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Contacting spirits to solve a crime...


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A question for the hive mind,

In our Sartar campaign the adventurers want to help a friend who is accused of murder. She is from a neighbouring clan, but has been staying long term with their clan under the rules of hospitality. She was abducted and harmed by someone from the same stead and when rescued by the adventurers took the first opportunity to kill the man who abducted her.

The issue now is there is only her word against the dead man that she was abducted – many at the stead believed she had willingly eloped with the man. To prove her innocence the adventurers, want to be able to contact/summon his spirit to appear in front of the clan’s Lawspeaker, so they can prove that she was ‘wronged’ and was justifiably retaliating – as is the way of the Orlanthi.

So, how could that happen? One of the characters is an assistant shaman who is on good terms with his shaman who might help – could be part of his training. The man who abducted the woman also seemed not to be quite in his right mind, so a way to make him speak the truth would also be necessary.

Has anyone done anything like this before? I am thinking it might be a good way to introduce spirit travel and binding to our relatively new campaign. Would really appreciate any help on this…

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Summoning the dead is a very easy way of ruining a murder mystery scenario.

Some things to consider:

  • Summoning the recent dead might be taboo, as they might stay as a ghost to haunt the living
  • If you summon  the recent dead before they reach the Halls of Silence, have to broken their path and thus condemn them to an eternity of walking the earth?
  • The recent dead might be suffering from a form of psychic shock, so might not remember the events leading up to their death
  • The ghost might not tell the truth, or might just rant on about how they were murdered
  • How easy is it to summon a particular dead person?

 

 

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The spirit summoned needn't be the deceased - it could as well be the household spirit where she was abducted, or some other spirit of the place.

RQ also offers a specialized (and boring) way to get witnesses:

[spoiler]

A Lhankor Mhy initiate could cast a Reconstruction to provide visuals of the event.

But then, a Eurmali dressed up for the occasion casting an illusion could pretend to do the same and show something completely different...

[/spoiler]

Edited by Joerg
no idea why the spoiler tag doesn't work. Change of interface?
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Thanks everyone. Joerg, one of the players is considering this. As the incident could lead to strife between clans then the clan's Lawspeaker might be interested in helping - there is quite a bit of tension within the clan already and none of the Ring would like to see this spread...

soltakss, good points and some of which the adventurers are considering - they are not sure the victim was in a good mental/spiritual state when he died and they are worried if they bring him back he may not cooperate or make much sense. 

Edited by Trotsky
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I assume Oration-based attempts have been made to convince people. Maybe just targeting the women who were not blood kin, as the women of the village would know if he was a wrong 'un.

As far as summoning a spirit goes, if it could be proved it WAS his spirit, even if the abductor was in their right mind, as the OP points out, expecting him to say "It's a fair cop guv, I done abducted her, I deserved being killed" is a bit of a stretch. How do you know if a spirit is lying? Dunno.

So I say, isn't this what Divination is for?

As there are no witnesses, she can challenge them; "Take me to the temple if you think I Iie, pay the priests, let them determine if I lie or not. If I lie, take my head and everything I posses".

Obviously this leads to a whole bunch of questions, like how much would it cost, would the priest's want to get involved (maybe they reserve Divinations for actually important stuff not petty bloodfueds), would the caster of Divination tell the truth about what the spell revealed, etc.. And the first of these questions is whether they would call her bluff and actually do it or back down.

 

Edited by Monty Lovering
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14 hours ago, soltakss said:

Summoning the dead is a very easy way of ruining a murder mystery scenario.

While this very true, and a specific version of the more general "magic makes it very easy to ruin a mystery/investigation scenario", I think it's not a problem here? AFAICT, @Trotsky isn't trying to keep the mystery of the man's death intact -- the point here seems more about how to make the summoning and dead interview interesting?

