by Charles Corrigan and Greg Stafford
Published 11 May 2008. This is older material that has been published in condensed form in HeroQuest and in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes. In case of any conflict, the text of the books takes precedence over this article.
This essay explains the various kinds of interactions that people have with the Other Side, all of which can be labeled HeroQuesting.
- Participants -includes Officiants, Observers and Supporters; contrasted with Outsiders.
- Officiants – perform specific key roles in a ceremony or quest (priests, stand-ins, chorus, musicians etc.). They may also be called the Questors in a Practice Quest or in a Full Hero Quest. The better qualified the Officiant is for their role, the higher the chances of success.
- Observers – support and observe a ceremony or quest. Observers are sometimes necessary for success. This role often allows the Observer to obtain new magic.
- Supporters – support the ceremony or quest, sometimes without observing what is occurring.
- Outsider – usually includes anyone else present who is not a full member of the community (children, foreigners, etc.). Note that these roles are not exclusive – an Officiant may have a single key action to perform and is otherwise a Supporter.
- Other Side – The Theistic, Spiritual, Essential or Lunar world appropriate to the myth. Once there, Officiants will customarily get permission, blessing and direction to events of the Gods War.
- Gods War – Also known as the Hero Plane. The place where Officiants and Observers go to participate in the events of mythic history.
Ceremonies are re-enactions of a sacred myth to acquire the power first displayed in that myth. The purpose may be for regular, periodic worship; to counter or institute some special event; or to gain a specific community benefit. Rarely, a community may enact a ceremony to benefit an individual but this is unusual. Ceremonies can address relatively minor issues, such as blessing a person; or large scale, such as maintaining the cosmos as it should be.
A ceremony is performed in a single physical location, though the area may be large enough to have internal divisions and subdivisions. The whole location must be under the complete control of the Officiants. If it is not then this weakens the effect and can, unbeknownst to the Officiants, allow Outsiders into the Ceremony or even convert the ceremony into a Practice Quest.
Officiants perform pre-ordained roles, with most taking the personae of friendly beings. Usually, some Officiants act in the role of opponents. Occasionally, an involuntary representative is forced into the role of an opponent. Having actual qualified opponents enhances the chances of success of the ceremony.
The Other Side is summoned, opened or awakened, depending upon one’s theological perspective, and it overlaps into the mundane in the location wherein the ceremony is being performed. Within this area the Officiants and Observers perceive that they have transferred, first to the Other Side and sometimes (depending on the rite) to the Gods War to participate in the events of the myth.
Outsiders, and all others outside the location, only see the Officiants dressed up and performing, as if in a play. Officiants may appear magically charged since they are performing magic, but even this effect is often dampened by the protective nature of the ceremony.
Officiants may hide some secret activities from Outsiders and lesser Supporters by going into buildings, tents or simply by other participants gathering close around the Officiants. Other events that come in from the Other Side are entirely invisible to Outsiders and can only be guessed at by the actions of the Officiants.
In large ceremonies, especially those of the annual worship cycle, Observers regularly travel to the Otherworld or the Hero Plane to witness the events in which the Officiants participate. However, since they do not actively participate, they are still Observers.
Interference by Outsiders to disrupt or divert the ceremony faces additional resistance powered by the presence of the Other Side. However, Outsiders who take on one of the designated roles (voluntarily or not) do not meet this resistance – they become Officiants of the ceremony. Outsiders that know an alternative or more complete version of the myth may use this knowledge to intrude and subvert the purpose of the ceremony.
Because the Officiants have full control of the location and participants, there is a relatively small chance of a major surprise. But unexpected things always happen, even during commonly held ceremonies. Proper preparation can alleviate the danger. Thus Officiants must know many variations of the myth to prepare for these occurrences and to correct them. The most common mythic differences are alternative opponents and other parties encountered. More significant surprises could include:
- the designated opponent being replaced by the real thing,
- the opponent being powered by the ceremony to “be more than they are”,
- unexpected monstrosities,
- the arrival of enemies on a Practice Quest with their full community backing or
- some strange, alien part of the Other Side coming instead of the expected one.
- Annual/seasonal events are performed as a ceremony (e.g. the holy days and Sacred Time events of a Heortling clan).
- The Stationary Light Bringers Quest.
- The Summoning of Evil.
- Community healings.
Everything World Quest or Practice Quest
Practice Quests are re-enactions of a sacred myth. The purpose is usually to obtain a community benefit, but it is not uncommon to be used to gain personal benefits (as it is easy for the community to give lesser levels of support for less entanglement in the results).
