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  1. So my PCs decided to kill Harrek the Berserk. Here's how it went. (for context, see and First, before I recap this, here's the cast of PCs we're working with: Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. The player has been coming up with some awesome ideas for how Illumination might work, and I've been wholeheartedly stealing from what @davecake has said on Illumination to try and inform the player on what they might want to do. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, both for her cult and her personally, and sees the group's adventures as the ticket to recognition and glory. Zonthor, a Praxian sorceror of the Impala Tribe and expert archer. The player always uses that name if he can get away with it in ever game I've ever played with him. Zonthor learned sorcery from a demonically possessed spellbook he plundered from Big Rubble, and has the Fire, Disorder, and Magic runes--he's only in this for himself, and is up front about how he's only working with Iris as long as she can pay him. The Wolf Pirates have plenty of treasure, treasure that Zonthor wants. and finally Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He now holds an enchanted shield he got in the same adventure where our party Trickster got Illuminated. For future reference, I use bold text to denote Traits, Runes, or other abilities the characters use. We join Our Heroes a few days after they have accidentally rampaged through the Esrolian city of Valadon and escaped with the city guard hot on their heels. Androgenus's mind is reeling with the infinite possbilities of Illumination and the horrible truths contained within: there's no purpose to any of it. Even rebellion. Everything has a place, which is nowhere. Nothing means anything, so everything means everything. You only struggle against yourself. While having this cosmic existential crisis, Iris, Zonthor, and Waddlestomp are discussing their next move to murder Harrek the Berserk and avenge the Holy Country. Iris succeeds at a role against her Noble Trait, with the breakout trait Connections At Court--she's heard a wild rumor at court that the queens of Esrolia, working with Caladraland and the Shadow Plateau, have amassed the remnants of their armada. They seek one last chance to strike at the Wolf Pirates and throw them out of the Mirrorsea or die trying. Zonthor once again gets reminded that the Wolf Pirates have plundered the City of Wonders, and that they've got to be swimming in loot. "As long as I get my shares," he says, emphasizing the plural, "Then you have my magic. I want to see that smug pirate die just as much of the rest of you." "Maybe not as much as they do--" grunts Waddlestomp, gesturing at the party Trickster, who's walking down the road a little bit ahead of the rest of the party, rambling to themself and waving their arms in the air "--so we should probably hasten us to our deaths before they decide to do something really unexpected." A brief travel montage later, the party arrives in Nochet, just ahead of bounty hunters sent from Valadon. Androgenus crits on his Beggar trait to find a bolthole for the party to hide in while Iris begs an audience with the Queens during their war conference. Meanwhile, Zonthor learns a new spell from his grimoire (he defines the ability Mass Migraine tied to his Demonic Grimoire) that he thinks will be useful in the coming battle, and Waddlestomp meets a sage to identify the enchantment on his shield. As it turns out, when thrown, the shield will always return to its wielder, a la Captain America. Later, Iris barely wins an audience with the Queens and drags along Androgenus. However, they are told that if they so much as breathe a word that isn't an abject apology for the riot they started in Valadon, they'd be next on the sacrificial altar to Maran Gor. They overhear the Queens discussing strategy with the surviving admirals of Caladraland and a representative of Shadow Plateau. As far as they understand it, the plan is that some of the Holy Country's naval remnant will engage the Wolf Pirate treasure fleet as it leaves the City of Wonders's ruins, hopefully bogging them down in the classic ram-and-bow brawl while the rest circle around and engage from the rear in a classic pincer maneuver--and let a regiment of Dark Troll marines do their brutal work in boarding actions. About then, Androgenus opened their dumb mouth. "This won't work, Your Highnesses." "What?" exclaimed the assembled Royalty, as Iris quickly tried to silence her bound trickster. "It won't work. You'll get slaughtered, and the Wolf Pirates will stay here forever. Broyan the Betrayer will have his barbarian mercenaries, and he'll come to rule Ketheala. Unless..." replied Androgenus, stepping away from his mistress. The assembled Esrolian queens and Caladralander admiralty immediately began demanding the trickster's life for his insolence. The Troll mistress in attendance held up a hand to silence them. "Unless what, snack?" "Why, unless you kill Harrek the Berserk." Disbelieving laughter. Derisive laughter. A call for Iris to silence the Trickster before someone else did for her. The troll interrupted: "Is that all? I wasn't aware it was that simple. How should we do this, snack?" "Well, that's simple. I'll betray you." Androgenus's player then managed a major victory with their Illuminated Illusion rune's breakout ability Tell Two Stories At Once, which they defined as tricking different parts of the same audience into hearing different things at the same time. About now, we called for a brief break so that Androgenus-player could discuss the plan with me in private. When we came back, Androgenus told the rest of the party what would happen: Androgenus would Swallow his companions and steal a fishing boat. Then he'd travel to the Wolf Pirates, and beg an audience with their leaders. They'd tell them the entire plan for counterattack against the Wolf Pirates. Hopefully, that would buy enough confidence with the Wolf Pirates to let them speak to Harrek. At which time, they'd regurgitate the PCs, use the Infinity Rune to forcibly separate Harrek the Berserk from the god he wears on his back. Then it'd be up to the rest of the party to murder the (probably very angry) berserker and his inner circle before things went sideways. There was a perfect, silent moment after Androgenus recounted their plan. "That's a stupid plan," said Zonthor, after composing themselves. "We're all going to die." "Do you have a better plan?" asked Androgenus, flatly. "No," spluttered the sorcerer, "But we're still all going to die." "Better we die our task fulfilled than live forever having failed," quacked Waddlestomp, grimly as ever. The other heroes stared at the murderous Duck for a while. Eventually, Iris broke the silence. "I for one love this plan. I'm excited to be a part of it!" Cut to two weeks later: the group bought a fishing boat (at a severe discount due to Waddlestomp's Unexpectedly Terrifying breakout ability keyed to his Death rune), and Iris whistled up a wind spirit to fill its sail. A day's calm sailing later, they approached the Island of Wonders from behind, drifting with the tide. As night fell, they reached the beach, hid their boat, and made camp in a secluded seaside cave. There, they talked more about their pasts and their motivations. Iris related how her family has always been scorned for serving the Moss Goddess, despite their faithful service to Esrolia. Zonthor could relate--he was ostracized from his clan after learning sorcery, despite the fact that it was his own chieftain who ordered him to retrieve a treasure from Big Rubble. Waddlestomp merely sharpened his sword in preparation for the morrow's battle. When he did speak, he talked of how Duck Valley was once a beautiful place, and how every time he closed his eyes, he saw the humans who came, screaming Orlanth and Sedenya's names, and slaughtered his people en masse. Androgenus nodded sorrowfully and tried to comfort the Hueymakti thane...he also wanted revenge, so sharp and painfully he could taste it at every moment. Androgenus sheepishly offered Waddlestomp one of their "stabbing effigies," a sort of homemade Voodoo doll that so happened to be shaped like a Lunar soldier. Waddlestomp awkwardly took it, and poked at it with his knife. "I do feel a little better," he grudingly admitted. The party laughed, and with that, went to sleep. Iris awoke last, just before dawn. Waddlestomp and Zonthor had already been Swallowed into the Trickster, and Androgenus had waited for the priestess to awaken on her own, because, as they put it, "What happens next isn't going to be pleasant. Best to have a good night's sleep first." "Run the plan down for me one more time?" asked Iris, getting a weird feeling with a minor victory against Androgenus's opposed Trickster flaw. "Well, first," they said, picking up a piece of driftwood, "I betray you." The fight was short, but a few unlucky rolls from Iris had her knocked out and trussed up. Androgenus dragged her down the beach to a Wolf Pirate foraging party. Some tense negotiation later, the tricksy Trickster easily wormed their way into the Wolf Pirates' boat on their way back to the main force of looters. They were enbyhandled onto a pirate ship and interrogated at swordpoint by the captain himself--a massive man from the Far South, who demanded to know why they were spying. Androgenus said he'd brought a prisoner--Iris--and had knowledge of the Holy Country's plans to oust the Wolf Pirates once and for all. Some quick thinking, good rolls, and fast talk had Androgenus parlay the captain into bringing them and their hostage to his higher-ups. It was about now that Iris woke up and started screaming bloody murder. She pronounced Androgenus a traitor. She begged, threatened, cajoled--and Androgenus just smiled. Her thrashing actually served to convince the pirates of Androgenus's truthfulness, despite his Illusion rune. We montaged the next hour or so of Androgenus being passed from pirate to higher-ranking pirate until finally, he stood on the deck of the Ice Serpent, in front of Harrek the Berserk, and at his right hand, Gunda the Guilty. "I'm going to kill you, Eurmali," rumbled the vast pirate lord, "But speak quickly and speak the truth--if you can--and I'll make it a quick death." "I know Esrolia's war plans to drive you out of the Holy Country. And this priestess here is head of a conspiracy to kill you, o mighty lord." "You do, now? Hrm. Y'know, Gunda and I have a rather reliable policy: kill every Trickster I meet. You have five heartbeats to change my mind," said Harrek, standing up, popping his neck, and grabbing his axe. I made sure to describe how Harrek's bear cloak growled in response to its wearer's movement, the ears twitching in the sea wind. And here's where things went even more off the rails. Androgenus rolled, and I kid nobody reading this not, three critical successes in a row. First, they rolled a critical success with Look Harmless to lull Harrek's bodyguards into a false sense of security. Then, he critical'd an opposed check against the assembled pirates with Tell Two Stories At Once: Harrek and the pirates heard the Holy Country's original plan, the pincer movement that wouldn't have worked. Iris heard him talk about the real plan: the Holy Country would beach its navy in a nearby hidden cove at low tide, then drift back out to sea (and directly behind the pirates, cutting off their retreat) when the tide shifted, catching the Wolf Pirates unawares. Iris, enraged beyond all reason, loudly proclaimed that Androgenus would die for betraying Esrolia. All of that 'proved' Androgenus's veracity even more. Harrek stepped closer to Androgenus, staring the little Eurmali down, madness matching madness. "Do you feel that I should reward you for this?" asked Harrek, "I've had enough of Kethaelan traitors to last me a lifetime." "Oh, mighty lord, getting this close to you is reward enough," replied Androgenus, who then made the sign of the Infinity Rune with their hands and placed it over their eyes. (In Roll20, this was accomplished by making finger goggles and pulling a rather amusing face). The third critical was activating the Infinity Rune they'd earned from the Heroquest. For a moment, the world stopped. Androgenus was Eurmal the Lightbringer, grasping the net of the Cosmic Compromise. He was Illusion Illuminated, separating Real from Unreal, remolding the Cosmos to his will. Harrek reeled as the energies of Creation surged through his boat, threatening to capsize it. He felt his magic drain from him, forevermore locked into the God Time. The Bear God left him then, leaving a confused, dizzy, and for the first time ever, frightened Harrek the Berserk retching on the deck of his ship. "Harrek?!" exclaimed Gunda, rushing to his size. "What did they do?" "I don't know! They took my bear! Kill! Kill them!" And then came the fourth critical: Androgenus cast a glamer with their Illusion Rune that seemed to split them into five mirror images, each one taunting and jeering at the onrushing pirates. Then they regurgitated a sorceror (who'd been preparing their Mass Migraine spell, ready to cast as soon as he was out of the Trickster) and an angry Duck. Hilarity, as they say, ensued. This was the first big fight I'd ever run using the HeroQuest rules. Per the rulebook's suggestions, it was mostly narrative, with few rolls (which is weird for me, accustomed as I am to crunchier systems like D&D and World of Darkness, or even Fate, for that matter). Waddlestomp rolled well with his Truesword, Magic Shield, and Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to carve a path through the pirates and get the attention of Harrek and Gunda. Zonthor managed to get off his Mass Migraine spell (and had a lot of fun narrating its grisly consequences among the pirates onboard) and untie Iris. Then he failed hard against Gunda the Guilty, nauseated but still single-minded, who ran the little Praxian through with her spear and tossed him overboard for the sharks. Iris also got heavily wounded before she could scramble away from the pirates, but managed a bare success to get to her feet and summon up shark-spirits, attracted by the blood of the battle, to further harry the pirates. Androgenus...just stayed alive and taunted Harrek. The battle concluded with a lookout's call--Kethaelan ships approaching, rowing hard for the pirates! The tide had come while Androgenus had distracted the pirates, and given the Esrolians a chance to get into position to ambush them. Harrek took a mighty swing at Androgenus--only for his axe to pass right through the little Trickster. Dumbfounded, Harrek tried it again--and again, his axe passed through (in game terms, this was an opposed Illusion check vs. Harrek being the most lethal man on Glorantha that I hid the results of until it was dramatically appropriate). "You can't kill me, Harrek, but it's okay," said Androgenus peacefully the light of Illumination glowing in their eyes, "There is no struggle against yourself. You did well, but be at peace. Every story has an end." And then Waddlestomp jumped on his back and stabbed him repeatedly. Harrek the Berserk, God-Traitor of the Rathori, Destroyer of Worlds, was brought low by an angry duck and a Trickster with a grudge (who, now that the exchange was over, was found to have gotten a Minor Defeat, and was very very injured, but had hid it with their Illusion rune for a few moments). Gunda the Guilty howled in rage, and leapt for Waddlestomp, murder in her eyes.... Right as an Esrolian galley rammed the Ice Serpent. Nearly capsizing her. We narrated the rest of it. Waddlestomp cut his way through the panicking pirates and Iris helped him haul Androgenus's broken, disemboweled body to the Troll marines who were stomping aboard and slaughtering the stunned pirates. They passed the trio onto the Gannet, the Esrolian trireme, and received emergency healing. The last they saw of Gunda, she was cutting down a pile of trolls around Harrek's form. Eventually, the Ice Serpent sank, but nobody was seen to have escaped. Surely, nobody could have escaped. Surely... It was with that that we closed the session for the night. Everyone seemed to have had a good time. Waddlestomp's player in particular was dumbstruck that only one of them had died, and Zonthor's player took his death in good stride, promising to come up with someone with an even more ridiculous name next time. I left the players with hints as to what had come: they had now become capital-H Heroes of the Holy Country, and would be feasted and hailed as such...and they had also earned powerful, implacable enemies, and a key role in the world-shaking events to come. Whether they wanted it or not.
    8 points
  2. One of the most potent storytelling techniques in anybody's arsenal is immersion. Without it, your players cannot really appreciate the setting you have laid out for your characters. Immersion is, in short, a state of mind in which the players are so invested in the unfolding game that they can forget they are in a game at all, and actually live out the adventure in character. Immersion is the reason why some game settings just take off, and others fall flat on their face. The Power of Immersion The most important point about immersion is that it starts with the game author - whoever is designing the scenario for the players. This might not becessarily be the Games Master who will be running the game, but often enough it is. If the writer of the game creates a compelling enough setting, or campaign, or even just a single scenario, for the game, they will feel the power of immersion while writing it. It can be so powerful that writers who immerse themselves in the setting can become lost in it - whether they are writing fiction, designing a setting, or creating a game within that setting. The secret to immersion is to present that feeling of being drawn in and lost in the setting, in such a way as to draw in the Games Master (if they are not the game setting's creator) and also to draw in the readers or players. Creating Immersion Engaging Characters In a work of fiction, a character must be presented as sympathetic, somehow, possessing qualities of heroism or benevolence which mark that character as a protagonist to the reader. In a Mythras game, the character can be created with appropriate powers and abilities - but more importantly, they must come across as being the sort of exceptional person to whom the community turns; a member of the only group of characters who can solve the problems presented to them by the Games Master. Similarly, a character is more likely to be an enjoyable figure to work with if their abilities and personas jibe with the rest of the group. A combat-orientated character might not get along with a team predominantly composed of investigators or social climbers in a game of political intrigue. Engaging Setting Likewise, the setting must be something that is not only appealing to the players, but a place worthy of being defended. Immersion in the setting, in a game, is pretty much the same as it is for a written work - the players must feel as if they are living there, letting the place surround them and bring them to life. The players must want to live in the setting, whether it is the setting of Perceforest, or Lyonesse, or Worlds United, or Fioracitta. Sensory Immersion This is probably the aspect of gaming immersion that most strongly involves hypnotic elements. It is not enough to tell; you must show. Examples:- 'You've been marching through this forest for so long. You come across a tree which looks so familiar, and you feel a chill of apprehension as you begin to suspect you may have been walking in circles.' 'You can't identify the stench coming through the now-opened door of the laboratory. Perhaps you don't want to.' 'Candlelight, and incense, and a low, indistinct choir singing somewhere nearby. The sandstone of the walls feels pitted, smoothed down - countless hands must have rubbed off on this darkened spot on the wall, smoothing down the stone. This is the place all the pilgrims wanted to come to; the smooth spot on the wall, supposedly the place where their Saint laid their hand and performed some miracle. But it just feels like smooth, cold, eroded stone to you.' Sustaining Immersion Once you've created a sense of immersion, you must sustain it throughout the adventure, possibly the campaign. Engaging Plots What makes a plot engaging? For the players, it could be the promise of treasure, or a desperate need to stop some bad guys. Which means you have to make the antagonists compelling, too. This does not mean that you have to add new tricks to old undead, making zombies leap about and climb walls for instance. It means having an antagonist whose scheme poses a credible threat, if not to the characters, then to their way of life. The protagonist is doing something bad, and only the player characters can stop them. The plot becomes engaging if the characters want to stop the antagonist, possinly without needing to be prompted by the Games Master. Plausibility There is no greater power of verisimilitude in a story than plausibility. Is the antagonist believable? Are their goals achievable? The fact that they are not remotely desirable is irrelevant; if the antagonist can destroy the characters' whole town and only home, and they demonstrably want to do so, the Games Master can ramp up the threat by having to characters work out how and why. Stakes The most important hook to keep the player characters in the game is stakes. The characters must have a stake, and they must want to do whatever it takes to protect that stake. Examples of stakes include family and loved ones living in the characters' town; the characters' town or neighbourhood; a neighbourhood which will pay for the characters' protection from some marauding force; a rich financial reward from the patron who needs the characters to see a task through which they cannot do. Or something less tangible, such as the characters' reputation, or a rescue or escort mission, or the completion of a diplomatic, trade, or courier mission. Sometimes, the stake can be something owed to oneself, and a need to know that a character can still perform a task they once could do routinely - for example, Athletics after having been injured during a fumbled Athletics check. The Payoff of Immersion The whole aim of immersion is to draw in the players with the promise of a memorable experience that is as much lived and enjoyed as a real life experience. The Games Master must be able to immerse the players into the game, and the only way to do this is to immerse yourself into the game; to run the game out in your own mind, both from the viewpoint of protagonists and the antagonists. The best sort of immersion is so deep that players can find themselves dreaming about the characters and the setting. Of course, as the Games Master you could find yourself dreaming out the adventures yourself, living in the setting, running the scenarios in your dreams. But that's all part and parcel of giving the players a memorable game, one which will stick in their memories, possibly for years to come.
