Six Seasons in Sartar began thirty years ago as a "classic" RuneQuest campaign (RQ2). The player characters were all to be exiled Sartarites working as mercenaries in and around the city of New Pavis. To give them a unified backstory, Six Seasons was created as a sort of prelude "mini-campaign" in which we saw them years earlier as young adults in Sartar, roleplaying through the tragic events that led to their exile. The campaign then jumped ahead five years to Pavis.
It worked. It worked so well, in fact, that the players found Six Seasons more memorable than what came after in Pavis. So a decade later, when Hero Wars appeared, I revived Six Seasons and ran it again for a new group of players.
This new version of Six Seasons is written specifically for HeroQuest Glorantha, but could easily be adapted to RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha or 13th Age Glorantha. The plan is to post each scenario--in full--here on this blog after my group plays it, followed by a discussion of how it went down at the table. Along the way I will include tips and suggestions for converting the scenario to any of HeroQuest's sister games.
THE BROAD STROKES
Six Seasons consists of seven episodes each covering--as you might have already guessed--a single season in Sartar. It begins in Sea Season 1619 and concludes in Sea Season 1620. It is, to be blunt, a tragedy. It tells the story of a Colymar clan's fall and eradication. The player characters begin the campaign as youths, ages 14 to 17. The sixth episode, "Rites of Passage," is actually a Heroquest that marks their transition into full Orlanthi adulthood (it appeared in its original, more RuneQuest specific form here). After the clan Haraborn suffers its tragic doom, the campaign will continue in a less scripted format, with the player characters who survive seeking their way in the world in the aftermath.
Though the first scenario will be posted next week after we play it, what follows here is an introduction to the setting. Again, some of this has been posted before in a more RQ specific format, but what follows has been revised and rewritten.
This is the tale of a tragic dynasty;
a narrative of hatred, honor, courage,
of virtue, love, ideals and wickedness,
and of a war so terrible, it marked
the threshold between one age and the next.
The Mahabharata, Carole Satyamurti
HIGH IN THE MOUNTAINS of Sartar, a narrow, V-shaped vale stretches between Mounts Quivin and Kargradus. Since the days of Heort this has been the tula of the Haraborn, the Clan of the Black Stag.
Mythos & History
Before men came to the Vale it was home only to Black Stag, son of Hykim Beast-Father and Kero Fin, his bride the Running Doe, and their children. These were the albino Ghost Deer, known only in the Vale. In the Greater Darkness, when Chaos laid waste to the world, a war band led by Jarstakos Forked Spear, son of Heort, wandered hungry and tired into the Vale. Hidden by the magic of the Black Stag, Chaos had not come there yet. The men were struck with wonder to find the Vale lush and teeming with game.
It was Jarstakos himself who loosed the fateful arrow. Hunting deer to fill the bellies of his men, he killed the Martyr Faun. The wrath of the Black Stag was terrible, matched only by Running Doe’s grief. The Stag sealed the Vale, and condemned the men to die for their transgression. “What evil can be done to a father more terrible than the murder of his son? For you rob him not just of his child, but of eternity, of his name being passed on down the generations.”
Jarstakos Heortsson pleaded for forgiveness, and pledged that he and his men would replace the son Black Stag had lost. Henceforth they would dwell in the Vale and give honor and worship the the Stag and the Doe, bearing their name. Never again would they hunt the sacred deer or let others hunt them. This is how they became Haraborn, the Clan of the Black Stag.
Thus did they remain in the Vale, and there they lived still long after the First Dawn and the beginning of History. For a thousand years it was so. Only as the coils of the Empire of the Wyrm Friends closed around them did they falter. “You must go,” the Black Stag told his people. “For the Dragons stir in wrath and soon there will be only doom.” Thus did the Haraborn pack up their belongings and flee into the lowlands of the south, burning their homes behind them. When the Dragonkill fell, and every man, woman, and child in Dragon Pass was slaughtered, the Haraborn were already departed.
In the days of Jarstakos, one of his war band had been the Dark Troll Ungbar Zak Bak. Since that time, some among the Haraborn were born Dark-Touched, with the blackest hair and eye. The current chieftain, Jornun Shadechaser, was one of these, so when he led his people to the court of Ezkhankekko, the Only Old One recognized this bond and gave the Haraborn a place. For two centuries they served the Trolls as laborers and soldiers, dreaming of the Vale and the home they had lost.
Then Belintar the Swimmer came ashore from the forbidden sea and declared himself the Pharaoh. When he killed Ezkhankekko, the White Hart—a spirit son of Black Stag who had gone into exile with the Haraborn to watch over and guide them—told the people it was time to go back. They no longer had the protection of their patron. So the Haraborn again migrated, this time north into the haunted and empty Dragon Pass.
