Jump to content

Consequences for Killing Major Named NPCs


ZedAlpha

Recommended Posts

So my players are going to attempt to kill Harrek the Berserk in the next few sessions of our HQ:G game. Due to a heroquest performed by the party Trickster (who's now Illuminated as a side effect of the heroquest), they actually have a shot at doing this. My own experience with Glorantha (aside from this game) is pretty much limited to King of Dragon Pass and Six Ages, and only one of our players had ever played in any RuneQuest/HeroQuest/Hero Wars games before--and they're perfectly fine with offing important background NPCs if/whenever necessary to the story. 

My main question here is not the how but the what would logically happen next? If Our Heroes successfully murder (or otherwise 'take off the board' somehow) the god-king of the Wolf Pirates, the deadliest man in Glorantha, what political/religious/military/whatever fallout would logically (in your opinions or imagination) happen? Would the Wolf Pirates just pack up and leave Esrolia? Would they swear fealty to whoever offed their leader, Necromongers-style? Would they swear eternal vengeance and do even worse things to the Holy Country? Something else?

I don't know. I'm curious as to what might happen. I'm also really curious about any times where any of y'all's games might have had a similar situation with another Big Important Named NPC From The Lore.

Edited by ZedAlpha
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Options:

1- They might heroquest to bring him back, drawing PCs into that (fun!)

2- Someone rises from within them to fill the void, e.g. Mularik Ironeye-- or from outside. Sir Ethilrist?

3- They fall apart (less exciting) or ask killer to be leader (could be fun)

I've never had this happen myself, on that scale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If they kill Harrek in front of his men in a blatant 'we just slaughtered Harrek' kind of way, the Wolf Pirates probably take off and flee back to Ygg's islands because you are a terrifying person.

If Harrek dies ambiguously, they look for him to see if he's really dead and try to kill the PCs.

But here's the next thing - If they just whacked Harrek before he kills Jar-Eel, she sticks around, complicating life for Argath and other rebels against the Empire.

If he becomes an actual bear-god, I suggest having his followers start worshipping him and stick around.  But probably wisely fear the PCs.

Also, is this before or after he broke with Argath?  

The Esrolians will be glad that Harrek is gone, but they don't want a bunch of men hanging around who are that tough.  Some grandmother is going to start looking for some way to get them to leave / turn them into sacrifices / send them to destroy her ehemies.

(Some Trolls might be impressed and try to get the PCs to heroquest to bring back the Only Old One.  Conversely, they may remember how Eurmal killed the Only Old One's son and want to kill the PCs..)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, that’s one of the vague things we can define for ourselves? Neat. In that case I might go with the “Multiple Argraths” model for the hero wars. Argrath the Mariner, pirate, explorer, and all around Orlanthi scumbag, he can be with Harrek, plotting how they’re going to keep on despoiling the Holy Country, then. I’m imagining this guy as having ties to a lot of sea spirits and the seedier side of Orlanth in his guise as the Thunderer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the advice we give in the forthcoming RQ Campaign book:

CHANGING HISTORY

We encourage you to include well-known Gloranthan characters and events in your campaign. Their presence adds to the players’ experience and lends authority and authenticity. However, their inclusion always threatens the worst. For instance, what if Gunda the Guilty is facing the adventurers in battle and happens to roll a 00, while the adventurer rolls a critical success. What should you do?  Here are some suggestions:

You can fudge: “Well, a blow like that would have killed any normal mortal twice over, but not the mighty Gunda!”

You can invoke a deus ex machina: “Gunda reels, but a spectral armed woman rides down from the sky. Everyone make a Cult Lore lore – it is one of Humakt’s choosers of the dead! She kneels over Gunda to tell her that it is not yet time to join Death, and kisses her gently on the lips. Gunda wakes, slightly dazed.”

How about surprise: “Gunda’s body falls to the ground. When you move forward to loot the body, make a Homeland Lore roll – made it? You realize this isn’t Gunda! Someone is wearing her armor and carries her weapons, but it is definitely not her!”