    3 points
  3. I added to these thoughts over a two-month long period from release of the PDF to this posting. RPG Imaginings Stream-Of-Consciousness Children of Fear Reflections Chapter 1: Reflections: 1) No work in Call of Cthulhu, to my knowledge, has devoted such thoughtful consideration to a common section as the "Involving the Investigators" section in this campaign. Great care has been taken to suggest potential character motivations for beginning the campaign and to designing investigators that are suited to the types of goals for the travel posed. I think this is solid modelling for considerations for any campaign start. 2) The "Experiential Learning" section suggests some of the most developed additions to the game for in situ learning mechanics for players. Anyone who Keeps the game knows that acquisition of specialized skills that are uniquely suited to a particular storyline just doesn't work with the existing RAW of the game, particular with learning languages. Narrative story-telling frequently requires characters to learn specialized skills more quickly. I think many an experienced Keeper (myself included) have resorted to house-ruling in this regard. Its nice to see suggestions for ramped-up skill training to be codified with such detail in an official product. I'm not saying that it is unique to this campaign. Other writers have certainly done variations. This section just seems to hit the problem head on. If a character needs Language (Chinese) to be effective in a campaign, the Keeper needs to give them opportunities to learn Language (Chinese) much more quickly than in the RAW. 3) This brings up another point I forgot to mention. You can also essentially choose the nature of the origin of the key locations as part of this. I know that's vague, but I don't want to spoil anything. Dr. Hardy has given us something like four potential Mythos explanations, making an unprecedented level of Keeper choice to suit the desires of different groups. And, as you say, non-Mythos is an option too! What that does is allow this game to be set into virtually any campaign, because there are options that allow one to fit it in to whatever your particular threat-vision or group aesthetic is. 4) I am also enjoying the "What Your Investigator Knows" handouts as an expeditious way to give context. I'm sad to say that many Western players may not know a lot about the Far East. Sad, yes, but true. And I think these handouts are particularly important for that context. One thing that I have always appreciated about Dr. Hardy's work is that she has a very clear forward-thinking vision as to how games play out, and what the practical needs are of Keepers and players. Chapter 2 Reflections: This campaign has a lot of potential for bringing up the ethical issue of Western interference in Eastern cultural history. I could see that being a major secondary plotline in a campaign. I also like how many of the NPCs are real historical figures. It means lots of additional background information that can be brought in at the Keeper's discretion. Chapter 3 Reflections: 1) Experienced Keepers write tips and options into their writing to give different groups the options they need to have their particular flavor of fun. Subtle things like "reward ingenuity where possible" are important tips. This campaign is chock full of "this or that or this might happen" that helps Keepers anticipate outcomes. 2) Without spoiling too much, there is a campaign-wide mechanic that rates investigator decisions. I've always been a big believer in rewarding or penalizing investigators with tangible and intangible consequences for their choices. It can only help the immersion, in my opinion. RPGs tend to devolve into murder-hoboing simply because there are no consequences for thoughtless play. CoC has always been better at this than most other games. It is a distinct in-theme feature of this campaign. 3) This campaign is particularly good for teaching Keepers how to run campaigns and how to let player choice drive what happens in games. If the Chapters in this book give you the impression that it is "linear" until Chapters 4-6, that couldn't be further from the truth. Other than Masks, I've never seen a greater variety of encounter and lore options within individual Chapters. Many of the options are far more in-tune with the story than the sub-options in Masks. I'm not anti-Masks. I'm saying that there are dimensions of this campaign that very much seem to me to be comparable to Masks, or better. That is a compliment. 4) The campaign won't waste your time giving stat blocks for "generic profession" NPCs. Be real. The stat blocks of "Resident Archeologist" or "This One Priest" doesn't need to be different for the purposes of game execution in different Chapters. The generic professions section of the Appendices is a welcome replacement for (I'm sure unintentionally) wasting page count on producing stat blocks for every individual NPC, over and over again, when 90% of the stats are the same. I'm going slow because I'm a print-reader. I can't read a PDF as fast as I can read print. But I'm really enjoying what I've read so far! I just finished Chapter 3. Yes, I know. I'm slow. I'm a teacher and this is our worst year of our careers. I don't have a ton of time to read and focusing is a struggle right now. Thoughts: 1) Chapter 3 wasn't what I expected. It was better than I expected. The quandary that the investigators are faced with in obtaining a campaign McGuffin is complex and has many potential solutions. It screams "Classic 1920s CoC challenge for academics." I could see any group of players coming up with a unique solution to the problem. 2) The section headed "Missing Pieces" made me laugh out loud. I said to myself: "That escalated quickly." Players may not be able to succeed in their McGuffin-finding. No worries. The "solution" to their failure is dark. And I can imagine a major NPC nonchalantly explaining to them, with a straight face, what they would need to do. Good stuff. 3) I can't help but think of Dr. Hardy's scenario Scritch Scratch when reading this Chapter. @Lynne H, can you confirm that you are a fan of a particular terrestrial mammal? Chapter 4 reflections: I really enjoyed this Chapter and it was a quick read. 1) <compliment sandwich> I have many reasons for loving and playing CoC, and an opportunity to learn world and local history is one of the big ones. This Chapter is REALLY scratching my itch for that. There are dimensions of Buddhist and Hindu culture that are likely to really challenge some Western readers. And I think that is great. We grow when we are challenged. I'll give an example that I think is prescient. Some cultures feature genital mutilation as a rite of passage. These practices are (rightly) highly controversial, debated, and sources of activism in Western culture. But it is an incredibly challenging discussion because of the Western history of colonization attitudes, manifest-destiny policies, and aggressive attempts to covertly and/or overtly supplant indigenous religion. I'm not saying that to debate it here, but rather draw an analogy. The point is that there are aspects of culture here that are certainly likely to make Western players squeamish. I applaud Lynne for challenging readers. 2) For those of you who think I'm just a Chaosium yes-man, I do have a gripe at this stage. And it could just be my own ignorance of Eastern geography that is the real problem. There is a LOT of geographic territory covered in this campaign, much of it that Western readers may not recognize. That's fine, but I think there are aspects of the text that could do a bit of a better job of helping a Keeper out with locations. I recognize that this isn't likely to change before publication. Specifically, there will be sections that will talk a lot about specific routes that investigators could take in between locations. A lot of the time, half of the names don't appear on the maps. And maybe that is ok, because the intent is just to name the options without mapping it out for the sake of red-lining expediency. I'll reference the page 158 section "Getting to Sitavana" as an example. This is an example of a section in which a lot of locations have been mentioned before, but the maps of the immediate area in the Chapter don't mention half of the locations presented. This could be a problem for me in that I am simply a visual learner, or because I just need to accept the fact that the descriptions are simply "performance aides" for the Keeper to sound like they know the region. I just personally prefer text mentions of locations to be over-represented in maps. I recognize that there is an aesthetic variable of not making maps too busy. When I balance all those variables I end on the "frustration" side as a reader/Keeper, and that makes it worth mentioning to me. 3) I love the table on 168. It may be my favorite use of Luck as an investigator stat in anything I have read. He he he. In addition, given how important "ritualism" is in CoC, I think this particular table is a really good model for a general mechanic for any Keeper to use in setting investigators on a task to prepare effectively for a ritual. Ritual components do not just have to be a binary (you have a component or you don't). The quality of the component can and should matter. From a metagaming perspective, it is just another way to reward players who are careful and intelligent in how they solve problems. </compliment sandwich> 4) Full credit for use of the word "susurrations." #OxfordEnglishDictionary? 😜 5) I find Handout: Bones 5 to be interesting. It's good to have for Keepers needing expediency and could be ditched entirely by Keeper's wishing to have the teaching by the lama be a role-playing set piece that require players to carefully learn their role for the ritual. Different groups will value different approaches, and any could be successful here. A lot depends upon the prior choices players make earlier. 6) Suggested manias and phobias for a Keeper in specific situations are always appreciated. As is the Keeper aide provided on page 180! It is now time to bust out an overview book I have on world religions and delve more deeply into Buddhism and Hinduism. I think it may actually help me to appreciate the campaign even more! Chapter 5 first part 1) The use of dreams to continue to drive the action is a common and useful Call of Cthulhu trope. What sets this campaign apart from many scenarios/campaigns is the detail given in each Chapter to aide the Keeper in describing those dreams to players. Many scenarios will vaguely say things like “use dreams to keep the tension up for players” or something of the like. And in a short scenario, that may be perfectly adequate. But in a campaign of this size, the detail given to theming dreams as a cohesive whole while aiding Keepers with specifics is much appreciated. 2) The campaign really (rightly) punishes groups that don’t take on the aide of a major NPC. I mean, I won’t ever tell a group what to do or how to play a specific subset of investigators. But if they elect not to take the aide of this character, they’re really hamstringing themselves. Personally, as a Keeper, I would do everything that I could to subtly encourage them to take his aide. The person I’m referring to is also a very interesting character for role-playing, and I feel like a running of this campaign would suffer by side-lining him. I’m curious as to how it play-tested, which groups kicked him to the curb immediately, and how they fared as a result. I mean, the campaign writes in detailed suggestions for what to do if this happens, but I gotta think that option is only for groups that are really deliberately golf-handicapping themselves. I don't think this is a flaw of the campaign. I think that CoC groups should always avoid alienating potential allies. I've played in enough Con games to know that a lot of role-players can't help but engage in self-sabotage. If it's in character, fine. Just not my style. 3) I think Chapter 5 illustrates why a balance was struck for overall campaign locations. Anticipating travel between three locations, when the players can take them in any order, gets real complex real fast. People like things in threes. A fourth location would really increase the complexity. There is a lot of dense travel information in Chapter 5, but it would have to go somewhere. The decision was clearly made to arrange Chapters according to a “typical” route, which I think was the correct choice, with Chapter 5 including the “flex travel info” needed depending upon individual group choices. When needed by a Keeper, this information would be key. Chapter 5 second part Just finished Chapter 5. I doubt I'm going to be able to read the whole thing before it goes to print. Professional duties and a bunch of life groin-kicks have gotten in the way. If you want to pay me to be a proofreader I could finish it in time. 😜 I did find zero typos in the second half of Chapter 5, so kudos to the first few passes! 1) There are two boxes in Chapter 5 that do a really nice job of helping Keepers stay engaged on over-arching plot points and mechanics. 2) This section of the text answers a key concern I had with motivation and plot. I don't want to spoil it here, but if you're wondering how the baddies are able to do a baddie thing that at first seems illogical or unlikely, there is a very elegant explanation for how it happens. Makes sense. 3) I like the ally/antagonist/friend of my enemy is an enemy dynamic in the latter part of the Chapter! Chapter 6 reflections: I've been trying to synthesize my thoughts on this Chapter and what I keep coming back to is that the skills of the Keeper are going to factor in tremendously as to how it goes. I think that the "main event" featured in this Chapter is a real challenge to run, largely because it centers around the age-old table issue of how to work with players who have lost game autonomy. The key, I think, is description. Skilled Keepers are going to be at a great advantage in successfully running this Chapter. This Chapter is not for novice Keepers, and I predict that a novice Keeper could find themselves in a tough spot in which their players feel like the outcome was pre-ordained (even if it wasn't) or that their "success" was entirely due to chance. In addition, players could very well feel railroaded if a Keeper isn't careful at describing what they see. I'm not saying this is a "bad" Chapter. Just that I think it is very challenging to run effectively. I suppose I could make the argument about the whole campaign too. You need solid Keeper skills to run this. There are a lot of rolls for the Main Event. I personally would not use the quantity of rolls suggested, but the rolls seem more designed to "prevent the investigators from failing" rather than "helping them succeed." The question will be what the "right" amount of rolls will be for a particular group, as I could see my group considering these rolls to be tedious. All that said, the "main event" of this Chapter is the event that the game has built up to until this point. It is potentially very grisly and will need some level of veil for some groups. My group would, for sure, need it veiled, because of some pretty intense body horror. But for groups who like that sort of thing, it will scratch the morbid itch. There are a lot of very useful Keeper aides in this Chapter that will help one keep track of the logistics. Dr. Hardy is truly a master of practical Keeping, in this regard. In most role-playing supplements, many of us find ourselves needing to spend time constructing even the most basic aides to run a certain game, and Dr. Hardy has anticipated the most critical of that work! This Chapter has some really nice art. The Karmic Balance mechanic sees direct utility here and I appreciate the description offered as to how each investigator may be impacted differently depending upon their Balance. Tons of options are given here as to how to proceed with or conclude the campaign at this stage. There is a lot of fodder here for surviving investigators to continue within this narrative, or on to other adventures. Great care was clearly taken in suggesting options here. I really like the setup of classic Mythos villain combined with new creature in this Chapter. This campaign oozes "classic" 1920s as written. I truly believe, after six Chapters, that this one is going to go down in history as one of the greats. Chapter 7 reflections: This Chapter is an absolute delight. It not only follows a classic investigative arc, but adds depth and humanity to some campaign creatures in a Runequest Trollesque kind of way. This isn't unique to this campaign (Paper Chase is another notable example), but it is a Chaosium tradition to add depth and ethics to foes treated far more stereotypically by most game companies. That's why I play the types of games Chaosium makes. More deferential to quality story-telling. Less brutish, more intellectual. How's that for a compliment? 1) There are several plot-oriented environmental hazards in this Chapter that follow both the larger and smaller plot. Variety of challenge is the spice of life and this Chapter has it. 2) Care has been taken here to provide options for combat-oriented or investigation-oriented groups. There is nothing lazier (in my personal opinion) than role-playing scenarios that resort to "fight happens here because we need a fight." It happens way too often in role-playing writing. Yes, partly because some groups "expect" it. But many of us find it tired and cliched. This campaign is largely investigative and cultural and I cannot stress enough how important it it to me that Chaosium and Dr. Hardy have the courage to produce a campaign targeted at those of us who prefer classic character-interaction-focused gaming experiences. 3) This Chapter has a tremendous amount of utility, either in the context of this campaign or elsewhere. I think that even if the Investigators "succeed" and technically "end" the campaign in Chapter 6, Chapter 7 could quite easily serve as a backdrop for many different further adventures. There is a lot of substitution that can be had here. Dr. Hardy has created a wonderful underground "playground." I plan to use the framework of this scenario very soon in my own campaign, but with replacing the location, creatures, and McGuffin(s) with situations and objects unique to my own campaign. 4) The action location map is truly wonderful. I love great cartography. 5) There is just so much cross-referencing in this book. And I love that. Makes everything so much easier to run and to prepare for, for a Keeper. This is truly a campaign that serves as a culmination of everything we've learned about effective practical game-running in decades in the hobby. 6) Loving the suggestion of a non-human NPC joining the party if they are short on characters. Chapter 8 reflections: 1) If you like tea, like I do (I'm partial to Jasmine and a good Darjeeling), this is the Chapter for you. I remember fondly my tour of the Cutty Sark when I visited London in '14. 2) If you have a charismatic villain, use them! I love the very forward approach here. 3) The environmental hazards escalate and are liable to be incredibly unnerving to the Investigators. Reminds me of certain popular science fiction franchises that shall remain unnamed. Perfect for Call of Cthulhu. Like elements of the prior Chapter, these could be dropped into any game. 4) There are tough ethical decisions in this Chapter for the grand finale. I appreciate the playtest notes and Keeper hints as to how investigator creativity might help them avoid a gruesome fate. 5) I like learning British colloquialisms from Call of Cthulhu authors from across the pond: "or by the investigators making a hash of things." Appendix A (NPCs) reflections: 1) I very much like this idea of having a "stable" of generic NPCs by occupation to draw from. This campaign spans multiple countries over potentially a year and naming all of the NPCs that the characters might encounter in a Chapter wouldn't be feasible. Or it would just bloat the page count. 2) "couldn't give two figs about the concept of customer service" LOL 3) As with the previous comment, there are quite a few quality exercises in humor in this section. Don't skip the backgrounds of the generic NPCs! 4) The "real person" vignettes are a welcome addition. 5) The characters in this section could be used in virtually any campaign, with some modifications to cultural placement. Appendix B reflections: 1) I think it is a really nice gesture for Chaosium to include the nearly full text of some Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic spells in this text. Many of us, of course, possess the book, but some may not. It has allowed Dr. Hardy to use the full command of "the catalogue" in her writing, without setting some readers at a disadvantage. Many companies would quite cynically either cheapen the depth of narrative to not require it, or simply require the book to get full use of the campaign. Chaosium is considerate of gamers. 2) There are a lot of really nice "utility" style spells in this Appendix that I could see being very useful and interesting for a lot of investigative groups, even outside the confines of the campaign. They are all also appropriately costed, meaning that they aren't like DND cantrips or anything where they could be cast on a whim. Many require large investments of Magic points, so if an investigator wants to utilize them, they must be used infrequently. POW expenditures abound too. I am very much of the school of thought that investigators should have access to lots of spells in the game (this is an unpopular opinion), but that the costs of learning them and the costs of casting should be such that they really need to think long and hard if their use is "worth it." Mask of Reason stands out to me as a really fun spell (a key to this campaign!) with a cost "the number of Magic points the target possesses!" There are lots of twists on spell costs like that in this section. Another notable: "All Magic points but one," reflecting that the spell just basically exhausts your eldritch reserves. Appendix C reflections: I commented on this section in my early reading. This campaign is arranged so that Investigators may be regional. In that case, these handouts become "common knowledge" for your character. For non-regional investigators, these handouts effectively become "investigative red-lining" so that the first step of entering any populated area doesn't need to be a Library Use roll if that process can be expedited. Library Use rolls are reserved for highly specialized info instead. Interestingly, this is an example of a Call of Cthulhu campaign that isn't as heavily dependent upon the Library Use skill as others! Appendix D reflections: 1) The need for overland travel in this region of the world is critical and the hiring of porters and guides is an absolute must. As such, this section gives you all the guidelines needed to work through the process. I can see it as being a key obstacle at the start of the campaign that gets progressively more "red-lined" as the action continues. 2) The perspective on the photo on page 254 is fun. There is a train of four camels, two riding abreast, but the photo makes it look like there are five- or six-legged camels. 3) As a part of the travel process, this Keeper would likely offer Investigators improvements in a concentrated area of their choice for observing the caravan in operation. Navigate, Survival, and Appraise (as reflected in the need to barter) might be candidates. 4) The Travel Times tables are super useful. In reading the text (I tend to read books sequentially, so didn't look ahead here) I was concerned about keeping track of travel times. This is handled with these Keeper aides! Appendix E reflections: 1) I will definitely be checking out the resources listed here to learn more! Call of Cthulhu gives wonderful opportunities to learn. 2) The music suggestions are something that tends to not be included in these sections and is refreshing here. Targeted key words to search for on YouTube will make it very easy for Keepers to find appropriate regional music quickly. Appendix F reflections: 1) Handout quality is superb, as is befitting one of Call of Cthulhu's signature features. Do you expect anything less? I'll tell you, once you play a game like Call of Cthulhu it's really hard to take the handouts of a lot of other RPGs seriously. I love Curse of Strahd, but the four handouts that the game offers, in the context of that game, is just a joke. Yes, I will throw shade at DND here. 2) I appreciate that the large regional map on 384-385 is full-page with no page numbers. 3) Subtle additions, like the external view of the Peshawar Museum on 391, are greatly appreciated. Appendix G reflections: This is an example of a campaign where I would probably ask my players to seriously consider using the pre-generated investigators. In lieu of that, I might ask them to re-spec their existing characters as "alternate universe" versions with slightly different backstories that match the skills proficiencies of these pre-gens. Although this campaign oozes Classic-era 1920s, I don't consider "Miskatonic Country" skill sets to be useful for this campaign. Index reflections: I've commented on the extensive cross-referencing in this campaign before, and the index is very detailed. It includes multiple topical sections which will, no doubt, be very useful for Keepers. Final thoughts (While drinking a cup of Blue Shadow tea. Yes, we have tea shops in Omaha, Nebraska. No, we aren't all farmers. 😜 ) I haven't run Children of Fear, so note that these have been my reflections on first read-through. I think this campaign is exceptional, with an incredible amount of depth. I also think that this is a great overall addition to the Call of Cthulhu product line. Like Masks, this is not a campaign for novice Keepers. Chaosium has done a great job over 7th edition of providing resources for novice (Gateways to Terror, Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, Doors to Darkness), intermediate (Mansions of Madness Volume 1, Harlem Unbound, Two-Headed Serpent, A Cold Fire Within) and advanced (Masks of Nyarlathotep, Children of Fear, Horrors on the Orient Express) Keepers. It will take a fair amount of research and Keeper skill to run this effectively. But the result will be a spectacular foray into Hindu and Buddhist mythology, as well as a lot of regional culture. There is a lot here to challenge people. Cannibalism, human-sacrifice, and charnal grounds are all aspects of Eastern religions that are likely to challenge Western players. Keepers will need to take care to know their groups and veil where appropriate. That is not a criticism. This campaign takes risks, and it will require an empathetic Keeper to mitigate the outcome of those risks. I've commented many times before that Dr. Hardy and the Chaosium team know what it is like to run games. They are in our heads in writing this campaign. Running it will be easier as a result of their hard work. I also need to comment that this is my style of Call of Cthulhu game. The emphasis here is largely on role-playing interaction, learning, exploration, and investigation. This is what Call of Cthulhu is, at it's core, in my opinion. It is different than a lot of Miskatonic Country investigations, and that is ok. We're globe-trotting here. And this is a region of the world hitherto not explored in-depth in Call of Cthulhu history. I'm a "physical book gamer," so I likely won't run any aspect of this until the hard copy is released in February/March. I'll be picking up the Leatherette, as is befitting of a legacy work like this. So, @Lynne H, I hope to hell you're proud of this work, because you should be.
    3 points
  4. The Adventurers are the core of all games. As games have developed, adventure modules have been less about pre-packaged mazes full of hazards and more about dramas and conflicts, with the Adventurers at the heart of driving the changes. As adventures have developed from their implausible "mazes full of traps and horrors" to more nuanced scenarios and dramas, so too have Adventurers. Modern Adventuring parties now more closely resemble bands of roaming mercenaries, military units or hunting parties - even posses, rounded up by the local law to track down and apprehend fugitives. Adventuring parties show structure and purpose, and there is a definite lifestyle pattern to Adventuring. Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing Every party begins life during Session Zero, where the Games Master allows the players to introduce their characters. This generally just consists of the player introducing themselves, their character, and something about who their player is (what species they are, where they come from, what they are most famous for). In certain older games, it's all "name, species, class" and everybody would know what the character can do; but, this being Mythras, things are not nearly so clear-cut. The player may use their background, or their career, or their culture, to explain why they are Adventurers, or add a detail out of whole cloth. It might be a good idea for Games Masters to note down any player additions to their GM character notes. Games Masters, it's a really good idea to get a copy of the player characters' sheets, so you can tell at a glance what each is good at and where they are weakest. Players, work with your GM on this. It makes things so much easier when both you and the GM are aware of your character's 90% Track skill and grasp of the Pathway Folk Magic cantrip, for instance, especially if the other players forget these details about them. An example - in the adventure "A Race Through Dark Places" which I ran during GenCon 2021, each pregenerated character had one thing in common - some sort of connection to the spirit realm. Only one of the characters was an actual animist; the others had some sort of exceptional ability or experience which connected them to the spirit, and which allowed them to interact with spirits in some way. This was, of course, important to the scenario, which required characters who were capable of defending themselves against spectral assaults. Another adventure might have the characters united by a common theme - they are all theatre entertainers who lost their job, or they are all competitive fighters who are out training, or they are a patrol of guards securing the condato of a city (the country beyond the city walls which grows the crops the city needs to keep its population fed). The real point of Session Zero, beyond introducing the characters to the other players, is to allow the players to let the character bond with one another. They will be working as a team, soon enough. First Time Out There are many ways to start an adventure going. The Adventurers could be drawn into an ongoing story, unfolding before their eyes; or they could be brought together by a friendly Connection ("I'm puttin' together a team"). The party leader could well seek to form a team of people, based on their already-existing renown (The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, Hawk The Slayer, Krull, Battle Beyond The Stars, The ABC Warriors) and lead that team in person, rather than send them out on a mission. However the team forms, they must spend their first few days together. This is the time where the players get to form the team's dynamic. Which characters are early birds; which ones are night owls; and how effective the party leader's Oratory skills are. It is okay for the players to have trouble integrating the team at this point. Every team of veterans began as raw recruits, and there is no such thing as Adventurer Boot Camp in most fantasy milieux (unless a member of the party comes up with the idea as a long-term ambition, but that's for a later blog). Every new team has to start learning to fit in, to work well within the group, and to complement everybody else, filling in the weaknesses in other characters' skills while hoping other team members will support their weaknesses, and so on. An example is a party whose first adventure takes them deep into the wilderness, for example looking for the driver of a trading wagon who disappeared during the night. Characters need to have access to a variety of wilderness skills to make sense of the adventure - but while every character may have access to Athletics, Boating, Locale, Ride, and Swim, not everyone has access to Navigation, Seamanship, Survival, and Track. It is reasonable, however, to have at least two characters show a mix of at least two relevant skills (Navigation and Survival or Boating, Seamanship and Swim, Locale and Survival) in order to ensure that the party has access to all of the relevant skills between them. This allows each character a chance to shine - the Survival expert to build shelters, the Track expert using Navigation to determine where the prey is going, and so on. The players should work out for themselves how to allocate the best tasks to the best players - such as getting the Folk Magician with knowledge of Ignite to help start the fire built by the Survival expert, and getting all the party members to help one another out with pitching tents, foraging, finding clean water, preparing the food, establishing a camp perimeter, and so on. The concept of standard kit should be brought up before play ever begins. Every character must have access to a minimum amount of kit to help them to survive. This will be covered in the next blog post. Games Masters: What To Do Give the characters tasks suited to their needs. Let the party leader know what needs to be done, and allow the leader to negotiate with the players as to what tasks they ought to do. This is the best time to iron out any conflicts and complaints about leadership style, and allows the leader to get a feel as to how the team can work together. Remember, this is the first time for these Adventurers. They will have been torn from their cosy lives by the call to adventure, and they are bound to make mistakes. Games Masters: What Not To Do Their mistakes should not, however, cost the players their lives, or even injure them. Humiliate them, sure. The Survival expert might put together a perfect campfire, but the wood might be green and non-inflammable without the team magician's Ignite spell; the Navigation expert might get turned around and be unable to find his way back to the camp until somebody finally gets the campfire lit, and so on. Never put the starting party in jeopardy of any great or permanent injury. And never have them face a combat encounter on their first ever trek out - not unless the combat was the point, such as teaming up to fight brigands camping out in the woods, or kobolds driven down from the mountains to raid a village, and so on. And even so, never soften them up with a lethal combat encounter, first thing. Even an adventure involving tracking down and punishing miscreants should end with the battle, not have the battle take place in the middle somewhere. No, it is a stupid idea to have them face a random giant, passing dragon, or lich on their first night under the stars. You know they couldn't cope. They know they couldn't cope. Handing the party a TPK (Total Party Kill) in their first session is a guarantee that you'll never have a second session with those players. First Night Rewards The first day and night of adventuring should end with the characters being rewarded for their efforts. Either their skills (or spells or other abilities) can bring them some physical reward (such as an Ophidian's superior sense of smell detecting truffles, or a Bestia hunter discovering a perfect site to set up camp), or they can learn something (such as discovering tracks leading away from the site where the wagon was found abandoned, indicating that the wagon was indeed attacked and, judging by the bootprints mixed among the bare footprints in the soft dirt, the driver abducted). Always give each player a chance to feel that they made a difference to the whole team, before their first period of rest. Assigning Watch Details Part of the fledgling party's duties may include watches. Who gets to sleep for four hours first; who has to stand watch for predators of all descriptions in the small hours; and who gets to be woken in the middle of a lovely dream, with hours to go before sunup. There is no need to play out each watch as its own scene, unless the Games Master has something planned for the party on their first night out. Not an ambush; something unexpected. Examples:- - The old ruins were once a thriving town, until it was abandoned by everybody but the ghosts. The night the Adventurers camp out in the ruins is the anniversary of the town's desertion, and this is always a night for the ghosts to come out and play. - The legend of a Parliament of Wolves in the area happens to be true. All the wolves gather nearby this night. Not all of them come on four legs. - The miscreants were from a non-human species (e.g. Bestia or Lili'tri). Most of the time, humans stay away from the communities of these non-human beings, but these raiders are outcasts from their communities, and the characters' activities have attracted the attention of a patrol of members of this species, who are basically doing the same thing they are. - An object falls from the sky, waking everybody up with a tremendous explosion nearby. The characters desert their camp to investigate. The First Real Conflict The Games Master should not drag out this first adventure. Its point is to bring the party together and unite them, allow the players to give the team an identity. Scenarios run in conventions are always one-shots, self-contained and designed to last no more than, say, four hours, wrapping up with an ending for each character; but even if you are planning a long campaign, this first adventure should not last more than one or two sessions, of four hours each. The first session establishes the party; the second pits them against their first ever antagonists, and the characters should have acquired enough information about the antagonists in the first session, or first half of the session, to know who they are up against in the second half, or second session. When pitting the characters against the antagonists, injuries on the players may hurt, but always stop short of Serious or Major Wounds or outright death. Characters may expect wounds, but nothing grievous. They should always come home, grinning and telling onlookers "You should see the other guy." Wrapping Up The First Scenario The Games Master must always challenge the characters with each scenario or story in their campaign, assuming you are running a campaign instead of a one-shot. The challenge of the first session of actual play must always be to get the player characters to play nice with each other and to have each other's backs when the inevitable conflict occurs. There will always be other challenges; but the first challenge should always be to turn a bunch of disparate heroes into a team, for the first time.
