I’ve been avoiding writing up the AP report on the last two sessions of our Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha duet.
My buddy and I took a break from RQG to play a couple of sessions of Emet (from Doikayt: A Jewish TTRPG Anthology). With the two of us trading places and me no longer in the GM seat for RQG, I decided to avoid anything that looked like prep until we started playing in earnest. I am slavering to see what my friend dreams or nightmares up in Glorantha, and I didn’t want to step on his toes. However, if I still had the AP report to write, it meant this chapter hadn’t yet closed.
Cut to now and my buddy is GM and my brand-new shaman’s apprentice is almost ready for play (minus a few small details, like a first name). Time to bring it home.
The R-Map as it appeared in session 1.
Session 12 opened with Narmeed rejoining Marlesta’s Storm-Bulls and his companions after the miniature apocalypse at the Dragonrise. The Resistance rolls and Skill checks of last session had meant: A delay in getting on the road, meaning the band’s pursuers were closing in, the capture or possible death of Darrald, the (ever more improbable!) survival of Willandring, and the death of Soran, Vernharl’s lover from Lhankor Mhy. We the players knew of Soran’s death, but Vernharl did not.
My prep was fairly simple: determine who was on the road out of the Dragonrise, how far Lismelder’s Hammer-and-Bellows Men fled before they regrouped and returned for revenge, and who exactly (stat blocks included) would be part of that pursuit.
The reunion was rushed. This was when the full consequences of last session’s events came crashing in on us.
Narmeed and Vernharl had no way of locating Darrald. If they went westward to return to Olontongi territory by road, news of Lismelder’s death would precede them, and every Orlanthi and Lunar-hater in Sartar would descend on them. If they took the Troll-paths back to the stead (and outwitted the machinations of Pebbles and his troll-brothers), they would only delay the same outcome, while also bringing armed and vengeful Rune-Lords down on their loved ones.
With no choices left to them, Narmeed and his band turned their faces east, to Prax. Narmeed’s Storm-Bull companions quickly divided the loot. Narmeed said tearful farewells to Willandring, and Narmeed gifted her a hefty sum of Lunars and entrusted her with Farrangara’s Trollish Darkness amulet to carry back to the stead.
Vernharl asked Willandring to tell his brother Olav that he loved him, that Olav could never disappoint him, that he was sorry if he ever made him feel differently, and to give him the traditional Praxian farewell: “Tell him this is no good-bye: I will see him again next season.”
Willandring’s grief over Petrada’s death had been an invisible thread running through the last four sessions. We hadn’t seen it on-screen. I had been ‘checking in’ with Willandring between each session (thanks to Champions Now for this approach), occasionally using Passion rolls to determine her disposition. There were moments when she was close to suicide, but the knowledge that she was needed alive to purge the Chaos-curse from the stead stayed her hand.
The necessity of burying Petrada, the mad flight from the Dragonrise, this new responsibility of carrying resources back to the stead—I think duty to her kin carried Willandring through those darkest moments. I am also now realizing that Vernharl’s request must have pierced her “Where the Meanings, are –”, a chance to give Olav the farewell she would never be able to give Petrada.
The last time we saw Willandring she was a small, solitary figure on the wide King’s Road, determined at last to accept the hospitality of her kin, even if that meant having to fight them for her autonomy.
In the few hours left of daylight, Narmeed led his band along the King’s Road. They passed the white-wafting tents of the Lhankor Mhy, encamped near the eruption to better observe and record the Dragonrise. Narmeed reluctantly agreed to Vernharl’s request that he be allowed to return there in the morning and say a hasty farewell to Soran (an opposed Passion check meant Vernharl did not sneak off to the Lhankor Mhy during the night).
The band set off, away from the road, and found a hidden spot in the wilderness to wait out the dark. An opposed Survival vs. Scan (Visual) check between Narmeed and the Hammer-and-Bellows Men pursuing meant their camp was not as concealed as they believed. A Listen check resulted in Narmeed, on watch, hearing the creak of leather and the soft clank of armor in the middle of the night.
He had just enough time to swing into the saddle and rouse his companions (I decided the Storm-Bulls leaped up and were ready to fight straight out of sleep, as this seemed entirely in line with what we knew of their lifestyle), when a line of Hammer-and-Bellows Men and a rider on a mysterious steed descended upon them. An arrow loosed by Narmeed brought the rider down, and then their enemies were upon them.
Marlesta cast Light (the horns of her Storm-Bull helmet blazing), and in the bright shock of the Spirit Magic Narmeed and Vernharl found themselves face-to-face with Hastur Dagger-Skull, a brutal, brutalized hulk of a man bearing the faded tattoos of Storm-Bull and the fresh tattoos of the Dragonrise Cult, his hands grey with forge-ash. His left ear had been torn off, and Narmeed remembered the Divination Ceremony in session 11, when Storm-Bull had told him that, if he abandoned the cult, “One-Ear will tear you like he tore Hastur.”
A bit of background: Hastur had been captured by the Lunars and imprisoned for months, his bound spirits killed, his cries to Storm-Bull unanswered. He had joined the Hammer-and-Bellows Men who rescued him out of his hatred for Lunars, and suffered Storm-Bull’s Spirit of Reprisal as a result. He’d been within shouting distance of Vernharl and Narmeed since session 11, when he’d arrived at the Dragonrise Temple as part of the escort of Lunar sacrificial victims. Multiple failed Scan (Visual) checks meant they never picked him out from the uniformed lines of Dragonrise warriors, and his ceremonial duties kept him from approaching them.
