"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


You’ll soon see what I’m made of, father, and I don’t think you’ll find me lacking...

Telemachus, in “The Odyssey”

Author’s Note
LITTLE IS KNOWN of Heortling ritual practices outside of the very broadest outlines.  There are, of course, several reasons for this.  Aside from the immense antiquity of these ceremonies, and the fact that they were in the main orally transmitted rather than written down, the cataclysmic violence of the Hero Wars period brought an apocalyptic end to the era in which they were practiced.  As a consequence, most of what went on before the Wars was lost, and what little remains comes to us from secondary sources, civilizations which rose from the ashes of Third Age Glorantha and wrote about these matters from a great distance.  Their authenticity must be taken with a grain of salt.    

The modern field of Orlanthi Studies owes its existence to pioneering scholars like Greg Stafford, whose tireless translation of the fragments left to us has produced definitive pieces like The Book of Heortling Mythology or his Orlanthi Initiation Rites I have consulted these seminal explorations in the preparation of this work.  As might be expected in such work, there are areas in which my research dovetails with his own, and areas in which they seem to contradict each other.  For example, the clan which is detailed in the records I have been translating the last three decades—the Black Stag—is indicated to be of the Colymar Tribe.  And yet, in all of Stafford’s translations of the Colymar clan lists, “the Black Stag” are not mentioned.  On the other hand, detailed examination of the manhood initiation rites included below parallels some of Stafford’s observations, particularly his translations of “The First Hospitality” and “The Initiation of Orlanth.”  How do we explain such discrepancies?  Perhaps that is best left to the researches of those who follow us.  People like you.

As a final note, to the modern reader some of these ritual practices—meant to initiate adolescents into adulthood—may seem brutal, even barbaric.  We would do well to remind ourselves who the Orlanthi were and what sort of world they lived in.  This was a warrior culture, where every adult male was expected to be able to kill with the same ease with which he might plow a field.  Surrounded on all sides by hostile tribes, inhuman forces, and the ever-present threat of Chaos, pacifism was not a luxury they could afford…nor was innocence.  If we bear this in mind, there is a certain nobility in these practices, embedded with reminders that violence is not the only option, and imbued with a deep spirituality.  These rites helped breed a powerful race that would reshape the world.        

Andrew Montgomery                  

Setting the Scene

Notes:  Before running this, Gamemasters may find it useful to read both “Orlanthi Initiation Rites” and “The Initiation of Orlanth” from Stafford’s The Book of Heortling Mythology (pp. 34-35).   

Episode Type: HeroQuest.

Begin With:  Sacred Time, 1621.

In the Black Stag clanstead, boys between the ages of 14 and 17 are woken in the dead of night by their grim-faced fathers and pulled from their beds.  While the mothers look on, consoling the younger children, the fathers drag their sons out into the howling gale.  Rain lashes their faces; lightning illuminates the scene in jagged flashes.  Monstrous figures stand assembled in the storm…Telmori wolfmen, dragonewts, goat-headed broo…the fathers throw their sons in the mud at their feet, and the monsters take them.  The boys are bound and blindfolded, forced to stumble across the icy fields of the vale.  They walk for hours, tripping over tree roots and stones.  Finally, the walking stops and the blindfolds are whipped off.  The boys stand in a spruce clearing, surrounded by four towering giants.  In the flashes of lightning they can barely make out the shaggy forms of these hulking monsters, but the night is filled with the booming, earsplitting bellows they make...

The Situation: The boys have been seized for the triennial initiation into manhood.  By “boys” we mean those who feel pulled to the traditionally male role of warrior, adventurer, and chief.    Such people, at least among the Black Stag, are referred to as “Star Hearts.”  Star Hearts included girls who felt called to the male, warrior-adventurer role (see “Gender,” RQG, p. 80).  Note however that the “Star Heart” was something to be aspired to, not something one is born with.  The initiation ritual contains the secret of attaining it.

After passing through these rites they will be full adults, magically awakened, with all the privileges and responsibilities of grown Orlanthi men.  But this is not mere fraternity hazing; this is Glorantha.  The rite is a heroquest, sacred and time-honored.  The danger is real and the ordeals are all necessary. In order to rouse the Runes sleeping in their souls, their childhoods must be stripped away.  They must die as boys and be reborn as men.

This is intended as a first episode in a campaign.  RuneQuest Characters should be made following the character creation procedures outlined on RQ p. 23, but omit steps 3 and 6.  They will receive their Rune affinities at the climax of the episode.  Everyone’s Homeland is Sartar.  HeroQuest Characters follow the procedures outline on HQ p. 34, but skip steps 5 and 8.  They may not want to use all their Picks from step 7 until their Runes are awakened.  Everyone’s Cultural Keyword is Heortling.

Main Actors: The Chieftain and his Ring—the male members at least—are present.  If you are using the Black Stag as your clan that means Chieftain and Wind Lord Gordangar Kenstrelsson, Chief Thane Jorgunath Bladesong, Wind Voice Savan Kenstrelsson, Lawspeaker Jodi White Hart, and Skald Keladon Blue-Eye.  Many other men from across the tula are there as well; the boy’s fathers, many of the thanes, and several of the prominent carls.  

Short-Term Goals: As representatives of the Storm Tribe their goal is to rip away boyhood from the characters an awaken the men sleeping inside them.  The will draw on clan magic reserves to part the veil and expose the characters to the Hero Plane.

Long-Term Goals: To preserve the continuity of the clan and welcome the characters as new members into it.      

Scene 1: Umath Makes Camp


Proto-Indo-European root meaning "stranger, guest, host," properly "someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality," representing "a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society" [Watkins]. But as strangers are potential enemies as well as guests, the word has a forked path...

THE “MONSTERS” THAT DRAGGED the boys here start removing their masks and cloaks.  They are in fact weaponthanes of the clan, members of the clan ring, and prominent carls (landholders).  The boys watch them unmask, drenched and shaking in the rain.

Gordanger Kenstrelsson, the Black Stag chieftain, emerges from the darkness and walks towards the center of the clearing, carrying a large runestone.  He is painted with woad, looking mighty and terrible.  He places the stone in the center of the clearing.  “I am Umath,” he says, “and I claim the Middle Air.”

Thunder snarls across the sky.

He builds a fire near the stone and lights it by magic.  The flames leap up in a shower of sparks.  Around him, ten men circle.  The announce themselves as they form a ring around the stone and the fire.  “Watcher.”  “Porter.”  “Scout.”  “Fireman.”  “Foodman.”  “Waterman.”  “Cook.”  “Caster.”  “Healer.”  “Singer.”  Each lays a bedroll out around the fire.  

