Last weekend, I attended the Chimériades for the 2nd time, a gaming holiday set in a Provençal castle at a two-and-a-half-hour drive from my place. An exceptional convention with a bit of an intimate touch, and always full of awesome guests of honour, like Jeff Richard and Ken Rolston this year.
The Chimériades are organized every other year, and two years ago, I discovered the world of Glorantha there. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that since then, I’ve tried to make my way into this world, managed to run some games, and even had a few people discover Glorantha as well.
So, for this 5th iteration of the Chimériades, I found it natural to give back what was given to me there, two years before, meaning I strongly felt like running a game of HeroQuest Glorantha. Besides, this convention was also going to celebrate Glorantha’s 50th anniversary. So I knew I had to be a part of this celebration somehow. What I didn’t expect though was to see five expert Gloranthans registering to my table (I had kind of actually expected them to run their own games). I have to admit that I got intimidated.
Then that daunting evening came, and due to logistical reasons, we had to start an hour later than scheduled. Everyone, myself included, was pretty tired, and we still had to create the players’ characters before our game. Let’s say that everything was there to start on the wrong foot.
But the contrary happened: I had the time of my life! Well, what I mean is that I tremendously enjoyed this game.
So, let me tell you a bit about what happened.
—Sir Gareth, a jaded old knight, initiate of Humakt (played by Alex)
—Atouron, a drunken knife thrower, initiate of Eurmal (played by Eric)
—Lulu, a troll-loving farm girl, initiate of Ernalda (played by Emmanuel)
—Varanis Arandaughter, an avenging warrior, initiate of Babeester Gor (played by Grégory)
—Samara Ligne-Claire, an amazon astrologer, initiate of Yelorna (played by Jean-Paul)
— Hervé, provider of learned advice to the GM
The premise of the adventure:
It’s the night of Winds Day, Death Week, Dark Season, 1621 ST at Whitewall. The Lunar troops, and more particularly the Lunar College of Magic, have launched a brand-new attack on the fortress, only to be thwarted again by the besieged, unknowing that behind those walls, there are only two dozen people remaining, while the rest have managed to sneak out
Actually, King Broyan and his own troops are hiding in a forest nearby, the Troll Woods, waiting for the Orlanth’s Ring to rise up again from the Underworld. At that moment, the Orlanthi’s magic would reach its apex, and the King’s plan to crush the enemy between the hammer and the anvil would undoubtedly succeed. What could go wrong when even the stars themselves are right?
So, the characters, who belong to King Broyan’s troops, have been tasked to distract the Lunars while the rest is preparing their attack from the rear. And being in the Troll Woods, Lulu decides to call her trollinet friends to wreak havoc in the camp, but she only manages to reach a handful of them. However, this is enough to start a little commotion. Meanwhile, Atouron uses his Illusion Rune to amplify the sounds of the attacks on the fort, to focus the Lunars’ attention to what’s happening there. Varanis decides to slay the first Lunar she sees, an officer who just stepped out of his tent, and Sir Gareth takes put on the uniform from the dead body to give some random orders to the Lunars.
Samara, on her unicorn, Arthax, becomes increasingly worried as she notices that the Orlanth’s Ring should have already risen up in the sky. She closes her eyes and tries to look into the stars to see the future. She suddenly feels a dead wind, the earth decaying and falling down into darkness, chains of silver locked by the Moon rune, and all around, an ancient feeling of revenge on love spurned.
When Samara opens her eyes, she can feel that the wind has stopped. The planets from Orlanth’s Ring are nowhere in the sky. At the same time, the small clay amulet representing Ernalda that Lulu wears breaks from within and crumbles. Orlanth and Ernalda are dead indeed, and a grave danger threatens the Earth Goddess in the Underworld.
Our heroes then decide to undertake a heroquest to walk down into the Underworld, and to do that right away without reporting back to King Broyan. They go to the best place for that: a clearing in the forest with ring of statues depicting the Hendriking Kings, where they are buried. However, Lulu decides to use her Earth rune to find a hole between tree roots: without any effort, a huge tree replies to her by opening its roots like a woman opening her legs, and with a square as a gateway. In the meantime, Samara rides back to the Lunar camp, abducts a Lunar and slices his throat on the roots to pay for the crossing of the Styx with blood.
Descending a dark tunnel, they reach a crimson-purple-hued river, the Styx, with Jeset the Ferryman, a gaunt figure, waiting for them. The price for the crossing having already been paid ahead of time, they enjoy some quiet time basking in the darkness of the realm of the dead.
