Runequest - Adventures in Prax

Archives for: November 2007

Nov 29
The Tale of the Normal Newts

The Tale of the Normal Newts

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By Nick Fortune Oct 1995

This is a story told me by my Uncle Kevil, the Goldentounge priest who went mad. To be truthful, he was already a little strange when he told me this, but under the circumstances, I'm inclined to believe him.

Uncle Kevil told me this tale just after I became a man. I had pretty much decided that I wanted to join Issaries, and so I went to visit my uncle and talk it over with him. As things turned out, I stayed late, drinking, and after a while I asked him about the last trip he took with my father. This was something neither of them had ever said much about, and I was a little surprised when he agreed to tell me.

I'll tell it the way he told me, as close as I can remember.

Kevil's Tale

We were headed for Day's Rest, two days out. About midday, your father turned to me with a look of terrible joy on his face.

"Storm's coming", he said. "A big one".

He had this big fierce grin on his face, which was really annoying under the circumstances. It wasn't the season for rain, so I didn't think we'd need to worry about flash floods and such, but a man can choke to death on the dust that gets kicked up. Him being a a storm bull though, he thinks it's just the finest thing in the world.

I didn't want to leave the trail if I could help it, because of my Path Watch, so what we did was pick up the pace to see if we could find somewhere to shelter. By midafternoon we still hadn't found anything that would serve, and that was when the storm hit us.

I tell you now, if it hadn't have been for your dad, I'd have been dead that day. That monster storm just came howling out of nowhere. As it was we had a little warning, so I took off up the ridge we'd been following hoping to find something we could use for shelter - a cave or a big boulder would do at a pinch. I didn't see anything directly useful there, but the prospects seemed better, and I figured the lee of the hill should buy us some time. So I headed back to get your father and the animals, and that's where he nearly gets us both killed.

Instead of staying put, he's wandered off toward the heart of the storm, shouting and yelling like he's cheering the storm on. I could barely see him through the dust, and I had to drag him back. Not always a good idea with a beserker. Just for a second, I thought he was going to kill me himself and save the storm the trouble. Then he pulled himself together and we managed to get ourselves and the animals over the ridge. Once we were behind the ridge, things weren't quite as bad.

What we had was one of those winding, twisting gullies, and I reckoned there was a good chance it might twist back sharply enough somewhere to give us a wall to shelter behind. So we set off following the gully. While we did, and since I could now make myself heard, I asked your dad what sort of foolish notion had got into his head back there.

"You don't understand", he said sadly. "To me that storm is a sacred thing. Somewhere beyond Time, the Storm Bull is killing the Devil all over again. This Storm is just the echo of His Rage and His Fury and for the sounds of it He is doing Greivous Damage to the Force of Chaos this day!"

"Now don't get yourself started again", I said quickly, because he'd been getting that light back in his eyes again.

"The thing is", he said, a bit quieter, "were I to stand at the heart of that storm and perform the ceremony of worship, I could join the battle..."

"And get trampled into mush by the Urox himself in his rage to get at the Devil, most like", says I. "That's if you don't drop dead first with your lungs full of dust. Come on, this isn't the time or the place for such stuff."

"No", he said. "It never is somehow".

Well, I shut up after that lest I start him off again, and we pressed on, heads down against the dust, and all the time, the storm is picking up around us, until we come round one of the bends in the gully and it opens out into more of a valley with what looks like a town in the middle of it. By this time it was blowing so hard I had to shout to make myself heard.

"You ever hear of a town around here?" I shouted at your dad.

"This close to Day's Rest?" he shouts back.

"This close to the trail! We'd have heard of it".

"Then what is it?"

"Shelter, I hope!" I yelled at him. "Let's check it out". Which we did.

Now that town looked pretty strange from what I could see of it, which I admit wasn't much. From what I could see, this place had a wall built around it, and it was all towers, rising up towards the middle, like it was built on a hill or something. What was stranger still though was to find a pair of dragonewts guarding the gate. Great big brutes they were, all spikes and horns and armour plate. Didn't seem bothered by the storm neither.

Now at this time the only Auld Wyrmish I knew was a few bits your Uncle Fillif had tried to teach me one time when we were both drunk. So we're stood there in the storm and I'm wracking my brains for something useful to say. Then one of the 'newts spoke to us. What surprised me most was that I could understand him.

"Greetings, strangers", says the 'newt. "Welcome to Tikillitikkari. Enter and find shelter." Believe you me, I didn't need asking twice. We piled through those gates just as fast as we could go. Once we were inside the noise and the dust stopped dead..

"Must be some sort of warding spell", I said to myself.

"They'll need one", says your father. "These walled places can get filled full of dust when it blows like this. I saw a place where it had happened once".

Another 'newt, one of the little crested ones this time, comes running up to welcome us again and tell us where we can stable the animals and what's a good tavern for visitors and suchlike. Just as polite and normal as then ones outside. When the little fellow had gone, your father says to me "There's something funny about these dragonewts".

"No there's not", I said. "What there is, is something disturbingly normal about these dragonewts". This gets me one of your dad's famous don't-get-clever-just-show-me-what-to-hit looks, so I pressed on quickly. "Think on those two at the gate. They were almost casual. They were relaxed! Did you ever see a relaxed dragonewt?"

"I saw one had gone to sleep in the middle of a road once. We couldn't wake it so we had to roll it over to the side".

"That's not relaxed, that's asleep. Possibly Dormant. I don't think anyone ever saw a relaxed dragonewt. It's like looking for a relaxed sparrow. They're either hopping about full of nervous energy, or else they're standing stone still, or doing some ritual dance or something. I think if ever anyone does see a relaxed dragonewt it'll be because it's part of some higher weirdness that they just aint seen yet".

"Now there's a cheery thought", said your father.

"Hmmm. Good point", says I.

Well, we stabled the animals and found storage for the goods, and then we set off to find the Inn we'd been told about and swill away some of the dust from the storm. Inside, the town was living up to it's promise of weirdness, with human type people and dragonewts all mixing in the streets. The 'newts all seemed friendly enough, but the people seemed a bit stuffy. When we found the inn (the Draconic Principle it was called, a snappy name if ever I heard of one), it was mainly full of humans, all sitting down and minding their own business by and large, which just went to confirm me in my opinion of them as a miserable bunch of so-and-sos.

I went up to the bar and ordered two mugs of ale while I tried to size the place up. I figured we'd want to stay overnight, and I wanted to work out how best I might bargain for a place. The kid who served us, he'd be about as old as you are now I reckon, fills the mugs without saying a word, then he stare straight ahead and says "silver piece" in this flat toneless voice. I had to chuckle.

"Son", I told him, "I don't know what you put in the beer around here, but back where I come from, we expect change from a clack. Do you want to run that past me again?"

"Silver piece" he says just the same as before.

"Look, kid: We've all got to make a living, huh? Just don't feel you got to try too hard."

"Silver piece".

"Right son. I'm in a real good mood right now, so I'm going to put not one but two coppers down here on the bar. Any time you want to start talking sense..."

I didn't get to finish what I was saying here, because as soon as I put the coins on the counter he just slams the mugs down on the bar snatches up the coins and hurls them into the fire like I'd mortally insulted him. Then he turns his back on us and stands there all quivering with rage. I heard a scrape of chairs and stuff, and when I looked round, most everybody else in the room has turned their backs on us as well.

"What? What is the matter here?" I said, getting a little peeved myself. "Have you people got some sort of cult prohibition on copper coinage? What?" No reply.

"My brother asked you a question", rumbles your father. "I'd answer it if I were you".

"Better not", I whispered to him. "We just got here, and this would be a very inconvenient time to get run out of town, what with the storm and all. Drink up and we'll go find someplace sane". There's was never anything that calmed me down faster than your dad getting heated up. The thing about me and your father was I could generally talk him into most things. What I couldn't do was make him like it.

"Kevil", he says, "I don't know how you talked me into this trip, but if you ever ask me again..."

"I know, I know. That's what you said last time. Drink up."

Well, we got out of there and took ourself off for a look round the town. Old Man Yelm had finally suffled off into the Underworld by this time, and I noticed that they had lots of little dragon heads carved high up on the buildings which were lighting things up by breathing little jets of fire. Your father was in a similar mood, I reckon, and I let him cuss me out for a bit. Eventually he stops, takes a deep breath, and then says. "This place is really weird."

"What way in particular?" I asks.

"These buildings aren't like anything I've seen in Prax. Not ruins nor oasis. It's more like some of the ruins I've seen in the Pass. Then there's the folk here. We've got the dragonewts acting like regular folks, and the people are all acting like dragonewts."

"Must have been a bit like this in the Empire of the Wyrm's Friends", I said. "Hey! That's it! This must be some remnant or somthing".

"Yeah, apart from the fact that the Wyrms never settled Prax, and apart from the fact that the they all died of being eaten by dragons. Apart from that, I'd be inclined to agree with you".

"Well", says I, "you just this minute said how this looks a bit like the ruins in Dragon Pass. And now I think about it, the buildings here have all got that EWF pattern running along them, just like in the ruins in Dragon Pass".

"I am never coming on another trip with you again, Kevil. Hear me? Never again".

