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m0n0cular

Wyrms High Pass

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What do we know about Wyrms High Pass?

I haven't found a great deal of information about the pass, although I realise I may just not have found stuff in sources I've got, so I've put a few tentative ideas together based on the snippets I'm aware of.

@Jeff Richard's session at the Kraken last year on creating Gloranthan places was very useful - unfortunately I don't think it was filmed, but its essence was to pull together what is known or inferred about a place from Gloranthan sources and use them as building blocks for creation of both the place and its adventurous potential. This is preferable to initially looking to real world examples and basing a place on them as you run the danger of creating a sense of space or culture that is too derivative rather than firmly rooted in Glorantha. (Jeff - I hope I haven't got this too far wrong!)

Anyway, here goes with a few thoughts:

Name: Wyrms High Pass 

So, there are wyrms there. From Anaxial's Roster I gather that wyrms thrive in warm or hot conditions, so I'm positing a pass that is heated by volcanic activity with hot springs and rocks covered with strange coloured deposits. Perhaps Lodril has a role to play here?

Also, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends is likely to have taken an interest in the pass. So there's scope for ancient structures, perhaps a crumbling monastery high on a cliff ledge or hugging a strange spire with the remains of spiral steps up to it?

And its shape - it has to be narrow and winding like the body of its namesake.

Location 

High in the Rockwoods. So if it is a hot pass it's going to produce some interesting anomalies. I envision constant steam as heat from the pass meets cold air above. Thick fogs fill the pass and Iphara is strong here. When heavy snow falls it rapidly evaporates, creating pools of water along the valley floor which may be heated to extreme temperatures by gaseous discharges. The cliffs of the pass are characterised by spectacular waterfalls as runoff from the ice and snow to the sides of the pass melts and cascades down.

Balazar's aldryami High Woods lie to the north, the uz lands of Dagori Inkarth are south and dwarven Greatway is west. So the pass is obviously a contested place, which lines up with historical references I've found. There's certainly recorded conflict between aldryami and uz either side of the pass, but if we accept it has rich mineral deposits then I suggest dwarven interest has shaped its history too.

Also to the south is Bagtrap's Pass, another location I've found little about. I've created a tale of a cave by the pass which always looked like a viable place to stay for a night. But this cave had strange walls and floor, leathery in texture. Those foolish enough to stay here found that they had camped in a huge bag placed in the cave by a cunning giant, who would pull it closed with a drawstring which went up through a funnel in the roof to the cliff above.

Which leads to another important point about location. There are giants either side of the pass and they sometimes travel through it too.

History

I haven't found many specific references to the pass in sources, but events around it give hints. Here are a few human-centric points.

  • End of First Age: Tribes from the south swarm through the pass, burn the aldryami woods and some join the Votanki already in the north.
  • Empire of the Wyrm's Friends: The pass flourishes as both a crossing point and place of pilgrimage.
  • Post-Dragonkill: People no longer come from the south and the Balazarings avoid it. The destruction of Dykene in 1250 effectively gives the south-east of Balazar to the aldryami and people forget about the pass.
  • Dykene's resurgence, 1580: Begins renewed exploration of the pass.
  • Joh Mith: I've elevated the role of Joh Mith to the person who quested to properly reopen the pass. He speaks the Wyrds of the Wyrm's Way and he fills the Giant's Bag.
  • Fall of Sartar 1602 and onwards: Refugees come north through the pass and are accepted by King Yalaring of Trilus, leading to building the Lightbringer's Hall there.

What do you know?

Well there's a few ideas. But what do you know or suggest about the pass? I'm keen to find out about anything written about it over the years, anything those well versed in Gloranthan lore can tell us and also about depictions of it in anybody else's adventures. 

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28 minutes ago, m0n0cular said:

So, there are wyrms there. From Anaxial's Roster I gather that wyrms thrive in warm or hot conditions, so I'm positing a pass that is heated by volcanic activity with hot springs and rocks covered with strange coloured deposits. Perhaps Lodril has a role to play here?

 

All we know about Wyrms is that they take a characteristic of a dragon they are descended from.  Wyrms descended from the Black Dragon would favour cold dark places for example.

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5 hours ago, m0n0cular said:

So, there are wyrms there.

Not necessarily.  The original writeup in Griffin Mountain noted: "A high pass over the Rockwoods, its name is believed to imply that it is too high for even Wyrms to fly through."