Umath raises his hands skywards.  “The Camp is made.”

Now many of the other men approach him, one by one.  He addresses each.  “Hail Stranger, who comes this way? I am Umath, slayer of the Howling Void.  Tell me your name.  Are you friend or foe?”

Each in turn gives his name, and the name of his father, and declares their friendship.  Umath then says to each; “You are welcome here.  I offer you the warmth of my fire and the protection of my house.  I offer you a blanket to sleep under, meat to fill your belly, and salt as a token of your honor.  This is a thing we offer only friends and kinsmen.”

And each responds; “I accept this with gratitude, and I will ever speak of your generosity.”

Umath then turns his gaze to the boys.  As the ritual has proceeded, the sky chieftain seems to have grown physically larger…not painted with woad, but actually blue.  Lightning flashes in his eyes and ripples under his skin.                  

“Hail Strangers, who comes this way? I am Umath, Slayer of the Howling Void.  Tell me your names.  Are you friends or foes?”

Note which boy dares to approach him first.  He gets a point of CHA immediately as a heroquest gift.    

As each goes through the exchange with Umath, the world seems to grow even darker.  The giants guarding the clearing are larger and more terrifying.  When all the boys have passed the greeting, Umath presents them to the assembled company.  “Friends, may I present to you the Sons of Umath.”

He introduces the boys as Urox, Vadrus, Humakt, and Orlanth.  Leave it vague which one is which.  There is another boy as well, but they cannot seem to remember his name, nor can they look upon him.  He seems in shadows, and the air quivers around him.  The more they try to identify him, the harder he is to see.

There is another terrific blast of lightning, so bright and deafening that the boys are dazed.  Something seizes them…the giants?!?  They are each hurled into a separate pit…  

Scene 2:  The Sons of Umath

Initiation means the journey inwards:
nothing is changed or can be changed;
but all is trulier understood with every step.

Aleister Crowley

THE BOYS WILL NOW FACE separate trials, magic recreations of the tests faced by Orlanth and his brothers when they became men.  Ideally, each character is in his own separate pit, facing one of the four “confrontations” below.  If there are more than four characters, the GM should consider designing extra pits of her own, using one of the four confrontations but changing the contents of the test.  On of the easiest places to do this is the second confrontation; instead of a rock lizard, have the pit contain a cliff toad or a large wolf.      

The walls and floor are slick with cold mud and slime.  Roots jut from the walls.  Heavy lids are placed over the mouth of each pit, leaving the characters in total darkness.  Above, they can dimly hear the men chanting.  This seems to last for hours.  Alone, in each pit, each character will be tested.  Ancient magic ensures this. 

1. Confrontation with Ancestors
Myth: Vadrus and the Deep Well 
Lesson: No one can make you do anything

As the character waits in the darkness, he suddenly becomes aware he is not alone.  Something is moving in the darkness.  The pit turns biting cold.  “Warmth.”  A voice hisses in the dark.  “Flesh.”  Something brushes over the character’s skin.  “Give me your body to wear for mine was lost.  I gave you life.  You are obligated to me.”  A figure emerges from the gloom, a ragged, naked corpse.  It’s empty eye sockets dance with the black light of the Underworld.  This is a ghost, and ideally the ghost of the character’s grandparent detailed in character creation.  Even if they have not met, the character will know this.

Unless the player character is highly persuasive and can talk the ghost into sparing him, this will probably end in spirit combat.

Ancestor Spirit
INT         15
POW 17
CHA   14         

Spirit Combat Damage: 1d6+1
Spirit Combat: 35%

If the character wins the spirit combat, he fulfills the heroquest station and earns a point of characteristic POW (this is a heroquest benefit...there is no need to make a roll for it).  If he fails, he is possessed…but even this can be made meaningful.  The ancestor will not harm him, and instead the character will have firsthand visions of the events from the ancestor’s life.  The ghost will be banished at the end of the test.

2. Confrontation with the Devouring Monster
Myth: Urox and the Animal Corral
Lesson: Violence is always an option

After a short period of time the character gets the sense of no longer being alone.  There is breathing all around him in the darkness.  Then, something scuffles.  There is a scraping sound.  A scrabbling.  The air stirs around the character and he feels something brush his skin...

The pit grows light...just enough to see.  He is surrounded by the prone forms of unconscious or sleeping children, no older than five of six years old.  Before he can check on them, a shape moves across the wall, bigger than a wolf, a long tail slinking behind it.  It is a rock lizard, circling its prey.

There is a spear on the floor of the pit, as well as a sword and a shield.  The lizard is preparing to attack...

This is a straight out fight.  The goal is to kill the lizard or injure it to the point where it cannot fight.  The moment this is done, the character receives a point of POW for completing the heroquest station.

Rock Lizard
STR 2d6+6  (13)
CON 2d6+6  (13)
SIZ         2d6+6  (13)
POW 2d6+3  (10)
DEX 2d6+6  (13)
Hit Points: 14
Magic Points: 10
Armor:         3 point hide

Move:         4
Base SR: 4

Attacks:        Claw 25% (SR 8, 1d6+1d4), Bite 25% (SR 8, 1d10+1d4)

3. Confrontation with Ancestral Enemies
Myth: Orlanth and the Strange Gods
Lesson: There is always another way

The character can hear something hissing in the darkness.  This is punctuated by a strange trilling sound, and a warbling like an exotic bird.  There is a dry, slightly acidic smell in the pit, under the scent of the mud.  The character becomes aware of slightly luminous eyes watching him.  

Eventually the lid of the pit is pulled back and the flicker of torchlight illuminates the pit from above.  In the light, the character can now see what he shares the pit with...a crested dragonewt.  A voice from above calls down; “violence is always an option.”  A second voice calls; “but there is always another way.”

And a sword is dropped into the pit.

The dragonewt doesn’t go for the blade—it is bronze and they do not use metal—and crested dragonewts in general avoid conflict.  This leaves the choice up to the character what to do.  Does he take the sword and try to kill the creature?  

It is significant that the pit mouth is left open.  If the character and the dragonewt work together, they can actually escape the pit.  One can boost the other up just high enough for him to reach back and pull the other prisoner out.  This is what Orlanth did, and doing this fulfills the heroquest station and earns the character a point of POW.