So we walked and walked and now I was thinking about the Wyrm's Friends I kept noticing more and more bits of dragon symbolism, like the way the streets were cobbled in this diamond pattern like they were scales, or the way the towers had this zigzag crest spiralling up them. After a while, I also realised we were lost. The streetplan, and calling it such is a mortal insult to anyone who ever so much as laid out a campsite, was real confusing, with streets spiralling up and down and looping over and under each other. Eventually, we wound up near the top of one of the towers where there was this balcony thing that would let us look out over the plains.

"Good", says your dad. "I want to watch the storm for a bit". Which was fair enough by me, cause he looked like he could use a bit of cheering up. When we got up there though:

"The storm's gone", said your father, sounding dull and tired. "It can't have blown out yet. Where's it gone?"

"That's not all", I said. "What phase is the moon tonight?"

"Empty-Half" he says without even spitting, which just shows how down he was feeling. I really hated to do this to him.

"So where is it?"

"Hah! right where it's always been. Right over ...there?" He stood gawping at the empty sky. "Kevil, they've taken the moon. The bastards! I wanted to destroy it."

Thinking of your father right then is one of the saddest things I know. I mean I know he was a brave man. I believe he'd have challenged a rhino to a head butting contest if he'd have had half a reason to. Right there and then though, he didn't have a clue how to handle the situation, and he just looked lost and frightened. I don't mean that I was much better, just I was used to feeling confused like this. Your father wasn't and it had rattled him badly.

"I don't think its gone exactly", I told him. "It just hasn't risen yet. The Empire of the Wyrm's Friend was before the red moon".

"How can that be?" he asked.

"I don't know, it's just my best guess. Come on", I said, trying to break his mood. "Let's look around a bit more and see if there are any more surprises."

"There had better not be", he said with a touch of his usual truculence, "or I am going to get very angry with someone".

So we set out again, and I decided to try and navigate towards the centre tower, since it seemed the most likely place to find anything important. When we got there, the street sort of spiraled up around the outside. Let me tell you what it was like at the top.

First of all, the top thirty feet or so was shaped like a dragon's head and neck. There was a ruff around the neck that was fanned out to make a broad platform you could stand on. On the platform were two to three dozen dragonewts, all milling about and chattering, just like they were dignitaries at a civic convention somewhere.

In the centre of the platform, the dragon's neck continued up like I said. There was a zigzag crest running along the back of the neck and because of the way it's neck was twisted, this crest formed a set of stairs spiraling up to where it had its hands (if that's what you call them on dragons) held out in front of it to make a much smaller platform. On the hand platform, there was a big brass bell hanging from a stand, and the dragons head was facing it, as though this bell was an object of beauty that the dragon had decided to contemplate. Although, to look at it's face, the dragon had evidently dozed off in it's contemplations.

I wanted to take a closer look at this higher platform, but when I tried to climb the steps, a couple of big warrior types blocked my way.

"I'm sorry, sir", said one of them, "but you may not go there".

"May I ask why not?"

"When that bell sounds", said the 'newt, "the world will end. We don't allow people up there in case there were an accident. We wouldn't want the world to end before its time, would we?".

I was all set to try and talk my way past these two, but your father had had enough.

"Everyone listen to me!" he shouted. "On account of my brother here and his tender sensibilities, I have tried very hard to be patient. However patience is not a virtue my cult cultivates, and mine is now at an end. Somebody around here knows what is going on, and somebody is going to tell me. Either that or I will start killing people until someone does".

I groaned to myself and set out to try and calm things down. Before I could say anything this tailed priest comes lightly tripping through the crowd and says something. I once saw an Uleria priestess at a party, where she was just breezing through the crowd dropping pearls of wit and wisdom to everyone she passed. This 'newt was acting just like that, except instead of some little joke, she said:

"The Cosmic Dragon unborn lies, still sleeping in her shell, And in that sleep, She dreams the world, and dreams us all as well".

"That's not an answer", said your father.

"Oh yes it is", I told him. "Come away from here and I'll tell you all about it..."

It wasn't easy to drag your father away from his second near fight of the day, but I did though he kept up a muttered monologue about "lousy, dishonest, sneaking, conniving traders" most of the way back down. Now that the the light had dawned on me, it was a lot easier finding my way around in the town, and I set off back to the inn we'd visited earlier. Eventually your dad stopped cussing me for long enough to ask where we were going. He wasn't too impressed with that idea either.

At the inn, no one seemed to remember us from earlier on. This time I paid the asking price on the ale without quibbling (two silvers this time, so maybe they did remember) and found a quiet spot to talk.

"It's like this: You remember the tower? Well it's a dragon".

"It's a tower shaped like a dragon. So what?"

"No, the tower is a dragon. A dream dragon".

"What?"

"Keep your voice down. This is a dragon that is dreaming that it is a town. It's dreaming it's a town in the days of Empire of the Wyrm's Friends, and that's why there is no moon. We've walked into the dream, and since the dreamer doesn't remember the moon from the EWF, we can't see it from inside the dream. It also means that the storm is probably still out there and just hidden the way the moon is".

"How do you know this?" asked your father.

"Well, partly it was what that priest said about the Cosmic Dragon. There's better than that though. Do you remember that picture I brought from the Holy Country once?"

"The one that looked like an old woman or a young maiden, depending on how you looked at it?"

"That one. Well this town is just like that. Look one way and it's a town. Look another way, and it's a bloody huge dragon. Go outside and try it if you don't believe me".

"Tell me the rest, first. What should we do - wait for it to wake up?"

"I think that would be a bad idea. Suppose the dream ends the same way as the EWF did? I don't think leaving is an option either. We should have passed the gate we came in by on our way here. I couldn't find it".

"You mean it's sealed us in?"

"I don't think it did it deliberately. I think the gate appeared so the dragonewts could be helpful to a couple of humans, they way they were in old Empire. Once we were in though the gate served no purpose in the dream, so the dragon forgot it and the gate went away".

"What does that leave us with - waking it up?"

"Well yes. The touble is waking up the right dragon", I said.

"Eh? How many of them are they?"

"Well, there's only one, really. But there's the real dragon that's dreaming this dream, and then there's the dream dragon, who also looks to be asleep. If we wake the real one, the town and the newts vanish. If we get it wrong though, we might just bring on the Dragonkill War part of the dream".

"And I suppose you got an idea how we can do that", says your father.

"Well, I think so".

"You think so? What happens if you're wrong?" he asked.

"Then brother, you get to practice your dragon slaying".

"All right, we'll try it your way first. What's the plan?"

"I was thinking, suppose you were leading a warband. There's a battle likely to start at dawn, and you haven't slept in days. You really need a few hours shut-eye, but you don't dare oversleep. What do you do?"

"I get someone reliable to wake me up early".

"Well, I think that's why the bell is there. I think the real dragon set it up there to be rung at a certain time, so he wouldn't sleep too long".

Your father frowned at me. "Can they do that?"

"They can do all this", I gestured around us. "I don't know what they can't do. Besides, it would explain how the bell 'ends the world'. Once the dragon wakes, this town and everyone in the dream cease to exist".

"Ring the bell and everyone here dies?"

"Apart from us, cause we weren't dreamed in the first place".

Your dad considered this. "Small loss", he said eventually. "They were never real in the first place".

"Hum. If that priest was right, the same could be said of us".

"What was that?"

"Never mind", I said. "You always said you weren't afraid to die, didn't you? I suggest we get a few hours rest and give that storm a chance to move on. Come sunrise we'll go and see about that bell. I doubt they'll let us near the thing, so what I suggest is you keep the guards busy while I do the ringing part".

"There's finally someone I can hit? Praise be to Urox!"

"That's settled then. Let's get some sleep. Big day tomorrow; we have to destroy the world".

Early the next morning saw the two of us climbing the central tower. Once you could see the dragon as well as the town, there was a sort of logic to the street layout and it didn't take us long at all this time.

When we reached the platform, there were still a few 'newts milling about, but the majority of them had gone off to whatever passes for home if you're a dragonewt. There were still a couple guards by the stairs though. We wandered over trying to look casual.

"Hey fellows", I said when we got close. "Do you like poetry? My brother here has some he'd like to recite for you. He made it up himself".

"Oh, sure", said your father taking his cue. "Everyone likes poetry. Listen to this:

Wind of the desert,
My enemies now stand before me,
Grant me your strength that I may destroy them,
Grant me your courage that I shall not falter
Grant me your rage that I show no mercy"

He started off making out like he was a great poet, but as usual with his battle song, he didn't get beyond the first line before the rage took him. I knew what was coming of course so I had stepped back, and then once he was off, I dodged past them all and sprinted off up the stairs. From the sounds of things, I'd say your father was causing all sorts of commotion, which I suppose is what you expect if you invite a storm bull to a party. I didn't have time to watch though, those stairs were steep.

It's the always, little things that always trip you up. In this case it was the gap between the stairs and the platform. Wasn't much, no more than six foot to jump, but I wasn't expecting it, and it gave me pause. Down below I could see your dad had dropped one of the guards, but the other one was still going strong and there were more arriving from all over the place, so I jumped, and slipped and ended up hanging onto the bell to keep from falling off the platform. It was bigger than it looked from below. As I grabbed it, the clapper inside struck the side of the bell, but I must have been muffling it hanging on like that, cause all I heard was this dull "dunk" noise, I knew that was never going to do the trick. Then the bell swung back again and I couldn't hold on, and fell off the platform. And as the ground rushed up to meet me, the bell swang back again, and tolled a single sweet note, and everything faded away to white. Happily, everything included the ground in this case.