    2 points
  5. I've had the recent fortune of having a few Keeping Conversations with new Keepers. They always want advice, and I am normally happy to provide some, so long as the advice can actually do some good. Most advice given in the world is wrong. Not in of itself, but given with poor timing and without considering someone's improvement needs. Human experience is too varied for advice to do what it is intended to do. It isn't about "what worked for me." It is about what will work for the other person. I've been mentoring colleagues as an educator for many years, and the way we address this problem is by giving less advice and instead asking more questions that can help someone find what they need to be successful. I do believe that there is some baseline advice that can be safely given to new Keepers. 1. MGF (Maximum Game Fun) 2. Work towards balanced involvement at the table. (Quieter people may want to stay quiet, and that's ok. But also, some people need to be invited to participate. You shut down a table hog by inviting others to be involved and using the phrase: "Great idea, I'll come back to you" for people who Bogart time.) 3. Communicate with players early and often. (topics that are off the table, are we at MGF? etc) I think that is pretty safe advice and gives new Keepers actionable things to practice. Anybody can practice asking questions around a table so all are involved. Each of those has their own specific skills that need to develop, but it doesn't hurt to have them as axioms to aspire towards. But what about advice that most Keepers wouldn't immediately think of? What is deeper advice that could make a big difference? I'm specifically thinking about scenario execution. This leads me to the title of this post. I also just want to give a disclaimer here that I am not a scenario designer, nor am I trying to unfairly criticize scenario designers. I don't have those skills, but at the same time, I know what I most frequently change about scenarios. I think there is a generalized fallacy that is assumed in role-playing games that I'll call the "perfect timing fallacy." The idea is that many encounters are designed such that player characters are expected to be in the right place at exactly the right time. This classically manifests itself in a variety of ways. Dungeons are all stocked full of monsters that, for some reason, stick to within the boundaries of their room despite their being open corridors between them. They are always awake. Investigators stumble upon a ritual exactly as it is being completed, or right before they can have an impact. The cop who saw something is on duty when the investigator's ask for them. Monsters in a room are always prepared to fight, or willing to fight. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those examples, so long as it is fun for the participants. Scenario designers frequently do a great job of proposing "alternatives outside the norm." And sometimes "the norm" is what produces MGF. And that's great. Perfect timing is arguably critical from a narrative standpoint. It moves the narrative along when it needs to move. That isn't lost on me. Managing the ebb and flow of the story at a table is another critical skill for Keepers to develop. But what advantages can be gained by breaking with perfect timing? I think that it is also worth considering the potential benefits of imperfect timing for investigative horror role-playing (or role-playing in general). I think Jaws is a perfect example of using imperfect timing as a narrative tool. Brodie, Quint, and Hooper spend most of the movie too late to do something. And the shark is only barely on screen for the majority of the movie. Them always being late produces a frustration that drives the narrative because it just makes them work harder to engage the threat. Now, imperfect timing works until perfect timing is needed. The movie has a time cap and they gotta ramp it up, so the shark shows up. And when it does show up, the payoff for the audience is huge. They had to work to get the payoff, rather than the payoff just appearing immediately for all to see. So how does this translate as a tool for gaming? Here are some examples: 1) Curating existential dread. Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest and most primal human emotions. This is why horror movies that work are those that don't show the threat ever or until as late as possible in the narrative. In the Jaws example above, the dread is created by the heroes arriving after the shark attacks and seeing the grisly aftermath. And the shark promptly sinks back into the waves and out of actionable distance. It is often better for the Investigators to arrive late to something happening, especially if violence is involved. The pendulum can swing the other way too. Don't underestimate the power of investigators arriving early and then having no idea how to prevent or engage with an issue. Being early and being late is often far more frightening to people than being "right on time." This also has the advantage of really selling the idea that "shooting your gun" or "swinging your club" isn't going to fix this situation. Taking that off the table forces investigators to use other means to address a threat. As always, know your group and what they like. 2) Eliciting healthy struggle. If your players always arrive on time, there may not be as much brain work that they have to do to work out a situation. Speaking for myself, when I play, I love not knowing what is happening with a situation because it encourages me to turn the wheels in the head. This can be particularly useful when players arrive really early and the number of clues present in a location, right at that moment, is minimal. Or, they may stumble upon a total orgy of evidence but have no idea how it all relates to the current time at the current location! That in of itsekf can be frightening. Or, maybe they arrive early or late and what could have been a critical narrative location has now become a red herring. This last one is particularly useful when running games in which the players know the scenario and are struggling not to metagame it! 3) Keeping investigators alive in campaigns. If you play mostly one-offs at conventions, it is understood that the gloves are pretty much off for lethality. People who play CoC at Cons know that their characters aren't likely to live, even if they make a string of good decisions. There is also the "Sandy Petersen killed me" dream of a lot of gamers. But when you do campaign play, it is a completely different ball game. This is an area where communication is key. And while some players are perfectly ok with their character getting slaughtered or going insane at any turn, many players get attached to their characters. If we could criticize one aspect of early (1970s) scenario design, it is that a lot of early scenario work featured "gotcha" deaths that were nearly impossible to avoid if ran as written. That does not contribute to a positive table feel unless it is known in advance to expect that. People often ask me how I am able to Keep (capitalization intended, he he) characters alive when playing campaigns with a reputation for lethality. The answer to that question is that players often arrive early or late to situations that would just end the narrative unnecessarily prematurely. in thinking about MGF for my group, they are very attached to their characters. I think it is incumbent upon CoC Keepers to consider that scoffing at that attitude in players isn't the most productive way to get to MGF, even if you think that "frequent character death and insanity is how CoC should work." This is less about how a game works, and more about how your table works. If you play a game the way it "should work" and your players aren't into that, then you've failed. You can have your cake and eat it too in campaign play. It just takes considering having characters arriving early or late to encounters that are designed to be "right on time." These techniques are not new to horror role-playing. Many published works emphasize rigid or flexible timelines for events. The key is simply to consider the possibility that "right on time" may not be the best decision for maintaining a slow descent into madness. I'm prepared to venture that going extended periods being alive and sane is far more frightening than just dying and going insane instantaneously. Your game will vary, of course. There is a sprawling continuum of what different people find fun. The key is to consider: How can you avoid being trapped by perfect timing as a Keeper?
    2 points
  6. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. Now missing the Rune, and grappling with the fact that his role as a Trickster may be just as meaningless as the society he rebelled against. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, and now finds herself with an opportunity for it. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He wields an enchanted shield originally crafted by the Square Circle Temple, and is making grim plans. and finally K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also an initiate into the cults of Gustbran and Kalvan as well. He holds the Fire, Law, and Mastery runes. He is a master of the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul schools of unarmed combat, and seeks to help his people navigate the uncertain future after Belintar's death. To this end, he's attached himself to Iris and her gang of misfits, but more on that later. So last week, the heroes had killed Harrek the Berserk, one of the prophecied capitol-H Heroes of the Hero Wars. This week, the players wanted to rest on their laurels for a moment, lick their wounds, and let the player of the late Zonthor ease his new character into the game. I had other plans. We began the game at a celebratory feast in honor of our heroes, having slain (and barely survived the slaying of) Harrek the Berserk. The heroes were seated at a high table in the royal palace of Nochet, being toasted again and again and again by grateful nobles. Iris was wary of poison--she was the first to recognize that their deeds had painted a target on the party's back a mile wide. Androgenus didn't care; they were gulping down horn after horn of rich God Forgot-brewed beer and singing along (badly) with the songs of praise being expounded forth by a young poet who had captured (and dramatized) the events of last session. So far, he was playing up Iris's contribution to the battle as a fearless leader who had come up with the entire plan and was solely responsible for Harrek's downfall. Androgenus thought that his small part in the song (tricking Harrek into casting off his bear-skin cloak) was hilarious, and Waddlestomp wasn't amused at all, especially when the song mentioned him as a 'feathered friend.' Zonthor's ex-player (an enthusiast in Mediterannean archaeology) and Waddlestomp's took great pleasure taking turns to describe how bright and colorful the hall would have been, and the low tables piled high with rare delicacies brought from across the Six Nations. Well, five nations. I mentioned that since the betrayal of the City of Wonders and the fracturing of the Holy Country, Heortland was largely on its own. The Lunars (though beaten back earlier in the year) still prowled the northern frontiers, towards Sartar. Esrolia, the Shadow Plateau, God Forgot, and Caladraland still stood more-or-less together....but the Orlanthi ruled by the vile Broyan the Betrayer, the Last Vingkotling? They'd have to face the oncoming storm by themselves. In fact, rumor around the table was that the Shadow Plateau and God Forgot (I made sure to underline how much of a surprise the latter would be) were apparently preparing to attack Heortland to avenge the fallen God-King. Belintar's death--although caused by the Lunars--was being blamed on Broyan. Perhaps, the rumors said, Broyan had been in league with the Lunars all along. Perhaps he had wanted sole kingship of the Holy Country. In ages past, Vingkotling ambition had led to strife and turmoil again and again. It was to be expected....so perhaps it'd be safer all around if the other former Sixths dealt with the threat first. Iris was dragged into this intrigue when Samastina (Queen of Nochet, recognized as the leading Queen of Esrolia) leaned over the table, looked to her left, and asked Iris her opinion on the "Heortling question." Iris badly fumbled her Noble trait roll, and was completely tongue-tied, offering little more than confused noises and halfhearted platitudes about how unity in times of crisis would probably have been what Belintar would have wanted. "Yes," said Samastina coolly, as the local High Priestess of Maran Gor looked at Iris strangely, "But Belintar, blessed be he, is dead. Should we unite with those who spat on his memory, or against them?" The feast hushed, as if the entire hall was craning in to listen to Iris the Bearslayer's response. Androgenus loudly belched, trying to break the tension with their Trickster Trait, and scored a bare success. Despite herself, Samastina smirked, and things seemed less instant-death for Iris. Our Earth Priestess composed herself, and said, "I would counsel that we consolidate our forces. The Wolf Pirates are scattering, as moss mites do when you smash their nest. However, like moss mites, they will burrow deep and make more nests if we don't track them down and burn them out now. Broyan, if I may be so bold, can wait. The Wolf Pirates should not." Samastina smiled. Iris's player cursed loudly. "Exactly my thoughts as well. My young friend--" Iris's player groaned and cursed again"--is exactly correct. It is at this time precisely that we should strike together against the remnants of the Pirates. Gunda the Guilty is still out there, and may rally the survivors to attack us once more." There was a murmur of agreement. "To this end, and working with my esteemed friend King G'gardas of Caladraland, we shall send Queen Iris of the Three Step Isles to reclaim territory once stolen from us!" Iris choked on her wine. Androgenus fell over, clutching their side and laughing uproariously. Waddlestomp facebilled. A great cheer went up in the hall, and Iris managed to barely restrain herself from glaring daggers at Queen Samastina. After all, apparently she was a Queen herself, now! ....of a trio of remote, pirate-controlled, sheep-infested islands. ....very far away from the Esrolian power centers. Immediately, Iris's player figured it out: they had just made themselves the biggest threat to the Esrolian Queens' power. Howling barbarian demigods? Well, yes, those are horrible dangers to the Queendom and her people. But previously unknown adventurers who can kill those threats like it's nothing? An unknown quantity, particularly when one of them is such an obviously power-hungry Earth Priestess as Iris. The rest of the dinner was a drunken blur, discussing grand strategy and lofty goals: a phalanx of Esrolian pikemen backed up by caladralander naval support, led by Iris and her retinue, retaking the Three Steps in a swift invasion. Plundering the pirates' hidden treasure troves. Building a grand temple to the Moss Godess. Constructing a grand fortress in the middle of sea, from which the Holy Country (with Esrolia at the helm, naturally!) shall project its strength across many lands, for the greater glory of Kethaela! More raucous applause. Androgenus attempted to leap atop the table to improvise a praiseworthy poem, only to be stopped by Waddlestomp grabbing the wounded Trickster and yanking them back down onto their cushion. The feasting nobles laughed uproariously again, and we fast-forwarded past the feast, to later that night. Midnight in Nochet: celebrations for the death ofIris was abed already, having drunk herself into a stupor to deal with being outplayed by the Grandmothers. Waddlestomp was, as ever, sharpening his weapons and meditating on how much he hated humans. Androgenus, meanwhile, was being seduced by a comely servant from God Forgot. Androgenus had gotten even more drunk after the feast, and was busy trying to sleep their way through the entire serving staff. This one servant--a cupbearer that had taken his eye at the feast--was trying to lead them to a quiet stable in the outer bounds of the Royal Palace. Androgenus failed an opposed roll with his Paranoid flaw, and was led, stumbling and muttering, into a suspiciously empty stable. Well, it'd probably have been suspicious if Androgenus wasn't so stinking drunk, anyway. The Trickster wasn't laid down onto a soft pallet of straw, but rather a hard wooden table. They were tied down--which wasn't that much of a dealbreaker for them--but rather than inestimable pleasure, they felt the cold prick of a bronze knife poking them in the forehead! They could vaguely hear a cold, high-pitched voice (with a pronounced God Forgot accent) say: "The Rune may be vanished, but echoes of such a great power still remain, even in such unworthy flesh as this. Haruspex, are you prepared?" "Yes, lord," said the cupbearer, raising the knife. The Trickster sighed, the gravity of their situation sinking in past all the wine. They'd sort of figured it might end this way. It was now that we introduced K'dud. He burst into the stable (literally, using his Fire Rune's breakout ability Bronze Arms Style to punch through a stone wall Kool-Aid Man-style!), easily dispatched a burly Heortling mercenary set as a guard on this dark work, and set about attacking Androgenus's kidnappers. As it turned out, Androgenus had been taken by a Zzaburi sorceror--one taken with studying all sorts of forbidden God Learner-era lore--and his retinue. They sought to extract whatever remnants of the Infinity Rune still might be in Androgenus's carcass and use it for their own foul ends. K'dud wasn't having any of that. Using his Sharp Soul Style, he easily beheaded the Haruspex with his bare hands, dodged a retaliatory bolt of magical energy from the sorceror, lurking in the rear of the stable, and proceeded to kick the babbling, pleading Zzaburi through another wall. After untying Androgenus and using some Fire magic to help them sober up a bit, K'dud made his introductions: he was the youngest son of the King of Caladraland, dedicated to Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, master of several ways of unarmed combat, and he was here to protect Androgenus. Well....he was here to protect Iris, actually, but as Iris's sworn Trickster, K'dud's protection extended to them, too. Androgenus fell over himself (literally) thanking the burly, be-loincloth'd warrior, and scurried home to his quarters in the Palace. This wasn't the last of would-be assassins, either. As the in-game weeks went on in preparation for the conquest of the Three Step Isles, K'dud helped the party overcome a party of assassins sent by a rival priestess of another minor Earth Goddess, seeking to usurp Iris's position in the Three Step Isles (which baffled Iris to no end), a group of surly beastfolk who accused Waddlestomp of selling out their kind to humans by killing Harrek, and on the eve of the fleet's launch, broke the arms of a Dragonewt warrior who sought to punish the party for "usurping infinity with their unworthy mammal parts." Meanwhile, Waddlestomp began meeting contacts he had with other Duck expatriates in the Holy Country--enough was enough. He'd had it with obeying the orders of murderous humans. Once he'd returned from those blasted islands, he'd lead every Duck he could find in glorious war to reconquer their homeland. One way or another, anyway. Androgenus got into a philosophical argument with another Trickster about the illusory nature of Creation and their place within it that ended in a barroom brawl, and K'dud received a quiet pep talk from his father about how important it was for the Sixths to remain unified, even after Belintar's death. We stopped the session just before the fleet to the Three Step Isles set off. Iris had been told in no uncertain terms that she and her....warriors were not to return unless the Three Step Isles had been fully pacified and brought into the fold of Esrolia. Succeed, and a grand temple to the Moss Goddess would be constructed on those islands' chalky hills. Fail, and, well, they'd probably be killed by pirates. Or by Samastina's assassins, should they try to leverage whatever power they think they had back at home to disobey her orders. Thoroughly cowed, Iris finally agreed to this quest, and prepared as best as she could to conquer the Islands.
    2 points
  7. [Cover image is from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Atelier_von_Rahmenmachern_und_deren_Werkzeuge_im_18._Jahrhundert.jpg] One of the more overlooked issues about Mythras adventuring is what equipment the Adventurers are carrying while out on a campaign. The basic tool lists on pages 60, 61 of Mythras and page 88 of Fioracitta are good guidelines as to what one could expect to take on an adventure, but there is still a need to plan in advance for the adventure. The equipment an Adventurer would be expected to carry depends on the environment, and on the nature of the adventure. This article's purpose is to get the Games Master and Players to think about the logistics of adventuring, and to provide a sense of immersion as the Players enter into the Adventurers' spirit, as they trek through the countryside on their adventures. Standard Armour and Weapons Just to make things easier for each Adventurer, have the players choose their primary melee weapon (e.g. staff, sword, rapier, axe, hammer), secondary melee weapon (e.g. club, dagger, hand axe), and one ranged weapon if their Combat Style includes it (e.g. dagger, bow, crossbow). No more than those three weapons. Those are included in their kit. It is also a good idea to have every Adventurer wear the same type of armour, such as a 2AP Quilted / Padded armour. Each piece is made separately, and put on once they reach the destination. Each such suit provides the same AP protection to all Hit Locations, costs about the same, and has a standard ENC load. Pack Each Adventurer needs the following, for adventures which require travel. Backpack Bedroll Flint and Tinder / firemaking kit Knife (cutting tool, not a weapon) Lantern, basic Lock picks Mirror (hand glass) Mug/Beaker/Dish/Plate (wood or ceramic – double price for metal) Oil flask Razor, folding Rope (hemp), 10m Waterskin or Canteen (holds 2 litres of liquid) Rations - Feeding The Party Every adventuring party is going to have to carry food, particularly if they are travelling cross-country and in environments where foraging is expected to be poor. It is generally accepted that 1 kg of trail rations (biscuits, dried vegetables, cured meat) will sustain someone for two days. With the Preserve Folk Magic cantrip, that food can be kept practically indefinitely if some form of attempt at preservation is made (and yes, carefully wrapping them up in greaseproof paper counts). Here is where Survival and Locale skills become essential, naturally - but Craft (Cooking) is also overlooked.All of the above basically amounts to the bare minimum kit needed of an adventuring party in the wilderness. The rations should last for one to two weeks before running out; supplemented by forage, they could last for a month's travel. That presumes that the Adventurers will be hiking on foot to their destination. There is a listing for feed for one's mounts listed on the table on page 60, but assume that beasts of burden are going to need to eat a lot more than one kilogram of hay per day - again, they would need to find something to graze. Toolkits Adventurers may require specialised toolkits to perform their work, not counting weapons. Many of the items in the table on pages 60 and 61 of Mythras presume that each Adventurer may wish to bring along their favourite trade tools, if those tools are relevant to the situation. An actor's elaborate theatrical kit, with wardrobe, might weigh several hundred ENC and be impossible to move around - but a small stack of basic cosmetics, enough for one attempt at Disguise, might only weigh 2 ENC at most. The basic list on pages 60 and 61 is only a rough guide. Articles such as a chess or backgammon set (1 ENC, 10 - 1000 SP), burglary kit (grappling hook, crowbar, lockpicks - 1 ENC total) and so on should never encumber the characters. Every character should have some small, lightweight travel version of their primary work tools. Never more than about 10 ENC. Preferably no more than 5 ENC. A burglary specialist's toolkit is very different to a journalist's writing kit. Urban Adventuring Urban adventuring may require Adventurers to dispense with much of the equipment they take for granted out in the wild. Nobody needs to carry forage around in the city; and nobody needs to carry around a bedroll (or their weapons, in general). It would be awkward indeed for Adventurers to attend an upper class soiree in the cultured section of the city, dressed in full armour and carrying a full armoury of weapons and adventuring kit. While in the city, less is decidedly more. How can the characters get away with carrying along full kit? Work Of course the Adventurers can carry their heavy tools around, if they have to carry their own work tools to and from the job. Training The Adventurers could sign up as trainers, and go off on wilderness drill training to teach members of the public the basics of Locale, Survival, and Track. Rescue Force Adventurers could convince people of their advanced understanding of the locality (Locale skill), enough for them to form an amateur rescue group whose job is to patrol regularly, looking for people who get lost in the wilds. Deputised The local law can give the Adventurers a badge of office, then order them to go on patrol around the perimeter of their city and its condato, looking for brigands, providing protection detail to passing caravans, and so on. Signing Up The Adventurers could even join the militia, or at least sign up for their regular public drills. Some towns and cities require all able adults to attend at least some sort of mandatory training to defend the city in the event of an invasion. Their adventures could happen to them while they are on their way home from a training session - or while en route to training. Inspiration The above should provide some measure of inspiration to players. The journey to a destination can be made as memorable as the adventure itself, providing scenes which allow for dialogues between Adventurers, minor problems for the party to solve together, and all the experiences (and Experience Rolls) of surviving in the rough. And back home, the players should never feel that their characters are underequipped if all that they have on them is the clothes on their back, and maybe a single dagger or concealed weapon hidden somewhere on their person.
