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An example of a sorcerous-style heroquest


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A post in the Glorantha G+ group asked: 

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Heroquest Glorantha says the following about learning new sorcery spells:

You may have the rote formulae
for a spell already in your book, but until you can
interact directly with the forces you’re harnessing,
you lack the understanding to use them.

This sounds intriguing. Is this process anything like heroquesting? Has anyone played through it or something like it with sorcerous characters?


The following was my response/'example' of trying such a quest.
 
In my HQG Orlmarth campaign, I ran a 'dream' for my LM sage which was something of an experiment to run a quest in the Essence plane. This was the basic structure I used:

1) He 'awoke' into a world where runes and symbols swirled around like leaves in a breeze, but eventually those blew away and left him on a grey, barren plain looking at 3 'tiny' runes.  As he approached he found they were doorways made of three runes:  Luck, Force (the Shargash rune), and Law.  Being a good LM, he went through the Law rune.  (Possibly this might be described as the Law of Openings or the Law of Beginnings - you must start somewhere)

2) He found himself in a large room and in the middle of the room was a stand and on the stand was a book whose cover was Blue.  He approached the book and as he approached the Book, he realized that this was the One Book, the Book of Everything, the Book of All Law.  When he looks back at the walls of the room, he first sees a writhing mass of chaos (tentacles, eyes, typical Cthulhu-esque view) and then it transforms into the body of an immense dragon completely encircling and enclosing the space.  Being too curious, of course, he tries to take the book.  The pages fly out, transform into more runes and symbols, and he's left with the cover of the book and the walls now have 8 doors. (And I'm sure you can guess what each door represents.)  He has reached the Law of Duality or Opposing Pairs.

3) Being a good LM, he chooses to try the Door/Gate of Truth.  He enters and finds himself in a long, seemingly unending hall and the door has closed behind him.  It is an Empty Hall and he is truly alone within it.  As he walks forward, for there is only one way to go, he finds that the walls are like polished bronze and he has entered the Hall of Mirrors which conveys reflections of the True Self.  He sees other figures in the mirrors looking back at him.  They look like him, but are not (e.g. one is beardless; another has dark black hair and curled and oiled beard, etc.)  Which is Truth and which Illusion, or are they all Truth?  He's still too curious and finds himself trapped in the Mirror and the dark black bearded self is now in the Hallway heading off where he once was walking. (Might be described as the Law of the Power)

4) The mirrored hallway reaches a fork (it is the Truth rune after all).  The LM sage still has the cover of the Blue Book in hand, so he opens it.  He finds there is a map of a big square lozenge inside.  Go to GtG p.681, and reverse the image as if looked at within a mirror.  He doesn't do anything with it at this point, but tries to continue down the hallway.  Being trapped in leftside Mirror, at the fork he is forced to follow the left-hand path and after a bit finds himself in a completely Dark hallway.  He has started his descent into the 5 Elements and the Law of Affinity.

5) In fact, he is now confronted by the rustling, skittering Fears of Darkness.  He tries to flee in panic and eventually falls into icy, cold water.  He finds a dark cup in the water, picks it up, and realizes that he is standing inside the cup/bowl and it is in fact a boat.  He travels in the boat until it comes aground on a small island.  At the peak of the island, he finds a large, square stone slab on which there are four mounds of clay.  He opens up and looks inside the book covers again and finds a new map.  However, he doesn't do anything with that.  Instead, he rolls the clay into long thin strips and places them next to each other until they form a door.  While he rolls the clay, the area about has visibly brightened.  He tries to use the clay 'door' and yes it works and opens to reveal a stone staircase descending into the island.  He becomes aware of scents in the Air but eventually reaches the bottom of the stair in a great cavern.  There's another stone slab here and on it sits a red-skinned woman in meditative pose.  She suggests that she's met him before but last time he held a sceptre of fire.  He has reached the threshold of the 5 Worlds - the Law of Refinement or Dissociation.

6) The woman indicates he must choose a door:  they are in the cardinal directions and are gates of White, Gold, Red, and Black.  He chooses the White gate.  She indicates that whichever gate/camp he goes to he must confront his predecessor.  Passing through this gate he comes to the Keeper of Innocence and Wisdom.  To enter the White Camp and partake of the Baths of Healing he is instructed that he must fulfill the Three Tasks of Wisdom.

