Jeff Richard is one of the regular posters in the RuneQuest Facebook Group. here’s some of his recent RuneQuest posts, only Jeff’s replies are included where relevant. Facebook membership is required to access the originals.
As an aside, I often post notes or things that I am working on that I think people will find interesting or useful. But I am posting this material without edits or revisions – they are all notes or works in progress. If people really expect me to edit or revise such ephemera before I post it, I am probably not going to post such things.Jeff Richard, 2021
Newest at top, oldest at bottom.
The cult of Lhankor Mhy is responsible for teaching and training scribes. The princes of Sartar have traditionally been patrons of the cult, and literacy is surprisingly widespread, with libraries in each of Sartar’s cities and in some towns and temples. Despite all that, only about 10 or 15 percent of the population can read and write. Writing is mostly in the Theyalan scripts, the same syllabary used for Esrolian and Tarshite (but not New Pelorian); as a result, literate Sartarites can read Esrolian and Tarshite texts as easily as they can their own.
Thanks to the scribes of the Lhankor Mhy cult, there are thousands of different texts. The most common genres are annals, chronicles, mythological and historical epics, lyric poems, liturgical texts, wisdom and didactic literature, laws, historiography, and humorous literature. Private and official correspondence are also written by scribes.
11%-30% is passably literate.
The Jonstown Library has a collection of approximately 10,000 scrolls, gathered from across the world. A scroll typically consists of numerous sheets of parchment sewed together—this can be quite long, as a scroll can be 40–75 meters (44–83 yards) long when full unrolled. An individual scroll may consist of many unrelated chapters sewed together. A scholar needs to know the contents of a scroll in order to know that the scroll List of Animal Gods (named after the title of the first chapter) also includes several chapters on the history of the Shadowlands and that collection of recipes from Nochet.
My favourite bit about the Jonstown Library is Eonistaran’s Catalog Wheel:
The great Catalog Wheel of Eonistaran is a wooden device like a broad water wheel. Each of the Wheel’s seven boards holds multiple scrolls containing a partial listing of the scrolls and codices within the Library’s collection. At least five different organizational systems coexist within these great scrolls; some are numbered, some are based on the first line, another based on a cryptic code, and so on. If a scholar cannot find what they are looking for in one scroll, they simply turn the wheel and look in another scroll. Most scholars agree that the 120 volumes comprising Garangian Bronze-Gut’s Compendium of Persons Eminent in Every Branch of Learning with a List of their Writings is more comprehensive (but far less practical) than Desosinderus the Librarian’s more concise Scheme of the Great Bookshelves.
I totally want a copy of the “Compendium of Persons Eminent in Every Branch of Learning with a List of their Writings”.
Parchment. Which is animal skins. One thing Sartar has a lot of is sheep.
COINAGE AND VALUE
During the reign of the Sartar Dynasty, the princes minted silver coins, called Sovereigns or Guilders, for use in trade. These were modeled on the silver coins used within the Lunar Empire (called “Lunars” or “L”), having the same weight and silver content, and, as a result, the same value. These coins had very wide circulation, and were used in lands as far away as Teshnos and Ralios. A copper coin, called a Clack (“C”) and modeled on the Holy Country currency, is used for smaller transactions.
During the Lunar Occupation, Lunar silver coins flooded Dragon Pass and the Lunar became the standard silver currency. The circulation of Lunar is even more wide than the old Sartarite guilders, and the silver Lunar can be found in markets as far away as Fronela, Jrustela, and Kralorela – even if none of the merchants have ever even seen a person from the Lunar Heartlands. With the liberation of Sartar in 1625, the silver Lunar remained the main coin in circulation, although beginning in 1627 the new dynasty began minting increasingly large numbers of silver coins.
Gold is primarily used for large accounts, such as trade or tribute. The Wheel (“W”), an ancient coin minted by the Wagon Cult, is widely used in accounts, even if it is rarely seen in daily life. The Sartar Dynasty never minted their own gold coin.