The Crested Dragonewt
STR 2d6 (7)
CON 3d6 (10-11)
SIZ         2d6 (7)
INT         3d6 (10-11)
POW 2d6 (7)
DEX 2d6+6 (13)
CHA 3d6 (10-11)
Hit Points: 9-10
Magic Points: 7
Armor:         1 pt skin
Move:         7
Base SR: 4

Skills: Climb 45%, Dodge 31%, Jump 44% 
Language: Sartarite 25%, Tradetalk 35%, Draconic 65%
Passions: Utterly beyond human comprehension
Runes:         Dragonewt 70%, Earth 60%, Water 40%
Magic:          Heal 2, Disruption, Mobility
Attacks:         Fist 30% (1d3, SR 8)

4. Confrontation with the Mirror Self
Myth: Humakt and the Fighting Pit 
Lesson: Solitude is for outlaws, holy women, and mad men. None of us can live alone

As the boy sits waiting in the darkness, the light seems to grow around him, or his eyes become adjusted to it.  He realizes there are weapons littering the pit...swords, spears, shields.  There are also five other boys.

The character doesn’t recognize any of them.  They do not move or speak...they are not frozen, they just refuse to answer or make eye contact.  They shuffle in place.

Except for one of them.

The character doesn’t recognize him either, but the boy is the same size, age, and build as the character.  He strides to the middle of the boys and gestures at the weapons.  “They want us to fight.  It’s clear from all the weapons.  I think whoever the victor is will be the one they let out of here.  I say we all duel until only one is left.”

If the character says nothing, this is what happens.  There are six boys and they break into three pairs.  The character will be paired against the boy who spoke out.  All duel until one is left.  Alternatively the boy can try to persuade the boys not to fight, using Orate, or challenge only the outspoken rival to a duel to prevent the other boys from fighting.  Those two alternatives are the right path...if the character does either successfully he gain a point of POW.  The boys should stick together, they are stronger as a whole.  If the boys do fight, even if he is the victor, the character doesn’t get the point.

The rival boy is a a simulacrum with identical stats to the character, a mirror self. Use the character’s own characteristics and skills for him.

This should be the last fight.  After it ends, the pit begins to fade around the character and he is standing in the clearing again with the other characters.

Scene 3: The Second Son

downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there

“Rúnatal,” The Hávamál

LIBERATED FROM THE PITS (with no clear memory of actually leaving them), the characters stand dazed and blinking in the same clearing as before.  Any weapons they had in the pits are gone.  A storm still rages, flashes of blue and purple in the heavens.  The men have all vanished, but the giants remain, watching over the clearing.  If the characters go closer to investigate them, they will see the “giants” are made of wood and wicker and woven branches.  And yet, if the characters try to go around them to escape the clearing, they creak to life and block the way.

The pits have been dug around the circumference of the clearing.  They are empty now…all save one.  The lid of the pit is still closed, and the sounds coming from inside are disturbing.  There is movement down there, the sound of wet, smacking mud, and moaning sounds.    

If the players do not make the connection, have the characters now suddenly recall the shadowy other boy standing with them before.

Rolling the lid back reveals horror.  The walls of the pit are alive and writhing...dozens of naked bodies are embedded in the wall, completely covered in the same slick black mud.  The bodies are intwined, touching, grouping, engaged in all manner of sex acts.  But this pit has no bottom, and instead it is a tunnel heading down deep into the earth.  There is no sign of the mysterious boy.  

It is possible that some of the characters are injured.  In any case they are unarmed.  But clearly the only way forward is down the hideous tunnel.  As they enter, one of the writhing figures in the wall reaches out and clutches one of the characters just for a moment, hissing in his or her ear “This is the sin that brought low the world.”

The stench of the tunnel is almost overpowering.  It smells like rot and filth and untreated wounds.  As they continue down, there are no more bodies in the walls, and there is even the warm glimmer of firelight ahead.

The Guide

The tunnel rounds a corner and widens somewhat.  Here it is dry, and the awful smell is replaced by the mouth-watering scent of fresh bread and roasted pork.

An old man is sitting near a campfire.  He is clearly Heortling, but his garb is slightly strange.  He wears only gray, nearly the same shade as his long braided beard and hair.  Nothing indicates his tribe or clan.  Despite his age, his build is powerful, and he has broad shoulders and strong hands.  He has a basket of bread and is turning a small wild boar on a spit over the fire.

“I am Hengall Vingkotsson,” he tells them, rising to his feet.  “Who are you?  Friend, or foe?”

An INT x 5 roll is all that is required to recognize the name.  Vingkot was the son of Orlanth and the founder of their people.  Before King Heort came during the Great Darkness, the people were called Vingkotlings rather than Heortlings.  This is literally Orlanth’s grandson.

Each should introduce themselves (as they did with Umath).  Having done so he offers them the hospitality of his fire, giving them food and drink.  As they rest and eat and drink his fine mead, the characters feel restored (magic and hit points lost are healed).  At some point he will ask them; “Do you know where you go and whom you seek?”

After they reply he will tell them; “When Umath yet lived and his sons were but boys, Umath’s own giant brothers—Lodril,  Magasta, Dehore, Genert, Kalt and some others—came upon the Sons of Umath and seized them.  The giants bore Umath a grudge, and wished to punish him by destroying his children.  They separated the brothers and put them each into a different pit.   Vadrus they put in the Deep Well, Urox into the Beast Pens, Humakt into the Fighting Pit, and Orlanth they in the Cell of Strange Gods.  The Other Brother, the one whose name we no longer mention, was put into the Sex Pit.  This was the sin that brought low the world.

Vadrus, Urox, Humakt, and Orlanth all overcame the challenges of their pits...but the Other Brother succumbed.  The brothers tried to save him.  They formed the Brother’s Ring and chanted and prayed.  But what he saw in the Sex Pit, what he experienced, infected him, and he would forever after inflict this same violence upon the world.  He visited it first upon Thed, breaking her mind and siring her monstrous get.  Then the pair joined with dread Malia, and this Unholy Trio brought forth he of whom Madness was his Father, Rape his Mother, and Pestilence his Midwife.  The Devil came into the world.”

He spits upon the ground before looking at the boys.  “You are chasing Madness and entering into Darkness.  Ahead of you lies the Devil’s Face and ultimately the Void.  I will lead you to the Threshold, if courage fails you there, you may turn back and none shall judge against you.”

They pack up the camp and Hengall leads them into a dark tunnel. As they plunge into shadow without any torch they begin to notice that Hengall radiates faint light from his body, as if something luminous was inside him, something that lights his way.  He speaks as he leads them; 

“There are things it is not good for children to know, and all lives must have a season of innocence. The Giants tore innocence from the Other Brother and the result was an abomination...a creature with a child’s hunger and adult appetites.  This is why these rites exist, why there must be a line between what is good for boys and what is good for men.  But seasons change, and as Sea Season flows into Fire, the time has come for you to cross the line and learn what is good for men.”