Returning to the ancient Vale they found it overrun by the Telmori Were-Wolves. The Black Stag was enslaved, Running Doe in bondage, and the Ghost Deer hunted. Led by Barnor Grudsson, the Haraborn took up arms against the Seven-Tailed Wolf and his pack. When they retook Stag Hill—the ancient barrow mound of Jarstakos atop which stands the sarsen stones marking Orlanth’s shrine—Grudsson performed a heroquest, walking the path of the Black Stag when he himself had first driven the Wolves from the Vale. It was successful, and with the Stag and Doe liberated. the Haraborn drove the Telmori away. The Vale was again theirs.
The Haraborn reclaimed their ancient lands and slowly rebuilt their homes. They made alliances with other clans returning to the Pass and eventually joined the Colymar Tribe. When Sartar rose, they became Sartarites as well. They lived in accordance with the ancient ways, honoring the gods and the Stag. All seemed well.
Yet Evil never sleeps. In the north there had risen baleful Shepelkirt, the Blood Red Moon. Hating anything that lives free, she sent her legions into Sartar to take it. At the Battle of Grizzly Peak the Haraborn followed the Colymar king Kenstrel against Lunar forces and lost their own chieftain, Kentrel Bargarson. It was a sign of the doom to come. A generation later saw a Lunar puppet on the throne in Boldhome, and foul Lunar ways spreading through the lowlands. In the years since, the Haraborn have grown more isolated as they cling to the Old Ways under constant threat from the Lunar occupation.
The Land and People
AS OF 1619 ST the Haraborn are the 13th clan of the Colymar Tribe. They are one of the smaller clans, with about 450 members, similar in this respect to the Varmandi and Anmangarn. Their lands are centered around Black Stag Vale, some 15 kilometers from Boldhome, high in the mountains between Quivin Mount and Kagradus Peak.
The Vale runs a length of nearly seven kilometers, stretching from the narrow southern opening where the Haraborn maintain a fortified palisade, all the way to High Deer Falls at the northern end. It is seldom wider than half a kilometer, and the mountains enclosing it are heavily forested and very steep. A creek known as Deer Run flows south from the Falls, the entire length of the Vale.
To the north the Vale is bordered by the forbidden Dragonewt citadel of High Wyrm. The Antorlings and the Enjossi, two fellow clans of the Colymar, border the Haraborn to the west. The eastern border consists of the wilder and untamed Quivin Mountains in the north and the warlike Sambari to the south. These thrall holders are famed for their ferocity and aggression, and a source of constant trouble for the Haraborn. The Telmori Wolf-Folk, driven from the Vale, infrequently come down from the Quivins to raid as well.
About a dozen steads, each belonging to a single extended family, can be found spaced out along the banks of Deer Run. These are the homes of the Carls, or “cattle men,” the middle-class of Orlanthi society. Families will include paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all living together in longhouses (and in the winter with their cattle). Each nuclear family head (and there are on average 3 to 5 or these per longhouse) will have his own team of oxen and a plow. Each is granted a “hide” from the clan, as much land as he can plow in two seasons. Counting wives, children, and grandparents, each stead will have about 15 to 2o people and 30 to 40 cattle. They will have twice as many sheep, pigs, geese. While children, of course, know who their parents are, it is traditional to refer to all aunts and all uncles as “mother” and “father.” Once they are old enough, they are expected to help tend the livestock and the fields. All adult males also serve in the clan militia, or fyrd. The head of each stead holds Thane, or “horse man” status, and is considered a community leader.
The names of the steads as are follows. Individuals will be known as “(X) (Y +sson/sdotr) of (Z stead). For example, “Wulvann Skilfilsson of High Water Stead” or “Frania Veranisdotr of Riddle Watch Stead.”
The stead, running from south to north are;
- Vale Gate
- Twin Stone
- Bear Fallen
- Red Rock
- Cliff Shield
- Riddle Watch
- Hill Base
- River Bend
- White Bark
- Twice Blessed
- Glass Cave
- High Water
Between these steads are scattered two dozen cottages, usually in the hills at the base of the mountain peaks. These are the homes of the Cottars, or “sheep men.” They are the lower class of Orlanthi society. Their cottages are usually round, consisting of one room with a thatched roof, and home to one or two nuclear families. Cottars have their own flocks of sheep and often pigs, and tend small gardens around the cottage. Most are huntsmen who supplement their diet with rabbit, boar, or pheasant. It is forbidden for the Haraborn to hunt deer. Naming conventions for Cottars are the same as for Carls, but they exclude the “stead” portion of the name as sign of lower status.
