attacks after Death, Spurt Acid, Strong, Swallow Opponent, Third Arm (or Tentacle), Undetectable, Walk on [Element]

b : Worshipper of Thed: Chaos Feature, Impregnate Anything, Summon Broo Ancestor Spirit

j : Worshipper of Mallia: Summon (Disease) Spirit

  • Short Term Goal: To capture and breed with the characters.
  • Long Term Goal: To defile the world.
  • Scenes: The player characters have a chance to identify what is wrong with the animals. If they succeed, they will have to decide whether to flee (allowing more broo spawn into the world) or to kill the animals and the spawn. In this case, the rest of the broo will return and attack.
  • Conclusion: Assuming the players are victorious, they will have stopped the spread of chaos. This may lead to a greater adventure of tracking down a larger tribe of broo infecting the region.


Marriage in Glorantha is seldom about love and rarely a private affair. Most marriages are arranged by parents or elders to further bonds between families, or to gain position, influence, or property. For Gloranthans then, marriage is an obligation; you are introduced to a spouse selected for you, and expected to produce offspring. The Orlanthi cultures are notably different. While marriage and sexual relations are forbidden between members of the same clan, the Orlanthi are quite sentimental about marriage, and actually expect couples to share affection if not love. While wealthy Orlanthi in the more civilized regions, may practice arranged marriage--and the nobles certainly do--life in the tulas is quite different.

*Episode Type: Challenge! (Character Building)

  • Begin With: Under the starry night sky, you and the young people of the clans have gathered to sing and dance around bonfires, eating and feasting. In the firelight, you see someone eyeing you...
  • Situation: Your clan (or a neighboring one) is sponsoring a Barn Dance. This is a social gathering for young, unmarried members of neighboring clans to get together for the purpose of meeting and selecting potential spouses (it is considered incest to marry within your own clan). Traditionally there are four dances, at the end of Sacred Time, Sea Season, Fire Season, and Earth Season.
  • NPCS: Roll a d20 to determine the potential mate;

1-5: Ara Gringledottr/Andrin Gringleson: Beautiful and knows it. In modern parlance, “high maintenance.” Resistance = Base + 6.

6-10: Dara Orstgandidottr/Daralor Orstgandison: Down to earth and practical, looking for a loyal and capable spouse. Resistance = Base + 3.

11-15: Ivarna Kalfsdottr/Ivarn Kalfsson: Deep, highly sexual, and a bit wild. Wants a partner but is less interested in family. Resistance = Base.

16-20: Dushidessa Kulkardottr/Dushilor Kulkarson: To put it delicately...plain, but eager to please and very loyal. Resistance = Base - 3.

  • Short Term Goals: To please the clan by finding a spouse and marrying.
  • Long term Goal: To produce children and provide for them, to carry on the line when you are gone.
  • Scenes: In the words of the immortal Pat Benatar, “love is a battlfield” and is handled in HeroQuest as an extended contest. In addition to the Resistances given above, social status must be considered. In order of highest to lowest, Noble, Thane, Carl, and Cottar. For each step above you the potential spouse is, increase the Resistance by + 3. A cottar attempting to court a noble would face a + 9 penalty. For each step below, modify down (a noble courting a cottar would have a - 9 Resistance). Ideally, courtship should be spaced out over several sessions, with perhaps one round of “combat” each game and the Narrator keeping track of the resolution points. Giving generous gifts to the family, performing great deeds, etc can all add bonuses to the roll.
  • Conclusion: The contest is over when one side or the other gains +5 Resolution points. Use the Rising Action Consequence Table for results, adapting the results to reflect the level of rejection or success. If the player wins, their are wedding bells.


Begin With: It is Sacred Time, the fourteen days preceding the Spring Equinox in which the old year dies, the new year is born, and the barrier between worlds is thin. It is a time for the Clan to perform divinations and rituals for the coming year. Everyone's support is needed for these rituals, so that the gods will hear the voices of the clan. Which ritual do the PCs attend? (Note: as the PCs are all male at this time, women's mysteries are omitted. Rest assured that rituals to Ernalda, Chalana Arroy, and Uralda are also performed!)