The Rune Cavern

With this they step into a larger chamber of the cavern, and the boys realize there is faint light in the room.  The space is immense, with multiple stalagmites rising from the floor to support the ceiling like pillars.  Beyond this central space, the dark walls are embedded with luminescent stones that give the impression of stars.  Hengall moves towards the center of the stalagmite cluster, which form a horseshoe-shaped circle of columns around the empty space.  

“You have passed the test of the Pits,” he tells them.  Now you are rewarded with the gifts given to all men.”  He then draws himself up, taller than even before…in fact he seems tall enough to be a troll, or larger.  “First there are the Laws; No one can make you do anything.  Violence is always an option.  There is always another way.  None of us can live alone.”

He seems even larger still, towering above them.  “And then the gift that all men and women are given.”

The cavern hums, the walls sing. Each stalagmite seems to vibrate at a different frequency, making music like a choir.  Now the characters can see carved into each stalagmite one of the Great Runes.  They realize in awe they are hearing the voices of the Runes themselves…and they feel compelled to sing along.  The entire cavern pulses with sound.

The player characters should all select their Runes now.  For RuneQuest players this is Step 3 (p. 23), for HeroQuest players it is Step 5 (p. 35).  

When the Runes are chosen, the characters now feel those same frequencies humming inside them, their own personal song.  It changes them.  They feel stronger, fiercer, braver.  They have thoughts and feel yearnings they never had before.  

“The Runes are the seeds from which all Glorantha has sprung.  Gods possessed those seeds.  And giants.  And Heroes.  Now you possess those seeds too.”  Hengall’s voice grows deeper and even more powerful as he now towers so large his raised arms seem to support the dome of the cavern.  He looks down at the boys and there are flashes of blue under his skin and lightning in his eyes.  Is he Umath?  Orlanth?  He speaks with a voice like thunder.

“The seeds are now yours and is the way of men to sow.  Sow your seeds in the soil to grow food for the people.  Sow your seeds in the flesh to grow new people for the Clan.  Sow your seeds in the world to change it.  This power…this making…is the same possessed by the gods.”

The music fades, the vibration stops.  The characters feel simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated.  New power runs through their muscles, their veins, their loins.  They are adults now, with the full magical and procreative powers that come with this.

Hengall—now no taller than any other man—steps out of the shadows.  “In your blood and bone you now have the Gifts all the full grown receive.  This is enough; you may turn back now and return home.  Most men do.  There is no shame in it.  Go home and work the forge, go home and till the soil.  Go home and train in the fyrd to defend the land.  What lies ahead is not for all.  Chasing the Devil is not for men but Heroes.  Decide now, for soon we must part ways.”

The entire rest of the episode is OPTIONAL.  It is entirely possible to leave the quest now and still continue to play “Six Seasons in Sartar.”  The stages ahead grow increasingly harder, more dangerous, and potentially deadly.  Overly ambitious initiates die in these rites of passage!  That having been said, neither RuneQuest nor HeroQuest is about playing “ordinary” characters…completing the next two stages (The Star Heart and The Devil’s Face) will mark the characters as potential Heroes.  The final stage (The Void) is not meant to be completed now…it is something the characters might come back to time and time again as the years progress.  The GM may wish to tell the players all this outright, or drop strong hints, depending on her style.  If any of these stages is skipped, skip ahead to the final scene, “The Feasting.”

Scene 4: The Star Heart

Be thou a new star
that to us portends,
Ends of much wonder, 
and be thou those ends.

John Donne

“WHEN I WAS BORN,” Hengall tells them, “the Third Mother gave me a Star Heart.  There is a further secret but I cannot be the one to tell it to you.”

He is leading the characters down a winding tunnel now, away from the Rune Cavern.  “I can tell you this was in the time before Time, when the gods walked alongside men.  Great and powerful are the gods, wise and cunning.  They set the patterns of the world and examples for mortals to follow.  And yet they bickered.  They quarreled.  They killed.  The Elder Gods, the Giants, broke the mind of one of the Younger, and he in turn brought the Devil into the world.  He was not alone in this monstrous act; even Orlanth played a role in bringing the Darkness to Glorantha.”

The sounds of screams, shouts, clashing swords echo faintly thought the tunnel as they walk.  “But Orlanth knew that it was right to accept responsibility for one’s misdeeds.  He understood honor.  So he gathered the honorable gods—and some less so—to confront his nephew the Devil in Hell.  Time was born, gods and men were separated.  The world was saved.  Where did the King of the Gods find such courage?  Perhaps, if your spirit is strong enough, you will know.”

The tunnel straightens out.  A slightly parted curtain of stalactites and stalagmites frames the way forward like a door.  Hengall stops, turning slowly to face the characters.  “This is where I leave you.  My place is here in the shadowland, the place of initiation, the border between Boy and Man.  What lies beyond is for you alone.  But first…I have gifts.”

He reaches behind the stalagmites and produces sealed jars from an alcove hidden there, placing one at the feet of each character. He gestures for the characters to look behind the other stalagmites, and there are spears and swords and shields there.  “Strip away all of your clothes.  You must go ahead as naked on the day of your rebirth as you did the day of your birth.  The contents of those jars is all the protection you shall need.”

He turns to leave them, going back whence they came.  Darkness closes in on them as his light withdraws.  “Remember what I said…ahead lies the Star Heart, the Devil’s Face, and the Void…do not let foolhardiness be your undoing…go only as far as you dare…”

He is gone.

Inside the pots is blessed woad.  It must be smeared over the entire body, and will confer 2 hit points of armor to each location until washed off (it loses a point of armor each day due to sweat and exertion).  When they have prepared themselves and are armed…they may begin.

As they advance in near pitch blackness, they become aware of a dim light far ahead.  It is a pale, blue-white light, barely visible in the darkness.  Continuing, the light shines stronger, and now they can make out a small cluster of lights, like stars in a constellation, far ahead in the distance.  There is one star for each character.  

Once they see the star(s) there is a sudden flare from the constellation; a wave of white fire rushes down the tunnel straight at them.  As the fire crashes into them, the characters must make POW x 5 rolls.  If the character fails, he or she loses 1d6 magic points.  

As the wave washes over them, a voice speaks in their souls; There is a Mother that Births you, a Mother that Delivers you, and a Mother that Blesses you…

The character(s) now choose to go on or turn back.  If they go on, tell them they walk for what feels like another few hours, the dim tunnel seeming to stretch on endlessly.  But the stars in the distance seem a bit brighter.  More hours of walking pass.  Suddenly, there is another flare…another wave of white fire.  This time they must make POW x 4 rolls.  If the character fails, another 1d6 magic points are lost.

