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  1. Notes on heroquesting @Jeffhas shared on Facebook recently.... HISTORY OF HEROQUESTING Heroquesting begins with Time, and the division of the Mundane World from the Gods World. In the God Time, there was no division between the worlds of men and gods, between Life and Death, or body and spirit. The events and deeds of the God Time made the cosmos and established its patterns. The Gods War introduced the power of Death, which separated all with violence, death, and entropy. Reality was fractured. The eternal gods would have ceased to exist but for the Cosmic Compromise, whereby the gods voluntarily abdicated their free will within the temporal world rather than lose all into the maws of nonexistence. The gods remained eternal at the cost of being limited to their God Time patterns. Heroquesting is the means by which mortals can interact with the events of the God Time.During the First Age, such men and women could fulfill their potential only with the established cults. A considerable amount of cult secret activity is devoted towards defining their god’s place in the mythic geography and exploring nearby events and neighbors. Associated cults often share events and unimportant secrets, with each other, but in general every religion kept its experiences on the Hero Plane to themselves. Only a few Brithini claimed to know everything, and to record it in Zzabur’s Blue Book, whose original is long lost beneath the Neliomi Sea. The few real fragments of this book found have proved alarmingly accurate. Most people are glad the rest is lost. Arkat Chaosbane was the first individual to discover heroquesting outside of a specific cult myth. He underwent several secret initiations (and excommunications) which gave him an unusual transcultural view of the secret world of myth. His personal experiences gave him clues which he followed, exploited, and taught to others. He finally established a cult which preserved the secrets of heroquesting. Arkat’s heir, the Dark Empire, was a widespread, loosely organized body of city states, families, priesthoods, and special interest groups. Upon his apotheosis in (c. 500) the benefits and problems were divided among loyal lieutenants of the great, solitary hero. The activities of the Dark Empire qualified its adherents as a Malkioni heretics. A holy war destroyed the cult of Arkat, driving its followers underground. Though the Arkat people attempted to destroy all their records in the Great Fire of Clarity (c. 715), much of their knowledge and Heroquesting techniques passed into the hands of the God Learners. The God Learners systematically explored the spirit plane, at the same time exploiting it without regard to its consciousness or purpose. In the centuries of their rule, they made substantial changes, even to the dreams of nations. At the time of their demise a poet wrote: “Too late, too late/ to save the dreams/ all lost forever down the Great Sink.” During most of the Third Age heroquesting was considered evil, because the God Learners were so enthusiastic about it. Cults purged themselves of unusual rites, denounced certain knowledge, and destroyed records. A general religious conservatism resulted in a stunted understanding of the religious experiences offered by each deity. Only the Lunar Empire actively pursued the subject. The Pelorian mystical geography was almost virgin territory since the area was never actively part of the God Learner’s mythic synthesis. The Red Goddess, an immortal orphan resurrected by ambitious mystics, opened her own way into the spirit world. The Lunar pantheon is largely made up of mortals who obtained divine status and replaced the Old Gods. The Lunar philosophy urges each person to seek their own heroquest, and the highlights of their history are lit by individuals who combined material and spiritual success. The processes of the Lunar Way seemed to contradict the Great Compromise, and in response the ancient gods of nature and time inspired many of their number to rebel against their hidebound cult authorities, and heroquest thoroughly, arming themselves to challenge the Red Goddess. The resultant battle of Castle Blue in 1246 resulted in the acceptance of the Red Goddess into the world as a deity. It was like an amendment to the Great Compromise. From then on, the forces of the Red Goddess expanded, always grating upon the anti-chaos sensitivities of the rest of the gods. Although the gods had been beaten into resignation, many humans did not accept the Red Goddess as natural. They felt cheated by the outcome and consciously sought to arm themselves as fully as possible for another fight rather than being summoned, almost unprepared, as they were before. They have been preparing Heroes. Now, in the last years of the Third Age, the social and religious fabric of society is dissolving. Bold individuals are carving niches for themselves, some in this world and some in the spirit world, and some in both. They are learning to be Heroes. Cosmic tensions have recently been exacerbated by the