    1 point
  8. [Featured image taken from Monster Wiki - https://monster.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon?file=DragonRed.jpg] This post is a hard one to write, and not for the reasons you might think. Dragon slaying, noble questing knights, castles ... they are all such staples of fantasy, it's hard to get away from such tropes. From Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, through to more modern incarnations in popular media such as Kilgarrah (voiced by the late, great John Hurt) in the TV series Merlin, the dragons in the movies The Last Dragon and Reign of Fire, Skyrim, the Eragon series, and the "How To Train Your Dragon" animated movie franchise, dragons are as iconic to the fantasy genre as robots and rayguns are to science fiction. Big, Scaly, Breathing Fire You're all familiar with the trope. Dragons are house-sized, sometimes palace-sized, reptiles which fly with the aid of huge, leathery wings, They have long, flexible necks and tails, and breathe fire (or ice, or electricity, or acid, or cold, depending on the colour of the scales). They live to prey upon villages, carrying off sheep and cattle, and the occasional peasant girl. They can be lured by tying a princess to a rock, then striking at it in the one vulnerable spot on their bodies, which is typically where they are ticklish *cough* some spot just under a forelimb, in its armpit. Oh, and let's not forget the pile of gold it's supposed to be sitting on. There's one problem with this image of dragons. Symbolism and Parable Dragons aren't actually supposed to be literal big flying fire-breathing reptiles, you know. They just symbolise an even more horrible beast. Feudalism. A dragon is actually some kingdom next door. It takes a tithe from each village (it's called taxes), it sits on a hoard of gold (again, taxes), it is destructive (armies), and it has a penchant for princesses and virgins (droit de seigneur - look that up. It is not nice). Of course dragons are just symbols for that nasty feudal kingdom next door. Painting the king next door as being a greedy, gold-hungry reptile is about as low as propaganda can get. But what does that mean for dragonslaying quests? Well, if the adventurers are off to slay a dragon, that makes them mercenaries hired by the local government. It makes their quest an invasion. Their mission - to slay the king next door (assassination, regime change) and retrieve its hoard (plunder the nation's already-stolen wealth and extricate it from its country of origin) in the form of the spoils of war. This is sounding more and more like a mediaeval Crusade to the Holy Land, isn't it? Invoking The Draconic How can a GM invoke a dragon as a threat force in a fantasy, without going down the tired old Tolkien / Arthurian road, following the well-worn tropes trodden by so many identikit heroes of literature and tabletop? In other words, what does the dragon represent in the story, if it is not a literal fire-breathing flying kaiju lizard? Blatant Symbolism The dragon's treasure might not be gold - after all, that is mere matter, the coffers of the plundered nation next door. The real treasure, the dragon's strength, could be political power. The adventurer who conquers a dragon, or rather conquers a nation, can take on the might of that dragon, assuming the mantle of rulership. They can talk about war with the kingdom they came from, and spend their nights sleeping with one eye open for the next adventurer to come along with an eye for slaying the dragon ... Magical Symbolism What can a dragon symbolise, other than political power? The power of magic, tamed by a human will. The quest to master the dragon can symbolise nothing less than the character's quest to Awaken to a legacy of magic and power, invoking its essence into the soul and transforming the protagonist into a sorcerer on the level of a Merlin or a Dr Strange. Power of The Elements The dragon can be a symbol for raw elemental power - the untamed power to raise earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, ice storms, tsunamis, lightning and thunder, or volcanic eruptions. The antagonist could be summoning a dragon to evoke such a threat and devastate an entire region. First Contact The entity being faced by the adventurers is so alien to their perceptions that they literally see what amounts to a dragon, because their minds cannot process the cosmic horror of what is actually there. Dynastic Legacy The dragon could well be a genetic legacy - a bloodline of nobles, Old Blood, coming from the Old Days - perhaps from some chthonic former kingdom now claimed by Earth and Time and Fire, but still surviving, in the genes of this one clan. Snake People / Lizard People The dragon could indeed be a bloodline - in this case, a species of ophidians. The dragon may be metaphorical, but the serpent people in your story might definitely be real, very ancient, and very alien. Running A Dragon-Themed Adventure But what if you, as Games Master, really want to run an adventure where your player characters are out to literally slay a fiery flying magic lizard the size of their village? What can you do to prevent your characters from just grinding over a bunch of tactics and combat tricks like some ho hum run of the mill combat scenario? What can you do to make the adventure the scariest, most exciting, most immersive story ever for your players? Make It Mean Something Make the story a confrontation, rather than a straight combat against a big boss level beast. Your characters' goal is to stop the dragon, not try to kill it. You can't kill something with the power of the living Earth running through it. Skin In The Game Have something at stake. The dragon has something - or, rather, someone - dear to the player characters. A loved one, a Connection, a ruler to whom they owe undying loyalty, a mentor, a loved family member (or even a hated one - family is family), or someone loved to the nation such as a High Priestess. Whatever, or whoever, it is, the dragon has them as a hostage - and it is up to some of the characters to confront the beast long enough for the rest of the party to bust that loved one out of the dungeon. Yes, there's the dungeon. Follow The Leader The characters aren't there to kill a literal dragon, but rather to disband its human cult of mind-enslaved pets. Your dragon could be a human, with all the charisma of a Thulsa Doom, but - in a devious twist - actually ruling with wisdom and benevolence, preaching peace and offering diplomacy to bring war to an end. She could be uniting the squabbling nations, and the characters are part of a coalition team of mercenaries sent to assassinate this guru because it's cutting into their business of selling weapons to the warring chiefs. Regime Change Here's where the symbolism comes into its own. The adventurers are mercenaries sent to the nation next door to raid its coffers, kill its king, and bring back the wealth of a plundered nation to satisfy their king's draconic (draconian?) dreams of conquest. The only visible dragons are the banners of the human enemy soldiers. My Boss, The Dragon The final twist is to have the characters actually work for the dragon. She's too big and old to go flying about, and the characters are her guardians and protectors, perhaps even diplomats, making trade agreements with nations to keep her fed in her dotage in exchange for the dragon's incredible wisdom and knowledge (dropping hints about such innovations as the mouldboard plough, springs, the compass, and timepieces governed by mechanical escapements, but somehow avoiding the invention of gunpowder for some reason ...) Dreams of Dragons From literal flying kaiju reptiles, to the banners of kingdoms and cults, to ancient noble or even royal bloodlines, to the thundering nuclear power source of magic itself, there are so many ways to bring dragons into your fantasy campaign. Just don't fall into the one dreadful pit that ruins it for everybody - making them a cliche, running dragons as just plain old boss level monsters without putting a little thought behind them to understanding what dragons really mean, in terms of their symbolism and the sheer power that they epitomise and represent. A power that the players could potentially acquire for themselves, whether through conquest ... or legacy. In short - don't let your dragons get stale.
    1 point
  9. Song of the Forests In the beginning was the One. Boundless and, yet, constrained, it contained the limitless All. All that was, and All that was Not. Being and non-being. This paradox, the Paradox of Self, fragmented the One, and it became Two: Grower and Taker. The Grower contained within it all potential. This potential took the form of the Seed. This was the beginning of the First Plantings, the Age of the Grower. From within the One, the fluid parts separated, and thus came the soothing waters, Eron. The waters were changing and fluid, containing within her nature almost all potential. Eron encircled the Seed of the Grower to provide nourishment. Next, the heavy parts of the One accreted together, forming the solid earth, Gata. The earth was dependable and stolid, locking her potential within in security for the future. Gata supported the Seed of the Grower to provide sanctuary. Next, the light parts of the One arose together, rising to form the warming sun, Halamalao. The sun was generous and wise, and gave of his energy to all who would see. Halamalao provided the Seed of the Grower with life. The Seed of the Grower sprouted, and this was the Great Tree, Falamal. Nourished by Eron, he sank his roots deep in Gata and received the lifegiving rays of Halamalao to grow mighty at the center of the Universe. Falamal is the father of all, the bearer of the life force, the unifier of spirit. Falamal produced, in turn, seeds of his own. The first seed fell upon loving Gata, and produced Aldrya. She is the mother of all plants grown upon the land, and is also the all-encompassing mind which includes all born upon Gata, both those growing and those taken. The Brown Elves, the Green Elves and the Yellow Elves are all part of Aldrya. The second seed fell upon nurturing Eron, and produced Murthdrya. Murthdrya is the mother of all plants grown in the sea, and is also their communal consciousness. The Blue Elves are a part of Murthdrya. The third seed was borne aloft to benevolent Halamalao, and produced Halamdrya. Halamdrya is the mother of all plants grown upon the Sun, as well as their collective soul. The White Elves are still a part of Halamdrya, though they are now gone from the world. All grew until Glorantha, the Universe, was covered with Life. As a tree’s roots will crack stone, so, too, did the overabundance of Life push at the boundaries of the Universe. A crack formed and something came in. The elves were the first to recognize this intrusion. They called this Oblivion. While Grower and Taker are parts of the One, both necessary parts of Life, Oblivion is from outside. Things taken by Oblivion disappear from the Universe and are never seen again. The arrival of Oblivion broke some of the elves who found it. They were severed from connection to the One, the All, and became lost. Some elves, still, are born without this connection. We call them Rootless elves. They are to be pitied, for they do not experience the boundless of Joy of Belonging. With the arrival of Oblivion, Taker stirred into consciousness. It had hibernated throughout the Age of Growing, for before anything Grew, there was nothing to Take. The Taker contained within it all endings. These endings also took the form of a Seed. This was the beginning of the Second Plantings, the Age of the Taker. Halamalao rejected the Seed of the Taker. He turned his face from it, creating Darkness. The Darkness provided the Seed of the Taker with cold. Gata rejected the Seed of the Taker. She buried it in the cold, dead parts of herself, called Akem, or Stone. The Stone provided the Seed of the Taker with distance. Eron rejected the Seed of the Taker. It took away its healing waters, leaving only the burning waters of spite, called Harakakara. Harakakara provided the Seed of the Taker with pain. The Seed of the Taker sprouted, and this was the Zazakzor, the Hater. Zazakzor moved across the Universe, taking all he could see. He took Halamalao, the generous sun, leaving everything in Darkness. He took gentle Gata, who could not protect herself, leaving only cold, unfeeling Stone. He turned on nurturing Eron, taking the life-giving parts and leaving only Harakakara. All good things became bad. Water turned to fire, earth turned to stone and light turned to darkness. In the Darkness, Taker spread his own seeds, and these became a race of Takers, called the trolls. First among them was Kygor, and she and her children ate everything they could find. Akem, the Stone, tried to make new life, but without the nurturing part of Gata these were sterile and lifeless creatures, called dwarves. First among them was Mostal, and he and his kin did not understand the powers of Growth and tried only to work with what was dead and cold. Harakakara burned everything it touched, but even it tried to make new life to replace the old. Promalt was the first of these, a race of flame men who strode the cold, dead world, conquering the ruins to spread the power of flame. The burning men must have succeeded in spreading their destruction, for there are none of them left. In its unchecked excesses, Taker was as bad as Grower. Its relentless Taking allowed even more Oblivion to seep into the Universe. The entire world was dying, but not the good death of the Taker, rather the bad death of Oblivion. If Oblivion killed a thing would never be reborn again. Many heroes arose in the Age of the Taker: High King Elf, Elder Sister, Chalaneron, Vronkal, and many others who are now lost to the world. But all eventually fell. All the product of the Age of Growing was dead, and with nothing left the children of the Taker began to Take themselves. Deep within the ruins of the Universe, two Seeds that no one had known existed until then began to sprout. These were the Seeds of Grower and Taker reborn. This was the beginning of the Third Plantings, the Age of Cycles, the Age of Time. The reborn Grower and Taker sprouted together. This time Grower and Taker would work in harmony. Taker was reborn as Bebester. She was changed now, containing some Growth. She accepted this, taking that which was unrecoverable so that new Growth could occur. Bebester destroyed all that was left of the old world. Grower was reborn as Sanarana. She was changed now, containing some Taking. She accepted this, knowing that some Taking would bring better life. Once Bebester had cleared the remnants, she recreated the Universe. Grower and Taker worked in balance. In the cycle of the seasons, the Universe remains in harmony. For five centuries, it was so. In one place, the elves were very friendly with the other races. They thought that they were working with the forces of Growing and Taking. When Oblivion threatened, they joined with the others to fight the Unity Battle. Their trust seemed to work, for they joined with others in the Unity Council. Despite the fact that it was guided by a grandchild of Kygor, the Unity Council grew and grew. Some elves thought that they could initiate a Fourth Planting. The Council formed plans to form a balance between the All and Oblivion, in the same way that the Third Plantings brought a balance between Growing and Taking. This was the Grafting Experiment. The effort failed. Most elves at the time thought that it was misguided, and most elves today still think so. Since then, the Aldryami have continued replanting and defending the forests. Entry Requirements: Aldryami such as pixies and runners join as soon as they can speak. Almost all elves do, too, but some are born without Elfsense; these elves cannot form the bond necessary to join. Dryads are members from birth. Beastmen, dragonewts, ducks, and humans must petition a Gardener to let them join the Tradition. Other races are never allowed to join. Core Practices: The Children of the Forest Practice is the core practice of the tradition. Other important practices include Elder Sister, High King Elf, and Seyotel. Bebester, Eron, Gata, and Halamalao are among the many helper practices known. Many practices are regional; others are secret, known only to a few. Abilities: Aldrya Tradition Knowledge, Elfsense, Worship Aldrya. Virtues: Cautious, Patient. Tradition Spirits (members usually start with 5 charms): [Plant] Plant spirits—Bear Fruit 6 to 5W, Change Paths 14, Deflect Weapon 7 to 15, Ever Green 9 to 16, Flexible 18, Remain Unseen 12 to 5W, Shade from Sun 10 to 20, Tall 15. Great Secret: Part of the One. Charms and Fetishes: Aldrya charms and fetishes are grown rather than made. While they may not be rooted in the ground, they remain alive and in bloom so long as they touch a spirit of Aldrya. Manifestations: Humans often think of Aldrya as the goddess of the forest. Her worshippers know this is not true, and that Aldrya is the forest herself; without her worship, the trees themselves would sicken and die. Amongst elves, Aldrya is represented by a tree bearing many different kinds of leaves and fruits. Humans instead depict her as a dryad of some local tree. Holy Days: Aldrya has three High Holy Days over the course of the year. The first falls on Water Day of Fertility Week in Water Season, which is a joyous time celebrating the awakening of the forests. The second High Holy Day is on Clay Day of Fertility Week in Earth Season. An ecstatic celebration just before the Green Elves and dryads must sleep for winter, by the end of the day only Green and Yellow Elves remain awake. The last Holy Day occurs on Wild Day of Truth Week in Storm Season; only the Yellow and Green Elves are awake to perform these rituals. They march around the forest, performing the dances and songs to begin the awakening of the forest while fending off attacks by their enemies, especially trolls. Other Side: In the Spirit World, Aldrya is present in every forest and tree. Her primary domain there is Aldrya's Forest, located on and around the First Mountain. In Aldrya’s Forest are both Shanasse, her lover, and Aldrya’s own tree. Other Connections: Earth cults, such as Ernalda, and earth-related spirit practices, such as Eiritha, are usually friendly to Aldrya spiritists. They also have friends among Yelmalio worshippers, and are usually on neutral to friendly terms with sea gods. Disadvantages: A few rare elves are unable to initiate into the Aldrya Tradition. These rootless elves do not have the Elfsense which allows communion with nature and so are outcasts, even when they have not left their communities. Rootless elves sometimes join allied practices or cults, fulfilling some role that other Elves find taboo. Others leave the forests, becoming wanderers and vagabonds. Notes: Instead of providing the Spirit Face ability, the Aldrya Tradition provides the Elfsense ability, which as well as allowing you to hear, see and communicate with spirits, also allows you to sense the health and emotions of plants, including Elves. Non-Aldryami heroes cannot improve Elfsense as a standalone ability. Core Practices The Children of the Forest The Children of the Forest is the core practice of the Aldrya Tradition; most members belong to it before joining any other spirit society. The Children of the Forest deals with the spirits of trees and other residents of the forests. This practice is not very demanding of adherents. They must try to live in harmony with the forests and the cycles of life and death. The Plant Brother spirits provide small benefits, and in return spiritists must sing the Food Song over every plant they harvest, which guarantees the spirit will find its way back to the bosom of Aldrya. The various Animal Brother spirits generally provide their charms to those who promise not to take the lives of their type of animal. Entry Requirements: Aldryami who are part of the tradition may join automatically. All stationary plants, sentient and non-sentient, are also automatically a part of this practice. Non-Aldryami must have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 17 or higher. Abilities: Children of the Forest Practice Knowledge, Find Water, Food Song ceremony, Know Direction, Open Spirit World, Plant Lore. Virtues: Joyful. Practice Spirits: [Beast] Animal Brother spirits—Ancestor spirits of small forest creatures (Bite Hard 15, Command [Woodland Animal] 11 to 3W, Hide in Undergrowth 16 to 4W, Scamper Through Undergrowth 12 to 2W). [Plant] Plant Brother spirits—Progenitor spirits of the various forest plants (Appear Nonthreatening 12 to 2W, Send Alarm Through Forest 12 to 18, Remain Motionless 16 to 6W, Speak with [Plant] 11 to 3W) Spirit Ally: None usually. Occasionally, a particular plant or animal spirit that befriends a runner or pixie will become a spirit ally after many years of friendship. Secret: None. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are living plants, which remain alive and in bloom so long as they touch a spirit of Aldrya. Other Side: The Children of the Forest are the most basic part of Aldrya and in the Spirit World inhabit many of the Forests there, including the Forest of Four Winds and the Wild Wolf Forest. Elder Sister Elder Sister spiritists bind themselves more tightly to the spirit of Aldrya. This has an immense effect on the individuals by linking them directly to their goddess’ subconscious urges, and their daily lives are in unity with nature. This spiritual contact also forces the deciduous tree dryads into the same seasonal cycle as Aldrya. They will sleep all winter, wake in the spring for a full summer life, and fall asleep again in the autumn so their souls can rest in the Underworld. Non-dryads of this practice have several options open to them. They may occasionally inherit a tree from a dryad who died in some way or another, thereby preserving the tree’s life. More often, though, they form a group of wandering spiritual guides which move through the woods as the Spirit of Aldrya moves them. They go where they feel needed, and are called Wandering Dryads. Entry Requirements: Elder Sister membership requires a special connection to plants inherent in dryads. This empathy is also often found in female elves, occasionally in male elves, beastmen, and dragonewts, but rarely in any human. Non-dryads must also have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 11W or higher. Abilities: Elder Sister Practice Knowledge, Find Healing Materials, Follower of Elder Sister, Food Song ceremony, Plant Lore, Read Aldryami, Write Aldryami. Virtues: Nurturing, Protective. Practice Spirits: [Plant] Healing Tree spirits—Tree spirits that despise the White Lady (Drive Out [Disease] 18 to 1W2). [Plant] Warrior of Wood spirits—Tree spirits that defend the forests (Fight [Specific Enemy] 20 to 2W2, Tanglethicket 12 to 8W). Spirit Ally: Dryad Elder Sisters always have their bound tree as their spirit ally. If a dryad dies, it is possible for an Elder Sister practitioner to attempt to bind her life force with the tree; those who succeed immediately receive that tree as a spirit ally. Secret: Aldrya’s Sleep (A follower who dies of injuries can attempt to heal herself and return to life, if her tree remains intact. In the wilderness, normal animals will not disturb an Elder Sister corpse, for they know it is not food. If she succeeds, over a few days to many weeks [depending on the body’s condition] the corpse heals completely, at which time the follower awakens. Until her body recovers, her spirit sleeps in Aldrya’s Forest in the Otherworld. Some followers know to begin certain heroquests with Aldrya’s Sleep, dying and then continuing the quest on the Otherworld before returning to their bodies. They must be cautious, for anything that happens to the quester may affect her body’s ability to heal and thus cause true death.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Elder Sister 1W2, Plant Lore 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Fetishes are fashioned from natural plant materials, freely given to the dryad. Many remain alive so long as they remain in the dryad’s possession. Other Side: The Elder Sisters tend the trees in Aldrya’s Forest. High King Elf The liberation of Falamal is sometimes called the “Secret Quest” of the Lightbringers, or the Greater Bonus by some. However, even his return to life would have had far less meaning without the long struggle of the Protectors on earth to save the sleeping form of their wards. The Protectors were led by High King Elf, the leader of his race from among the undying Green Elves. He led a beleaguered band of elves through the whole of the Age of Taking, ever struggling to protect the empty bodies of the forest from their foes. In this he was aided by the spirits Eron and Halamalao, another wounded survivor, but he hated the great spirit Harakakara who devoured the once-magnificent forests of Prax and slew almost all there. High King Elf was among those beings present in Dragon Pass for the I Fought We Won Battle where chaos was turned back upon itself. Entry Requirements: Must have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 1W or higher. Abilities: Archery, Camouflage Self in Trees, Food Song ceremony, High King Elf Practice Knowledge, Read Aldryami, Shortsword Fighting, Spear Fighting, Write Aldryami. Virtues: Dutiful. Practice Spirits: [Death] Arrow spirits—Special spirit seeds which grow into living arrows (Growth In Flight 15, Heartseeker Arrow 20, Many Arrows From One 18 to 12W). [Defense] Bark spirits—Special spirit seeds which grow into a barklike covering that can be worn (Absorb Charm 15 to 8W, Absorb Feat 12 to 2W, Absorb Spell 15, Deflect Missile 12 to 3W, Deflect Weapon 16 to 4W) Spirit Ally: Followers of High King Elf can receive a Bow Seed. Planted on the High Holy Day, it takes a year to grow into an Elf Bow, a living weapon. A spirit ally for its bonded elf, it functions only as a normal bow for any other member of the Aldrya tradition. If a non-Aldryami takes it, it withers and appears lifeless and dead; however, if the husk is replanted in an Elf forest in any season except Dark Season and tended for a season, it springs to life once more refreshed and new. The taboo of this ally is Use No Other Bow. Secret: Arrow Trance (The practitioner enters a state in which he merges with his bow, and receives an automatic augment of ¼ the secret’s rating to any ability used during the combat. While in this state, the only things that exist for him are the bow and his targets. This ability can also be used to augment spirit combat, if it is initiated while he is in the Arrow Trace.) Practice Secret Requirements: Archery 1W2, Elfsense 1W2, Follower of High King Elf 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: High King Elf chaarms and fetishes are usually copper axes and shields, or bows and quivers. Other Side: High King Elf can be found patrolling Aldrya’s Forest on the First Mountain. Followers can join his band in defense of the Grower until it is time to be reborn. Seyotel (Shamanic Practice) Seyotel is the Song that binds the Aldryami together. She is the source of Elfsense, and the universal subconscious that all followers of the Aldrya tradition share. She arose during the Age of Growing, but did not truly awaken until the arrival of Oblivion caused all of the plants of the Universe to cry out as one in fear and horror; this was the awakening shout that brought Seyotel to consciousness. The potential shaman is taken to a celebration in a secret magical grove. They must then sing a complex song that harmonizes flawlessly with the Aldrya’s Song, which is the song of the forest’s life. The shaman must sing complex arpeggios, interval leaps and scales to weave together the different living songs, while leading the chorus to its conclusion. Typically, the shaman is assaulted in this task by the forces of Oblivion: the White Lady introduces discordant sections, while the Zazakzor’s wild passions threaten to take control of the song and turn it into a death chant. If the shaman is successful in dealing with these issues, they will find a counterpoint song, equal but complementary to their own, buried in the harmonies of the forest. When they follow it to its source, they will find a magnificent tree that is their counterpart in Aldrya’s Forest, the part of themselves that was with Aldrya all along. They will enter the tree, and emerge in the Mortal World. Forever after, their fetch will be there, with them, changing the song of their life into a duet. These shamans are important to the Aldrya Tradition, as they form the backbone of a forest’s song and are frequently found on the Council of Gardeners. A key component of this is their Song of the Spirit, which lets them weave their magic to affect large groups of willing participants. Entry Requirements: Must be a member of the Aldrya Tradition and have the capacity to become a shaman. Abilities: Follower of Seyotel, Food Song ceremony, Open Spirit World, Seyotel Practice Knowledge, Sing, Spirit Face. Virtues: Mysterious, Spontaneous Singing. Special Spirits: Seyotel shamans are the only ones who can contact the many specialized spirits of the Forest; for examples see HeroQuest, specifically “Great Trees” on page 149 and “Tree Spirits” on page 150. While a member of those helper practices, they often have exotic spirits serving them. Secret: Song of Life (When visible, the shaman’s fetch appears as an enormous magical tree, encased in glowing bark and surrounded by exotic plants, that emits a song that conveys the emotion the shaman is feeling.) Shamanic Abilities: Shamanic Escape, Song of the Spirit, Spirit World Travel. Charms and Fetishes: As with the rest of the tradition’s practices, Seyotel fetishes are made of living plants, surviving despite being kept in dark places away from the earth. Other Side: Seyotel is everywhere where the song of Aldrya exists. From the depths of the Spirit World to the far reaches of Glorantha, wherever the Song of Aldrya can be found, there Seyotel exists. Helper Practices Bebester Bebester is the Taker reborn, but as a part of Life. She clears away the debris of previous life so that new life can grow in its place; this keeps the cycle of renewal functioning. As death-in-the-service-of-life, she terrifies most Aldryami, but she is needed to keep the Universe going and avoid the destruction of the All by Oblivion. As such, some few Aldryami feel themselves drawn to her practices. Such followers as she has usually live apart from their fellows; they are a part of the community, but more of a necessary evil than a welcome part. Nevertheless, when the forests are threatened, they can be found on the forefront, Taking those who would Take from Aldrya. