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Bohemond

Odayla in the Underworld

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In my campaign the clan chieftain has been severely injured due to a heroquest he performed. One of the PCs is an Odaylan and pointed out that Odayla has the Sleep Back to Life Feat, so he proposed doing Sleep Back to Life as a heroquest with Gordanger as the beneficiary of the quest. (Obviously, this is stretching things a wee bit, but the player has been a bit disconnected from the game, so I'm gonna let him do it in hopes that it helps him engage more). The text of the Odayla cult doesn't give much detail about what Odayla's time in the Underworld looked like (S:KoH, p.283 "His soul awakened in the Underworld and made itself to the Hall of the Dead where Odayla proved that he was not dead, but merely sleeping. The king of the dead returned him to the world of the living and his soul rejoined his body, now fully healed." That gives me a lot of freedom about the myth, but that's a double-edged sword.

To complicate things, the campaign is headed toward an Underworld HQ later, so I don't want to just copy exactly what's in the Underworld quest portions of the Orlmarth campaign, the Eleven Lights, and quest from HQG, although I'm looking at those for a framework. But I don't want to steal thunder from later in the game (although I think the Odaylan will get some benefit from having gone to the Underworld before).

So I've got two questions. 1) Any ideas about what Odayla might have run into in the Underworld?  2) How did Odayla prove he was not dead but only sleeping? 

 

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Sounds interesting.

One comment before I make some suggestions to your questions, many of the Underworld Journeys share things in common, so there's no harm in sharing things in the two quests. In fact, doing that makes it slightly easier for the players, as they can reuse things and it gives them a sense that they are becoming more experienced HeroQuestors. Having everything new every time you go on a HeroQuest can be a bit dull, as PCs love to use things they have done before.

7 minutes ago, Bohemond said:

1) Any ideas about what Odayla might have run into in the Underworld? 

He's a Beast, so perhaps other Beasts? Yinkin on a HeroQuest, Hellhounds, Sky Bears (Dead of course), Lunars opposing Odayla?  Add to that the "normal" deinizens of the Underworld, ghouls, ghosts, Dehori, demons, wraiths, chaos monsters, other HeroQuestors and so on.

 

 2) How did Odayla prove he was not dead but only sleeping? 

By waking up! Seriously, that might be the simple answer, if he can wake up, using some kind of roll, it proves he is not dead.

Alternatively, what can the Living do that the Dead cannot? Can he show that he is breathing? Does he have vitality? Can he have sex? 

I wouldn't try and think of things that could work. Instead, I'd simply propose the situation/puzzle to the Player and let them work it out. If they can't think of anything, then drop some hints or say "Well, you stay dead, then", if they complain bitterly then drop some hints. If, however, they think of a good way of proving that they are not dead, then let them roll to see if it works, or just accept that it works and carry on.

 

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

By waking up! Seriously, that might be the simple answer, if he can wake up, using some kind of roll, it proves he is not deadAlternatively, what can the Living do that the Dead cannot? Can he show that he is breathing? Does he have vitality? Can he have sex? 

I wouldn't try and think of things that could work. Instead, I'd simply propose the situation/puzzle to the Player and let them work it out. If they can't think of anything, then drop some hints or say "Well, you stay dead, then", if they complain bitterly then drop some hints. If, however, they think of a good way of proving that they are not dead, then let them roll to see if it works, or just accept that it works and carry on.

 

I've got to give the player the text of a myth to work with. The myth could end "and then proved he was alive" but that feels a bit anticlimactic for a sacred story. Also, I've trained my PCs to research quests before they run off to do them, so they'll probably try to find other examples of people doing this quest, which means I probably have to at least give them an example of how one proves one is not dead.

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On a less irreverent note than my previous post, how/why would Odayla's soul have been freed from his body in the first place...or, alternatively, who brought or sent him into the Underworld?

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1 hour ago, Yelm's Light said:

On a less irreverent note than my previous post, how/why would Odayla's soul have been freed from his body in the first place...or, alternatively, who brought or sent him into the Underworld?

The cult write-up doesn't provide any detail on that. It mostly just says that no animals would eat his body. There are probably multiple stories about that piece. In my quest, I'm going to start the hereoquest with a ritual combat against some enemy in which Odayla gets 'defeated' and 'killed'. They put him in a cave and that's where he crosses over into the Underworld.

Edited by Bohemond

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Trap in a bottle Eurmal's Foot Stink or even Breath (though what might that entail? be careful) and open it under the sleeping fellow's nose. He will wake up.

