Thursday, January 26, 2012

Arkham Horror begats Call of Cthulhu

Being down three players last night (Dan Dan the Power Game Man is overseas for awhile, Little Ben has to take a month or two off suddenly, and Big Ben had a cold), we decided to finally play Paul’s copy of Arkham Horror he got for Xmas instead of my Runequest session.. In all honesty, I’m not feeling Runequest like I thought I would. I love the setting, but the super crunch of the combat rules really killed my buzz. I’m going to go back to the drawing board on that for awhile. Like I said a thousand times on this blog, my pet peeve in GMing it to feel like its work. I don’t wanna work during a game. I want to have a couple of beers and paint a picture. I’m all heart and passion at the center, not the crunchy shell. I actually was willing to carry on without using the mind-numbing, high maintenance Strike Rank, but with a couple of the guys being heavily for using it BTB, I just wanted to step back for a bit and take another look before we spent another session trying to adjudicate a battle with the characters and a couple of weapon snakes.

So we finally play AH (the latest version), and it seemed pretty cool. As the only real Lovecraft aficionado in the group, I had to hold back and not bore everybody with the back story of every side street on the Arkham map and all the monsters and books and such. What was weird was they, the Cthulhu novices, seemed to enjoy it a bit more than me. In all honesty, I like a board game to be a little simpler, and to be able to be played inside of three hours with 4 people or less. I’m actually surprised that we finished by 11:30, but I think we fudged a couple of things to be able to get to the battle with the endgame god (in this case it was Yig the serpent god, and we beat him with only one character dying).

We’ll have a better handle on it next time so it will go quicker, but one really good thing came out of this: we got the Lovecraft bug, and I’ll be running some Call of Cthulhu for my next session! Next week at Big Ben’s D&D I’m thinking of taking up a half hour or so for some CoC chargen so we can do less of that when I get the Cthulhu session underway.

Usually this would be a good time to get that weekly gaming in, but some of us are having our schedules become busier on weeknights than usual. Andy is getting involved in some kind of local politics, Terry is going to start bartending at her club a night or two during the week, and in addition to my usual once weekly music practice I want to start learning some new instruments – so all of a sudden we find ourselves dashing about trying to work it out for weekly gaming now. Once or twice a year we have a longer weekend session, and I suggested we try to make that once a month or so to make up for some lost weeknight sessions, so in the long run I think it will be all good and the group will carry on with standard operations bullshit for the foreseeable future.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Runequest - the Buzzkill of Strike Rank

Ran the second Runequest 2nd edition session the other night set in that famous Sartar lane known for its apple orchards. The Tin Inn and environs were still hopping from the Spring festival. I say “Spring” because I have yet to memorize the names of Gloranthan days, weeks, and months, and seasons. As an aside, speaking of the calendar names in RQ, I have been reminded of how much I snagged out of Glorantha as a kid to plug into my game world Acheron (I still hate that name for a game setting, but I was a kid, man). The names for seasons and some of the names of days (such as “Godsday”) were apparently shamelessly ripped-off by me. I totally forgot about that over the decades. That’s OK of course; I hardly ever use them in my D&D game anyway. I get lazy and just call the days Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…

Before I go any further, let me lay out the characters for any Runequest fans who might be reading. Their backgrounds were all rolled out of the RQ 2nd edition chargen section. None of the characters are laymembers of any cults yet (well, Paul’s barbarian “Bjorn” being a herdsmen is automatically a lay member of the storm god Waha).

Catuanda – from the sage-heavy city Jonstown. He himself is scholarly, but like all the other kids he is setting out on the bloody road of violence to better himself physically. Instead of being a follower of Lankhor Mhy, the main knowledge god in Sartar, he went with a minor one (the name escapes me). Has a preference for the long spear, and is pretty lucky with it in combat.