actions of the Red Goddess: she has gotten so close to destroying Orlanth that the very fabric of the universe is threatened. Prophets have predicted everywhere that a great spiritual battle is soon to take place, and that it will be preceded by many skirmishes. This time everyone is ready: the Hero Wars have begun. A little more on the God Learners and Heroquesting: A heroquest is a direct interaction with the divine realm of myth and archetypes. In a heroquest, you interact and experience the divine realm and bring back magic, be it Rune spells, guardian spirits, good harvest, a terrible curse, something long forgotten and hidden, etc. As we interact with the kaleidoscopic divine realm, we of course change its arrangement. Like walking into a room of swirling smoke, our presence causes the mist to swirl around us, changing its direction and patterns. Most of the time we have little control of the changes – we enter the room, the smoke swirls because of our mere presence. Like rationalists are even inclined to, the God Learners made the leap from conceptualizing how this all works together into the hubristic belief that they could control everything and reshape reality according to their will and intellect. That second paragraph is the key to many mysteries. ********************************* School for exploratory heroquesting During the Hero Wars, the Tournament for the Masters of Luck and Death was called “our school for exploratory heroquesting.” Rumored participants include Sartar, Tarkalor, Dormal, and Broyan, but likely many others. As I mentioned before, some think the pathways the contestants follow are somehow connected with the claims of the Arkat Cult concerning the Secret Pathways through the Hero Plane. One of the account of the Tournament described it as a series of “races” across the lands of the Holy Country:In the first race, the importance is not so much winning as it is to view the lands your cross. You may wish to do as the locals do, and run practice runs alone on the warm spring days, just for practice. Look around you, view the orchards, admire the crude roads for their dust. Barter a boat for a while, take a few minutes out to sightsee. Get to know the land, sea, and air.Later races add the chance to gain tools and allies, and encounter gods and guardians. When deities were encountered during the Tournament, it was possible to placate it (if you knew its name) or challenge it (to give it a name, to get a secret from it, to gain a power, etc.). But if challenged, the deity would always issue a counter-challenge against the quester. ********************************* As said many times before -After the long war Arkat retired with his closest confederates to Arkhome, which became the capitol of Arkat’s Autarchy. Arkat instituted formal cult procedures, created a government to rule after he was gone, then departed to the stasis of the Other Side in 500, where he remains worshiped as the patron god of Heroquesting. Arkat’s cult controlled exploratory Heroquesting. They had rigorous entrance requirements and maintained strict rules and iron discipline. They demanded respect for the magics, and a tender care in treating with them. The cult policed the Hero Plane, seeking unwanted or obtrusive Heroquesters and expelling them. They made many enemies that way but maintained stability on the Hero Plane.The God Learners destroyed Arkat’s Dark Empire in 740, and his empire, and his cult, fell to conquerers who carried off his secrets, prizes, and wonders. At this point stop. The cult founded by Arkat, with its secrets, its knowledge of exploratory Heroquesting, its rigorous entrance requirements and strict rules and iron discipline – that’s gone. The God Learners destroyed it, looted it, and wore its carcass as a hat.But a few centuries later, the God Learners themselves met the same fate. And various groups claimed to be the successors of the Arkat Cult, each with their own secrets and claims of direct lineage to Arkat. All have extravagant claims, and none have managed to fulfill their boasts.So each of these “Arkat cults” can be as wrong or as right as you the gamemaster want them to be in your campaign. They can be charlatans or keepers of mysteries – or both. They can be a little right and a lot wrong – or even something completely other “disguised” as an Arkat cult.Except there is one Arkat cult that might – just might – have a direct lineage to the God. That of Arkat Kingtroll in Halikiv, founded by the Wizard Children. Except they are no human, but monstrous dark trolls that live forever in Darkness. And they do not teach their secrets to non-trolls. So when we talk about “the Arkat Cult” we have to be very careful to define what we mean by that. Are we talking about: 1. The original cult founded by Arkat that guarded the pathways of Heroquesting and was in existence cir. 450 to 740? 2. One of the many “successor cults” of the original cult? 3. The Kingtroll cult founded by the dark troll “Wizard Children” that keeps the secrets of sorcery for the trolls? 