SCENE 1 (one of the following, or both, based on what the players chose)

* The War Dance: Omens warn of coming conflict. A flock of ravens has nested in the Holy Tree (an ancient oak standing alone on a hill top, struck seven times by lightning in recorded history). In these uncertain times the clan needs magical strength to face the possibility of war. Jorgunath Bladesong has convinced the clan ring to sponsor a War Dance to Humakt, and to sacrifice seven cows to him. Bladesong, the weapon thanes, and any other men who wish to participate gather at the cremation grounds, paint their faces bones white, and perform this solemn rite. There is no chanting or singing, only the sound of a drum. At the climax the cattle are killed and offered up in a great holocaust. Those who participate may spend a Hero Point to gain "The War Dance" at 13. This is a augment (+2) that can be added to all combat rolls or relations with Bladesong, the weapon thanes, and Humakti for the coming year.

* The Plough Blessing: This is the largest and most popular rite, sponsored each year by the leading carls of the clan. It involves a great feast, with food set aside especially for it during the previous harvest. It is open to all men. The Stone Toss is performed, where all men who wish to participate demonstrate their strength by lifting and throwing a great stone. The winner is the man who can throw it farthest (it has it's origin in clearing stones from the field to plough them). A bull is offered to Barntar, and all men are anointed with its blood. The animal is then cooked and eaten, with the winner of the Stone Toss given its testicles (a delicacy said to ensure sexual potency). A Hero Point may be spent by the winner of the Toss to cement "The Plough God's Blessing" at 13. This gives a +2 augment to all farming rolls, feats of strength, and displays of sexual prowess for one year. If the character marries, he will father a strong child.


Regardless of which ceremony they join, all will be present for the Barn Dance, a popular event held each Sacred Time for young, unmarried men and women. Forbidden to marry or have sexual relations with members of one's own clan, neighboring clans hold such events to host eligible bachelors and bachelorettes from other tulas. This year the Haraborn are hosting, with guests from the Enjossi. It is a light feast with dancing, watched over by clan elders from both sides. It may trigger the episodes A Courtship.

The Barn Dance includes this year Harthar Henglesson and Kodor Jursittisson, two of the men the PCs rescued during The Treasure Hunt Rite. Both are single, and both have chosen to remain with the Haraborn for a time to work off the debt they feel they owe them for their rescue. Gronogar Ulugathson, Jornin Dondarson, and Irigan Farnagarson are also there. (Note; this session two new players, Refik and Lorne, joined the cast, assuming the roles of Jornin and Irigan).


The Situation: The day after the Barn Dance, the PCs are summoned to the Chieftain's Hall. They will not be told the reasons why, only to be quiet and unobtrusive. Upon arriving, they discover a small group of strangers before the clan ring. It is the bounty hunter they rescued the slaves from, Frithvold Jarantius, accompanied by four men of the Lunar-allied Sambari clan.

Short Term Goal: The loss of his prisoners has damaged Jarantius' reputation. He wants them back, or compensation for them equal to three cows per man. Because he is an outlander with no legal rights, he has brought the Sambari with him to press his claim on his behalf. They are displeased because the raid took place in the lands given to them by the Lunars, and would like to see the culprits punished.

Long Term Goal: The Sambari were a minor clan until the Lunars came, and were defeated several times in the past by the Haraborn. They would love to see their old enemies destroyed.

Scene 1: To avoid this becoming a long scene in which the Narrator, playing all the NPCs, is talking to himself, the players should be given a sheet for various members of the clan ring, including the chieftain, while the Narrator portrays Jarantius. Jarantius knows his prisoners are here (if asked how he knows he will reveal the fox pelt...he captured and killed the magical animal after making it talk). He also knows he has no legal standing, but the Sambari with him do, and they will insist that he--and all who travel the King's Road through Richberry Vale--was under their protection. If it cannot be resolved now, Jarantius will threaten bringing a Lunar magistrate into the matter. The clan ring has a duty to protect the clan and it's members, but a price of 15 cattle is dear. In addition, he demands that one ear be cut off of each boy to mark them as thieves, something totally outside Heortling custom. What will they do?

Pay the Cattle and Punish the Boys

This would be very damaging to the chieftain and ring's reputation. The PCs will be disfigured, and the clan will call for the chieftain to stand down for weakness and surrendering to a disgusting foreign custom. If the boys participated in the War Dance, Bladesong will speak out against this decision (he should be played by the Narrator), and run against the chieftain for election.