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Followers must take an oath to leave no injustice unavenged. Abilities: Axe and Shield Fighting, Bebester Practice Knowledge, Follower of Bebester, Throw Axe, Track. Virtues: Ruthless. Practice Spirits: [Babeester] Blood Vengeance spirits—Bloody spirits, each of which remembers some hurt done to the Grower (Follow Taker Anywhere 2W2, Sense Taker Nearby 12 to 2W, Sleepless Vengeance 15 to 2W). [Death] Taking spirits—Cold spirits of death in the service of life (Death Song 18, Enchant Copper ritual 12 to 18, Unbreakable Shield 18 to 8W, Wild Axe Swing 15 to 20). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed herself solely to Bebester can gain a spirit ally from her. Secret: Death In the Service of Life (Gives an automatic augment of 1/4 the secret’s ability rating to any ability used to protect the forest or a follower of any Aldrya Tradition spirit.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Bebester 1W2, Ruthless 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are usually in the follower’s axe or shield. Other Side: Bebester’s Glade is at the edge of Aldrya’s Forest, near the Screaming Valley at the top of the Knife Ridge. Other Connections: Bebester is thought by many to be an aspect of the Earth goddess Babeester Gor. Eron Eron was the first of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Spirit of Falamal, a spirit of the soothing waters. As befits a water spirit, it was sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both or neither. Eron took Falamal’s second seed and produced the Murthoi, the many species of Sea Elf. During the Age of Taking, Eron suffered a Thousand Wounds, all taken in defense of someone else. As Eron’s wounds grew, their blood and tears fell freely to the seas and turned them salty. Finally, they suffered their thousandth wound from the Taker in defense of Falamal, and flowed into the Underworld. When the Third Plantings happened, Eron did not return to the Mortal World, but can still be found on the Spirit World. Eron's spirits are those of the cool water, providing succour and healing to those who need it. They also teach the art of finding healing plants and remedies to the other practices. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Followers must take an oath to harm no living thing. Abilities: Brew Healing Potion, Eron Practice Knowledge, Find Healing Materials, Follower of Eron, Treat Disease, Treat Poison. Virtues: Self-Sacrificing. Practice Spirits: [Arroin] Harmony Song spirits—Helper spirits who bind things together (Don’t Hurt Them 2W to 2W2, Feel Another’s Pain 14 to 4W, Feel My Pain 18). [Water] Healing Water spirits—Water spirits made from the tears of Eron (Drive Out [Disease] 2W to 5W2, Heal Wounds 20 to 10W, Wash Away Pain 8 to 2W). [Rain] Soothing Rain spirits—Rain spirits that sing a relaxing song (Quench Burn 16, Sleep Away the Pain 18 to 8W, Soothe Aches15 to 2W). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed themselves solely to Eron can gain a spirit ally from them. Secret: The Thousand Wounds (Automatically succeed at a single final action during any contest in which the hero is attempting to protect someone else, even if they normally would not be allowed a final action. The attack must be directed at a being on whom they have successfully used any charm or fetish.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Eron 1W2, Self-Sacrificing 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are typically placed into tattoos on the spiritist’s body. Other Side: Eron wanders the Spirit World, going wherever there is pain and suffering, in order to alleviate it. Sometimes they stop in Aldrya’s Forest, where the residents provide them with any support they can, before Eron moves on. Other Connections: Eron is thought by some to be the same as Arroin, a god connected to Chalana Arroy in the Orlanthi Pantheon. Gata Gata was the second of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Body of Falamal. She formed from Eron, as resin forms from sap, to provide stability to the world. When Falamal rose to the heavens, his seeds fell upon Gata's body, producing the Green Elves and their goddess Aldrya. Later, the Green Elves were divided into the Green, the Brown and the Yellow Elves. But all revere their ancestor Gata. Gata's Spirits are those of the soft Earth, providing food and strength for all who want it. During the Age of the Taker, she showed those who sought her help how to hide, and when the Taker came she hid herself. It was not enough, and she was finally Taken, rendering the world cold and barren. She joyfully returns to the world every Spring but hides again the Underworld every Fall, to maintain the balance of Grower and Taker. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Abilities: Dodge Blow, Gata Practice Knowledge, Follower of Gata, Hide in Cover, Survive Hardship, Tend Plants. Virtues: Cautious. Practice Spirits: [Earth] Earth Power spirits—Earth spirits bear the greatest of burdens (Endless Endurance 14 to 4W, Strength of Earth 18 to 8W2). [Plant] Plant Blessing spirits—Earth spirits who nurture life (Protect Plants from Birds 18 to 8W, Protect Plants from Cold 12 to 18, Protect Plants from Disease 15 to 5W, Protect Plants from Heat 16 to 6W, Protect Plants from Insects 12 to 2W, Protect Plants from Storms 12 to 8W). [Earth Harmony] Healing Loam spirits—Healing spirits that reside in the earth (Find Medicinal Spring 18 to 2W, Healing Mud 15 to 5W). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed herself solely to Gata can gain a spirit ally from her. Secret: Bless Forest ritual (Allows the follower to ignore distance and area effect penalties when blessing a forest with her Plant Blessing spirits. It can also be used to augment any charms or fetishes used on trees.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Gata 1W2, Tend Plants 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are typically placed into tattoos on the spiritists body. Other Side: Gata was torn asunder, and so she may be found in many places in the Spirit World. Other Connections: Gata is considered part of the Earth Pantheon. Halamalao Halamalao was the third of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Mind of Falamal. He formed from Gata, rising as light sparkles off amber, to provide hope to the world. When Falamal rose to the heavens, his seeds ascended into Halamalao's heart, producing the White Elves and their goddess Haladrya. The White Elves and their goddess were lost in the Great Darkness, as was Halamalao himself. The other Elves worshipped him still throughout the Darkness, and were rewarded at the Dawn when he returned. They hold out hope for the White Elves to return eventually as well. Halamalao's spirits are those of warm Light, providing protection and joy to all who ask for it. He must journey between the World and the Underworld every day, to maintain the balance of Grower and Taker. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Abilities: Archery, Endure Pain, Halamalao Practice Knowledge, Follower of Halamalao, See Far, Spear and Shield Fighting. Virtues: Brave. Practice Spirits: [Light] Light Child spirits—Light spirits of bravery and courage (Blind Foe 18 to 6W, Distracting Glitter 16 to 6W, Unwavering Light 2W2). [Death] Sun Spear spirits—Light spirits that took some of the power of Taking (Burning Arrow 18 to 8W, Light Beam 14 to 4W, Sunrise Glow 12 to 2W). [Light] Sun Follower spirits—Light spirits that always look to their father (Protect Plant from Cold 13 to 3W, Ripen Plant 12 to 18). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed himself solely to Halamalao can gain a spirit ally from him. Secret: Survive Defeat (When critically wounded during a combat in which he has used his Light Child or Sun Spear spirits, the follower can use this secret to change his condition from Dying to merely Injured. The secret must overcome the standard resistance for healing injuries or the rating of the magical ability that rendered the warrior Dying, whichever is higher. If successful, the follower appears to be dead to all forms of physical or magical inquiry, but awakens from false death when immediate enemies are gone.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Endure Pain 1W2, Follower of Halamalao 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are usually in the follower’s bow, spear, or shield. Other Side: Halamalao spends part of each day in the Spirit World, in a great procession across the Sky, then spends the next part of the day in the Underworld. Other Connections: Halamalao is thought by many to be an aspect of Yelmalio.
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  10. Tripartite Worship of a Chaos Entity The Thanatar cult is an oddity in modern Glorantha. An attempt to revere a Chaos entity lost in the Gods War, it is a syncretism of different magical groups. Some blame its resurgence on the sort of magical meddling that backfired on the God Learners; others say the Lunars, Shamans, or Sorcerers are to blame. As the Thanatari are extraordinarily secretive and their works are routinely burned when found, the truth may never be known. What is clear, however, is that the combination of groups provided complementary abilities and services that have created a greater threat than the individual parts were before. Scholars of the Horned Society are reputed to have helped Than practitioners perfect their gruesome head-creation rituals. Than assassins have been found to be using Tien feats in their attacks, and so on. Truly, three separate nightmares have combined to form a looming disaster. The threat is great enough that even normally-hostile groups, such as Sartarites and Lunars, sometimes team up when a temple is discovered to eradicate all traces of Thanatari. Entry Requirements: Prospective members must convince an existing member of their worthiness and sincerity. Many require bribes of lore or money before they will admit new members. Since the whole organization is persecuted and hunted, even finding someone to admit them is a challenge for non-chaotics. Abilities: Chaos Lore, Worship Thanatar. Virtues: Secretive. Core Elements: The organization consists of three subgroups: the Horned Society (which reveres Atyar as the Devourer of Knowledge), the Than Practice (which worships Than as the Headless Spirit), and the cult of Tien the Severed God. Magic: Members receive their magic from their subgroup. Despite being members of either a wizardry school, a spiritual practice, or a theistic cult, Thanatari can read grimoires from the Horned Society as if they were students, gain charms from the Than Practice as if they were spiritists, or learn affinities from Thanatar as if they were initiates without penalty. Such is the nature of Chaos. Great Secret: None. Other Side: Thanatar’s worshippers go to the Place of Waiting, which has connections to the God World, the Spirit World, and Essence Planes. The Place of Waiting is reputed to be that part of the Underworld where Tien was beheaded. Chaos brings marvels and terrors alike. Disadvantages: Worshippers may never use fire or light abilities, even if those powers are stolen. Their propensity for attacking members of other groups and stealing their secrets has left the group hated and feared by all others. The Thanatar religion is rife with internal politics. Adherents constantly labor under the threat of assassination for posing a threat to a rival, suffering censure for being allied to someone who poses a political threat to an elite, being sent on a suicide mission to aid the cause of other Thanatari, being manipulated into becoming a scapegoat for a rival, and so on. Many of the Secrets of the religion benefit from ritual support but little support can be gathered. Why aid someone who will later become a roadblock on your own path to power? Loyalty is rare among the Thanatari. The Horned Society School of the Horned Skull The Horned Society is a scourge that has operated in secret for centuries. Established by a rogue priest of Lhankor Mhy named Treack Markhor, this sorcery school is dedicated to the theft of magical secrets. The sage discovered a horned skull worshipped as a spirit of death on an unnamed island. Intrigued by the power he sensed within he took the skull with him, keeping it secret from his brother sages. Through decades of study he unlocked its secrets, naming the skull Atyar, Devourer of Knowledge. He drew a number of like-minded individuals into his service, and they formed a secret society. The group began stealing magic from other groups, first targeting small, outsider cults and other secret societies. Eventually their hunger for knowledge grew too powerful and more prominent religions and churches were plundered. The authorities moved to purge the group. The senior members of the Horned Society met one more time in its secret underground sanctum and secured the skull of Atyar in a vault protected by the most powerful magics they had—their own powers and those stolen from others. Then the Society broke up and went out into the world. The Horned Society operates in cells, usually composed of two to four adepts, supported by about two to three times as many apprentices. Individual members hoard their stolen knowledge, loathe to trade even the simplest magic except for a greater power. Members steal from each other as well as others. The Portal of Power created by adepts of the Horned Society is the Entropic Equation. Abilities: Create Portal of Power, Focused Will, Read [Language], Rule of Treack Markhor, Symbolic Sight, Write [Language]. Relationships: Member of [Horned Society Cell]. Virtues: Hate Truth Gods, Paranoid. Grimoires: [Truth] Feast of Forgotten Lore (Confuse Foe, Decode Grimoire, Devour Book, Frighten Mortal, Ingest Scroll, Recognize Secrets, Sense Learning, Transfer Thoughts [D+20 to steal mundane secrets]) [Chaos] Gospel of Atyar (Absorb Feat, Dismay Victim, Dissect Spell, Inspire Zealotry, Prophetic Voice of Atyar [D+20], Summon Essence of Teaching, Unravel Charm) School Secret Requirements: Chaos Lore 1W2, Use Feast of Forgotten Lore 1W2, Use Gospel of Atyar 1W2. Secret: Consume Mind ritual (Chaos magic. The adept attempts to consume the mind of a helpless individual, in a ritual held over the course of Truth week in any season. It does not work on devotees or disciples of Lhankor Mhy. The ritual is dangerous and risky, and most Atyari only conduct it in their most secret of sanctums. Use of the ritual results in you receiving a chaos feature.) Talismans: Atyari typically make talismans in the shape of small horned skull pendants formed of tarnished silver. Other Benefits: Apprentices may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to adept status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Treack Markhor established a node on the Founder Plane. Known as the Athenaeum of Dark Truths, it is constructed out of parts stolen from other nodes. The Athenaeum has secret, hidden connections to other Founder nodes (unbeknownst to those Founders!), and also connects to the Place of Waiting. Disadvantages: Atyari must still adhere to taboos of spirit relationships they have stolen, or else the spirit will become hostile as normal. Than The Headless Spirit Even diminished, Than had power. When contacted by shamans searching the periphery of well-known myths for new power, he had a new outlet in the world. And as the son of the Devil, Than drew followers—rapacious Orlanthi headhunters who stalked the dark places in the Dawn Age, stealing the heads and powers of rivals and enemies. The Thanics formed a secret group of religious assassins, ritually strangling sacrifices with their garrotes to keep their patron strong and bring closer the day when Than would be made whole again. Reviled and hunted, Thanics remained a persecuted minority on the fringes of the Empire. They learned to operate in secrecy; many found security only in communities of chaotic-tainted folk. Their sign of the coiled garrote became feared, evoking dread from the people of the frontiers. Many times, authorities hunted down the shamans and their circles of followers, but they proved persistent and fanatical. Eventually, the strongholds of Than worship were eliminated. But still, Than waits in the wild places of the Spirit World for mortals to contact him again. Abilities: Endure Wounds, Garrotte Attack, Than Practice Knowledge, Sense Way when Blind, Spirit Face. Relationships: Follower of [Than Practitioner]. Virtues: Hate Anti-Chaos Gods, Zealous. Practice Spirits: [Chaos] Chaos spirits—Spirits of Tien’s horde (Destroy Daimon 15 to 10W, Extinguish Essence 20, 10 to 5W, Sever Spirit 18 to 12W, ). [Darkness] Gloom spirits—Spirits of the darkness (Animate Skeleton ritual 20, Create Zombie ritual 10 to 5W, Extinguish Flame 18 to 8W, Smother Sound 16 to 6W, Summon Dehori 17, Wall of Shadows 8 to 7W). [Death] Guardian spirits—Spirits of dead worshippers (Usually any two abilities like Crushing Grip, Wiresharp Garrote, Disrupt Foe, or Repair Tool: 14 to 1W). [Spirit] Sacrifice spirits—Spirits of beheaded victims (Abilities specific to the victim, usually at 13 to 1W2. These are always hostile and the practitioner does not have to be related to them to bind them to his service.) Practice Secret Requirements: Chaos Lore 1W2, Spirit Face 1W2, Than Practice Knowledge 1W2. Secret: Create Major Head ritual (Chaos magic. The practitioner attempts to bind the spirit, soul, or essence of a helpless individual into their own severed head as a form of gruesome fetish, in a ritual held over the course of Death week in any season.) Spirit Ally: Members of the Than Practice may receive a Guardian spirit as spirit ally in exchange for a random geas. Charms and Fetishes: Than charms and fetishes are usually made of the bones of victims chased with tarnished silver. Sacrifice spirits are bound into charms and fetishes made from the victim’s own severed, animated heads; these lesser magic items are called “minor heads” by Thanics and are held in lesser esteem than the full heads created by the Secret, but all ritually severed heads are sacred objects to followers. Other Connections: Spiritists may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to practitioner status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Followers of Than go to the Blasted Void, a gloomy mire in the Spirit World that remains where the Spike exploded. Hidden paths lead to the Place of Waiting. Or, using enslaved spirits as guides, followers may journey beyond the edge of the Blasted Void to other parts of the Spirit World, such as the Vale of Four Winds or the Wild Wolf Forest. Tien The Severed God It is clear the Chaos god Tien, son of the Devil, was severed in the God Time. Nevertheless, since Time began, a group was able to recreate the entity to an extent. The combined god is typically called Thanatar, although that name is also used for the entire organization consisting of the three factions: the Horned Society, the Than Practice, and the theistic Cult. To avoid confusion, we will use “Tien” for the theistic cult, and “Thanatar” for the entire religion. Mystery surrounds the origin of the cult. Some say the broo Hero Greegrog retrieved the Skull of Atyar and reconnected it to the Majestic Spirit of Than, recreating the god Tien and being made immortal for his pains. Others say that the Horned Skull still resides in a vault under a ruined city, and that the Broken Council recreated the god as an experiment preliminary to the creation of Osentalka. Due to the organization’s characteristic secrecy, the truth may remain forever unknown. Abilities: Devotee of Tien or Initiate of Tien, Mythology of Thanatar, Shortsword and Shield Fighting, Soul Vision. Relationships: Member of [Tien Temple]. Virtues: Fatalistic, Manipulative. Affinities and Feats: [Death] Severing (Command Ghost, Sever Soul, Summon Daimon of Reprisal ritual, Survive Beheading [D+20], True Garrote) [Truth] Knowledge (Find Hidden Knowledge, Sense Weakness, Summon Teaching Daimon ritual) [Darkness] Shadows (Command Darkness Daimon, Darklight, Replenishing Sleep, Summon Darkness Daimon ritual) Secret: Summon Specific Guardian ritual (Otherworld magic. The Tien worshipper must travel to the Otherworld to bring back a Thanatari they are trying to resurrect. The quest is difficult, but the Thanatari need not be resurrected into their original body; the only requirement is that seven days cannot have elapsed since death. If the Tien worshipper fails, the Thanatari immediately goes to the Place of Waiting, even if the full seven days have not yet elapsed.) Other Connections: Initiates may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to devotee status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Tien worshippers who die are escorted to the Place of Waiting by a cult entity called the Gatherer of Souls. From the Place of Waiting theists may journey to the Darkness Age, or they may follow hidden ways to the Blasted Void or the Athenaeum of Dark Truths. A Note on Thanatari Magic Thanatar is a religion for those who wish to possess lore or mastery of skills or magic, but do not wish to do the work to gain such themselves; rather, they steal this power from others. They are greedy and miserly and do not give up magical power that they have stolen. Thanatari magic possesses features of all other magical methods. The magic itself is inherently chaotic, and dabbling in Thanatar’s powers is a certain way to acquire a taint or even turn into a chaos horror. Nevertheless, their studies and activities give the Thanatari many advantages. Anyone who can convince a current member to sponsor them and can sway the examiners can join the religion. They can treat the Horned Society as just another sorcery school, the Than Practice as just another practice, or the Tien cult as just another cult. For these members, the elements function as normal magical groups, and are subject to concentration as normal. It is worth keeping in mind that the Thanatari religion is an enemy to most other religions, and any follower discovering a cell of Thanatari in their neighborhood is likely to turn them in to the authorities. This fact contributes to the Thanatari virtue of extreme secrecy. It is also possible for a follower to concentrate their Thanatari magic. Such followers join the ranks of favored lower-level members in the organization, a group called “The Doomed.” In this case, they may pay the concentrated hero point costs for any Thanatari magic, but must pay double costs for any other kind of magic they wish to learn. A follower who has concentrated their Thanatari magic can learn abilities from other branches of the religion. An apprentice of the Horned Society can receive charms for Than spirits or learn affinities from Tien; a spiritist of the Than practice can learn spells from the Horned Society or affinities from Tien; and, an initiate of Tien can learn spells from the Horned Society or receive charms for Than spirits, all paying the concentrated cost for these magics. Adepts of the Horned Society can use Than fetishes, using their Worship Thanatar ability [D+10] in place of Than Practice Knowledge when releasing the spirits, or learn feats from Tien. Practitioners of Than can learn Use [Grimoire] abilities and learn spells from those grimoires, or learn feats from Tien. Devotees of Tien can learn Use [Grimoire] abilities, or use Than fetishes, using their Worship Thanatar ability [D+10] in place of Than Practice Knowledge when releasing the spirits. The one magic that cannot so easily be stolen is the Cult and Practice Secrets of gods and spirits. Thanatar elite must heroquest mightily for even a fraction of these powers, and the discipline to succeed with such an exertion is foreign to most Thanatari━━this is why they joined a knowledge-stealing religion in the first place! Thanatari Gifts and Geases As followers of a Chaos entity, Thanatari of any faction receive random gifts. These are slightly adapted and updated from Nikk Effingham's list. Thanatar's Gifts d20 Gift Required Geases 1-2 +5 to all Atyar or Scholar keyword abilities 3 3-4 +5 to all Than or Thief keyword abilities 2 5-7 +5 to Shortsword and Shield Fighting 1 8-9 +10 to Shortsword and Shield Fighting 3 10-12 +5 to Garrotte Attack 1 13 Begin a Resist Fire/Sky Magic ability at 13 or raise it by +5 2 14-15 +5 to one Knowledge, Lore, or Mythology ability 1 16 Sprout ram's horns, which act as average weapons (HeroQuest page 78) 1 17 Skin/fur turns pitch black, and gives an automatic augment of +10 to hiding 2 18 Skin/fur toughens, and acts as light armor (HeroQuest page 78) 1 19 Receive a guardian as a spirit ally 3 20 Select one gift, and receive random geases. n/a Thanatar's Geases d20 Geas 1 Eat the flesh of sentient creatures at each meal. 2 Always eat the flesh of each victim. 3 Never use minted coins. 4 Never use an edged weapon. 5 Never speak to non-Thanatari. 6 Never ride an animal. 7 Wear no head protection. 8 Never go into sunlight or risk permanent blindness; roll your best defense versus the intensity of the light (usually from 14W2 to 14W3). 9 Never go into non-cult light or risk permanent blindness; roll your best defense versus the intensity of the light (usually from 14 to 14W3). 10 Never use fire in any form, including Darklight. 11 Gain a useful chaos feature at a rating of either 13 or your Worship Thanatar ability minus 20, whichever is higher. 12 Gain a detrimental chaos feature at a rating of either 18 or your Worship Thanatar minus 20, whichever is lower. 13 Always challenge Lhankor Mhy, Urox, or Storm Bull worshippers. 14 Never eat non-sentient plants. 15 Never wear metal other than tarnished silver. 16 Never eat the flesh of any cloven-hoofed creature. 17 Never lie to a fellow Thanatari. 18 Never harm an undead creation. 19 Never attack with a weapon. 20 Roll 1d20. On a roll of 1-10, roll two times and take both geases. On a roll of 11-15, roll three times and take all three geases. On a 16-20, you are favoured by Thanatar this time and receive no geas.