It took a moment for my head to clear. When it did, everything was still white like I was floating in thick fog. There was however this huge dragon that front of me, and I could see that just fine. Except it was more like he was inside my head, or maybe it was a bit like both and not quite like either. I guess you had to be there.

The dragon looked at me, and I could feel how ancient and powerful it was. Then it spoke.

"Little human", it said. "You have dared to awaken me from my slumbers".

"Little human, I admire your courage. As reward I shall answer three questions truthfully".

"Little human. Your presumption must be punished. After you have your answers, I shall devour you".

"Little human, ask your questions. Already I grow impatient".

My mind was racing. I thought of every clever trick and fast deal I'd ever pulled or heard of, looking for something to get me off the hook. Then I looked into those awful eyes and knew that nothing like that was going to work with this customer. I needed more information, and I had three questions to try and get it. I could either take a wild stab in the dark and hope to get lucky, or I generalise and try and cut to the heart of the matter. I'm the plain spoken sort by nature, so I decided to keep it simple.

"So", I said. "What's it all about, then? What's going on?"

"Little human", said the dragon. "You already have the answer to that question".

"'The Cosmic Dragon unborn lies, still sleeping in her shell, And in that sleep, She dreams the world, and dreams us all as well."

"Since you failed to understand this the first time, I shall provide two proofs to aid your comprehension."

"The first proof is this: Dreams are illusion. All illusions that are created in that which you call 'reality' do themselves become real for as long as the illusion does persist. Thus your reality is but a dream. This is the truth of the Illusion Rune."

"The second proof is this: When the Cosmic Dragon dreams of dragons, and when in her dream those dragons themselves dream, that which they dream also becomes reality. This is the proof that the Dragon is the Dreamer."

"I further tell you that when the Cosmic Dragon shall at last hatch, all of dragonkind that she has dreamed will be re-constituted in the new reality she shall create. All else is distraction and therefore irrelevant. That is all you will ever need to know about 'what is going on'."

"Little human, I await your second question."

As Eurmal once said to Orlanth: 'Well, that didn't work.' I thought maybe if I narrowed the scope of my question.

"Very well. You were dreaming now of a time we call the Empire of the Wyrm's Friends. There was a big secret there that was lost to humanity. What was that all about?"

I asked the question, and the dragon told me. Not in words though. It was more like the knowledge was poured into my brain. It was as though I could feel thoughts and ideas being moved around inside my head to make way for all this new stuff and it seemed like it would go on for ever. After about an Age or two the dragon spoke again.

"Little human, do you now understand?" And I did.

I can't explain it to you. It's like the words or the language is the wrong shape for the ideas, but I knew then and I still know now. It isn't an easy knowledge to own sometimes.

"Little human", the dragon said. "Ask your final question."

I reckoned I was just pure out of luck here. My head was spinning with all this new lore, and neither of the answers I'd had had given me the least clue. The fact of it was, I thought to myself, that I'd woken the wrong dragon, and now I would die. And then I remembered a dream I once had where I realised that I was dreaming, so I asked:

"Answer me truly then - are you awake?"

"Little human, I ... I am asleep." The dragon sounded surprised by this. "I am asleep and merely dreaming that I have awakened".

And the dragon's presence began to fade. See, every time I've ever realised I was dreaming, I've been so surprised that I woke right up. I was just gambling that it was the same wih dragons.

"Little human, you are clever. Your life is spared". Then it was gone.

The next thing I knew I was lying in the dust. No storm, no dragon, no town. Your father was close by, and I spent a bit of time healing him up again. He'd had a close run with those 'newts, it seemed. Then when he was feeling better, he showed his appreciation by cussing me out. Then he didn't say anything for a bit. At last he says, "So you woke the dragon, then."

"Seems like", I said.

"So what do you think will happen now?"

"Well I get the distinct impression that something as big and old as that might take its own good time betwen waking and getting up, but I reckon before too long we'll have a new dragon appears somewhere. Probably in Dragon Pass".

"Hmmph. I just hope it eats a few lunars when it does", he says.

And that, boy, is pretty much it.

* * *
The events in my uncle's tale happened when I was about 10 years old. It was shortly after that that my father, once again out in Prax, found another storm and this time no one stopped him when he walked into its heart. He never came out again. I think Kevil felt guilty about that, though I can't really see that it was his fault in any way, but I think that was why he told me the tale. To the best of my knowledge, he never told it to anyone else.

I few people must have suspected something of the truth though. See, he kept that secret knowledge, and he kept the trick of talking to dragonewts. Properly talking, that is. Often he'd trade with them, and one time he had a wyrm come and talk with him for a couple of days. Of course by this time he was acting pretty strange, and everyone said he had gone mad. I'm not so sure about that though. I think that the dragon could give him information, but not understanding. The understanding of what he'd been taught by the dragon had to grow slowly over the years, and as it did, I think my uncle grew more and more draconic in his thinking and more and more alien to us. The end came one day when a party of 'newts came to see him with a noble at their head. He talked with them a while, and then told me to settle his affairs and set out with the dragonewts, never to return. He said something about a chance to get himself an Egg.

As to my father, I like to think that he was being Called that day in the wastes. He couldn't go then because of an obligation to his brother, but as soon as was settled he went back to heed the call of his god. He was always telling me about heroes when I was young, so I like to think he made it through to his Eternal Battle and is even now killing chaos alongside the Bull.

Who knows, maybe someday my father will return, bigger, meaner and nastier than ever and roll up 'the whole of the stinking lunar empire right that way back to Glamour', just the way he used to say. Aye, and maybe someday my uncle Kevil will sit on the throne of the Inhuman King. Right now I'd settle for that dragon to wake up and eat a few regiments of lunars.

As Uncle Kevil used to say: A man's allowed to dream.

gamesmeister • BackgroundPermalink
Nov 29
Episode 4: Escaping Tikkillittikkarri

Note: This episode was inspired by Nick Fortune's excellent The Tale of the Normal Newts, which can be found in the Background section.

As the three bondsmen pondered their next move, the door to the tavern opened to reveal a familiar face. Rile, his clothes and hair caked with dust from the storm outside, stumbled in and made his way over to where his comrades sat. He too had become separated from the duke’s retinue, and had stumbled across the city in the gorge. Just as in the case of the others, dragonewts guarding the gate had beckoned him enter, and a crested dragonewt then led him to the nearest tavern, where his friends sat trying to decide what to do.

After filling Rile in on their predicament, they tried questioning the locals in the tavern once again, but they clearly had no time for these strangers, and were of no further help, deliberately turning their backs on them and their questions. Rile also felt a terrible loneliness here, as though something very important had been taken from him, but could not immediately determine the reason for this disturbing phenomenon.

After a long discussion they decided that the two most likely scenarios were that either they had been transported back in time (and across a great distance) to the time of the Empire of the Wyrm’s Friends, or that the city had somehow been pulled forward to their current time and place. They would later discover both to be wrong, but they rightly figured that the best way to leave was to seek out someone in authority .

It was then that they noticed the huge tower standing in the centre of the city. How they had not noticed it up until now was quite baffling, as it dominated the entire city, rising hundreds of feet up into the air. It was shaped in the form of a huge dragon, and spiralling around it was what appeared to be a road, winding its way to the very top.

They set off toward it, but were quickly lost in the maze of streets that twisted and turned about the city. Roads that they thought would lead them to their destination would veer off in a completely different direction, and attempts to backtrack would often meet with confusion, with paths seeming to change or disappear behind them. During this time Karnak was separated from them, lost amidst the maze of backstreets, and they would not see him again during their time here.

As night approached the three remaining bondsmen decided to rest up for the day, the exertions of their time in the storm beginning to take its toll. They found a small house which was empty except for the small crested dragonewt that danced and weaved in one corner, seemingly oblivious to the presence. As these creatures had shown them nothing but hospitality, they chose to bed down here for the night.

They were awoken the next morning by a loud boom from somewhere out in the street. Gathering their gear together, they headed out and saw smoke billowing from a small shop across the street. As they watched, a small stout figure with a large beard came staggering out, coughing and spluttering, his face slightly blackened. Rushing over to help, they found themselves confronted by the rare sight of a Mostali, who had obviously been working on a contraption of one sort or another. Behind him was his store, a treasure trove of mechanical gadgets that gave out a constant stream of ticks, tocks, and hisses.

After making sure he wasn’t hurt, they helped him clear up a little of the mess. Rhodrin in particular was very excited at meeting a Mostali here, as he had spent many hours in study of this ancient race, and was considered one of the most knowledgeable men in northern Sartar on the subject. Likewise the Mostali, who’s named turned out to be Clayweaver, was delighted to find a human with such a broad knowledge of his people, and they sat and talked for some considerable time as Rhodrin tried to explain their predicament. Strangely, the Mostali seemed to have no real memory of his time in the city – he knew he traded with its occupants on a daily basis, he knew the goal of the people of the city, but he had no recollection of how long he’d been there or where he had come from before he arrived here. While he also found Rhodrin’s story very far fetched, he was nonetheless fascinated by it, and before they left he gifted Rhodrin with two items from the store, a small timepiece for which he had no need, and a tubular device that would “illuminate without light”, as he described it.

Leaving the Mostali, they eventually arrived at the central tower, and began the long climb up its winding road. The higher they climbed, the more spectacular the view became, and as the storm had cleared up some time during the night they could see beyond the city walls, where a long silvery road wound its way off into the distance. The city was much larger than they had first realised, and was filled with architectural wonders such as ornamental gardens and intricate buildings. It was only then that Rile discovered the reason for his terrible feeling of loss – there was no moon. Where his goddess should be was just empty sky.

