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Ufnal

HeroQuest Glorantha starting setting

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I was thinking about trying to run a game in HeroQuest Glorantha (probably will end up doing a solo play with a GM emulator), and I thought it would be prudent to test the system in the default starting setting first. However, early Hero Wars Dragon Pass is a setting that I find daunting and problematic, and I was hoping you kind people could help me with that.

The first part of the problem is the feeling that everything is already described and decided. We know year by year, often month by month, what the main players of the region are going to do. We know all the local tribes and their characteristics and attitudes and relationships. [At least we know that if we own all the sourcebooks. I don't, but the pressure of established canon is only lessened a bit that way - this may be stupid, but I feel like I shouldn't make up my own tribes and clans where there are things already brilliantly described]. 

The second part of the problem is that this "metaplot" of Orlanthi-Lunar war is so powerful and prevalent that I'm finding it hard to imagine a campaign among the Sartarite tribes that doesn't live in its shadow and doesn't pretty quickly have to address the happenings of the war. This leads the characters to become a part of the historical events - but I fear that this practically means playing second fiddle to Broyan, Argrath or Harrek, without much agency in how the war unfolds (unless the characters are powerful enough to stand against those legends or the likes of Jar-Eel).

These two things combined mean that I am finding it hard to imagine any campaign in the setting and timeframe of HeroQuest Glorantha that isn't a railroaded ride through the early Hero Wars, with little room for non-HW related adventuring and few opportunities to make a difference other than in making sure the prescribed chain of events happens. This is most probably my imagination's fault, not the setting's, but it's a hurdle I am finding difficult to overcome.

I guess one of the solutions would be to focus on adventures in the wilderness and ruins surrounding Sartar instead of in the tribal lands. This would weaken the community aspect of HQG (unless it's a part of a quest that benefits the community), but give the game more room to breathe. [Although then there's the problem of what exactly does one put in Gloranthan ruins and wildernesses]

The other solution, of course, is going full YGWV and throwing away however much of the canon setting and events I want.

But is there another way? Where in the default HQG setting do you see room for adventurers, both low-powered and high-powered, to do some adventuring, do heroic deeds, grow in power and legend without neccessarily becoming a part of the main metaplot?

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Hey there -- I totally understand where you're coming from. Despite the whole YGWV mantra, there is indeed a big leap of faith in just saying "I'll ignore half of this stuff and make my own", not only in terms of trusting your imagination ("can I really make something better than Greg and Jeff and all these other people?") but also in terms of the perceived wastefulness of not using a whole bunch of awesome sourcebooks. It's really a matter of... going with it or not.

If you want to stay in Sartar and play with the whole communal aspect of belonging to a clan and tribe (which I indeed find very interesting, a welcome change from murder-hobo-ing), you can first figure out if you want you or your players to be at, or near, the top of the Hero Wars.

  • If high-powered fantasy is desirable, just don't introduce Argrath at all, but give you or your players visions of whatever destiny the Gods have in mind. In that case, the PCs will effectively take on the role of Argrath and you can use the established history (and the upcoming Dragon Pass Campaign book!) as a bunch of baseline ideas for where the PCs can start and what might happen.
  • If they want to have agency over the HeroWars but don't want to lead them (i.e. they want to be assassins and mercenaries and envoys and messengers and delivery people, not political/war leaders), then introduce Argrath and make them work for him (assuming they want to be on that side of the conflict). They will probably mess things up so the history might quickly diverge, as they fail some mission here and there, but alternate history is part of fun IMHO.
  • If they don't want to get too involved (as in: they don't want to have too many important roles in important events, they just want to make a living and kill tuskraiders), then that's the "how do you survive this stuff" campaign, which is brilliantly executed in the pair of Red Cow books (The Coming Storm and The Eleven Lights), so just run that.

To be honest, I'm hoping that at least the first 2 points are addressed in the upcoming Dragon Pass Campaign book, with "what if?" sidebars giving examples of other ways events might go, and lots of adventure hooks giving examples of what Argrath might asks the PCs to do (I would be quite disappointed if it was just a straight-up book with the canon timeline and nothing else). In my ideal world, that book would also have optional rules for mass combat, important political negotiations, and "factions & followers" stuff to determine how your army grows or shrinks (although I imagine those would be RQG rules, not HQG).

FYI I'm really hoping to run option 2 at some point next year.