4. Something else? That original cult had some pretty amazing secrets and lore. Even if they managed to keep much of their lore out of the hands of the God Learners, what the God Learners took was enough to jumpstart their techniques to a new level. Think about that – a secretive cult, bound by iron discipline, that held the mysteries behind the God Learners. And this cult was dedicated to guarding the pathways of the Hero Plane, preventing people from misusing exploratory Heroquesting (and Illumination) to screw around with the mythic foundations of the cosmos. Imagine the things they did, the hero quests they stopped!And here’s a really crazy idea – what if there are still Arkati in the God Time? Eternally there, always reoccurring.Just an idea for you GMs….. Any Arkati you encounter in the Third Age is going to be something like someone today claiming to be the heir to the secrets of the Knights Templar. ********************************* Perhaps all of these parts are familiar to all of you, but understanding Arkat is a key to understanding the Third Age:Arkat was a man of reason who ventured into the Gods Realm on many occasions from many different starting points. He discovered the Secret Paths and wandered into the irrational unconscious of Glorantha and its archetypes and stories. Arkat participated in the Lightbringer’s Quest but rejected the Light so that he might delve deeper into the Darkness from where all unknown potentiality exists. Some claim he delved deeper than Subere, to the Chaosium itself. Arkat quested so often he even encountered himself on the Hero Plane and received a unhealable wound that caused him pain and weakness to his final day. Arkat’s many quests often had him become the enemy to his former friends and allies. When he finally fought hand to hand against Gbaji, he was no longer even human but a troll, a Dark Man. After the battle, Arkat was no longer a troll, or so said his friends and many trolls. He retired to Ralios with his companions, and brought peace to that long troubled land. Arkat instituted cult procedures, with rigorous entrance requirements and maintained strict rules and “iron” discipline concerning the use of his secrets – especially what Arkat had learned concerning exploratory Heroquesting. In 500, Arkat left his mortal existence and became a god. Arkat’s cult DEMANDED respect for the magics and secrets they had learned, and a tender care in treating with them. They had ways to watch the Secret Paths and they sough unwanted or obtrusive HeroQuesters and expelled them. They made many enemies that way, but maintained stability.The God Learners allied with the Kingdom of Seshnela and attacked Arkat’s Dark Empire. Arkat’s cult became military and religious figures, assuming more and more power, and Ralios became a true empire. Armies marched on the Dark Empire, whose resistance failed in 740 when the great temple of the Arkat cult was plundered and razed. His empire, and his cult, fell to conquerors who carried off his secrets, prizes, and wonders.The God Learners lacked the morality of the Arkat cult. They stemmed from Malkioni philosophers who insisted on the ultimate impersonality of the universe and feared no taboo or curse. Their courage and power were unquestionable, and they performed magical deeds previously unknown even to the gods. ********************************* Few non-Lunars have ever dared explore the experimental landscape of Lunar mythology. Most celestial cults are reluctant to look into the shadows, and the Earth cults rarely look up into the sky. Maybe some of those Water cults might take a back route there along the path of the Blue Moon, but who cares about merfolk! But if I was going to hazard who might be willing to do that - I have two candidates. The more intrepid Darkness cults like Subere are comfortable in the deepest darkness of the Underworld and might be able to find some of those same paths. Heck, might know some of them better than She does. So if I were the Red Emperor I'd be cautiously wary of the trolls as much as I despise them as vile digijelm. The other candidate would be a god famed for assembling a band of misfits and then forging a path through the deepest Underworld to its very bottom. One who was willing to get lost, to lose everything, in order to find the right path through the deepest darkness of the Underworld and then unite others to defeat the God of Chaos. One whose defining Quest is so very similar to that of the Red Goddess herself that it might be that his quest be uncomfortably near the source of Her power? Yes, I would keep on eye on that one as well. ********************************* So if we think about the Second Age, we have cultural transmission of ideas and secrets around the world. Around the coastal regions of the world, the Middle Sea Empire, with its mix of Malkionism with a smattering of Theyalan and Darkness myths (starting from the Broken Council and Gbaji Wars era, but later built upon with the Dark Empire) and finds parallels in Kralorela, Teshnos, Fonrit, and elsewhere. This leads to the Monomyth - a universal approach to