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Monday 17 June 2024

Jonstown Jottings #91: Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood!

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, 13th Age 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?
Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! is a scenario for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha which details an escort mission in which the Player Characters are tasked with guiding a Tusk Rider ‘ally’—or intelligence asset—of Queen Leika, along with his unruly boar tusker deep into unfriendly territory along the new border between Sartar and the Lunar Empire, where a blood sacrifice can be made.

It is a possible sequel to the scenario, ‘Defending Apple Lane’, from
the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack.

It is also a guide to the Boarsbeard Clan, a clan whose members have either been kidnapped by Tusk Riders and instead of being sacrificed, were offered to the Dark Spirit of the Bloody Tusk cult, or whose ancestors were. Many of them are not simply Pig-Hsunchen, but Tusk Brother Wereboars! Plus, the Cult of Sawtooth, dedicated to a legendary renegade guardian of the Stinking Forest, whose members consist of a weird mix of Aldryami, Trolls, and Tusk Riders, many of whom serve as scouts.

It is a full colour, seventy-six page, 59.91 PDF.

The layout is tidy and it is very nicely illsutrated illustrated.

It needs a slight edit.

Where is it set?
Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! begins in Clearwine, but will take the Player Characters north to cross The Creek and from there make their way to Skull Ruin in the Bone Hills near the boundary of the territory between Alda-Chur and Herongreen.

Who do you play?
Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! does not require any specific character type, but Player Characters who are capable warriors and a skilled negotiator are recommended, as is an Earth priestess.

What do you need?
Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack, and the RuneQuest: Glorantha Bestiary.

What do you get?
Skull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! sets up an interesting moral quandary for the Player Characters. They are chosen by Queen Leika Blackspear of Colymar to escort a very strange ‘intelligence asset’ deep into the territories between liberated Northern Sartar and pro-Imperial Alda-Chur, newly disputed as a result of the Dragonrise. This ‘intelligence asset’ is Penjurlhi, a Tusk Rider, an ‘Aramite’ held captive by the Queen. (One option here is for Penjurlhi to have been captured by the Player Characters as a result of playing through ‘Defending Apple Lane’ from the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack.) Penjurlhi has knowledge of the secret routes that the Tusk Riders use to conduct their raids which he is willing to share with the Queen. Unfortunately, Penjurlhi is losing the connection he has with his Tusker and the giant boar is growing increasingly erratic and dangerous. The connection can be reforged, but this requires a sacrificial rite—including a blood sacrifice—at a secret location known as Skull Ruin. This is a series of caves in a snake-like hill and it is in possession of an infamous bandit called Gornorix.

The Player Characters have a chance to discuss the mission with the queen and her advisors before they leave as well as Penjurlhi. They must then travel their way north, arrange means of crossing The Creek, and from there make their way to Skull Ruin. Along the way, an encounter with a Troll warband reveals that the Player Characters are not the only ones interested in Skull Ruin, as Gornorix is holding one of their number captive. It is this Troll captive who will be the unwilling victim sacrificed as part of the ritual to reforge the connection between Penjurlhi and his Tusker.

The quandary for the Player Characters depends upon their views on blood sacrifice. Many cults practice it, but not necessarily with a sentient being. So do the Player Characters follow through with Queen Leika’s orders and let the Troll captive be sacrificed? Do they instead side with the Troll warband and antagonise first Gornorix and then Queen Laika? Or do they find another way of resolving the situation? Numerous options and their possible outcomes are discussed in some detail, helped by the clearly presented motivations of the various NPCs. Full stats are provided for all of the inhabitants of Skull Ruin and the Troll Warband, along with a guide to running the assault/defence of the Skull Mountain, depending upon whom the Player Characters side with. There is also a full list of random things to be found in the caves if the Player Characters have the opportunity and more importantly time—searching some locations can take hours!—to comb through every location. That said, there is a lot of treasure held at Skull Mountain and the adventure includes some nicely done magical items, such as the Plinth Stone Club, made from a piece of a shattered Dragonewt plinth stone, that either drains or transfers Magic Points or drains Rune Points!

The scenario is rounded off with a set of scenario hooks that the Game Master can develop as sequels. In addition, the scenario details the Boarsbeard Clan, whose members are tolerated by both Heortlings and Tusk Riders and are often used as intermediaries between both. The strange Cult of Sawtooth, based in the Stinking Forest, is also fully detailed. Both Boarsbeard Clan and the Cult of Sawtooth should provide a ready source of interesting, often powerful NPCs. The very full Cult of Sawtooth write-up is accompanied with some advice on how to use it and some adventure ideas as well.

Is it worth your time?
YesSkull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! is an excellent scenario which requires careful roleplaying and negotiation upon the part of the Player Characters, whilst still having plenty of scope for combat and action, as well as a moral dilemma at its heart. (The extra background is a bonus.)
NoSkull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! is a challenging scenario morally and the Player Characters may not want to have to deal with blood sacrifice. Plus the Game Master may not be running a campaign in Sartar.
MaybeSkull Ruins: Tusk Riders Need Blood! is a challenging scenario morally and one reason it may not be easy to set up because the Player Characters did not capture a Tusk Rider in ‘Defending Apple Lane’ from RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack, and instead killed them all!

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