Or do nothing. Change history. “The terrible Gunda the Guilty, boon companion of Harrek the Berserk, is dead.” And we pity the killer – as Harrek the Berserk will stop at nothing to avenge her death.

You can even resurrect the character! Some characters like Argrath, the Feathered Horse Queen, Sir Ethilrist, and Jar-eel have escaped the Place of the Dead before and can do it again, others might be resurrected by their followers or community. “Sometime after the battle, you hear that Harrek traveled into Hell to rescue Gunda the Guilty and fought Death himself to do so. Despite bringing her back to the world of the living, the White Bear has announced that he shall kill everyone involved in Gunda’s death, and that he intends not only to kill them, but their families, and even their neighbors!”

Most characters are dispensable anyway. Only the death of one of the five main characters would extensively change the campaign plot. And even that is not inviolate – although it does create additional work for you as your campaign will go in a very different direction without much guidance or support from published materials.

Changing history requires some forethought, but nothing requires you to follow the campaign to its predestined end. You may decide to throw predestination to the wind, let any player-character become the Prince of Sartar, and maybe even allow someone else to marry the Feathered Horse Queen and become the King of Dragon Pass. 

In the end, this campaign is yours to decide what you make of it.

Edited by Jeff
  • Like 15
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The most immediate consequences:

-The Wolf Pirates splinter a bit further. Gunda retains the largest faction, but without Harrek's sheer prestige she can't deliver the same level of raiding, so more Wolf Pirates depart the Threestep Isles for other climes, or join Argrath if he's already started conquering.

- The spirit of the White Bear is freed. This has profound consequences for the Rathori, Fronela in general, and unless your campaign would be going that way you don't especially need to care. 

- Harrek isn't around to pull Jar-eel's attention during the Battle of Heroes if this hasn't already happened, so either we get a much more even result/outright Lunar victory, or someone else steps up to fill the void. Perhaps a hero-band who have already slain a demigod once are called upon to fight another one... 

- Regardless, it seems very likely that Moonson Argenteus gets hard restarted by his sister and Fourth Inspiration still, because the driving force there is his inattention to critical areas of rule and the need for a more useful Mask. And the whole Pelorian Romance of the Three Empires period begins. 

- With a less clear Sartarite victory, Mularik's actions during the conquest, I mean 'liberation' of Furthest (assuming that still happens) may well prove to be so intolerable for any hope of holding Tarsh that Argrath is a bit less "will no one rid me of this turbulent Arkati?" and a bit more "someone whack this motherfucker for your pal Argrath?" 

- Most critically, without Harrek, coastal communities will begin to feel they have a chance against the Wolf Pirates again, especially Esrolia and the Rightarm Isles, and that will in turn lead to victories, possibly even active pirate hunting, and free up energy for other long-term projects. (Resurrecting Ezkankekko, freeing Belintar, declaring the Manirian New Coast an Esrolian protectorate and getting ready to tango with Seshnela...)

- Alternately, you can have Androgeus, he of the many pronouns, she of the underdeveloped role in the Hero Wars, step into Harrek's shoes and use them to keep history "on track". (Boo! Boo!) 

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1

Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

Eight Arms and the Mask

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Generally speaking, my view is that if you're going to do stuff like this in your games, you need to be smart enough to work out the consequences for yourself. So my next Hero Wars epic RQ scenario will include a few pointers for GMs who might worry they've screwed the pooch by playing fast and loose with key figures / events in their own campaigns before they ever picked it up, but essentially if you want to run a game that's all about Saving Private Kallyr, replacing Argrath, killing Harrek via a clever use of a one-point Rune spell, or treading the jewelled thrones of Glorantha beneath your sandaled feet, man up and do the necessary work. (It smells of infinite oregano, frankly)

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you decide you want to permanently kill off one of the five main figures in the setting, you need to decide what that means. And at that point, you are off the grid. Your Glorantha Will Vary to the point where the published material will provide you very little support or guidance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An illuminated trickster would be under no obligation to clean up their mess when they caused real harm, kind of like Trickster was before the LBQ. Eurmel the destroyer.