Edited by The God Learner

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4 hours ago, Bohemond said:

1) Any ideas about what Odayla might have run into in the Underworld?

The Nightwood is the obvious one, and seems like it would be the logical starting place.  Now, the Nightwood does occur in other quests, but usually folk are just skirting it.  I'd put Odayla smack in the middle of it.  What would you find there?  An evil skeletal witch (dead earth) seems likely (ala Baba Yaga, or the witch from Hansel and Gretel).  Enslaved, emaciated dwarves subject to some cruel demon that are sent out to harvest the dead wood.  Some aspect of Eurmal.  Hungry shadows, lurking trolls, dead warriors of wood, etc.

From Arcane Lore: "Nightwood is a vast and foreboding place, timeless as dark or the forests. It can be entered from many paths and many realms. It is at once in the Underworld, on earth, and supports things from Godtime, past history, or lost legend. Some few paths cross it. One of those in particular will be dealt with here, being detailed in The Silver Path, which enters Nightwood from the east, and leaves it at the west.... Patches of fog drift about. Odd lights appear and disappear, and these might be wraiths, wisps, or anything dangerous.... Some denizens of Nightwood are gorgons, harpies, lesser hydrae, lamiae, barguests, fachans, ancestral beast spirits, nightgaunts, semi-somnambulant elf tribes, chonchons, headhangers, wraiths, darkness monsters (trolls, shades)."

Tests to find the pathway out should be important - may have to go through the witch's house to escape (with aid from the charwoman, the trickster, or some other magical beast).  There might be Hunting Tests in the Nightwood (three is always a good mythic number) that seem impossible, but must be completed to learn the secret of escape.

Crossing the Styx is another.  Do something other than the River of Swords.  I'd probably go with gaining passage with Jeset the Ferryman.  What do you bargain to get across?  

Gaining a Fire seems likely another task.  From Entekosiad and the myths of Arakang (another bear god) you get:  "When the cold blasts of Winter came upon the world, Arakang left his home. He traveled until he reached the end of the world. There he found the World of Waking. A small fire was there, and he blew upon it and made it big. Then he turned and walked until he came to the World of Doing, and then continued around to the World of Being, and finally, he lay down to rest in the World of Sleeping."

Raven probably holds the Fire Secret.  And he must get it from Raven, but Raven is hiding in the Dreaming Place amidst dark dreams, nightmares, and other strange spirit places.

 

 

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I've got to give the player the text of a myth to work with. The myth could end "and then proved he was alive" but that feels a bit anticlimactic for a sacred story. Also, I've trained my PCs to research quests before they run off to do them, so they'll probably try to find other examples of people doing this quest, which means I probably have to at least give them an example of how one proves one is not dead.

Fair enough.

 

1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

 

The cult write-up doesn't provide any detail on that. It mostly just says that no animals would eat his body. There are probably multiple stories about that piece. In my quest, I'm going to start the hereoquest with a ritual combat against some enemy in which Odayla gets 'defeated' and 'killed'. They put him in a cave and that's where he crosses over into the Underworld.

OK, there's a start, no animals would eat his body, presumably because he isn't dead. So, look at other ways he isn't dead.

  • Dress the corpse in nightwear and put it in bed, perhaps with a partner.
  • Sit the corpse up and give it food and drink.
  • Do not perform funerary rites.
  • Stick him on a horse, propped up, and take him somewhere. 
  • All these things show he isn't dead. Sometimes, what happens in the normal world, outside the HeroQuest, is as important as what happens in the HeroQuest.

Now, on the HeroQuest, what does it mean to be Dead?

  • You are in the Courts of Silence, so make a noise, shout, sing, bang drums, anything to show you are not dead.
  • Cut yourself to prove you are not dead, as you bleed.
  • Prove that you are alive by showing your manliness/virility, show that you are capable of having sex. 
  • Break away from the Courts of the Dead - If you can walk through the wrong door then you must, by definition, be alive.
  • Use Life/Fertility Magic
  • As a bear, show that you are Sleeping, but that might come down to waking up, perhaps use Dream Magic to show that you are Dreaming, therefore Sleeping, therefore Not Dead
  • Make the Court of the Dead into a Cave, Odayla's Cave, by bringing Odayla's cave into the Courts, choose a HeroQuest where Odayla Wakes Up and reenact it in this HeroQuest, thus putting your interpretation on top of the HeroQuest
  • Use Eurmal to wake you up, perhaps by blowing a trumpet in your ear or splashing you with water/ale

Don't forget that this is a heroQuest, so uses Magic and Myths. Logic and commonsense go out of the window. If the PC/Player has a good idea then it should work.

