It might have taken me several months to get to GM my first games of HeroQuest Glorantha, but I eventually managed to find two virtual tables on Google Hangouts. As a result, two campaigns have been started and set in 1621 ST, although both groups will play a different story. Out of convenience, I’ll call the first one the European group and the other one the North American group.
Yesterday’s game involved four players from the European group. Hopefully, our fifth will be able to join us for our next game.
- Hegermast Sharp-Tongue, adventurous Orlanthi skald
- Drake ap Quackford, haunted Humakti warrior, durulz
- Therona, one-eyed Humakti huntress
- Kestel the Frowning, cynical Humakti sellsword
The characters belong to the Toena clan from the Aranwyth tribe, which is openly rebellious to the Lunar Empire. Fort Toena, the tribe’s main stronghold, has been under siege for several weeks already, regularly attacked by regiments of Lunar soldiers and their allies, Sartarites from the Enstalos tribe.
Today, however, the enemy is leading an all-out assault against the fort, and our heroes are on the battlefield when their story starts. Well-armored and well-armed, their opponents prove to be remarkable adversaries at the beginning of the battle. Drake the Duck runs straight to the captain of the Lunar regiment, as he wants to take him down and break the enemy’s morale. Hergermast, supported by his Air spirit ally, faces an antagonistic female Sartarite warrior, while Therona and Kestel oppose other Lunars.
At the beginning, only Drake and Therona prevail, whereas Hergermast and Kestel quickly realize that on such a battlefield, war isn’t always waged with pure strength, but with superior wits as well. However, Drake and Therona’s superlative show of mastery of the Death rune starts to make everyone feel that Humakt is on their side. Taking advantage of this situation, Kestel keeps taunting his opponent to distract him, while Hegermast, protected by his Air spirit, starts to chant songs praising Orlanth, the Lightbringers and Humakt.
The enemy’s morale is definitely on the wane, some of the Sartarite from the Enstalos tribe even surrender. However, the hardest blow comes when the Lunar captain’s soul is cleanly severed from his body by Drake, enveloped by the aura Humakt, with the form the durulz give him in their worship. The Toena clan is clearly victorious, when suddenly…
Silence deafens all the Sartarites on the battlefield. The sky goes dark, and the Red Moon glows darkly. The air is foul while the earth starts to die. Suddenly, a scream erupting from the fort breaks this moment of ghastly timelessness: “Orlanth is dead! Ernalda is dead! Whitewall has fallen!”
Tears start to flow on the face of the winners, while the vanquished enemy retreats victoriously, cheering. Using his Truth rune, Kestel understands that the world is dying around them, and something has to be done quickly if they want the clan, and the Kingdom of Sartar, to survive.
Therona, on her side, starts to see ghosts of fellow clan members recently killed on the battlefield, also mourning the passing of the gods. Then they look at her and warn her against the Foul Death that threatens the Earth Goddess’ journey to the Underworld. The huntress, who considers her ghost-seeing ability as a curse, doesn’t reveal what she’s just been told as she doesn’t want to be banished from the clan and lose the support of her fellow Humaktis.
They all walk back to the fort, where they are greeted by King Ilgalad Trollfriend himself. Their bravery is praised, even though joy is absent from his face. Understanding the importance of the situation, Drake the Duck swears an oath on the Truth rune that he shall undertake any quests necessary to find Orlanth and Ernalda in the Underworld to save the Toena Clan and the Kingdom of Sartar. The Truth, Death and Beast runes start to glow all around him, and impressed, King Ilgalad renews his oath of hospitality to the durulz.
Afterwards, Kestel the sellsword is given his compensation for his good services, but even though he doesn’t want to swear any oaths, he renews his contract with the clan to lend the King his sword again. Therona swears an oath as well, she won’t let the clan down.
Meanwhile, Hegermast the skald was trying to remember some myths revolving around heroic gods and the Underworld, and suddenly, words start to pour from his mouth as he goes on to recite the Dead Point myth. This is when they understand that Nontraya, the Undead Emperor, the Enemy of Life, is going to interfere with Ernalda’s journey to Hell.
At the same time, several priestesses of the Earth goddess enter the hall, devastated, with a broken statue of Ernalda, saying it broke itself from the inside, some dark energy oozing from the cracks. Our heroes understand the dire omen and decide to fix that situation by undertaking the Dead Point heroquest.
End of the first session.
This first session started in media res during a final assault where the heroes were the defenders. And even though combat dominated two thirds of the game, such a long time devoted to physical conflicts helped everybody get the system correctly, and particularly to me, the GM. Fortunaly, one of the players who is familiar with the system brought in his invaluable help, which incredibly sped up the resolution of a lot of questions.
Being new to the HeroQuest system, I’ve still got to get all the ropes, which is never easy when you start a campaign with rules you don’t handle well. However, they sank in quickly, and I could also see that my players didn’t have a lot of difficulties with it. They quickly took advantage of the Hero Points, which turned the tide of the battle to their advantage.
Regarding the third part of the game, I felt it was important to show the players how tragic the fall of Whitewall was, but also its importance on all the Kingdom of Sartar. So even though they fought their own battle, far from the main event, that particular day had a dramatic impact on everybody.
Besides, knowing we would play with three Humaktis, plus an Orlanthi skald, I knew I had to find some Orphic myth in the Gloranthan lore to take advantage of this configuration. Without revealing too much, I’d say that the Dead Point myth is particularly appropriate here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the path the characters will take.
All in all, it was a fantastic session that confirms what I thought from just reading the game: HeroQuest Glorantha is tremendously fun to run.
To be continued…