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Friday, 23 February 2018

A Gloranthan Starter

Published in 2010 by D101 Games, Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings is a fanzine of adventures set in Glorantha for use with HeroQuest. That said, and despite it being inspired by the fanzine, RQ Adventures, it has the polish of a supplement, an anthology of adventures, rather than the rough and ready feel of a fanzine. It presents a quartet of adventures which can be used singly—on their own or as additions to a Narrator’s campaign or together to form a complete mini-campaign, ‘Weathering the Storm’. As the latter, Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings serves to introduce players to both HeroQuest and Glorantha, in particular, the conflict between the Sartarite tribes of Dragon Pass and the invading Lunar Empire, perhaps as a lead in to the events detailed in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes. It is written for use with HeroQuest, Second Edition, but would work relatively easily with HeroQuest Glorantha and is designed to be played by up to six players.

Set in the year 1617, the players are rebels twice over. First, they are rebels fighting against the occupying Lunar Empire forces. Second, they are rebels against their clan, fighting when their clan prefers peace and negotiation to combat. Specifically, they are members of the Silverwind Clan, part of the Colymar tribe, which has the deserved reputation as a Peace Clan and thus few enemies and many friends. In some ways, the clan is feared for its persuasiveness, whether that is in mediation, forging trade routes, or defusing a combat! The player characters though, have eschewed the path of peace and chaffing under the traditions of the clan, have joined the Hidden Gale, a rebel band which has been harassing the local occupying Lunar forces with hit and run tactics. As the campaign opens, the Hidden Gale have been defeated and scattered at the hands of a Lunar regiment called the Silver Shields.

The ‘Weathering the Storm’ campaign begins with ‘Adventure 1: Fortress of Doors’. The player characters have returned home, looking for somewhere to hide after their defeat and conferring with the clan’s council, it is suggested that refuge might be sought in the nearby Fortress of Doors, a fortification dating from the time of the Empire of Wyrms Friends. The first scene gives a good opportunity for the player characters to introduce themselves, the second presents the first of the series of mythic challenges which if done correctly will reinforce both Sartar mythology and the player characters’ as reinforcers of that mythology. This will continue in the second scenario, ‘The Black Ziggurat’, in which the characters seek aid from the Long Ravens, a clan known for its skill in fighting the undead. The clan gains this from its worship of Lerin, a great hero who killed the god of vampirism, Nontraya. Unfortunately, the Long Ravens have fallen prey to an outbreak of undead. If the heroes are defeat this outbreak, then one of them at least must heroform and become Lerin himself to defeat Nontraya once again.

In ‘Fixing the Wrong’, the third scenario, the player characters are shown what might become of the Silverwind Clan if the Lunar Empire was to punish it for insurrection. A decade ago, scarlet-robed Comet Seers brought down the Starfall upon the lands of the Hazel Owl clan and all but obliterated it. The Lunar Empire was not without compassion and established a mission house to attend to the refugees who survived, including the then beautiful daughter of Hazel Owl chieftain, Jalhena the Gentle. Driven mad by the experience, in the years since, Jalhena the Gentle has become Jalhena the Hag and a Lunar convert, so when she approaches the neighbouring Birch Shaper clan in order to claim the hand of the chief’s son in marriage, mediators are required. Thus the player characters are sent as representatives of the Silverwind Clan. This scenario is a step up in terms of set-up and sophistication, involving  interaction, contests, a quest, and a battle. There are more NPCs to interact with, most notably the Lunar missionaries, who will attempt to persuade the Hazel Owl as their cause. This also strengthens another aspect of the scenarios in Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings in that they can be played using Lunar characters rather than the default Sartarites.

The fourth and last scenario, ‘The Hurt of the Land’, begins with a refugee problem for the Silverwind Clan. Members of the clan have been struck down with disease and the player characters need to decide whether or not to admit them to the clan’s main settlement lest it spread. As that happens, the clan chief is struck down and clues as to the identity of the assassin point to a Chaos blot on the landscape. Confronting this blot literally sees the player characters having to prove themselves in another retelling of an ancient myth.

Beyond the four scenarios themselves, Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings details Nontraya, Lord of Vampires and his associated cult and gives notes to possible sequels to ‘The Black Ziggurat’, though not the other three scenarios. Six pre-generated characters are provided to support the campaign, but perhaps the most interesting extra in Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings is ‘Writing Gloranthan Adventures’. This essay takes us step-by-step through the author’s process of writing and scenarios set in Glorantha, in particular, how to use myth as a tool to frame adventures and engage the players and their characters. It is not a definitive guide to the task, but it is a useful one, especially for anyone new to the setting. Of course, it is worth veteran Narrators reading it, if not for the tips and ideas, at least to see how someone else does it.

Physically, Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings is a slim book. It needs an edit here and there—this at least indicative of the author’s description of the book as being a fanzine—and certainly the Narrator will probably need to carefully unpack each of the NPCs’ various abilities. The artwork varies in quality with the more cartoon-like illustrations being particularly good and capturing the feel of Glorantha.

None of the four scenarios in Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings should take more than two sessions to complete and really, most of them should only take the one. Their short length makes them easier to bring to the table or to drop into an existing campaign, especially one based in Sartar. On the other hand, the Narrator will have a harder time adjusting to it run using Lunar characters. As an introductory campaign, a taster for the mythology of Sartar and the Orlanthi pantheon and how the heroes become involved in it, Gloranthan Adventures 1: New Beginnings is an excellent starting point for a HeroQuest Glorantha campaign (whether that is Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes or not).