Nonetheless, most daily transactions were in barter. Among the rural tribes, cows, and not Wheels, were the instrument of accounts. Livestock or grain were more likely to be exchanged than silver. These exchanges were largely between members of the same tribe; when strangers or foreigners got involved, coins were preferred even by the most traditionalist Orlanthi.
Almost nobody outside of the troll realms even accepts bolgs. Which is downright mean of them.
So you need coins to buy that fancy sword or that decorated armor or the bolt of silk, but keep that grain, cattle, and chickens to trade for local wool or to get someone to help you work in the orchards.
Sartar is not nearly as traditional as many people have made it out to be. From the very beginning, Greg emphasised that Sartar transformed the peoples around the Quivin Mountains from quarrelling bandit tribes to a kingdom based on trade and commerce with a substantial urban population.
Remember this is not Ireland, a removed island distant from the main trade routes even during the periods of the port of Dublin.Barter, gifting, and coins existed in Central Asia and the Caucasus from the Achaemenids to the British and Russian Empires. Unfortunately, historians tend to isolate their studies.
Core mythological secrets
One might view the entire Hero Wars as an extremely costly way of the Orlanthi and the Lunars teaching each other their core mythological secrets.
Lunar Legacy in Sartar
The Lunar Empire occupied Sartar for 23 years (from 1602 to 1625). For the first 11 years, they ruled directly through an appointed provincial governor, and then through a client king. During this period, Sartarite society and culture came under significant pressures.
New Pelorian is the language of the Lunar Empire, and was used by the rulers in administration. As a result, many Sartarite scribes and nobles learned New Pelorian, however Sartarite remained the language of tribal life, religion and culture. Nonetheless, the language is widely known at least in the cities.
A small but influential minority of the native population embraced the Lunar cult of the Seven Mothers; initiation granted citizenship in the Lunar Empire and many legal and social benefits. Many initiates were killed during the liberation of Sartar and more went into exile, but pockets of Lunar cultists can still be found in Free Sartar. Lay membership was more common (and less consequential) and most Sartarites have at least a cursory knowledge of the main Lunar deities. Other Heartland cults as well were introduced, and shrines to Yelm, Lodril, and other Fire/Sky deities can be found in some Sartarite cities, although their cults are miniscule.
The Lunar silver coin (called a “Lunar” or “Imperial”) was widely used in trade between Peloria and the Holy Country prior to the Lunar conquest. With the Lunar Occupation, it became the primarily currency in Dragon Pass and Prax. Lunar silvers were used to pay soldiers, mercenaries, and laborers, in trade, and in other transactions involving the Imperial or Provincial Governments. Although many coins were defaced after the liberation of Sartar in 1625, the new Kingdom has not stamped nearly enough new coins to make even a dent in the number of Lunars circulating in Sartar. For most Sartarites, any silver coin of a given size is called a “Lunar” regardless of who issued it or who appears on the coin.
An ironic legacy of the Lunar Occupation is the mythic experimentalism now practiced by many Orlanth cultists. The Lunar success at heroquesting has resulted in the suspension of the religious traditionalism within that cult, and encouraged experimental heroquesting in the hopes of finding magical and mythical weapons against the Lunar Empire.
The Lunar rulers made few innovations in government, beyond the inevitable strengthening of the central government at the expense of the tribes and the use of spies and emissaries. These changes were ultimately adopted by the Free Kingdom.
25 years of occupation will mean lots of city folk at least have a few points in New Pelorian.
But it is important to keep in mind that although Sartar is liberated from the Lunar Empire, plenty of things got left behind, from pockets of Lunar worshipers, the use of the Lunar silver coin, and so on.
For example, I suspect just as most educated Lunars know that the god of the rebellious hill kingdoms is Orlanth the Storm God, most Sartarites know the Lunars worship the Red Goddess and the Seven Mothers. And some might remember Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Yanafal Tarnils, and Teelo Norri. Or something like that.