Pay the Cattle without Punishing the Boys

This will damage the Chieftain's standing with the carls, but the clan will stay intact. The PCs will actually suffer a negative reputation among other clan members for a year (+3 to social interaction resistances) as trouble makers.

Pay Half the Cattle

The clan will not be happy, but they will support their chieftain. The boys may suffer some ridicule over the year, but no actual penalty. Jarantius will not be pleased, but the Sambari will not risk clan war over the issue.

Refuse Jarantius Everything

This will increase the chieftain's standing among the clan, and actually give the boys a +2 bonus in their social interactions with the men of the clan (but not the more rational women) as getting the chieftain to stand up to the Lunars. However, the Sambari will file a formal complaint with Temertain's government, leading to trouble in the future.

Kill Jarantius and send the Sambari Away

This would be a violation of the terms of surrender following Starbrow's Rebellion (killing a Lunar citizen). The Lunars would definitely get involved, seizing 1 cattle for every two Haraborn men (essentially taxing the clan twice that year).

Kill them all

As above.


Of course the joy in roleplaying is players doing the unexpected. Scene 4 spontaneously arose when the players, still in the parts parts of the Clan Ring, decided to send Jarantius away with less than half the cattle (a token third). Fearing repercussions against the boys, the Ring decided it was best to send them all away for awhile. Because most of the boys chose to participate in the War Dance, Jorgunath Bladesong arranged for them to go the Narri Clan at the north edge of Colymar lands, where his mother came from. There is a temple of Humakt there that can teach them the arts of war.


Along the way we finished the session with another episode, an encounter with Broo in a high mountain pass.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I wrote the following some time ago as part of a review of the Mongoose product, "Magic of Glorantha." Thinking on conversations with my players, I wanted to re-post it here;


The hallmark of all great fantasy is a strong, overriding world view. I was tempted to employ the more useful term “paradigm” in the heading, but to avoid Mage: The Ascension associations opted against it. But the fact remains that the truly enduring fantasy worlds all have a paradigm which informs them, a lens through which the setting understands itself. Perhaps it is because of our sympathy for certain paradigms over others that different people find themselves attracted to different settings; they show us the world the way we choose to believe it really is.

Consider Tolkien. Middle Earth is a world which has an absolute truth. Eru created the world, and those who live in accordance with the “mind of Eru” are good while those who go against it are bad. Goodness, truth, and righteousness are the rewards of those who side with Eru and the Valar. Those who defy Eru, from Melkor and Sauron right down to the Easterlings, fall into error and ultimately suffer. This is the kind of absolutism offered by Christianity, which is not surprising considering Tolkien's own devout Catholicism.

On the other hand, we have Howard. Howard's Hyborian Age has no absolutes, no good, no truth, and no real evil (its demons may be alien and inhuman, but don't qualify as evil the way Melkor does, because there is no absolute good to be the opposite of). The Hyborian Age is an almost Nietzschean paradigm where strength is the only real virtue.

Michael Moorcock offers a very different paradigm. His work seems to say that any absolute—in his case absolute Law or absolute Chaos—is intrinsically unbearable and that the only wholesome route lies through balance.

With this in mind, let's consider Glorantha. If Middle Earth embraces a single truth, Hyboria mocks truth, and Moorcock's Million Spheres seek a balance between truths, Glorantha says to us that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Truth exists, and can be obtained, but it is a cultural and—to an extent—personal truth not valid for everyone. Truth is a local, rather than a universal, phenomenon. For example, most cultures in Glorantha agree that there was a time when the sun disappeared from the sky. The Orlanthi say that the sun was a tyrannical emperor, and that mighty Orlanth slew him to liberate the cosmos. However, the sun-worshiping Dara Happans say Orlanth merely slew the solar emperor's son(the divine sun himself was far too great to slay), and that the solar emperor died of grief. Now, in any other world, we might just say that these too cultures have different beliefs and leave it at that. But in Glorantha, an objective third party—like, say, a God Learner—could go to Dara Happa, leave the mortal plane, and personally witness Orlanth slaying the solar emperor's son. The same God Learner could then go to an Orlanthi holy site, enter the Hero Plane, and personally witness Orlanth slaying the tyrannical solar emperor himself. In fact, he could get powers from participating in two contradictory myths!

