When we think about the interactions between the God Time and the mundane world of our adventurers, two categories come into view.
First is the regular, ceremonial interaction that every cult does on every Holy Day. This activity maintains the pathways between the mundane and the divine and allows us to wield the power of the gods in the mundane world. These ceremonies are ritual and usually very predictable – on the other hand, the individual gains are pretty much that you gain access to Rune Magic, keep your cult spirits happy, and all the stuff that is usually handled in the background. In fact, I’d say they are only worth incorporating into a game when either
- the steps of the ceremony are deliberately kept secret from the adventurers and they need to thus make their own decisions (e.g., initiation rites); or
- something goes seriously wrong and the ceremony is now not so predictable.
Second category is the experimental exploration of the God Time. This is usually what is meant by a “heroquest”. These quests are dangerous and unpredictable, but the rewards are far greater. Magical abilities, new spells, powerful spirit allies, new insight into the gods, and even immortality. Not all such heroquesters becomes “heroes” but this is the precondition for such status.
These heroquests are dangerous and powerful precisely because they are not regularly traveled. So if you repeat a familiar and well-known story, it probably falls into the first category. It becomes interesting for a gaming session when it turns out the story is wrong, incomplete, or seriously misleading. Or that something has changed so much that the players need to create a new story.
If the adventurers need to explore the mythic realm itself then it is probably the second category. The Lightbringers Quest involves a trek across the changing landscape of the Lesser Darkness (as it becomes the Greater Darkness) and then a trek through the Underworld – where the questers GET LOST. That’s second category, no matter how much you try to prepare for it. The Red Goddess quest is similar in its mysteries.
Art by the amazing Jeff Laubenstein
In the Third Age, that second category gets a little bit of a Canticle for Leibowitz vibe – as our explorers are also trying to rediscover things known to the ancients (who also nearly destroyed the world with the knowledge).
“Only a few secretive successor groups remain” – not forgetting those Old School Shadow Guardians who essentially live on the Hero Plane, nowadays. Those that haven’t already been defeated by God Learners or Lunar heroes like the Seven mothers, Red Goddess, Hwarin Dalthippa, the Red Emperor, Hon-eel or Jar-eel, you mean?I do think any time you try a “new” path you run the risk of those Shadow Guardians.