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RQ Starter Set Design Diary #4: more about the new adventurers


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By Jason Durall, RuneQuest creative director

The Starter Set for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha is coming! Between now and its release later this year, RuneQuest creative director Jason Durall's Design Diary will share insights about the development of this exciting new boxed set which will introduce the RuneQuest RPG and Greg Stafford's mythic world of Glorantha to all-new audiences.

Diary #1: What to expect in the RQ Starter Set
Diary #2: Cover Art reveal, and what's inside the box
Diary #3: The new adventurers

Continuing our introduction of the new adventurers in the RQ Starter Set, for this installment I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at two who don’t fit into easy categorization: Makarios the Chalana Arroy healer and Narres Runepainter of the Necropolis.

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L-R MAKARIOS, NARRES

Makarios

While traditionally, a majority of Chalana Arroy healers are women, there are no rules barring men from the cult, and when rolling up the adventurer, I decided from early on to make a male Chalana Arroy healer. In this case, Makarios has followed in his mother’s and grandmother’s steps into the path of healing. The dice rolls gave him a distinguished grandmother and mother, but then also had him run into a bit of bad luck in which he received an awakened animal companion. Given the mythological connections between healers and serpents, I decided that Makarios had a white serpent that helped him when he was injured and dying.

For those who enjoy healing-oriented characters, Makarios is the way to go, with the potent Resurrect spell as part of his repertoire, and mundane First Aid and Plant Lore for when he doesn’t want to spend any Rune points. He’s not a slouch with a sling, either. Though all Chalana Arroy healers take an oath not to harm living beings, there is nothing about fighting undead, and Makarios is (reluctantly) willing to take up arms if he and his companions are threatened by the forces of unlife.

Narres

Similarly, the Heortling people recognize four sexes and six genders, but the initial seven pre-generated adventurers didn’t reflect that, so I felt it was important to have a character who wasn’t male or female. Narres came together as a combination of a few factors I’d been considering for a while: a nonbinary adventurer; a more philosophical take on the Eurmali cultist than a simple jester/trickster; and someone born and raised in Esrolia’s incredible Necropolis, a site I’ve wanted to do something with.

Another thing that had been percolating was the practice of tattooing in Glorantha, and I quite liked the notion of an adventurer whose ‘day job’ was tattooing all of the evocative tattoos we see on all of the people of Glorantha. Most tattooing is likely done within the clan or temple, as one learns the Runes, but it also seems more-than-likely that there’s a bit of professional tattooing. (I will admit that Narres is also inspired a bit by Zatoichi, the blind swordsman/masseuse from Japanese fiction and screen.) I had the idea that within the Necropolis there’s a whole industry of those who prepare the dead for burial and tend to the not-quite dead, and that’s where Narres finds themself.

As tattooing is an artform unlike any of the others, it also seemed like this would be a good choice for the Eurmali character, who turned into a bit more philosophical in my head than many. Jeff Richard suggested that they extend a fluid gender identity to actual magical fluidity, and we added a new spell from Cults of Glorantha to the list of those provided.

So if you want a character who’s a bit philosophical, a bit enigmatic, has a bit of skill with bluffing and stealth, but with a surprisingly pragmatic view of the world and the transition between life and death, Narres is the best choice for you. Of all the new ones, Narres is the one I’d like to read more about, and have had a fun time dropping them into a few of the playtest campaigns as a non-player character.

Iconic Characters

One thing players of RuneQuest may have noticed is that we’ve focused on an iconic group of adventurers in much of the artwork for the game. This also extends to many of the demo games, and behind the scenes with adventure writing. When a writer asks about how to get player characters ‘hooked’ into a particular adventurer, I always say “Look at the pregenerated adventurers. Why would they get involved in this adventure? Is there something for each of them to do?” Usually, the answers to those questions provide a wide range of options for any player character group.

We have also used those characters on the covers of most of the existing books, from the RuneQuest Quickstart and RQG core rules, the Gamemaster Screen Pack, the two adventure collections (The Pegasus Plateau and The Smoking Ruin), and Yanioth being featured on the cover for The Red Book of Magic. And when we decided what to put on the cover of the Starter Set box, it became clear that we wanted our iconic characters there. So rather than just getting seven new pre-generated ready-to-play adventurers, we decided to put the original seven in there as well, for a total of 14 to choose from!

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ORIGINAL RQG PRE-GENS – TOP L-R: YANIOTH, HARMAST, VISHI DUNN
BOTTOM L-R: VOSTOR, SORALA, NATHEM

The New Look

Originally, we planned on just following the layout from the RQG core rulebook and the RQ Quickstart for the character sheets, but early on we decided to push the graphical envelope and do something different and more deluxe and user-friendly. Looking at the information we wanted to convey and the visual impact we wanted to make, it made sense to go for something in the gatefold format, with a big full-page picture of the adventurer on the back. It took a lot of experimenting but we are happy with the end result. So much so, that we decided to provide some blank sheets in this new folio format for you to use with your own adventurers!