Rowan – from main Sartar city Boldhome. At 21 years old, she is the oldest of the PC’s. Her father was a successful weaver in the city. Like all the new young fighters, ask her why she is setting off down the road to violence and she will tell you “because everybody else is doing it.” She has a liking for the warrior girl goddess Vinga, daughter of Orlanth. This last game she met “Siobhan Lomand,” a Rune Priestess of Vinga, who has offered to make her (and some other girls at the festival) lay members of the Vinga cult. So Terry will probably be the first character in the campaign with a god connection (BTB you need to be a lay member for a year before you can get to the Initiate stage of worship, and all the perks it comes with). Rowan currently uses a short sword as her main weapon.

Bjornheld – the only “barbarian” of the group, Bjorn comes from a sheep herding tribe. He left because they made a lot of fun of him…he has a size of 4. That makes him small. He could wear Vern Troyers kilt. Bjorn makes himself look even smaller by preferring the long spear in combat.

Tensen – From Boldhome. Started with a dagger for combat, but has a bow and is favoring its use. I see a bow-master in the future! This last game Big Ben decided out of the blue that Tensen would be very vocal of his hatred of the Lunar Empire who are occupying Sartar. Just goes to show you, you need a couple of sessions before characters start to differentiate themselves. Even in RQ, where human characters can seem very similar, these characters are standing out from each other pretty good.

Yuri – Little Ben’s new character (LB missed the first session the other week). Guess what? Another townsperson from Boldhome (that makes three character from the capital city). Hasn’t been fleshed out fully yet. I can’t even remember what weapon he used.

Yuri showed up in town while the festival was still going on, and the other characters had finished up their blood combat initiation from the previous game. To give Yuri his own combat, the character volunteer to fight again as teams in the Humakt battle circles.

Which gets me to the topic subject; strike rank. Ah, the buzzkill of it. It’s crunch man. I had forgotten how much there was too it. Too much Call of Cthulhu in the 90’s, where Basic Role Playing left SR out of the mix. The system is soooo easy without SR.

OK, it ain’t rocket science (I have Champions for that). But it requires a lot of rewriting the order folk go in from round to round, especially if they are using missile weapons. Basically, your strike rank is an attacking order based off of weapon length, dexterity, and size. So a fast guy with a spear is going to hit before a slow guy with a dagger, capishe?

Look, I like the grim and gritty nature of RQ combat. Every blow can be crippling or deadly. Odds are some of these characters will be missing a limb or dead before somebody is advanced enough to have a six point healing spell (needed to attach limbs and bring you back from the brink of death from a stoved-in head or skewered torso).

But the busy work of strike rank – is it worth the trouble? Well, although I am a 50% combat/50% roleplay kind of guy, the group on a whole might actually be more like 75% combat/25%roleplay. With 50% I feel like I can relax, have a beer, and paint a world around the characters shenanigans. When the combat encroaches on that, I start feeling like it’s work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the action, irony, and heartbreak of RPG combat. I just don’t want it to be what it is all about. I put heart and passion into my GMing in part because I think that is a bit of a lost art these days. People are either too much on the serious side, or too much on the “beer and pretzels – games are a party” side. I just want to be in that sweet, sweet spot in the middle. But not sure there is room for both me and SR.

Next session things are going to heat up, and combat situations are going to get a bit more complicated. But we have had some good practice over two sessions now. Two combats among characters in the battle circles, and last game a nice fight against some weapon snakes (snakes with swords and maces for tails – chaos creatures), and also a couple of Broo. So for next game, we’ll continue to use strike rank as is (but without movement and encumbrance considerations). But I’m still looking at toning down the crunch factor a bit so I can relax more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DM's Character Assumptions

There are a few things I assume at character creation that a character can do that perhaps not the average man can do in a low-tech setting, but in my mind are basic to the survival of a standard dungeon delving character. You can call them skills if you want, but by any other name I think a character needs these things, and what continuing character in a campaign has time to learn such things in the course of games? Background skills I come up with on the spot based on whatever the player wants for his character (son of famers, then got some farm skills Son of a mason, can do a little stone work, dads a sailor, then tie some knots well, etc).But I think since the earliest forms of D&D some unspoken skills are assumed into characters (in most cases).