Gloranthan Mythology. Now many commentators will say "God Learner Lies" or similar nonsense, but the Monomyth worked. It enabled deep exploration of the God Time and experimental heroquests to gain power and rob secrets from their enemies. Like Arabic numbers, the Monomyth was too useful not to be used, and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends eagerly embraced it (which can be viewed as its return to its source - as the origins of the Monomyth was with the First and Second Councils). And so by the height of the Second Age, a working understanding of the Monomyth had spread across much of Glorantha. The Monomyth never fully replaced many traditional names and cults, but it informed them of their greater context. In the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, the Third Council learned secrets from the dragonewts and wyrms, something entirely consistent with the traditional Orlanthi openness to strangers and new ideas. With aid from mythic maps stolen from the God Learners and with the Monomyth as a framework, experimental heroquests and mythic explorations were common in Dragon Pass, as the lives of such individuals as Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Isgangdrang, Lord Labyrgon, and Pavis show. The enemies of the empires also adopted their approach, and such heroes as Alakoring Rex, Iddi Scorchbane, Emperor Karvanyar, and Verenmars would not be possible without the secrets taken from the EWF and God Learners. The disasters that ended the Second Age largely put an end to this experimental outlook and mythic explorations. With one big exception - the Lunar Empire. ********************************* Around 650, some of the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass learned to speak with the Dragons. This opened tremendous mystical vistas for the Orlanthi, identifying the Cosmic Dragon as the Source and expanding their cosmological perspective. Unlike the Invisible God of the God Learners, insight into the Cosmic Dragon cannot be reached through materialistic logic - the identity of opposites, matters of duality and nonduality, formation of the "self", and other such metaphysical qiuestions. The following immortal dragonewt poem is a chant and prayer which relates to the creation of the world and was popular with the Wyrmfriends: - Silence, The Infinite O Zero, or an exclamation OU A cry of pain; Ego OUR Collectiveness, plurality. OURO Collective emptiness OUROB Creation (Collective with an end-stop “b”) OUROBO Closed Infinity, or Being OUROBOR Birth. OUROBORO Nothing, emptiness. OUROBOROS S= “Voice” (i.e. the sound a serpent makes). The poem shows a gradual internalization of something to bring about the formation of the concept of “self.” This poem was also repeated backwards at rituals and transported the chanters and the universe into mystical bliss which was ordinarily impossible to reach. Ouroboros was sometimes worshiped as the Source and seen as the complement to Glorantha the World Goddess who was without consort or mate in her own realm. The phenomenal world is constantly changing and thus ultimately spiritually unreal - the gods themselves, although useful, do not reveal the hidden principles and implicit knowledge that created them and the universe. Orlanth led the path towards draconic understanding. His openness to strangers meant it was easiest for his priests to speak to alien species. They learned that Orlanth embraced Arangorf the Inner Dragon, and that Orlanth had performed utuma for the Cosmic Dragon. Orlanth's role as a cosmic creative-destroyer was promoted by the priests, sometimes to the near-exclusion of his other aspects. Through their draconic insights, the rulers of the Wyrms Friends had access to powerful dragon magic that terrified their enemies. Their mystics could dismiss even the most powerful of elementals or spells, terrify foes, deflect spells, breathe fire, or even become dragons themselves! ********************************* So based on the past few posts, hopefully I conveyed the idea that the Second Age featured widespread mythic experimentation and exploration. Not only did we have God Learnerism, dragonic mysticism, and syncretic developments in cults, but also there was an exploration of the God Time. This was a time of remarkable cult-changing heroes such as Pavis, Alakoring Rex, Gorangi Vak, Ingolf Dragonfriend, Carmanos, Verenmars, Jaldon Goldentooth, Delecti, and many more. This was the time that experimental artificial gods were created - and they proved to have magical power (although not necessarily as expected). However, the Second Age ended in catastrophes worse than that of the First Age. The Oceans were closed to humans. Seshnela was sundered into fragments, Slontos sunk, and the Dragonkill War exterminated humans in Dragon Pass. Nature struck back against human hubris. After 1120, humans had learned to fear experimentation, exploration, and new ideas. There were three main exceptions to this: In 1220, a desperate cabal with nothing left to lose brought back into the world a goddess that had been destroyed