Because of this, Glorantha embraces a pluralism unprecedented in other fantasy settings. Tolkien is culturally pluralistic, but his world operates around a single truth. Hyboria is also culturally pluralistic, but truth is ambiguous at best. And Moorcock may have a Million Spheres, but all are governed by the same struggle. Even Dungeons & Dragons, with its “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to setting design, still has the cosmic absolutes of law, chaos, good, and evil (lawful good is lawful good, from world to world and setting to setting). Glorantha is wholly relativistic.

This pluralism is not the result of a modern, politically correct, “accept all faiths” viewpoint, but rather indicative of the pagan attitude, which is wholly consistent with the mythic, bronze-age world Glorantha portrays. When we examine the religious attitudes of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures, for example, we find that they are perfectly aware of foreign gods, and accept their existence, but view their own deities as being more central to their lives. A clear example can be found in the Ten Commandments of Hebrew scriptures, where Yahweh tells his people “I am your God, and you shall have no other gods before me.” Note he does not say, “I am the only true God, and all other gods are false.” This attitude did not appear until late antiquity, a period which falls long after Glorantha's scope.

From a Gloranthan viewpoint, therefore, the natural way of things is to stick with your own gods and truths, but be aware that other equally valid realities exist. Whenever, in Glorantha, a culture violates this rule, they are made to pay. This theme was certainly present in previous incarnations of the game—for indeed, the great crime of the Lunar Empire was to attempt to impose its own view of the world on all surrounding cultures—but it is far more clearly articulated here in the Second Age. Both the great empires of this age are guilty of trying to impose their beliefs upon others...and this will be the downfall of both.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

HEROQUEST EPISODES: "The Talking Animal"

These Episodes can be used as random encounters, plopped down on a map at a specific location for more "sandbox" type campaigns, or strung together to create longer stories. Each is adaptable to any level of play.


* Begin With: This event is usually triggered in a remote location, such as the mountains or wilderness, but could really be set anywhere (a classic RuneQuest scenario started in the city of Pavis with a talking fish speaking to the players from the Zola Fel River). Regardless, the players encounter and animal and it starts to speak...

* The Situation: The characters encounter a sentient, speaking animal with its own goals and agenda. The creature A) has something it wants and B) something to offer in exchange. For example, the players encounter a white stag in the woods that asks them to hunt down a local wolf pack that killed the doe he loved. In exchange he leads them to a magical spring with healing waters. Or, as in "The Treasure Hunt Rite," a sly fox offers to help the characters rescue Sartarite captives in exchange for a hunter swearing to give up hunting game. Talking creatures are obviously magical and otherworldly, and should not be bargained with lightly.

* Characters: The Talking Animal. Almost any type works fine. Narrators may chose to go with established stereotypes (the wise owl, the sly fox, the hungry wolf) or play against them (the cowardly lion). The animal should have a Keyword with appropriate abilities, and possibly the Beast or Spirit Runes. For example;

Latharn, the Fox
Fox 17 (Break-out abilities; Hide and Sneak 3w, Tracking 20, Bite 14, Sly 6w, Trickster 3w)
Beast Rune 14: Latharn is a follower of Hykim and Mikyh, the Father and Mother of Beasts, and can use his Rune to augment his other abilities (+2 bonus) by spending a minute concentrating and reciting an invocation to them in beast speech)

* Short Term Goal: 1) The Animal wants the PCs to spare it, and will perform a service for them in exchange. 2) The Animal needs a favor (a predator hunted down, a lost cub recovered).

* Long Term Goal: To survive, have offspring, and prosper.

* Scenes: The player characters encounter the beast, converse with it, and either accept or decline its offer. Then each side fulfills their end of the bargain.

* Conclusion: The players gain some magical benefit or the animal as an ally or follower (a Hero Point must be spent to cement this trait for more than one use). For example, after helping a falcon find its stolen eggs, the creature offers to aid the player characters anytime they call upon it...a Hero Point cements this as Falcon Ally 13, otherwise it will perform one favor and be gone. On the other hand, if the PCs break their end of the bargain, the creature may plan some form of revenge in the future...