Starlight Mage

Volume 3, Number 13

Supplement to Number 12

Stephen R. Marsh

Suite 316 Union Square

1401 Holliday Street

Wichita Falls, TX 76308


After a few letters, I've decided that the WILL / Heroquest article needs some more examples. This zine expands on the example given and makes some comments that should answer common questions.

Lets start the examples with STALKING DEATH, a death god from the Gods' Age whose realm was NorthWest of the heart of the Lunar Empire.

Starting WILL: <18>

Rune: Death <15>

Ally: Healer <14>

Skills > 90%: 5 <09>

Allied Spirit/Dark <08>

2 Special Powers <06>

40 million worshipers <13>

Glory of 5,000 <10>

A comparative Runelord with 20 followers and 3 points from glory would have a will of 10.

During the Godtime, STALKING DEATH came face to face with chaos in the form of a chaos demon servitor of the Devil who was leading a hoard of demons north. He drew on the power of darkness (allied Rune) for the counter-chaos power. He and the demon then fought.

Ever after, SD was a death and darkness god who specialized in fighting chaos.

Since his WILL was 23 at the time of the combat with chaos, any time that SD used darkness to combat chaos his effective WILL was 23 for the WILL v. WILL portion of the combat.

[implied rule: A character's will when accomplishing a task is the will used whenever that task comes up again if the earlier will is higher than the character's current will.]

The will at the time of conflict was important since after the deed was done, SD added a direct rune (Darkness//-4 to WILL). He and three allies then formed a pantheon (-3 to WILL, one per ally) and he established two sub-cults (sword/death; cloak/dark) (-2 to WILL). His glory faded.

For any new conflict or endeavor his will was only 4 -- a tempting target for even a Runelord -- except that his will was still 26 for fighting (pre cloak and pre specials), 25 for special one, 24 for special two and 23 for any conflict with chaos (if he takes Darkness route). He was still pretty unbeatable in a fight.

[implied rule: A character's will is added to the skill or attribute used in a related conflict. i.e. Stalking Death would add 26 to his sword skill in any sword fight and 23 to whatever skill or magic he uses against chaos in darkness form.]

However, as time passed, and the world grew peaceful, Stalking Death's worshipers dropped in number to only 250,000. That dropped his WILL to 2 by the time he had to face the Red Goddess. She came as chaos, he took dark. She used fire. (antithetical runes are tripled in effect).

Stalking Death could either be WILL 23 against her WILL x 3 or WILL 2 vs her WILL. Assuming her WILL was 19 he was doomed in either event.

His allies fled, breaking the pantheon and he escaped, though without his worshipers, cloak or powers. (He took the loss of the worshipers, cloak and all powers/runes except death as the result of his conflict on the spirit plane).

SD is now one rune (death), five skills, no specials and a glory of 1500 for a WILL of 12. With 100 followers (as in a hero cult) he would have a WILL of 14 (and for use of the death rune in combat his will is still the 26 from his heroquest). He is a dangerous (though limited) spirit. Freedom cost him everything.

Had he not given up his powers and had the pantheon stayed intact, losing the battle and the worshipers would have dropped his WILL to 0 or less and made him a slave of the lunar empire like many a god before him.

[implied rule: Losers in mythic combats who have their will drop below 0 are readily enslaved by the winners.]

[implied rule: will and skill are not cumulative between persons: i.e. two individuals of skill 95% do not equal one of skill 190% nor do two persons with WILL 12 equal one with WILL 24. Also, WILL is not added to skills less than 95% for influencing heroplane actions.]


The Revenants, Sheri S. Tepper, Ace, ?/342 Pages (1984 release).

I finally took the time to read this quest book by Tepper. The plot is a standard "people brought together to save the world" plot, but the execution is still superior.

The characters are different and fun. Jaer (the lead character)'s body changes sex (and physical characteristics) regularly, another character is a were-griffin, etc.

The tale is nicely done without plot drift or world shift. It is a much better than average example of the quest genre.

DreamSpy Jacqueline Lichtenberg, St. Martin's Press $19.95/337 pages.

Lichtenberg is a trufan (like Pohl) who successfully moved over to being a writer. She currently writes with power and honed technique, yet does not abandon the fan roots to her stories. A typical Lichtenberg story involves some vampiric mode (JL started with the Sime/Gen stories) with need, domination, pain, sexual attraction and strong romance undercurrents. Adolescence all over again.

Her last two novels (Those of My Blood and DreamSpy) deal with the Luren, a race of essence vampires who benefit greatly from sex with their "victims." The Luren dwell as a race of genetic designed human derived specials in a high tech science fiction/fantasy Universe.

Luren are specially designed to bond with Dreamers -- a designed human variant whose special quality is that they dream -- something no other race (but most Earthly mammals, a bit of batscience intrudes into the novels at this point) does. Luren use "influence" -- something similar, though different than telepathy (which is used by telepaths) or empathy.