I recently posted about this to a forum, and guess what? Yet another thing to divide players on. Some think characters should have to take time to learn these basics, and a good deal of folk think in medieval Europe terms and say almost nobody should historically be able to do these things (c’mon folks, this is not the real world we are talking about. It’s D&D).

Again, a lot of my assumptions maybe come out of having played (since childhood) editions where you had to come up with your own options and ideas for mundane things outside the class abilities. And I liked it in that things didn't need to get too bogged down with skills and more and more things that players have options and choices with outside of the most basic stuff that made the PC's D&D characters. Too much of that and you flash forward to talents and feats etc etc etc and may as well break out my Champions rules to use for fantasy gaming.

Here are some things I pretty much automatically assume about characters at the start of a campaign (I have no idea if any of these are assumed in the PHB or DMG anywhere). Do you have these or some of your own?

*All characters can read and write their own language.

*All characters have some experience in at least light horse riding (they can saddle a horse, ride it up to a medium trot with no difficulty, and attend to its basic feeding and grooming needs properly after a days ride).

*All characters can drive a horse/mule cart/wagon (max of two animal-driven)

*All characters know the basics of starting a fire (with flint and steel) and setting up a safely contained campfire.

*All characters can swim

*Fighter types know how to properly clean, oil, and sharpen their weapons. Those proficient in bow can restring a bow (but could not necessarily create a bow and arrows from scratch).

*That clerics and monks (in most common cases) will belong to an organization in the area (temple, monastery) that acts more or less like a guild they can go to for aid or safety.

*All characters can do very basic math equivalent to 1st year Jr. High skills (money grubbing adventurers that they are), and MU’s can do higher math (some algebra-type functions or beyond)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Obligatory 5th Edition post

My experience with an D&D beyond 1st edition could fit into a thimble. In the early 90’s one of my players wanted to run D&D, so she went out and bought the 2nd edition stuff. She ran a few games, but I don’t really recall the major differences in systems.

One of the main reasons I stuck with 1st edition all through the 90’s was probably because most of my players tended to have very little gaming experience until they came to my games. “I always wanted to play but never go the chance” people. I of course was the “seasoned veteran,” and was able to lead these gentle lambs through many a campaign with 1st edtion. Hell, they didn’t care. That was a time of wide-eyed wonder for my players, it seemed. And I often had a lot of females in games then (at one point in the mid-90’s outnumbering the guys at many sessions), and in my games they tended to lean heavily towards role-play (especially shopping trips, which in D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Champions was always great for developing those “winging it” DM muscles), so task resolution was not the main source of fun during those times. We’d have these amazing several hour session with minimal combat or action.

From around 2000-2008 I was not gaming, and not even really keeping up on what was going on with D&D. My stuff was all in boxes in a garage, and my internet interests were more about comic books, music, and movies.

Then out of nowhere *BAM* I’m running games for a regular group, reading about D&D and other games constantly online, and started this friggin’ blog. Gaming and D&D was all up in my grill. Still, I’m not exactly Grognardia James in terms of my knowledge of the history of gaming, and what is going on in the OSR. Obviously I’m a much better talker than a listener. Powergame Dan sometimes marvels at what I know that is going on in gaming and the OSR, but really it’s reading Grognardia and a couple of other select forums that gives me any particular knowledge on what is going on. And that knowledge is not exactly deep even after three years.

And in all honesty, looking at online stuff about gaming is starting to lose it’s luster. “G whiz” factor is gone. It might be different in my case if I was back in semi-retirement gaming-wise. I’d look online and do a shitload of “remember when.” But with a full and regular group going, I’m trying to enjoy that more. In some ways because I’ve slowly realized that it is a fairly rare and precious thing.

As for 5th edition, well, it’s not very relevant to me. I don’t think D&D is relevant at all any more. You don’t see it getting played by characters in films or TV shows like you sometimes did in the 80’s and 90’s. You never hear it getting joked about. Even the Ubergeeks on The Big Bang Theory don’t play it. In dorkdom these days, it seems pretty bottom of the barrel. If you watch Attack of The Show for a week you might hear a smarmy D&D reference, but even in venues like that it is rare.