7) The first task is that of Judgment.  He must judge the 3 fruits of the goddesses:  the Fruit of Peace, the Fruit of Life, and the Fruit of Power.  He chooses the Fruit of Life.
He gains the Truth of Life in doing so and is immediately cursed/set upon by the Arrows of Discord and the Naked Truth of Power.  He puts the book cover over his head to try to protect himself and... Fumbles... major defeat.  His magic fails, the book falls from his hands, open, and from the book steps a giant minotaur.  Voices say that he has unleashed the Destroyer and the Storm.  He has learned the Truth of Unleashing Raw Power Unchained.

8) The gateway to the White Camp is shattered, the gatekeeper dead.  And a large white raven, hungry for some food, is there.
He feeds the raven some bites, learns some truths, raises the gatekeeper, and our sage is revealed to be marked by the Cruel God, so is forbidden to enter what remains of the White Camp after all.  But he eventually enters anyway and sees the minotaur battle the red man.  And while they battle, the sage confronts and fights his mirror self.  (This might be the Law of Confrontation or the Law of Recognition or something similar.)

9) He at last wakes, and carries the Truth/Gift of Life with him.
 
Since 'dreams' fade quickly, we actually concluded with an extended contest of the sage's Memorize Details ability at a hard difficulty to see what he'd actually be able to subsequently recall (or what details might be remembered 'wrong' if it would be put into something like a grimoire).  The sage achieved a complete victory in that, getting a critical vs. a fumble at the final stage.
This would be the Law of Return or Endings.


Overall, the approach went well, and I think I'd play other aspects of learning spells or creating a grimoire along this line.
 
 
Edited by jajagappa
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One challenge is how you'd approach this as a group, or if you would. 

It may be that sorcery is inherently an individual quest.  The sorcerer confronts the Laws required to open the pathway through the Essence of the Runes and achieve their goal.  It may be dream-like, or meditative with a focus on the targeted runes, or a ritualized 'ceremony' using rune sticks or rune stones, or something similar. 

One option to engage a group would be for the sorcerer to lead a ceremony that puts the group into a dream state, then he enters the same shared dream-state and leads them towards the goal.  The tests may well challenge each within the group in different ways (could be Group Simple or Extended Group contests) and those who fail immediately wake from the dream-state.  A good chance to apply a Flaw for whatever the failing was (Fear of X, etc.).

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  • 3 months later...

I think that most often the Essence plane is entered via  a dream or vision, or by a process of deliberate scrying and meditation. I think that, while sorcerers enter it most often as a solo rite (though not without likely assistance from their fellows in the form of protective enchantments, reserves of power, enchantments, etc), it is possible for a strong sorcerer to take their fellows with them to that realm (and of course this will happen often in games, just for practical reasons). 

And remember that not all sorcerous heroquesting is a pure Essence world quest - their heroquesting can be 'this world' heroquesting, entering the sky world or underworld, on the Hero Plane, etc just as with anyone. While I know the medieval vision of the West is outdated, I still find thing like the very allegorical quests in the Arthurian stories, or things like the Faerie Queene, to be quite useful in imagining this sort of questing. The point is not so much the knightly questing, but the idea of a quest that appears to be a physical one but is really about more spiritual and moral tests. 

For purer magical quests I draw inspiration from things like alchemical art, Enochian vision magic (such as Aleister Crowleys The Vision and The Voice), the Tibettan Book fo the Dead (in the way it talks about how to understand the symbolism of each deity, and how to avoid the illusions and mistakes. Much of this symbolism is complex and opaque to the outsider. A sorcerer knows a strange animal  (a green lion, or white swan, in Europeran alchemy) would correspond to an alchemical process, which also corresponded to a spiritual process, and a magical one, etc, so a vision of such might give him an understanding of the magical process he needs to follow, which leads to a spiritual change. 

A key sorcerous concept for me is the idea of correspondences - in Western European ritual magic, almost everything (colours, scents, herbs, planets, gods, body parts, gems, magical implements, names of god, numbers, demons, names of god, etc) could all be arranged in complex tables of correspondences. While obviously Gloranthan sorcerers think much more in terms of Runes than terrestrial ones, I think they probably use similar tools very often - elaborate correspondences all memorised, learnt at a deep rote level, so what to others might seem a confusing jumble of sensory impressions is to the sorcery immediately categorised, intellectualised, analyzed. A sorcerer should be able to look at the demon he is confronted by, and by looking at the shade of blue of its skin, the number of its eyes, the smell of its breath, deduce its nature, and then know which spell can be used to defeat it. 