Here's Vasana, the star of the original pre-gens, in her adventurer portfolio format:

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But Wait, There’s More...

Glorantha has a lot of diverse and interesting non-humans, from our signature trolls to ducks to Morokanth, and dwarfs and elves unlike any other game world. One last thing we’ve decided to do for players who really, really want to play a non-human, is a simultaneous online release of a group of pregenerated non-human adventurers, laid out in the same format as the other pre-generated adventurers. Details on this are still being finalized, but it should add yet more variety and playablity to the Starter Set materials. 

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These are lovely, but my personal peeve is the depiction of Earth Elementals: Bestiary: "It cannot leave the soil and looks like a whirlpool or pulse in the earth itself." but I get that as described it may not look so good... 

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Loving these peeks to the Starter sets - and while wishing I could get my hands on the PDF sooner, I understand the strategy behind releasing this set as physical copies at the same time as pdf.  Props to the artists and the layout team on these character portfolio's they look amazing - just wish I could get something so amazing for my roll20 virtual tabletop PC sheets.

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So the GoG's restrictions on CA will be to personally "not harm living beings"?

I've been wondering how "never to harm an intelligent creature or needlessly cause pain to any living thing" (RQG, p.290) was going to be interpreted. For example, whether harming an unintelligent chaotic creature was seen as "needless" and whether they would heal people for the purpose of allowing those people to continue causing harm to intelligent creatures.

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On 4/16/2021 at 8:31 AM, Scorus said:

So the GoG's restrictions on CA will be to personally "not harm living beings"?

I've been wondering how "never to harm an intelligent creature or needlessly cause pain to any living thing" (RQG, p.290) was going to be interpreted. For example, whether harming an unintelligent chaotic creature was seen as "needless" and whether they would heal people for the purpose of allowing those people to continue causing harm to intelligent creatures.

So, I could see a CA around the Upland Marsh, going along with the Hueymakti. 

Could a CA have a spirit that could cast the prohibited spells on them, for the purposes of fighting undead?

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On 4/16/2021 at 1:31 AM, Scorus said:

So the GoG's restrictions on CA will be to personally "not harm living beings"?

That's just Jason paraphrasing what you quoted below.

On 4/16/2021 at 1:31 AM, Scorus said:

I've been wondering how "never to harm an intelligent creature or needlessly cause pain to any living thing" (RQG, p.290) was going to be interpreted.

It's been basically the same since the cult was first published in Cults of Prax (Lay members also must take an oath never to harm a living creature and to aid all within the limits of their ability.)

On 4/16/2021 at 1:31 AM, Scorus said:

For example, whether harming an unintelligent chaotic creature was seen as "needless" and whether they would heal people for the purpose of allowing those people to continue causing harm to intelligent creatures.

That's what you decide at your table. The oath is just a statement, players must decide themselves what this means for their adventurer.

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5 hours ago, David Scott said:
Quote

I've been wondering how "never to harm an intelligent creature or needlessly cause pain to any living thing" (RQG, p.290) was going to be interpreted.

It's been basically the same since the cult was first published in Cults of Prax (Lay members also must take an oath never to harm a living creature and to aid all within the limits of their ability.)

My view as a GM? If you have to argue why something is right then it is probably wrong.

As for the Needless qualification, we had loads of fun as Yelmalians justifying why is was necessary to cause horses pain. In terms of Chalana Arroy, we interpreted it in the form that a Chalana Arroy member could reset a dislocated arm using First Aid, it caused pain but was not needless. Similarly, putting pressure on a wo0und to stop it bleeding causes pain but is not needless. Operations are a grey area, we said that Chalana Arroy couldn't perform them, as they involved shedding blood, but the Seven Mothers healers could.

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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Operations are a grey area, we said that Chalana Arroy couldn't perform them, as they involved shedding blood, but the Seven Mothers healers could.

Under what circumstances would you see any healer having to perform an operation? And where is the prohibition on shedding blood from?

We play that CA oaths do not cover Chaotic beings and CA are allowed to to hunt for food.

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9 hours ago, Godlearner said:

Under what circumstances would you see any healer having to perform an operation?

Removing something from deep inside a body.

Helping someone who has had a wound so severe that it would have killed them, but has made a hit location unusable, by making it usable again.

There might be some illnesses that require operations to fix them.

9 hours ago, Godlearner said:

And where is the prohibition on shedding blood from?