Edited by lordabdul
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I think the lesson to take to your Gloranthan heart is the classic Narrative-game lesson -- where a Trad game asks the simulatiionist mechanics, "what happens next (in light of the setting/tropes)" a narrative game asks the players, "what's the interesting thing (in light of the setting/tropes) to happen next?"

Start with as much Glorantha as you have handy.  When you come up with this "happens next" question, and your in-house resources don't answer sufficiently, then you might ask the Glorantha Wiki, or the lore/docs at Glorantha.com (or here on BRPC if your answer can wait) ...  Or you might just let this be a YGWV moment ...  realizing that for YOUR game, at YOUR table, with YOUR characters, the "most interesting" thing is very likely to depart from canon anyhow...

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The timeline is there to support you, not constrain you. It's what happens if none of your PCs were ever born.

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3 hours ago, JonL said:

The timeline is there to support you, not constrain you. It's what happens if none of your PCs were ever born.

That should be written in every Chaosium Gloanthan book. 

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There are places in Sartar which get by with one or no known local event other than the Windstop and the Dragonrise. The Lismelder are such a backwater, as are the Locaem or the Torkani. If you play in an appeaser clan like the Balmyr, the Lunar conflict is a lot less pronounced than in a place with active repression.

Have you had a look at The Coming Storm and Eleven Lights? Of course, everything is described there, but in a way that allows you to experience things as a character (or party).

Other than the Windstop, you can play the pre-defined events as happening elsewhere or as a conflict to be shaped by your players. For some clans or tribes there are existential crises which you can use as the main theme of your game, like e.g. the Firebull Rebellion among the Sambari, or the Kultain destruction (first of a significant part of the reinforcements and train to the siege of Whitewall, then the tribe).

Once you have altered the timeline, you need to "heal" the future events around that time and place, of course, with the option to make your campaign history the dominant change. This might result in some adaptation of future scenarios, or if your party is over-achieving (in success or failure) a significant re-write of the setting.

What happens if you play the Dragonrise scenario, and your player characters manage to botch the quest? (See the discussion in Alastor's Skull Inn in response to my Kraken report.)

Do you opt for "Game Over", do you use Deus Ex Machina (making your players' party only the decoy in the scheme, with a separate quest undergoing in the sky world), or do play in a Sartar that is liberated by the nomads of Prax with another temple-crushing magic? Or is Tatius' new model temple an abysmal failure, resulting in a chaos void eating up the participants, thereby liberating the dragon?

Player agency in the metaplot is a topic that never gets old in roleplaying discussions, as there are numerous schools of thought about it. This is about your (probably unwritten) game contract between narrator(s) and players as much as it is about the setting.

Given the dearth of published HeroQuest Glorantha scenarios outside of the two major campaigns and the D101 Games supplements, most such games tend to be DIY affairs anyway, and the question is how much DIY and background creation you can load on your narrators or player assistance.

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Also bear in mind that some of the major characters in the written Gloranthan history (e.g. Argrath) were PCs in various in-house campaigns (e.g. Greg's own campaigns). So there's no reason to take it all as written in stone. You can choose to take the past history up to your own campaign date as written, if you like, or you can choose to change some of it. And you can certainly choose to do whatever you like from your campaign date forward. Why do things *have* to turn out as documented? Almost certainly things will change.

Above all, YGWV.

 

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12 hours ago, Ufnal said:

But is there another way? Where in the default HQG setting do you see room for adventurers, both low-powered and high-powered, to do some adventuring, do heroic deeds, grow in power and legend without neccessarily becoming a part of the main metaplot?

While for RQ, much of this line of thinking was what made me use Talastar/Risklands. It's mostly out of the way of the big HeroWars events (barring Hahlgrim's War and the supposedly much later imperial ascendancy of Ralzakark), it's if anything more traditionally Orlanthi than Dragon Pass (I run it as more traditionally Celto-Germanic than the sweeping changes done to Dragon Pass in recent publications), and you can have anything from low-powered running of your farm to grand anti-Chaos crusading and striking at the Lunars (but I repeat myself...).

Edited by Akhôrahil
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When the Swedish publishers decided on a setting (I like to believe I had some input there), they went for Fronela, as Dragon Pass is simply so crowded with happenings that it's hard to make your own grander stuff there if you're going to stay in line with Chaosium's publications.

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4 hours ago, Joerg said:

Have you had a look at The Coming Storm and Eleven Lights? Of course, everything is described there, but in a way that allows you to experience things as a character (or party).

