Hero Wars: Wyters Q&A (2002)

Hero Wars Questions & Answers with Stefan Drawert and Greg Stafford, 26 Dec 2002

Stefan: For my campaign I urgently need to know some details about wyters.

Greg: First, remember that you are the ultimate authority in your campaign. These are not necessarily questions that have a single correct answer.

Stefan: A heortling clan decides or is forced to leave their home and settle in a different region of Sartar. There they join another tribe, but eventually find their old wyter not suitable to the new and changed circumstances of life. For example, a Good-Against-Praxian-Raiders wyter finds itself in a troll- and tusker-ridden surrounding.

Greg: Most wyters have a special power that is essentially useless under everyday circumstances. In HeroQuest, I let people choose their wyter’s powers because I want them to have a hand in the story. I would not necessarily consider the lack of usefulness of that special power to be a reason to release the wyter. Also, note that Heortlings know that such moves are a gamble, and risky, and that the new clan might not survive. This is why the migration back into Dragon Pass, although exciting, was such a dangerous thing–the clans and bloodlines and other refugees knew very well that they might not make it. But their need to leave their own lands outweighed this risk.

Additionally, it is not a requirement that this new group go off without a wyter. If the clan splits peacefully, the group that leaves might be able to take the warband wyter or Loom House wyter and “promote” it to be the wyter for the new clan. This gives the new clan a much greater chance of success when they leave. They will have the clan members and the wyter’s physical manifestation, and need only find a good place to settle and place their marker stones to become a full clan.

Finally, the finding of a new wyter for the clan, especially one suited to a specific region or circumstance (such as the nearby trolls) is itself a heroquest. It is thus the source of adventure for the player heroes — perhaps they are the ones who will seek out a new story of the clan wyter, or a new meaning to an old story, and thus save the clan. This isn’t necessarily just a wyter insight — this kind of refocussing is one of the purposes of advanced heroquesting.

Stefan: Is it possible for the clan to change wyters for the better of the community?

Greg: Yes, it certainly is possible. But remember that this is not a piece of equipment that the clan has. It is their spiritual contact with their ancestors and the Otherworld. It’s not a thing, but a being. It is often an ancestor, and has accumulated time on the job. Replacing the wyter completely can be a drastic step, since it involves destroying the old clan and creating a new one. Although some of the clan history will remain the same, because the people are the same, some details will not, if they are specific to the wyter. And many accumulated benefits gained from the wyter will be lost.

What is probably more common is a less drastic “budding” process. Rather than replacing the wyter completely, the clan splits. Even this will diminish the new clan’s power, both with the tula (ancestral lands) and because that wyter does not have the centuries of communication and worship that the old one had. This is not a game rule: this is how wyters and other guardian beings work.

Every clans knows that it has relation clans around, maybe all around and everyplace. These clans’ ancestral histories are identical, up to a point. At the most broad, all are Orlanthi. The mythology (perhaps derived from the Clan Questionnaire in Orlanth is Dead!) will show the common myths and opportunities of any clans that meet: “Have you been to Thrinbarri Clouds?”

Stefan: If the answer to the above question is “Yes”, how is it done?

Greg: The Heortling godi would either know or would discover a ritual to release the clan from the power of the wyter. This would probably make it an enemy being, by the way. But here is a different option. The clan warband has its own wyter, a guardian being that is not of the same connection and status as a clan wyter. If my clan moved to where trolls were the main trouble, I’d say the clan would typically get a new warband wyter. That is, if I wanted to get aid in fighting the trolls. If I was more concerned with co-existing peacefully with them, I might get a new Loom House wyter instead.

Stefan: In the example above, if only a bloodline of said clan leaves/must leave, who keeps the wyter if, at the moment, it “belongs” to that bloodline (because the clan chieftain is a member of the bloodline that leaves)?

Greg: Is this done peacefully? I will assume that the chieftain’s bloodline says they are going to up and leave. A clan must have a chieftain, and one who leaves is no longer a member of the clan. So, they have to choose a new chieftain, who is then the one in touch with the clan wyter. That is, the wyter belongs to the clan, not the bloodline. The departing bloodline group would have to get a new wyter, thus forming a new clan. The chieftain might stay with the clan, even if the rest of his bloodline leaves. He does not have to sever himself from his kin to do this, since many bloodlines have families in different clans, even if the bloodline members do not realize it. When a clan splits in a peaceful manner, kinship is always preserved. The members who go away just get a new focus. A ceremony calls the old clan the tree, the new one the seed; the old one the ewe, the new one the lamb; the old one the bull, the new one the calf; and so on. The clan tattoos will be different, but they will have enough similarities that any Heortling can see the kinship between the two groups.

And, again, there are other alternatives:

If the split is not peaceful, the two parts of the clan might engage in a magical struggle to see who keeps the wyter.

The wyter might leave along with the departing bloodline, in which case the ones who stay behind have to get a new clan wyter. This becomes one of the notes in the real clan history. The clan story in the published and online materials is only the simplest and most broad. A real clan history would remember every historical event that caused it to break up and bud off. This is part of the relationships that each clan in Sartar has with the others, this record of who is related to who, who stayed or left, etc.