The voice speaks again; As the Second is Midwife to the First, the Third was Midwife to the Mother of Time…

The journey repeats, the star ever-so-slowly growing closer.  Another blast of fire.  Roll POW x 3 or lose 1d6 magic points.  The voice says;  She beheld the Secret that Devoured the Devil, and this she hid away in trust for you at the moment of your birth…

The stars grow closer still.  Another blast.  Roll POW x 2.  The voice says; The Devil cannot corrupt it, the Predark cannot blacken it, it is the Secret the Storm Lord knew and that all his truest sons keep…

Now the end of the tunnel can be seen.  Hovering there, breast high, is the most beautiful thing the characters have ever seen.  The characters almost feel like falling to their knees, weeping at the beauty of it.  They are stars the size of a fist, burning brilliantly, each encased in a nimbus of the purest light.  Each character present knows by instinct which star is his.  To grasp it, the character must make another roll, this time at POW x 1 or lose another 1d6 magic points.  If he succeeds, if his magic points are still above zero, he takes the Star Heart in his hands and places it inside his breast.  The light shines through him, the universe sings, and the voice whispers the Great Secret; 

Only YOU can save the World.

If at any point on this path a character falls to zero magic points or less, he or she collapses and goes back to the entrance of the tunnel.  The character cannot complete the quest for the Star Heart at this time…his or her soul is not yet ready.

Having attained the Star Heart, the character gains it as a new Passion, “Star Heart,” at 60%.  This is a deep self assurance and conviction that the character is destined to be a Hero, that he or she has the power to shape and remake the world.  They understand it is the source of all Orlanthi magic, this power of motion or willed “change.”  They understand that it makes each of them a light in the darkness, that no matter how black the night must shine.   The Star Heart passion can be used to augment any rolls in fighting Chaos, or can be rolled against when courage is needed or to chase away self-doubt.  It comes with an additional point of POW and CHA to be added to the characteristics immediately, and +1d6% to Reputation.

If the character ever tries to communicate this mystery to another living soul, the words dry up in the throat and fade from the mind.  The secret cannot be shared, it bust be directly known.    

Scene 5: The Devil’s Face

Human beings do not like being pushed about by gods.
They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside,
underneath it all, they sense it, and resent it.

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

THE LIGHT OF THE STARS FADES, and a bitter, howling darkness falls upon them.  Even if separated before, the group is somehow together again now.

The reek of decay hangs in the frozen air, gagging.  Howls and the clanging of swords echo around them.  Screams rise and are cut short.  The weapons Hengall gave them radiate Light (as per the spirit magic spell).  Beyond this glow they can see absolutely nothing.  They have the sense of being in an immense cavern but there is little way of knowing.

There is a chance here, to return.  They remember Hengall telling them this.  Ahead lies the Star Heart, the Devil’s Face, and the Void…  He had told them.  Do not let foolhardiness be your undoing…go only as far as you dare…  Give them the chance to abandon the quest here.  If they accept, skip ahead to “The Feasting.”

If they decide to press on, the way forward is to follow the screams.

The Road to Hell

The screams form a constant, undulating cry…scores of them, hundreds perhaps.  Voices in agony, horror, maybe madness.  The sound pours in a constant stream from ahead.  As the group heads in the direction of the sounds, the light from their weapons begins to outline the shapes of massive pillars, many of them fallen and shattered.  If examined, they are carved with strange, unrecognizable shapes, giant insects, and Trolls.  Perhaps they are in the lightless halls of the Underworld?  

Almost in answer…they begin catching glimpses of pale figures moving just beyond the edge of their light.  Just a flash of white at first, but then another…and another.  If they investigate, turning aside for a closer look, they start to see pin-points of green floating just beyond the edge of the light.  These lights bob up and down, always in matched pairs…. The characters realize it is the light of their own weapons reflected in the eyes of the Dead.  If they thrust the light closer they will see them...pale zombies in various states of decay, eyes reflecting the light in an eerie green. They screech and flee from the light.

Moving through the Underworld, their light is the only light in the unbroken darkness, and the Dead are both drawn to it like moths to a flame and terrified of it.   As they walk, more and more of the Dead cluster in to follow alongside them.

The Dead will not attack unless attacked first, but don’t let the players know that.  If the players are foolish enough to launch an attack, the spell is broken and the Dead will start to swarm in.  There are scores at first, and hundreds later.  The player characters cannot hope to win and will have to flee.  They are faster than the dead and their only hope is to outrun them.

These are the Dead of the Gods Age.  They are those who fell in the Lesser Darkness and the Darkness before Time.  Thus, they did not have the relationships those born after Time developed with the gods and therefore no afterlife other than this (how can their gods save them when the gods themselves are in Hell?).  The despair of the endless dark—and in many cases seeing the Devil and his armies—has made them insane.  Yet another reason to join a cult, and follow a god, is to avoid this fate...

The Underworld Dead
STR 3d6 x 1.5 (15-17)
CON 3d6 x 1.5 (15-17)
SIZ         3d6 (10-11)
DEX 2d6 (7)
Hit Points: 15-17  
Magic Points: 1
Armor: -

Move:         6
Base SR: 6

Skills: Punch (35%, SR 10, 1d3 + 1d6), Grapple 35% (if the grapple seizes the head, the dead will try to strangle, doing 1d6 damage each round until the victim is freed)
Language: Most have forgotten how to speak
Passions: Hate (Life) 90%
Runes: -
Magic: -

Further ahead they come upon a pair of troll statues several meters high, showing six-breasted females.  The cold seems to intensify, and they can see their breath like steam.  The woad seems to be keeping them warm.

Beyond the troll statues the stench in the air grows worse, clawing at the inside of the nose and throat.  It takes strength not to retch.  The characters start coming upon bodies...men and women, trolls, animals...lying dead on the black stone floor.  Their faces show agony and horror.  All of them have burst abdomens, entrails spilled out, and bloody trails crawling away from the bodies into the darkness.  

Some of the bodies are still twitching and steaming.  A voice whispers in the darkness around them...

This is the sin that broke the world.

Images assault them, flashing unbidden in their minds.  A child god in a pit.  The writhing bodies in the walls of the pit.  The child screaming as they pull him into the walls with them...

The outlines of a massive Troll temple—or palace—emerge from the Darkness in front of them.  The Dead will not enter here.  Massive pillars outline the entrance, and an impossibly wide flight of stairs rising upwards.  The steps are large, clearly not meant for human legs.  