The stage is a human dominated set of space empires with nobles, Human Telepaths, Luren and Dreamers. Except the Dreamers all dwell on an interdicted world.

The story dwells on the frission (sexual and otherwise) between a female telepath genetically designed to bond with dreamers, a male Luren and a male Dreamer as they fight against the forces of the telepath's evil female relations and strive for interstellar peace.

Surprisingly, the story is well done, the elements make sense and the items that would otherwise appear lurid or silly are properly integrated.

Worth a look.


Total Recall -- excellent. Well executed martial arts scenes, excellent adaptation of the original work (who would have thought that Philip K. Dick was going to start spawning megahits from his novels and short stories?). It is too bad that Dick is no longer with us.

Dick Tracy is a Howard the Duck sort of mild, well crafted, cinematic movie. It needs to be seen in a movie theater, not on television to capture the cinematography. It has too many artsy touches. For example, Pop Star Madonna plays a not too sexy, not too talented night club singer. Why not let her be sexy and let her sing? It is artsy to have Madonna play a second rate bimbo and second rate singer, but is it a good idea?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- a great dollar movie. My four year-old loved it. Clear plot, good costumes, nicely executed. Better than Dick Tracy.


Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey, TOR. At $3.95/313 pages it is an excellent book.

Ok, I admit it. I'm tired of Sex, Elves and Rock & Roll, (though I may do a short story with that as the title) (that includes Knight of Ghosts and Shadows and Gossamer Axe), deLint has overdosed me on variations of vampires (every deLint novel I've read seems to have some sort of vampirish sorcererlike creature in it), and modern era writing is getting a bit much.

But this story wasn't about vampires, rock bands, elves or the modern era. It was about believable characters, an interesting mythos and danger. Very well done even if it had a vampire, martial arts, a rock band and was set in the modern era. Very well done.


Given that Orson Scott Card is next going to put the Book of Mormon into fantasy form (he has a contract for a series of novels), how would I do it? Well * * *

I would start with three competing groups:

1), a fleeing warrior elite and their king who meet

2), a disorganized large rural and urban people whose language they cannot understand and who need a king/judge (arbitrator of land rotations) as the traditional noble houses are in disarray, and

3), outcasts and competitors of the warrior elite who organize neighbors, barbarians and immigrants into robber bands.

The elites would be a precarious minority (rune priests and rune lords controlling city-states), the natives/nobles scattered and uneducated (primitive sorcery, no military tradition) but controlling the lower levels of the bureaucracy, and the outcasts would parallel robber tribes (spirit magic, totemistic shamanism, some cthuloid).

All three groups would vie for control in a Central American city state setting run under RQIII rules.

Well, I am curious to see how Card handles it. I've enough to do with what I am handling myself. If you are curious, note that Shadow, Shadows3, and the Shattered Norns working notes are available as shareware -- preferably on one 1.44 meg clamshell. The working notes provide my house rule changes to the RQIII rules, some new monsters, notes on WILL and lots of unfinished things.


Ok, another RQIII/Heroquest/Pendragon example is in order. Let us do WHITE BEAR, a berserker superhero. In illustrating him I'll also reflect some additional rules

Starting WILL <18 -- he was fully human>

Two Runes <12>

The Infinity Rune<09 -- same cost as any other rune butnecessary to be a superhero>

Three Specials <06 -- all three bridged to the infinity rune>

Allied Spirit <05>

Best Friend <04>

Five >95% skills <-1>

20,000 glory/cc <19 -- he converted this glory permanently into WILL. He can't lose the glory-- but then he can't use it for any other purpose and it converts at 2 to one>

5,672 glory/normal <30>


/cc <36 -- converting followers into a pemanent asset is a difficult trick>


/normal <38>

This is a fairly powerful superhero, equal to a major god in many ways. In a fight his WILL adds to his weapon skill.

[implied rule: WILL is added to the use of any skill whose value is 10 or greater on the Pendragon scale.]

Also, in any conflict, his followers share his pains and wounds for him (rather than with him).

[implied rule: the infinity rune does not give one infinite ability or power -- instead it allows the superhero to transfer damage or adverse results to followers. A superhero thus becomes the focus for the power and lives of his followers.]

WHITE BEAR represents the most power any character is likely to achieve on either side of godhood.

[implied rule: gods can transfer damage only to specially linked supernatural followers. The hrythgar or cohort of a god has the same function as the linked followers of a superhero.]

{practical note: only one superhero ever converted any large number of followers into a permanent asset and thus into linked followers. Most superheros have about 10 to 100 rune level followers.}

[implied rule: except for special circumstances, all linked followers must be rune level characters.]

