"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...

EPISODE ONE: The Treasure Hunt Rite

* Episode Type: Quest.

* Begin With: The date is Windsday, Movement Week, Storm Season, 1617 ST. The characters are all boys who have turned fifteen the last year (all were born in 1602, the year Boldhome, the capital of Sartar, fell to the Lunars) and are now eligible to undergo the manhood rites. Their parents bring them from all across the tula (the lands belonging to the clan) to Black Stag Village, where all the boys will enter initiation together. Those who survive will be recognized as men, no longer boys, with all the rights of Heortling men.

* The Situation: This is the first scenario, and includes actual character creation. Before play begins, the players should all choose a first name, and receive the Clan Haraborn Keyword. As the story progresses, they will add an Occupation Keyword (choices are provided below), three Runes, and six additional Abilities of their own devising. The quest they undergo is simple; they are sent out into the world to bring back something for the benefit of all the clan. What they return with, how they get it, and what they experience along the way will begin to define the kind of men they will be.

* Characters/NPCs: The story is about five candidates for initiation. These are Varandath Vankoratson (Guillaume), Finistan Hantrakoson (Niall), Gronogar Ulugathson, Jornin Dondarson, and Irigan Farnagarson (three NPCs).

* Short Term Goal: To go out into the tula, or beyond, and find something of value to prove their worth as men.

* Long Term Goal: This will depend on the players, who decide what their characters want. Among the NPCs, Gronogar is a bit of a coward who conceals his fear with bravado and bullying. He wishes to prove himself brave. Jornin lost his father at the Battle of Grizzly Peak, and is a quiet and somewhat feminine boy who secretly longs for revenge against the Lunars. Irigan is a bright and curious lad whose main interests are in lore, tradition, and verse.

* Scenes:

1. Family: We are introduced to the two player characters, who now decide what family they belong to and thus receive their Occupational Keywords;

Farmer #1: You are a Koravaltson. Your father, Ostgar, is a prosperous carl with his own farmstead hidden in a small valley west of Black Stag Vale. He is the eldest son of Ithgar, and inherited the farm from him, though he now shares it with his four younger brothers and their families. With all your aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and cottars in service to your family, the farmstead is home to 46 people. You raise barely, cabbages, and root vegetables, and own pigs, chicken, sheep, and 32 cattle (a sign of prosperity and wealth).

Farmer #2: You are a Thorbadson. Your father Adrin is a cottar from Jarlarant farmstead right there in Black Stag Vale. The Jarlarant are one of the most powerful families in the clan, with large herds and wide fields and several members who are weaponthanes. Your father, like his father before them, works in their service helping them plough the fields. He hopes someday to have land of his own.

Herder: You are a Korvaltson, son of Finvin, a cousin of Ostgar who is a cottar on his farmstead (see Farmer #1). You and your father tend to the sheep and cattle of the family, often sleeping alone and outside under the stars as you watch over them. You are self-sufficient and independent, and enter play with a pet alynx (or shadowcat) that helps you herd the animals.

Hunter: You are a Hantrakosson, son of Lonvast, and you grew up hunting on the eastern fringes of the tula. You hold cottar status, but have a pet alynx (or shadowcat) that helps you track prey. You know the wilder parts of the tula exceptionally well and have skill with a bow and sling.

Redsmith: You are a Vankoratson, son of Hrothkin Redsmith. You grew up in the Village and your father is a retainer to the chieftain and weaponthanes, manufacturing and repairing arms and armor for them. He also supports the farmer's, shoeing horses and repairing bronze implements. You have worked the bellows with him and learned much of his craft. You hold carl status.

Thane: You are a Barnestonson, son of Ulfrin. Your father is a weaponthane and one of the Chieftain's bodyguards. You grew up in the Village, where you mother holds a small home. Alongside spear and shield combat (fyrd fighting), your father has taught you the sword and the bow. You hold carl status.

Finistan choses the be a Hunter, and we learn that his mother died in childbirth. He has a somewhat cool relationship with his aloof and distant father. Varandath is the only child of one of the village's Redsmiths, and like his father is a large, brawny, and jovial man.

(During this phase I also asked the players to roll a die to determine which one would receive a special offer. Varandath one the toss and accepted my offer...which for now remains secret. Stay tuned.)

2. The Rite Begins
All the boys of age a brought to the Village. On the morning of Windsday, they are presented in the square, where their mothers symbolically bring them to their fathers and then ritually turn their back on them, marking that they are no long children. The fathers then lead them up to the chieftain's hall, where they are presented to the assembled clan ring. There, they are given a mug of mead while the skald tells them the story of the Treasure Hunt Rite;

"... This is how Orlanth became a man.

