"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.

Sunday, October 3, 2021


DECEMBER OF 2019 saw the final blog post of my Six Seasons in Sartar/River of Cradles campaign. We were 16 sessions in. Breaking for Christmas and New Year, we made plans to meet up for the next chapter in late January 2020.

That never happened.

Here in Japan, the news media was abuzz with a story about a quarantined cruise ship, the Diamond Princess out of China. Apparently several people aboard were infected with some new and puzzling illness. People started wearing masks. Things ground to a halt, and we delayed the session.

You know the rest. Everyone reading this has lived it.

As I mentioned in the last post, I used the suspension of the campaign as a chance to put Six Seasons in Sartar on paper and let it loose on the world. As the pandemic dragged on endlessly came The Company of the Dragon. But now, with my gaming group now fully vaccinated and infection numbers in Japan starting to head in the right direction, we have started talking about resuming the campaign. With nearly two years of water under the bridge, however, we decided to restart it instead of resume. The "Six Seasons in Sartar" we played was not the Six Seasons in Sartar that was published, and the campaign that followed at our gaming table, "The River of Cradles," was totally unrelated to The Company of the Dragon. We decided to start all over again and play the two published campaigns.

The twist is, the group decided to play the same characters all over again. This meant translating a party of Heroquest characters to Runequest Roleplaying in Glorantha.

Black Stag Vale, the setting of Six Seasons in Sartar. My map, annotated by Nick Brooke

Remaking the Characters: HQ v RQ

"Translating" might be the wrong word for how we handled character creation. More of a "reset." I told them to think of this new campaign was a remake, and I made it clear that the characters could be different in any ways the players wanted. We didn't have to fuss with converting abilities across the two systems. It was a simple question of starting the player characters from scratch with the same concepts in mind...and in a new system, which turned out to be an important factor.

Back in 2018 my players were new to Glorantha. The idea of using Heroquest was that they could create their characters "as they went," fleshing the characters out as they played the campaign and grew to know more about the setting. The problem with that is that the characters did not start with a strong, defined concept. They were amorphous and "fuzzy." I don't think they really came into their own until a dozen sessions in. In retrospect, this is my primary criticism of Heroquest (and for the record I mean the second edition, both Hero Wars and Heroquest first edition offered a lot more detail). It is a great game system if you have players who know the setting, but does little to support those who don't. Note this is not a criticism of the mechanics; I feel the system needs a more defined Glorantha "genre book" to make it feel more true to the setting. This is something I am hoping Questworlds will eventually fix.

RQ by contrast contains tons of information about the setting right there on the character sheet. The Runes, the skills that exist in the setting, the characteristics that define people, are all right there. I found it helped my players focus this time more clearly on who exactly their characters were. They had felt a bit lost and bewildered when we started HQ. "But what does the Heortling Keyword actually do?" This time they had a lot more information to work with.

Now, the original characters from the HQ version were:

Beralor "Three-Father" Harvarrson (Keith)

With his real father killed in the struggle against the Lunar Occupation. Beralor has been raised by the redsmith Harvarr Horviksson and his husband, the Nandan Affar Dronnsson. Beralor is now sixteen, and has the Heortling, Crafter (Smith), and Black Stag Community keywords. His Runes are Air, Motion, and Mastery.

Kalf "Lightfoot" Broyansson (David)
The son of a cottar sheepman (killed in Kallyr's rebellion), Kalf lives alone with his mother in a cottage on the edge of the Vale. He is the oldest in the group, 17, having just missed the last Adult Initiation ceremony four years ago by having been just a bit too young. He has the Heortling, Black Stag Community, and Herdsman keywords. His Runes are Air, Stasis, and Beast.

Leika "the White" Faransdotr (Vicky)
The albino daughter of a cottar spirit-talker, Leika's condition renders her sensitive to sunlight and slightly ostracized by some of her peers. She overcompensates with a forceful, "bossy" personality. Leika is 14, and has the Heortling, Black Stag Community, and Spirit-Talker keywords. Her Runes are Air, Motion, and Spirit.

Kalliva Kallessasdotr of Twin Stone (Ira)
The daughter of an Ernaldan carl in the prominent Twin Stone stead, the identity of her father has never been divulged by her mother. Kalliva is torn between what her mother wants for her (marriage, family) and following the path of her Vingan aunt (currently a rebel living in the hills and mountains striking at the Lunars). She has a close relationship with her uncle Garnath, who is one of the chieftain's housecarls. Kalliva has the Heortling, Black Stag Community, and Warrior keywords. Her Runes are Air, Truth, and Mastery.