So I don’t much care. I have a KOTOR campaign going, a Runequest campaign just started, a 1st edition setting to get back to, a player who is regularly running 1st edition games for us, and am itching to do some Call of Cthulhu before too long. I have plenty on my plate. So let me join the throngs of “happy wanderers” and toss my own “I wish them well” into the ring. That’s it, Mac, Smile and wish them well. But it’s ok if inside you just don’t give a rats ass.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Statement of Intent is Buzzkill

I hate Statement of Intent. It’s in the 2nd edition Runequest rules, and seeing it in a game I wanted to run was just depressing.

I guess I must have encountered it back in the day, but for sure did not carry it forward. From the late 80’s onward moving and attacking seemed to work out OK for my D&D (and Call of Cthulhu as well, Champions has its own excellent rules for when you move and attack) with me doing it all in Dex order. My players never complained. Ahh, the good old days.

My first modern experience with SOI was when Big Ben was trying it for his Evils D&D game. I don’t think it worked out so good. For one thing, it’s a time waster; yet another thing that makes you have to go around the table, person to person, and have them tell you what they are going to do that round. Then you have to go around again for everybody to actually move, attack, etc. But why it sucked in this particular case was that at least half the players forgot right away it was about saying your intent, and they would grab their miniature and move it. I did this too at least once. It just added to the time it took for task resolution, and caused confusion. Yeah, that’s all a game needs, more of that shit.

Getting rid of it in Runequest combat was the first thinh I wanted to do. It’s a friggin’ buzzkill to me. I don’t want to spend more time on combat. In RQ it takes long enough as it is. Luckily, the combat in the first session was restricted to fairly tight Humakt combat circles, so it did not matter very much. But for next game I gotta get it figured out.

I’m thinking individual initiative rolls might be in order for this. That way, each combat can be different, characters who went last could maybe go first next time, and there will be less bitching from the guy who goes first; in this case Andy, who when he has a fast character always wants to wait and see what everybody else is doing, requiring allowing him to change the order he goes in. With initiative rolled for each combat encounter, this can be eliminated. You just go when you are set to go. If you get the chance to act early in the combat, you gotta STFU and take it and hope next time you’ll get to be last and see what the hell everybody else is up to.

When we started the Knights of the Old Republic game, I chaffed at the thought of using it’s initiative rules. But you know what? I got to like them. It was clean, fairly easy, and it changed often. I might make me ditch Dex order entirely in my AD&D games. Anything that gets me the hell away from Statement of Intent. Faaaar away.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Temple Of Demogorgon – 3 Years and still underachieving

As usual, a day late for my own party. Yesterday, Saturday, marked the 3rd anniversary of this most humble, somewhat under the radar and highly underappreciated gaming blog. I’m obviously not keeping a real keen eye on things like that. I’ve never really felt like this was a “vanity blog.” I hardly ever talk about my life outside of games. Having a big, noticeable voice in the online community was never my goal (less than 175 followers after three years is fairly pathetic). I don’t work at all at it, or try to be on a lot of blog rolls. What would even be the point of that? You don’t get paid to blog with under 10,000 readers. You don’t get prestige in any circles that matter for shit in the world at large.

I mean, this is a community that rewards blogs with huge followings because the particular blogger is a skeeve who happens to know some low end sex workers (poor me always having females in my games who were mostly legit actresses and entertainment industry people, professional artists, or successful business women of one kind or another), or made his bones by posting fairly droll commentary of various kinds 3-5 times a day. I don’t constantly post charts and tables (I stopped having time for coming up with that shit when I got out of high school), or focus on corny-ass old school cartoon dungeon mentality that tries to recapture the vibe felt by a 14 year old playing D&D in the late 70’s. I don’t make post after post of “Mr. Nice Guy” gamer fluff that is about as interesting as watching flies fuck. I don’t laser focus on any one thing, like games about Mars or Cimmeria. I don’t try to be especially wacky, refined, literary, or insightful.

