To join in Chaosium's celebration of the life and work of Greg Stafford (1948-2018), #WeAreAllUs and running from October 10 to the 31st, the gang and I will be revisiting his classic The Cradle adventure, adapted to our ongoing HeroQuest Glorantha campaign. Though you will have to wait until October for the actual episodes (both will be posted after well play here on the blog), to whet your appetites and as a mini-tribute to this scenario I am posting this preview of the Introduction.
THE CRADLE, Parts One and Two, revisits Greg Stafford’s classic RuneQuest adventure of the same name.
I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that the original Cradle was the definitive RuneQuest adventure. Appearing in 1982’s Pavis set, there was simply no other adventure out there for any game system even remotely like it. The entire premise was pure Glorantha; in ancient days giants put their babies in massive ship-sized cradles—laden with magical secrets and artifacts—so that these infants could sail downriver to the sea and down Magasta’s Pool into the Underworld. Now, for the first time in centuries, it is happening again. The Lunar Empire (ever so ready to make the same mistakes as the God Learners) wants the cradle. The player characters will try to stop them from taking it. I call all this “definitive” because it was so redolent with mythic echoes; even at 12 I was put in mind of Moses given to the Nile, of Karna, son of the sun god Surya, who was put into a basket on the Indus for the same reasons, or of Kal-El of Krypton. There was also a whiff of Noah about it, King Ziusudra, and Utnapishtim. It was just so insane to me, so far removed from the “you are hired in a tavern to go explore these ruins over here for treasure” scenario so common in the day. The only rival to The Cradle in my mind was Marc Willner’s Temple at Feroda, in which you were literally hired by a fish (as a side note, the way Marc wrote that scenario stuck with me for four decades…I still use dramatis personae and acts like he did).
But you are probably waiting to hear about this version. We are all used to reboots, remakes, retcons, and the like these days. Mine is a “re-imagining” in this vein. The original tale—like almost all the old Pavis and Big Rubble stories—assumed a party of mercenary sellswords hired out of Gimpy’s Tavern fighting for coin (it was collected here in Moon Design’s Pavis & Big Rubble reprint), Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser style. The adventure was known for its lethality. Like a pack of cigarettes it came with a warning that it could kill up to 80% of the player characters!
All this was in keeping with the spirit of classic RuneQuest, which offered the ultimate, grittiest sandbox play of its time. Classic RuneQuest is not RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha however, and has even less in common with HeroQuest Glorantha, the system this present version has been adapted to. Today’s RQG is more specifically “Gloranthan” than its illustrious forebear, and GMs seeking to adapt the original Cradle to the new game will probably want to play up its mythic and magical elements, its place in the coming Hero Wars, and motivations for the characters based on Honor, Loyalty, Devotion, or even Hate. Hopefully this HQG adaptation will lend some inspiration in that direction.
HQG is of course a very story-driven game. While RQ stories strive for realism, in the spirit of ancient sagas like the Iliad or the Ramayana, HQG tales aim at meaning. Thus, while the original story presents the simples facts of a giant’s cradle floating downriver, of the Lunars trying to capture it, and of the PCs defending it, this Cradle wants to understand why the cradle is coming down the river, what the significance of this is, the motivations of the characters involved, and of course most importantly how participating in this moment changes the lives of the player characters. Just as Starbrow marked a major turning point in the lives of the protagonists back in Book One, The Cradle presents a major turning point for Book Two.
What this means for you, dear reader, is that to adapt this version of The Cradle to your own games, you will need to strip out the moments specifically written for my player characters and replace them with yours. To try and make this easier, these passages will be presented in italics like this.
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