Copyright © 1997 by Michael O’Brien
Permission is freely given for personal gaming use.
Lhankor Mhy is the God of Knowledge, Learning, and Lore. And the Great Temple of Knowledge in Nochet City, Esrolia, is the truly the greatest temple of Lhankor Mhy in Glorantha. Every year, young apprentices sit exams, hoping to qualify as sages (initiates) of Lhankor Mhy. This adventure takes a group of apprentice sages through their examinations, including the rigorous Sage Acceptability Test, the perilous Field Trip and, finally, the tongue-tying Oral.
1. Character Generation
Each player must fill out one of the special Getting of Wisdom MGF-Character Sheets, creating their own apprentice sage.
In general, apprentice sages at the Nochet Great Temple of Knowledge tend to be young, human males – however, exceptions are not uncommon, and characters can be practically of any race, sex or creed. The challenge then is to invent a plausible reason why they would be a lowly apprentice sage!
If everyone’s in the right mood, character generation can almost be as much fun as the scenario that follows!
Note: Once developed, it is important that you have a thorough read of each character, especially the 5 things no-one knows about me stuff. It makes good MGF to work this material into the plot as it progresses:
- eg. if a player says their character is secretly a Thanatar cultist, have Kiva (see Kiva and Guardian Vixen) give a look of recognition, and inveigle the character into helping with the ambush and don’t be afraid to add some extra detail if it might help the plot later on;
- eg. if a player says they are secretly an ogre, give them the chaos feature “explodes on death” and use it later to dramatically resolve the final showdown in the underground archives.
Every player gets to create their own character’s Master – the sage they are apprenticed to, who is leading them into the world of wisdom. Choose one PC to be the apprentice of the sage Salokin Dyoll (professed interest: “the life and times of Jar-Eel the Razoress”, real interest: hitting onto cute apprentices). Salokin supposedly went down into the temple’s vast underground archives last week to hunt out an obscure text about Jar-Eel, though the PC really knows it was for an assignation with some flirtatious jailbait junior sage he picked up in the Reading Room. Neither has been seen since. Salokin asked his apprentice to keep mum – it is against Temple rules for such liaisons to take place – and up until now the PC has not reported the disappearance.
2. Introductions all round
Once created, each player introduces their character to the group, highlighting such aspects as the 5 things everyone knows about me, who their master is, and what research interests they are pursuing. While the 5 things no one knows about me stuff should be kept secret, other aspects might be well known, eg. “I keep everyone awake at night reading in bed with my Light spell (until I pass out from lack of Magic Points!)”, or “my favourite possession is my turnip of a rude and unusual shape – I carry it wherever I go”. On the other hand, if a character’s fave spell is Tap POW or his fave possession is a Thanatar head, they might want to keep it quiet at this stage!
3. Master’s Little Pep-talk
Academic life at the Great Temple of Knowledge is very competitive, and each master wants their apprentice to succeed because it reflects well on them. Likewise, failure makes them look bad! Each master will in their own way give their protege a little “pep-talk”, letting them know that they hope and expect their charge will come away with the coveted award of Dux – highest in the grade that year. Most threaten various punishments and penalties if they are disappointed, eg. “I’ll have you scraping sheep carcasses for vellum till Storm Season!”
4. Sage Acceptability Test
The candidates now must undergo the Test of Holiness. Now, everyone knows that the test is a ‘doddle’ all it involves is staying up all night in the scriptorium, fasting and saying prayers to Lhankor Mhy; all you have to do is make sure you don’t fall asleep! The following morning there’s always a big slap-up feast, with the best spring lamb (used to make vellum).
Unfortunately for the candidates, the temple has a new Invigilator, fresh out from the Sun Dome – Dr Marv Monrogh (professed topic of interest: “A healthy head means a happy temple”; real interest: messing with people’s brains).
Dr Monrogh explains that he has replaced the old traditional test of holiness with a new one of his own devise: the Sage Acceptability Test (SAT test). All you have to do is answer a few simple questions (get the players to write their answers on a piece of paper).
Dr Monrogh’s method has him ask a series of questions, but the answers given really respond to whole different set of questions. Only at the end does he reveal this. Get each player to read out their answers!
|The Sage Acceptability Test (SAT)|
What animal interests you?
Write 3 words to describe that animal.
If Anias, the deputy chief librarian, was an animal, what animal would he be?
What do you really think of Anias?
What season interests you the most? [Sea, Fire, Earth, Storm, Dark, Sacred Time]Write 3 words to describe that season.
Write 3 words to describe your relationship with your master.
Imagine you’ve been cast adrift on the Homeward Ocean in a small raft.
Wrote 3 words to describe your feelings at this time.
How do you feel about passing the rest of this test?