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  11. What makes a player character a great character to play? All too often, I see people asking the most toxic questions in numerous online venues, along the lines of "What if orcs stumbled across Xenomorphs?" or "What if a sorcerer were assimilated by the Borg?" - and I realised something awful recently. What made those questions toxic was that those questions were about nothing but combat. At least, within the confines of roleplaying games and popular entertainment. The unspoken questions were clear. "Would there be Xenomorph / orc hybrids with acid for blood, and what would they be like in a fight?" "would the Borg have all of their technology, plus magic, and what would they be like in a fight?" You might as well ask "what if cops became hybridised with sea lions, and what would they be like in a fight?" The Assumption of Combat Roleplaying is an offshoot of wargaming; and the assumption came down from wargaming that all encounters - literally all encounters - had to involve combat to the death. Players would spend hours poring over the rules minutiae in order to minmax their characters specifically to optimise their hit points and the damage they could inflict. The only measure of success in old school roleplaying was a character's brute strength, damage, and hit points, and one's body count: you could only gain XP through killing, and every class of monster had an attached XP value. Needless to say, this was not the most realistic of takes on life. New Kinds of Character Runequest, and all of its offshoots from Call of Cthulhu through to the modern BRP and Mythras, challenged players from that original old school fantasy roleplaying game, by having a character generation engine which allowed players to create characters who used different skill sets: skills which were not themed around combat at all. Standard Skills now included skills such as Dance and Sing; Professional Skills included Commerce, Courtesy. Oratory, and even Seduction. Track and Survival, Musicianship, Art, Craft, Lore, and Language spoke volumes about the expectations of player characters with actual down time lives, as artists, musicians, wilderness hunters, even trellis-climbing seducers a la Ninon de l'Enclos, one of history's forgotten seducers. Systems like Mythras allowed for sandbox play. A character could be dropped into the heart of a community such as, say, Fioracitta, and the player could choose their own adventure. A newcomer with a pretty strong Athletics skill could make their way to Prosoche or Little Fourche or Peligran and apply for a job in a Banevio fighting studio, training up in field and track sports, or developing Ride and becoming a jockey, or learning Swim and Boating and join a small ship's crew on Lake Lascha as a deckhand. New Assumptions Other games emerged such as Traveller, designed to reject this simplistic old school philosophy. Travellers' Hit Points do not bloat up as they progress, no matter how much their skills and bank balances improve. A master of firearms in Traveller is just as physically vulnerable as a one-term raw recruit fresh out of boot. This physical frailty forces players to think not only tactically, but to look for solutions other than combat. This is a philosophy which is present in BRP games systems, including Mythras. Call of Cthulhu is a game of cosmic horror, where entities are simply too powerful to kill. They very sight of them is enough to break player characters - now called Investigators, to reflect their new non-murderous role. CoC is a game where characters grow and develop as human beings, sometimes combat able and combat ready such as cops, soldiers and criminals, but despite the players' insistence on stocking up with weapons, very often the monsters win just by turning up and wafting a facial tentacle vaguely in their direction. Not long after the first roleplaying games arrived, games systems began to emerge whose assumptions were based around achievements other than murder, where players had to develop characters whose lives focused on non-combat activities, and where players had to develop tactics for social play or investigative play, rather than on brute force and ignorance. Admittedly, many modern roleplaying sourcebooks' combat chapters are still the biggest chapters in their books - but they do have sections on non-combat encounters, so that is encouraging. Social Conflict in Mythras Companion One of the most recent developments in Mythras was the Social Conflict chapter of Mythras Companion. This was a whole chapter devoted to the tactical application of social skills in a conflict, using the same kind of cut-and-thrust found in the Mythras Core Rulebook, but allowing characters and opponents to choose the skills they wanted to bring to bear in the conflict, not just Combat Styles. In the case of Social Conflict rules, Deceit versus Willpower became a thing, with a cunning deceiver's fast talk being bounced off the opponent's mistrust, or an Ellakan pitting Influence against a Fiorese citizen's Passion of Fear (Non-Itarrans). The Social Conflict rules allow for less physical kinds of conflict: battles of words and passions, of deceit pitted against angry rebuttals, of brute threats against scintillating wit, of seduction against Willpower. They allow for more dramatic interpersonal conflicts to unfold, where a character can be crushed without a single weapon being drawn, or wars declared, or won, or lost, with a careless tongue. The Social Conflict rules have opened up Mythras to scenarios based on social dramas as gripping as any found in TV shows, movies, or plays, the more traditional forms of mainstream entertainment. If Mythras Companion is not available, it is even possible to run scenarios based on social conflict or investigation using the rules found in the Mythras Core Rulebook on page 287. It is possible to run scenarios in Mythras without a single combat scene appearing anywhere, based entirely on the Core Rulebook's social conflict rules found in the Games Mastery chapter, and come away from the table feeling a sense of tension and anticipation of what could come in the next session. It is possible to develop a scenario where the players come to care about their characters, and the non-player characters who surround them in their daily lives. Deep Characters Mythras is a modern RPG product. As such, the character generation rules allow for the generation of some very deep kinds of characters. Their cultural backgrounds, careers, skill sets, family, connections, and background events all combine to produce characters who are more than just the sum of their Combat Styles, weapon stats, and Locational Hit Points. Characters can be generated who can handle themselves in an investigation (Perception, Insight, Influence, Deceit, Acting, Disguise, Stealth, Track, Seduction), a social situation which can range from political conflict as two representatives stand for election against one another, to a Battle of the Bands, pitting Musicianship against Sing, or even a dance-off, pitting Dance against Endurance. Mythras characters can be designed to handle any kinds of situations, from foot chases to competition horse races, to rescues at sea, to stealth infiltration of an enemy stronghold by water in the dead of night. There is so much variety available, that player characters can specialise - become master sorcerers, dedicated artists, and yes - even career soldiers, climbing the ladder of their martial Order, one battlefield promotion at a time. Note how martial promotions are not based on random combat encounters, but on such aspects of a character's makeup as valour and bravery in battle, quick thinking (e.g. taking over from a fallen General, and using Oratory to rally the panicking troops together to push for a decisive victory in the face of defeat) and leadership. Intangible qualities which aren't so much measured by numbers on a character sheet as which can come from the player behind the character. So, to answer the question, what makes a great player character? The answer can only be "the player," but the player has to learn to come to the game table with higher expectations than to run their character as a bunch of numbers on a sheet and lists of powers, with how those powers are used to kill and murder mooks like some video game. Players have got to learn that there is more to their characters than being murderhobos any more. Characters are, within the context of their game settings, people. They are a part of their communities, with loves and hates and fears and ambitions and aspirations; with allies and contacts to help them out, family and pets to take care of and care for,;and even rivals and enemies to keep them on their toes - and not in the sense of getting into a random rooftop fight with them like the Spandex crowd in a four-colour comic book. Great player characters are, above all, sentient beings (whether they are human, Bestia, Longane, Pelacur, or Bandaluk). And they become great when their players realise their characters' true potential (to be extensions of their personas) and play them accordingly.
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  12. No character exists in a vacuum. One of the most important, yet overlooked, aspects of Mythras gaming is connections - Allies, Contacts, even Rivals and Enemies. Much old school gaming tends to focus on player characters being self-contained agents of their lives, yet life doesn't work that way. Connections are part of every Session Zero. Every character should go through the process of creating a possible family, background events, and their Connections. This might seem like a waste of time to some players who might be champing at the bit for the chance to get into that dungeon and start slaughtering - but in fact, Connections can make the difference between a page full of empty, meaningless statistics, and a person whose achievements and accomplishments in adventures have meaning. Catalysts Connections can galvanise the player characters into action - problems arising in their lives can lead the characters into an adventure. Examples: - An old military buddy usually meets the characters every Monday afternoon to go bowling. On this Monday, he's not at his usual rendezvous, and the characters find that he is in the hospital with a stab wound in the back, and his home has been ransacked. The assailant was after something. There is one clue - their friend gave good fight, and landed a few telling blows, so they're looking for some guy who's as badly injured as their buddy is. - A younger family member has gone missing, and the characters have to track down her skeevy new associate, an older man. They track them down to a martial arts studio, where the older man discloses that she has been training under him to take on some college bullies. Now she, and the bullies, have gone dark. Nobody knows where they are, and the trainer hopes she won't get too much in trouble because she has been training with illegal kubotan melee weapons. - An old friend's father is dying, and his last words to the friend turn out to be a cryptic clue to a literally haunted treasure. Anchors Connections can keep the adventurers grounded. No matter how wild their adventures are, or where they go, the characters need someone to come home to, to share their lives and weird exploits. Apart from the characters themselves, their Connections might be the only people who are willing to entertain their wild war stories. - Some ex-service buddies hang around in a bar near the barracks, swapping war stories with some of the raw recruits who are allowed off base during furlough. - Former Banevio fighting school mystics gather around a fountain in a piazza in Semmi West and reminisce about the bouts they fought, and their old mentor, gone but not forgotten. - University alumni meet up once a month in one another's homes and talk about their urbex exploits in reputedly haunted houses, including an abandoned hospital where at least one of them can confirm that there is a definite presence, and it isn't some crook on the run, wearing a rubber monster mask to scare away the casuals. Networks Connections extend the characters' reach into places where the adventurers themselves cannot go. - A character with an Ally in one of the Familiar in Fioracitta could find a lead on a case which could drag the adventurer into a world of Fiorese organised crims or the Shadow Society. - An informant working for the Department could slip an agent a note under the door of the hotel she is staying in, with a warning that her cover's been blown and mercenaries are on their way to get her. - An associate of a notorious sorcery cabal can ask a Connection to deliver an invitation to haul them halfway across town to the cabal's chantry to talk about a possible job offer. - A friend of a friend of one of the Curators of The Occhiadero in Lascha District has obtained a copy of one of their tomes, teaching some vital Folk Magic the characters need. Backup Sometimes, the characters get into something they cannot handle. The Games Master can either have some of their Connections turn up (or pull strings and have some heavies go in to haul them out), or they can get the players to roleplay their Connections themselves, investigating the disappearance of the main characters. - That old buddy with the Family ties can call on the services of some friendly enforcers to back the characters' play if they are up against an overwhelming antagonist force. - The Banevio gym can send their finest students to help the characters to win a sporting contest for the honour of Little Fourche District against those Gioconda snobs. - That nice lady with the poison garden in Outer Gioconda can send spirits aplenty to help one of her Maledittara sisters on the spirit plane. Found Family Connections provide the adventurers with a found family, a place to belong, and a sense of involvement in a community. - The Department's teams are often closer than friends; closer than family. - Family is the place where nobody keep score or counts the favours owed. - 'ohana means family ... - Your mission, should you choose to accept it ... - It's time! Suit up, boot up and mask up! Brigadier Bay needs us! In The End The Connections forged during Session Zero should not be an afterthought. Whether they are the initial hook, the steadying influence, the backup, the found family, or the extension of the characters' reach, the Connections represent the ordinary people around whom the characters' lives revolve. As non-player characters controlled by the Games Master, the presence of Connections gives the Adventurers opportunities to communicate with the Games Master in character, in a way which avoids breaking the fourth wall and allows the players to remain in character. The Games Master can use the characters' Connections to help steer them towards answers when they are clueless; to warn them if they are about to try out something dangerous and stupid; and to give them roots into the background community they belong to. It's all about making the characters' stories meaningful and memorable, and giving the players something to really talk about at gaming conventions.
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  13. After a long break, we've finally gotten back to gaming. The US West Coast has had literally record breaking heat in the last three weeks and where I'm at, we had 3 100 F /38 C days in a row. Now, we've been described as 'the least air conditioned city in the US' [which really isn't fair considering the US also includes Anchorage and Fairbanks 😁], but it is true that the Puget Sound doesn't generally equip homes with A/C routinely. Add into all this a series of birthdays and COVID shot hangovers and, well, you see what I mean. As I put together this campaign, I realized that it would be smart of me to subtly use computer game tropes and styling for my players. While one, Aunt E, is an experienced RPG'er, the rest aren't and so I'm trying to work the typical CRPG pacing into the narrative. So far, I've done the following: - Shipwrecked the players, teaching them skill checks - Gave them the opportunity to salvage something from the wreck, teaching them magic spells, Magic Point and Rune Point use [yeah, the Float spell is DAMNED handy when you're trying to lug stuff from shipwreck to shore] - Had a minor fight [wolves], teaching combat and combat pacing - Had an encounter with a centaur, Khauros, providing a rest period. Next step, move the party towards civilization. The party wasn't made extraordinarily welcome by the centaur herd's stallion /chieftain, so Khauros suggested the group move on. However, there was a problem they could help the herd with. A cave nearby has served as the lair of 'beasts' and these beasts have attacked the herd. Centaurs are claustrophobic and don't crawl very well, so Khauros has offered to guide the party to civilization in exchange for dealing with the 'beast' threat. Enter 'the Cave of Stuff'. I took the Rainbow Mounds map from 'Apple Lane' and ran a section of it as my general map layout. The party entered the area, but failed the Plant Lore checks necessary to identify the mushrooms in the beginning chamber. Wisely, they did not test fate by trying to eat any. I put a shallow pool in the middle of the chamber and the party found a damaged Atalan helmet in it, which encouraged them. Moving onwards they found the courage to creep into the famous 'Pancake Cave'... a fan-shaped moderately smooth cave but with a very tight squeeze. They had to move on their hands and knees and some sections required them to squirm on their bellies. Once they reached the 'glittering stuff' they were attacked by several rat swarms. And here's the part that made me laugh... 3 party members, with one torch lit [reasonably sensible... they only had 4 torches] and the encounter called for 3d6 rat swarms. I reduced the party's attacks to their Fist Attack percentiles no matter what weapon they chose to use. The rat swarms has 2 AP and 9 HP and could do 1-3 pts. of bite damage with a 5% chance per wound of causing a disease. And I promptly rolled a 3 for the number of swarms. 😂🤣😆 After several rounds of combat, a couple of which were touch and go, the group finally defeats the rats. Only one party member took damage, but was kept alive by the good offices of the Initiate of Demeter and the payoff was worth it: 1 hauberk of 'barbarian' scale armor, one Atalan linothorax, and a VERY nice dagger. I almost reduced the loot, but the party could have faced as many as 18 rat swarms and I rolled that 3 fair and square. Beyond that, they also learned the lesson I was teaching about fighting in adverse conditions and teamwork. So I let them keep the goodies. It'll all need to be cleaned and repaired somewhat, but free armor is free armor. The session ended with our heroines exiting the cave, having used all their torches, but they're determined to reenter it very soon and complete the task Khauros has given them. Now I have to do some moderately serious writing. The group will heading into civilization soon and I have to give them enough information about Atalan and its society for them to roleplay with.