Hastur was also one of the group that captured Darrald. They’d left him prisoner at the Lhankor Mhy tent. Across this session and the last one, two Opposed Passion checks of Love (Wood-Glories) vs Hate (Lismelder’s Murderers) meant Hastur had refrained from torturing or maiming his kin. Darrald was battered and ill-treated, but Hastur surprisingly kept his sadistic inclinations in check, unable to harm this young man he’d watched grow up.
Now, he shouted his anger at Vernharl for abandoning him for Narmeed, his hatred of Narmeed for killing Lismelder and stealing his surrogate son, and launched into combat.
I’m not going to describe everything here. I handled the battle between the Storm-Bulls and the Hammer-and-Bellows Men using abstracted opposed combat checks at the end of each melee round. We focused on the area of the battle where Hastur and a companion fought Narmeed and Vernharl.
Narmeed cast Fanaticism on Vernharl, who, still stained blue by last night’s Woad, attacked Hastur mercilessly.
At my buddy’s suggestion (a pivotal, oh-shit moment), Vernharl called upon his Love (Olav) Passion to augment his combat abilities, remembering how Olav’s failed Initiation at Hastur’s hands had left him physically disabled. A successful Love (Wood-Glory) Passion roll meant Hastur could not bring himself to strike his young ex-follower. Instead, he parried Vernharl’s attacks while blasting Narmeed with Orlanth’s Lightning.
Since he didn’t have his sword drawn, Narmeed suffered a bad wound from the other Hammer-and-Bellows man and took the Lightning full-force. He dropped to the ground, temporarily out of combat, and while sword-play raged between Hastur and Vernharl, he desperately cast Healing to get back on his feet.
Vernharl wounded Hastur’s left arm, while Hastur continued to refuse to strike back. When Narmeed got back up, Hastur scripted another Lightning blast that could have taken Narmeed’s General HP to 0. Instead, in a fantastic confluence of choreography mechanics and characterization, Vernharl scored a Special Success on his attack roll and struck Hastur’s arm again, severing it one Strike Rank before the Lightning left it: Hastur’s lopped limb hit the ground, still sputtering with divine power, and Vernharl, still under the grip of Fanaticism, finished him off mercilessly.
The first cold light of morning found a hollowed-out Vernharl trying to process that he had killed his own mentor. Narmeed spoke to him kindly, did his best to comfort him, but a Loyalty (Hastur Dagger-Skull) v Loyalty (Narmeed Wood-Glory) meant that Narmeed’s words did not reach him. Vernharl will leave this chapter still haunted by the man who raised him, the abuser he killed.
Session 13 opened with Narmeed having to face a new problem in the mysterious rider he’d brought down during the battle. This was a Dragonewt, badly injured, who was still guarded by the dinosaur he rode.
We’d been planning on a full session. But halfway through the week we were texting and it hit us that we’d answered all the thematic questions that had driven play. This was surprising, as seemingly essential events, particularly who had been lost to the Chaos disease back on the stead, were still unresolved. And yet there it was, staring us in the face: for Narmeed’s story to continue, we would have to create his new situation. It reminded me of people talking about Kickers in Sorcerer resolving themselves almost spontaneously.
We decided to treat this session as an epilogue, wrapping up a few loose ends and considering some long-term consequences.
Narmeed used Intimidate, augmented by his Ride skill, to ride Hearse and chase off the dinosaur. Because no one in the band had Xenohealing, Marlesta had to (just barely) make a First Aid check to bring the Dragonewt back to consciousness.
This was Sarna Ya’Qal, a Dragonewt heretic who’d abandoned his people to help Lismelder Trueline delve into forbidden draconic lore. (I’d lifted his name and stat block from a Dragonewt in the Game Master’s Screen Pack). He and Narmeed spoke with great honesty, Narmeed questioning him about the mysteries of Dragonewt incarnation, Sarna Ya’Qal informing Narmeed of the ransom he could get for returning him to the Hammer-and-Bellows Men, or even his fellow Dragonewts. I very much enjoyed playing such an alien being, with an inhuman perspective on time and consequence.
Narmeed decided he could not allow Sarna to go free, lest he reveal secrets that would allow the Hammer-and-Bellows Men to continue courting Chaos. He told Sarna he would send him back into the cycle of reincarnation as painlessly as he could. Sarna’s final request was that Narmeed return his ancestral weapons to the dragonewts. He promised Narmeed they would meet again, perhaps on opposite sides of a blade.
Narmeed’s last roll was a failed Peaceful Cut. Sarna was not mercy-killed. He was murdered. This felt like an appropriate coda to our rather brutal story. Here’s hoping we get the chance to see Narmeed make something gentler of his life in the future.
We wrapped this game of RQG by establishing that the Wood-Glory stead did not have the resources to pay Lismelder’s weregild, and no warriors to protect themselves from avenging Orlanthi. They had no choice but to declare Darrald, Vernharl and Narmeed outlaw, no longer kin. It was that or annihilation.
And now I’ve passed those open situation questions—Darrald’s fate, the fate of the stead, Willandring’s journey back—into my fellow-player’s hands. “This is no good-bye. We will see you again next season.”
The R-map as of session 8