With these ideas and the aforementioned sixteen sessions of play, we grabbed the RQ rulebook and remade them according to the guidelines in Six Seasons in Sartar (pp 20-22).

Character (Re)Creation

We took advantage of Zoom to create each character separately in a one-on-one game session with the GM. In general, I think there are often good reasons to create characters as a group--it makes sure everyone is one the "same page" and encourages characters that mesh together well as a team--but we opted out of it this time around. For starters, these players already know the other player characters. They all played together for a year and a half. Second, I think RQ characters are better made alone. A good chunk of the character creation process is "Family History," and unless two or more of your players are related, it is really more an exercise of communing with your ancestors rather than with your contemporaries. And I wanted to spend a lot of time on Family History (RQ pp. 27-45), because that was an aspect absent from the original HQ rules we used.

Because these were established characters, I let them chose whatever results they wanted as we went through Family History, rather than roll. As you can see from the character summaries above, the first time around the players were careful to include their parents in their backgrounds. Six Seasons in Sartar starts you off as young adults, and your relationship with your parents is critical as you get started on the road of adulthood. What surprised the players this time, however, was how RQ took you a step further back. The players had not really given thought to their grandparents before.

Here are summaries how the recreation turned out.

Kalf, Son of Broyan
Kalf went through some of the biggest changes in this character "remix" process. David decided to start with his paternal grandfather as the favored grandparent (RQ, p. 28), Derister, a warrior who was killed at the Battle of Grizzly Peak. This shifted Kalf's backstory from being the son of a cottar sheepman to actually coming from a line of thanes. This left Kalf's father fatherless, with a grudge towards the Lunar Empire. He grew up to fight both at the Fall of Boldhome (1602) and south in the Holy Country in 1605. After Kalf's birth, his father is killed fighting in Starbrow's Rebellion (1613). This last event is the same as it was in HQ, but rather than Kalf's father being a cottar who volunteered he was a thane loyal to Kallyr's cause (part of Kalf's arc in HQ was the resentment he harbored towards Kallyr for "getting his father killed," but this have shifted now towards hatred of the Empire). We decided with both his father and grandfather as warriors against the Empire, during the Lunar Peace his father's family was stripped of their status by the new tribal king, converted Lunar Kangharl "Blackmoor." Young Kalf and his mother were thus reduced to cottar status, giving him a heightened reason to Hate the Lunar Empire and Kangharl (which if you know Six Seasons in Sartar will matter later). Instead of a herdsman, this time Kalf is a hunter, being trained in the craft by neighboring cottar Beroth Son of Beyor (SSiS p. 69). Beroth has a younger son, Ashart, who privately resents the interest Beroth has taken in Kalf. Adding complexity, the widowed Beroth has been courting Kalf's widow mother.

Leika, Daughter of Faran
In the HQ campaign, Leika's defining trait was her albinism, but the fact is this never really came to much in actual play. Vicky decided to jettison that this time around and focus more on the character's connection to the Spirit World. In Family History, then, Leika's maternal grandmother Kenvali emerges as an important figure (one never existing in the original campaign). Kenvali was a powerful shaman, and a person the young Leika feels an affinity for. Kenvali fought, actually, at the Battle of Grizzly Peak, not as a combatant as much as aiding with magical support. She went south and fought in the Holy Country as well (1597). Kenvali was not at the Fall of Boldhome, however, remaining instead in Black Stag Vale, where the following year she was actually killed by the neighboring Telmori. This is a terrific twist: in the HQ campaign Leika finds herself in almost a Romeo and Juliet relationship with a young Telmori warrior, but now she enters play hating the Telmori for her grandmother's murder. Ah, pathos in future sessions, I think! 

This changes Leika's relationship with Faran, her father, a shade. Her grandmother is the shaman she wishes to emulate, not him. Still, Faran is himself a shaman and one who fought in Starbrow's Rebellion, helping Kallyr escape. This connection will come into play later in Six Seasons in Sartar. 

Beralor, Son of Harvarr
Beralor changed less between campaigns than Kalf or Leika, but something that disappointed Keith is the first campaign was how little we were able to explore his craft as a smith. This time we are shifting the focus there a bit more. In Six Seasons we will dig a bit deeper into the mysteries of Gustbran and in Company of the Dragon, Beralor will have more time to practice that art.