In which case, my first instinct is just that there can be any number of adventures on the way to find the man's spirit:

  • Locating a particular spirit is tricky enough that the adventurers might have to go in the Spirit World a couple times at least, with many possible encounters... are there any interesting locations around the place where it happened? Any of these locations could have a hostile spirit or, at least, a spirit that wants something out of the PCs. Maybe one of those spirits attacked and absorbed the dead man's spirit, or made him join their vortex, or whatever.
  • The man's spirit got lost on the way to the Underworld because of some nearby vortices, and is currently gravitating towards some powerful spirit.
  • The man's spirit was grabbed and bound by some weird shaman that happened to pass by.
Quote
  • If you summon  the recent dead before they reach the Halls of Silence, have to broken their path and thus condemn them to an eternity of walking the earth?
  • The recent dead might be suffering from a form of psychic shock, so might not remember the events leading up to their death
  • [...]
  • How easy is it to summon a particular dead person?

[spoiler]
(spoiler tags aren't working? I made the text white... select it to see it)

In The Broken Tower, the wandering shaman doesn't seem to have any problems summoning and talking to the ghost of the recently deceased Grey Dog woman, though.

If the man's spirit is hanging around, it's probably easy to see it, like, right there, in the Spirit World. It gets tricky if the spirit is wandering somewhere randomly farther away.

[/spoiler]

Assuming the spirit is not hanging around near the body, I wonder indeed how hard it to find it. Shamans summon particular ancestors routinely, but that's after they reached the Underworld and got their wrist stamped by Daka Fal. Before that happens, it could be that the spirit is "unregistered" and thus you have to actually search for it the hard way, putting up metaphorical "Lost Spirit" posters around the neighbourhood.

Quote
  • The ghost might not tell the truth, or might just rant on about how they were murdered

That's also not to be underestimated indeed. The man's spirit may hold a grudge, want revenge, and so on. In fact, there are probably more reasons for the ghost to lie than there are for him to tell the truth (unless the truth is that the woman wrongly murdered him).

Edited by lordabdul
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Add to that, all sartarites may not be fond of spirits and shamans anyway. I don't think that's the first thing they will turn to.

I could see other ways :

  • asking a Sword of Humakt to check thruth has been indeed spoken (in exchange for a donation to temple or support to an expedition).
  • the Divination is a good idea too, but gods usually has cryptic answers, it may be wise to ensure the priest interpreting it has a good opinion about the woman ...
  • just standing atop the highest hill around during a storm, spear high towards the sky, asking Orlanth to judge her, may be enough to convince everyone, but that would probably be quite ... hazardous.
  • succeeding a heroquest based on truth or honour will also prove her right. That may be out of her league, though.
  • a Yinkini, or another hunt cult, could speak with either the shadowcats or the rats (if there is no shadowcat, there are rats) living there. Again, given interpretation of the answers will probably be needed, working on prejudices first would be wise.
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I would like to add that this sort of possibility (summoning the dead for answers) has been used in fiction, such as my favorite -- Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword.   In this work Scafloc summons up the spirits of the dead, only to learn not only what he asks of them, but other, horrific facts besides!  (no spoilers).  Anyway, great book, and an example of how it is done for powerful narrative effect -- and a strongly recommended read anyway.

This sort of scenario I think should be the chance for the non-combat types to shine.  A shaman might summon spirits known to be friendly and truthful (or at least believed to be), an Issaries following PC might work out some type of deal to placate the spirits, or lure forth living witnesses, and of course a Lhankor Mhy initiate has so many truth finding spells as to dominate the situation.  They should be strongly in demand for these situations in Glorantha, and can serve as a chance for those players who like those roles to strut their stuff. 

All the GM has to do is to understand that these are logical moves for the world the players inhabit, demonstrate that the NPCs have done sensible actions, but are at the end of their resources, and present a story to the PCs that takes twists and turns as they go through the logical actions of investigation within a magical realm.

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On 9/29/2020 at 4:53 PM, Trotsky said:

So, how could that happen? One of the characters is an assistant shaman who is on good terms with his shaman who might help – could be part of his training. The man who abducted the woman also seemed not to be quite in his right mind, so a way to make him speak the truth would also be necessary.