The top of the tower was shaped like a dragon’s head, and around its neck was a ruff that formed a platform of sorts. As the three men arrived at the top, they were confronted by two dozen dragonewts conversing in their own tongue. Beyond these was a narrow path that led out to the dragon’s outstretched hands, and sitting on the hands was a large bell. The dragon appeared to be staring straight at the bell, as though it was an object of utmost beauty, worthy of great contemplation.

As they approached the path, two large beaked dragonewts stepped in front of them, blocking their way. “I’m sorry”, the first said, “you can’t go up there. Ringing that bell would spell the end of the world, and we wouldn’t want the world to end before its time now would we.” Still unaware of the nature of this strange place, the three men did not argue, and instead decided to attempt to retrace their steps back to the main gate of the city.

After another long trip back down the tower, they were surprised to spot a Sun Dome templar walking across the plaza. Unlike the other occupants of the city, this one did not appear to be wearing clothes of a bygone age, and instead seemed to in a hurry to get somewhere. As they hailed him however, he stopped, then quickly approached them, a combination of surprise and relief on his face.

Surik Brighthelm claimed to have been in the city for around five years, but upon further questioning they discovered that he had entered the city in the year 1535 ST, over eighty years previously. However, he was aged no more than thirty five years old, so something was very wrong with time in this place. They then had the idea of asking if he had kept any sort of journal when he arrived, and while Surik couldn’t remember doing so he led them to the house he occupied to see if clues could be gathered. Just like the mostali they had met earlier, Surik’s memories of his time in the city seemed to be fading, although they were not yet completely gone.

By good fortune Surik had indeed kept a record of his findings when he first arrived, and in them he had written of his desire to ring the bell at the top of the tower in order to end the dream. At this point the bondsmen realised that the entire city was the product of a dragon’s dream, and everything began to make sense. They resolved to ring the bell as Surik had suggested, certain that this was likely the only way to escape this strange place.

Back at the top of the tower, only a handful of dragonewts remained. Before they arrived the bondsmen prepared themselves for a fight, certain that the dragonewts would try to prevent them from ringing the bell, which of course turned out to be true. It was at this point that they noticed that Surik had become almost ethereal this close to the head of the dragon, having spent too long within the dream environment, and so would be of no help in the ensuing melee.

Once again two beaked dragonewts blocked their path, but this time Strum drew his axe and severely wounded the first. Rhodrin attempted to duck past the other, but was way too slow and found himself facing an enraged dragonewt warrior. Rile was more skilled in these ways though, and after tumbling smoothly past a third warrior he sprinted for the path. A tailed priest began summoning powerful draconic magic, but Rhodrin managed to counterspell it before it could take effect. His attention distracted, he was not quick enough to avoid the huge klanth thrust towards him, and took a vicious wound to the gut, the pain almost overwhelming. Strum’s axe swung again, and the tailed priest fell to the ground, shrieking in pain at the terrible wound in its leg. Meanwhile Rile reached the path and dashed across, at one point stumbling and almost falling to certain death. Incredibly he managed to catch himself just in time, and with a smooth leap made it to the bell.

Fortune indeed favoured the bondsmen that day, for one of the beaked dragonewts facing the others had almost put out its own eye with its klanth, before dropping the fearsome weapon in pain. Before they could deal with the last one, Rile rang the bell and everything disappeared.

Rile found himself standing alone, in front of the most terrifying creature he had ever seen, a dragon so vast he could scarcely conceive it. The dragon spoke. “Little human, you dare to awaken me from my slumber. I admire your courage, and so shall answer three questions truthfully. However, for your impertinence you must be punished and so after I answer your questions I will devour you. Be swift with your questions, for already I lose patience.”

Rile’s first question, “How can I prevent you from devouring me?” , was of little help, as the dragon simply replied “Do not awaken a sleeping dragon” However, his next question was far more effective. “How can I put you back to sleep?”

At this the dragon looked perplexed, as it began to realise that it was actually still asleep and had not yet woken up as it first thought. As it did so, it began to fade from Rile’s view, and he shortly found himself lying face up in the sands of Prax, the hot sun beating down on him. Next to him lay his companions, along with Surik who had also been freed from the dream. In the distance he could hear the sounds of people calling for them, and recognised the voices of the duke’s nomad riders.

Upon questioning by the duke they eventually told him of the city, but while an exploratory party was put together, no trace of it was found. Eventually the duke gave up, and they left this strange place and headed for the final oasis in their journey, that of Horn Gate. Beyond Horn Gate lay the duke's domain, and the final destination of their long journey, his home.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 21
Or this week!

Once again real life has got in the way of gaming, so no session this week.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 14
An update to the combat rules

So far we have been playing combat using the rules found in the original core rulebook i.e. no opposed rules, just use the combat tables as they stand. Last week's game demonstrated just how powerful Precise Attacks are under those rules when used by high level characters. Every attack bypassed armour, so even a successful defense was rarely good enough to prevent considerable damage and the loss of combat actions. The result was that the first player to take even a minor wound was doomed, as that player never managed to regain the initiative and just kept losing more and more combat actions.

The upshot is that I'm going to use the opposed roll system as found in the players update and the deluxe rulebook, in addition to the original rules. This is a very simple house rule - here's how it will work.

The players will have 4 defense options rather than 2...Parry, Block, Dodge, Evade.

Parry - use the opposed roll rules. If you succeed with a parry and win the opposed roll, you'll take no damage, if you lose the opposed roll your parry is downgraded to a failure. Use this against targets with huge damage bonuses, against precise attacks, if you only have a very weak weapon, or if you have a significantly higher skill than your opponent.

Block - no opposed roll, use the table only. Even if you succeed with a block, you could take damage through the parrying weapon. This is a good option if you use a shield.

Dodge - use the opposed roll rules. If you succeed with a dodge and win the opposed roll, you'll take no damage, if you lose the opposed roll your dodge is downgraded to a failure. Use this against targets with huge damage bonuses, against precise attacks, or if you have a significantly higher skill than your opponent.

Evade - no opposed roll, use the table only. A successful evade will still suffer minimum damage against a successful attack.

So in other words, the defending player has a choice whether to use opposed rolls or not. Doing so is a much better option against very large opponents with overpowering damage bonuses, particularly if they have low combat skills, and those trying Precise Attacks. In fact, Precise Attacks are very difficult when using the opposed roll system, and rightly so.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 14
No game this week

Unfortunately there's no session this week - normal service will be resumed next Thursday.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 9
Episode 3: Tourney Altar to Scalegate

Leaving behind the pyre of smouldering corpses, the caravan continued on its journey, arriving in Tourney Altar later that day.

Tourney Altar is a place held sacred by worshippers of the death god Humakt, and reputed to be the place where he fought many foes. It is a small oasis, with no town to speak of, a small lake surrounded by a scattering of date and olive trees. On the eastern side of the lake sits the altar itself, a natural ampitheatre surrounded with a series of pillars, weathered by centuries of Praxian dust storms and a monument to a bygone age.

As the caravan approached the oasis, a man could be seen standing in the middle of the trail, his sword planted in the ground before him. Lollos called the caravan to a halt, clearly unsure what to do in the circumstances. Rhodrin noticed Daine in animated conversation with the duke, and overhead the latter say “You must do what must be done, and so must he”. Daine’s shoulders visibly slumped.

The man approached, and it was clear that he was a devotee of death, for his armour was covered in depictions of its rune, and similar tattoos marked his face. A sense of foreboding fell over the caravan as he drew near, as though death itself walked among them. The man’s gazed flickered between Daine and Rile as he spoke, his voice harsh.

“Oathbreakers. You have been summoned, and you have answered the call as you must. You know why you are here”. It wasn’t a question, but both Daine and Rile nodded, their faces grim. “You will enter the arena at the appointed hour, where death awaits you. My lord shall be avenged for your betrayal”.

With that the man abruptly turned on his heel and stalked away towards the monument, and for a brief moment, Rhodrin spotted what appeared to be a great number of warriors through the trees, the Praxian sun glinting off their armour.

The caravan pulled up near the lake and began to break camp, but while the other bondsmen went about their duties, Rile followed Daine to a place of solitude, and there they began to pray, and to seek guidance from their god Yanafal Tarnils. Tonight they would stand in his place, defending the honour of their god against Humakt, and champion the cause of the red goddess.

Some hours later, the two men walked through the darkness among the trees and into the bowl. As they crested the lip of the natural amphitheatre they realised that there must have been dozens of warriors, all wearing full armour as though preparing for battle. A low chanting could be heard, which did not pause or falter as the two men walked towards the centre of the bowl. In several places could be seen warriors duelling in slow motion, attack and counter, their faces a mask of concentration.

Two figures stepped from among the crowd, selected above all the others to represent Humakt in the upcoming ritual. A human called Mondar and a duck named Nelkark, both wore heavy armour and carried supernaturally gleaming swords, iridescent in the faint moonlight. Both were highly skilled, and both were questing for the status of Death Knight. Victory tonight would continue their progress towards that exalted position, failure meant the very real prospect of death. Neither of them feared the latter.

