"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, October 11, 2023

HYDRA! A Look at the Jonstown Compendium Release

 When we last looked in on Jonstown Compendium author Peter Hart, he was serving up what I felt was a very "classic" feeling RuneQuest adventure, Bad Day at Duck Rock. Duck Rock reminded me, in a good way, of scenarios like Apple Lane or Snakepipe Hollow, but updated to RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha and with much better lay-out and art. This time, however, Peter is giving us full on, full throttle, post-Dragonrise Glorantha in his Hydra! (yup, the exclamation mark is part of the title), available now at the Jonstown Compendium. Hydra! has all the hallmarks Bad Day did. To quote one of the customer reviews (all five-star thus far), those hallmarks would be "high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution." But Hydra! is bigger, bolder, and leans more towards releases like Black Spear or (ahem) The Company of the Dragon in tackling some of the heavy hitters of the setting (one of which I shall mention, the other I shall not spoil).

Like Black Spear or Company, Peter goes all the way back to White Bear & Red Moon/Dragon Pass with his titular (and rightly exclaimed) Hydra. Because we are talking about the Hydra here;

Hydra was born out of Chaos during the Great Night. Hydra thrived in that dark hour, and its skills and wiles enabled it to retain a place of power beyond the Dawning. Hydra normally resides atop Hydra's Hill.

-WB&RM/Dragon Pass

This monstrous creature, the only true Hydra on the Gloranthan continent of Genertela, resides in the Hydra Mountains, periodically spawning lesser hydras to terrorize the local populace. This is where the adventure and the player characters come in. Post-Dragonrise, things have not been going well for the Lunar Empire. The Lunar College of Magicians, looking to curry favor with the Red Emperor, have had the bright idea of domesticating lesser hydras to send into battle alongside the troops. They are looking for expendables (that would be you, potential player character, that would be you) to march into the Hydra Mountains and procure a few eggs for them.

That is the main plot, at least, because this four act adventure adds several complications. Aside from the Lunar College of Magicians, another character who may or may not date back to White Bear & Red Moon is also interested in the eggs, and a third faction is interested in neither of these sides getting them. Add to this a potential murder plot and, well, there is a lot going on.

This is where the "skillful execution" comes in. Hydra! is clearly written, intelligently orchestrated, and filled to the brim with tips for GMs running it. The text is crammed with yellow-boxed "Advice for the Gamemaster" and (to my delight) green-boxed quotes and references to previous Gloranthan publications. There are maps aplenty, player hand outs with images of the major NPCs, random encounters, a "rumor" generating table, and an entire second booklet of NPC images and stat blocks. This brings the grand total of pages to 170+ pages. With all this support, even relatively novice GMs should be able to run Hydra! with little difficulty.

And this is where I run out of things to actually say about Hydra!, always a difficulty when reviewing scenarios. Anything further goes into spoiler territory. Hydra! is loaded with classic RQ monsters and foes (including two "signature" RQ baddies), delivering what I can only call the "full monty RQ experience." Yet in bringing these classics back, it is a very epic feeling adventure, and one that feels perfect for the "dawn of the Hero Wars" timeline of the current RQ line. The fact that it is a Lunar-leaning adventure set in western Tarsh is the cherry on top, taking us out of the familiar Sartar and Prax sandboxes for a bit of something new.

Hydra! is expertly written and executed, an adventure with multiple intertwining plots guaranteed to keep players coming back for further sessions. Beautifully illustrated (mainly) by Dario Corallo, it is another one of those Jonstown releases that really puts the sword to any notion that community content cannot be top notch and thoroughly professional. It's an adventure you are going to want to have, to run, and to eventually get in print on demand. 

And yes, damnit, the "!" in the title is earned.  

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