My guess is most Sartarites get one or two right, and then start naming Smurfs or something.
Etyries is basically an Issaries subcult – without the Lunar Empire it really doesn’t have much of a role or support. Same thing with Irrippi Ontor – being a member of the imperial scribe cult isn’t very useful without having an Empire to scribe for.
A few small groups exist here and there, but the cult has no social role in post-Liberation Sartar. At least not until around 1630.
The problem is that many of the Lunar cults don’t really work outside of where the Lunars are the rulers and able to provide support. Many rely on imperial patronage to survive – and many others simply couldn’t function outside of areas ruled by Lunar cults (especially DX).
White Bull campaign sketches
For those of you who are enjoying the White Bull campaign, here are some cartoon sketches from the mighty Mike O’Connor:
For anyone curious how Identification works, here’s an example:
The Earth Goddess begins: “I am the Green Goddess, Fertile Mother and Bringer of Union. I carry the Loving Cup and am served by the Entwined Serpents.” This is how the Green Goddess identifies herself.
She first identifies Yanioth: “I see you Earth-worshiper, Fertility-worshiper, and recognize you as a Daughter of the Earth. I embrace you.” Yanioth has been identified as a Daughter of Ernalda – which is what she hoped for. She can continue to emulate her deity in the heroquest.
She then identifies Vishi Dunn, but not how his player expects: “I see you, Lost Moon Soul, and recognize you as the Blue Moon without Name.” Vishi Dunn had hoped to emulate Waha here but the Goddess has not recognized him as such. He no longer receives any bonuses for emulating his deity.
She then identifies Vasana: “I see you Air-Worshiper, Death-bringer, and recognize you, youngest child of the Primal Storm, called the Adventurer. I challenge you to prove your worth.” Vasana has been identified as Orlanth Adventurer, and receives bonuses for emulating her deity, but unfortunately, she is now confronted by the Green Goddess, who overcame Orlanth Adventurous.
Note that the deity identifies itself through titles, not cult names, and give one or two attributes or deeds that could be narratively useful for the players and the Gamemaster.
Now Vishi Dunn might be able to challenge his identification with the Blue Moon, but his player is not sure he can pull it off. If he challenges and loses, his connection to Waha might be permanently altered or even lost.
So what is the Hero Soul?
That’s the part of you that exists eternally in the God Time. It is part of you and means that you always exist partially in the Hero Plane. It can be encountered by other heroquesters, it can cause you to perceive the otherworld even when you do not. It is a conduit between the God Time and the Mundane World, and is the source of a hero’s power, but it also is a source of disassociation from the Mundane World.
Do all mortals have a hero soul? No. Most have not awakened one.
Is this Hero Soul same as Star Heart in HQG? No.
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 inn every hero quest 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?”
Heroquesting is a powerful and rare Gloranthan activity in which the participants leave the material world and enter the realm of legend and myth to interact with heroes and gods, gambling precious Life Force to gain miraculous powers. Heroquesting provides the method for advancement for a character to grow towards heights of greatness. It takes them from the ordinary world and places them in the league of immortals, and grants them the opportunity and awareness to find the paths of immortality and glory.
TYPES OF HEROQUEST
There are three basic types of heroquest:
1) The “In-World” heroquests.
2) The Magic Road heroquest
3) The Other Side adventures
In-World Heroquests mostly take place in the world that the heroes know. They set off from a temple or other holy place and travel across the normal map, occasionally having to stop someplace special or do something at a certain place.
Despite this familiar terrain, the questers are present in the Hero Plane. They will run into the normal traffic of an overland adventure, but they must be doubly wary in case the things they meet are some ritual enemy, perhaps also on a heroquest, that has been summoned by the magic of the heroquest. Spirits and other magical beings often appear at places strongly tied to the gods or spirits, summoned by that same magic. It is often used to prepare the way for greater voyages, and to acquire magical items useful to the individual.