So rather than kill Harrek, maybe there is an opportunity for Eurmel to steal his sword, but trickster discovers they keep cutting themselves whenever they tried to use the sword. But such a beautiful sword. Maybe the Orlanthi has a dream that he could do great things with such a sword, so he is prompted to ask the trickster if he could borrow it.

I think you see where this is headed. Every time Eurmel lends the sword to someone, they do something terrible with it. The Orlanthi kills a Yelm priest who challenges him. After this the sky is permanently overcast overhead from the party's perspective. Trolls and vampires can walk in daylight, and trouble the party. Strange and increasingly powerful enemies start stalking the party. The sword gets passed around, but every time it is used, it just makes things worse.

Eventually they realise Harrek is the only person who can set things right again, but they have to give him his sword back.

 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Martin said:

Good luck in  killing Harrek :) After  all doesnt he have the Death Rune Affinity twice?   he is  Death incarnate...i would think once he gets going not much survives

As seen in another thread, the players in his game quested and now their trickster has a one-shot use of the Infinity Rune with which to try and take Harrek down.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, ZedAlpha said:

My main question here is not the how but the what would logically happen next? If Our Heroes successfully murder (or otherwise 'take off the board' somehow) the god-king of the Wolf Pirates, the deadliest man in Glorantha, what political/religious/military/whatever fallout would logically (in your opinions or imagination) happen? Would the Wolf Pirates just pack up and leave Esrolia? Would they swear fealty to whoever offed their leader, Necromongers-style? Would they swear eternal vengeance and do even worse things to the Holy Country? Something else?

As Jeff noted "If you decide you want to permanently kill off one of the five main figures in the setting, you need to decide what that means."

In this context, what I'd do though is think of each of these main figures almost as Forces of Nature.  What would it mean to the world to kill Death or kill the Air?  Harrek is a force of destruction, sometimes directed, sometimes seemingly by chance. 

He is also what was called in the old boardgames a "superhero", meaning he's got a lot of his soul invested in the God's World and knows how to return from Death. And he has heroquesting companions.  Gunda is one of these and his best friend.  Any of these might interpose themselves in the attempt to take out Harrek, or simply be the one in the wrong spot.  Or perhaps the attempt kills the White Bear, not Harrek, since the White Bear is almost always with Harrek.

But, if Harrek is taken out, what might happen?

  • The White Bear (a god in its own right) is liberated.  Does one of the other Wolf Pirates take on its visage?  Or is it freed to return to Fronela and the Rathori?  Perhaps it allies with Valind, Himile, and other deities of the ice to bring the Glacier back across the world.
  • Gunda, Harrek's best friend, is enraged and initiates a Dance of Death, and leads Humakt's Choosers of the Dead (noted above in one of Jeff's posts) against the PC's
  • Or Gunda sends off on a Godquest to resurrect Harrek, or free him from the bonds of the Infinite
  • The Wolf Pirates probably break apart - some follow Gunda, some join Argrath, others go off on their own, maybe some join Harrek's killer (if they promise booty and glory).  Probably helps the Holy Country at the immediate level, but maybe Gunda returns with something worse, and targeted at all the PC's love...
  • And maybe there are those who take up Harrek's role in Laskal, far to the south across the oceans?  Instead of Harrek leading the fight against Chaos, someone there takes up or resurrects the powers of the Bat Goddess of Death, and now the Lunar Empire has a greater ally far to the south, someone who leads a fleet to conquer the Holy Country.
  • The Powers of Destruction fall elsewhere.  Maybe someone from the merfolk following Wachaza, or a troll of Zorak Zoran, or an Alkothi follower of Shargash, takes up the "mantle" of Harrek.  Destruction does not prove to be eradicated, but shifts to another focal point or "icon".  (The last note on "icon" references ideas from the 13th Age RPG where there are a set of figures, "icons", that are the prominent leaders that influence the actions across the world.  Harrek certainly fits into this model, but his absence creates a vacuum that someone is likely to fill.)

