When we think about Heroquests in RuneQuest, we really have two types of activities under that rubric.
The first is the most common. Initiates and Rune masters (who are of course also initiates) of one or more cults are prepared to wield the magic of their gods, while the greater community brings the magic of the God Time close to our world. Then the appointed initiates try to more or less re-enact some event of the God Time in our world. Some opponents are selected from among the community, others are recruited as volunteers, impressed into the task, or come trying to disrupt the ritual. Others just come. We often call this the Hero Plane.
Examples of this include Kallyr’s Short Lightbringers Quest, the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, the Marriage Contests of powerful Earth Priestesses, the Three Blows of Anger described in Cults of Prax, the consecration of the Temples of the Reaching Moon, Hon-eel’s early quests, Harrek’s skinning of the White Bull, etc. This is also the norm in worship ceremonies, initiation, etc. Heroes (with a capital “H”) always exist in this context.
Rules-wise, this requires the least work. The heroquesters may get hero points and do get to draw some magic out of the God Time, but you get to use your regular characters in the regular manner. The opponents are interesting as the improbably often happens, and opponents might include powerful spirits or even entities such as Mistress Race Trolls, True Mostali, hollri, rulers, etc., even if their appearance would be otherwise very improbable.
The other type of activity we call Heroquesting is more extreme. The heroquesters enter the God Time and directly interact with its archetypes (and not filtered through an avatar as in the previous version). This is far more dangerous as the heroquesters need to navigate the world of myth on their own.
Examples of this includes the Red Goddess’ Goddess Quest, Harmast’s Lightbringers Quests (it started as the first version but that failed and it became the second type), and Argrath’s Lightbringer Quests. It could be that all quests into Hell fall into this category.
Rules-wise this is quite different as the character’s mundane skills and characteristics are largely irrelevant in the God Plane. What matters is their Runes, their CHA and POW, their passions, and their magic. They are more likely to draw out new magic and powers as a result of their quest, but also more likely to be changed as characters.
So, in the first instance, elements of the hero plane come to ceremony, and a heroquest you perform a ceremony to visit the hero plane? In the first instance, we need some way to bring the Hero Plane to us so that we can interact with it. This is through worship ceremonies, the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death, the Proximate Realm ceremonies of the EWF, etc. We create sympathetic magic by loading ourselves up with the regalia and iconography of the gods.
Now in none of these cases is it going to be like what was presented in King of Dragon Pass. In the first, let’s say we want to end a drought by freeing Heler from Aroka. We have a bunch of ways to do this – we can have everyone in the tribe or tribes participate, and have a giant dragon puppet (like with the Chinese dragon dance), that the Rune masters need to defeat. On the way to the dragon puppet they need to overcome various obstacles – perhaps some tribes folk garbed up as trolls or Gagarthi.
But the danger here is that the Hero Plane is close – perhaps instead of tribesolk we get attacked by a Zorak Zoran Death Lord or by an actual Gagarthi band. Perhaps instead of a puppet, we are confronted with a real dream dragon. The closer the Hero Plane, the more that sort of stuff happens, and the more powerful the magic. But at least there the path is clear.
We could try to really push things and intentionally incorporate enemies. We seek a dream dragon atop Black Mountain (an emanation of the Black Dragon itself) and take a route though Cragspider’s realm, guaranteeing that powerful foes will try to stop us.
The greatest dangers (and powers) comes if at some point we become unmoored from the mundane world and directly interact with the powers of the God Time.
Perhaps one of the best known heroquests in Dragon Pass are the Marriage Contests of the Feathered Horse Queen, where the FHQ – as the incarnation of Ernalda – creates a contest whereby the gods will compete with each other to present her with gifts, pledges, and magic. This has been performed four times in a little over a century.
Another well known heroquest is the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death in the Holy Country. This heroquest covers the entire nation and results in the rebirth of Belintar.
But the best known heroquest is held every year and is universal – the Sacred Time rites.
Even the “Short” heroquests are rarely done outside of what is needed for worship ceremonies. They require hundreds – even thousands – of participants, and are potentially very dangerous. For the Orlanthi, they tend to be associated with the Prince, and a few figures like Kallyr Starbrow, Holstaring Treeleaper, Vamastal Greyskin, Minaryth Purple, and Gringle Goodsale. I imagine that prior to 1625, there were only a few dozen living people in Sartar (at most!) who had direct experience in heroquesting outside of the worship ceremonies. The figure is a little higher in the Holy Country, but remember the direct participation are those who competed in the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death.
Same thing in the Lunar Empire. This stuff is largely done with the College of Magic or with the patronage of a satrap or the Red Emperor.
So maybe this helps imagine how difficult “experimental” heroquests are. Either you bring the Hero Plane into proximity, empower a few dozen participants and let them at it OR you go beyond the mundane world and wander about.
In order of frequency we have:
Worship ceremonies. Happens all the time. We bring the Hero Plane into the place of the god and restore our connections to the divine.
Sacred Time. Happens once a year. We bring the Hero Plane into proximity of the material world and repeat the deeds that revive the world.
“Short” heroquests (need a better name). Happens maybe once every few years (although the frequency speeds up greatly with the Hero Wars). We bring the Hero Plane into proximity of the material world and take paths through the mundane/Hero Planes to interact with others who also wield divine powers or at least represent them.
“Deep” heroquests (need a better name). Happens maybe once a generation or so (although the frequency speeds up greatly with the Hero Wars). We enter the realm of the gods and take paths through the Mythic Realm, directly interacting with the divine archetypes.