We also decided to keep the background largely intact. It emerged in the last campaign that Beralor is being raised by his uncle, Harvarr, and that his aunt had either been seduced or assaulted by the Eurmali clown, Keladon Blue-Eye...his true father. Beralor is being raised by Harvarr and his Nandan partner after his mother's death. This time we went into character creation with full knowledge of the backstory. For this reason Beralor's favored grandparent is his maternal grandfather, Harrakin, a warrior who fought at Grizzly Peak. Father of both Beralor's mother and Harvarr, Harrakin died by accident in 1597 (we have yet to develop this thread). Harvarr fights in the Fall of Boldhome, originally a warrior like his father. His sister gives birth to Beralor in 1604 and dies by her own hand. Harvarr takes the child in, raised by his Nandan husband Affar while he himself fights in the Holy Country against the Lunars (1605). Harvarr comes home, but fights against for Kallyr Starbrow (1613). In the wake of her defeat he is outlawed and cannot return home. He camps outside the gates of Dwarf Mine until they accept him, and returns years later as a smith.

Kalliva, Daughter of Kallessa
Kalliva is another character changed only lightly by the character recreation process, but there are still interesting changes nonetheless, mainly in her mother's backstory.

Again, I credit this to the Family History rules. What emerges is Kalliva's maternal grandfather, Bereth, a warrior who fought at Grizzly Peak and later witnessed the murder of Sartarite royals he was guarding in the Holy Country (1597). Bereth was also at the Fall of Boldhome, but he died there, devoured by the Crimson Bat (his soul destroyed forever). Also in Boldhome, Bereth's daughter Korolmara is enslaved and ends up owned by a Lunar officer. There she births a child for him, Kalliva. She takes the baby and escapes.

The hideous death of her father radically changes the character of Kalliva's birth mother, Korolmara. In the HQ campaign she was a Vingan, this time around she became a Humakti. She cuts ties to her old life and gives her daughter to her sister, Kallessa, to be raised. Korolmara fights in Starbrow's Rebellion, and with Leika's father is among those who help Kallyr escape to safety. She returns to Sartar and ends up fighting as one of Kallyr's rebels up in the mountains.

It is too soon to see if Kalliva will, herself, become a Humakti rather than a Vingan this time around, but we will see in play.

The Runes

One of the key differences between HQ and RQ is the addition of Rune affinities. Now, bear in mind that HQ pioneered the idea of characters having Rune affinities. In classic RQ you got Runes by joining a cult. The latest edition adopted Rune affinities from HQ and greatly expanding the idea, drawing on two other classic Chaosium games, Pendragon (the paired Power and Form Rune affinities) and Nephilim (the Elemental Rune affinities). 

Where the characters started with three Rune affinities in the previous campaign, they now have affinities with all the Runes (well, not all). For the most part, the players kept their original Rune affinities in mind choosing their new ones, but there were changes, and I think it gave these remixed player characters greater definition and depth.

Kalliva, for example, keeps her powerful Air Rune affinity but Fire/Sky is a close second, reflecting her idealism and "straight arrow" personality. She also gets a touch of Moon Rune affinity this time to reflect her parentage. Beralor also comes in with a strong Fire Rune as well as Man, to reflect his refocusing on Gustbran and the forge. He took a very high Disorder as well, to show the influence of his Eurmali biological father. Kalf's Fire Rune is actually equal to Air, again a reflection of a character who could be very righteous, focused, straight and narrow. His high Beast Rune as a hunter matches as well. Leika actually emerges with Fire as her highest Rune, with surprisingly strong Darkness as well. 

I am intrigued that the characters in the remix all came out with high connections to Fire/Sky (which is of course Kallyr's chief affinity as the Starbrow). 

In short, both the Family History and Rune affinities produced characters more complex and fleshed out than before. The Passions contributed a lot to this as well.

Magic? Cults? Additional Experience?

Six Seasons in Sartar starts with the characters undergoing their adulthood rites, and follows them over their first year as adults. As such the characters do not yet have magic or cults, and have only cultural and occupational skills (derived from the occupation of their parents). Starting with their adulthood rites, which we also conducted over Zoom and separately, magic will come into play.

But that is for next time. 

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