As the two men faced the Humakti, the chanting increased, rapidly reaching a crescendo, and the world about the men began to blur, the land about them becoming increasingly indistinct, until each was alone except for his foe. Rile felt the air around him chill, saw the ground beneath him was bare and broken, and became aware of a towering cliff to his right, stretching up as far as he could see. He turned to the duck, gave a final prayer to Yanafal Tarnils, and advanced.

Rile had fought many foes in his time in the red army, but none had he met with the skill and speed of Nelkark. Every swing he made was countered with ease, every thrust he made met air. The duck seemed content to size up his opponent, making no overtly aggressive moves until it was ready. When that moment arrived, Rile suddenly found himself facing a wall of steel, the ducks sword a blur in its hand. He desperately tried to parry the assault, but ultimately could not counter every attack and blood began to pour from a dozen wounds. Weakening through blood loss, he could no longer hold back the storm, and gasped as he felt the opposing blade shear through his upper left arm, slicing through bone and sinew as though they were paper. As he slumped to the ground and darkness began closing in, he felt a strange tugging sensation, as though someone was trying to reach him, to pull him back from the void. A beautiful song flittered around the edge of his perception, but try as he might, he could not focus on it, could not answer the call. Tonight he would fail the red goddess.

Daine had fared little better, even though he was more skilled than the man he faced. Hamstrung by his opponent early on, he could not counter the blows that rained down on him, quickly crumpling to the ground. Mondar the Humakti gave out a great roar, holding his sword aloft in victory to his god. But Daine had spent a lifetime in service to Yanafal Tarnils, and knew the call of the lady when it came. Just like his god had done, he rejected the finality of death, climbing to his feet in defiance of his former master. He struck Mondar several terrible blows, and the potential death lord collapsed into the dust, his eyes glazing over.

Daine found himself back in the amphitheatre, the chanting now reducing in intensity. Nearby Rile lay unmoving, a Humakti leaning over him stemming the blood from numerous cuts over his body. His arm was still attached, but was blackened and discoloured, as though suffering some great trauma. Rile groaned, and staggered to his feet, his arm strangely numb. The Humakti who had met them the day before stood before him, then reached down and took Rile's sword.

“Tonight Humakt has taken death from you, just as I take it from you now.”

He slid Rile’s sword into his belt, nodded once at Daine, his dark eyes brooding, then turned and walked over to the still body of Mondar the fallen Humakt. Taking this as their cue to leave, Daine and Rile left the arena, the latter unable to walk far without help from the old rune lord.

The next morning the caravan left early, with Raus keen to push on away from this dread place. Daine spoke to no-one of the previous nights events, and Rile too was very quiet, the enormity of what had happened still playing on his mind. He had some feeling in his arm, but the discolouration showed no sign of going, and the wounds inflicted on it would take an age to heal.

The caravan headed across the Praxian steppes towards Biggle Stone, the final oasis on their journey before Raus and his party would leave the safety of the caravan and make their way across the Eirithan Hills towards Horn Gate and his home. The four day journey passed with little incident, save for a brief encounter with members of the Basmoli tribe, who tracked the caravan for several hours. Sisko was happy to talk to the bondsmen about these strange but disappearing denizens of Prax, telling them of nature of the tribe and their worship of the lion god.

Eventually the caravan arrived at Biggle Stone, a relatively large oasis with a small town next to the lake. Temples and shrines to various gods were present, and the few vendors who had set up shop here were keen to trade with the caravan. Of more interest to the group was the large forest of mushrooms that had grown up some distance from the oasis. Questioning the nomads, they discovered that the ‘Twisted One’ had appeared some thirty years ago, and the mushroom forest had grown almost overnight around him. The Biggle Stone itself had not been seen since the arrival of the forest. The Twisted One was reputed to be keen to trade goods and information, and was known to brew many strange potions from his grotto in the centre of the forest. Keen to trade with him, but having nothing to offer, Karnak attempted to steal several small bags of exotic spices from one of the caravan wagons, while Strum created a diversion elsewhere, which he was happy to do. Spying two of the irritatingly smug Sable riders nearby, he proceeded to question the lineage of their mothers, fathers, grandfathers, and would have moved on to more distantly related kinsmen had the sable riders not launched themselves at him in fury. He floored the first with a single punch, and the second, finding himself suddenly alone against the huge storm bull warrior, beat a hasty retreat, dragging his friend with him, and yelling a whole range of threats and curses at the big man.

Despite this excellent distraction, Karnak proved to be a singularly incompetent thief (presumably the reason why he had been arrested by the Lunars in the first place), almost dropping the first bag he tried to lift, spilling the contents of the second all over the floor, and only managing to grab a single bag before several lunar cavalryman guards rounded the corner and he had to make good his escape before he was noticed.

Armed with this one bag, Karnak, Rhodrin and Strum headed for the centre of the forest, but were met midway by a small group of dark trolls and trollkin, who demanded payment to use ‘their path’. The bondsmen turned down an offer of a contest, but offered some of the spice to the dark trolls, which turned out to have slightly narcotic properties to the race of darkness creatures, who were happy to let the three men past after snorting the powdery substance.

The Twisted One, who turned out to be a dark elf, was very pleased to see them, and they sat for some time talking of many things, although he would brook no discussion on the whereabouts of the mysterious Biggle Stone. Eventually the talk turned to trade, with the elf pleased to get the spice while the three men each received a potion of vitality which the small elf insisted was “strong stuff”. Bidding farewell, they returned to the caravan, stepping past the two snoring dark trolls as they went.

The duke had managed to employ the services of a young nomad woman, who would lead them through the Eirithan Hills, and he had sent Brakiri on in advance to scout the area. The other bondsmen each went to their respective shrines to pray, with Karnak eager to prepare for an approaching Orlanth holy day. He would not be able to join a ceremony at a temple, and therefore was very keen to obtain the necessary holy items that would allow him to perform the appropriate rituals himself. Strum visited the Storm Bull shrine, and while there was hit by a sudden burst of energy, signalling that the bull was very active at this time. What the meaning of this was, he could not say.

The next day the duke and his party, consisting of Daine, the bondsmen and the six nomads, set out along a secret trail over the Eiritha Hills towards Horn Gate. Within a few hours they met a small group of Morocanth descending in a hurry. (The Morocanth are one of the great tribes of Prax, humanoid tapirs who were the only animal tribe to win the contests of intelligence that Waha held - to discern who would eat and whom would be eaten. As a consequence the Morocanth herd unintelligent human seeming ape-men, the descendents of the human tribe that lost in the contest.) Karnak was outraged at the sight of these seemingly human people being treated in such a way, and although the nomads explained the story of the Morocanth to him, which seemed to placate him somewhat, he was clearly still struggling to understand this strange phenomenon. One Morocanth was a Storm Bull and called out to Strum that the might of the bull was approaching, although he refused to speak any further to them. Raus insisted that they press on, but that night a terrible storm began building and by the following morning it had quickly become a sandblown hell. The noise was deafening, and they could barely see more than a few feet in front of their faces, as they struggled forward looking for some semblance of shelter.

Strum remembered his encounter with the Father, and tried to call on him to see them through this supernatural tempest, but the winds and driving sand proved too much and he lost his balance, tumbling down a rocky slope and landing winded at the bottom. Rhodrin and Karnak attempted to catch him but could not, and were both blown down the slope, with Rhodrin also tumbling some way down. Karnak dragged them both to their feet and they stumbled on for no more than a few dozen yards when they could suddenly scarcely believe their eyes. There in front of them lay what appeared to be a small city, a shimmering shield of energy protecting it from the storm, and even more amazing were the dragonewt warrior guards who opened the gates and bid them enter, greeting them happily.

Once inside they could see the storm raging above them outside, but were completely protected from it within the city. They found shelter in a nearby tavern, but the innkeeper seemed very surly and served them only after several attempts to catch his attention. The Lankhor Mhy sage Rhodrin in particular was amazed at his surroundings, quickly spotting that both the dress and equipment of the people resembled that of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, an empire that was wiped out over five hundred years previously. While Karnak and Strum sampled the ales of the tavern, Rhodrin quizzed everyone who would talk to him, although very few would, calling him an ‘Old World Traditionalist’, one who had no concept of the great dragon to come. He learned that the city was called Tikkillittikkarri by the Dragonewts, but more commonly Scalegate by the humans who inhabited it, and it was situated in the area known as Dragon Pass. References to places such as Sartar or Boldhome were met with blank stares, and Rhodrin soon returned to his companions, both confused by the situation he found himself in, and elated at the thought of all this lost knowledge sitting at his fingertips.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 6

The Spirit Combat rules included in the Companion work fine as a generic set of rules i.e. under normal circumstances, the only thing a character can do against a spirit is a) cast defensive magic, b) try and hit it with a sword in the hope of doing some damage, or c) run, and hope it can't follow (aka a Ghost).

The problems arise when you introduce spirit specialists into the mix e.g. shamans, as found in Cults of Glorantha 2. These are taught from a very early age the nature of the spirit world and how to interact with its inhabitants, and should therefore have a fourth option available i.e. the knowledge of how to control spirits through bargaining, coercion and other techniques. Binding a spirit is generally covered by the Create Charm/Fetish spells, but controlling a spirit in the first place without resorting to combat should be a skill that can only be learned by Shamans or those who worship the spirits. That way most PCs still have to fight spirits the hard way, but those skilled in their ways have an alternative.

This will be handled through the following skill:

Control Spirit(POW)

Can only be learned by a Practitioner of a spirit cult or above.