The Village lies in the center of the Vale, spreading out beneath the Hall. It is a cluster of about 20 homes around the Issaries market, the Redsmithy, and the community meeting hall.
The householders living in the Village hold Thane status. Six are members of the Clan Ring, including the Chief Priest and Priestess, the Chief Weaponthane, Lawspeaker, Champion, and Skald. In addition to this is the trader Lodar Mikarsson of Glass Cave, who ensures commerce between the Vale and the capital in Boldhome runs smoothly, and Herdnor Hamtarsson of Hill Base, the master red smith. The remaining twelve are all weaponthanes. The Villagers are supported by their families out in the steads, and by the chieftain in the Hall.
The Chieftain’s Hall sits on a low, conical hill overlooking the village. It is protected by a wooden palisade with simple watchtowers. The Chieftain and his or her family dwell here. The Clan Ring meets to advise the Chieftain here as well.
Two other locations of note in the Vale must be mentioned; Stag Hill and the Riddle.
Stag Hill is a mound of earth 20 meters high and 70 meters in diameter. It is capped by a ring of seven standing stones. This tumulus contains the ancient graves of Jarstakos Heortsson and the original war band that founded the Haraborn. The worship of Orlanth and the Thunder Brothers was conducted from atop the Hill openly before the Lunar Empire forbade the cult; all male rituals are still conducted there.
The Riddle is more of a mystery. A perfectly square entrance way is carved into the base of Kagradus, and dates back before Orlanthi times, possibly back to the Green Age. Inside is a labyrinth, a maze in perpetual blackness. Torches will not burn within. The women of the Haraborn are initiated here, taken shortly after their first menstruation and led inside by the Earth priestesses. No man is allowed inside the Riddle (this does not apply to the Nandan, who are taken inside the Riddle for initiation when their natures become clear and the priestesses approve). When a woman of the clan passes, her body is carried inside the Riddle and left there.
On either side of the Riddle are shrines to Barntar and Uralda.
Not inside the Vale, but overlooking it from atop a cliff face rising some 600 meters, is the Royal’s Grove. The Royal is the Son of the Black Stag; he is always a 12-branch Ghost Stag buck born silvery white rather than albino. He is always sentient and always capable of speech. It is unclear if the Royal is the same stag, endlessly reincarnated, or if it is a hereditary position passed on. The Royal is the Chieftain of the Beasts, the leader of all animals in the Vale. He is considered a member of the Clan Ring. Aside from this duty he is also the leader of the local shamanic tradition, the White Hart. Haraborn seeking to become shaman must do so with his instruction and blessing. The Grove is a perfectly circular clearing in the woods under an massive, spreading oak.
The Clan Ring
There are technically two Clan Rings, the “Outer” Ring composed of the dozen stead leaders, the Issaries merchant Borkar Gudinnsson, and the master redsmith, Harvarr Horviksson, and the “Inner” Ring composed of the following members. The Inner Ring generally has authority over internal clan affairs, but any decisions must be approved by the chieftain. The Outer Ring advises the chieftain in all decision-making, and focuses on external affairs.
Chieftain: Gordangar Kenstrelsson of Twice Blessed Noble/gWs is the clan chieftain, a shrewd survivor from a powerful bloodline. He hates and fears the Lunars as his father was killed by the Lunar Army at the Battle of Grizzly Peak. He is middle-aged, generous, and traditional. Gordangar pays lip service to the current Colymar king Kangharl Kangradusson, even though he secretly despises him for selling out the tribe and bending his knee to the Lunars, and is a supporter of Queen Keika Black Spear, now in exile. Likewise, like many chieftains he knows that the Lunar puppet king Temertain is too weak to rule. He and his Ring are thus secretly sending supplies and what aid they can offer to the Sons of Orlanth, a network of war bands scattered across Sartar fighting a guerrilla war against the occupation.
Chief Weaponthane: Jorgunath Bladesong Formerly of Red Rock Warrior/gty leads the chieftain’s weaponthanes. He is a follower of Humakt, and adheres to a strict code of honor that colors his entire perception of the world. He believes in truth, duty, and death before dishonor, and has little patience for anyone else who does not abide by similar principles (Keladon Blue Eye is the primary target of his contempt).