The Officiants start with an opening ceremony at a temple or sacred location and then travel to other sacred locations in the Everything World to perform the stations of the quest. The Officiants perceive that they have transferred, first to the Other Side and then to a powerful, enhanced version of their world to perform the events of the myth. For the duration of the Quest, the Officiants are operating simultaneously in the mundane world and in the Hero Plane/Gods War. Because the worlds overlap, the hero-light (glowing, increased size, antlers and other magical effects) of the Officiants is visible and even Outsiders can witness these effects.
Locations affect the quest, in that some are more appropriate than others. Thus the actual location of an event is much more powerful than one that is similar, which is much more powerful than a common temple.
Supporters generally remain at the site where the ceremony began, but for lower levels of support or during a multi-day (week/season/year) quest, supporters may rotate roles so that some can go about their normal life, sharing in the performance of their supporting rituals. Interference by Outsiders in the rituals of support will face additional resistance.
The magic of the Quest draws appropriate encounters and opponents that usually match the known or expected inhabitants of the site in the Gods War. Thus strangers traveling nearby can be drawn into Practice Quests, most commonly as opponents, though possibly as helpers. The power of the myth may prompt them to play their part or they may be one of the surprises outside the normal myth.
Because the varying locations and encounters are not under the full control of the Officiants, the risk of surprise is higher but also the rewards are similarly larger.
There often are apparently non-causal effects. One community starting a Practice Quest may trigger an opposing community to start their own preparations days beforehand. Or, a Practice Quest that involves the Officiants going to another community to obtain a commodity, “causes” that community not to sell their surplus. To a lesser extent this can also be true of ceremonies – a Summoning of Evil could attract an enemy army that started their march many seasons ago.
- A clan and herd following the Waha Trails through the Greatlands of Prax and the Wastes are usually performing a Practice Quest.
- A ritual battle against ancestral enemies, where the Officiants travel from group to group getting Supporters (in rules terms: specific bonuses) and then go to meet the enemy in a chosen battleground.
Otherworld Quest or (Full) HeroQuest
An Otherworld Quest is a re-enaction of a sacred myth or (more rarely) to explore and create a myth by finding something new. The level of difficulty and risk of is very high. Therefore a full Heroquest is rarely undertaken by a community except in extreme circumstances (perhaps out of desperation or to follow the leadership of a charismatic Hero). Powerful individuals and their Hero Bands will occasionally attempt a full Quest for personal benefits, and they will usually get lower levels of support (if any!) from their wider communities to assist in crossing the barrier to the Other Side and for support in specific contests.
A Hero Quest is initiated by a ceremony. The Officiants cross over bodily to the Other Side and then the Gods War. They disappear from the mundane world. In the Gods War, the Officiants journey to the events of their Quest and participate in those events, either taking the role of the originator of the myth, or acting as his assistants and helpers. Supporters remain in the mundane and perform ritual actions to support the Questors. Anything in the mundane world that tries to prevent Supporters from performing their roles meets additional resistance powered by the magic of the quest. Outsiders can watch and they only see the Supporters dressed in ceremonial garb, going through dramatic actions.
During their preparations, the Officiants and their Supporters attempt to limit the difficulty of the Quest. More difficult quests, with higher risks and stronger opponents, net greater results if either successful or failed. Usually, the Officiants attempt to attract opposition and other encounters of roughly their own power levels. This is possible because similar acts occurred in the Gods War. For instance, Yelmalio lost his fire powers to Zorak Zoran at the Hill of Gold, and afterwards the followers of Zorak Zoran ripped those same fire powers from Yelmalio’s worshippers. Or, when Orlanth defeated the powers of the Seas, he fought Magasta; but the followers of Orlanth also fought against the followers of Magasta.
An underlying law of magical convergence causes Questors to meet the same mundane opponents in many of their Hero Quests. These individuals may fulfill several diverse roles (though always in line with their actual characteristics, so an Orlanthi would never take the roles of a Magastite). Individual identities of the Questors are hidden by the magic, however, and thus the actual foes would remain unknown. Only very powerful and unusual magic or a great deal of Questing experience will allow the Questor to discern the underlying individual.
Big surprises and discontinuities are common, such as the Officiants meeting the actual entity rather than its representative, i.e. Zorak Zoran rather than meeting another Questor in the role of Zorak Zoran; or a mountain range blocking what should be their path on a plain.
Arkat and Harmast discovered how to consciously perform this Otherworld HeroQuesting at the end of the First Age.
- Rain-bringing quest to kill the drought-dragon Aroka.
The three levels of ceremony, Practice Quest and HeroQuest are not exclusive of each other. In a large multi-year ceremony (Skyburn, Moonburn, Death of Orlanth), Practice Quests and even Full HeroQuests are needed to accomplish some of the phases. The only fully clear-cut boundary is whether or not the Officiants actually disappear to Outsiders when they go to the Other Side.
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