Used by a shaman to bargain, threaten, trick, or otherwise coerce a spirit into submission. When in spirit combat, make an opposed roll vs the spirits Persistence. If successful, the spirit will not attack the shaman for a number of rounds equal to the shaman's POW, during which time it can be dismissed or bound in the normal way. Like Possession attempts, magic points can be spent by both the shaman and the spirit to improve their chance of success. If the shaman has any companions, they are still subject to attack by the spirit in the normal way.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 4
The conflict between Moon and Air

All text Copyright © Issaries Inc 1998. No infringement or challenge intended. For more details, see The Cult of the Seven Mothers

The strife between the Lunar goddess and the air gods is deep and permanent. Philosophical and mythic reasons explain this.

The turbulent air gods represent a driving force in the cosmos, and their erratic natures are integral to their force. They value the surprise effects they can create, and are willing to suffer the misfortunes which their instabilities may make.

The Lunar Goddess has tamed this seething conflict and turned it into a predictable servant for herself and her worshippers. They have imposed an order upon the formative and destructive powers of the world.

So far the Lunar way has proven dominant in Peloria[1], and the older hierarchies of the storm gods have given way to the Goddess. This has included mundane world effects, for since the coming of the Red Goddess the weather in Peloria has warmed noticeably. The ice storms which once roared southward from the Wastes of Valind still bring snow, but the snow lasts only a couple of months. Lunar priests regularly challenge the Ice Demons to combat, and often defeat them. This way the cold armies are reduced, and the dark destructive storms of ice have not pelted the Empire since the barbarians were driven out over 150 years ago.

Lunar domination seems halted at Dragon Pass[2]. Perhaps it is because the storm gods of that area and nearby are so powerful. Perhaps the light of the Red Moon cannot reach so far. Perhaps it is only a matter of Time, as the Lunars always say.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Peloria sits at the heart of the Lunar Empire, and is its birthplace.

[2] Dragon Pass is the region to the west of Prax, and contains (among other things) the nation of Sartar.

gamesmeister • BackgroundPermalink
Nov 3
The cult of Yanafal Tarnils, Lunar god of war

Extracted from the original writeup of the cult by Nick Effingham. This cult does not appear in any of the Mongoose books for obvious reasons, so has been recreated here.

Overview
Yanafal Tarnils was an exiled nobleman from Yuthuppa who still ruled his lands. He later defeated his master, Humakt (god of death), in battle. High honour and bravery are upheld by the Yanafal Tarnils soldiery. He is the major war god of the Empire. He is shown as a soldier, armed and armoured.
Cult Holy Days are Wilday of Death Week, with the High Holy Day in Dark Season. The cult often alters it's holy days to meet the needs of local cults with which Yanafal deals with. Important ceremonies include the defeat of the Death God, the Ressurection of Yanafal and the defeat of the Ram Lord (a common Quest among the officer corps, in which the successor earns a set of golden ram horns).

The Cult In The World
The cult rules the Red Army and is worshipped in all Lunar lands and allied states. Most temples within the boundary of the Empire are either stationary minor temples or else are mobile major temples that follow the army groups around. Devices known as MoonRods can boost the spiritual might of the Yanafali troops to gain greater access to their god. Shrines are found throughout client states.
All temples are ordained by a ruling Iron Lord, who may have served in the Red Army but is never currently part of it -- it is deemed unsuitable for a religious leader to have other ties that may conflict with his spiritual following. The cult has good relations with all other Lunar cults, creating a high sense of community.
Shrines teach Truesword.

Requirements
An initiate who is in the Red Army must sacrifice 6/7th of their time to the cult and the army and receive income accordingly. They also receive 200 hours of free training in all cult related skills, as well as in DEX, STR or CON training if so wished, and more at half price. An initiate who is not an army member must dedicate 1/7th of time and income to the cult and gains none of the benefits above. They have no military ranking or respect, but usually receive it from fellow worshippers.
All worshippers must select one gift and its geas (see below)
Available Rune Magic
Bladesharp, Detect Enemy, Endurance, Heal, Moonfireblade, Oath of Ordeal, Protection.
Available Divine Magic
Berserk, Detect Truth, Madness, Morale, Mindblast, Reflection, Shield, Truesword.

Notes
The Mark of Yanafal Tarnils
All who worship Yanafal have one notable ability that is innate to their membership within the cult, their sword always shines and never tarnishes. All swords they possess will appear to be well polished. Swords are always well tended by worshippers, and are often ornated, engraved or enchanted as well possessing names and sometimes their own bound spirits. Many worshippers consider the sword to merely be an extension of their own soul, and their own soul to be merely an extension of their lord, Yanafal Tarnils.

The Caer Carrumual
This is an example of one of the many subcults that have become part of Yanafal Tarnils.
The Caer Carrumual is an ancient Orlanthi cult that worshipped the spirits of those who died violently and drew their hate, rage and pain away from them, saving the dead souls from agony and instilling the worshippers with this energy for use against their foes. It was founded in Bilini by a group of early Second Age Kolati, and the cult periodically gained more power than the weakened Humakti cult. The main hero of the cult was a Shaman known as Crae Deverin, who instigated ritual worship of the angry dead. When the Lunar Empire came to power, Yanafal absorbed the cult. He proved to the worshippers that Crae's dead soul had bestowed his blessings upon the Lunar Way, and thusly all the worshippers became joint worshippers of Yanafal Tarnils.
In contemporary times the cult is still worshipped by the Tarnils cult in the area of Bilini and Talastar. To join the canidate must have demonstrated an aggresive and violent nature, and must have gone Berserk at least once before. They must then pass tests in Sword Attack, Ceremony and POWx3. They may join in the rituals, led by an associated shaman of the cult. The ritual fills the cultist with all negative and evil emotions, and starts to alter their temperament. They gain a new skill, Frenzy.

Frenzy (STR)
This powerful skill draws upon the emotions gained by the rituals of the sub-cult. When used the character goes uncontrollably berserk, but the skill can only be used a maximum of once per encounter. The character has double attack percentages, but must forfeit all parries and dodges, and cannot cast any magic that does not relate to killing and violence. They will attack a random person, whether they be friend or foe, big or small or armed to the teeth. After fifteen minutes the skill ends, and the character collapses, reduced to exhaustion. The skill is cumulative with other spells such as Fanaticism and Berserk, but if used with berserk then the system shock of exhaustion may kill the character when the spell ends. The chance of surviving is CONx3.

Gifts and Geases

GiftsGeases
+5% to any cult weapon attackNever use one type of non-cult weapon
+20% to a cult related skillRemain silent 1 day/week
Increase characteristic by oneDonate 100L/week to a Teelo Norri Fund
Increase weapon AP's by 50%Never lie
Gain Sense Assassin SkillNever ambush
All rune magic becomes cyclicalNever use non-cult rune magic
Bless weapon to do x2 damage to a specific foeAccept no rune magic Heal
Bless weapon to do x2 damageNever accept magical healing
Bless weapon to do x2 damage to a certain locationWear no armour over specific area
Recover fatigue at double normal rateNever drink alcohol
Recover mp's at double normal rateNever refuse a challenge to one-on-one combat
+20% Resilience versus poison or diseaseNever use poison
One weapon of choice becomes UnbreakableChallenge all Humakti to one-on-one combat
Gain half price admission to Ulerian templesBecome infertile
Gain 1d6% Illumination skillSpend an hour every evening in prayer to Rufelza without fail
gamesmeister • BackgroundPermalink
Nov 3
Background Notes

This will contain notes on Glorantha. It is specifically entered for my players, and will usually consist of extracts lifted from published sources. In case I omit to say this later, all text is copyright it's original owner, and no infringement or challenge is intended.

gamesmeister • BackgroundPermalink
Nov 3
Variable Combat Actions

I consider the fixed combat actions of the Mongoose core rules to be one of the systems greatest flaws, as a character with a Dex of 13 will have 50% more attacks and parries/dodges than a character with a Dex of 12. This places far too much emphasis on getting that all important Dex of 13, which seems such an arbitary cut off point anyway.

I use the following rules in its place.

1. A character has a Combat Actions attribute equal to his Strike Rank x 5%
2. At the start of each round, all players roll against their Combat Actions attribute, with the following results:

  • Critical = 4 CA's for the round
  • Success = 3 CA's for the round
  • Failure= 2 CA's for the round
  • Fumble= 1 CA for the round

3. To avoid rolling too many dice at the start of each round, Strike Rank is now only rolled once, at the start of the combat. This makes it easy to keep track of who's action is next.

One significant benefit to this approach is that it helps to avoid the endlessly repetitive combat rolls that can occur as characters become master warriors. Now a poor Combat Actions roll will leave a combatant short of reactions, and exposed to an attack that he is unable to parry or dodge. For this very reason, I don't allow the transfer of Combat Actions to Reactions.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 3
Spellcasting for members of a cult

Members of a cult cast their cult spells using Lore Theology as opposed to the appropriate runecasting skill, and are not required to integrate the rune in order to cast their spells. This is to ensure the basic spells of a cult are always available to an initiate or higher, and he or she is not prevented from learning them simply because they can't get access to the appropriate rune.

A cultist has access to both this own cult's spells, plus those of all associated cults. He still casts all the spells using his own Lore Theology skill, regardless of the originating cult.