I have had the opportunity to skim them, and they look awesome [it seems they really show not only the setting but how to meld your characters with the setting and how to give them interesting adventures in the setting - which is precisely what I would want], but I don't own them yet and for my financial abilities buying them both would be a bit of a problem. Which is why I was talking about the corebook setting, with other sourcebooks as things that exist in the background.

 

BTW, is buying the old HeroWars supplements for Sartarites useful for HQG Dragon Pass gaming? They are much more affordable, but AFAIK they are mostly about culture and religion, much of which has changed in the meantime?

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52 minutes ago, Ufnal said:

BTW, is buying the old HeroWars supplements for Sartarites useful for HQG Dragon Pass gaming? They are much more affordable, but AFAIK they are mostly about culture and religion, much of which has changed in the meantime?

Others here will know more about this, but I believe the most significant changes on the cultural side is a shift away from pseudo-Germanic/Gaelic feel of the Orlanthi and towards a mix of Bronze/Early Iron Age and Classic Antiquity terminology and aesthetics.

 

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1 hour ago, Ufnal said:

I have had the opportunity to skim them, and they look awesome [it seems they really show not only the setting but how to meld your characters with the setting and how to give them interesting adventures in the setting - which is precisely what I would want], but I don't own them yet and for my financial abilities buying them both would be a bit of a problem. Which is why I was talking about the corebook setting, with other sourcebooks as things that exist in the background.

 

BTW, is buying the old HeroWars supplements for Sartarites useful for HQG Dragon Pass gaming? They are much more affordable, but AFAIK they are mostly about culture and religion, much of which has changed in the meantime?

There are gems to be gleaned from the Vault titles, the Dragon Pass Gazeteer, and Anaxial's Roster. Of course, for the price of those three combined, you could get one of the current titles. Depends on what you'd want to prioritize, really. 

If I were starting out and had perhaps $5/month to spend on HQ PDFs...

  • ...and I wanted to do a community-driven game with an all original clan & NPCs, I'd save up for Sartar Kingdom of Heroes.
  • ...and I wanted a community-driven game, but wanted a ready to go clan & NPCs, I'd save up for The Coming Storm.
  • ...and I wanted to do a sandbox-style game in Dragon Pass, I'd hit the Vault for the Dragon Pass Gazeteer, then start saving up for the Sartar Companion.

Anaxial's Roster is $5 well spent if you want a Monster Manual, as the creature info in HQG is a bit thin.

Edited by JonL
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4 minutes ago, JonL said:

...and I wanted to do a community-driven game with an all original clan & NPCs, I'd save up for Sartar Kingdom of Heroes.

Alternate budget-conscious approach to hit the ground running:

Dragon Pass Gazeteer from the Vault + the free Players Primer and online clan generator available at glorantha.com.

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Have you considered the fine location of Balazar? Sure, the beer is shit, but there's not the looming war overhead. Not to mention, dogs instead of cats. So, automatic points! ;) 

Our DragonPass game starts further back in history and we have changed a few minor things. As the one running the game gets to determine such. We saved Apple Lane's thane, until the lunar witch came back for revenge. None of us wanted to hide in the pawnshop and engaged in the street. Took the gm by surprise. We were the first group of his to take that approach. 

We gave advance notice of Crimson Bat priests to Whitewall so they will be better prepared when it shows up down the line. You can follow the main timeline as much or little as you want and shouldn't ever feel like there's no room for change or twists. Source material is that, even layers deep, amazing source material can be converted to your needs. It may seem daunting, but play around with it before letting anyone else see if that's what you need to do.

 

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I am a long time fan of Glorantha and still struggling with the canon thing (both because of its depth and because I would like to stay "true" to the setting). This is not something I have to cure for Glorantha only, my other favorite settings are concerned as well. I am about to find a cure and the best way to restore myself to full health is, in my opinion, to jump into the fray and see what happens.

As far as I am concerned, the timeline is what happens when the characters don't meddle with the various stated events. I would chose a ruleset, a starting date and mine all my Glorantha library for ideas, adventures and additional content when needed.

This is exactly what I am planning to do with a "Borderlands & Beyond" campaign set in 1615. The timeline will follow the plotted direction until the PCs leave the Weis Domain and chose to interact with the bigger events. In order to reflect what is happening elsewhere in the world, I will regularly share some rumors through NPCs. They will hopefully get a broad, and perhaps biased, picture of the major events. After this campaign, the choice to join or stay away from the Hero Wars is theirs.