(I think @Eff noted a lot of other relevant thoughts above too)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Killing Harrek may take more than one success. In his first appearance in publication (White Bear and Red Moon), Harrek as a superhero has a 4 in 6 chance to reappear the morning after. Argrath has a 3 in 6 chance, like any of the capital H Heroes.

These guys have long discovered the rear exit from Hell, and it takes extraordinary means to make a death permanent. Even the void of that Thed spell might be insufficient. The God Learners went to great lengths to keep Arkat dead, and so did the Lunars for Sheng Seleris.

After Harrek (the avatar of Death) kills Jar-eel and takes her heart as a jewel, she re-appears, blood pumping through her veins.

 

Using the infinity rune certainly will create some extra difficulty for Harrek to return, but he has a best friend who will slay heavens and hell to get him back. Probably drawing the perps into her quest.

Maybe it would help to resurrect the White Bear God (in the shape prior to the taxidermy, separating him from the taxidermist)?

The reward for a successful, world-changing heroquest is another world-changing heroquest, after all.

Edited by Joerg
  • Like 1

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

Generally speaking, my view is that if you're going to do stuff like this in your games, you need to be smart enough to work out the consequences for yourself. So my next Hero Wars epic RQ scenario will include a few pointers for GMs who might worry they've screwed the pooch by playing fast and loose with key figures / events in their own campaigns before they ever picked it up, but essentially if you want to run a game that's all about Saving Private Kallyr, replacing Argrath, killing Harrek via a clever use of a one-point Rune spell, or treading the jewelled thrones of Glorantha beneath your sandaled feet, man up and do the necessary work. (It smells of infinite oregano, frankly)

yeah, that's the entire point of this thread, lol. I'd like to do the work, because my players either A) don't know/care about Gloranthan canon (but like the setting) and want to defeat the bear-clad supervillain that's raping and pillaging his way across their home country, or 2) really, really, really like Gloranthan canon, but hate gaming in settings where all-powerful NPCs get to do all the cool stuff and the PCs are stuck in the background. 

5 hours ago, Jeff said:

If you decide you want to permanently kill off one of the five main figures in the setting, you need to decide what that means. And at that point, you are off the grid. Your Glorantha Will Vary to the point where the published material will provide you very little support or guidance.

YYYEP. I'm aware. Thanks for the "Changing History" post, by the way, that's giving me some confidence that I won't just get shouted down for doing this like I would if I asked this kind of question around Dragonlance fans, or something. 

I need to look up like...90% of the names that @Eff and @jajagappa have dropped, but there's some interesting ideas there. I kind of enjoy @EricW's idea of recreating the Death Story writ large, and might incorporate elements of that. What @Joerg said about: 

23 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Maybe it would help to resurrect the White Bear God (in the shape prior to the taxidermy, separating him from the taxidermist)?

The reward for a successful, world-changing heroquest is another world-changing heroquest, after all.

really rings true for me in both parts. The players' plan (according to our Discord and me dropping more lore for them to devour at their leisure) right now involves separating the Bear God from Harrek, turning him into a "merely" incredibly angry and deadly pirate king with a big-ass axe, then finding some way to survive the ensuing swordfight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

The players' plan (according to our Discord and me dropping more lore for them to devour at their leisure) right now involves separating the Bear God from Harrek, turning him into a "merely" incredibly angry and deadly pirate king with a big-ass axe, then finding some way to survive the ensuing swordfight.

Of course, this could all be a plot by the White Bear (i.e. the polar bear god) to separate himself from Harrek, or by the Rathori (the bear hsunchen, aka Bearwalkers - those men who are bears but are in human form) or rescue their stolen deity.  This doesn't mean Harrek loses "hero" status - he knows heroquesting, has come back from Hell before, has a place in the God's World, and is worshipped by the Wolf Pirates - but he would lose his god ally and that would force Harrek into other quests to regain some of his savage powers.

