The process by which an individual contacts the world of the gods and grows in it is slow and gradual. When mortals participate in a religious ceremony, they expend energy and gain temporary benefits in perception and understanding of cult secrets. The depth of participation is based on a person’s magical power and contact with the ceremony. In most ceremonies, priests are endowed with preternatural senses, while initiates see the dramatic participants bathed in their divine splendor. During annual ceremonies for large gatherings an entire temple’s ground can be transported to the Hero Plane in what is called a Vertical Quest, for all to witness the mythical acts which empower the cult.
A normal person in most Gloranthan societies will have undergone at least one magical ritual in their life and taken part in its workings. This single ritual would be whatever initiation ceremony was required for adulthood, or acceptance into a guild or cult, participating in holiday festivals, and so on. As a member of a cult, they may also be offered a chance to participate in some special magic adventure, such as aiding a rune lord in a quest. Some cults have their own initiate magics, such as the Telmori quest for their wolf brothers.
Heroquests are a form of deeper contact between mortals and the world of the gods. Regardless of type, the quester straddles the mundane and divine worlds, and through their deeds and choices, alters the response of the cosmos to their magical acts. There are levels of consciousness or planes of being, which the quester activates with their presence. A brief and even accidental glimpse of the “deeper realms” may activate some divine presence there. However, if undisturbed the deities remain in their set roles, as unconcerned about a heroquester’s passing as the constellations. Thus, a beginning heroquester might encounter only small spirits and the like at first, as they develop their otherworld presence called the Hero Soul.
The heroquest, or at least parts of it, will generally be known to the party who initiates it as a part of the myths of their religion. The quest will be an attempt to duplicate, or improve, the primal acts of their heroes and gods. By activating the proper portion of the cosmic matrix with their preparations and ceremonies, they alert the cosmos to their coming, and place themselves in the proper setting and spiritual state to follow the path of their quest. The alerted cosmos will bring forth whatever foe or opponent is analogous to the situation and most readily available as a natural function of its workings. Once begun, the quest must be maintained until it is completed. Some will take many adventures, with rests in between, to accomplish.
The cosmos may summon a person to answer someone else’s quest only if the person summoned is also upon a heroquest of some sort or in some liminal place between worlds (such as a Worship ceremony or certain magically significant places). Thus, lay members are not troubled to be slaughtered by a champion, but another hero will be found. This may require some long journeys for powerful beings. And there is no guarantee that the foe summoned will be an exact fit, only analogous to it, and possibly with some nasty personal surprises of its own.
The length of a quest is variable depending on upon its complexity and danger. Some will require that they be completed in a predetermined length of time. Others will require rests in between, in the mundane world. Some may never be abandoned, and the person is subject to the constant dangers of the magical world intruding upon their daily life.
The result of successfully completing a magical quest is that the quester will acquire some benefit from it. This is a magical ability, a spell, increased characteristics, weapons, or many other things, depending upon the quest undertaken. The benefit may be personal to the quester, or may reside with the entire community that supported the quest.
Keep in mind one of the key things in every heroquest and one of the biggest sources of danger is Identification. It isn’t just you identifying the entity you are interacting with so you can handle it (though combat, fear, friendship, sex, whatever), but YOU are getting identified. Am I who I claim to be? How can I be Yelmalio if I have Fire powers?
The really scary things are stuff you can’t identify!
Worst of all happens when you swap identities and cross paths so often you summon yourself as your own enemy.
But this illustrates both the opportunities and the dangers in Ranging.
Absolutely. And this is worth keeping in mind – as of 1625, there are only about a score or so mortals alive that have Ranged. And most of them are about to gather in Dragon Pass.
Argrath, Beat-Pot, Cragspider, the Dwarf, Ethilrist, Gunda, Harren, Jaldon, Jar-eel, and Red Emperor. Belintar, a master of Ranging, is gone. The Red Goddess was another master of Ranging and she became a god.
Most other heroes stick to identification and that kind of thing.
My take on it is that it is unfair to expect players to take on the burden of being Argrath, Harrek, or Jar-eel. Just like in Pendragon it is unfair to expect players to take one the burden of being Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, or Guenevere. It CAN be done, but it is not what the game design assumptions should be.
I am saying “no” to being interested in people taking the word “improve” and making that the focus of discussion of what I posted. I think in most cases, we are dealing with attempts to “improve”, with all the caveats that implies.Let’s taken example. Yelmalio on the Hill of Gold. Every few seasons, someone complains that Yelmalio loses to Zoran Zoran and Orlanth, ties with Inora, and defeats Chaos in that myth. If only I beat Zoran Zoran and keep my fire weapons! If only I defeat Orlanth and keep my weapons and armor! Yelmalio would be so much more awesome.Except surviving his defeats IS the point of Yelmalio. It is the appeal of his cult and its mortal strength. Win those contests and you have a Yelm lite cult, and Yelmalio probably disappears. Suffer those defeats and survive – that’s Yelmalio.
And sure enough, from time to time there are hubristic wanna-be heroes who want to beat Zorak Zoran and Orlanth on the Hill of Gold. And probably one or two have even succeeded – why not? But their reward is cold and thin.Reminds me off the story of Jesus being taken off the Cross before he died. That’s hardly as compelling a figure as the Jesus who dies on the Cross and returns. Is that an “improvement” of the myth?
So let people try to “improve” things through their heroquest. And let them live with the consequences. But as Neil Robinson knows, that’s a hallmark of my games.
You know there’s a version of the Red Goddess’ Godquest where she just plain is lost. She has to admit to herself, she’s failed and she has no idea what she is doing. Her companions can’t save her, nobody can. She hits BOTTOM.Because only then can she truly rise.Funny thing is that same thing happens to Orlanth in the LBQ. He loses. Fails. Has no idea what to do. Only by hitting the BOTTOM can he rise.
So if you succeed where the god failed, do you improve it?
Personally, I suspect most “improvements” or changes to myths are not because the heroquester chooses to do so – but because they have no other option. They get lost. They fail an identification contest and their path is blocked. They discover to their shock and horror, that this is not going to be as easy as they thought, and they have already played out their bag of tricks. Which is when the fun can really start.
You can also do a game where you play the Red Emperor or Delecti. Or where everyone is a properly functioning dwarf or dragonewt. But that’s not a good foundation for most games, IMO.
These problems happen even in the most predictable hero quests.
“Improve” is the entirely too human temptation to make the myth what you think it should be.
And I caution people to try to read too much into specific word choice in what I have clearly indicated are “Notes”.
But rather than focus on “improve,” these notes are there to help give an idea about what IS a heroquest.
Because Orlanth also danced with the Inner Dragon, no Wind Lord can confront a Dream Dragon without at least a little voice saying, “should I just talk with it?”