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Monday 22 March 2021

Jonstown Jottings #40: Secrets of HeroQuesting

Much like the Miskatonic Repository for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, the Jonstown Compendium is a curated platform for user-made content, but for material set in Greg Stafford's mythic universe of Glorantha. It enables creators to sell their own original content for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and HeroQuest Glorantha (Questworlds). This can include original scenarios, background material, cults, mythology, details of NPCs and monsters, and so on, but none of this content should be considered to be ‘canon’, but rather fall under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’. This means that there is still scope for the authors to create interesting and useful content that others can bring to their Glorantha-set campaigns.


What is it?
Secrets of HeroQuesting is a guide to HeroQuesting—becoming a hero, creating and running HeroQuests, and other secrets of HeroQuesting.

It is 10.43 MB, eighty-one page full colour PDF.

It is generally well written and illustrated throughout with a range of Public Domain artwork. The layout is tight in places and it needs another edit.

Where is it set?
Secrets of HeroQuesting can be set anywhere in Glorantha, but focuses on Central Genertela.

Who do you play?
Secrets of HeroQuesting does not require any specific character types, but Player Characters should possess magic, be capable and willing to embody the tenets of their cults and the characteristics of the gods they worship.

What do you need?
Secrets of HeroQuesting requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, but will apply to, but is not specifically for, QuestWorlds: Glorantha and 13th Age Glorantha.

Secrets of HeroQuesting makes reference to numerous supplements for Hero Wars, Questworlds, and HeroQuest Glorantha, including Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes and The Eleven Lights. It also references numerous titles from the Stafford Library and fanzines. None of these are necessary to run the content in Secrets of HeroQuesting, but they will help the Game Master with examples.

What do you get?
HeroQuesting—the ability to engage with the mythology and beliefs of Glorantha’s many cults and legends, to learn from them, to enforce them, and to embody the original participants, has long been a long-term aim of roleplaying in Glorantha, from RuneQuest II to RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. After all, the Lightbringers’ Quest in which Orlanth, Chalana Arroy, Lhankor Mhy, Issaries, Eurmal, Flesh Man, and Ginna Jar quested into the depths of Hell to find the Bright Emperor Yelm whom Orlanth had slain with the newly discovered Death, and return him to his rightful place and so bring about an end to the Great Darkness, is a myth central to Glorantha’s lore, which great heroes can enact again and again to enforce a fundamental truth about the world. This re-enactment and enforcing of a myth is known as a HeroQuest and its participants are HeroQuesters, and whilst the Lightbringers’ Quest may be the greatest of HeroQuests—especially if you belong to one of the cults which worships its original participants—there are innumerable cults in Glorantha, and all of them have myths to replicate and HeroQuests to be fulfilled. Secrets of HeroQuesting explores and examines the ideas and concepts behind HeroQuesting and suggests ways in which the Player Characters—if they are powerful enough and sufficiently devout—can undertake and so become greater heroes for their cults.

A HeroQuest is the bringing of a myth into the world, typically enacted through a divinely inspired, tightly regulated mythical journey, designed to ‘Achieve the Impossible’. Secrets of HeroQuesting identifies and examines various types in some detail—‘Short Form’, ‘Long Form’, ‘Riddling Contests’, ‘Wagering Contests’, ‘Re-enactment’, ‘Magic Roads’, ‘Raid Quests’—noting the potential controversy of the latter given that we are gaming in a modern world, ‘Exploration’, ‘Mundane’, and even ‘Spell-Learning’ in which Rune and other spells can be learned through mini-HeroQuests which echo how they were originally learned. In moving on to look at their individual steps or ‘Stations’ it suggests that HeroQuests become something that a HeroQuester actually invest points of Power into—much as he did for Rune spells—so that he can access a particular HeroQuest more easily later. Similarly, individual Stations can be invested in, which sets a greater flexibility in how the HeroQuester approaches each Station and can substitute different Stations for another and even use one Station to leap to another and potentially into another HeroQuest. In terms of objectives, a HeroQuester will not only be enforcing a Myth, but more personally learning a spell, performing an improbable act or task, gaining a magical weapon or item, gaining allies, and more. It might be that a HeroQuester is undertaking a HeroQuest to gain the means and support to start a bigger more important HeroQuest which he would otherwise be unable to start, let alone complete.

