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Ernalsulva and Enferalda

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So, I'm going to be briefly discussing the Colymar Campaign outlined by Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, most particularly the role played by Ernalsulva and how it relates to her mother.

I generally like this campaign as written, but I have the issue that Ernalsulva feels a bit flat and uninteresting; she mostly plays the standard, passive role of Ernalda assigning Orlanth tasks to woo her, which strikes me as unlikely to drum up much investment from the players in helping one of them actually do the wooing without the Sword of Damocles that is the consequences of a failed Heroquest hanging over their heads. This stuck out in my mind from the beginning, that there isn't really much to establish Ernalsulva as a character the players want to help one of their own marry, or even for that player to want his character to marry her outside the potential benefits of doing so. It stuck out even more so on a reread thanks to stuff like the “Women in Glorantha” thread in the main Glorantha forum and talks about the difficulty of providing good storytelling and roleplay opportunities for Ernaldan adventurers and just in general feminine-centric cults that aren't centered around picking up a weapon and fighting right beside the men. Or are Chalanna Arroy, I guess.

Anyway, Ernalsulva is the daughter of Entarios the Supporter, a famous devotee of “Ernalda of Greenstone” i.e. Enferalda, a.k.a. Ernalda-as-Backboy, who is Ernalda's strength and endurance made manifest to support her husband out in the field and even to grant him strength when he fights on her behalf. Entarios herself is famous for bringing triumph to every man she married, and it's mentioned that she's specifically groomed Ernalsulva to follow in her footsteps because champions will be needed for the Hero Wars. So then it clicked for me how to increase player investment in the marriage of Ernalsulva to one of the PCs, and also to provide some good roleplaying opportunities in the vein of a less passive take on Ernalda and what her worshipers can do even if they aren't dying their hair red and picking up a sword, and even outside of just being the healer.

In the myth “The Swan's Burden,” Ernalda dons a disguise in becoming Enferalda, claiming she's merely sending one of her own attendants, so that she can support Orlanth without him knowing it's her; in the myth this is as a test of his faithfulness, by flirting with him the whole time. But in this case, it could be a great way to adapt the passive role of Ernalda in “How Orlanth Wooed Ernalda” into an active one; without Orlanth knowing it, Ernalda is helping her favored suitor prove his worth and without violating her proscribed role as the one being wooed by doing so “as someone else.” Plus it gives you room to make up any related lore associated with her you might want to devise.

Now, there's the obvious problems with changing the adventure to accommodate Ernalsulva-as-Player-Character-disguised-as-someone-else. Obviously, not all players are going to be down with their characters being married to each other, just to start, especially if there's a deception involved if you try to keep it secret from all but Ernalsulva's player. It would probably be easier if you just presented the option to your players that Ernalsulva actually does just send an attendant/friend who's a worshiper of Enferalda, and that's one of the player characters (ideally any player that expresses interest in playing an Ernaldan character, of course). That player can be privy to more private scenes with Ernalsulva in-between the stations of the wooing quest, to give your players a bit more of a feel for Ernalsulva as a person (and for that reason I would say not to hide these scenes from the other players), without it being the GM just talking to himself for a while to establish characters while all the PCs aren't in the room, even if only one of them gets to actually be there in person.

On the other hand, if your players are cool with it, I think that (while obviously quite dangerous in that you now have two characters in the party that the Heroquest is totally borked without), Ernalsulva actually tagging along as a PC could provide a lot of interesting new angles for the adventure. There's also some good potential for comedy or even drama if the players and/or the characters know who she is from the start, or at least figure it out partway through. Ernalsulva participating in her own wooing by donning the mask of Enferalda is essentially a bit of the mythic “cheating” that's going to become endemic as the Hero Wars go on, grafting one myth onto another to get the desired result, but as a result there's naturally a concern that it's unsure ground you're treading on. As a result, you might have someone (likely Entarios herself, who may either be totally against this idea or cautious but supportive of her daughter's outside-the-box thinking) provide a warning that if Ernalsulva “breaks character” as Enferalda “who is not Ernalda,” the consequences could potentially be dire, as it would constitute a sharp break from the myth as it's “supposed” to be told, whereas of course it's perfectly in keeping for Ernalda to manipulate things so that her husband gets the desired results without him knowing she was doing it and so is on more sound ground.

Or, you know, just ask any players beforehand if they'd like to play a worshiper of pretty much any given Earth goddess who's part of the temple and have them be assigned to help on the quest by Ernalsulva on the sly to involve them with the rest of the party, if you want to get across the stuff above (i.e. fleshing out Ernalsulva and making her ultimate role in this adventure less passive) without necessarily playing into the Greenstone Temple's association with Enferalda.

That's my “It's 2 in the morning and I can't sleep” thoughts, anyway. Let me know what you think of it!

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That all sounds good to me. I based my Ernalsulva on Bargaeta in These Women need help, and her mother on Serarernalda. I also redid the picture of Ernalsulva as I wasn't happy that the image provided portrayed her as well as it could. So using the cover picture as the basis, I changed her (I actually redid the cover of the book with this image, replacing her original image with this one flipped and made it a dust cover. Fan policy doesn't allow me to put the edited cover up here - 8. no modified covers.)

Ernalsulva.thumb.jpg.c7e6769ddb4919f70f13caab37309325.jpg

The result was that nearly all the adventurers wanted to woo her. 

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I like this approach a lot. Leingod, and I will steal it when I run this scenario!

Beyond this scenario, though, using players to inhabit NPCs has been a favorite tool in my GM toolkit since I read 1st edition Ars Magica by lamplight back in the last century. I think the "troupe" approach has a lot to offer any game and is particularly well-suited for HQ/QW. 

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