Chief Priest: Savan Kentrelsson of Twice Blessed Priest/gsR is the clan’s full time priest and brother of Gordangar. He is haunted by prophecies of the Hero Wars and believes that the doom of the gods and men is rapidly approaching. He is a devotee of Orlanth and spends his life performing rituals to strengthen the storm gods. Savan is a passionate defender of the Royal House of Sartar, which he believes truly lies in a prophesied “Prince Who Shall Come.”
Chief Priestess: Morganeth Jarlarant of High Water Priestess/exl is the clan’s full time priestess and performs the rites at Ernalda’s sanctuary. She has powerful healing magic. Morganeth was born to the Ernaldor clan and has strong connections to the Colymar Earth Temple. She lost her eyesight when the Crimson Bat devoured Runegate. She dislikes Humakti, distrusts Vingans, and despises Uroxings; but she is always generous with her Healing magic to members of her clan and tribe.
Lawspeaker: Joddi White Hart of Riddle Watch Scribe/gsy is an elderly thane from a rival bloodline of the chief‘s. He is wise and discerning, and knows every legal procedure and tactic. He was never a warrior and knows little about fighting (but much about dying as his father, brother and two sons all died fighting the Empire), but his advice to farmers is relied on by the more prudent carls of the clan.
Champion: Erinina Copperaxe of Bear Fallen Warrior/etW is the most ferocious warrior of the clan. A warrior woman, half her head is shaved and the shoulder-length hair on the other side is dyed blood red. Her body is adorned with tattoos and she carries a copper-bladed axe. Debate is not her strength: she relies on intimidation, bluster, and her fearsome reputation to get her way. Erinina is jealous of any perceived rival for glory or attention.
Skald: Keladon Blue Eye Skald/gji is the chief poet, which a prodigious memory for songs and ballads and a sharp tongue that can instantly compose biting verse or flattering phrase. Born with one blue eye and one gray, he is a Eurmali and Bonded Trickster sworn to Gordangar. He is not a Haraborn, but became a companion and ally of Gorgandar from the days of the Lunar invasion. He is known to be a member of The Guide subcult…any others are secrets he keeps.
Already mentioned, the clan’s chief Issaries merchant and Redsmith are as follows;
Master Merchant: Borkar Gudinnsson of Riddle Watch Merchant/ghs is Joddi White Hart’s middle-aged nephew. As a devotee of Issaries, he leads the trade caravans from the Vale to Boldhome and surrounding tulas, and regulates fair trades between the clan steads. There are persistent rumors that he has connections to the Eye and the Ear, a pro-Free Sartar network of merchants providing the Sons of Orlanth with crucial intelligence.
Master Smith: Harvarr Horviksson of Cliff Shield Crafter/.s, is a taciturn, massively muscled giant, a head taller than even the chieftain. He bears a long scar on the left half of his face, and wears a patch over his missing left eye. This wound was received in his youth fighting for Boldhome. He is married to Affarr Dronnsson, a gentle and loquacious Nandan who keeps his house in order. It is said after recovering from his injuries he camped outside the gates of the Dwarf Mine for a year and a day, until Isidilian’s folk allowed him to enter. He studied with them for three years. He himself will not comment on this tale, but his husband loves to repeat it. Harvarr crafts and maintains the weapons for the clan’s thanes.
Finally, we must mention the Royal.
The Royal: This Talking Beast Shaman/gBb leads the animals of the Vale. It is uncertain if he is the same Royal, reincarnating as a new fawn when the previous Royal dies, or if magical powers and sentience and somehow transferred to fawn when need arises. Seldom seen by the humans of the Vale, when encountered he commands all the deference owed the chieftain. The Royal is a massive, silvery stag with a mane of milk white hair and twelve-branched antlers the color of bleached bone.
The Royal is the master shaman of the White Hart Tradition, created when the Haraborn fled from Dragon Pass and the Black Stag sent his spirit-son White Hart to act as Wyter-in-Exile. Since the Haraborn returned to Dragon Pass, the Black Stag no longer bestows magic directly; in creating White Hart he seems to have passed that ability to his son. The Black Stag still receives some of the worship directed to the ancestors (he is consider father of the Clan), but channels his power through the spirit society of his son.
Common Charms provided by the tradition are;
g: Bellow Like Thunder, Run Like the Wind, Dodge Arrow, Stag’s Great Leap
B: Speak to Deer, Sprout Antlers, Hide in Forest, Sense Predator
b: Awaken the Land, Speak With Ancestors, See What Deer Sees Feel What Deer Feels
Thanks for posting. Really like the story arc. Have just started running this with my group of players as an introduction to RQG.ReplyDelete
This is wonderful. Makes for all kind of fantastic pictures in my brain. This is something to hopefully be experienced by my players. We'll see.ReplyDelete