First published in Tales of the Reaching Moon issue #5
Copyright © 1991 by Michael O’Brien
This article uses the format presented in Chaosium’s RQ2 book Plunder (1982).
A very fancy, well-crafted sword. Although Lottery swords are usually broadswords, the most favoured weapon of the Esrolian Humakti, they could conceivably be any of the “cult weapons” of Humakt.
Cult Secret; Famous (in Esrolia only); Few; Owners Only.
Lottery swords are an innovation of the effete Humakti of Esrolia, and their manufacture is limited to this region.
A lottery is formed when a group of candidates for initiation into Humakt get together, pool their resources and buy a fine sword. Sometimes this blade is fashioned from iron (in which case it must be enchanted for use); usually it is bronze. Often the sword hilt is extremely ornamental, encrusted with as many jewels and precious stones as the partners can afford.
Any number of warriors might enter a lottery. The more who join, the greater the Lottery sword’s power. Of course, this reduces the chance of each participant winning the prize, and so lotteries rarely have more than a dozen entrants. Six to eight Humakti is the norm.
Once initiated, Humakti are obligated to take a gift from their god. They must also assume the gift’s corresponding geas (see the Cult of Humakt description in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha or Tales of the Reaching Moon issue #5). There are four gifts which improve a Humakti’s weapon.
Instead of blessing their own weapon, each of the participants in the lottery places their gift on the Lottery sword. In this way an extremely potent weapon is created. However, there is only one such blade, with up to a dozen (or more) Humakti eager to possess and wield it.
To determine which of the comrades gets the sword, a series of first blood Humakti duels are fought.
The warriors pair off, and fight. The loser of a duel must take the gift (and its attendant geas) the winner instructs him to take. However, the losers of the first round always get to choose the gift and geases they will take.
Note that the gift “bless a specific weapon to do double damage” may only be taken by one participant. Custom has it that the last person to be defeated takes this blessing.
The gift “bless a specific weapon to do double damage upon striking a specified hit location” may be taken by as many participants as there are hit locations. The other gifts may be taken any number of times.
The winners of the first round then pair off and fight. Again, the winners of the second round decide what gifts and geas those they vanquished must take. The winners keep pairing off, fighting and allocating gifts/geases until there is one swordsman left. He takes the Lottery sword as prize. Furthermore, he need not take a gift which affects the Lottery sword, although the others would be consider it honourable if he did so.
Another variation uses the same method to determine who takes which gift/geas, but the last person left doesn’t win the sword. Instead, the weapon is put into the temple treasury, to be claimed by the first participant to achieve rune lord status in the Humakt cult. Lottery swords made for this method are usually iron.
The ritual culminates in a ceremony where the blessings are bestowed on the sword and the initiates all assume their geases. Finally, the winner joins the others in an Oath spell (for which he must provide the POW), in which all swear to abide by the outcome of the contest. Although the winner usually puts the sum total of his Magic Points into the oath, the others are only obligated to place one MP each. This is significant, because if one of the participants breaks his geas, he is also deemed to have forsworn the oath. If a Humakti leaves the cult, yet continues to abide by his geas, the Oath will not take effect (although the blessing he conferred on the lottery sword will be withdrawn).
While each of the participants remain faithful to Humakt and doesn’t break his geas, the powers of the Lottery sword remain intact. If one of them dies, becomes an apostate or breaks his geas, the particular blessing he bestowed on the blade is revoked. Thus, as time progresses, the powers of a Lottery sword diminish.
Aside from their material value, Lottery swords are only valuable to the original participants in the lottery. Because each of the participants are bound by their geases, all would like to possess and wield the sword.
The only honourable way a Lottery sword can change hands is by a duel. Any participant in the lottery may challenge the current owner of the sword at any time. Often these challenges are made as first-blood duels, but the wielder has the right to refuse with honour. Only a challenge to the death cannot be refused. Whoever wins gets the sword. Of course, the very deadliness of the Lottery sword gives the present wielder an incredible advantage over a challenger. But, because the properties imbued in the weapon are progressively removed as each competitor dies, each participant will want to get his hands on the sword as soon as possible.
Fighting to the death over a lottery sword is expressly forbidden by almost all Humakti temples outside the Holy Country. It is perhaps deplorable but nevertheless common for the owners of Lottery swords to move away, hide or otherwise evade their fellow contestants, in order to avoid continuous challenges.
Discipline, truth and honour are vital for a Humakt temple to function and prosper. A deadly squabble over a lottery sword can ruin that completely, sowing deceit, greed and death amongst swordbrothers – comrades who have to trust each other totally in the heat of battle. For this reason, almost all Humakt temples outside the Holy Country have banned sword lotteries as divisive. Only the jaded Humakti fops of Esrolia continue the practise, much to the disdain of their fellow sword-brothers abroad.
Note: The story Jaxarte on the Borderlands (To link) features a lottery sword, and the unfortunate consequences of owning one. Jaxarte’s older brother Goslem possesses a lottery sword, the extraordinary powers of which are detailed in the Goslem Whyded NPC stats (To link) section.
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