There is a growing sense of wrongness here.  Oily black light shimmers over the steps and pillars.  The air feels sharp and prickly.  It tastes acidic.  Every instinct in the characters screams out against this; they know, somehow instinctively, this is Chaos.

If the press on, at the top of the steps, the come to the source of the screams.  

This is a great pillared hall, lit by the greenish yellow fires of burning bodies.  There are prisoners lashed to the pillars, naked, bellies swollen and distended.  Men, women, children, other species...they look pregnant and ready to burst.  Some are screaming.  Some have bitten their lips bloody.  Some foam at the mouths.  If the characters watch long enough, they see one of the figures start screaming in agony, only to have their belly rip open and burst.  In a rush of blood and entrails, larval things slither away in search of the shadows.

The Devil’s Father

This is the first time they see the Broo.

Armed Broo move amongst their captives, checking on them, making sure their bonds are tight.  There are too many of them, at least double the number of characters.  Maybe more.  It would be best not to get noticed.  There is also the question of where to go from here.

Scan rolls can be used to find the location of the Broo guards, AND/OR to augment Move Quietly and Hide rolls to avoid them.  Search will be needed to find where to go next.  With a successful roll they can make out in the dark opposite them towering leaden doors, partially ajar.

Getting to the doors is not as difficult as it might seem...there are many pillars and the sickly yellow fires do not light much of the dark.  A concerted effort to Move Quietly, using the columns and debris as cover, adds +25% to their chances.

If they make for the door, each makes an opposed Move Quietly (augmented by Scan, Hide, or the applicable Rune) vs. the Broo’s Scan of 25% (the size of the hall and the screams of the captives makes Listening for unarmed characters impractical).  If a player character is spotted, the Broo will sound an alarm by blowing horns and close in on him...

Broo Guards
STR 2d6+6 (13)
CON 1d6+12 (15-16)
SIZ         2d6+6 (13)
INT         2d6+6 (13)
POW 3d6 (10-11)
DEX 3d6 (10-11)
CHA 2d6 (7)
Hit Points: 17
Magic Points: 11
Armor:                   Cuirbolli Body (3 points), natural armor on head (3 points)

Move: 9
Base SR: 4

Skills:                    Climb 40%, Conceal 25%, Hide 40%, Intimidate 35%, Jump 45%, Listen 50%, Move Quietly 50%, Track 50%, Spear 35% (SR 6, 1d6+1+1d4, 10 HP), Head Butt 50% (SR 8, 1d6+1d5), Medium Shield 30% (SR 7, 1d4+1d4)
Language:             Beastspeech 60% 
Passions:              Hate (Life) 60%
Runes:                  Beast 60%, Chaos 60%
Magic: -

If a character is spotted, the Broo will attack.  They will not kill the characters if they can help it.  Instead, they will take them alive and bring them before their master.  Essentially this takes the character where they want to go, but they will be disarmed and it is a far less comfortable way to get there.  Keep track of the combat rounds.  Every five rounds there is a 50% chance of 1d3 more Broo appearing in answer to the alarm.

Assuming they reach the doors, or are brought there as captives, beyond them is a wide circular chamber under a dome.  There are statues of Mistress Race Troll queens in alcoves around the circumference.  A throne has been set up in the middle of the circle, and there are at least eight armed Broo guards around it.  Worse, crawling all around the throne are hundreds...maybe thousands...of larval Broo infants.

Sitting upon the throne is a child, a boy of perhaps 12 years.  He is beautiful to look upon, but his dark eyes burn with madness.  Goat-like horns spring from his curly black locks, and his legs are shaggy from the waist down, ending in cloven hooves.  Between his legs his is engorged, priapic.  He notices the characters as soon as they enter.

Beside his throne are two women.  To his right stands a naked woman with a distended belly.  Her garments are torn, partially ripped from her body.  To his left is a spindly, emaciated woman veiled from head to toe.  Flies and spirits buzz in the air around her.

“Ah!  My brothers are come!”  He claps his hands in delight and slaps the arms of his chair.  Some of the Broo around his throne immediately begin playing pipes and drums.

“Vadrus!  Urox!  Humakt!  Oh and Orlanth too!  Marvelous.  I am so pleased.”

How you play all this depends on your group.  If you have already associated the players with gods (back in Scene 2) he will address them as the gods you identified them with.  Or you can leave it vague (he talks to his brothers as if they were there amongst the players without looking at any one character specifically).

As Ragnaglar sits on his throne, the players also see him screaming in the Sex Pit, being pulled into the walls and defiled.  The two things seem to be happening at the same time.  It is.  Because the is before Time, many things are simultaneously happening here;

  1. Ragnaglar is still in the Sex Pit being driven mad
  2. He has raped Thed and fathered the Broo
  3. He has sired the Devil with Thed and Malia
  4. Urox has killed the Devil and sent him to Hell 

The characters should begin to have a sense of this...they are standing in Hell and the Broo have been born...but at the same time have visions of themselves standing in a ring around the Sex Pit, singing and chanting to liberate their brother. And yet all of these visions seem to lead to one unavoidable point.  All the myths and gods and people seem to converge on a single moment...the Devil in Hell...the beginning of Time...

They are standing back at the Sex Pit, holding hands, chanting for their brother to be freed...

...they are in Hell, Ragnaglar is speaking.  “Have you come to see Him?  Have you come to see my beautiful Child?  I can take you before Him, my Son, my Vengeance. He is yours as much as mine, dear brothers, my reply to the wicked gods who cast us into the pits.  Those who tried to ruin us and destroy us...behold how I have rewarded them...behold what I have done to them and their precious world...” 

...they are standing in a ring around the pit...

Let the players know they have this chance.  They can, right now, “jump out” of the myth by clinging to the visions of themselves standing around the pit.  Or they can chose to willingly go before the Devil.


If they chose to face the Devil, the characters find themselves firmly back in Hell.  Ragnaglar is up and off his throne, his eyes feverish with madness.  “He is here, O my brothers, He is this way...”

He rushes down and grips them by the wrist (each perceives him gripping his or her own wrist no matter how many are there).  Immediately there is a black and howling wind that screeches in their ears, the dizzying sensation of falling.  The wind is bitter cold and biting but they feel hot and feverish at the same time.

They plummet into a reeking bog.  Each is completely alone, no sign of his or her companions.  The slime is thigh deep.  It is black and thick as tar, but cold and stinking of rot and filth.  Floating in the tar are severed limbs, carcasses of all manner of beasts, faces, bones.  They are standing thigh deep in all the dead gods and beasts and mortals of the Greater Darkness, all rotting into the same muck...

The slime begins to rise, surging.  Something massive is rising from the bog.

It explodes upwards, showering the character in filth.  The thing in front of him towers higher and higher...