The wyter itself might decide which group to go with, or might always stay with a certain segment of the clan. Thus, some wyters have always gone with the majority, others with the chieftain, and yet others have more complicated traditions, staying with “the one who would be the best chieftain” or “the one that will feed us.” The clan members will usually be aware of the wyter’s historical “preferences,” and this could very well affect which “path” individual clan members choose to take.

The people might never split the clan at all, and have one chieftain and wyter even though the bloodlines and people are hundreds of miles apart. This is not typical of Heortling clans, since the tula as such is not a single piece of land, but it is possible. Such a wyter probably would have normal abilities was far as awareness of the clan members, but its awareness of the tula would be lessened or even non-existent, and thus so would some of the defenses it provides. In fact, without the border stones being set with the proper rituals and remaining undisturbed by outsiders, the wyter would have no “sense” of its physical location. It would have one less “body,” as it were.

(This implies that the still embodied but perhaps not quite “awake” wyters of some former clans that have been wiped out, might still have an awareness within the former tula if the border stones remain undisturbed.)

Stefan: When a clan/bloodline moves/is moved into new territory, how does the wyter claim or become “attuned to” the new tula?

Greg: The marker stones, placed with the proper rituals, set the parameters of its awareness.

Stefan: How does a clan give up territory, thereby reducing the range of the wyter?

Greg: They move the stones with the proper rituals. By the way, it is possible (and common) for the border stones in the farthest areas of clans to overlap each other. Sometimes the clans will feud or war to stop this, so that the rival owl and raven clans might hate each other so much that the area is a battleground. But sometimes it is just too unimportant to worry much about, because these territories are typically the hunting forests, hills, and mountain areas between clans or wild lands.

It is also theoretically possible (and I am sure that it occurs somewhere) that clans share exactly the same territory.

These are all exceptions to the “rules,” but do occur. In all of these cases, the overlapping areas are not just geographical, but magical. In some cases, both wyters can see and act clearly within the territory, in others they may cause “interference” with each other.

Stefan: Can a clan summon a wyter only from among their ancestors, or is it possible/common to search for a wyter elsewhere? For instance: “We settle here near the Uz-lands, let’s get a wyter from over in the Torkani-lands: they know the trolls and are still Heortlings.”

Greg: Most Heortlings would rather trust the wisdom of the gods when they get a new clan wyter. Sure, you may think that the trolls are the big problem, but what if the gods have a different idea? I would also ask why a Torkani daimon would become your wyter anyway? It is possible that you might be able to consult the loremasters or, if necessary, heroquest and discover a kinship link of some kind, but you wuld be better off getting yourself a hero band for a warband. Select the guardian being of choice. THAT level of guardian being can be chosen more easily. If it works, sacrifice to it and make it the warband wyter or, if appropriate and possible, a full clan wyter.

However, another option, often simpler, would be to “piggy-back” on the Torkani’s magic by becoming their allies. In fact, if you are that desparate, you might as well leave your old tribe (which obviously isn’t doing completely right by you, else why would you leave?) and join the new clan to the Torkani Tribe instead. After all, if you are not willing to go that far, then certainly a Torkani daimon wouldn’t want much to do with you.

Additionally, as stated above, wyters do not always come from among the ancestors. Indeed, many wyters are gods, not ancestors (though the ancestors are gods, of course) — daimones of places, for example, met when the clan came to a certain place, and which they worshipped so that it became their wyter. If you leave that place, of course, you must start a new clan, because the wyter cannot leave its sacred tree, rock, or other natural feature.

Furthermore, although unusual among Heortlings, wyters need not originate in the God World. A guardian being can come from any world, and it is not unheard of for a Heortling clan to adopt a spirit as a wyter. Such is the case of the Enjossi Clan of the Colymar Tribe.

Finally, I actually think that a part of this whole issue should not be about a group of people forming a new clan, but about a group of individuals (i.e., player heroes) going away to save the clan. Thus, it can be about forming a hero band rather than a completely new clan.

Stefan: How vulnerable is a wyter to magic attacks? Is it possible for Lunar priests to shatter the clan by killing its wyter?

Greg: Yes, it is possible, but not in the abstract. They could cast huge feats at it, or send monster spirits or something, but the clan would know, be prepared, and do whatever they could to participate in the struggle. They would work with the part of themselves that is the wyter, and could actively help to defend the wyter, even as it normally acts to defend them. In a rules sense, they would somehow augment the wyter, even though normally such “duplication” of magical ability is not possible (since the population of the clan already affects the wyter’s ability ratings). Also, the wyter is a deity, and its being and awareness are greater than those of mortals. It has a body in this world that is its sacred image (or tree or whatever), but that also includes the teritory of the clan and all members of the clan. To destroy it entirely, the Lunars would have to destroy it in all those places at once. (I.e., they would have to destroy the sacred image, and the clan members, and the tula that it inhabits.) If any part of the wyter survives, it will come back to life at some point; indeed, it will not actually have been destroyed, only harmed.