Dragon Pass and its nearby regions are crossed by several magic “roads” that enable a quester to quickly travel to specific holy places along paths that skip in and out of the mundane planes, covering the distance in far less time than travel wholly on the mundane plane. Deities and spirits, or their avatars, are presented here, summoned by the magic of traveling on the road; ritual enemies are often summoned by the same magic.
The magic roads are often used in combination with an in-world heroquest. Travel along these magic roads is dangerous. There can be enemies along each path; although their type is often known, the strength of the foes may vary widely. They are also used for rapid movement, though there are occasionally side- benefits that can or must be gained to use the road.
Hill of Orlanth Victorious to Kero Fin
Dragon’s Eye to Kero Fin
Kero Fin to Smoking Ruins to Arrowmound Mountain
Sun Dome Temple to Hill of Gold
Kero Fin to Cave of the Mother to Umath’s Point (this is going up the mountain)
Arrowmound to Halikiv to Balance Split to Wonderwood
City of Wonders to Durengard to Stormwalk
Starfire Ridge to Whitewall to Larnste’s Footprint to Stormwalk Mountain to the Block
Other Side heroquests are the most dangerous, for questers must leave the known confines of the paths and sacred ways to set off across the wilderness of the divine world. It involves actual travel in the Gods World which, if properly entered, will be as recognizable to the quester as his own world. In these travels the landscape and the inhabitants are set by God Time events, but this does not make it any more predictable or less risky.
This is the region beyond that must be entered and returned from many times by the would-be Hero wishing for immortality, where they can find great powers and abilities that will make them remembered by mortals for many ages yet to come. It is the place of Godtime, where mortals are not welcome and which they cannot know except through experience.
The long-term preparations can vary greatly from quest to quest. Some quests require lengthy periods of ritual purification and self-denial so that the quester can be a vessel for the divine powers. Others require merely that the quester has been a devout and consistent follower of the gods. Questers who have failed to make these preparations will find their task harder. Persons who are downright frauds trying to rob the cult are singled out for particular violence and overly vile opponents.
Many heroquests must begin in a specific mundane location such as a certain hill, group of standing stones, or temple to the god. Others are less narrow prescribed, requiring merely that it begins on hill, forest grove, open plains, etc. Many quests must begin at a certain time, such as at night, dawn, dusk, noon, or when a specific planet or constellation is in a particular place in the sky.
Mundane support is provided by one’s cult or other community. This might be magical gifts, weapons, or treasures to aid the heroquesters, or might be mundane supporters, such as healers, worshipers, preparation of the site, etc. Some heroquests require that the sacred grounds be defended by guards and sometimes priests while the heroquesters journey.
These are the preparations that need to be made immediately before the heroquest can begin. These include the preparation of the site by a cult priest, the summoning of spirits, sacrifices, and such rituals as the Arming of Orlanth or the Three Blow of Anger. These preparations typically take 1 to 3 days.
Holy places are locations where the boundaries between the mundane world and the Gods World are permeable. From the temple of a god, a worshiper can transcend the ordinary world and enter the home of the god, in what the God Learners called a “vertical quest”. Such a journey takes place at every Worship ceremony.
Every worship ceremony is a heroquest. Some worship ceremonies have more complex quests than just a vertical quest, and the God Learners called these Worship Quests. When History began, people were performing these worship heroquests. Worshippers got together in a sacred place, performed their ceremonies to summon the deities, and reenacted the actions that brought them there. To worshippers the action enlivened them to transcend the ordinary world and they become part of the Mythic Realm. Individuals might then leave the house of the god and participate in the deeds of their deities.
Worship Quests usually begin with a vertical quest, and then a departure from the god’s house to be in the mythic story. Thus, an Oria priestess in the harvest ceremony summons the god plane of the Weeping Oria to her and departs from that place and wanders around the God Plane for a while, before returning with the secrets she sought.