After all, the alternative, logical, thing is "Well, he's dead so you can't bring him back, as he is not asleep" which is dull, boring and makes the HeroQuest redundant.

The whole point of going on a HeroQuest is to do the impossible. You don't necessarily have to have a detailed template, other than "Odayla goes into the Underworld, proves that he is Asleep not Dead, Wakes Up and Returns to the Surface World". Everything else is just fluff, whether it's your fluff or the player's/PC's fluff.

 

 

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First, the hunter who died needs to make his Cult Lore (Odayla) roll to even know of this quest.  It shouldn't be too big a secret because presumably Odaylan hunters have come back from the dead and said, "Dead?  Nah, I was just sleeping" a few times in the past.

I'd say this HeroQuest has 7 stations: One for each day it takes the soul to reach Daka Fal's court.  First station is obviously the River Styx.  You pass into the land of the dead.  I like Nightwood.  That should be next.  Of course, you've got your one unexpected station.  And the court itself.  That leaves three stations of the GM's imagining and of course Nightwood, for the PC to come up with what he needs to succeed in proving he is really just sleeping.  The key is what did Odayla do?  That can vary by locale, but is something the questor would know if he knows the myth.  Remember, you can't take it with you, so if the answer is as simple as release an air elemental to claim you still breath (perhaps a disorder rune to augment your deceit roll here) then the questor needs to find the air elemental along the way.  Which probably makes that "proof" you're not dead a rather difficult one to obtain in the underworld.  On the other hand, if you're in Nightwood and you meet Trickster, you might persuade him to steal an air elemental from a certain storm god who stumbles into the Nightwood on his LBQ. 

But you get my point, the journey to the Hall of Judgement becomes the heroquest to get out of Hell, seeking what is needed along the way.  You can role play each day that passes after the hunters death as a station while the rest of the players continue on.  "So today we do travel to blah, blah, blah, by the way, your hunter passes over the River Styx."

I would go this route with proving you're not dead:  The Odaylan changes into a bear and points out that "Death is eternal and the dead cannot change, therefore I am not dead."  this fits with his runes and his powers.  It also means that if the questor does not have the rune points to change himself, he will need to find access to them on the quest itself.  That would be something that reinforces the myth of Odayla the Bear.  So your myth should allow the questor to gain one time use of Transofrm self or the other bear shapeshifting spells.

Better yet:  In the Nightwood Odayla meets a bear, hunts to find it food, helps it defend its lair and when the bear goes into hibernation the spirit of the bear tells the Odaylan he can call on him. Then, at the Halls of the Dead, the Odaylan "awakens the bear" transforming into a bear and awakening the spirit of the bear.

Edited by Pentallion

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Interesting idea and concept.

If I had players bringing this up to me as a narrator, I would be quite hesitant to go through with this.

From the description so far, the dead king doesn't seem to be an Odaylan, only the character who performs the quest is. Keeping the soul of the dead chieftain from making its appearance before Daka Fal, and converting him to the Odaylan religion while between dead and Dead, would be extremely difficult if I had to narrate this. Which is not necessarily a bad thing because at least the delaying action could be some other character's quest.

This "awakening from the long sleep" is a feat (and thereby related heroquest) earned by an Odaylan (and possibly his companions/followers on that quest) for himself. I don't see it as a transferable ability.

Taking a corpse on a heroquest as an active participant is a rather radical re-interpretation of Weekend at Bernie's, and fooling the entire Otherworld to this extent takes at least one Trickster hero. Possibly more than one - what could go wrong with that?

An Ernaldan or Aldryan "not dead but sleeping" variation would be as likely to succeed, and probably fail in the King having no previous personal commitment to these cults.

The Lightbringers' Quest is the cookie-cutter resurrection quest. If you want to make your life harder, you could use the Red Goddess Quest, which had Rufelza overcoming Yanafal`s acceptance of Death and even returning Teelo Norri as a separate identity from Teelo Estara.

 

Odayla is a bit of a mystery cult, where the hunter experience the Great Bear Hunt in both roles of hunter and prey (and IMO the outcome is far from guaranteed, it should be possible that the hunter ends up in fur and on four paws for the rest of his existence). Maybe the dead king might be cast in the role of the bear, although that would result in the Odaylan giving up much of his humanity in this quest when returning the dead king to humanity, or possibly even his previous existence. This would of course be a story worth telling, but I wonder whether there are players wishing to inflict this on their characters.