It is one of the things that we decided on in our RQ2 gaming group. "Never harm a living creature" was interpreted as including the shedding of blood. So, causing harm to ultimately help was also forbidden.

 

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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9 hours ago, Godlearner said:

Under what circumstances would you see any healer having to perform an operation?

Trepanation. A surgical practice from paleolithic times already.

Digging out thorns, arrow shafts, stingers.

Lancing boils.

Removing renal calculus (an activity that is taboo according to the Hippocratic Oath), gall stones.

Caesarean delivery.

Hernia.

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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1 hour ago, Joerg said:

Removing renal calculus (an activity that is taboo according to the Hippocratic Oath), gall stones.

”I will not cut for stone, even for the patients in whom the disease is manifest”. It probably includes gall stones.

Although it’s fine to leave it to the experts; the notion seems to be that it’s just too difficult and dangerous to the general practitioner.

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The prohibition against shedding blood is illogical and seems like a carry over from the old days of D&D were clerics were limited to blunt weapons. Unless you give CA magic that can perform laparoscopy it makes no more than feel good nurses in a lot of cases.

"Oh my, I can't release that turnicate to clean the wound before healing it." Is this what you expect a CA to say?

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On 4/15/2021 at 1:38 AM, Joerg said:

Are Sorala and Nathem left-handed?

Speaking as a fellow member of the Secret Society of Sinister Southpaws, YES!

Or as Gun Jesus [Ian McCollum] calls us, 'criminally left-handed' 😁

And let me tell you, fighting heavy in the SCA as a lefty is an, um, experience. Watching two lefties fight sword and board is almost painful to watch. Fighters that you always thought were competent suddenly look like cows on ice.

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4 hours ago, Joerg said:

Trepanation. A surgical practice from paleolithic times already.

Digging out thorns, arrow shafts, stingers.

Lancing boils.

Removing renal calculus (an activity that is taboo according to the Hippocratic Oath), gall stones.

Caesarean delivery.

Hernia.

The White Healers of Chalana Arroy may not do harm for sake of malice, but they know well that sometimes healing comes with scars. All of them know how to wield a knife for sake of their arts.

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26 minutes ago, svensson said:

Speaking as a fellow member of the Secret Society of Sinister Southpaws, YES!

My problem with that is that sinister southpaws in Glorantha are carrying the mark of the dragon. Which is sort of ok if Sorala has advanced enough in her studies of all things EWF, but Nathem? (He may just be left-eyed, although instinctive archery doesn't really put that much weight on exact aiming across a shaft with a single eye.)

Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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On 4/15/2021 at 9:38 AM, Joerg said:

Are Sorala and Nathem left-handed?

Nathem is holding his bow right-handed, so why do you think he's a lefty? Now that I check the RQG illustration on p97, is it me or is that a super weird way to draw a bow?

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5 hours ago, PhilHibbs said:

Nathem is holding his bow right-handed, so why do you think he's a lefty? Now that I check the RQG illustration on p97, is it me or is that a super weird way to draw a bow?

1 - I am right handed, but held my bow with my left hand. If Nathem is like me, as he held his bow with his right hand, he is left handed.

2 - For a left handed man that helds his bow horizontally, it seems correct. The way he pulls the arrow with his left hand feels wrong to me, thus.

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15 hours ago, Joerg said:

My problem with that is that sinister southpaws in Glorantha are carrying the mark of the dragon. Which is sort of ok if Sorala has advanced enough in her studies of all things EWF, but Nathem? (He may just be left-eyed, although instinctive archery doesn't really put that much weight on exact aiming across a shaft with a single eye.)

I wonder just how prevalent the anti-left-handed bias is. From personal experience I can see a bias for those cultures with an organized military tradition that relied on highly organized formations and shield walls [Lunar hoplites, Heortling thane shield walls, etc.] because nothing buggers up a shield wall like a lefty in it. But for cultures with a more 'open-order' style of warfare [Praxians, Sartar fyrd-bands] it wouldn't matter so much.

Yes, the 'Newts are lefties. Yes, there is a bad taste against anything that smacks of the EWF. But does it sink to level of handedness? Several Sartarite Knowing Men /sages /Lankhor Mhy cultists are authorities on the EWF with little or no cultural backlash, so it seems to be a matter of debate.

But then, I could be wrong. My mother had to write my school district when I was a child and tell them to stop making me write right-handed. It literally gave me headaches as a first-grader. So some of the cultural prohibitions can run pretty deep.

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I don't think it is as much cultural prohibition (that, too) but an actual mythical imperative that links left-handedness with draconic thought.

Which could be tested in Kralorela, where people with draconic insights might be quite numerous.

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Telling how it is excessive verbis

 

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