As time passes, the participants will participate in many of the major stories of their deities. These events are usually pretty well known, with few variations, and well contained within the established ceremonies. That is, they know the basic religious world through acquired experiences.
Sometimes a leader, whether religious or mundane, would undertake an individual quest to achieve a specific objective. These were usually some unusual activity, needed for extraordinary reason. These were the early and later Hero Cults.
In these ceremonies, supporters, several other people typically remain attendant upon the welfare of the traveler. They pray or perform, as appropriate, and lend their strength to the quester in case of emergency. The supporters are linked to the traveler in both blessing and curse.
Very early on, it was discovered in that some supporters could actually go along as participants and gain normal experience, and not always in what the ceremony normally required. This was a special type of supporter going along as active participant.
Harmast Barefoot was the first person to perform extended sequential heroquesting. He linked a number of stories together to reinforce each other, and to achieve long term and powerful consequences.
At the time everyone knew that even within a single myth, many variants exist and participants can actively and consciously affect which version of the story occurred by their preparations. Harmast discovered that it is possible to affect the very landscape of the quest after entering it. The God Learners called this Identification.
Arkat went even further than Harmast. Arkat had participated in several different religions and learned that different religions often portrayed the same event, but from different perspectives.
He went a step further and discovered that he could actually change paths in mid-quest and invade the mythic space of other peoples. The God Learners called this Ranging.
Ranging is extremely dangerous since more myths have many ways to preserve themselves and have little room for variance by intruders. But some people do it, and after Arkat learned how Harmast could manipulate the mythic landscape, he went to impossible places and discovered things to destroy his mystical foe.
The God Learners went further and discovered that they could forcibly alter the landscape. They called this Mutation.
Later, they learned to mutate the myths permanently, effectively destroying myths and their participants. They did this by applying sorcery to the myths, draining them. This is called Tapping.
Heroquesters develop enemies as a natural byproduct of their actions. Most people never leave the armies of the gods, and so have enemies that are large and generalized. They are not personal foes.
People who engage in more personal heroquesting develop personal, recognized enemies. The effect of appearing as one’s self depends on having enough personal power to appear that way. An entity with that kind of identity always attracts a similar foe of similar power. Once attacked escape is impossible except through death in the mortal world and a subsequent failure in the divine.
People that persist on similar paths discover that their foe also does, almost haunting them. This link is called the Face Dance by the Orlanthi, because faces are visible in the otherwise generalized realm. It is also called Prey Love, Tempting Foe, Spider’s Singer, etc.
Face Dancers appear in the God and Hero Planes in their Otherworld guise. It is, however, possible to see through and identify the individual beneath it. Indeed, every Face who is dancing has a living foe somewhere in the world who is doing their own dance.
As heroquesting advances these individuals are attracted towards each other, even though they are often separated by thousands of miles in the Mortal World.
Are there magic roads in other places? Many of the magic roads in the West are broken, thanks to the Sundering of Seshnnela.
did the Syndics Ban break the magic roads in Fronela, permanently or temporarily? It suppressed them. It is now up to bold and crazed adventurers to determine what Magic Roads work. And whether they have changed.
The take away from this is that at its core, a hero quest is about exploration of the mythic realms.
Lunar Army laziness
As shocking as this might sound to some folk, the Lunar Army is actually tactically quite lazy. Their ace in hole is the Lunar College of Magic which is how they get most of their victories. Battle of Grizzly Peak? That was the first time the Sartarites felt the full brunt of the College of Magic in battle (“the Lunar magicians swept them from the field.” Siege warfare? The usual Lunar answer is “Send in the Bat.” See Runegate, Boldhome, First Battle of Chaos, Second Battle of Chaos, etc.
Look at the siege of Runegate – the Lunars went to the city and stopped. The next night Delecti marched his army of zombies and skeletons out of the marsh. They climbed on top of themselves to get to the top of the walls, but were fought off by the Sartarites, who no doubt hurled lightning, thunderbolt, shield, you name it. And they repulsed the attack.
