[Runequest] About heroquesting in RQ

Simon Phipp soltakss at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 19 22:49:41 EST 2009

Hola Hallo:

> I'm planning my first attempt at running a heroquest with RQ3, and I would
> like to know how other gamemasters went about it. I'm running the
> Borderlands campaign and Duke Raus is going to do a heroquest to make a pact
> with Zola Fel. He wants to start irrigation channels for the fields of his
> settlers, so he has asked the high authorities of Sun County for the secret
> of the River Ritual (the one described in "Sun County").

That sounds like a fairly standard use of a HeroQuest.

Possible problems are:
The Sun Domers might not want to give a Lunar their secrets
Even if they do, Duke Raus would be doing an alien quest, or one not from his own pantheon, and that causes difficulties, mainly due to ignorance of the myths and ignorance of customs

> Therefore, I plan to get the players (who are River Voices) to accompany
> with him and help him in his quest.

That makes sense, mainly because the River Voices can add some of their mythical power to the Quest and smooth over the parts that the Duke might struggle with.

> Some sessions ago, the players freed a long lost naiad, a daughter of Zola
> Fel, that had been imprisoned in a God-Learner ruin close to Fort Raus, so
> she is the one the Duke will ritually get married with.

Which means that Kinope, the nymph who marries the Sun County Counts, doesn't have a conflict of interest.

> Any suggestions? What rules do you recommend to use? Will the players be
> able to cast their divine spells (they are orlanthi, vingan, lodrili,
> humakti, daka fali and even a follower of Yelorna)? What could happen that
> surprises them?

My advice is to use the rules you are using at the moment. Don't branch off into HeroQuest (The game) rules just because you are running a HeroQuest, RuneQuest is quite sufficient. However, you might find it useful to use concepts from HeroQuest, if you are familiar with them.

If you use Hero Points in your game (we use RQ3 but with Hero Points as used in Mongoose RQ and HeroQuest) then award a stack of them after the completion of each Station of the Quest. (Each HeroQuest is traditionally split into a number of Stations that cover a mythical part of the story, each Station can be treated as a minor heroquest in itself). I'd allow any sort of magic to be used, but using magic has consequences. If your PCs use fire magic then that is likely to antagonise the waters, or perhaps causes the relationship to be a master/slave or conquerer/conquered one which will affect future events. I usually play that magic lasts for one Station and expires at the end of the station. I don't normally allow divine magic to be reprayed while on the HeroQuest, unless they are at a mythical point where that is reasonable. 

Don't forget that there is a world of difference between a theoretical Gloranthan HeroQuest and a playable one. Make the HeroQuest personal to the PCs. Introduce NPCs who they have met before as characters of the HeroQuest. If they have an arch-enemy then suck him in as an arch-enemy on the heroQuest, but make it a bit more subtle than that. Keep it flowing and you will have a better game. Don't rigidly keep to Stations but let some flow into others and, perhaps, add a Station that is in keeping with the PCs. For example, the PCs are River Voices, so add a River Voice Station that reflects your preceived history of the River Voices, perhaps their predecessors did something wrong that must be mended. Mix things up so that players who have read things about HeroQuests can't second guess you.

At the end of the HeroQuest, give out benefits that relfect the power, nature and theme of the HeroQuest. In this example, the focus of the Quest is to provide irrigation, so success in the Quest means that the fields will be safely irrigated. Failure means the fields won't be irrigated and a catastrophic failure (killing the nymph, for example) means drought in the whole raus Domain. Personal benefits would reflect the roles carried out on the Quest. The PCs are River Voices, so they could get a new Divine Matrix on their hands, for example Raise Flood, Lower Flood or Control Flood. They might get some extra connection to the waters; they may also increase their Zola Fel Lore or Sun County Lore. Failure in the Quest might mean a lessening of their connection to Zola Fel or the loss of one of their River Voice spells. If you use Legendary Abilities then give an appropriate one out, if the PCs have enough Hero Points to buy it, or make one up. If you
 don't then give them an ability if they deserved it. Be flexible and creative.

Bruce Mason:
> The most accessible information about heroquesting is in the Mongoose
> products; although focused on 2nd age, the elements of heroquesting are the
> same as 3rd age. Magic of Glorantha has a long discussion of heroquesting,
> heroquest rewards and so on. I don't really rate the author's work as he
> tends to fill space with flowery inanities but your mileage may vary. The
> Blood of Orlanth campaign ends with a heroquest which also highlights what
> happens when the God Learners get involved.

They are a bit too highly structured for my tastes. The God Learner spells aren't that appropriate for a Third Age game.

> At its most basic you don't really need any new rules for heroquests. You
> perform a ritual and off you go. A traditional heroquest is, however,
> incredibly programmed with no room for deviation. Each heroquest breaks down
> into a number of stations where one thing happens and must happen exactly as
> prescribed or else the heroquest with a possible backlash.