Also noted there: "Wyrms High Pass is a lofty valley which can be used by small parties, including horses, who are careful, crafty, or deadly."

At the end of the First Age: "Afterwards Arkat became a troll and furthered their cause in the Elder Wilds. Terror and fear reigned. Tribes [i.e. troll tribes] swarmed over the Wyrms High Pass and the Giants Pass to burn woods and kill elves."

5 hours ago, m0n0cular said:

Tribes from the south swarm through the pass, burn the aldryami woods and some join the Votanki already in the north.

Based on the above reference, I think it's really troll tribes, not humans, and they expanded the population of trolls in the Elder Wilds as a consequence.

Now, with the above noted, it seems natural that the name of the pass has more of a connection with Wyrms than just the fact that it is too high for them.  Given the proximity to the Black Dragon and associations with trolls, and the fact that those travelling through must have expertise in craftiness or combat, it seems reasonable to conjecture that there either are or have been Wyrms there at some point in time.

Note from original RuneQuest on Wyrms: "The result of a misguided attempt by the Second Council to create new dragons after the ancestral dragons either went away or went to sleep. The result was much less than hoped for, and rapidly went its own way. It is a great legless serpent with wings, high INT, and POW....They congregate in family groups of two adults and not more than two children."

This would suggest that any Wyrm presence antedates the passing of the troll tribes to the north.  And if there are Wyrms, then it is at most a small family of such.

Since Joh Mith annually crosses the pass (and refugees have passed as well), any Wyrms present must at least accept such passage.

From the map it is clear that the pass is sinuous and suggestive of a wyrm's body.

6 hours ago, m0n0cular said:

so I'm positing a pass that is heated by volcanic activity with hot springs and rocks covered with strange coloured deposits. Perhaps Lodril has a role to play here?

There's no known association that I recall of Lodril with the Rockwood Mountains.  What the Guide notes is: "The Rockwood Mountains are a sheer range thrust upward in God Time to serve as an impassable wall separating the warring races of men. They are inhabited by Wind Children and a race of giants who devour human flesh and often reach a height of 50 feet or more. The eastern range is ruled by dwarves who have vast cities tunneled deep into the rocks."

The Guide also notes: "A large population of dwarves lives in the eastern Rockwood Mountains, between Dragon Pass and Balazar."  All of their sites are part of the underground Greatway complex. 

Given the dwarf presence, you could certainly speculate that they tamed and bound certain fire demons and caused them to raise the earth above as part of a plan to maintain order for the Emperor (or their own purposes).  Certainly feasible that you could get some fire demon bound near the surface at this pass which the wyrms have flocked to.  Some areas might resemble the high thermal vents near Lassen Volcano National Park.  Could then be a source of brimstone used by the dwarfs.

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14 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Based on the above reference, I think it's really troll tribes, not humans, and they expanded the population of trolls in the Elder Wilds as a consequence.

Yes, you're definitely right there - rereading Griffin Mountain makes it clear they are trolls.

 

19 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

Given the dwarf presence, you could certainly speculate that they tamed and bound certain fire demons and caused them to raise the earth above as part of a plan to maintain order for the Emperor (or their own purposes).  Certainly feasible that you could get some fire demon bound near the surface at this pass which the wyrms have flocked to.

Yes again - I like this more than my suggestion of Lodril's influence. A good mythical reason for the pass being hot is something I've been casting about for.

Some of the photos of Lassen are very evocative of what I envisage, the Painted Dunes for instance but hemmed in by precipitous cliffs and replacing the patchy trees with some odder flora native to the pass.

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14 minutes ago, m0n0cular said:

but hemmed in by precipitous cliffs and replacing the patchy trees with some odder flora native to the pass.

I think it was the Guide that indicated most of the high Rockwoods had permanent snow caps and ice/snow demons.  Any trees probably give way on the slopes to limited alpine foliage before the snow line.  If the pass itself is thermal (nearby snow melt warmed by bound demons), but with high cold winds, then flora in the pass is likely quite strange.  The dwarfs would be inclined to root it out, but perhaps this is what Wyrms (and troll friends?) feed upon.

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Griffin Mountain page79 (Information) suggests that Wyrms High Pass is too high for wyrms to fly over, and that is where it gets its name.  I like your idea better though.  As to the notion of hot springs,that's a great idea, but rather than Lodril, what if the steam and hot water is actually from a series of concealed Mostali outflow pipes coming out of Greatway?