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  14. Intuition is a great guide for players in a scenario. Reason and logic are good, useful, solid tools for unlocking puzzles - but a player's intuition, the ability to induce rather than deduce, allows the characters to unlock understanding of what is going on in a story. An example: The city of Fioracitta. The Adventurers are sitting around a fountain in Piazza Centimani in Carbo District, carousing with soldiers and civilians, when they hear a loud boom in the distance - specifically, Old Town, where the Senate, Parliament, Hall of the Arti, San Tamaggia Temple and government bureaux are housed. A column of smoke rises into the air. They begin to hear the sound of many people screaming. The screams get closer, and louder. The soldiers, of course, run back to their units and get ready to receive deployment orders. What do the Adventurers do? Hopefully, your Adventurers' first reactiom should be to jump in and help; and then let their curiosity kick in. After all, it'll be they who solve the mystery and bring a miscreant and saboteur to justice. The Six Big Questions Every adventure scenario should have some element of investigation to it. Even if the adventure is not a whodunnit, there must be clues left around for the players to piece together a picture of what exactly is going on. Activity is what differentiates a mere dungeon crawl from an actual adventure. In a dungeon crawl session, your characters have little to do but to destroy the static, nameless, faceless opposition and carve their way through the ranks until they get to the boss fight - after which, the session ends with little else to do but to divvy up the treasure and hand out the Experience Rolls. In an adventure, the characters are not faced with static random monsters to fight to the death, an endless Hit Points grindhouse where the monsters and boss level beasts have no other purpose but to stand there and wait for the party to turn up. The adventurers are faced with beings who have something to do, and are often doing their jobs right in front of the player characters. In an adventure, the player characters might stumble across an orcish kitchen and hear the chef cussing out their subordinates - the adventurers can lend a hand and fetch more vegetables from the pantry, or become part of the meal if they displease the head chef too much. Out in the corridor, they might see orcs and assorted creatures scurrying along to and from the pantry, carrying heavy sacks. Again, they can try and figure out what it going on - sniffing the raucous riot of clashing spices coming from that noise-filled room at the end of the corridor, and perhaps deducing that it must be chow time for the orc barracks. It is the adventurers' job to ask loads of questions, if they are to make heads and tails of what is going on all around them. The questions are: What, Who, Where, When, How, and Why. To go back to the opening scenario:- What just exploded? What building was the target? What floor? What room? Who is injured? Who is missing? Who is dead? Who is responsible? Where is the source of the detonation? Where are the survivors? Where is the miscreant? When did they manage to sneak an explosive into the building? How did the miscreant sneak an explosive device into the building? How did they make their escape? Why did the miscreant target this building? To what end? As a Games Master, your job should be to be able to supply those answers to your players' satisfaction at any time. Whether they are asking all the right, mundane, questions, or they are using magic, they have got to know the answers, in order that they can come up with some sort of a cool idea of their own. Players' Intuition The best player character tool is their intuition - the characters'. and the players'. The more savvy the players, the better able they will be to come up with a half-decent plan, whatever that plan might be. Games Masters, if you are running sessions of longer than an hour - I recommend at least two hours, if not three or four - make sure to arrange for pauses in the action, particularly in the runup towards combat scenes. Five minute or ten minute breaks, at least one per hour, and a five minute break at the end of Session Zero, and another one between the last scene and the session or scenario wrap. At least one ten-minute break. These are, theoretically, for comfort breaks. But most players will likely wander off and huddle in a corner somewhere, or drop into a breakout room, and hatch a plan. This isn't cheating. In fact, it's the opposite. The players will want to plan something. Let them carry out their plan and let them win at it, with a few nailbiting setbacks of course. The objective of the breaks is to give them time to think of something they can do, to achieve the scenario's objective. If they feel they can pull it off, go for it. Cheating You might wonder if this is cheating, or that you might be giving the players an undue advantage. It isn't. They are supposed to enjoy the adventure, which means letting them work things out, letting them come up with a plan, and letting them earn their victories. The only time they can truly fail is for them to do nothing. Even Leeroy Jenkins' doom is better than doing nothing. You don't have to let them have their own way 100% of the time, mind you. That's why you need to have a few aces up your sleeve, to drop a few surprise roadblocks along their road to victory. The unexpected moments when things did not run smooth will make their victories taste all the sweeeter, and they'll be telling the stories to newbies for years. Games Master's Intuition Players are not the only ones to need intuition. As Games Master, you are responsible for the adventure to run smooth, even if the players' perception of the adventure is the opposite. Remember, you can also ask the Big Six Questions at any time, such as:- What would be the worst thing to happen to the adventurers right now? Who would be the least welcome non-player character to drop in on the characters unannounced (pick a Rival or bitter Enemy) Where are their exits? When would be a good time to drop in inconvenient reinforcements? How can the bad guy escape from a hail of arrows touched by Bypass Armour? Why is there a need to have the boss monster just stand there, when they can use their superior knowledge of nhe ins and outs of this place to set up traps to incapacitate the adventurers? How can I bring this battle scene to a swift close? What can I do to incapacitate them rather than kill them? As Games Master, you need your intuition to help you make the best decisions at any given time to keep the narrative and immersion going smoothly, even if all your plans and theirs just fell to bits through a few lousy die rolls on both sides. You must be able to go from Plan A to winging it, in such a way that the players can never see the join. Conclusion Both the players and the Games Master must make good friends with intuition - the players, to figure out what's happening and to work out plans; and the Games Master, to make decisions intended to keep the game running smoothly and remain entertaining for both the players and themselves as Games Masters. Don't be afraid to let the players work out plans and not include you. See, the thing is, if they're coming up with a scheme, whether it's whip-smart or dumb as rocks ... they are doing most of the heavy work for you. If they have a plan, be prepared to ditch yours in favour of theirs, because they will be entertaining themselves - and you. And who can find fault in that?
    1 point
  15. Here and now “What do you want to know? My name? Which one? You already know all of them. My friends and my family call me Aendel, so let’s use that. Where to start? The beginning? My mother, Jareen Londrosdottr, gave birth to me during the fourth year of Dangmet’s reign, the wWild day of the Truth week, during the great Umath season. My clan was the Taraling. Here, my kin count lots of kings, such as Leika my lovely cousin, Kangharl the shameful, unfortunate Kallay and many more. My father has nothing to be ashamed of with his lineage. But I discovered this point when I (just) was a young adult. My mother wanted me to become king. She planned, acted and manipulated for her obsession. She obtained a good position in the Runegate Earth temple and was selected to incarnate Ernalda at the Spring fest. In exchange for favours, she obtained a noble warrior as her Orlanth. She explained to me later that he was visiting the clan before moving far away, so he was a good candidate, allowing her to educate me like she wanted, without having to convince a “bull” of her choices. Of course, she sacrificed all the few resources she had and Ernalda blessed her pregnancy. She gave birth to the wonderful baby who now sits in front of you. And mother started my education. She taught me all our lineage. She taught me all the Heortling laws a king must know to lead his people. She taught me how to order and convince a crowd, to manage a house. When other boys discovered woods and rivers, stones and sticks, I recited Vingkot’s story. Fortunately, sometimes, I was able to escape her attention, and seeking to resemble my unknown father, I trained with my sword. Alone. With such a weird education, few children wanted to play with me. Some did, but I quickly discovered they were forced to by their parents, who hoped to gain some social benefits in the future. That was a bad bargain. I refused these false friendships, and, angry and wounded by such lies, I swore to always tell the truth. And then the drama came. We had to flee out of our clan land from Lunar invaders. Mother decided to reach for Boldhome. I think she planned to impress the Prince, to make some alliances and to place me in the court. The plan would be great…. if the Lunars were defeated. When she saw the forces beyond the ramparts, she kissed me, ordering me to follow my destiny, to become the great leader she dreamed of. And she joined the army, and she was in the front line, and she died, bravely, spitting her blood in the face of her murderer. Here is my fate, by my blood and my will, by the winds and the truth, I was born to be king. All my choices are dedicated to that. And nobody, nothing, not even you, will prevent me from accomplishing my destiny.”
    1 point
  16. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). (Another note: we didn’t have another session this last weekend because I was sick and Androgenus’s player’s partner had a death in the family, so I’m posting the rest of our last session now--sorry for the delay!) DRAMATIS PERSONAE Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss. She holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Right now, she’s also finding that staying conscious is just as hard, but more on that later. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. Creator of Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™, and now seriously considering adding his fellow adventurers to the list after being captured by mythic Sun Empire soldiers. In fact, the party got their butts handed to them so badly by the onrushing troopers that he did the previously unthinkable and surrendered! Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They’ve found themselves trapped in Myth with the rest of their companions, and capture by Sun Empire soldiers who sense a strange, unknown (to them) power in the weird little Trickster. They’re utterly convinced that their “best friend Waddlestomp” (their own words) will come save them--despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. And, of course: K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude). A warrior priest of Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, K'dud holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. Though and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it, renaming his core trait Volcano Himbo. And he’s going to make good use of that trait in the second part of this session… ...because we came back to the action (after the first half of the session’s argument over whether or not a Hueymakti warrior would ever surrender) with Iris drowning in a sacred pool beneath an enslaved river-dragon, and K’dud (barely) fighting off fish spirits under the command of, to his astonishment, the same Merfolk hero that the PCs had thought they’d slain in the last session! Stunned by this revelation, K’dud failed in a contest against the hero (using his Fire rune versus the hero’s Water rune) and was trapped in a bubble of crushing, ice-cold water. The Merfolk introduced himself...and I realized with horror that I forgot to name a critical NPC. Immediately, Androgenus’s player suggested “Fssh,” after a fish-man barbarian hero from a Dungeon World livestream performed by the Canadian comedy group LoadingReadyRun. Everyone groaned. They then suggested “Bruce,” after the shark from Finding Nemo, and decided to try a supposedly Australian accent that sounded more vaguely South African than anything else. Everyone groaned louder. Then Iris’s player suggested “Sashimi,” and weirdly enough, everyone agreed. Thus, the Merfolk hero was named S’shiim, holder of the Water, Storm, Death, and Mastery runes, hero of the vile, slimy, fangly-jawed Ysabbau, Breaker of Ships, Drowner of Cities, and current questor for Magasta. Well, to put more of a fine point on it, questor for Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and spouse of Magasta. I gave Iris a Hero Point for coming up with the name, which she promptly used to barely regain consciousness and struggle to shore while S’shiim was distracted with the fire priest. “What do you want from us?! Why harry us like this, fishman?!” exclaimed K’dud. “Me?!” burbled S’shiim, “You worthless dirt-crawlers are hunting me through my people’s most sacred story! Your interference will ruin everything!” “Huh?” asked K’dud, rolling (and getting a decent success with) his Volcano Himbo Trait to convince S’shiim to monologue about what’s going on and give the heroes an exposition dump. Meanwhile, (as I cut back to Androgenus and Waddlestomp and made the other two players groan with anticipation), Waddlestomp and Androgenus were being brought to the island’s governor, Iramat. Androgenus was in fiery chains, Waddlestomp was being warily surrounded by soldiers, but otherwise unmolested. The bickering twosome were dragged before Iramat’s marble throne in the center of a garishly-painted, palatial villa overlooking the waterfall (which, close up, could be seen to be a captured Water Dragon!). I described the throne “room” as an opulent, gold-and-jewel-set pavilion of sorts, with two sides open to the courtyard, one to the cliffside, and one leading deeper into the palace. It was the governor’s meditation garden as well as seat of governance, with a rock garden, reflecting pool (in fact a spring, with a small stream flowing out from it that left the throne room and rushed forth to join the raging cataract beyond), and elegant mural depicting Yelm’s Celestial Court and the birth of a solar deity. “Barbarian filth,” drawled the governor, barely able to look up from the sand painting he was working on, “You stand accused of violating the sanctity of Secret Cradle Island. Before executing you, have you anything to say?” “Secret what nrrfghg--” began Androgenus, before being gagged by the nearest guard. They glared at the guard, struggling against the chains. “We apologize, O mighty lord,” quacked Waddlestomp, to Iramat’s evident amusement, “But we had no idea where we were. Our ship was run aground of the reef during a storm, and we came ashore to gather supplies and repair our vessel before continuing on. We meant no trespass.” I had Waddlestomp roll his Truth rune’s breakout ability Zone of Truth versus Iramat’s Arrogant Sun Empire Bureaucrat ability, and Waddlestomp scored a respectable success. Showing his Truth rune shining forth, Iramat scratched at his beard and considered this. “You speak truly….obviously, but still, I know not why a….mutated Keet? Whatever you are, you and your….” Iramat stared quizically at Androgenus. “Pleasure slave?” Waddlestomp managed to choke back a violent response (with a bare success against his Humakti Geas: Suffer No Insult Without Violence Flaw, as Waddlestomp would see any intimation that he would be intimate with any human, much less this human, as a deadly insult) and Androgenus went from grumbling to laughing uproariously behind their gag. “...or whatever they are, you have no right to come here. By decree from the Sun Himself, any but those without his personal authorization on this island must die. It has ever been thus since the creation of this island. I see no harm in telling you, for you will die anyway, I suppose: in ancient days, Yelm once favored a concubine called Tihs, a minor goddess no people pray to in these times. Yelm’s affection sparked vicious jealousy among his Court, who sought to hurt the object of his affection since they could not hurt Him. When Tihs was with child, she was hidden away—here—and though she died bringing the Forgotten Sun into the world, neither she nor the holy child were ever found by their enemies. To this day, the most important treasures of the Golden Empire have been hidden here. Any outsiders must be slain, by order of the Sun Himself.” Waddlestomp considered this. It certainly explained all the finery around the place, and the heavy guard. ...meanwhile, at the bottom of the cliff… Exasperated (and somewhat entranced by) K’dud’s handsome cluelessness, S’shiim launched into the story of How Magasta Won the Hand of Brastalos. Before the Sea claimed the world, Magasta was alone, and sought companionship. No lord or lady of His domain would join with him as his spouse, or even his mate. Magasta loved many, but few loved him in return. Then he met Brastalos. (“Who?” “Shut up and the merperson will tell us, K’dud.” “Oh.”) Lady of the No-Wind, Queen of the Cyclone, Daughter of the First Storm, Spray-Twinkling, Still-And-Moving, Umath’s paradox daughter. Magasta saw her frolicking in the clouds above his domain and knew he had to have her. Singing a song of roaring beauty that reminded her of her own lusty brothers’ cries, Brastalos came to the edge of Magasta’s waters and sang back. The two loved one another from their first glance. Magasta desired her for his spouse, not merely a mate of convenience. Brastalos desired this, too, but knew that proud Umath would not consent to give his daughter to an upstart Water Lord. “But there is another way,” said fair Brastalos. (“Wait, I thought ‘there is always another way’ is an Earth Goddess thing?” “That’s a lot of gods’ thing, K’dud. Shut up.”) Magasta whistled in confusion. “The Bad Emperor seeks stillness in all things, and punishes my father by stripping his greatest treasures from him. He refuses to allow the Air People to have a place in the way of things. To cow my father and my brothers, he took our peoples’ regalia to a secret place. Find the treasure stolen by the Sky People. With it, my bride price will be paid, and my father shall have no choice but to let us claim one another. Brastalos accepted this, and with a kiss soft as a breeze set off to reclaim his love’s treasure from the Sky People. Foolishly, they set their dirt-loving hovels at the edge of His domain to taunt him. With crashing waves and rushing torrent, he drowned them, swept their huts into the sea, and picked through the remains. He found a few baubles, but not a treasure worthy of the Storm. Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things-- (“Wait, I thought Merfolk’d like boats, ‘cause, well, they’re water things, right? Both of them are water things?” “...Neither of us have time to explain how wrong that is right now. Shut up..” “But--” “Shut Up!” “Thank you, S’shiim.” “Don’t mention it. Now where was I? Ah, yes…”) Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things across Magasta’s realm, furtively sneaking treasure stolen from other peoples they had oppressed for too long. Magasta went in search of the boats, led by the young scouts of the Gull People. He called Six-Mouthed-Deep to devour the boats of Admiral Savatilan and spit the treasure out into Magasta’s grotto, but no Air treasures were to be found. He chased the flagship helmed by Captain Never-Runs-From-Battle into the Dragon Eye Atoll and sucked it down to the seabed, but although the cargo was rich with strange spices and pelts, it had no Air treasures. Finally, Keehar, youngest scout of the Gull People, found a ship hidden by powerful magic. It was found by looking at where a ship should have been, but wasn’t. Magasta called his kinsman Charax, he of the many rows of teeth, and bade him chase the ship to its destination. Charax did so, but the captain was too wily, and sailed in a wide circle around the port they sought until Charax got tired and swam away to seek prey. Magasta howled in frustration--if the Gull People could only barely find the ship, if his fearsome cousin couldn’t track it, and if they wouldn’t stay still to meet him in battle, then how could he find the bride price? He wept, and hearing his sobs, Brastalos stood at the edge of his realm and sang. She sang of lost hope, of a happy life with Magasta that may not be, of her rage at how she was kept from having a place in the cosmos--not only by Yelm the Bad Emperor, but by her father, Umath. The rage in her song became a storm, and the storm trapped the treasure ship on a reef just before it reached its destination. Magasta and his warriors stormed the ship and found one of the treasures, Umath’s favorite arm-ring. The others had already been hidden away, but Magasta learned from the captain where they had gone: Secret Cradle Island, where a forgotten solar god was hidden as he was born. No island was hidden from Magasta. He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon-- (“Wait, this dragon?” “Yes, that dragon, now shut the hell up!”) He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place-- (“I’m sorry, but how in Magasta’s holy name can you stand travelling with this man?” “He’s handsome, and he punched a hole all the way through your chest like it was nothing.” “....Fair point. Where was I?” “The dragon?” “What dragon? Oh, that dragon. The dragon. Yes. A-hem:”) He befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place. Its name was Oraka, and it was the dragon of a secret spring deep under the Earth. A creature of great Darkness and Water, the island’s governor cruelly forced it out into the light to serve as would a hermit crab use an anemone growing on its shell. Magasta took pity on the great beast, and with a mighty pull snapped the chains binding to dragon to the cliff side. In gratitude, Oraka swore a life debt to the lord of the deeps. He let Magasta swim up him to his source, where the governor had reshaped a holy spring to a reflecting pool for his own vanity. The greedy governor, puffed up with his own self-importance, was set to guard Yelm’s most coveted treasures, here on an island that nobody knew of. He saw himself as Yelm’s most trusted servant, and his arrogance knew no bounds. But yet, he was bored. Guarding a treasure hoard that was not sought after led to no challenges save wringing recognition from a distant Emperor, and he always craved distraction. Wily Magasta, hidden in the spring, took on the form of a beautiful water nymph. He sung a song that inflamed the governor’s lust, and, beguilingly, called the governor to tryst with him in the spring. The jaded man leapt into the water, where Magasta drowned him and stepped out from the spring, wearing his shape. Magasta then had the governor’s guards lead him to the vault. There, he found astounding wealth! Treasures robbed or extorted as tribute from all manner of the world’s peoples and gods. There was Lodril’s first Spear, still smoldering with heat. There was the Crown of Mastery, surging with such power that even Emperor Yelm could not wear it without risk. There were Rastalos’s Rings, used by the primeval trickster to amuse the Celestial Court. And, of course, in pride of place, was Umath’s tribal regalia, as cold as the wind, as bright as lightning. Magasta took the treasures he sought and fled the palace, leaping atop Oraka as the palace guards found the drowned corpse of their lord. Magasta’s laughter and Oraka’s roars of rage sunk the island beneath the sea, drowning the Sky People and their stolen treasures forevermore. Magasta rode Oraka across the sky to Umath’s grotto, where he was greeted coldly by his son Storm-Thane and belligerently by his other son Hurt-Everything. “I have come for the hand of Brastalos!” He called, and when the Air gods laughed, he threw Umath’s stolen treasures at their feet. “I offer a bride price: your honor, so long ago taken from you by the Bad Emperor.” Umath scowled, for he was loathe to let his daughter marry such a lowly Water lord, for such was Magasta at this time. “Trinkets cannot buy the heart of my daughter,” he growled, and made to turn his back. Storm-Thane saw his sister’s dismay, and said, “I guess we won’t be getting the Bag of Winds back, father. Oh, or the Widebrew Cauldron, too, we’ll miss that at feasts. And oh, look! You’re rather generously allowing Magasta to keep your favorite arm-ring, the one that duplicates itself every season?” Umath made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and looked at Brastalos, who was beaming at Magasta with loving pride. “They are beneath you,” he rumbled, like a thunderclap. “And they always will be,” whispered Brastalos, taking Magasta’s hand, “But they will ever be my equal. The fates of Sea and Storm will forevermore be joined, for good or ill.” Umath saw that he could not disobey his daughter’s heart-wish, and allowed the match. Magasta took Brastalos to their grotto. Although she could not stand to live beneath the Water, she ever stayed near her spouse, circling around him as currents encircle the whirlpool. And there she remains to this day. “That was...beautiful…” breathed K’dud, after a while. Then he looked confused. “But what does it have to do with—“ Iris groaned and slapped her forehead. “The myth, you, you—rragrh! We’re stuck in the myth! S’Shiim was—is—heroquesting to re-enact the myth, this myth, the story of Brastalos’s Bride Price, yes?” “Yes,” Burbled S’shiim, still staring at K’dud incredulously. “The attack on your ship was when my lord Magasta attacked the hidden ship in a storm, and found the location of Secret Cradle Island. Though you fended us off and wounded me terribly, I still learned of the island. And now, I must navigate the rest of this sacred story with you dirtcrawlers in the flotsam, messing everything up.” “Oh. Oh,” said K’dud, realization dawning. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry! How can we help?” S’shiim and Iris looked at him, dumbfounded. I had K’dud roll for his Volcano Himbo Trait again, opposed by S’shiim’s Haughty Merfolk Hero Trait, and he got a critical success against a critical failure! Despite himself, S’shiim began laughing. He couldn’t help but like the empty-headed firehunk, and said, “I...I don’t know. But any assistance you can grant in freeing the dragon so I may resume the story would be gratefully accepted. I admit, the wounds you dealt me almost threw me from the storypath. And now—“ All of a sudden, there was an almighty roar, and the water dragon thrashed above— —as the governor of the island called Oraka to heel. I moved the action back a few minutes, and gave the PCs a chance to explain themselves. Waddlestomp had decided that blunt honesty was the best way of things. “We were traveling by ship to a distant land,” he said, “And were attacked by merfolk. Water people,” he continued, looking at the governor’s incredulous expression. “They stranded us on the reef out there—“ he pointed a wing to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir!, now surrounded by Golden Empire longboats bearing warriors, “—And we came ashore only to gather supplies before heading on.” “Ah, the cargo ship,” said Iramat, the myth easily slotting the She’s One Of Ours, Sir into the role of the treasure ship. “Bearing the latest addition to the vault. Why didn’t you say?” “Cargo...ship?” Asked Waddlestomp, looking at Androgenus, who wordlessly gestured for the Duck to play along. “Right. Yes. Cargo ship. The ship indeed carries cargo, and we are here,” finished Waddlestomp, lamely. “Yes. If you had but sent word, you would have received aid, not spears. Now...water people, you say? They attacked you?” Waddlestomp nodded. “Ah. In that case, there is a risk, however slight, that they have tracked you here. No matter, however. Let me call the guard—“ and with a wave of his hand, the waterfall started falling upwards, spraying ice-cold water over the palace. Oraka’s chains tightened, the dragon RRROOOOAAARRED, and reared above the palace, circling it in midair, sniffing and snuffling for signs of intruders. “Oraka, the dragon of this place. He serves Yelm now, as do we all. He shall find these water people, and devour them! Have no fear, little Keet. Your diligence does you credit.” Below, S’shiim started screaming in anguish. We ended the session there, on a cliffhanger, and me desperately trying to figure out where to take the game from here.