When it was time to become men, the sons of Umath and the sons of Lord Light came before the Celestial Court, and it was judged that they should go out into the wide world on a hunt. Each would return with a prize, and honor would be given to he who had hunted the most impressive thing. Now, the sons of Umath were clothed only in their own strength, cunning, and skill, while the sons of Lord Light were clad in armor of gold, given chariots with shining wheels and fiery steeds, and shining bows that rained arrows of fire. For the Bright Emperor owned just about everything, and had much to give them.

And so the Fire Brothers rode off and the Thunder Brothers trailed behind, and both parties went into the wide world to find something grand and great


After some time Orlanth and his brothers came upon the Honey Woman, the keeper of the hives. She had many fields that needed ploughing, and no men to help her. So she offered them whatever they wished if they would harness the oxen and plough for her. Humakt refused, for he had little interest in farming. Orlanth agreed, but asked for nothing, because he knew it was right for men to plough just as it was right for women to attend to other chores. However Urox, the Storm Bull, had spied the sealed jars of honey mead the woman had brewed, and asked for these in payment. And when the work was done he drank and drank and drank some more, and was so drunk he lay with all the cows in the herd and gave them many many calves. These are the famous Black Bulls, such as Grim Bellow, the prize of our own herds.

So Orlanth and Humakt went on alone and had many adventures, too many to tell you all about here. But in time they came upon the Summer Sisters and their children. Their men, the Star Captains, had gone off to help the sons of Lord Light in their hunt, leaving them alone and defenseless when a company of Ice Demons came howling upon them. And they begged Orlanth and Humakt to help them. Humakt agreed, for he knew much honor could be won in proving himself against such terrible foes. Orlanth agreed also, because he knew it was the duty of men to protect the women and children. So they fought together and chased the Ice Demons back to the mountaintops. Humakt stayed in case they returned and Orlanth went on alone.

And so in time Orlanth came upon the camp of the sons of Lord Light and saw they had gathered many fine treasures. They had captured griffons with bronze wings and tin claws, they had caged a dragon with scales that rippled like burning coals. They had found the Seven Song Jewels and the Sweet Green Water. And they had taken captive a herd of creatures Orlanth had not seen before, like unto the gods in shape but smaller and more frail. And when the sons of Lord Light fell asleep, having drunk much plum wine in celebration, Orlanth snuck into the camp to speak with these strange creatures. They called themselves "men."

In lowered voices they spoke to Orlanth, and told him that the sons of Lord Light had come upon them and captured them in an unbreakable net, taking them away from their families. Orlanth listened, and judged these men to be noble creatures, and so he stole the keys from the sleeping Fire Brothers and set all the men free. For he knew that slavery was wrong, and that men must be as free as the wind that blows over the mountains.

And so the hunt ended, and Orlanth returned with the sons of Lord Light (who with all their treasures barely noticed the absence of their captives). They all came before the Celestial Court, and the Bright Emperor praised his sons for their magnificent prizes. But when it came to be Orlanth's turn, he appeared empty handed. "Not so," spoke the son of Umath. "I have come with the three gifts of manhood. I have ploughed the earth, I have fought to defend women and children, and I have brought Freedom. Surely these are better than pretty toys?"

And Umath was pleased with his son, and so too was Ernalda Earthdaughter who watched from afar. But the sons of Lord Light mocked him, and the Bright Emperor scorned his gifts. And this was a matter that would be settled another time..."

The boys are then brought to the top of Stag Hill. Along the way, many people line the path with torches and solemnly watch them pass. At the top of the hill they are stripped naked, and smeared with woad. Then they are given their first real shields and spears, new clothes, and sent out to find treasure for their clan. They have three days to scour the land, and what they come back with will tell what kind of men they will be.

Such is the effect of the rite that they are in fact partially HeroQuesting. Though they are here in the mortal world, their minds and spirits skip across the Hero Plane like stones skipping across a pond. Thus, for these three days, they will see visions and omens showing them what it means to be Heortling and teaching them who they are.

3. The Choice
The quest itself should be left open-ended. To that end I have prepared a dozen or so Episodes that I can use when needed throughout the campaign (I keep adding to the list, and most of them will eventually appear in print here). The two most likely choices were a cattle raid against the neighboring Enjossi (an allied Colymar Clan) or the Sambari, who have allied with the Lunars in exchange for being given the fertile lowland valley of Richberry Vale. The other option is to raid and rob some Lunars on the King's Road that runs through Richberry Vale from Boldhome to Wilm's Kirk. The players chose this option.