Dr Monrogh collects the SAT tests, and goes through the real questions with the now startled group. After this, he tells them that they are ready for the next stage of their examination: the field trip. He directs them to go see the Deputy Chief Librarian Anias for their assignment. He asks that they give the SAT test answers to Anias.
The group visit the deputy chief librarian Anias (professed interest: “Prax in the Golden Age”; real interest: succeeding the doddering senile old fool whose currently high priest) to receive their field trip assignment. Anias is in his vast study, and sits at a huge oaken desk, piled high with rare and dusty scrolls, tomes and manuscripts.
Anias looks down at the group as if they are lowly pond scum, and gives them their assignment. Their ‘field trip’ is actually going to be a expedition through the temple’s underground archives, to retrieve a collection of documents Anias is need of: in the golden age of Prax there was once a city called Ex, which was squashed flat when the Storm Bull called upon the Block to crush the Devil. Divinations have proven the existence of the Ex Files, and now Anias wants the group to find them for him.
Before anyone can ask questions, Anias dismisses them peremptorily, and tells them to go see the sage on duty at the entrance to the underground archives. This sage will give them a bookworm which will guide them to the correct part of the archives.
Note: If anyone gives Anias the SAT test answers, he read them through, and asks lots of potentially embarrassing and awkward questions. Fortunately, he doesn’t understand Dr Monrogh’s methods and doesn’t know what the questions really are (though the players don’t know this!)
6. Entrance to the Underground Archives
The sage on duty at the entrance to the vast underground repository is Columbus Mercator (professed and real topic of interest: proving Glorantha is round, not flat). Columbus is looking for crew for his planned circumnavigation of the ‘globe’, and to get the bookworm, the players will have to humour him and his crackpot theory (remember things the PCs say here, because Columbus will be on the panel for the Oral Exams at the end!)
The bookworm is actually a temple spirit, bound into a leather chit (a library card, of sorts). It will guide the group in the most direct way to the documents they are searching for. Columbus gives it to the apprentice who panders to him the most.
7. Encounters in the Archives
The Underground Archives are an endless maze of tunnels, galleries, cubby holes, nooks, rooms, chambers and halls, all stacked to the brim with scrolls, books, papers, artifacts and objects, all classified, tagged or labelled in one way or another (and often several ways by sages with different methods for ordering things), but in reality one big hopeless, confused mess. The temple is actually waiting for a cult HeroQuester to come along one day to sort it all out, a sort of Super-Hero Harrek the Librarian-type. Meanwhile, things continue to get stacked down there, using whatever cataloguing method is in vogue at the time.
The group should have some or all of the following encounters before meeting Kiva and his Guardian Vixen.
a. Mad Gerald
Mad Gerald (professed interest: “only by understanding chaos can we destroy it”; real topic: weaving macramé using his own body hair) has been down in the archives for the past 17 years, and has built a little nook for himself filled with all the books he’s interested in. He is slowly turning into a broo from reading too much from the Book of Drastic Resolutions. Nevertheless, he offers to share his meagre supply of food (boiled rat), and offers to come along and assist, wants to be really helpful, etc. He has no idea where the Ex Files really are, and this should eventually become apparent if he comes along.
Mad Gerald will take a shine to one PC in particular – I suggest you make it the person most revolted by him! Mad Gerald will give his sweetheart a ‘little present’ – a tiny pendant shaped like a horned skull, made from appears to be tarnished silver, a finger bone and some hair. It is on a leather thong that can be worn like a necklace (but is, in fact, a garrote). This pendant will protect the person wearing or carrying it from Thanatar Mad Head ghosts.
b. Party of Lost Apprentices
The group find a trail of ripped pages from a book going down the corridor. Following it, they stumble upon another group of apprentices, also on their field trip, but hopelessly lost. They lost their bookworm some time back, and have been tearing up successive books to leave a path of where they’ve been. Destroying knowledge like this isn’t really cricket in the eyes of the Lhankor Mhy cult, but these guys seem to be terrified.
The players can help or hinder the group, who are also competing for the honours in the exams. If the lost apprentices feel that they have been helped by the PCs (eg. told where the exit is), with shaking hands leader will give them a scroll that he says might ‘be of help deeper down’. Getting him to elaborate further will only make him go white and start mumbling to himself as he scurries towards the way out.
The scroll is written in Esrolian, and contains the words of the Lhankor Mhy head-smashing ritual, which is used to destroy the Mad Head ghosts of the vile Thanatar cult.
In the name of Full Knowledge
I rip this tool from Thanatar,
To confound his presence
In the scheme of being
And to hasten the end of chaos.
Go, spirit, to the fate of your will!
c. Cache of Banned Books
The bookworm takes the group right up to a door which is sealed up. A faded sign posted on the door reads, Restricted Collection – Mature Sages Only, by order Mutiog (the current high priest – professed interest: divination, particularly by haruspicory; real interest: remaining high priest and making sure Anias doesn’t get his job).