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10 hours ago, Darius West said:

As to the notion of hot springs,that's a great idea, but rather than Lodril, what if the steam and hot water is actually from a series of concealed Mostali outflow pipes coming out of Greatway?

That was my inclination as well.  Lots of possibilities in that model.  Fire demon or elemental powered steam machines deep underground, some of which might produce brimstone or other toxic fumes, etc.  That wyrms like the environment might just be an unintended consequence, but perhaps the dwarfs accept that as the wyrms take care of other vermin (e.g. elves) that could clog up their pipes.

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11 hours ago, Darius West said:

Griffin Mountain page79 (Information) suggests that Wyrms High Pass is too high for wyrms to fly over, and that is where it gets its name.  

Sounds like you need an oxygen mask to climb over!

Mostali waste pipes are awesome.

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15 hours ago, Iskallor said:

Sounds like you need an oxygen mask to climb over!

Mostali waste pipes are awesome.

Here's a question.  Can you use a small sylph as a respirator?

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36 minutes ago, Darius West said:

Here's a question.  Can you use a small sylph as a respirator?

The Mostali do, so yeah.

Joh Mith heroquested for his high altitude magic.

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21 hours ago, Iskallor said:

Sounds like you need an oxygen mask to climb over!

Mostali waste pipes are awesome.

I think we need to allow space for hyperbole in names and legends, and not treat them as either necessarily true or literal if they are true. 

If troll tribes 'swarmed through it' one would suggest its a difficult passage for humans but not one requiring special magics.

In my game, its a high pass, open only in limited seasons. With snow and ice demons in dark and storm season(maybe - have to check Jo Miths itinerary ).

Wryms are occasionally seen flying near the pass and there is an association, but they do not dwell near due to the lack of prey and the poor weather.

Scenario wise id use it as an players against the mountain/weather scenario.

It maybe a place to drop in some wind child interaction as well, if they travel that far west. I see them as a situated further east but its one of the few places which pcs will visit where wind children and humans could sensibly interact

Greatway waste pipes are an interesting idea, but did the mostali make a design error or did they once plan to make the pass easier for human travelers?

A great post by the way

Edited by Jon Hunter

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4 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

In my game, its a high pass, open only in limited seasons. With snow and ice demons in dark and storm season

Access to the pass is limited in my Glorantha too, and the mountain/weather scenario is certainly contributory to playing out a crossing. In fact, one of the things which drew me to creating a perpetually hot crossing high in the the mountains was that it would be inaccessible for a good deal of the year due to prevailing conditions on its approaches. So those snow and ice demons surround it through the long, harsh winter but the pass has its own micro-climate which sees it populated by strange, isolated terrors. Perhaps I was just too fond as a kid of 'The Land That Time Forgot'! 

4 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

I think we need to allow space for hyperbole in names and legends, and not treat them as either necessarily true or literal if they are true.

Good point, and one I've taken on board as people have pointed out the pass takes its name from being actually too high for wyrms to reach (I'd somehow missed that reference when researching the pass :huh:). So are there wyrms there or not? Now tall stories and rumour start coming into play - only made less believable by the strange weather conditions that people tell of being there.

And of course YGMV, so my vision of the pass could be little more than the ravings of a madman in another Glorantha!

5 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

It maybe a place to drop in some wind child interaction as well, if they travel that far west

Great idea. Perhaps put something there that they travel that far west for?  

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5 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

If troll tribes 'swarmed through it' one would suggest its a difficult passage for humans but not one requiring special magics.

Another interesting observation. Taking that on board, I might retrofit that the ritual Joh Mith enacted in my campaign was one that's already well known to the elder races who can pass through. But something forgotten by humans since the Dragonkill.

By the way, thanks to those of you pitching in with thoughts and ideas on this. They're making me think and really helping me shape the place much better. Of course, once it's really fleshed out I just hope my PCs don't decide to travel to Dragon Pass through Tarsh instead!

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20 hours ago, Jon Hunter said:

I think we need to allow space for hyperbole in names and legends, and not treat them as either necessarily true or literal if they are true. 

If troll tribes 'swarmed through it' one would suggest its a difficult passage for humans but not one requiring special magics.

In my game, its a high pass, open only in limited seasons. With snow and ice demons in dark and storm season(maybe - have to check Jo Miths itinerary ).

Wryms are occasionally seen flying near the pass and there is an association, but they do not dwell near due to the lack of prey and the poor weather.