Ancestor worship would raise his spirit.  The whole measure of forcing the spirit to speak the truth is a moot point.  Clever cross-examination may get the spirit to accidentally incriminate himself by, say, losing his cool and ranting out the truth.  it is also possible that the spirit, while crazy, is no longer attached to the world and will have no investment in hiding the truth, even if their version of it is a bit demented.  Have you seen Rashomon?  Kurosawa's take on this story was interesting in that the Ghost had the least coherent narrative of all of the parties involved in his murder.  Just a thought...

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In an upcoming adventure with my players someone have burned down a barn with a child inside. 

Any attempts to use spirits will be blocked by a powerful raven spirit that has been set to obfuscate the truth.

 

of course, if they find the shaman who summoned that spirit...

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Hi coffeemancer - sounds cool. In our game there is no mystery and we are going to use it as an introduction to the Spirit World - as we have an assistant shaman in the group it is going to be increasingly important.

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On 9/30/2020 at 2:49 PM, kirinyaga said:
  • succeeding a heroquest based on truth or honour will also prove her right. That may be out of her league, though.

'The Law-Staff Heroquest' from the Sartar Companion supplement for Heroquest: Glorantha RPG springs to mind, if you have it available.

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As promised I said I would let you all know how the Spirit World adventure went. Feedback from the players was that they enjoyed it – which is of course the main thing.

The adventurers wanted to travel to the Spirit World and bring back the spirit of a young man who had been killed by a friend of theirs. That friend had only her word against the dead man for what had happened prior to the killing and so it was looking a little dicey for her – especially as their friend was from an adjacent clan and the stead of the killed man were out for revenge…

The adventuring group consists of four players, although one could not make the session and so it was run with just the three of them:

esembled.jpg.b1cd105102c9dffc0a81574f6c0b2fe2.jpg

Araldar, son of Stoyan of Hill Base Stead. Apprentice Shaman of the White Hart. Initiate of Orlanth Thunderous.

Sarooth, son of Gordanger of Twice Blessed Stead. Noble and son of the Chieftain of the Haraborn. Initiate of Orlanth Adventurous.

Binta, daughter of Gunta of  Twin Stone Stead. Healer and Midwife of the Haraborn. Initiate of Ernalda.

The first task they faced was convincing Araldar’s shaman, Henarl, to help them. Binta brought a cake and they reminded Henarl of a story of the Black Stag (the clan’s wyter) where it helped someone from another clan. So, after some roleplay, orate rolls and cake, Henarl agreed to help.

In our version of the Haraborn Clan, discorporation is called, ‘the Parting.’ Shaman of the White Hart each have a Parting Stone which they use to teach their apprentices how to first cross to the Spirit World. The stones have a spell matrix for discorporation. The adventurers then had to cast an extension to give them long enough there to find the spirit of the dead man.

Sarooth and Binta were told by Henarl of the beauty and terror of the Spirit World. We used the illustration on page 365 from the core rules to demonstrate how Henarl saw the Spirit World and the adventurers’ were told that their perception of it will not be as clear.

They were gathered together at Stag Hill (an Orlanth place of worship). Henarl did not go with them but did summon a specific ancestor, Longwalker, who acted as a guide and gave the young Araldar a bonus on his Spirit Travel rolls. 

The group then undertook the Parting and found themselves in the Spirit World. Their perception was indeed not how Henarl saw it…

Longwalker.thumb.jpg.a368b9649f0ab5e0db592b647b5261b8.jpg

Longwalker, the closer figure, asked them about the dead man’s death and advised them to seek a spirit of Humakt. The figures in the background were the many Haraborn spirits that dwelled around the Orlanth holy place. Araldar, being an Orlanthi assistant shaman, had a slightly better perception of the Spirit World – this perception came in the form of the winds he felt in different locations.

Arladar also has a rough mind map of Spirit World locations he had visited or had heard Henarl speak of. His mind map is shown below.

1946619594_spiritplaneAraldar.thumb.jpg.ab4f45a02a83fdde41ca1830b9363474.jpg

He determined that Alebard’s Tower would be a good place to travel to, to locate a Humakt spirit. They successful undertook Spirit Travel to that location.