Inside is a cache of banned and restricted books – The Golden Books of Elephantis (pop-up edition), the most copious collection of Yelmic pornography ever assembled, a whole shelf of the banned God Learner Archive, heretical works from the Lunar Empire, dark tomes from the time of Arkat, the autobiography of Treack Markhor (founder of the Thanatar cult), a book of Rokari incantations, a scroll featuring the Vadeli secret of Immortality (including recipes) and lots more besides.
Note: if any of the PCs (or their masters) have, ahem ‘specialised’ interests, it’s possible that one or two books appertaining to that field are here.
If anyone attempts to remove a book from this room, the Lhankor Mhy cult spirit of reprisal Brain Flayer materialises and attacks them in spirit combat. Every time the Brain Flayer succeeds, the victim has part of their brain go blank. Apart from having to act less and less intelligent after every attack, the victim must also reveal one of the 3 things they believe are true from their character sheet and act upon it as literally as possible for a while. The Brain Flayer continues attacking until the victim returns the book to the room, or at least drops it on the floor. The brain-draining effects last for as long as they are dramatically appropriate, but the victim retains no memory at all of what was read.
d. Flooded Basement
The bookworm points down a flight of stairs into a basement, flooded with black, rank water. The stairs go up on the other side. The room is about 10 meters across, and the water is about 4 meters deep. Books, folios and scroll cases bob in the water, and the whole room has a fetid smell. The group have to get across the obstacle, which is made more difficult by the krashtkid living in the water.
The best method to get across is by floating on some of the huge leather folios that line the stairway. They contain priceless diagrams of Yelm’s Heavenly Mansion on the Spike before Time, but at least they float!
8. Kiva and his Guardian, Vixen
After many harrowing hours journey, the bookworm leads them through countless galleries of musty shelves into a large room. Here, it suddenly falls flat – they have arrived in the room where the Ex files must be located. Unfortunately, the room is huge, and lined floor to ceiling with books, scrolls and tomes, and more are scattered haphazardly all over the floor, as if loosened in some long-forgotten earth tremor. At the far end of the room, a great chasm opens in the floor. At the other, a man sits by a faintly flickering, surrounded by stacks of books. He murmurs as he reads in the dimness, running his finger along the pages as he goes.
This is Kiva, a Thanatar priest (professed interest: devouring knowledge; real interest: building up his head collection). He’s in here, using his Devour Book spell to erase knowledge: if they look carefully, they’ll see that as his fingers move along the page, the words are literally vanishing.
The fire Kiva sits by is a Darklight flame, which only Thanatari can see by (so to him, the room is bright and clear). If the players look carefully, they’ll see he’s using pages from books as fuel.
Kiva is dressed exactly like a respectable senior sage (save that he has bare feet and his toenails are painted purple). He puts on a friendly, avuncular sort of charm when the group enters the room, and says that as he has been studying in here for the past 11 years, he’d be more than happy to help them find what they are looking for.
Kiva puts the party off the guard by asking after Anias and Columbus Mercator, and sympathising about their plight as apprentices – he says it was easier ‘back in his day’.
Note: In actual fact Kiva is not native to the area, but recently took the head of the Sage Salokin Dyoll. He was lured into the underground archives by Vixen, who posed as a young and flirtatious apprentice. What Kiva knows about local matters was sucked out of Salokin’s mind by the disgusting Thanatari head-taking ritual.
If Kiva is asked about the Ex Files, he says, ah yes, his apprentice only had them out the other day! He claps his hands, and a young woman appears out of the darkness. This is Vixen, Kiva’s guardian, a Thanatar spirit which inhabits the bodies of specially prepared victims. While young and pretty, Vixen is rather grubby and is in fact covered in bruises and scratches (guardians are not very good at taking care of their host bodies). Her long, straggly hair is tied back in a braid; this is actually a leather garrote which she can whip out in an instant.
Vixen has a somewhat vacant expression, though she visibly animates when someone talks to her. The PC who has Salokin Dyoll for a master will recognise her as the missing apprentice who disappeared with the sage a week ago, even though she’s not currently wearing her false beard. If asked about Salokin, Vixen says that he is in the next room, along with Ex Files, and beckons them to follow.
9. The Mad Head Ghosts
At Kiva’s prompting, Vixen attempts to lead the characters to the far end of the room, where the dark chasm opens from the floor. In the pit, a number of Mad Head Ghosts, victims of Kiva’s foul magic, lay rotting in foul water along with the remains of Salokin Dyoll’s headless body.
Vixen points to a large scroll case, high up on one shelf. It is labelled as the Ex Files, the object of their search! As the characters approach, the ghastly apparitions rise out of the floor and attack, moaning and wailing.