Names are also important - a name can also be analyzed, used to conjure with, not just a simple identifier but something that fits into a complex system where every letter has a magical meaning (Western is a magical language). In an Essence world adventure (which of course takes place in a purely intellectual world) the 'treasure' ight often have a name written on it, a strange unfamiliar name - and that name is real reward. You might get a sword in the essence world, and the sword has a name written on the blade - and the real reward is that you can invoke that name to cast a spell that cuts through things the way the sword does. 

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As the Essence Plane is the Source of Logic, dreams seem entirely an unlikely method of reaching it to me. Besides, the Lunars have a lock on the Dream World, don't they?

Rather than a place reached through psychedelic experience as the Spirit World is, I would think sorcerers would prefer things like caffeine. Or speed. And other things to reduce emotion, which is the enemy of Logic.

And if it's possible to look at something and deduce its nature, what was the GodLearner Vision for?

Edited by Different Games
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10 hours ago, Different Games said:

As the Essence Plane is the Source of Logic, dreams seem entirely an unlikely method of reaching it to me. Besides, the Lunars have a lock on the Dream World, don't they?

I don't see any specific link between Lunars and Dream World, at least no more than any other approach to magic.  If the Dream World has a natural affinity, it is to parts of the Underworld.

At least in my game, the dream world is one point of access to the Essence Plane.  Why?  Because at least some dreams have an inherent symbolism in them that are naturally akin to the Essence Plane/Source of Logic.  (Plenty of examples in Jung's work of the relationship between dreams and alchemical works which provide great sources to mine in exploring this aspect.)

Now, dreams could provide a more bizarre, "psychedelic" aspect which could lead to the spirit plane.  For a sorcerer, they would need to force their will over such contrary forces following tried-and-true sorcerous techniques that will naturally lead them back to the 'Essence Plane'. 

10 hours ago, Different Games said:

what was the GodLearner Vision for?

To realize that these 'planes' are simply different ways to look at the Otherside and that they connect together.

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The active Dream Magic we know of is Eastern (and while linked to Mysticism, as most Eastern stuff is, that doesn't mean we should think of it as Mystic in nature). Personally I think that the Eastern Dream world is probably accessible by all forms of magic. There are gods with a powerful connection to dream, spirits can be met in dreams, and attempting to create organised systems of dream interpretation might be sorcerous. And there are mystics who argue dreams are a potential source of great insight, and others who argue its all distacting illusory nonsense. The biggest questions to me about dream magic are not so much about its deep origins, but about what the dreamworld is like - does it resemble other Gloranthan otherworlds, is it like actual dreams (confusing, and full of entirely private meaning), or like Jungs collective unconscious, or like Lovecrafts Dreamlands? Perhaps like the Dream world of Sandman Comics, or Little Nemo? 

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I strongly suggest looking at real world magical traditions that are related to sorcery, in preference to trying to decide what sorcery is based entirely on reasoning from modern ideas about the intellect. So don't think of it as being related to what we modern people think of as intellectual focussed effort, or hostile to emotion or altered mental states. Its hostile to certain types of emotion, and to certain altered states, but only some. It is true that the philosophy of the Malkioni and other sorcerous cultures is very much focussed on the intellect and logic, but they are not modern day ideas of intellect and logic (and they are not simply an imperfect, undeveloped, version of modern ideas either - they live in a world were magic is verifiably true, after all).

Neo-platonic philosophy, along with a bit of Jewish Kabbalah and a bit of gnosticism, have been mentioned by Jeff as good places to start for inspiration regarding the Malkioni, and so for ideas about how sorcery works you can start with them, and with their magical practices, and then to understand some of the full range of how Malkioni practices develop you can then look at all the magical practices that follow on from them. So start with Neo-platonic theurgy (essentially the invocation of benevolent spirits), which strongly resembles the sorcery described in the Xeotam dialogues that are a crucial reference on Gloranthan sorcery. Add ideas from the Kabbalah, such as the the divine thoughts, including its hidden secrets, being revealed through close study of an intrinsically magical language and alphabet (in Kabbalah ancient hebrew, in Glorantha the Runes). This stuff all becomes the basis of Western European ritual magic, getting confused and corrupted and going in all sorts of weird directions (the summoning of demons is much more a direct descendant of this well meaning sort of stuff than most people realise, for example, and modern descendants like the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley mix it all in and add a lot of Hindu and other non-European theory as well). Similarly, in Glorantha the pure magic of Zzabur gets mixed up and corrupted and evolves, via Hrestol, the Vadeli, Henotheism, Arkat, the God Learners, etc - plus in Glorantha, non-human influence (the Mostali especially). 