This is just a dude who was out of gaming completely for almost a decade, and fell ass backwards into a host who was willing to help put a regular group together and lived fairly close to me and was looking for a 1st edition DM. Luckily we found some folk who were (mostly) not hopeless, catpiss-smelling nons or disturbing geektards. It was a perfect storm that swept me up into putting hours of precious time back into this hobby. And some of that time went into this blog. Yeah, it’s weird, because before that I had zero interest in blogging.

But I sometimes do tend to over think things, and starting this blog may have been an offshoot of that. It’s mostly because I actually enjoy writing down my thoughts, but I really felt I had a lot to say, and had a lot of unique situations from back in the day to talk about. My early, often shitty experiences as a youngster playing in a filthy game shop full of older weirdo’s; girlfriends who played in campaigns (once again non-skanks, sorry); friendships gained and lost. Growing up on onward all while gaming on the sidelines of a fairly full, non-nerd life.

A couple of times doing the blog felt like it was overshadowing the games, especially with my less than satisfactory exploits trying to get involved in the local gaming community outside my comfort zone of a regular group of hand-picked non-cretins. But earlier this year I had an epiphany and decided my focus would be on playing and not writing about playing. That is what it should be about, no? Enjoy the fruits more than you study their roots. Having a bunch of people read your words is great, but having 6 people in front of you hanging on your words and laughing, moaning, bitching, begging, cursing, and yelling is priceless.

So this last year big changes at work and in my career, a couple of somewhat regular relationships including one at work (Sam Adams might tell you that is NOT always a good decision) and some other good life things gave me less time to post. It comes and goes of course, and through the holidays up to right now I’ve had more freedom to post more often. But the fact is I’ll probably post less again. I’m going to try and struggle through a few Runequest games (one game and I already want to houserule half the shit) so I’ll want to post on that a bit just because it’s new. And hopefully I’ll get some Call of Cthulhu games going, and I know from past experience that will be worth posting about. But again, I want the actual gaming to be more important than reading my own thoughts and sharing them with a small, closed community.

So going into another year of this, and who knows how far it will go. Another three years? That’s a long time when you are getting into middle-age. Then again, my doctor tells me because of my outstanding Scottish genetics I could get back close to high school shape in a year if I skipped a few beers and got back on my mountain bike on weekends. Miracles can happen. In two years I could be married, have kids, working harder to make even more money. Who knows. I still want a beach house and a super-model as mother to my future children. Weirder things have happened. Just look at the very existence of an OSR. Who would have thought 30 years ago that this was a possibility.

Thanks for your support and best of luck in the new year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Runequest – how much flavor do you force on it?

One of the most challenging things about running classic Runequest, beyond the mechanics of full character creation and combat crunch, is setting the mood. Hell, originally I wasn’t even sure a proper mood could be set.

A little over 30 years ago I was a kid at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, playing in whatever game one of the older pricks decided they wanted to run (and that owner Gary Switzer wanted to play). That meant very little D&D, and lots of things like Bushido, Traveller, and Runequest. There were always a couple of Runequest campaigns going on.

Outside of the focus on god worship and common spell use (I do remember thinking that everybody pretty much ran clerics in RQ), I don’t remember much of what I learned of the secrets of Glorantha at that time. The older guys seemed to know the world and it’s conflicts very well, and it makes sense that Gary would because as a store owner he could read all the material in the form of books and fanzines that filtered through. This and that battle; this and that war; this and that location. Stuff on that classic setting that you have to search through a thousand sources to get bits and pieces of. And it’s worse now, because there is so much more that has been added to the milieu over the decades.

With limited time on my hands, I put in much more research in the Dragons Pass setting (where I would ultimately start the first game; that was another hard decision – Prax or DP?) than studying up the rulesbook. In all honesty, I forgot how much there was too the crunch. I ran a lot of Call of Cthulhu in the 90’s, but I forgot that is a fairly retarded down version of those RQ rules. Basic Role Playing at its most basic.