{practical note: dragons are the lefthanded path equivilent of superheros. Their increased body mass substitutes for followers.}

[implied rule: there are supernatural equivilents or substitutes for followers in terms of creating glory, generating will, providing power/magic points and absorbing damage transfers. Dragons are the most effective, chaotic means the least.]

So much for WHITE BEAR. Lets look at a beginning hero instead.

Dancing Hands

Starting WILL: <18>

Rune (life/healing): <15>

Rune (disorder/trick):<12>

7 skills: <05>

1 special: <04 -- the healing dance>

1 special: <03 -- the deceiving hand>

Allied Spirit: <02 -- Ally is an infinity rune spirit>

15,000 followers: <06>

12 rune tied followers -- no WILL impact

3,500 Glory <13>

Dancing Hands niche is succoring the downtrodden and the oppressed. She has two modes. In the first she provides healing and health. In the second she allows the oppressed to strike back through trickery and practical jokes.

Her healing side is valuable through all levels of society and in all social conditions (from war through prosperity and peace). Her trickster side has an outlet in any circumstance outside of full scale war -- but then healing dominates.

She has a nice balance and a good niche. Her allied spirit supports her growing link to her rune level followers and allows her to transfer damage. The ally will be the keystone when and if she attempts to become a superhero. On the other hand, she has a good shot at joining a pantheon or becoming a superhero's best friend. It is up to her how she wants to spend her WILL and where to go.

Without the linked rune types, and with fewer followers, Dancing Hands is a Runequestor beginning on the hero trail. Her will as a Runequestor is lower (only 6 or 7), but then her conflicts are not as dangerous.

{practical note: many Pendragon type encounters that depend on roleplaying and an occassional opposed trait roll -- modified by WILL if applicable -- are great beginning heroplane type conflicts. Not everything is saving the world, fighting off terrible odds, etc.}


A. Mundane

Gaining a minor temporary special benefit is the heart of many mundane heroquests. By definition, this is the kind of benefit that has play aid but that does not cost WILL and to which WILL cannot be added to determine results. The yearly holy season ceremonies come to mind as a good example as would the typical attempt to gain a military ally during a war (see the Dragon Pass game for some examples).

The other kind of mundane quest centers about gaining a minor benefit (that is available through mundane means) by mythic means. A character may go on a quest that gains a runemagic spell or improves a requisite or skill just as training would. These quests are good practice and do not cost WILL (unless WILL vs WILL struggles are used to obtain the benefit).

B. Simple

The basic "simple" quest where one spends WILL to gain a permanent benefit not usually available. (Good examples include a normal human becoming one of the "men and a half," the walk on Wind Mountain where a man can earn the ability to take a sylph's form, raising the dead, the visit to hell <e.g. the lowest level lightbringer's quest>, etc.).

C. Heroic

The kind of quest that is a mark of a true hero. Gaining a fetch or a true allied spirit, finding a best friend, changing a mythic event, or gaining a special/left handed power are all heroic quest levels. Note that while some parts of the true heroquest may start at relatively low levels of power (e.g. gaining an allied spirit or fetch) all parts of the heroic quest are necessary to the identity and power of a hero.

D. Superheroic

The quest to gain the infinity rune, the true visit to hell (necessary for the ability to routinely return from the dead unless sundered into grisly portions), bonding the best friend and similar steps are all superheroic. Note that the path to becoming a superhero is a often a separate path than that of ascending to being a lesser god. The gods do not necessarily use the infinity rune, need best friends or need a back door out of hell.


Grass, Sheri S. Tepper, Ballentine, (I got it for 40% off -- cover price is around $4.95).

Win and I both really enjoyed this novel. I can recommend it as extremely readable and enjoyable as both SF and as general reading literature.

With Grass, Tepper moves into very literary circles for her book reviews. Often that means disastrous things for the quality of the writing, the kind of message and the bulk of the prose. On the other hand, it can (though rarely) mean extraordinary writing.

In the case of Grass it means a very good book. Well written, nicely allegorical, no serious flaws and well crafted telegraphing of all the parts. The novel is long, but needs every word. Even the end, which threatens to draw out, needs every page.

Tepper tells the story of those who are too impatient and those who are too forbearing and indulgent. Set against a well crafted science fiction plot, wonderful aliens and a sphere of influence threatening plague, the heroine makes her escape from both an overbearing patriarchial order and from adolecent themes in science fiction. The supporting characters work out thier resolutions of both personality and purpose as the tale works its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Tepper again reprises her thoughts on good and evil (worked out in depth in the True Game series) and on men and women (see her Gate to Women's Country). She forshadows her next novel which addresses the proper place and shape for religion.

Her approach is overshadowed at times by the heroine's rebellion against a heavily male dominated culture -- well done, but a generation old. Note that the rebellion is not cast in the typical anti-male rhetoric that is generally prattled by the press and is mirrored in the mother/daughter conflict. Well done.

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