And as far as I know, Argrath means "The Liberator", it can be an individual or a group, or a "ring".

Edited by Corvantir
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On 11/10/2019 at 6:28 PM, Ufnal said:

The first part of the problem is the feeling that everything is already described and decided.

Others have noted already that this is true only to an extent.  The Colymar (via the HQG scenario books and the new RQG Adventures book) and the Cinsina (via Coming Storm and 11 Lights) are really the only ones with significantly available background.  There are some short descriptions of the other tribes, but for many the clans are not even named.  So if you want to create/follow a clan of your choosing, do so. Or if you like the Colymar or Cinsina, there are clans which get little attention and could easily form centerpoints for your own campaign.

It's really not as bad as you feel. If you like out-of-the-way, one of the Far Point tribes works well (and you're up amidst trolls, giants, tusk riders, and other foes) and there is material such as the RQ Classic Trollpak that you can leverage any way you like (e.g. Skyfall Lake, the Redstone Caverns).

For my RQG campaign, I'm using the primary Ernaldori clan within the Colymar. Aside from running the QuickStart Broken Tower, I've branched off from any canon as my subsequent scenario came before the RQG Adventures book was available. It's inevitable in any campaign. Do the adventurers intersect some timeline? Yes, they joined Queen Leika and fought at the Battle of the Queens. There's no "scheduled" event in my Glorantha until Argrath captures Alda-Chur. Likely they won't be there when that happens, but who knows - they could influence in some unknown way. Will they help shape the tribe? Will they help Queen Leika keep her place in the tribe? What happens when Argrath visits? Argrath eventually goes north to fight in Tarsh. Where will the tribe and the adventurers be focused when that happens? Don't know, but not worried about it as long as my players are having fun.

On 11/10/2019 at 6:28 PM, Ufnal said:

The second part of the problem is that this "metaplot" of Orlanthi-Lunar war is so powerful and prevalent that I'm finding it hard to imagine a campaign among the Sartarite tribes that doesn't live in its shadow and doesn't pretty quickly have to address the happenings of the war.

Well, that metaplot is certainly there in Sartar/Tarsh.  One reason I ran my long-term RQ3 campaign in Imther was that it was largely outside that metaplot and I was able to run with "good" Lunars and "bad" Lunars (plus a good mix of other cults). That had its own themes, but that's part of what you explore as a GM. So a question becomes "what type of campaign/themes do you want to run/work with?"

Someone else noted running campaign in the Riskland/Dorastor setting. That's one place. If you like Storm worshippers, there's the hill tribes of Aggar, or more of Talastar. If you like Sun Dome Temples, there's a host of those in southern Peloria, and while many may be pulled into the Orlanthi-Lunar conflict, maybe some see a larger conflict of Light vs. Darkness at play? Or as @Corvantir noted you can run a campaign in the River of Cradles/Borderlands. The RQ Classic Borderlands book is a great campaign start. Eventually the Praxian nomads play a role, but you can take that campaign in a lot of directions.

Another option is to shift the timeframe. Go back to the King of Dragon Pass video game setting. The tribes are just exploring Dragon Pass and trying to establish their kingdoms. Yes, the Red Moon exists, but within campaign play it is not an existential threat. You've got 150+ years before Sartar becomes king of the land to work with. (Besides KoDP, there's some good background in the Coming Storm related to these Resettlement Sagas.) If you like a saga-type game, this timeframe could work for you.

On 11/10/2019 at 6:28 PM, Ufnal said:

I am finding it hard to imagine any campaign in the setting and timeframe of HeroQuest Glorantha that isn't a railroaded ride through the early Hero Wars, with little room for non-HW related adventuring and few opportunities to make a difference other than in making sure the prescribed chain of events happens.

As noted above, my current campaign started with basic Colymar setting. The initial thrust of my sessions was to have Queen Leika send the PC's off to find a new "Vision" for the tribe from Colymar. They recreated his path to Colymar's Lookout, and the players/PC's shaped the vision of the tribe's "future". Or at least what potentially the vision could be. And it shaped in foes to that vision: the Sun Dome, the Grazelanders, possibly elves, naturally the Lunars, and also Chaos. Now they are trying to find one of the "tools" from that vision to help bring part of it about. They've had one intersection point so far with the described "events".  Though there are plenty of rumors, and that's part of what I use these events for - they are Rumors, not absolute Truths. 