But whatever. In games I’m a “flavor man.” A good solid foundation in your setting and the player’s surroundings is crucial for my style of character development. So, with the under-populated classic Runequest forums being of little help, I thrashed about for Dragons Pass location info, at least enough to hang my hat on and add my own items to it to make it my own. I got the Kerofinela Gazette, but that describes things to a certain degree in terms of at least several years after the time period I am using. So I have to play fast and loose with that info. Just use what I need to describe a location. And of course Cults of Prax is big help, but that describes the gods in terms more of the natives of that area.

So into it I go with only shards of info and my own winging skills, on the raggedy edge of trying to express a world I did not create with scattered and sketchy info.

I did not want to hit these guys over the head with too much data. A few days before the game I created a several page primer on the setting. Basically, getting across that it is a Bronze Age version of a marriage between ancient Scotland and ancient Norway. That city civilization is a very new thing, and that even the haughtiest noble is not far removed from barbarian herd culture. I gave the basics of how the Lunar Empire has spent a generation chaining Dragons Pass because they need it as a highway to the holy land, and how they are suppressing the god Orlanth. That all the characters, townsfolk or barbarian, are of the kingdom of Sartar, and how it is a conquered kingdom, but has not been so for long.

As far as the official history of the era, I hope I am not too far off with all this. So much is assumption.

To get away from the D&D reasons for adventure, I explained that this particular period (1615…two years after Starbrows famous Sartar rebellion) was a time of youngsters of both sexes hitting the bricks in search of combat and mysteries for a variety of reason that created a perfect storm: a feeling that major wars are on the horizon, that the gods and their before-time adventures and dungeon crawls are to be emulated, that success in all endeavors is achieved by personal fitness and growth, and a sort of hipster faddishness (“everybody’s doing it, mom” sort of thing). That last reason alone seems to makes sense to me as to why teenagers who can’t use a weapon for shit would set out into a world where one lucky sword hit could take an arm off you, and probably will no sweat.

As you might know I like to have music going during my sessions, although in the long run I’m not sure how the group on a whole feels about it. But in all honesty I don’t really give a rats ass about that. The “right” music going during a game is important for MY mood, and I’m running the game so my mood matters most. But when you run your games somewhere were somebody else is the host, there can be some ackward moments. There was a point not too long ago when our kind host seemed to think Butthole Surfers was good for D&D. And when I emailed the group saying to bring any ancient Celt/Tribal music for our first Runequest session, the first thing said to me when I showed up was “we decided David Byrne was ancient enough for Runequest”. Oooo-kay. "We." Right. But again, MY mood, so before long I had some drums and pipes going, as well as some Vasen (Swedish super-folk group I met last year at a music camp). Set the mood for me.

As for the combat, I think it was a good “working out the kinks” session. It did take awhile. You can tell when a combat it taking too long – I usually judge it by the look on Terry’s face. If it is kind of blank, half smiling, with the eyes half shut zombified sort of thing, then things are getting old. But I think it will go quicker next time, especially when people have better chances of hitting and are a little less challenged by everything. But just the fact that they are young dumbshits with no training; punks cracking wise and full of piss and vinegar, seems flavorful to me. I hope they see that too.

And I see things already for the characters that might evolve naturally for maximum flavor, things I realized later on after the session. Big Ben’s guy seems to favor the bow, and with archery being invented by the sun god Yelm he might want to go in the direction of that cult. Might go good with his characters apparent love for singing. Andy’s guy has a Power and INT of 17, and he happens to be from the city of Jonstown which has the biggest library in all of Sartar. That might make Jonstown a “college town,” and that would go good with his apparent scholarly leanings. Terry as a female fighter and devotee to Orlanth’s daughter, Vinga, will surely lead her to some interesting things. And Paul’s midget barbarian, well, nuff said there. Character was born with flavor (and “Shorty” uses a long spear, which is pretty amusing).