This involved a day's trek down out of the mountains into the Sambari lands of the Vale, with challenges like hunting and foraging for food (Base Resistance 14 vs. Hunter Keyword or Clan Haraborn Keyword at a -6 penalty), approaching the King's Road undiscovered and unseen (Low Resistance of 8, as these lands are broad, woody, and wild), and setting up watch over the road to find a good target.

The characters set up watch over the road for the day, keeping track of Lunar patrols, and avoiding the better armed caravans. Their chance came when then spotted a Lunar bounty hunter with four retainers, leading five Sartarite men in slave collars. These men were probably bound for the new Lunar manors on the western slopes of the Quinvins, which are manned chiefly by slave labor. The players decided to free them.

4. The Ambush
The players decided to set up ambush, and scouted the road for the best place to position themselves (Resistance 18, with the following results, Major Failure -6 to gaining surprise, Failure -3 to surprise, Victory +3 to surprise, Complete Victory +6 to surprise). Though they scored a victory, they had unfortunately waited too long, and the target party had already set up camp for the night half a kilometer from where they lay in wait.

5. The Fox
This was another Sub-Episode ("The Talking Animal," detailed in another post). While they wait in the dark, a voice calls out to them. It turns out to be a talking fox, who wonders why five human boys are hiding out in the cold. Of course he has already guessed, and informs the boys that the other party is already camped. He offers to assist them in exchange for a vow from Finistan to never hunt animals again. This is a weighty promise for a character whose father is a Hunter! But Finistan agrees (with consequences that will play out later). The fox leads them to their quarry and helps distract the men while Varandath sneaks into camp and sets the prisoners free.

6. The Rescue

There are four Mercenaries (Keyword 20 each) and a Lunar Bounty Hunter, Frithvold Jarantius, a Tarshite (3w1). He is a devotee of Yanafal Ta'arnils (20) and can use magic that augments his scimitar fighting for a bonus of +4. The others have common magic that does the same, but for a +3 bonus. There are five prisoners in slave collars, magical devices used by Lunars that sap the will to fight). Confronting them directly was very difficult, and there is a very real danger of Lunar patrols arriving to step in. The best chance was to employ cunning, and this is what the players did. Using the fox to lead the men away from the camp long enough to stage a rescue and flee into the woods.

* Consequences: The boys were lucky and did very well, escaping with the prisoners without a fight. But the consequences are many. First, Finistan has his promise to the fox to consider. Second, Varandath experienced a vision during the raid that hints at the strange ability he was offered at the start of the scenario. Third, who are these men and what consequences will their presence in the tula bring? And finally, Jarantius will be very interested in finding out what happened to his bounty and who robbed him of his prize...

EPISODES (An Overview)

The first session of "Three Seasons in Sartar" kicked off yesterday with "The Treasure Hunt Rite." While the next post will detail the scenario and how it went in play, a brief entry is needed to explain the format of these episodes and how challenges are designed.

* Episode Type: What is the overall gist of the Episode? Common Types include Assistance, Attack, Nuisance, Quest, and Test.

* Begin With: How does the Episode start? How are events triggered?

* The Situation: What is going on here? Is it more than meets the eye?

* Characters/NPCs: Who are the main characters and or or antagonists?

* Short Term Goal: What is the immediate objective of the players? What are the objectives of the NPCs?

* Long Term Goal: Are there any longer range objectives involved? Are there any future consequences?

* Scenes: “Begin With” is always the first scene, followed by two to four others depending on desired length.

* Conclusion: What are the rewards, results, and/or consequences of the Episode?

In addition to this framework, in any given scenario there will be a Main Episode and possibly one or more Sub-Episodes. Sub-Episodes are essentially "mini-adventures" that occur within the context of the larger tale.

Assigning Resistances

The second edition of HeroQuest uses a simple method of assigning Resistances based on the experience of the player characters and how much of a challenge the event should be. Narrators will have to adjust their Episodes accordingly. For example, if the episode involves conflict with Trolls, for beginning characters these should be minor trollkin with abilities in the 8 (low resistance) to 20 (high) or 3w (very high) range. For seasoned characters, who have played about 10 sessions, the antagonists would now have abilities ranging from 13 to 5w or 8w. These would probably be very skilled trollkin or lower powered dark trolls. Characters with a great deal of experience (say 20 sessions under their belts) would face resistances in the 18 to 10w or 13w range, and the antagonists would be more seasoned dark trolls, and so on.

The standard Resistances are;

Nearly Impossible: Base +W2

Very High: Base +9

High: Base +6

Moderate: Base

Low: Base -6

Very Low: Base - W or 6, whichever is lower

To determine Base Resistance, use a value of 14 and increase by +1 for every two complete sessions you have finished. For example, if you have played ten sessions, the Base is 19.