What is emphasised throughout is that although a HeroQuester is enforcing a particular myth, his approach need not rigidly adhere to how the HeroQuest is completed according to said myth. The HeroQuester can be flexible in how he attempts each Station, especially if successful. If a HeroQuester’s approach can be flexible, then so can the HeroQuest in that it is possible to alter or warp a HeroQuest, not just for the HeroQuester who completed it, but for anyone who attempts it afterwards. The flexibility extends to improvising stations as well, but this requires a higher degree of knowledge upon the part of both Game Master and her players, so is better suited to veterans who have been playing for a while and whose characters have also been HeroQuesting for as long. 

Numerous examples of HeroQuests are discussed throughout, though the Game Master will still need to track them down in order to deploy them in her campaign. Also discussed are the advantages of being Illuminated and going on HeroQuests, as well as covering the different planes—from the Mundane Plane to the God Plane, and the Ages of Gloranthan Mythology—from the Formless Age and the Dark Age to the Chaos Age and the Silver Age. Advice is given on designing and running a HeroQuest, tailoring to the players and their HeroQuesters, and suggested Game Master styles. It even takes the concept of ‘Achieving the Impossible’ up a notch or nine and suggests quite how HeroQuesters could potentially save those who have been consumed by the Crimson Bat! This falls under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’ of course, but would make for an epic mini-campaign since it would require a great deal of preparation, research and adventuring to even attempt it, including numerous HeroQuests before the big event. Throughout, the author adds commentary to the content, personalising it and giving much of what he writes some context.

Now as good as the advice in Secrets of HeroQuesting is, and as interesting a read on the subject as it is, there are issues with Secrets of HeroQuesting which preclude it from being totally useful for your RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha or other Glorantha-set campaign. First, it is one author’s view of what it is and what it involves, born of forty years of gaming in Glorantha, so it is unlikely to be the ‘official’ approach to the subject matter when the official guidelines are released. Second, the author draws heavily on forty years of assembling an extensive library of roleplaying games, supplements, scenarios and campaigns, and fanzines—the majority of which the reader is unlikely to possess or have access to. This is particularly noticeable in the suggested use of ‘Virtues’, the equivalent of personality Traits from King Arthur Pendragon, which although present in earlier supplements for RuneQuest: Classic Edition (and also in the fanzines Tales of the Reaching Moon #6 and Enclosure #1), they are not present in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, though the Power Runes do use its model. The inclusion of Virtues is not the only mechanical additions in Secrets of HeroQuestingthe others being the investment of Power into HeroQuests and individual Stations, and the inclusion of a ‘Hero Soul’, a magical part of a HeroQuestor which is awakened upon a Player Character first participating in a HeroQuest and left permanently on the God Plane. These contribute towards the third issue, the inclusion of extra mechanics and elements for the Player Character and Game Master alike to keep track of in addition to the fairly complex character sheet for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. Fourth and last, is that although the author identifies that most of what has been written about HeoQuests in the past is “fragmentary and self-contradicting” and states that his aim is to reconcile these fragments together with his “…most recent ideas and gaming experiences”, as much light as is thrown on HeroQuesting, Secrets of HeroQuesting still cannot quite get away from the enigmatic and mystifying nature of its subject matter. Especially for the Game Master not as learned when it comes to the lore. Perhaps the promised Secrets of HeroQuesting: Storm will provide concrete worked examples and advice on staging and varying HeroQuests when it is released.

Despite these issues, this does not mean that content presented in Secrets of HeroQuesting is neither interesting or useful, and it really has a lot of potential, especially if the Game Master has access to the same content as the author. Bringing that potential to the table is another matter, especially if the Game Master is new to Glorantha and RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

Secrets of HeroQuesting ends with a detailed bibliography of roleplaying games, supplements, campaigns, and fanzines in which HeroQuesting is explored, a glossary of terminology, and full table of contents.

Is it worth your time?
YesSecrets of HeroQuesting provides an in-depth exploration of HeroQuesting, an important aspect of roleplaying in Glorantha and careful study will enable the Game Master to take her campaign and players and their characters onto another plane.
NoSecrets of HeroQuesting provides an in-depth exploration of HeroQuesting, an important aspect of roleplaying in Glorantha, but it is not the official version from Chaosium, Inc. and it cannot quite escape being still a mystifying and enigmatic subject.
MaybeSecrets of HeroQuesting provides an in-depth exploration of HeroQuesting, an important aspect of roleplaying in Glorantha, but it is not the official version from Chaosium, Inc. and it cannot quite escape being still mystifying and enigmatic despite going some way to clarify the ideas and concepts behind the subject.

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou. Becoming one of my required reading sources before i purchase the JC supplements