There might be "bumps" then in the official timeline, but Harrek still exists to perform various events.  (And likely is after those who "stole" his white bear from him.)

One approach to doing this would be to quest into the Godtime seeking the White Bear BEFORE it was skinned by Harrek, and then being present when Harrek comes to do so.  Saving the White Bear at this point would keep Harrek from binding the bear god into its skin, and drop Harrek out of the quest without his White Bear identity.  Perhaps Harrek is dropped out on the Glacier and has to find his way back to Dragon Pass?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ooh, that'd be something: Our Heroes kill Harrek, but later on his most devout followers find yet another way to claw him back from the Underworld. If they want him to stay dead, or not get back his horrible power, they'll later have to sort of counter-heroquest (if that's even a thing) to keep him from stealing his power from a Bear God that might-or-might-not be grateful that the PCs have liberated them. I could easily--if the campaign continues this long--hit them with news of Harrek's resurrection out of nowhere and then drop the news that not only is he alive, but he'll probably be able to steal the White Bear God's powers again, and then he'll be pissed

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Killing Harrek may take more than one success. In his first appearance in publication (White Bear and Red Moon), Harrek as a superhero has a 4 in 6 chance to reappear the morning after. Argrath has a 3 in 6 chance, like any of the capital H Heroes.

These guys have long discovered the rear exit from Hell, and it takes extraordinary means to make a death permanent. Even the void of that Thed spell might be insufficient. The God Learners went to great lengths to keep Arkat dead, and so did the Lunars for Sheng Seleris.

After Harrek (the avatar of Death) kills Jar-eel and takes her heart as a jewel, she re-appears, blood pumping through her veins.

She does?  I thought after their showdown, she stayed dead and he just kind of wanders off the board to Pamaltela.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Eff said:

- Alternately, you can have Androgeus, he of the many pronouns, she of the underdeveloped role in the Hero Wars, step into Harrek's shoes and use them to keep history "on track". (Boo! Boo!) 

Um. 

I just. Um. The Trickster player, who has never  heard of Glorantha before this game, is nonbinary (like I am), their character is genderfluid (like me and the player both are), and he (player is fine with those pronouns right now) named his Trickster Androgenus as a joke.

 

 

is that why the only experienced Gloranthan gamer in the group couldn’t stop laughing when Trickster player introduced their character?

Edited by ZedAlpha
  • Like 4
  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of good ideas here.  But my answer is:

What to the players want to have happen?  Why the heck are they trying to kill Harrek?

If their answer is "because we can to show how cool and tough we are", they are probably playing the wrong game.  Instead, they should have some answer, like

  • Become leader of the Pirates
  • Lead Esrolia to free itself from the Pirate menace
  • My parents used to live in the City of Wonders, I'm avenging them and hope that XXX happens next
  • We want to prove ourselves as a elite team of secret Lunar Assassins.
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The party’s Earth Priestess wants this to protect Esrolia and gain political influence and fame. The party Humakti Duck wants to kill mammals and grow his legend as a peerless warrior. The party’s Praxian sorcerer/archer likes the idea of plundering the pirates’ stolen loot, and the party Trickster wants to avenge his family, who were killed by the pirates. They all have reasons that make sense in character.

Edited by ZedAlpha
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, ZedAlpha said:

Um. 

I just. Um. The Trickster player, who has never  heard of Glorantha before this game, is nonbinary (like I am), their character is genderfluid (like me and the player both are), and he (player is fine with those pronouns right now) named his Trickster Androgenus as a joke.

 

 

is that why the only experienced Gloranthan gamer in the group couldn’t stop laughing when Trickster player introduced their character?

Almost certainly. 

And now, there is but one recourse: making at least one joke about "No, the other Androgeus/Androgenus" or "-Genus, not -geus, I'm not affiliated with em!" 

(Note: if you decide to use Androgeus, existing sources alternate he/she. I generally cycle through they/them and four or five different neopronouns as well in the few times I've written about xem.) 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

Eight Arms and the Mask

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...