On 11/10/2019 at 6:28 PM, Ufnal said:

But is there another way? Where in the default HQG setting do you see room for adventurers, both low-powered and high-powered, to do some adventuring, do heroic deeds, grow in power and legend without neccessarily becoming a part of the main metaplot?

Yes, always another way. Whether you use a well-defined tribe/clan, or an obscure one, or you use a well-defined place or one at the borders of the main campaigns, there is plenty of room for all types of campaigns. It's up to you as the GM what way you want to take it and whether the main metaplot is fully in view, is viewed only peripherally, or even branches off into your own variant.

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14 hours ago, Minion1stClass said:

Have you considered the fine location of Balazar? Sure, the beer is shit, but there's not the looming war overhead. Not to mention, dogs instead of cats. So, automatic points! ;) 

 

Love it, you need a job as a travel agent!

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17 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:
18 hours ago, Ufnal said:

BTW, is buying the old HeroWars supplements for Sartarites useful for HQG Dragon Pass gaming? They are much more affordable, but AFAIK they are mostly about culture and religion, much of which has changed in the meantime?

Others here will know more about this, but I believe the most significant changes on the cultural side is a shift away from pseudo-Germanic/Gaelic feel of the Orlanthi and towards a mix of Bronze/Early Iron Age and Classic Antiquity terminology and aesthetics.

And forget about the cult info, it has not dated well at all! But some of the descriptions of home life... great!

7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

If you like out-of-the-way, one of the Far Point tribes works well (and you're up amidst trolls, giants, tusk riders, and other foes)

with undead galore, and Snake Pipe Hollow not that far away... lots to recommend in the lands of the Alone Undertribe.

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On 11/10/2019 at 11:28 PM, Ufnal said:

But is there another way? Where in the default HQG setting do you see room for adventurers, both low-powered and high-powered, to do some adventuring, do heroic deeds, grow in power and legend without neccessarily becoming a part of the main metaplot?

I got the players to create their own clan, moved the borders and wedged it into an existing tribe. They even added their own geography, effectively it was a blank.

1301747636_SangorClan.jpg.8f39f52adaae7f35ff02294210f6e53b.jpg

The Sangor / Stormblood clan then established their place in the world through the game.

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10 hours ago, David Scott said:

I got the players to create their own clan, moved the borders and wedged it into an existing tribe. They even added their own geography, effectively it was a blank.

I'm planning on making the players make their own clan, but making some blank room on a map for them to make up the geography sounds brilliant. Do you have any tips or additional info to give on that? Did you impose a specific location in the greater Dragon Pass, and a specific tribe that the clan belongs to?

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1 minute ago, lordabdul said:

Did you impose a specific location in the greater Dragon Pass, and a specific tribe that the clan belongs to?

Yes if you look at the map above. I used the Lismelder tribe with the details from old Tales of the Reaching Moon, then I used clan creation from older products. They drew their bloodline steads on the map. They wanted a stream, but there was no gap in the Malanni Hills, so it goes into a syphon under the hills into a mineral deposit that turns the stream red - the blood stream.

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7 minutes ago, David Scott said:

Yes if you look at the map above. I used the Lismelder tribe with the details from old Tales of the Reaching Moon, then I used clan creation from older products. They drew their bloodline steads on the map. They wanted a stream, but there was no gap in the Malanni Hills, so it goes into a syphon under the hills into a mineral deposit that turns the stream red - the blood stream.

Nice map, what is that item running north and south from Goodsword to near the border (it looks like MALANI MILLS LOW). A canyon or ravine?

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

Yes if you look at the map above. I used the Lismelder tribe with the details from old Tales of the Reaching Moon, then I used clan creation from older products. They drew their bloodline steads on the map. They wanted a stream, but there was no gap in the Malanni Hills, so it goes into a syphon under the hills into a mineral deposit that turns the stream red - the blood stream.

Brilliant!

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On 11/10/2019 at 6:51 PM, JonL said:

The timeline is there to support you, not constrain you. It's what happens if none of your PCs were ever born.

Just say "No" to loose canon.

!i!

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I am preparing a campaign in Doblian, by player request. Sources are highly varied in period, origin and depth and leave immense opportunities for YGWV. 

When in doubt head for the less documented spaces. 🤪🤓

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