Well, yes and no. There are stations on the HeroQuest but they can vary. Some Stations might appear and some might not. Substitute Stations might appear to reflect the PCs' natures and past history. It is even possible for the PCs to substitute familiar and friendly stations for unfamiliar/unfriendly ones, with appropriate penalties for doing so. Even familiar stations may be changed by having personal friends and enemies playing  roles on the Quest. Each HeroQuest is different as it is affected by tjhe original Quest, the nature of the participants and the desired result.

> Heroquests are also relative in that the more powerful you are, the more
> powerful your opponents are. Basically your opponents' power level to you
> should be in relation to what they were among the protagonists in the myth.

Yes, that is what is generally agreed, but it is possible to have a major foe as a challenge. In this case, I doubt if it would happen.

> Most importantly, heroquests are generally about right action and correct
> moral choices. If you must fight the knight that always wounds its enemy
> then skulking in the shadows and killing it with arrow fire will either make
> the quest fail or cause you a more grevious wound by another means.

Yes, but it is always possible to do somehting new and clever to complete a station or task in an interesting way. That may have ramifications later, though. 

> Finally, heroquests are grounded in community. So you need to decide both
> the community results of the heroquest (for success or failure) as well as
> any individual results.

Some (most) HeroQuests are grounded in community, although I would argue that many are not. It all depends on the results that are required. If the HeroQuest is to defeat a personal enemy or to gain a particular power then the HeroQuest does not need much in ther way of community support, unless the enemy was an enemyn of the community. If the HeroQuest is to bring a benefit to the community then, yes, benefits and penalties would affect the community as well. For example, in the quest mentioned, failure might bring a drought or might bring a great flood that bursts the irrigation dykes and washes the crops away, bring starvation to the community.

Steve Davies:

> I don't have a lot of rules, and I basically let characters use all their skills and spells.  I do three things 
> differently on a Quest:

> 1)  At the commitment step, I tell the players that the characters are entering a Quest.  At that point, they 
> need to sacrifice permanent POW (usually one point, but more could be possible on a higher-order quest).  
> Those who do NOT sacrifice can still participate but do not get the goodies at the end of the quest, they're 
> merely helpers or observers.  This rule has taken away much of the party bickering about whether to do on a 
> quest or not when goals differ.

I like that and will probably use it in the future.

> 2)  Typically my quests are on a 'higher plane' of existance.  Skills and other chances of success are all 1/2, 
> 1/3, or less.  But, skill advancements are made against these lower target values as well, so players want 
> their characters to participate in the quests to gain heroic skills.

I am always very careful about that. If the HeroQuest brings a mundane benefit or power then I use current skills as it is not on a particularly higher plane. However, if the HeroQuest brings a change in the mythic nature of a cult, deity, community or place then it gets shunted to a nhigher plane and there are skill penalties accordingly. For this quest, I wouldn't bother. To make it a permanent addition to House Rone's mythology then, yes, some skill penalties might be in order.

> 3)  To the extent possible, I try to make magical (including divine) manifestations unique and memorable.  
> So instead of just casting a divine spell, I might have a representative of the deity appear to ask what is going 
> on.  Based on roleplaying, the spell effect might be granted, or the representative might decide something 
> else is appropriate.  After all, it's rare that a god will get asked for a boon from their own plane.

Hmmm, I always prefer that the PCs are in charge of their own powers and don't generally use invoked beings doing things. 

> I find the quests almost have to be freeform and highly roleplayed.  Luckily the narrative structure lends itself 
> to loosely coupled situations or encounters that are strung together, which lets the action expand or contract 
> as needed to accomodate the roleplaying and unexpected interactions.

Exactly. Keep it flexible and smooth, let it flow, don't be too rigid about anything.

Bjorn Stolen:
> When someone is on a hero-quest, they enter some other/paralel dimention, and in here everybody can 
> change the reality. The players are urged to be inspired by fables, fairytales, etc, where the "hero" can trick, 
> outsmart etc the opposition. So when I GM a hero-quest, I let the characters/players wit and ability to 
> improvise be by far the most important stat. The gods and the established reality may be powerful and 
> strong, but they are conservative and unwitty.

Yes, that is the case when dealing with deities, as they should act in a certain way. Where NPCs play the roles of those deities, however, their own actions can influence the Quest.

[Excellent giant story snipped]
> This could be a hero-quest for farmers in woody landscape, wanting to expand their influence and fields, for 
> instance.

And would suit a Trickster cult.

Phil Hibbs:
> In a Gloranthan context, you can't just heroquest to make new stories.

Well, you can, but it is very, very difficult and very, very dangerous. But you almost certainly start off with an existing story and change it, departing onto the new Quest at some point.

> You re-enact stories from your mythology - although the players can
> contribute by coming up with stories to re-enact, there's no reason
> that the GM should be burdened with making up all the stories that
> happened in every mythology. In a non-Gloranthan context, of course,
> the idea of heroquesting can be extended to cover heroic myth-making
> without the restrictions of Greg's cosmology.

Doing something new creates a new myth in Glorantha and is a major HeroQuest. I've never seen HeroQuesting work well outside Glorantha.

See Ya

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