In the long run, the guys seemed to have fun doing something new. But it was very much a learning experience for us all. I’m sure the second session will go much smoother. If not, well, Terry was hoping we were doing a Call of Cthulhu campaign instead of this…

Thursday, January 5, 2012


My little dream of running some classic Runequest, and current obsession months in the making, has come to wonderful fruition! Well, OK, don’t want to oversell it. Character creation took a little longer than I had planned, and seemed crunchier than I expected. I always found character creation sessions some of the most fun you can have in gaming, and it was, but with a voice hoarse from a cold the other week and NYE this week, it was a bit like work as well. A couple of the players had unusual levels of bitchiness (post holidays blues?), and I had to repeat things a lot as we went through the stat rolling and skill and ability modifying process.

Weapons and strike rank (hoo boy, strike rank) set-up too, and all during the process I tried to interject setting info that had to do with this and that. Without stuffing it down their throat, I mentioned cults and gods here and there and how they might fit in with the lives they have planned for the characters. And they did pan out pretty good, considering I made them all Sartarites and had them roll for background (human characters can be overly similar in RQ, so a little personal character flavor can go a long way). Three of the four players present this night rolled townspeople, and Paul got to be the sole barbarian. Amusingly, he decided he wanted his tribe to be sheep herders. “I wish I could quit you!”

Most interestingly, Paul’s barbarian got a 4 for size (I actually had them roll three sets of stats in order, and the one with the size 4 was most appealing to Paul). So, the party had a midget in their midst. An M&M in a bowl of Snickers Bars.

Terry’s girl and Big Ben’s dude were from the capitol Boldhome, and Andy made his guy be from Jonstown, near as I can tell from the setting is the sister city to Boldhome. You see, the setting info for classic Glorantha is spread out over tha’ internets like melted peanut butter. Most of the stuff you can find ends up being about Heroquest or other Glorantha games set in time periods different than the classic one (the period after Starbrows Rebellion). Even though I have a couple of items with info on classic Dragons Pass, I’m still having to guess and half guess so many things it makes my head fucking spin. But I guess this is a good way to make Glorantha your own. Intentional? I dunno. Pain the ass? Kinda. I don’t want to buy any Runequest material (last I looked a year or two ago the 2nd edition Runequest book of my youth was going for more than 50 bucks), so I’m restricting myself to online info (the Runequest forums aren’t exactly hopping) and whatever I can pilfer online in terms of PDFs.

Anyway, the three young townies and the barbarian midget (with a size of 4 he could wear Vern Troyers kilt – but I still let him use a long spear) came to the spring festival in a certain town famous for apples and a tin roofed public lodge, and ended up doing the “tribal initiation” routine found in classic RQ. Basically, fighting other young, wisecracking punks to the death in Humakt Battle Circles, with a powerful healer nearby. Good thing, because after the characters paired up in teams of 2 (I wanted to go easy on myself and have them fight each other instead of NPCs) and fought the good fight, Ben’s guy was taken out by a spear through the bread basket, and Paul’s wee sheep laddie found his left arm chopped off. This was nice surprise for these guys used to D&D, I tell you what. As the healer did her thing, they got the gravity of the situation; you can get seriously jacked-up in combat in RQ. Death and amputation lurks around every corner. Nice.

Anyway, that combat took awhile as many RQ combats do. They take awhile early on when nobody can land a blow for shit, and it will take awhile later on when everyone can parry every attack. But it was a good practice session for characters, players, and GM. Still a lot of kinks to work our regarding movement and statement of intent in combat (it’s a realy buzzkill in gaming), but I think I made my rules skill check. Hopefully it will be easier next time.

The characters retreated to the Inn to have refreshments bought for them by amused combat spectators, and celebrate their first real life or death combat.

Next time, a little more festival fun and mini-games to get them a variety of skill checks (I also had the Humakt guys build an obstacle course that could test jump, climb, and dodge skills), and perhaps the characters first job and a brush with something they have been frightened of since childhood: Chaos.