Each character will perceive the Devil differently (at first), but each will see Him as a manifestation of Chaos.  The Devil might be...

...a gigantic Broo, it’s flesh covered with weeping sores and Chaos features...

...a massive Scorpion Man...

...a beautiful nude woman meters high (an ogre) with golden hair and alabaster skin...

...a towering column of iridescent slime (gorp)...

...a thing more mouth than anything else, with arachnid legs (krarshtkid)...

And so on.  Keep track of what vision you show to each player, and if at all possible, later in the campaign, make sure that Chaotic creature features prominently in the character’s life.  The point here is to emphasis the Devil as the embodiment of all the Chaos in the world, and to give the players a prophetic vision of some Chaos that will “devil” them in the future.  Then…

...then the visions starts to shift for all the characters.  No matter what they saw before, the shape starts to bloat and swell, ruddy and glowing, until before them they see the baleful Red Moon.  It grows larger and larger, crawling under their skin, clawing into their minds.  They can feel the terrible weight of it pressing down…

Seeing the face of the Devil is no small thing.  The character must immediately roll beneath his POW+INT.  On a failure, the character is driven insane.  Roll a d6 for an insanity on the table on p. 334.  This will last until the end of the next season.  On a fumble, it is permanent.  If the roll succeeds, the character has faced the Devil and lived.  He or she is now immune to fear or demoralize attacks caused by Chaotic features, and ONLY Chaotic features (Spirit, Rune, and Sorcery spells must still be resisted as usual).  He or she also gains 1d6 Reputation.    

Seeing the Devil’s Face is a prerequisite for the final stage of initiation, the encounter with the Void. 

Scene 6: The Void

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious…

Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 

Stepping out of the narration a moment, let us speak Gamemaster to Gamemaster.

Rites of Passage was originally written as a HeroQuest scenario.  In the original Six Seasons in Sartar campaign, written for RQ long before Greg Stafford had made his thoughts on Orlanthi Initiation rites public, it was a very different story.  As a HeroQuest story—and for those of you running it as such—the encounter with the Void ends with Illumination.  This isn’t such a big deal in HeroQuest…characters can start with Illumination as an ability (see HQG, p. 203).  We don’t fully know yet how RQG will handle Illumination, however.  And judging by how it was handled in RQ2, it seems likely to be a much longer and more arduous process to attaining than in her sister game.

As with all the rest of this episode, this is all my interpretation of Orlanthi initiation rites, based on what has been written on the subject.  Naturally, Your Glorantha Will Vary.  In the game, I am presenting all this as how Black Stag initiation works, but I am of the opinion that all initiation rituals end in Illumination if the character goes deep enough (I’ve written two others, one for women and Ernaldan characters called The Riddle and one for Lunars, that both end with the Void as well).  In other words, all the initiation rites in Glorantha lead to the same center (its the perennialist in me).  

Given the dim view the Orlanthi take of Illumination, it explains the view that the Void “dissolves the soul” of any who dare look upon it.  Technically, an Illuminate isn’t really an Orlanthi any more.  So be cautious with players who wish to go “all the way” and gaze upon the Void.  Again, we must bear in mind that about 60% of the candidates of these rites turn back after gaining their Runes (encountering the Second Son), and another 30% probably turn back after the Star Heart.  Pushing on to see the Devil, and further still to the Void, is not mandatory nor even suggested.  Don’t feel the need to run this episode to that conclusion!

All this being said, I suggest that HeroQuest players who go all the way to the Void enter play illuminated.  RuneQuest players and GMs might wish to be a bit more cautious (until we have definitive rules on the subject).  Until we get those rules, I recommend reading the cult of Nysalor/Gbaji in the Cult Compendium (p. 319) and the details on Illumination.  If the player and GM are comfortable with an Illuminate, go ahead and have a character be illuminated after this scene.  If you wish it be a longer process, have the character partially illuminated.  Roll a 3d10 and this is the character’s Illumination percentage.  He or she will have to seek out Nysalorian Riddles if the character wishes to complete the Illumination.    

Whatever you decide, remember…A KNOWN ILLUMINATE IS LIKELY A PARIAH IN ORLANTHI VILLAGE SOCIETY.  It is something the player character might wish to keep a closely guarded secret.

That said, let us begin.          

THE RED MOON TURNS PALE until it is finally a bloodless white.  There is the sound of thunder, a tremendous flash of lighting that blinds.  The moon shatters, and the fragments keep dissolving until they are nothing but swirling dust.  The Devil is gone.

But there is something ahead.

If the character walks forward the ground beneath his or her feet slowly becomes more solid, until it is something like naked stone.  The smell of rot and decay fades until there is no scent at all.  The bitter cold in the air warms until it feels neither hot nor cold.  A sense of calm falls over the character, a sense of equilibrium and peace.

Ahead, emerging from the darkness, there is a Crack in the World.

The character can see it…a massive fracture running from the horizon up several kilometers into the sky.  This feels like the very edge of the world, the dome that encloses Glorantha.  That crack in the blackness is blacker still, the deepest shade of black the character has ever seen.  It is not merely the absence of light but the non-existence of light.

The stillness is unearthly.  All motion has ceased except for the character’s movements.  Looking around, he or she sees only this endless dark plane beneath a dark sky.  Only the Crack, ahead, stands out.

Moving forward the characters foot touches something.  Looking down it is a mask.  The visage it depicts is horrible, fearsome.  The Devil.  But the Devil is just a mask.  Moving forward, the character begins to see other masks…the bearded visage of Lankhor Mhy, the beatific features of Chalana Arroy.  The character sees the leering features of Eurmal and even the proud, stern face of Orlanth.  All are just masks discarded on the ground.  The character begins to wonder who wore the masks.  The character begins to wonder what is behind the masks…

The Crack looms, higher, impossibly high.  It grows wider as the character nears it.  The blackness beyond it doesn’t seem fearful…it calls to the character.  As it gets closer, there are thousands upon thousands of masks on the ground, all crumbling to dust.  Only the Crack seems real.

Is this Chaos?  Is this the Darkness?  Is this where the Devil entered the World?  But is is so peaceful…

This is the player’s last chance for the character to go back.  After this, the character will be Illuminated (or at least on the path to Illumination)…

The Crack now fills the character’s entire field of vision.  Even though there is nothing but the blackest blackness, the character has the sense of looking into forever, of falling into forever, of forever looking into him…

The blackness is soon all encompassing.  There is nothing any longer to look at, nothing to be seen…and no one to do the looking.