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Three spirits were within the perception of the group. A close spirit who was watching them intently, a further spirit who appeared to be lost or was looking for something, and a more distant spirit who must have been quite powerful for them to perceive it at all.

They approached the first spirit, who indeed had a strong affinity to the Death Rune, and spoke to it. After they had explained their purpose the spirit indicated it might have information they required and was open for a trade. It demanded a sacrifice of nine magic points for it. The adventurers considered that the cost was very high but despite their protestations the priced remained the same. They considered approaching the other spirits but eventually decided to pay the price so they could immediately continue their quest. Binta particularly with her high Fertility Rune affinity wanted to be away from the Humakt spirits as soon as possible. The spirit told them that not long past a wailing spirit crying out the name of their friend and blaming his kin for his death did travel past – he was heading for the Chaos Grounds…

The mention of the Chaos Grounds was most unwelcome to the group. Araldar had not travelled there before but was aware that the blood of the Crimson Bat had been spilt there and that Henarl had warned it was a dangerous place. They briefly considered abandoning their search before their impulsive Orlanthi spirit asserted themselves and they committed to travelling there.

Another successful Spirit Travel and the group found themselves close to a swirling mass of spirits caught in a vortex – from the vortex were the screams and howls of trapped spirits trying to escape…

Vortex.thumb.jpg.998ac86abc90d546bda5b2ce64e21b42.jpg

The adventurers felt the pull of the vortex and had to steady themselves using strong Rune affiliations to root themselves. As they watched in horror, they could just make out the dead man’s spirit in the midst of the maelstrom. Every now and then it would make its way to the edge of the vortex and try to reach out to escape but was immediately sucked back in. The party debated what to do before Sarooth, an Orlanthi of action and not thought, decided to approach and try and grab the dead man and pull him out. As Sarooth approached the pull of the vortex intensified, and Binta came and taking on the guise of Ernalda helped Sarooth stay rooted and not drawn into the spirit abyss. 

As Sarooth waited, he saw also in the vortex other spirits swimming against the spin – these spirits were evil, foul things. When the dead man once again managed to reach to the edge of the vortex, Sarooth attempted to grab him and pull him out. Rolling his POWx5 he easily succeeded and spun the dead man out of the vortex – however also released was a dread chaos spirit of a broo…

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The raving dead man immediately fell on Araldar, who had been his rival in life for the affection of the woman who had killed him. Sarooth joined with the broos spirit and Binta aided him.

Sarooth, imbued with the charisma spell, easily overcome the broo with an immediate special success and rolled incredibly well. I had wanted to try out some of the new diseases from the Legion Jonstown Compendium book – but maybe next time!

Araldar and the dead man’s spirit tussled for a while with little effect before Sarooth and Binta joined him and in the spiritual melee the dead man was defeated. Before they had left for the adventure, Araldar had been lent Henarl’s belt which had a spell matrix for Spirit Binding on it, and Binta had with her a crystal to hold the spirit.

With the spirit successfully held within the drop of a god’s blood the party returned to the mundane plane and the short adventure was finished. All in all quite pleased with how it went – it felt different enough and the players said it was an unsettling environment. I think it worked well as a short introduction for the Spirit World in our campaign. 

Edited by Trotsky
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37 minutes ago, Trotsky said:

Arladar also has a rough mind map of Spirit World locations he had visited or had heard Henarl speak of. His mind map is shown below.

I love the map, it shows how much of the Spirit Plane is a blur and that important locations have their own areas of the Spirit Plane.

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Thanks soltakss, the map idea was discussed with assistant shaman player before the session. As the character is still pretty inexperienced we thought he would be more prone to map areas of the Spirit World to their physical locations - there are other areas but he lacks the ability to perceive those at his current understanding.

btw: I think you know the Araldar player, he was the Jack’O’Bear that licked the dragon skeleton in your recent online game!

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11 minutes ago, Trotsky said:

btw: I think you know the Araldar player, he was the Jack’O’Bear that licked the dragon skeleton in your recent online game!

Small world.

As long as he doesn't lick spirits, he should be OK.

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