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My Life as a Dog (in Glorantha)

WHO

Me (playing) & Tavis (GM’ing) & our gaming group from twelve years ago.  We’ve reconnected via video chat, and it’s really nice to see all these people after so long.  One of the group was 16 when we met and kind of living a messy life; now he's a licensed electrician and owns a house.

PLAYING WHAT

RuneQuest, Second Edition.  Chaosium republished this in a really beautiful, inexpensive hardback.  To avoid leaping fully into Glorantha Setting Craziness, we’re using the Griffin Mountain supplement.  Griffin Mountain involves a group of Stone Age hunter-gatherers, as opposed to the late Bronze Age pastoralists of Dragon Pass.  We're culturally and geographically separated from most of that Orlanthi cult stuff: the Orlanthi are all excited about iron weapons, whereas we're chuffed by our newest weapon of war: the newly domesticated dog.  Imagining life in the Mesolithic has been challenging for me, and maybe for others.

FOR HOW LONG

Maybe six two-hour sessions so far?  Some of that time is eaten up with socializing.  Several sessions were spent kind of wandering around a little bit aimlessly, but this past session we hit an inflection point and things kicked into gear.

WHAT’S THE PREMISE?  

Our characters are teenage Cro-Magnons undergoing our adulthood vision quests on the shore of a vast lake.  We are naked, defenseless, and have only our wits to survive.  Then the sky darkens, a mighty tempest stirs the water of the lake, the earth shakes, and when the storm clears there are stepping stones leading to an island, where there was no island before.  And from the island comes the faint whimpering of terrified dogs.  

HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED?  

There’s a giant, glowing, invisible bat who only speaks the Holy Language.  There are corpses of vegetable-elves who had drugged and kidnapped some of our tribal elders aboard a mushroom UFO.  (Side note: it is officially not cannibalism to eat vegetable-elves.)  One of the elves' domesticated thorn bush was imprisoning the dogs; we got them loose.  There is a ruin / dungeon complex carved out of cheese.   We thought a snapping turtle was a sea monster, and ran in terror of it for most of two sessions.

WHAT’S THE LATEST?  

My character, Naskia the Stubborn, had her skull crushed when part of the Cheese Dungeon collapsed.  (Naskia took 10 points of damage to her head, which only had 2 hit points to start with.)  She was barely saved from certain death—I think Tavis sorta gave me more lucky breaks than I was entitled to—because her teammate Kala had bathed in a holy fountain.  (For a little while I role-played Naskia’s dog, hence the post title.)

Desperately getting back to temporary camp, it turns out that one of our NPC elders knows the Rune spell, Summon Child of Votanki, which literally brought a demigod (in dog form) to hang out with us, heal our wounds, and converse with the Giant Invisible Bat. 

This was a pretty powerful moment in play.  Our characters are, to put it politely, fucking incompetent: starting characters in RuneQuest can barely break 10% in any skill, and all of us have below-average stats.  Simply moving around on this island has been difficult—poor Naskia failed five times to climb the same damn cliff—and we really were afraid of the snapping turtle (we didn’t know what it was; our characters had never seen one).  When we found out what the priestess could do, we hastily built her a shrine (a dog run and warren), shepherded up all of the dogs, hunted up some fermented honey and cream from the cheese-dungeon, and staged a ritual to get totally buzzed and ecstatic to summon our tribal god, the Black Dog of Votanki.  We kinda-sorta understood the Holy Language enough to figure out what the Giant Bat was concerned about, and now had a quest to track down the other elves and return a stolen relic.

Also, while playing the dog, I mated with the god.  

OBSERVATIONS ON THE GAME SYSTEM 

I wish this had been by entry point to fantasy role-playing, rather than Dungeons & Dragons.  

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

James_Nostack's picture

There's a lot of stuff in the RuneQuest rules we have not stumbled into yet, and as a result I have no idea how this thing shakes out in practice.

  • Still haven't been in any actual fights, which is good because all of us are godawful--I think I have a 15% chance to hit with a spear
  • None of us can cast Battle Magic, let alone Rune Magic.  
  • We haven't found any monetary treasure, and so can't afford to go to "Adventure College"

Looking at the published material, all of the NPC's have dozens of spells, and their attack skills look astronomical to Mr. Fifteen Percent over here.

Figuring out (a) what runes our NPC Priestess would know, and (b) how those spells are cast, and (c) what that means for us in concrete terms took up a lot of time at the virtual table, but it was time well spent because it set up a great scene.

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