The Starlight Mage 22

Copyright 1990 by

Stephen R. Marsh

1401 Holliday Street

Union Square #316

Wichita Falls, Texas 76301





HEROQUEST I



PREFACE



I have been producing role playing games and variants since 1969. Material of mine appeared in TSR's Blackmoor. Since then, I have been noted in the credits of a couple dozen products and several companies. I have always been interested in the concept of heroism and my only published game, Saga (TSR 1980) deals with concepts of Will, Fame and heroic immortality.



This set of rules is my own invention and my own adaptation of existing products and my own rules to the concept of heroquesting. It is designed to be compatable with the Chaosium's unified role-playing system (Runequest, Stormbringer, Call of Cthulu, Superworld, Elfquest, etc.).



These rules are not official. I have no legal relationship with the Chaosium or any of its staff. While this set of rules is based on numerous heroquest gaming sessions and write-ups over a period of years, none of the Heroquests were run or commented on by Chaosium Staff members or their affiliates and no Chaosium personnel attended or participated in the Heroquests I ran (some of which used TSR's D&D [prior to TSR's Immortals set] rules and many which relied upon my own systems).



While I quit running Heroquests in fanzines (such as The Wild Hunt) years ago at Greg Stafford's request, I decided that if Steve Maurer could publish his rules, I would too.



These rules:



(a) are ones you can use now with RQIII;

(b) address issues in heroquesting that are important issues to me;

(c) are designed to be merged with my own skill and game system as well as the Chaosium's systems; and

(d) they are: Copyright 1990 Stephen R. Marsh; all rights reserved.



Permission to copy for personal non-profit use is hereby granted as long as this copyright notice is properly incorporated in the text.



INTRODUCTION



Heroquests are one of many rituals whereby mortals partake of immortal natures. A Catholic Mass, the pledge of allegiance, all of these are similar in part to the basic patterns of the heroquest. All of these are part of the great structure that pulls the world together.



Heroquests are supra or transmundane. They occur whenever a mortal reaches out past the finite and rational world and takes part in the infinite and suprarational world.



In a RQIII type campaign reaching out to the transmundane occurs through the formalized pattern of Heroquesting. Especially in Greg Stafford's Glorantha, a relatively energetic and young world (recorded history in Glorantha is less than 10,000 years old), the heroquest is the supreme focus of supernatural endeavor.



Physical Locale



Heroquests can take place on any of four levels of reality. The four levels are:



(a) the Physical or mundane (the "real" world), including RQIII's areas covered under the Magical Terrain Encounter Table;



(b) the Gray Zone (the threshold of the mythic world), often thought of as the spirit world. In RQIII this is the area covered by the Spirit Plane, including the Frontier Regione, the Outer Region and the Inner Region encounter tables;



(c) the Hero Plane (the shadow/echo of the God Plane). This area is not covered in RQIII's basic rules set;



(d) the God Time (the real incarnate myths). The area also has no RQIII encounter tables.



Each of these levels has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of the heroquest. The Mundane level is easily reached, mythic elements are strictly limited, and the bridge from god to mortal is direct. On the Mundane level the timeless reaches to time, the immortal to mortal, the infinite to the finite. This set of dichotomies is a potent combination and the easiest area for the gods to directly contact their worshipers for participation. Time directly controls the physical world.



Partially leaving time, one comes to the Gray Zone, an area where it is easy to become lost and where the guiding force is spirit rather than matter.



The Gray Zone is the interface between the material world and the spirit and mystical realms. The newly slain dwell here, the terrain is bleak and shifting, and the level is distant from the gods. It has two advantages. First, it is a mythic level (albeit the least orgainized). Second, it is the weakest mythic level. The Gray Zone is the safest (in terms of physical danger) of the realms of myth.



Next is the Hero Plane. The Hero Plane is the shadow cast by the incarnate myths into the realms of spirit. The myths and the world create the cosmos, casting the heroplane as a shadow of that creation and existence. By following mythic paths (outside of the mundane world and the shifting Gray zone, time is a matter of location, not causality), one may participate and be changed by the great mythic acts by walking in their shadows.



After the shadows or echos of the Hero Plane, the God Time is the real thing. Any change on the God Time changes reality, and effecting any such change is as hard as changing mundane reality. Such changes are just as real. When the rune of the Lesser Kraken was unmade and was destroyed, that destruction changed history, time and the material world (to the extent that its name was lost, its worshipers became worshipers to other gods and its shrines and governed skills all ceased).



Runes



The runes are embodiments of primal forces. In a very real sense, as I use runes, they are the Platonic Ideals discussed and debated by early Greek Philosophers. In a more modern setting, runes are the operands of the cosmos' operating system.



In my system, each rune is also a set of stars and has a descrete, separate existance on some levels of reality. When the term Vali appears in my older notes or rules it refers to the generic name I gave the rune-stars. Each star within a rune constellation can be thought of as the assembler segments controlled and constituting that operand.



In Glorantha the stars are a part of Yelm's court.



Each rune has its aspects, its descenders and its co-decants. The charting of same would look like this:



RUNE

/ \

ASPECT ASPECT ---------------- co-decants.