in the God Time. Seeking weapons against her enemies, she tread paths in the Underworld and became lost there until she was Illuminated by Nysalor and returned with the Crimson Bat. She later rose into the Middle Earth as the Red Moon after appointing her son as her regent for her mundane affairs. In 1313, a Stranger came ashore in Kethaela despite the Closed Seas. He made alliances with the Silver Age heroes of that lands, gained acceptance of their gods and goddess, and overcame the Only Old One, the dark lord of that land since prehistory. He instituted rites and ceremonies by which the Gods World could remain in proximity of the mundane world, and began the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death to keep those pathways active and empowered. Kethaela became known as the Holy Country because of this. In 1470, a wanderer named Sartar came to Dragon Pass from the Holy Country. Without using violence himself, this wanderer united the quarreling Orlanthi of Dragon Pass, made friends with the dwarfs, centaurs, dragonewts, ducks, and werewolves, founded cities and built roads, temples, and libraries, and made himself King of Dragon Pass when he married the Feathered Horse Queen (another mythic adventurer from the Grazelands). He displayed the secrets and magic of Orlanth Rex, but also maintained draconic friendship. The kingdom he founded became rich on trade, and was influential far beyond its size and population. ********************************* When we think about the interactions between the God Time and the mundane world of our adventurers, two categories come into view. First is the regular, ceremonial interaction that every cult does on every Holy Day. This activity maintains the pathways between the mundane and the divine and allows us to wield the power of the gods in the mundane world. These ceremonies are ritual and usually very predictable - on the other hand, the individual gains are pretty much that you gain access to Rune Magic, keep your cult spirits happy, and all the stuff that is usually handled in the background. In fact, I'd say they are only worth incorporating into a game when either 1. the steps of the ceremony are deliberately kept secret from the adventurers and they need to thus make their own decisions (e.g., initiation rites); or 2. something goes seriously wrong and the ceremony is now not so predictable. Second category is the experimental exploration of the God Time. This is usually what is meant by a "heroquest". These quests are dangerous and unpredictable, but the rewards are far greater. Magical abilities, new spells, powerful spirit allies, new insight into the gods, and even immortality. Not all such heroquesters becomes "heroes" but this is the precondition for such status. These heroquests are dangerous and powerful precisely because they are not regularly traveled. So if you repeat a familiar and well-known story, it probably falls into the first category. It becomes interesting for a gaming session when it turns out the story is wrong, incomplete, or seriously misleading. Or that something has changed so much that the players need to create a new story. If the adventurers need to explore the mythic realm itself then it is probably the second category. The Lightbringers Quest involves a trek across the changing landscape of the Lesser Darkness (as it becomes the Greater Darkness) and then a trek through the Underworld - where the questers GET LOST. That's second category, no matter how much you try to prepare for it. The Red Goddess quest is similar in its mysteries. ********************************* My hope with these posts over the past few weeks is to give an impression as to the context around heroquesting, and to get us away from the approach in the King of Dragon Pass computer game (and often taken in the HW/HQ materials). Every culture performs ceremonies and rites that cause the mundane and divine worlds to overlap into what is called the Hero Plane. This is where you get your Rune magic from, your allied spirits, befriend cult spirits, and all that stuff. Now that stuff is gameable, but it really only gets interesting IMO when things go wrong. When the ceremony no longer predictably works, when dangerous enemies show up, etc. But far more interesting to me is deliberately exploring the mythic realms and discover previously unknown paths through the divine world. This is what heroes such as Alakoring, Argrath, Arkat, the Feathered Horse Queen, Harmast, Harrek, Jaldon Goldentooth, Pavis, Sir Ethilrist, Cragspider, Jar-eel, Hwarin Dalthippa, Hon-eel, and the Red Goddess. They did not "invent" new myths - they traveled previously unknown paths through the Hero Plane and brought back their experiences to the mundane world. They discovered paths and events that had always been latent in the God Time. This approach to heroquesting was fairly common in the late First Age and through the Second Age. Most people shunned it after the cataclysms that ended that Age. BUT not everywhere - in the Lunar Empire and the Holy Country this sort of spiritual exploration remained, although for very different ends. And Sartar and his dynasty inherit the techniques developed in the Holy Country. As the Hero Wars develop, the protagonists take more risks and gambles in their heroquesting - such as rediscovering the techniques of the God Learners and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, using Chaotic magic in heroquests, and more. People take short cuts, make permanent changes for short-term gains, and all the sorts of things that people do when they are desperate and ambitious. That becomes the Hero Wars. We start from a familiar starting point, but by the end, the world has changed so much we can barely recognize where we began.