N.B. I still use runes, both for integration and for spellcasting. In fact if a player does not have access to a certain spell, either from his own or a related cult, then acquiring the appropriate rune is the only other way he is likely to be able to learn it.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 3
The Mongoose ruleset

In general I am trying to use the Mongoose ruleset as written, however there are what I believe to be some fairly serious flaws in the game design, and so my houserules will be listed in this category.

gamesmeister • House RulesPermalink
Nov 3
Episode 2: Pimper's Block to Tourney Alter

The camp broke early the following morning, with both Duke Raus and Lollos the caravan master keen to get away as soon as possible. A breakfast of oatmeal was served from a communal pot, then bedrolls were stowed, mules harnessed, and armour donned as the caravan prepared to leave.

The previous night the duke had added one more to his party, an Agimori called Brakiri, and he was now introduced to the other bondsmen.

Unfortunately for Rile, he was taken ill that morning and had to be laid out on the back of a wagon. Although the cause of the illness was not immediately obvious, his fellow bondsmen would later learn that after leaving the group the previous day, Rile had ultimately been tempted by a lady of rather dubious nature, who clearly did not have the skills (or cleanliness) of the initiates of the temple of Uleria. While he may have saved himself a silver or two, he would spend the next few days lying in his own sweat and vomit, while his body fought the burning rash in his groin.*

The caravan consisted of six large wagons, bedecked with Lunar symbols and markings, and pulled by a dozen mules. Another forty mules made up the remainder of the pack animals, the lowly mule being one of the few animals that are known to be acceptable to Praxian nomads. Both the duke and Daine were mounted on war zebras, and other zebras were available to the bondsmen if they wished although only Karnak accepted the offer. Ribron’s limited riding skills meant that he preferred to ride on a wagon, while Strum, being a mighty warrior of the bison tribe, refused to lower himself to riding a zebra. Brakiri the Agimori refused any suggestion of riding a mount and ran or walked alongside the caravan barely breaking a sweat, his body ideally suited to this harsh environment.

The going was good underfoot, and it became clear that they were travelling on some kind of caravan trail. Now and then it was possible to see that generations of use had cut pathways through ridges, and from time to time scraps of cloth, and the occasional bone, marked the passage of people before them. The Praxian landscape stretched ahead of them in all its desolate glory, the harsh winds whispering of bygone glories and ancient civilisations. The hills of eastern Sartar soon disappeared into the haze as the caravan made good time, skirting around the north eastern edge of Hender's Hills.

At the noon break on the first day, as promised their weapons were given to them. Raus himself handed them out, calling each bondsman by name, saying "Here is your weapon, if you wield it with honour in my service, you shall become and remain a welcome member of my household. Blessings of the House of Rone be upon you." By the formal manner of his presentation they suspected that Raus was from an ancient house and a practitioner of Ancestor Worship.

The rest of the day and much of the next passed without incident, as the caravan wound it’s way south east towards its destination of Day’s Rest, an oasis some five days travel from Pimper’s Block. As noon approached on the second day, Karnak was the first to spot a gnarled and blackened tree some way from the trail, upon which he could see the occasionally moving form of a crucified man. Daine warned him that it was probably the result of a local dispute and they should not get involved, but a discussion with his companions quickly confirmed his suspicions that the only people who used crucifixion in this region were the Lunars. After the caravan stopped for its noon break, Karnak and Brikiri slipped away around the back of some dunes and cautiously approached the tree, all the time looking for any sign of an ambush. Satisfied that the area was safe, they approached the man, who raised his head as they approach and pleaded for water. While Brakiri kept watch, Karnak attempted to get answers from the man about who had done this to him, and was dissatisfied with the man’s answer of bandits. However, with him being a fellow Sartarite, and with no wish to see a kinsman die such an ignominious death out here in the wastelands, Karnak cut him down and gave him a little food and water. The Sartarite, who’s name turned out to be Calic, thanked Karnak profusely, and said he would be heading north to the oasis of Moonbroth, where he had relatives. Karnak gave him a dagger to protect himself, warned him against telling anyone of the nature of his release, and then he and Brakiri returned to the camp before their absence was noted.

That night on watch duty an old man approached Strum, wearing the rags of once rich clothes. His friends seemed to take no notice of the man, and Strum felt strangely calm, feeling no need to notify the rest of the guards of the man’s presence. They sat and talked, and the man, who introduced himself as the Father, told a story of how he was once a powerful spirit in the Gods Time but was enslaved in the Underworld, escaping behind Orlanth and the other Lightbringers. He was enslaved again as watchman over an area to the north called the Dead Place, where the Storm Bull fell as he fought the Devil, and from which Eiritha sucked the life force in order to revitalize him to continue the fight. They talked long into the night, and it was only when the first rays of Yelm appeared in the east that the Father stood and turned to go. He then stopped and thanked Strum

“Tonight you have given me the gifts of food, water, and conversation, for which I am grateful. I would like to give you a gift in return, if you will take it.”

Strum agreed, and the Father reached into his pouched, producing a small glowing light which flew from his hand and slammed into Strum’s head. At this point Strum awoke, it was still the middle of the night, and his fellow watchmen were looking at him with some displeasure for falling asleep on duty. As he rubbed his forehead, he felt a small round scar that had not been there before. Later than night he dreamt of the old man, saw him chanting and dancing as he walked through a place of utter desolation, and knew that if he called on the Father he too would be able find his way through such places.

Three days later the caravan arrived at Day’s Rest, a mild and moderately sized oasis. The lake itself was surrounded by a small forest, and the whole fertile area was in a wide shallow valley, which collected the moisture from round about. The Duke’s nomads told them that this was where Waha let the herd mothers rest after rescuing them from the Underworld. Also it transpired that the lake is magical and frees any herd beast that swims there from lice and flies. The nomads in residence were a group of the pygmy Bolo-Lizard riders, however, apart from a ritual challenge attack on the caravan they did nothing to make themselves noticeable.

The local Oasis People lived in huts and hammocks amongst the trees, tending their own small gardens and minding their own business. It was the first chance for the bondsmen to observe Oasis People in detail, and they learned that these folk were descended from an ancient people that lived in this part of the world during the God Time.

Rhodrin was keen to expand on his knowledge of Praxian nomads and approached the Bolo Lizard riders, unaware of their somewhat savage natures. Being alone and unprotected, he had little idea of the danger he would find himself in, as the Bolo Lizard riders quickly surrounded him, bound his hands, and led him to their encampment. Fortunately for Rhodrin a shaman was present who he was able to converse with. The shaman was angry with Rhodrin, and demanded to know what he was doing travelling with the Lunar invaders, who had brought foreign gods to their climes and who were trying to drive them away from their traditional hunting grounds. Rhodrin calmed him with a stirring speech of the hatred he and his fellow Orlanthis felt towards the Lunar invaders, and how one day his people would drive the Chaotic ones back from where they came. While the shaman cared little for Orlanthi barbarians, he was impressed with the anti-lunar rhetoric and began to warm to Rhodrin, removing his bonds. They exchanged gifts in a rare moment of camaradarie between the two cultures, then Rhodrin returned to his comrades and the caravan left a few hours later.

They traveled on the next day, continuing southeast. Over to the southwest they could make out the top of an enormous rectangular hill, which could not be natural. This was The Block, a remnant of The Spike, a vast celestial object where the gods used to live before the coming of Chaos. The legend was that the Spike exploded and a piece of it fell down here onto Prax where Stormbull and the Devil were fighting. It skewered the devil and killed him. From beneath the ground chaos ooze has seeped ever since, forming a large region known as the Devil's Marsh, where chaos creatures dwell. Around the Block itself, tribes of chaos-killing Storm Bull fanatics live, intent on making sure that the Devil can never be freed to continue it’s evil work.

That night near the Marsh there was a skirmish attack by scorpion men on the caravan. The party were heavily involved, demonstrating why the duke had felt it so important to employ them. Brakiri skewered one through the face with his spear, both Rhodrin and Karnak fought fiercely, and Strum was a whirling wall of death, his great axe singing in his hands as struck huge blows against the chaos monstrosities. All were injured, and some will carry scars of the battle to their graves, but eventually the scorpion men were driven off and the defenders of the caravan were able to tend to their wounded. That was, until they noticed how unnaturally quiet the plains had gone.

Then out of the shadows appeared the true danger – a fully armed and armoured chaos warband from the devils marsh, including huge broos and more foul scorpion men. With bestial shrieks that chilled the bones, they advanced towards the caravan, and the heroes feared that the day was surely lost.

Strum was the first to notice the wind, whipping up from nowhere, blowing dust and grit into the eyes of the beasts as it quickly gathered pace, and he knew immediately it’s source. “The Bull! The Bull is here…!!!” went up the cry, as from behind the beasts more shapes appeared, armoured men with great horns on their helmets and axes in their hands. These Storm Bull warriors had been tracking the warband for days, and luckily for the caravan had finally caught up with them just in time. They fell upon the beasts roaring, hacking, and slaying as they went. Strum was consumed by his hatred for chaos and charged headlong into the fray, closely followed by his friends who fought with him side by side, ducking the occasional wild swing from the berserker’s axe. The battle was bloody but one-sided, and the Storm Bulls chased after the retreating chaos creatures, slaughtering as they went.

Later they held a ceremonial pyre to burn the chaos corpses. Anyone who stood and fought against the Chaos was invited to participate in the dancing round the bonfire. The four bondsmen took part, and were rewarded with the gift of a divine spell from the Storm Bull, a benefit for taking part in an action so close to the his Holy Place. They then celebrated with the Storm Bull warriors, feasting and drinking their way through much of the night, and with heavy movements and painful heads, they awoke the following morning as the caravan continued on its journey to the next oasis, Tourney Alter.