And then came the main assault. The Lunar Army withdrew further, and the Crimson Bat came. The poor defenders had expended all their Rune points, and the Crimson Bat landed on the city and ATE EVERYONE.
Similarly Boldhome. The main Lunar army got there and couldn’t get up to the wall. But the Red Emperor ordered his daughter to lead the Full Moon Corps over the mountains and into the city. Meanwhile the Crimson Bat was sent against the defenders, but a huge dream dragon forced it off. The Lunar College of Magic threw everything it could at the city, and the Red Emperor himself came in with his bodyguard.
Then you have fiascos like Whitewall or Nochet. Whitewall took three years because the traditional, “Send in the Bat” failed. And Nochet had the Lunars camped out of the city like the Athenians outside of Syracuse.
The Lunars can do this because alone of all the armies of the Third Age, they have massed thousands of magical specialists into their own units, trained them work together, and made them effectively mobile temples, with sacrifices, worship, etc. And provided them with the resources to stay in the field for seasons at a time. And put the Crimson Bat in tow.
This approach is so overpoweringly successful that even in the hands of a lazy commander, it overwhelms pretty much every foe. Only when they have to go up against something similar does it really matter – but since Belintar has been removed, there is nothing like the Lunar College of Magic in the world.
And that is why Argrath proves so dangerous as he manages to build his own version of the Lunar military machine….
I’d go beyond saying that this is mere bureaucracy. The Lunar army is typically successful because of its ability to project overwhelming magical force on the enemy. Sure your tribe has its 40+ Rune Masters, and that includes some really amazing Rune Lords, but they all fight as individuals or as the leaders of groups of initiates or lay members.In contrast, a single Lunar unit might have twice as many magicians, all trained to work together. And it has plenty more where that came from. And there are plenty of mundane soldiers to preoccupy your forces while their magicians prepare for the coup de main.So why bother doing much with the Heartland Corps, the Cavalry Corps, or the Provincial Corps beyond just something that preoccupies the enemy? It is only the rare Lunar military leader without access to the College of Magic who has to rely on them to win battles. And that is why Fazzur was so remarkable.
To begin with, you have to be the first to break out of how things are always done.It is also expensive maintaining massed units of magicians. Really expensive. That’s not something a tribe or militia can do. To be honest, but for Argrath, the Eleven Lights band would have likely disappeared in a few years.
To begin with Rune Masters are the elite in most societies. You are taking them away from their normal roles as priests performing sacrifices at a temple, being the local defender of a tribal group, etc, and putting them together with other magicians that likely are not from their own community. And you are doing that for hundreds of magicians. That’s going to get very pricy – much more expensive than hiring a few score thugs.
The modern Lunar military was probably a creation of the Fourth and Fifth Wanes.
As an aside, if you look at the Dragon Pass war game you find is that the Tarshite units are identical or even slightly weaker than their Sartarite tribal equivalents. The professional Lunar units are better than the tribal units (but not decisively), they are inferior to Argrath’s bodyguard units, which are the best non-magical units in the game.In short, the Sartarite tribes are militarily comparable to the Lunar professional army. It is the Lunar College of Magic that makes the difference, not the Lunar regular military (which does not enjoy the advantage over its foes that the Romans had over the Germans or Gauls). Where the Lunar College of Magic is present – Grizzly Peak, the Sartar Campaign, Hender’s Ruins, etc. – the Lunars win. Where they aren’t – Starbrow’s Rebellion, Dangerford, Battle of the Queens – it is a tossup.Pennel Ford is explained by the presence of something else on the battlefield – several Heroes. Harrek, Gunda, and Argrath give the Holy Country-Wolf Pirate army something that can stand up against the College of Magic. Which Lunars discover to their shock and horror at Pennel Ford. And then Argrath sets up the Sartar Magical Union. Then it is a whole new ballgame.
That being said, Greg said his experience playing Dragon Pass is that the Lunars win about half the time, and the Sartarites win about half the time. But most of those victories were on “points”.