Sir Gareth prays Humakt, who gives him some insight on the presence of Nontraya, the Undead Emperor and his army of talokans, his demons.
Samara blindfolds herself and her unicorn, and reflects on the latest events.
Varanis dips her axe into the Styx and imbues it with the power of Death.
Lulu suddenly remembers, thanks to Sir Gareth’s insight, details of the Dead Point heroquest, and the necessity for Nontraya to believe Ernalda is dead, but also for her worshipper to her from Ty Kora Tek: ‘She sleeps, she is not dead.”
Atouron decides to catch some Stygian water in a little vial and suddenly, a scroll gets into it, like a message in a bottle. He takes it out and a huge ancient map with unreadable, watered down writing on it unfolds before them all. But none of them is able to decipher it.
Suddenly, they can hear a funeral at a distance, with cries, bells and chimes. There’s a procession slowly moving toward a huge gate, and all around, hills with figures on their top. Our heroes then land and getting closer, they can see an army of talokans, with, among them, ghosts and other dead creatures. Samara quickly understands that Ty Kora Tek has forged an alliance with Nontraya. Then a pale figure, Nontraya, mounted on a huge horned wolf gives his orders to his army, which rushes down the hill.
Varanis dashes to the nearest enemy, and Lulu calls on her Darkness rune to summon her troll friends. Suddenly, the sky in the Underworld breaks, rocks fall like the ceiling of a cave collapsing, and a horde of trolls fall down like rain. Before attacking Nontraya’s army, an Elder troll turns her head to Lulu and says: ‘you called us, there’s a price to pay’. Atouron decides to join the procession, when Samara reminds everybody of the heroquest: Nontraya and his talokans have to witness a dead Ernalda, which means they have to be kept alive.
That creates a huge internal conflict within Sir Gareth, an old warrior who has served Humakt all his life, who has seen everything and swore to Humakt to kill any undead he would encounter. But in order to achieve the heroquest, he decides to sacrifice his sense of community with the priesthood of Humakt. He thus manages to stand by the procession instead of taking the fight to the undead.
Stopping at the Gates of Death, Atouron can see Nontraya and his demons approaching. He decides to use his Illusion rune to enhance the appearance of death on Ernada, while seeing through it at the same time: a withered-leaved woman, chained with silver locked by the Moon rune, and with a pregnant womb, hidden by the Eurmali’s illusion though.
Nontraya asks his talokans to bear witness, and all agree that the Earth goddess is dead indeed before leaving. However, Ty Kora Tek still needs to say the words, and she will at one condition. Ernalda has kept escaping the clutches of death too many times, and one has to sacrifice themselves by passing the Gates of Death in order to save Ernalda.
Sir Gareth then steps in and passes the Gates of Death, which close behind him. Ty Kora Tek then whispers the words: ‘She sleeps, she is not dead.” At the same time, wails break the silence, and a flowery girl is born from Ernalda. This is Voria, the Goddess of Spring. Atouron leaves the map on the sleeping body of Ernalda, a map which is actually the Great Compromise and takes the baby girl with him back to the world of the living.
Back at the surface, each hero goes their own way.
Samara starts telling the legend of Sir Gareth to the rebel troops of King Broyan as an example of selflessness and bravery. And shrines in his honour start to be built along the roads.
Varanis adopts Voria and rears her with a vengeful spin to her education.
Lulu, holding on to her promise to the Elder troll, spends a few years among the trolls, eating like them, living like them, and the powers or her Earth rune and Darkness rune start to shift and replace each other.
Atouron gets back to King Broyan’s army and keeps getting drunk.
Sir Gareth, now dead, meets Humakt, who rejects him as his initiate broke his vows. The Death god tells him that from now on their links are broken and that Sir Gareth has to walk his own path. Our hero can then feel that above in the Dragon Pass, some people start to put their faith on him, and he turns into a minor god.
Conclusion of this whole post:
This is the 4th time I’ve run the Dead Point heroquest, with each time a new spin to the story, and I think that even though it’s far from being as satisfactory as I’d like this adventure to be, I lived an amazing gaming session, all that thanks to my fantastic players.
To be frank, I feel regenerated by this gaming session, by the smiles of my players, by the way, as the GM, I could dive into the adventure myself, immersing into the Underworld without drowning to death and getting back to the surface with a failed quest.
The Chimériades is a convention where good things happen and fantastic people meet to create amazing stories. And that was one of them, just one among many.