Edited by Joerg
correct rank for the rescuee - chieftain, not king

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On 7/16/2018 at 9:45 PM, Joerg said:

Interesting idea and concept.

If I had players bringing this up to me as a narrator, I would be quite hesitant to go through with this.

I wouldn't. Sure, the "normal" way would be for the Odaylan to HeroQuest back to life, but that wouldn't be a HeroQuest, just an ability. By going on a HeroQuest, the Odaylan PC is helping the other PC, guiding him through the Underworld and helping him to return.

As a Narrator/GM, my role isn't always to come up with ideas as to why something won't work, as players do that quite happily. Instead, it is to say that something would be difficult and assign an appropriate rating. If the players roll well, then all is good in the world, if they roll badly then they have problems. However, as it's a HeroQuest, which by definition is "Achieving the Impossible", why would I block it from the start? Instead, I'd just make the Impossible a bit harder.

Edited by soltakss

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I must have missed the part about it being some dead king.  I thought he was talking about a dead Odaylan.

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Bears give birth during hibernation. It's a sign that they are alive. The King can be one of the Odaylan's cubs. The other cub will be someone surprising and inconvenient. The Odalyan comes back as a woman.

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Thanks for the good suggestions! These are definitely helping me plan out the quest. 

To clarify the situation, I'm running the Orlmarth campaign, but I started well before 1618 (it's 1617 at the moment) and the PCs have gotten too reliant on Gordanger giving them guidance, so I decided to shake things up. A situation arose where Gordanger had to do the Battle of Thrinbarri Clouds quest (to keep the Venebaini demons from escaping the Cinder Pits). He succeeded but came back badly wounded, and people were saying he needs to step down. I was trying to set up a situation where either one of the PCs or an NPC they've had conflicts with would wind up becoming chieftain.
 

But then my Odaylan player, who's a newcomer to the campaign and has been a bit detached from things so far, suddenly pitched the idea of doing the Odayla Sleeps Back to Life quest as a way to vicariously heal Gordanger. It's definitely a stretch--Gordanger's not dead nor is he an Odaylan--but he clearly has a long recovery ahead of him if he ever recovers at all, which does sort of fit the idea of hibernating back to life. I decided that I'm gonna allow it because I want to make the player feel more integral to the game and I want to reward the players for trying to find ways to use questing to address some of their problems. In general, Heroquest has been teaching me to adopt more of a 'Say Yes' approach to GMing. So even though this wasn't where I thought this plot was going to lead, I'm rolling with it and letting the PC have some real agency in how the plot develops.

So when he does the quest, I'm going to emphasize that this is an unusual and risky way to use this quest--there's a real risk the PC will have to sacrifice something to make it work and the difficulty will be higher than it might otherwise be. But heroes are supposed to be risk-takers, right? 

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7 hours ago, Byll said:

Bears give birth during hibernation. It's a sign that they are alive. The King can be one of the Odaylan's cubs. The other cub will be someone surprising and inconvenient. The Odalyan comes back as a woman.

8o

I may have to do this to him. He'll probably find it amusing. 

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My old write-up has Odayla hunting for the Breath of Life in the ruined hunting grounds of the broken world.

I'd probably GM that as a HeroQuest into the mythic world of the cult affiliations of the suffering character.

Edited by Julian Lord

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I like the idea - this sort of HQ stretch seems full of delightfully unintended consequences.

A partial failure might just put the chief to sleep for a few seasons/years (removing him as a crutch for your players)

A badly botched quest could drag the party into a poorly prepared Lightbringer's Quest, where they unintentionally resurrect some old enemy of theirs.

If successful, the resurrectee will likely have to become an Odaylan himself. He will be hairier and grumpier than before, and likely wander off into the woods on his own and have little time for all that annoying chiefly claptrap he was into before. (again getting him conveniently out of the way)

As an alternative to giving birth, the quest might require your Odaylan and the chief to "swap souls" giving the PC a distinctly "Orlanth Rex" outlook in addition to the above change in the chief. (assuming, of course, the player is amenable)

Lots of possibilities - full of MGF.

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9 hours ago, Bohemond said:

there's a real risk the PC will have to sacrifice something to make it work and the difficulty will be higher than it might otherwise be. But heroes are supposed to be risk-takers, right?