Scene 7: The Feast

As for the primitive, I hark back to it because we are still very primitive. How many thousands of years of culture, think you, have rubbed and polished at our raw edges? One probably; at the best, no more than two. And that takes us back to screaming savagery, when, gross of body and deed, we drank blood from the skulls of our enemies, and hailed as highest paradise the orgies and carnage of Valhalla.

Jack London

THEY STAND AT THE BASE of an immense and craggy hill.  It rises from a fertile plain of cultivated fields.  The characters can see acres of barley and oats, apple orchards, even a vineyard of white grapes.  Vast herds of cattle can be seen grazing on the hills in the distance.  Overhead the sky is grey and cloudy, strong gusts of wind blowing across the fields.

No matter what scene was their last, when a player character exits the quest he or she appears here.  More than that, even if other characters pushed ahead, everyone ends up here at the same time, together.

At the base of the hill, the trail passes under a high wooden gate.  A dragon skull is mounted at the top of the gate and the posts are carved with Runes.  There is a man waiting for them under the gate.  He is a warrior by his build, though unarmored.  His hair and heavy, braided beard are golden red.  He hails the characters and steps towards them.  “I am Jarstakos Heortsson, and I have been sent to welcome you, my sons, the the Hall of Orlanth.”

Jarstakos is, of course, the founder of the Black Stag clan.  He comes forward and embraces the characters, one by one.  He then leads them up the high hill.

Role play whatever conversation you like during the climb.  As they reach the summit they climb up though cloud until arriving at Orlanth’s Hall.  It looks like the hall of their own chieftain, but far, far larger and more grand.  Here it seems to sit on an island in a sea of cloud tops.  Overhead is the starry night sky.  Notably, there is no Red Moon.

As they reach the outer palisade wall and pass through the gates, a large crowd of men stands on either side of the pathway.  These are their ancestors...famed Black Stag heroes and warriors come to welcome their new kin to manhood.  They cheer and beat swords against their shields.  Horns are blown.  Jarstakos leads them down the long path to the hall as the ancestors stand and cheer (if any characters have lost a father, he is here to greet them).  Finally they go within.

They will never clearly remember what they saw in the hall...it will come to them only in vivid dreams.  They will remember their wounds being tended and being healed.  They will remember being washed clean of the woad and led into a chamber where the tattooists went to work upon them, placing the marks of the Colymar and the Black Stag on their skins.  They will recall being clothed and led into the feast hall, glimpsing the gods themselves sitting at the high table at the head of the hall.  They will recall sitting with their ancestors at a long table and feasting on the most succulent pork and beef, eating the best bread, drinking the finest mead.  They will recall the music, the cheering, the dancing...

...but all only dimly, like a half remembered dream.

They feast, and for the first time in their young lives they drink deeply.  They drink so deeply their eyes grow heavy and their vision blurs.  Finally they pass out.

They will wake in the Black Stag clan hall in the village.  They are hungover and sore (especially where they have been tattooed).  Already the memories of Orlanth’s great hall, and the faces of the gods, is fading.  If they received any injuries on the Other Side these wounds are healed, EXCEPT if one or more was driven mad or killed (characters killed on the Other Side are dead).  

For the rest of Sacred Time they remain guests of the chieftain, while the god-talkers and priests begin to instruct them in politics, religion, sexuality, and their duties as men.  If characters felt touched by a god during the quest, they will be accepted as lay members now.  

Childhood is behind them.  At the turn of the new year, they will return to their homes as their own masters.

Appendix: HeroQuest and 13G

Using Rites of Passage with HeroQuest is easySimply follow the story as written, but replace any rolls and stats with Contests.  Use your own judgement what sort of contest to use; the challenge in the pits might be simple contests, while the Star Heart might be an extended contest.  The heroquest rewards should take the form of new abilities, or perhaps a breakout.  The madness inflicted by the Devil could be a flaw.

13G requires more work.  This starts with the characters themselves.  13G characters are FAR too powerful to be boys undergoing the rites of manhood.  I would recommend then using the idea of “Zero Level Characters” that use the following guidelines;

The characters do not begin play with character classes yet.  All characters are Gloranthan Humans with the Heortling Cultural Trait (“Quick to Fight,” 13G p. 42).  Ignore the human bonus feat for now.  Generate your character’s abilities.  Use the following to determine starting values;

Initiative: DEX mod
Armor: None (yet)
Weapons: Spear (1d8), Shortsword (1d6); possibly Bow (1d6, Atk -2)
Physical Defense: 10 + middle mod of STR/CON/DEX
Mental Defense: 10 + middle mod of INT/WIS/CHA
Hit Points: (5 + CON modifier) x 2
Recovery Dice: 1d4 + CON modifier
Recoveries: 3

Characters get 4 Background points.  At least 1 must be spent in “Black Stag Clansman” and the rest in the father’s occupation.  They do not yet have any Runes, feats, or talents.  They worship the Storm Tribe but don’t have a single god yet.  If they have a One Unique Thing in mind, it can be selected now.  Otherwise, it can be discovered later.    

If you use Rites of Passage as the starter to your campaign, simply skip ahead five years or so after and reintroduce them as full characters.  If you run the Six Seasons in Sartar campaign, rules for advancing these Zero Level Characters will be provided.  

Monsters should be replaced with their closest equivalents in 13th Age Glorantha or any of the games other supplements.  With the first scene, be kind.  Use mooks or the lowest level monsters available for what the characters confront in the pits (mysteriously 13G has no dragonewt stats...you can cheat with a kobold).  Later, use slightly tougher monsters.  Characters going to face the Devil are asking for a challenge anyway!

In the Star Heart the fire waves can be psychic damage attacks resisted by MD.  

All rewards can come in the form of appropriate heroquest Rune gifts.


  1. I'm not real familiar with the Heortling Mythology book...Would this work with characters that are Orlanthi pantheon, or just followers of Orlanth?

    1. Heortling Mythology (Stafford’s book) works for all gods of the Storm Tribe. This ritual is for all Heortling men; technically all men worship Orlanth as the king of the pantheon, even if they specifically follow another god.

  2. I thought this was really interesting! Any chance of seeing what you made for females?

    1. I am thinking about it. I am about to launch into a new version of the campaign and will be running Rites of Passage a bit down the road. I will be publishing new versions of the scenarios and that might be a good time to include "The Riddle" (which is my take on Ernaldan rites). Stay tuned.

    2. I will run Rites of Passage next month as the starting of my RuneQuest Glorantha campaing, but I think I will probably have some Ernaldan characters in my group. Any news about The Riddle?

      Thanks a lot four you great job.

  3. Just run and recorded this as a flashback for my group. They were weirded out a little, as it was their first.