Whenever we interact with the divine – the God Time, the Hero Plane, the Spirit World, whatever – we are changed by that experience. This includes initiation into cult, birth of a child, the death of a loved one, etc.
Heroquesting is the same. Let’s put aside the model created for the KoDP video game, and think about what a heroquest really is – it is a mortal directly interacting with the divine, outside of what is familiar (the temple, sacrifice, the safe home of your god, etc.), and making new experiences with the powers, archetypes, and events of the God Time. It is a dangerous and unpredictable thing.
A heroquester typically gains gifts and magic as a result of their experiences, but also banes and curses. Passions and runes may change, and the nature of their community may change as well. And remember, those changes are all unpredictable and fraught with risk. Since the end of the Second Age most people have been very reluctant to heroquest except in the most routine and traditional ways. Two notable exceptions include the Red Goddess and the Orlanth cult. And that helps drive the Hero Wars.
Why are you putting aside the heroquesting model from KoDP video game? Heroquesting in KoDP follows a preset path – you more or less know what is going on and are trying to repeat it. Maybe there is some minor variation – a new test or a twist – but it is largely a repetition of an existing story.
But that’s not how it works in any of Greg’s stories. Characters heroquest through an environment of strange archetypes and entities. They are armed with the stories they know but those stories are no more than guidelines or a few familiar places where they can “recharge” themselves. We can see themes and components of the old stories, but only really appreciate them after the new quest has concluded.
Greg and I went over this a lot. And we ended up changing the way we described heroquests in order to better reflect his stories.