This is the time to remind you that the Sartarites (and most theists) do not use the term “god of” or “goddess of” when referring to Otherworld entities. The word for storm is Orlanth, as in, “It’s a hella rainin’ orlanth out there!” or “She just orlanthed outta here!” Orlanth is not just the “god” or “power” behind the storm; he is the wind and rain and storm itself. In the same way, a wyter is not just the guardian being of the clan, it is the clan.

Let’s say that a huge invisible sunspear one day shattered the wyter’s sacred image. Zap! The chieftain and clan would be without its assistance for a while, but their prayers and shock would both contribute to bringing the conscious entity — the being of the wyter — back to concousness to help them as usual. Rituals exist to put it into a new sacred object. Similarly, if the clan is destroyed but the tula remains unclaimed or the sacred object exists, it might be possible for survivors (or relatives) to come and do the proper rituals, reforming the clan with the same wyter. Consider the example of the Karandoli Clan of the Colymar Tribe (see King of Sartar, pp. 213-217), which one of the Argraths will bring back into existence during the Hero Wars.

On a “higher” level is the support that the clan receives from the tribe. If a clan wyter is attacked directly, it would normally have the support of the tribal wyter. Thus, if the Lunars attack the wyter of the Black Spear Clan, the Colymar Tribe’s own wyter can support it. And the tribal wyter, of course, is supported by the wyters of all the other clans (much as a leader gains support from followers). This is one of the many benefits of joining a tribe — your clan gets not just military and economic support, but direct magical protection as well. (Furthermore, if there is a clan in the tribe whose wyter has abilities specifically appropriate to the contest, it might augment the clan wyter directly, rather than simply supporting the tribal wyter.)

On a “lower” level, different bloodlines, families, steads, and places on the tula will have their own guardian beings or daimon inhabitants, and these entities will generally act against the invaders. They might do so independently, coordinated by the wyter, or actively supporting the wyter.

Finally, if the wyter (and thus the existence of the clan itself) is directly threatened, not only the living clan members will get involved, but so will all of the ancestors. Sure, the Lunars might be able to handle a clan of 500 people and their wyter, but what about the 20,000 ancestors who can show up to boost the wyter? Think of the Nomad Gods wargame — each clan counter has a Magic Factor, say of 3. In one sense, this represents the clan’s guardian being. But in that game, the tribal shaman can also summon the Ancestors, who can easily double a clan’s Magic Factor. These ancestors are as much a part of the wyter as are the living clansmen. This helps to explain the great power of older wyters, whose clans have a continuous existence stretching back hundreds of years.

(In a rules sense, the narrator can simply count the ancestors into the total population when determing the population “bonus” the wyter gains from the human membership; see Thunder Rebels, pg. 101, for more information.)

Although something as drastic as summoning the ancestors generally involves sacrifices and preparation, when a clan’s ancestors manifest to defend their entire existence in the form of the wyter, great magic is involved, more than most Lunar sorcerers will want to tackle unless they have something like the Meteor School or the Crimson Bat as backup. And any such great magic on their part requires its own preparations and sacrifice, with long time scales that give the people and Otherworld entities time to detect them and prepare their own countermeasures.

Add to this the difficulty of simultaneously destroying the wyter’s physical body, exterminating the people, and desecrating all of the places that they hold sacred, and you can see that causing the destruction of a wyter nearly impossible. It simply cannot be done in the same way that you might destroy a ghost, for example. And so the Lunars have to pursue other avenues to conquer the tribes — severing clans from tribes, converting leaders or the populace, etc.

Stefan: Is there a common method to do this [destroy a wyter] known to Heortlings and/or Lunars?

Greg: They both know many ways to attack an enemy and his guardian beings. However, the clan and its wyter are experienced and ready for the usual methods of doing this. After all, one of the functions of the wyter is to defend the clan against exactly the types of curses and enemy magic that the Lunars might bring to bear against them. Making a direct magical attack on a guardian being like a wyter is uncommon, since isolating such an entity from its territory and members is not as simple as it sounds. A wyter has no direct presence in the Otherworld, and so finding it involves a fairly high level of heroquesting. The Lunars might launch an attack against the people or territory, but that is not directly against the wyter — its imminent collective nature is the wyter’s greatest defense. Capturing (or at least locating) the physical manifestation helps somewhat, but does not isolate the wyter as a whole, only that physical part of it. Finding the wyter and isolating it from its “components” can be done, but not quite as easily as the question and answer above make it sound.

And keep in mind that the apparently simple act of invading the tula is alone worthy of a scenario; it is not the realm of the common “rules,” but of the unusual — your game. On its own tula, the wyter is strongest, and its members gain some powerful defenses and bonuses. And this is one reason that people have guardian beings — the worship and protection each “partner” gets from the relationship strengthens them synergistically. Both parties in the relationship gain some measure of protection because of the presence of the other. The wyter is a network, a set of interwoven elements, and the collective whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.

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