So while sorcerers certainly do value their intellect, reason their way around problems, etc that doesn't mean that they think like a modern atheist humanist, or even have modern ideas about what intellect and reasons *are*. They certainly want to avoid emotions like extreme anger, lust, or depression - they might even regard these as being the result of external influences on the pure soul (remember, the pure soul doesn't even have a body). But the they might regard some things that we see as hallucinatory altered states as an example of the awakening of the minds magical senses and rejection of the base physical, and some altered states, like religious ecstasy, are actually the goal of many sorcerous practices (certainly by the Hrestoli). 

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6 minutes ago, Different Games said:

I suppose it has been Gregged, but there was mention, if not a whole cult, in the Lunar Handbook that explained the Dream World and the Lunar connection.

I did have some notes on some ideas on this somewhere as I used it in our 'Star Trek*' game when the PCs visisted the East Isles. I believe that Revealed Mythologies was a big influence.

* Given the Lunars were trying to reach the sea when they invaded Corflu and Karse we created a campaign where the first Lunar ship set forth to discover new lands, seek out moon magic, and boldly go where no Lunar has gone before. Gave a new meaning to redshirts amidst the crew...

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5 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

I did have some notes on some ideas on this somewhere as I used it in our 'Star Trek*' game when the PCs visisted the East Isles. I believe that Revealed Mythologies was a big influence.

* Given the Lunars were trying to reach the sea when they invaded Corflu and Karse we created a campaign where the first Lunar ship set forth to discover new lands, seek out moon magic, and boldly go where no Lunar has gone before. Gave a new meaning to redshirts amidst the crew...

From Revealed Mythologies:

"Thella’s symbol is the White Moon that spreads gentle light and reveals the true path... Avanapdur’s symbol is the Black Moon that sheds unlight and leads astray. He is now the god of false dreams and nightmares."

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On 16/08/2016 at 6:27 AM, davecake said:

I think that most often the Essence plane is entered via  a dream or vision, or by a process of deliberate scrying and meditation.


Hum, I'm a bit confused with the Essence Plane.

In HeroQuest 1 & 2, we had Essence Plane for sorcery:

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Wizards manipulate runes into spells powered by energy drawn from nodes in the Essence Plane.

In HeroQuest Glorantha (and the Guide), no mention AT ALL of that Essence Plane.

So, am I to believe the concept has been drop entirely?

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In the Guide its called 'The Essential World', which is a better name for it, and its described on page 162. 

Its not dropped entirely, but its a lot less important. Contact in the Essential world is how sorcerers contact the Runes I think, but its no longer something that would be played out or put into the foreground. For example when the HQG sorcery rules says of a mage seeking to create a new spell:

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You must achieve intellectual union with the source of your magic (be it the One, the Great Mind, Logic, or whatever your philosophy holds to be so), overcoming at least one dangerous obstacle.

That intellectual union occurs in the Essential world, and is a difficult task itself, but we probably wouldn't play it out, rather we would usually play out an associated dangerous obstacle (a dangerous experiment, retrieving lab notes from a ruin, observing a perilous phenomena, defeating a powerful magical being) that represents that struggle in a more playable form. 

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2 hours ago, 7Tigers said:

In HeroQuest Glorantha (and the Guide), no mention AT ALL of that Essence Plane.

So, am I to believe the concept has been drop entirely?

As Dave noted, it's not dropped, but named the Essential World.  However, what the Guide specifically shows is that the Spirit World, Essential World, and Gods World are NOT three distinct and separate places but different ways of viewing and approaching the Otherworld.  That said, I also think there are places in the Otherworld that are easily reached with one approach and and not another.

For instance, Joseph Greenbeak the duck shaman can readily enter the spirit world around the Colymar Wilds.  He knows how to find TaWaKak in the Silver Woods and how to pass beyond the Rabbit Hole to reach the Guardian Woods.  From there he might travel deeper into the Spirit Plane where powerful spirits such as Kolat travel.

The Aeolian sorcerer Aeolrin though could not readily find the Silver Woods or the Rabbit Hole.  However, he could send his mind into a dream or trance that places him in the Highest Storm.  With concentration, he could then define the forms of the Storm and reveal the Spirit of the Storm and force the Spirit to give up its name as one of the Kolati.

Both Joseph and Aeolrin end up in the same place in the Otherworld, but following very different paths and have completely different views and interpretations of how they got there.

 

 

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