Scenario wise id use it as an players against the mountain/weather scenario.

It maybe a place to drop in some wind child interaction as well, if they travel that far west. I see them as a situated further east but its one of the few places which pcs will visit where wind children and humans could sensibly interact

Greatway waste pipes are an interesting idea, but did the mostali make a design error or did they once plan to make the pass easier for human travelers?

A great post by the way

I tend to agree with you.  Joh Mith might be able to hero quest for high altitude abilities as Iskalor says, but it is possible to make it over the pass without respirators, it says so in Griffin Mountain, otherwise player characters couldn't do it, and the inference is that it is possible to enter Balazaar that way without Joh Mith's caravan if you can find the pass.  As to the Mostali outflow pipes being a design error, remember that Greatway is an Openhandist outpost, they aren't hostile to outsiders who aren't their natural enemies, and they themselves may well use the pass.  I suspect the place really gains its name from it being used by the EWF, but that is just a hunch, based in part on the history of the region.

Edited by Darius West
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On 1/10/2017 at 9:57 AM, Darius West said:

I tend to agree with you.  Joh Mith might be able to hero quest for high altitude abilities as Iskalor says, but it is possible to make it over the pass without respirators, it says so in Griffin Mountain, otherwise player characters couldn't do it, and the inference is that it is possible to enter Balazaar that way without Joh Mith's caravan if you can find the pass.  As to the Mostali outflow pipes being a design error, remember that Greatway is an Openhandist outpost, they aren't hostile to outsiders who aren't their natural enemies, and they themselves may well use the pass.  I suspect the place really gains its name from it being used by the EWF, but that is just a hunch, based in part on the history of the region.

People can cross Wyrms High Pass now, following Joh Mith, but in my games he was the first, or the first recently. Maybe occasional people made it across, but Joh Mith was the first person to do it regularly and still jealously guards his knowledge. Otherwise, every trader who wants to trade with Balazar would be able to cross.

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46 minutes ago, soltakss said:

 Otherwise, every trader who wants to trade with Balazar would be able to cross.

There is a queue? 

One of the major plots my players are picking up on is why is this man doing this ?  Joh Miths expedition into Balazar only makes sense if you tie Gon Ortas castle in.

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1 hour ago, soltakss said:

People can cross Wyrms High Pass now, following Joh Mith, but in my games he was the first, or the first recently. Maybe occasional people made it across, but Joh Mith was the first person to do it regularly and still jealously guards his knowledge. Otherwise, every trader who wants to trade with Balazar would be able to cross.

Totally fair.  On the other hand, lets be honest here, Balazaar is hardly what I would call an amazing commercial opportunity, and you CAN get there by walking around the Rockwoods through Tarsh and Ithmer, and the roads are probably safer, and better maintained and marked, and patrolled, and you probably have to pay a bit of tax for that privilege.

46 minutes ago, Jon Hunter said:

One of the major plots my players are picking up on is why is this man doing this ?  Joh Miths expedition into Balazar only makes sense if you tie Gon Ortas castle in.

Now add in Gonn Orta's castle to Joh Mith's trip as Jon suggests and suddenly Balazaar seems more worthwhile as a commercial proposition.  What are Balazaar's great treasures?  Skins and slaves. Not exactly a cornucopia of wealth, but Gonn Orta trades in magic items, some of which come from Before Time.  I think Wyrm's High Pass is known but seldom used, given that you have to  walk through a three-way Elder Race battleground to get there, with the added chance of giants eating you.  You certainly don't use Giants Pass, or they really will eat you.  As for Gonn Orta's castle being known, well, we know that Duke Raus knew the way, and so did Garrath Sharpsword.  I think Gonn Orta's castle is fairly common knowledge, but seldom used because of the dangers on the way.

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4 hours ago, soltakss said:

People can cross Wyrms High Pass now, following Joh Mith, but in my games he was the first, or the first recently

Yes, that's the situation in my game too.

2 hours ago, Darius West said:

I think Wyrm's High Pass is known but seldom used, given that you have to  walk through a three-way Elder Race battleground to get there, with the added chance of giants eating you.

I play it as the escape route that Torath Manover and the other Sartarite Orlanthi of Trilus used to get to Balazar, and it's still being used as conflict continues. Despite its dangers the alternative route through Tarsh is a tad too red for desperate refugees from Imperial conquest to take.

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