Oh yes. And even Argrath’s decisive victory outside of Bagnot in 1628 does not end the conflict the Lunar Empire. It does give Sartar breathing room to achieve dominance in Dragon Pass, but the war continues for another 20 years, with each side waxing and waning until things reach a climax in the 1650s.
Again, different styles of play. Our Earth priestess might have 10 Rune points, but she is damn reluctant to spend 4 or 5 points on Summon/Command Elemental unless she really needs to. If the other players can handle things by forming up into a wall, she’d rather let them do that. Even at 10 Rune Points, she often runs out and the replenishing process is long and inconvenient.Other other group with most players having 3 to 5 points follow the maxim, strike fast, then run away. But if they are low on rune points, they will form defensive formations, etc.
Last night’s RuneQuest session involved our intrepid adventurers and their dozen or so followers and mercenaries fight their way through zombies and skeletons into Blind King’s Castle. They succeed, although in the process they lose a few followers to enemy blows and expend pretty much all their Rune points and much of their magic.
Then they get into the castle. It is dark. It is spooky. The shaman and the grave dancer see ghosts. They are spooky. The shaman’s fetch says this is a “bad place” and murmurs about “bright death” below. The players realise how dangerous fighting with torchlight and candle light is – and how short lived Light is.
Then the fetch says the ghosts are moving. All the heroic adventurers flee the castle. Iiiiaaah!
Gods I love RuneQuest.
As an aside. it should be pointed that Esrolia, Caladraland, God Forgot-Esvular, and much of Maniria have conditions where you could grow olives.
In addition, in Esrolia-Caladraland, you can grow lemon fruits and oranges, along with grapes, and olives. Add in sassafras, plenty of spices, chili peppers, oregano, and sugarcane.
Olives would fall within the ambit of the local Earth goddess or Grain Goddess. Ernalda, Esrola, etc. combined with Flamal. Bless Crops and Bear Fruit are your friends.
Not detailing NPCs
One very important thing in RQG is that much of the character stats are player facing. As a GM, it is perfectly fine detailing a zombie as nothing more than:
Hit Points 16
Magic Points 5
Armor: heavy scale hauberk, bronze greaves and vambraces, open helm
IH Spear 50% 1d6+1+1d6
And then add the hit location chart. And that’s it. I always find the hit location chart handy. 😀
Only worry about the stuff that will matter in how your players are likely to interact with it. Don’t bother to worry about the rest. You might discover in play that Zombie 3 has glimmerings of memories of life and keeps muttering “Rosebud.” But don’t worry about that until then.
Why write down armor? Because in my experience that is the first thing that gets looted. I have a party that just got their hands on 18 scale hauberks, and an equal number of pairs of bronze greaves and hauberks, and open helms. That’s enough to equip a raiding force!
In short, much of the material in the rules exist to support the players so that they know what they can do, so they have options, and they have a means of describing their character that has mechanical meaning. But as the GM you don’t need all that stuff. So don’t sweat it.
RuneQuest is all about inducing fear and anxiety in characters who on paper can hurl thunderbolts and smite folk with Truesword plus Sword Trance. But you make them scared going down dark stairs.
Or has happened in a recent session, “Shit, all our Shield spells expire soon and we have no more Rune Points. And we need to light a fire to light the torches? Shit.”
I tend to have a few templates for types of NPCs – Militia, Zombie Sentry, Sable Riders, etc. And then separately I have a random list of names:BarayosElmalovoJanna VinchWahatalMaravolaErenaldaHelkos StarnAnd so on. And then just grab which name is appropriate. You hired an Impala guide? His name is Wahatal. But everyone calls him Waha TALL.
But sometimes the NPC remains “Newtling Number 3”. And No. 3 becomes legendary as the Newtling who got away.
Dragon Pass mountains
Here’s neat comparison of mountains in Dragon Pass by the amazing Matt Ryan that is being done as part of another project.
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