*Missing sessions is generally not a good idea... :o)

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 3
Episode 1: To Pimper's Block, and a new beginning

The caravan wound its way out of the foothills of Sartar and out into the harsh dry plains of Prax, its armoured soldiers cursing at the rising temperatures. Still half a day out from Pimper’s Block, the slave market on the edge of Prax, the caravan had to be on its guard against raids from the beast riding nomadic tribesmen of the region, possible bandit attacks, and a host of other potential dangers.

Walking alongside the caravan, shackled two at a time, four men trod wearily, their stomachs aching with hunger, their throats parched through lack of water. A rebel, a scholar, a nomad raider, and a deserter, all four had been convicted of a crime against the Lunar Empire, and initially sentenced to serve five years down the salt mines of the Big Rubble. However, the gods of these men surely watched over them at this time, for through the help of friends and contacts, each had managed to have that sentenced commuted to a term of indentured servitude instead. While their lot at this time was poor, they only had to look across at the wretches in the slave cordons to know that it could have been considerably worse.

However, a five year term of servitude was about to become the least of their worries, for as the caravan trail cut through the spine of a low ridge, a hail of arrows, rocks, slingshots and other various missiles hit the caravan from both sides. A bestial roar was heard as almost two dozen feral broos appeared from behind cover and began rushing towards the caravan. The keen-eyed rebel, Karnak, spotted one in particular which appeared very mis-shapen, and seemed to have difficulty staying on its feet.

Guard duty to a Praxian caravan is usually reserved for the dregs of the Lunar army, and today was no exception. However, their officer was no fool, and quickly realised that they were seriously outnumbered by the broos. Handing the keys of the shackles to a nearby soldier, he instructed him to grab whatever weapons he could find and release the bondsmen. Alas for the poor soldier, as he struggled towards the four men, he failed to spot the mis-shapen broo launch itself from the ground using a pair of enormous legs, flying through the air and landing directly behind him, it’s spearhead bursting through his ribcage and spraying blood and tissue across the bondsmen. The broo threw back its head and let out a savage roar, revelling in the carnage it had begun.

The deserter, a Lunar by the name of Rile, grabbed at the spearhead, ignoring the warning from Rhibron the scholar of the dangers of touching broo weapons. Giving it a might heave, he pulled it clean though the soldier’s body, who slumped to the ground, his eyes already dimming. Meanwhile Karnak managed to grab the keys where they had fallen to the floor, and undid his chains. Rhibron and Strum, the fourth man and a member of the bison tribe, grabbed whatever weapons they could lay their hands on and tried to attack the broo, hampered by the chains that still held them together. Between the four of them they managed to bring down the great beast before it could cause them significant harm, just as they were set upon by several smaller broos.

Fortunately for them, these creatures were feral in nature, untrained and ill-disciplined, and with little in the way of proper weapons or armour. They proved to be no match for the bondsmen, who cut through them with the great ferocity, blood and gore dripping from their makeshift weapons. Having dispatched their foes, they could see that the rest of the soldiers appeared to be gaining the upper hand, so while the others cast various healing magic on their wounds, Rile headed for the slave area, where the unfortunate individuals were being savaged by a stray broo. Quickly dispatching it, his thoughts briefly turned to escape, a possibility it seemed while the lunar guards were occupied in mopping up the broos, but he quickly dismissed it. He had no food or water, had no knowledge of how to find it out here in the harsh region of Prax, and ultimately no knowledge of where he could run to. Instead, he decided to follow the path that fate had shown him thus far, and returned to his companions. The fight was almost over, with the remaining broos fleeing back into the hills, their numbers significantly reduced. Fortunately for the four men, none had taken any serious wounds, nor had they been infected by any diseases carried by the foul beasts of chaos.

The Lunar commander took their weapons from them, and while acknowledging their part in the defense of the caravan, still felt it necessary to re-shackle them in case they might otherwise be tempted to make a break for freedom. After stacking the corpses of the dead beasts and setting them ablaze, the caravan continued on to Pimper’s Block, which it reached early that afternoon.

The rest of the day followed in a blur. The four men were put up for auction one by one, and although there was interest from several parties, it was the same voice that ultimately won each bid, a strong commanding voice with a Lunar accent. They were then led to a small chamber where powerful oaths were taken, binding them to their new master, before being led out blinking into the harsh Praxian afternoon sun.

After a short wait a warrior approached them, wearing battered iron armour and carrying many scars. He introduced himself as Daine, chief of mercenaries to the Duke Raus of Rone, now duke of the Weiss domain. He informed them that the duke was a fair man, who while under instructions to employ only Lunars in his household, had chosen instead to hire outsiders, so as to better understand their cultures and ways of life. They then followed him through the town where he introduced them to the duke, a stern looking man of noble bearing. The duke eyed them carefully for a second, and then spoke.

"I know a little about you from your records. I don't care to know any more. From this moment on you can choose to leave your past behind. I chose you because I have room for some people to work for me and because I have been offered your free labour. I have a measure of compassion for your fate as exiles, I know that the Lunar Empire has treated you harshly, as it has so treated me. Those of the Heartland cults are favored and those in traditional local cults gain second-class status.

Don't get me wrong, I support the aims of the Empire, because it brings peace and civilisation to these barbarian lands. Whilst the methods of the Empire may seem heavy handed, the people on these borderlands continually war with each other as a matter of course, and only the presence of the Empire has stopped this! I aim to rebuild my prestige here in Prax and take a stand for the disenfranchised of the Empire. You can find your own place as my trusted employees, and one day return to your homes as free citizens, or stay here in Prax as honorable independents if that is what you wish. Work well for me and I guarantee you will be rewarded, however do not attempt to treat me light-heartedly. Cross me, and you may or may not live to feel the consequences. To live is not necessarily the better option.

We will be travelling across Prax for two or three weeks until we reach my Garth near Weiss. From now on in the eyes of others you will be treated as regular hired mercenaries, and you will be wise to treat me as your regular employer. I do not wish to gain a reputation for hiring criminals, so I advise you to keep quiet about the exact nature of your arrival in Prax. As bonded servants you can rightly expect no reward other than food and lodging, and if you grudgingly fulfill the bare limits of your obligations, that is how things will remain. However, if you throw yourself into faithful and honest service in my land you will soon find yourselves entitled to a share of any goods obtained whilst in my service. I will review your work regularly, and those who please me will also soon find themselves on the payroll. After the payroll, positions of responsibility and trust await you. Whatever your backgrounds, I judge you on your behavior from now on."

Daine then introduced them to the rest of Raus' party. These were a small group of Praxian nomads. Each of those worked for Raus for their own reasons, although in truth all had been swayed by the civilised encroachment of the Lunars into Prax. As inevitably happens when civilisation encroaches on tribal/traditional territory, a few of the tribespeople are drawn to the new culture and serve it for their own gain. Often this is exploitation, but in this case the nomads are gainfully and profitably employed. As Daine led them to the centre of the camp he said:

"The Praxian peoples are split into tribes, most of which are the beast riding nomads. Each of these nomad tribes rides, herds and eats a different animal. They have an ancient hatred of horses, which is why the Duke favours the use of Zebras. During drought the nomads fight each other for resources. During peace they are sometimes friends. The Duke has members of three different tribes in his employ. I believe they are at peace with each other."

At first appearance they were a motley band, with no real distinguishing characteristics, dressed in skins, with feathers, scars and even some painted faces. They introduced themselves civilly but warily; Modrik Longneck, Palorn, and Gorak Ribcrusher of the Llama Tribe, Sisko and Burzek of the Zebra Tribe, and finally Dahrun of the Ostrich Tribe.

Daine then took the three bondsmen back into the town. He supervised the purchase of a weapon and suitable armor for each of them, before finally easing up.

"I'd like to start our working relationship by cutting you some slack. The days ahead will be tough enough. You have a few hours before nightfall, why not wander around, get yourselves something to eat..." He handed over a bag of silver pennies to Rile. "Be back at the tents by dark, if you get lost, ask any Lunar official where Raus is camped, tell them you have permission to be in town. Don't get into any trouble, it's too close to the slave pens to do that". But as they turned to leave, he clamped a firm hand on Karnak’s shoulder, who had earlier spoken out of turn on several occasions.
“All except for you that is...there are some latrines that need a good clean, and you seem like just the man for the job!”

The others wandered the busy market town for a while, amidst the square flat-roofed buildings, observing the free entertainment: street theatre, musicians, and fire-eaters. Rile left soon after, taking what he felt was his share of the silvers, preferring some time alone after his long trek. After a meal and a bath, Rhodrin and Strum headed for the temple of Uleria to sample further local delights that had been denied to them for what seemed like an eternity, before returning to the dukes camp in time for sundown. Tired and footsore, they wanted to be ready for whatever fate had in store for them over the coming weeks and months ahead.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink
Nov 3
Thank you

This blog will hold the account of a disparate group of characters who find themselves serving as bondsmen under the exiled Lunar noble, Duke Raus of Rone, now Duke Raus of the Weiss domain.

A huge thank you goes to Ian Thomson for all his inspirational work in expanding the original Borderlands campaign and creating such a memorable story.

gamesmeister • Campaign SessionsPermalink

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