  2. What do we know about Wyrms High Pass? I haven't found a great deal of information about the pass, although I realise I may just not have found stuff in sources I've got, so I've put a few tentative ideas together based on the snippets I'm aware of. @Jeff Richard's session at the Kraken last year on creating Gloranthan places was very useful - unfortunately I don't think it was filmed, but its essence was to pull together what is known or inferred about a place from Gloranthan sources and use them as building blocks for creation of both the place and its adventurous potential. This is preferable to initially looking to real world examples and basing a place on them as you run the danger of creating a sense of space or culture that is too derivative rather than firmly rooted in Glorantha. (Jeff - I hope I haven't got this too far wrong!) Anyway, here goes with a few thoughts: Name: Wyrms High Pass So, there are wyrms there. From Anaxial's Roster I gather that wyrms thrive in warm or hot conditions, so I'm positing a pass that is heated by volcanic activity with hot springs and rocks covered with strange coloured deposits. Perhaps Lodril has a role to play here? Also, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends is likely to have taken an interest in the pass. So there's scope for ancient structures, perhaps a crumbling monastery high on a cliff ledge or hugging a strange spire with the remains of spiral steps up to it? And its shape - it has to be narrow and winding like the body of its namesake. Location High in the Rockwoods. So if it is a hot pass it's going to produce some interesting anomalies. I envision constant steam as heat from the pass meets cold air above. Thick fogs fill the pass and Iphara is strong here. When heavy snow falls it rapidly evaporates, creating pools of water along the valley floor which may be heated to extreme temperatures by gaseous discharges. The cliffs of the pass are characterised by spectacular waterfalls as runoff from the ice and snow to the sides of the pass melts and cascades down. Balazar's aldryami High Woods lie to the north, the uz lands of Dagori Inkarth are south and dwarven Greatway is west. So the pass is obviously a contested place, which lines up with historical references I've found. There's certainly recorded conflict between aldryami and uz either side of the pass, but if we accept it has rich mineral deposits then I suggest dwarven interest has shaped its history too. Also to the south is Bagtrap's Pass, another location I've found little about. I've created a tale of a cave by the pass which always looked like a viable place to stay for a night. But this cave had strange walls and floor, leathery in texture. Those foolish enough to stay here found that they had camped in a huge bag placed in the cave by a cunning giant, who would pull it closed with a drawstring which went up through a funnel in the roof to the cliff above. Which leads to another important point about location. There are giants either side of the pass and they sometimes travel through it too. History I haven't found many specific references to the pass in sources, but events around it give hints. Here are a few human-centric points. End of First Age: Tribes from the south swarm through the pass, burn the aldryami woods and some join the Votanki already in the north. Empire of the Wyrm's Friends: The pass flourishes as both a crossing point and place of pilgrimage. Post-Dragonkill: People no longer come from the south and the Balazarings avoid it. The destruction of Dykene in 1250 effectively gives the south-east of Balazar to the aldryami and people forget about the pass. Dykene's resurgence, 1580: Begins renewed exploration of the pass. Joh Mith: I've elevated the role of Joh Mith to the person who quested to properly reopen the pass. He speaks the Wyrds of the Wyrm's Way and he fills the Giant's Bag. Fall of Sartar 1602 and onwards: Refugees come north through the pass and are accepted by King Yalaring of Trilus, leading to building the Lightbringer's Hall there. What do you know? Well there's a few ideas. But what do you know or suggest about the pass? I'm keen to find out about anything written about it over the years, anything those well versed in Gloranthan lore can tell us and also about depictions of it in anybody else's adventures.
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