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  17. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They are attempting to explore the mysteries of Illumination without a teacher—without any type of teacher—and are beginning to wonder whether or not existence is worth all the trouble. They’re also being watched very closely by... Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. His quest to avenge his people has hit a small speed bump while he’s been pressganged into helping Iris conquer the Three Step Isles (see below). In the meantime, his patented Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™ has just gained a new member: Androgenus, after the cowardly Trickster abandoned him in the middle of a merfolk fight last session. Currently mourning the loss of his enchanted shield in that same fight, and nursing some serious wounds. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also his sons Gustbran and Kalvan. He holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes, and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it—and renamed his core Trait in the process. More on that later. And last but certainly not least: Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss, who holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Plus, she’s also having to deal with a smuggler captain who blames her and her alone for getting their ship stranded in the middle of someone else’s mythos... That’s right, this session opened in the God Time. I revealed that right at the start by calling for everyone to roll against their strongest Runes, with the possible consequences for failure being that they’d be even more confused by what was about to happen than normal. Everyone passed—except K’dud, which became a running theme. Therefore, everyone except K’dud twigged onto what was going on and where they were immediately. As the red sun dawned over multicolored, shimmering waves, wind spirits and fish spirits visibly dancing about them, everyone (including most of the NPCs present on their ship, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir), except K’dud, realized they were not in the material world, but in the Godplane! Iris got it first: they were probably sucked into the God Time during the storm, which did seem even more violent and magical than usual. Her Spirit Rune glowed brightly, showing that they were closer to the spirits, clueing her into the magic all around her. Then Androgenus understood another nugget of what was going on with his Beggar background Trait, he recognized snippets of a story he’d heard from Triolini dock workers in his youth. He recalled the tale of Magasta, God of the Seas, fighting the Fire Tribe, plundering treasure ships and coastal settlements for the bride-price of Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and Sea Storms. The last session’s fight against the merfolk during the storm, and the island they were marooned in front of, both seemed familiar to them somehow, but they couldn’t recall any more details other than that they were definitely trapped somewhere in a merfolk myth. Then Waddlestomp, with his Death Rune affinity, sensed the presence of another great dealer of Death—the Merfolk Hero from the battle, still somehow alive, despite the grievous wounds that K’dud had inflicted on him! He advised the rest of the party to be wary-that kind of Hero seldom leaves a task unfinished, particularly if they got swept up into a Heroquest. Meanwhile, K’dud stared overboard and gawked at the brilliantly-colored fish flitting around the oyster-covered reef below. He was interrupted by the ship’s captain. The damage to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir had been repaired in such a way that the boat was literally pinned in place by a chunk of oystery coral; more extensive repairs were required to actually move the ship, which would take materials that just weren’t on hand. The mythical tropical island laid out before them, however, looked like it had plenty of wood, fresh water, and perhaps food. Everyone knew the risks inherent in foraging—for supplies in the God World—travel is dangerous even if you knew the story you are traveling through. Going blind through another culture’s myths? That was tantamount to very incompetent suicide. But they needed to do it. The adventurers set out in a longboat for shore with a work party of sailors; they were looking for fresh water, some food, and enough timber to repair the ship. Waddlestomp made sure that he was sitting riiiiiight next to Androgenus, so the Trickster didn’t start any funny business. “I don’t know what’s on that island, but I swear by Hueymakt’s cloaca that when shit goes down, if you so much as twitch wrong, Androgenus,” muttered Waddlestomp out of the corner of his beak, “You die first. Get me?” Androgenus nodded and smiled, apparently happy to hear it. “Glad to know you’re back to normal. How’s the arm?” They responded. Waddlestomp’s arm had been impaled by the merfolk Hero the previous session. “All the better for you to mind your own business, mammal,” grunted the thane, giving Androgenus the world’s biggest stink-eye. (The players cracked up at this: Waddlestomp’s player acted this out through his webcam and everyone started making jokes about The Rock that went on for about thirty minutes.) The boat made landfall with nary a sound on an isolated, picturesque beach. Iris Called Up Local Spirits (swiftly becoming her favorite stunt), secretly opposed by the watchful eyes of the island’s mythic guardians. With a marginal failure, she learned where a good supply of fresh water would be—the base of the waterfall that could be seen from the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, and furthermore that the pool had a decent population of fish for the ship’s larder. Iris led the way, tailed by K’dud (who kept gawping at everything with a slack jawed “Gosh!” Every few minutes). Androgenus and Waddlestomp stayed behind to help out the smugglers and hoplites that were busy chopping down a decent-sized tree that stood a few yards back from the beach’s treeline. Androgenus managed a critical success against their Paranoid flaw, so we ruled that they were jumpy, but justifiably so—they could tell that they were being watched by something, and not just the local spirits. They alerted Waddlestomp, who grudgingly stood on guard as well, contemptuous as he was of the Trickster’s flighty antics. As the crew got to work knocking down the tree, they were proven right! Out of the trees, a band of gold-armored, flame-armed warriors sprang, instantly cutting down a handful of the workmen and putting the others to rout. As the crew fled down the beach and Waddlestomp met burning bronze with killing Truesword, we “cut” to Iris, K’dud, and their crew contingent. Iris led them to an eerily tranquil pool underneath a roaring waterfall. Roaring, as it so happened, because it was actually an enormous Water Dragon, chained to the cliff with ropes of pure dancing sunlight! Immediately, they were set upon by a trio of fish spirits that leapt up from the pool. K’dud’s Bronze Arms Style (tied to his Fire rune) burned away two of the fish, but not before the third savaged Iris with snapping jaws and razor-edged fins. The moss priestess was knocked into the pool, barely conscious and no doubt doomed to drown... ...And we cut back to Waddlestomp and Androgenus. Androgenus got a solid success with their Luck rune's breakout ability Clumsy Curse against the onrushing soldiers, making many of them drop their weapons and shields in their charge down the beach. Waddlestomp used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to great effect, laying many of the soldiers low and holding their attention long enough for the She's One Of Ours, Sir's crew to escape back to the longboats and row hard for the reef. But it wasn't quite enough--Androgenus found themself swiftly found by soldiery searching the trees, surrounded with a flaming spearheads, then wrapped in scintillating chains of fiery light. Waddlestomp merely took a good luck at the wave after wave of fire-clad, weirdly identical warriors that were streaming down the beach towards him, and did the unthinkable for a Hueymakti warrior: He laid down his sword and surrendered. This started a bit of an out-of-character argument, and also was the midpoint of our session. I'll recap the other half of the session soon! We took a mid-session break with Iris struggling for consciousness in a deep, dark pool, K'dud barely fending off fish spirits, Androgenus and Waddlestomp captured, and four players arguing vehemently about whether or not Waddlestomp's god would let him surrender.
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  18. The Brothers were discouraged. They looked around at the busy, bustling fortified village. Warriors were talking, drinking and gambling. Where are we asked Wulfhere and where is Grim's Dyke? The man grinned and motioned them to look to the northwest. See that dyke stretching into the distance? That’s Grim's Dyke. Built by giants long ago. There was a great earthwork that stretched to the northwest into the dusk. This is Grim’s Dyke Burgh. The Brothers were beginning to find Angle humour hard to take and if they had not been so tired, they might have started an argument. Uthric asked if Ealdorman Wiglaf was here and if so would he see three travellers? I think he might, replied the man, but not at present. This turned out to be another bit of Angle humour and when they complained that they came from a place where people talked plainly and not with riddles or sarcasm the man grew grumpy and told them that if they insisted on asking stupid questions, they would get stupid answers. Southerners have no sense of humour. The Thane in Grim's Dyke Burgh was Wictred and he was more approachable than the guard at the gate. He was interested that the Brothers had seen five Wealsc, as the Angles called the Britons. Wealsc means foreigners, which is a bit ingenious thought Wulfhere as the Britons lived here before either Angles or Saxons came to this land. Still it serves a purpose and gets us fired up against the Britons. Wictred praised Uthric and suggested he might be known as Eagle-eye. Often Wealsc scouts move through the countryside unseen. The first thing that a person knows that there are Wealsc around is when a spear suddenly sprouts from your chest. Wictred laughed at his own joke and added that it is also usually the last thing you notice too. When he had calmed down somewhat, Wictred gave the brothers more ale and asked them for their news. Wulfhere, as eldest, explained they had travelled from Portus Caester to talk with Wiglaf. Wictred commented that he wasn't sure where Portus Caester was, but he considered that the Brothers must have important business with Wiglaf to come into Mierce. But that discussion would have to wait a while longer, for unfortunately, Wiglaf had left and gone to Mershford before last Midsummer. He was using Mershford as a base to attack the Wealsc. Mershford was only two days travel on the Old Road, however he did not expect the brothers would meet Wiglaf there as it was summer and he would have taken his Warband north in search of plunder. The next day the brothers travelled to Danasted. They met a Warband on the way in a temporary encampment. The Warband had come off worst in a fight with the Wealsc and were recovering before moving on. Towards evening they arrived at Danasted which was a fortified camp and were given lodging and food after they had chopped wood and carried water to the communal kitchens. They left early in the morning eager to get to Mershford. On the way, Eagle-eyed Uthric again saw some men watching them. This time they were Angles, who waved at them from a distance, after reaching the conclusion the Brothers were not enemy troops. At Mershford, they learnt from Thane Offa that Wiglaf had returned to Mershford a moon ago but had returned to a city in the north called Ratae. Wiglaf had stormed the city last harvest time and was fortifying it. Offa counselled against going. The Wealsc are thick around here and if it is not urgent business with Wiglaf they should stay. The Brothers disagreed saying that the business could not wait for Wiglaf to return. Offa gave them hospitality but remarked that the Wealsc were likely to kill them and their business would be unfulfilled. Dunstan thanked him and said that he, for one, had other plans than to die at the hands of the Wealsc. The Brothers thought Offa a gloomy man and wondered how a gloomy man could brew such good ale. Ratae was five days travel north and they got directions when they bid farewell to Offa. The days travel took them to Tondbertsburgh, a fortified village that straddled the road and even had market stalls. Some of the buildings had been built by the old people. Particularly impressive was a temple and a place where you could have a bath. The Thane, Tondbert, would not see them and eventually they left his hall to find food and shelter. Tondbertsburgh was a meeting point where the Old people’s road met with another road that seemed to be made from white stone. It shone faintly in the moonlight. A man who had watched them look at it told them had been made by Thunor driving his goat driven cart to get to the Western sea. Uthric did not think it was impressive as the old people's stone roads even if it glowed in the moon and suggested Thunor might be better employed killing giants. The man laughed and asked if all Saxons held similar views about the gods? Wulfhere said that the Brothers thought for themselves and did not listen to wet nurses’ stories. During the next day’s travel, they saw a large Warband moving across their path in the distance going westwards. The Warband had mounted scouts or perhaps even some of the feared British Horse warriors. The horsemen rode closer but did not interfere. Uthric said they were Britons and what was odd is that woman and children were in the warband. They discussed the fact that the Angles might have killed so many British warriors that they now had to use children to fight. If this was indeed the case said Dunstan, Briton would soon belong to the Saxons and Angles. Even the Jutes could have some more land if children were involved in warfare said Wulfhere. The Brothers watched as the Warband moved on. They arrived at Pendaburgh shortly after dark and were only admitted when they had been closely questioned. Pendaburgh was an impressive fortification which had both ramparts and ditches. There were ruins of old people's homes outside the fortification and one of their burial grounds on a hill opposite. It looked as if someone had dug up the graves, no doubt looking for gold. They thought the old people had been clever builders but they obviously did not understand military defence as they had built so many of their homes outside the walls of the Burgh. No wonder that their houses were now burnt and they were no longer here. They gave news to the Thane Penda and asked for directions to Ratae which they were told was two days at a fast pace. Travelling the next day was hard. They met a Thane called Aelfryth and ten of his Carls coming from Ratae. The Thane told them to be careful as there were lots of Wealsc in the area. The Brothers said they had made it this far and as their luck was excellent they expected to reach Ratae without much problem but to be on the safe side they asked Aelfryth for his advice. Aelfryth told them the directions and when they got to the crossroads they should leave this road and travel east. They should reach Ratae by tomorrow night if all went well. That evening they reached the place where two of the old people's roads crossed. It was marked by a building that had a roof but no walls. On the roof was an orb and a cross. Dunstan wondered if the old people didn't feel the cold or perhaps their water heaters kept them warm. The other two had no opinion on the matter and were more concerned about having somewhere safe to sleep. The next day they took the new road that went to the northeast and at sunset reached the city of Rate. They were directed to Wiglaf's fort known as Caer Leonis. The old people's city, though still grand, was mostly deserted. but Wiglaf's halls were bustling with warriors. The fortifications were still being repaired and there were pieces of wood seemingly abandoned by the woodworkers everywhere. Wiglaf invited them into his hall to hear the news and their business. He welcomed them warmly when they told him they were Hrothgar's sons and cleared some of his Carls from the top benches to give them a place of honour. Wiglaf was saddened by their mother's dream. He had been fond of Hrothgar and had invited him to stay and make his home here. But Hrothgar had wanted to go back to Hildegard. Your mother must be very special for Hrothgar to leave me for her he laughed. Dunstan was told by a man sitting beside him that it was the first time the Ealdorman had laughed in days and that the Brothers should come more often. There had been a slave revolt a few days ago and all had escaped with a Wealsc princess called Ydwina. The warriors were glad she had gone as she caused strife among them and Wiglaf had lost interest in doing anything except being with her. The opinion of the warriors was that Ydwina was a sceadugenga and it was well she had gone. Wulfhere and Uthric, on hearing the story, told Wiglaf of the Wealsc warband they had seen and they had commented on the woman and children in the group. Wiglaf became excited and pressed the Brothers for information, particularly if there was a blonde-haired woman amongst the Warband. Wulfhere said he could not say for certain if there had been as his attention had been more focused on the Horse warriors that had ridden close. Uthric told Wiglaf he was known as Eagle-eye and was certain he had seen a woman of outstanding beauty with golden hair leading the woman and children. Wiglaf got more excited and knocked over his horn of ale calling for one of his Thanes and spent time in private conversation with him. The warriors seated near to Uthric gave him hard stares but he ignored them and told an amusing story of hunting rabbits When Wiglaf returned he apologised for being a poor host. He asked the Brothers their intentions and how he could be of help. Wulfhere asked about the message that Hrothgar delivered and could that have been the cause of treachery. Wiglaf said he would not think that was important. Aelle had wanted to know if Wiglaf would join him in an expedition. Wiglaf had replied by asking the King for his terms in the deal which he said meant no as he did not want to form an alliance with a Saxon king. Uthric then asked what had been his opinion of Beorthric and Wilfrith but Wiglaf said he had no opinion on either as he recalled neither of them. He did ask his Carls if anyone had anything to add and one said that Wilfrith had a gambling debt still outstanding to him. To much laughter, he asked if when the brothers met Wilfrith could they remind him of his debt before they killed him. Wulfhere promised this would be the case. Wiglaf took the brothers aside and heard the details of the vision. He was as perplexed as the Brothers and could not read what they meant. He did offer to let them talk to Isen, a laece, who was in Ratae at present. He also offered gifts for the brothers in recompense for their father’s death. He upbraided them for travelling north without any helmets. He thought that being so young they had not thought of the danger and they were perhaps of the opinion if they get hit on the head that it would cause no ill effects as they had perhaps not developed brains yet? However, whatever their opinion on helmets, he would remedy that they had none and, in his opinion, needed them. He also gave them fine silver arm rings. He asked them if they wanted to stay and fight but they declined saying that although he was a generous Lord, they must find out what happened to their father before they thought about their own futures. In the morning they met Isen. They were much the worse for wear having tried stupidly to match Wiglaf cup for cup of ale. Isen was blind. It was said that he had plucked out his eye to gain knowledge like Woden and then had lost the other eye to disease. He also had a servant who constantly whispered in his ear and made the Brothers uneasy. However, Isen’s blindness did not seem to trouble him, he moved with the surety of a sighted man. Isen laughed when the brothers told him of the vision and declined to help. He disparaged Wiglaf for telling them he would help and for being a fool in general. The Brothers were disappointed with the outcome as they were no further on in finding out what happened to Hrothgar. One bit of information that they did find was that Wiglaf had met Hrothgar at Mershford. He had never come so far north as Ratae. He had left Mershford and travelled South. Wiglaf was sending one of his Thanes and 20 men to Offa at Mershford to go after the escaping slaves and the Brothers gratefully accepted the offer to travel with the men.
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  19. I have decided to start writing recaps of my ongoing RQG campaign, which is centered on the Bardori clan in Sartar, of the Dundealos Tribe. I've been feeling like it would be helpful to get myself writing regularly again, and I would like to have some sort of record of our campaign. Hopefully, folks will also enjoy reading about an ongoing story in the relatively new RQG system. I began my current campaign back in March. My plan is to quickly cover the background and events of the campaign so far, and then hopefully write more detailed coverage once I catch up to the present. Background After immersing myself in Gloranthan material for many months, I found myself struggling to find the right framework for creating a campaign. There was simply so much lore and background information to absorb, I didn't know how to do it justice. Then I discovered The Coming Storm/Eleven Lights, which inspired me to run a campaign focused on a single clan in Sartar. This seemed like the ideal way to tie a group of PC's together, and give them the motivation to go on adventures together. Faced with the choice of which system to use, I found myself more interested in the new RQG rules. I usually prefer more rules-lite systems or story games, but Runequest seemed to be experiencing a revival that was very exciting. I also liked the idea of setting the campaign later in the timeline, after the Lunar occupation. My next big decision was choosing which region in the core book to focus on for my campaign. I felt like Sartar and Prax were the most detailed with prior published material, and Sartar was slightly more interesting to me. With a clan-based campaign, I also had to choose which tribe would be a good fit. The Dundealos immediately jumped out to me as being in a unique position in the setting's start date of 1625. They were one of the few tribes to be completely disbanded by the Empire, but they had returned to resettle their valley after the Dragonrise. This is detailed very briefly in the core book on p. 108, under the section on Swenstown. This would allow me to run a campaign focused on rebuilding, and reforging a lost connection with past traditions (not unlike King of Dragon Pass). The Dundealos also have some interesting neighbors, who could make good allies or antagonists depending on players' actions. These include the nomads and creatures of Prax, the impoverished Balkoth Tribe, and the slave-taking Sambari Tribe. When I was writing notes on the setting, I found the fanzine Hearts in Glorantha very helpful. The first collection contains an article on the Dundealos Tribe by Jeff Richard, of which I used most of the clans for in my campaign. It also has an article on the Balkoth, which I made use of (and it's awesome, there's so much more to them than just goats!). The Sartar Companion was also very helpful in mapping out the Dundealos Valley. The Bardori Clan I wanted to create a clan of my own for the campaign. The Bardori are typical of many Dundealos clans: they herd more sheep than cattle, they produce many fine riders, and they tend to fight in a skirmishing style with bows and javelins from horseback. They are also unusual in several ways: their clan wyter is a rooster, they consider all chickens (especially roosters) sacred, and they see Elmal and Redalda as equally important to Orlanth and Ernalda. They worship several heroes known for their skill in riding, including Hyalor, Ulanin, and Derik Pol-Joni. The Bardori were disbanded in 1618 by the Lunar Empire, after the Dundealos rebelled, and were defeated. The survivors either went into exile, lived as bandits, or were enslaved and forced to work on the New Lunar Temple. The core rulebook for RQG states that the tribe was disbanded in 1615, while the HQ books say 1618. For my campaign I went with the later date, because I wanted there to be a faction of former slaves in the clan, and 10 years felt like too long for anyone to survive in a Lunar slave camp. The core book mentions a "Pol-Joni adventurer" being responsible for recreating the Dundealos tribe. I decided to flesh out this character more, and give him the name Ekil Blackmane (or just Blackmane). He led a band of warriors back to the valley, only a few days after the Dragonrise, and destroyed the remnants of the Lunar Enstalos tribe. He then became the new tribal king. What exactly happened to the Enstalos people, specifically the women and children, was left to the new clan chieftains. Most were enslaved or ransomed if possible. The new Bardori chieftain, Angarr Broad-Back, returned to the Dundealos Valley with his warriors at the same time as Blackmane to reclaim his people's land. The harvest was not yet complete, so he chose to go against clan tradition and keep the Enstalos survivors as thralls to finish the harvest. All of the player characters were either children or teenagers when the clan was forcibly disbanded. When I had my players make characters, I had them think about how they fit into their clan's recent history. This was in addition to the normal family history generation, but they ended up being fairly compatible. They had the following background options to choose from- Exile - Fled with family or sent to live with distant kin. If players chose this option, they had to also choose where they spent their exile. This option allowed players to choose Homelands other than Sartar, to reflect a different style of upbringing. Banditry - Stayed in or near the former Dundealos tribal lands, and lived a precarious existence as bandits. Enslaved - Forced to work in Sartar in Lunar slave camps, or sent to Lunar Tarsh. Players could also choose to be married or adopted into the clan, which opened up even more options. Here is a segment of the Dragon Pass map by Darya Makarava. The river running from Boldhome into Prax (near the Dragonrise), and the surrounding valley, is the campaign's "home base." The river is called the Willow Beck, and the valley is named for the Dundealos Tribe. The Heroes We started with three players, and ended up adding a fourth fairly recently. Garkar - Former bandit, Initiate of Orlanth - Garkar lived as a bandit, and fought against the Empire after the clan was destroyed. The harsh life of banditry formed him into a vengeful, somewhat paranoid man with many grudges (most of his passions start with "Hate"). Garkar has few ambitions other than to see his clan back on their feet, and to punish their old enemies. Erindros - Exile in Esrolia, Initiate of Issaries - Erindros is the scion of one of the two merchant families in the clan. His wealthy aunt in Nochet took him in as a child, and he was raised in the (relative) safety of great city. When the Empire was driven from Sartar, Erindros was encouraged to reclaim his family's land in Dundealos Valley, and he did so (somewhat unwillingly). He discovered his family's farm was in great disrepair, and set about rebuilding it. Erindros is effete and snobbish towards his "barbarian" cousins, but in spite of this he is a great leader in battle. Egajia - Praxian, adopted into the clan by the chieftain, Initiate of Daka Fal - Egajia was born among the High Llama riders, her family were rebels who fought the Lunars alongside Angarr Broad-Back and the Pol-Joni. Her family were all killed, and Angarr adopted her into his own household. She returned to the valley to serve the chieftain as a thane, and lives a strange half-life, spending time with her new kinfolk, and visiting her shaman mentor in Prax. He Who Spits at Chaos (formerly known as Brun) - Exile in Prax, Initiate of Storm Bull - Most of Brun's family were slaughtered by the Lunars after the last Dundealos uprising. He found a sense of belonging with a band of Storm Bull warriors based in Prax. After his initiation, he took his new "name." HWSAC only recently joined the campaign, and is determined to build a shrine to his god on Bardori land, which will also double as an inn and beer hall. His kin appreciate his talent at fighting Chaos, but see his future ambitions as... problematic. Next time... More background material, and covering the campaign events up to the present. Thanks for reading!
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