I definitely agree with the approach of following the PC lead here.  And the real risks are likely threefold:  1) Gordangar the Chieftain dies; 2) some of the PC's die and/or their souls are trapped in the Underworld (i.e. they don't succeed in Sleeping Back to Life and are effectively in a coma in the mundane world); and 3) the spirit of the wyter (represented by the Woodpecker Staff, symbol of the clan and the chieftain of the clan) is trapped in the Underworld.  The result of at least 1 and 3 are:  a rival NPC is chosen Chieftain; the clan's magic is severely weakened by loss of the wyter (and likely a new wyter must be gained, or the old one rescued); and the woodpeckers are unable to protect the clan from the Venebain demons.

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Since people gave me a lot of good ideas for this quest, I figured I'd share the myth I came up with. 

"When Odayla died, he went into the Underworld, where he crossed the Plains of Dust, where he nearly lost himself but remained true to himself. Then he came to the Nightwood, a vast dark place that he knew from his hunts.

While he was there, he found Hedgehog, a creature so small that it escaped notice of most things. Hedgehog offered to tell him a secret if he gave Hedgehog something of value. He gave Hedgehog his Flying Wind, and Hedgehog told him that he wasn’t truly dead because he could sleep his way back to the world of living, and he taught Odayla the words to say to the Judge of the Dead that would allow him to prove that he was still alive.

Then Odayla met the Dead Earth Witch, who hated him. He tried to avoid her, but she trapped him in a net and took him back to her steadhouse, where everything was cold and dead. But in her stead he found a dead ember and used it to burn through the net and free himself. And so he escaped and took the ember with him so that the Fire of Life burned within him.

As he traveled further through the Nightwood, he was confronted by the spirits of the creatures he had killed. They refused to let him pass, saying that he was no longer a hunter but now only prey like them and so they no longer feared him. But he proved that they still had to fear him and that he was master of the forests, and they let him pass.

When he reached the City of the Dead, he said the words that Hedgehog taught him. The Judge asked him to prove that he was not dead. He did this by doing something the dead cannot do."

 

That's the 'basic' version of the myth. As they spoke to Odaylans from different clans, they learned two versions of the myth that filled in the details and gave different contexts for Odayla's death. They learned that there is more than one way to prove that the quester is not dead.

What I tried to do with the myth is have Odayla move from being dead to realizing he might just be sleeping and finding the warmth inside that shows he's still alive. And he needs to establish that having died doesn't mean that he's no longer a predator. 

And because I loved Byll's idea about giving birth during hibernation, I gave them this little snippet from the Jonstown Library: “When King Harvast Openhand of the Dinacoli was killed by the Three Disloyal Thanes, Tyrelia the Bearwalker opposed them because Harvast was a better man than any of his thanes. She went into the Underworld to prove that he was not dead but only sleeping. While she slumbered, she birthed him back to life as her cub. He returned with a bear spirit and slew the Disloyal Thanes and reclaimed the throne they had taken from him. Thus he is accounted the third and fifth king of the Dinacoli.” So they know the quest can be done vicariously but it might involve birthing the target. The PCs were very worried about what returning "with a bear spirit" meant. Did he get a spirit ally, or did he have a change of soul? 

The Odaylan player couldn't make the session, so they haven't actually done the quest yet. If anything amusing happens, I'll post about it. 

Thanks again for all the great ideas! 

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1 hour ago, Bohemond said:

Since people gave me a lot of good ideas for this quest, I figured I'd share the myth I came up with. 

I like it!  Just the right amount of steps through the Nightwood, some good opportunity for an event or two in the Plains of Dust, and chance to have someone speak against the quester in the Court of the Dead.

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There's a missing step after the Plains of Dust--Crossing the Styx. The quester can pay Jeset to take him across or else try to swim, but that's unwise. 

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17 hours ago, Bohemond said:

The quester can pay Jeset to take him across or else try to swim, but that's unwise. 

Yes, swimming across could be problematic.  The river itself would probably kill/drown oathbreakers attempting to cross.  For those who aren't, there could be all sorts of fun effects, like: slowly washing/eating away any elemental connection not associated with Darkness or Water; consuming memories; rendering perceptions useless (e.g. causing blindness); removing body features (like a face); not to mention being potential prey to anything that might live within the River like darkness spirits, shades, demons, or the like.

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We simply played that swimming in the Styx would kill you, unless you had very, very strong powers of Darkness or Death. 

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