Meanwhile, Kiva, who has padded behind silently with his bare feet, slips a garrote around the last PC. As he struggles to take the PC’s head, his robe comes open: inside, strapped to his belt, is the decapitated head of Salokin Dyoll. The shrunken head moans and screams hoarsely during the struggle, its spirit captured and enslaved by Thanatar magic.
Vixen also flicks out her garrote and attempts to strangle another victim. Meanwhile, the Mad Head ghosts fly about, attacking anyone without the special tarnished silver medallion that all Thanatari wear to ward against them. Anyone wearing Mad Gerald’s pendant is safe from the ghosts, and they will avoid this person.
Mad Head Ghosts drive their victims insane. Each successful attack requires the PC to reveal one of the 5 things no one knows about them, and act upon it as literally as possible for a while (as long as is dramatically appropriate!) If a victim is forced to reveal all 5 secrets, they are also driven permanently mad and would require many long months in the Temple Sanatorium if they hope to be someday cured.
During the fight, Kiva yells out to the PC carrying Mad Gerald’s pendant ‘Are you with us or against us?’ Thanatar devotees are not unknown amongst the ranks of Lhankor Mhy apprentices (indeed, disgruntled scholars are a major source of recruitment into the vile cult!), and Kiva does not want to harm a potential ally. Kiva’s call will probably confuse the other PCs though, and make them very suspicious, particularly as the ghosts also seem to be keeping away!
The PCs must defeat Kiva, Vixen and the ghosts. The best way to destroy the ghosts is with the Lhankor Mhy head-smashing ritual, though to properly finish off the ghosts, someone will have to jump in the 2.5 meter pit and stomp on the rotting skulls there.
Vixen falls dead the instant Kiva dies, and his shrunken head shrivels and withers.
10. Retrieving the Ex Files
The Ex Files lie in the specially-marked scroll case on a shelf just beyond the great fissure in the floor. The case contains several pieces of rolled-up parchment, all inscribed in tiny, virtually unreadable script, in a language that is most likely unfamiliar to all (Old Pavic). In any case, they are completely uninteresting to anyone without the sort of specialised knowledge of Anias.
The return to the surface can be as hectic or uneventful as you choose. The bookworm can lead them safely back to the entrance, where another sage, the duck Anaximander (professed interest: the mysterious origin of the ducks, true interest: becoming the first duck in Time to fly) has taken over duty from Columbus Mercator. Looking somewhat ridiculous with his pasted-on beard, he takes back the bookworm and tells them to go see Anias, pronto!
11. Anias Checks the Facts
Anias is in no better mood than before, and impatiently snatches the scroll-case. He scans the sheets for a few seconds, says ‘hmmm, hmmm, yes, thought so…’, rolls the Ex Files up again and puts them back in the scroll case. All that effort for just a few seconds consultation? You bet! He then tells the PCs they’re ready for their oral exam, and to send in the next batch of apprentices. Make sure they hear Anias the next group that their field trip is to put the Ex Files back on the shelves where they came from!
12. The Oral Exam
In this, the final test, the PCs must defend their thesis before a panel of examiners – Anias, Columbus Mercator and Marv Monrogh. Dr Monrogh also explains that the fourth member of the panel is the student representative council nominee. The PCs must now decide amongst themselves who this will be.
Defending the thesis is quite simple: each player must speak for 30 seconds about their subject of interest. At the end, the examiners get to ask questions.
Regardless of the subject at hand, Dr Monrogh brings up his findings from the SAT test earlier. These answers could be especially embarrassing in front of Anias!
Anias asks pointed questions about the topic, but is best answered by appealing to his tremendous vanity and opinion of his own wisdom.
Columbus Mercator turns all his questions back to his own crackpot theory, and if any PC made him promises earlier on (eg. volunteering to serve as crew on his circumnavigation expedition), he’ll try to hold them to it.
The SRC panel member is also entitled to ask any questions at all.
Regardless of the answers to the SAT test and the conduct of the oral exam, it’s nevertheless likely everyone will pass (tut, tut, whatever happened to academic standards?). The SRC panel member helps the other senior sages vote on class rankings, from bottom of the class up to Dux. Allow the other sages to be swayed by the player’s arguments, and choose whichever candidate has the most MGF potential. Note that the SRC member is perfectly entitled to nominate himself for Dux!
Some time later, in front of the whole temple the new sages receive their diplomas. In addition, those capable of growing beards are given their own personalised facial grooming kit. Those who can’t – eg. ducks, newtlings, most females (except trolls), receive a new and very handsome false beard and bottle of paste. Finally, the new Dux is proclaimed. The doddering high priest shakes the winning candidate’s hand and announces to all assembled that, as a special honour, the Dux this year is to be given the honour of devising and implementing a new cataloging system for the underground archives. ‘And’, he says, beaming at the other new sages, ‘our Dux can chose his own team of research assistants to help him in his subterranean labours.’
The (Bitter) End
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