Back in late 2015, I came up with the seed of scenario for Heroquest, a game I hadnâ€™t actually GMâ€™ed before. The seed was based on two canonical events in the history of Dragon Pass and a few questions around those events:
What happens when you initiate to Orlanth and Ernalda on the day when they die in 1621?
And Dragonrise in 1625â€¦
What is the dragonnewt conception of time? Are they trapped knowing their fate/ past/ future in crystal clear detail? Or do they know key points? Or do they feel major events coming up and position themselves accordingly.
What does the dance of the dragonnewts mean? Is it needed to start their journey on their roads?
What is their link to the brown dragon that arises in 1625?
Along with those thoughts, I had a title â€œAnd the Dragonnewts are dancingâ€¦â€
And that is how I came to GM a Heroquest session at Continuum in Leicester with five players who knew a lot more about Glorantha than I, running an improvised collective story telling session with some dice rolls and character generation as you go.
Darren Happens - Caburth- innkeeperâ€™s son, delivery boy bouncer/ strapping lad runes: movement/ storm
Simon Phipp - Stormvoice- voice of the ring- the truth teller
Jane Williams Elmor Neverblink- scout- Vingan eyes and ears of the clan
Linda Marieth Borgen ? - Babestor Gor- avenging the abducton of her older sister
Marc Jarvis - harmonious trader
We agreed all were from the same clan- a small clan based around trading. Ford across a river, tavern/ lodging. Ford the river through a stone at the halfway point. Market area- on trading routes.
1625- reports of Dragonnewts on the edge of the clan lands are spotted, the group are asked to investigate. They find dragonnewts dancing around stones indicating its a dragonnewt road- long thought to have been broken in this area of Dragon Pass. The dragonnewts are acting strange even by their standards and the group start to experience dragonnewt conception of time and they start to experience:
1621- Clan initiation- small clan- emphasis on all the cults have their different parts of the ceremony. The clan wyter is out at the sacred area, drums and chaats fill the air, berries are spat are on, and they are told to find what is hidden. The group are in their early teens and they find they have crossed the threshold and are lost in a landscape that is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. They come across a ford with a stone . Elmore using her movement rune notices a change to the markings on the stone- they are in royal Satar purple. Caburth moves the stone to see if there anything under the stone to find there is a dragonnewt rune in the mud. Looking at the stone there is a dragonnewt rune markingâ€¦. There is discussion about dragonnewts allying with the lunarsâ€¦.
Lindaâ€™s character is meant for Ernalda but she is full of rage and anger about the abduction of her elder sister by the Greydogs and the inaction of clan on this. She sees the wooden heft of a hoe in the ground, she pulls it out of the ground and realises its is not a hoe, it is the axe of Babestor Gor- the avenging earth warrior. A grey dog/ wolf appears in the distance and attacks. Linda swings her action at the head, but castrates the dog instead and leaves the dog howling to die. The group then feels for a brief moment 1625
The clanâ€™s bird is a singing kingfisher. Several generations ago for reasons lost in time, the kingfishers left and the clanâ€™s quality of life suffered. The kingfisher ahead starts singing and Marcâ€™s character joins in, gaining under his harmony rune the gift of the song of the kingfisher. The group feels the chaotic nature of dragonnewts calm in a bizarre way.
The group walks up a hills familiar and unfamilar. Stoemvoice bellows into the valley below, the weather changes and wind picks up thunder is heard. They reach the top of the hill look down into the valley and feel weakened. Orlanth and Ernalda have died- the clear night skies darken, it goes black and then a read glow line surrounds them. The air goes very still. Stormvoice tries to calm the group by telling them Ernalda still lives, she is only sleeping. This succeeds though only to a degree- they want to believe rather than they wholeheartedly believe. They realise that they are on the ridge where in 1625 they found the dragonnewts. They feel the dragonnewts dancing with renewed intensity- they realise that part of the stone setup for the dragonnewt road . They place the stone in the in the ridge dragonnewt rune up. This is both the very start and the very finish of the Dragonrise quest- for one moment in time dragons and Sartar are allies. They feel/ see/ experience dragon rise both in the otherworld and in 1625.
In 1621 they return to the clan to find a deeply worried clan- they have been gone for hours and no trace of them could be found. Something has happened with the gods. The worry is augmented by powerful omens. The group are covered with their chosen runes and clan markings- not tattooed by burnt into their skins. Stormvoice calms the clan by telling them that Ernalda is not dead but sleeping- it would be some weeks before the full news hits the clan. The song of the kingfisher brings me harmony to the clan and the axe of Babestor Gor ensures that contempt is tempered. The Vinganâ€™s hair has changed to a natural Sartar red. A few weeks later, the kingfishers return swimming down the river, unable to fly in the windstop, bringing their song. In the harsh years that follows the clan survives, keeping good relations with all except the grey dogs.
1625 brings the greater change- its is clear that Lunars most go- that the rules have been rewritten and Satar will rise.
So just how improvised was it?
The players choose their clan roles and their cults. They defined what their clan was and that it was located next a ford with a stone in the centre. They chose the clan animal. So most of my plot was improvised- I knew they would be in both 1621 and 1625 and I have suspected there would either be a peaceful resolution or a climatic battle in Dragonâ€™s Eye.The repair of the Dragonnewt roadstone was made up on the spot as well as its connection to the larger heroquest. I really was making the story up at the same time as the players were in inputting and it was liberating, And scary. And sometimes it felt a little flat, but I was encouraged by the playersâ€™ response in game and in an hour long post session chat. The repair of the Dragonnewt roadstone was made up on the spot as well as its connection to the larger heroquest. And most of the boons of their hero quest were invented out of play- the main exception being their runes burned into their skin upon their return. That was part of the original inspiration for the story.
Coming up next is my experience of running â€œAnd the Dragonnewts are dancingâ€ at Dragonmeet in December 2016. And how different the story that we collectively created in that session was compared to Leicester.