DERIVATIVES/MELDS DESCENDERS



Using an actual example:



FIRE

/ \

LIGHT HEAT ---------------- steam (Meld of Water)

|

Magma (co-decant of Earth) (Meld of Fire)



The number of Runes is limited. With the fragments, derivatives, aspects, melds, descenders and co-decants, they are able to express the entirety of the operating system. All skills, traits, spells, and attributes have one or more runes that control, limit or influence same.



In my system, there are the following runes:

(For *'d runes, the just reverse the runes to find the opposition)

Rune Opposing Rune



Dark Fire

Fire Water

Water Earth

Earth Air

Air Dark

Death Life

Man Beast

Beast Plant

Plant Man

Spirit* Shadow*

Law* Anarchy/Chaos*

Stasis* Change/Movement*

Harmony* Disorder*

Magic* Left*

Mastery Luck

Luck Fate

Fate Mastery

Truth* Illusion*

Infinity* Entropy/Chaos*



In Stafford's Glorantha the runes are not the same and the pairs may not be the same. It appears that Stafford's Beast and Dragonnewt are Aspects of the Left-Handed rune (Seid in Norse) and are so potent as to represent full-fledged runic aspects of their own. (Note that Gloranthan Beast is also Dragon's Eye). E.g. Man (rational) /Beast(irrational); Magic (normal/right-handed)/Dragon (contra-normal/left-handed). Magic and Man may very well be Aspects of the rune for Natural or Sapient/Sane.



Some things about Glorantha only the Dragons seem to know and they keep secrets. The above is my guess based on how I began running my system following a paper I wrote on the left-handed power and the Cheyenne Contraries in 1974. As you could guess, I have extremely deep presuppositions.



Regardless of the system, all (or nearly all) runes are related to conflicts or opposing runes. These are not necessarily pairs, but may form triads, stars or other configurations. For example, for some (explaining more of the above):



Fire overcomes Dark

Water overcomes Fire

Earth overcomes Water

Air overcomes Earth

Dark overcomes Air.



The force that overcomes is the opposing rune. Thus in the elemental star, if your rune is Fire, Water opposes you. If your rune is Dark, Fire opposes you.



The opposing force is important because of the concept of Rune Traits and Rune Factors (discussed below in more depth). Basically, in Rune factors (traits) the limit to the character's strength in a rune is the character's strength in the opposing element (so that on the 20/20 scale, a character's Fire trait is limited to 20 [the scale maximum] - Water trait, Dark is 20 - Fire, etc.).



I do not have Lunar/Moon as an element (I use Cycle as a rune that replaces Lunar/Moon in my mythology). If you use Lunar or Moon as an element, I have suggestions below.



While the elements are in a star, most of the forms are paired. Life and Death. Stasis and Movement. Magic (right-handed/natural) and Dragon(newt) (left-handed/seid). Truth and Illusion.



Chaos taints the process and can change the pairs. Thus a chaos god may have her Fire opposed by Stasis (rather than Water) or his Death opposed by Water (rather than Life). This chaos impact can make for some unusual pairings.



If you do not like the elemental star, or prefer to have all runes in opposing pairs, then use Fire/Water, Earth/Air, Lunar/Dark for elemental pairs. I do not have Lunar in my world, so that particular pairing won't work for Shattered Norns.



Gods



Gods have two functions. They Embody runes and they serve in a pantheon. That is Gods directly act/participate in the operands as they control and alter the world. Gods also are directly acted upon by their worshipers and use both their discretionary functions and non-discretionary functions to aid their worshipers.



A god's ability to directly act to benefit its worshipers is tied to how free the god is from complete integration with the rune. A god's strength with the rune is directly proportionate to the integration with the rune. When a god gets so diluted/integrated with their rune as to lose free agency, they are unstoppable within the rune's function yet unable to act independently of the rune as it is manipulated.



The very act of becoming a god (accepting worshippers) in any degree begins the limits on the god's free agency. It is possible to influence a god through worship--even if the god does not desire your worship. Propriation is a good example of this.



The result is that the older the god, the more powerful in god vs god conflicts involving the rune. At the same time, the less powerful to directly aid the worshiper. Thus new gods are born and old ones fade. In addition, some immortals and some heros chose not to become gods in any fashion.



My mythos included Elaikases (cf my fanzine, The View from Elaikases Tower who refused worship specifically to avoid being bound or controlled by worshippers).



Rune Factors

(as referred to above and covered later in more detail)



The following are the factors for integrating a rune.



-2 Severed (cut off from the rune and all its skills, spells, etc.)



0 Nominal (normal relationship with the rune)



1 Partial (initiate level contact)



2 Minor (rune lord/priest contact)



4 Major (prime rune, runelord/priest contact)



8 Affiliated (direct tie, hero of controlling god)



16 Aligned (godling, superhero)



32 Embodied (the controlling god. Examples include Yelm /Fire, Humakt /Death, Orlanth /Air)



64 Integrated (god who has become part of the rune without any free will).



Rune affiliation is a 20 point trait range that begins with the normal twenty points distributed between the linked runes. (as above for elemental runes, distributed directly between opposing runes just as between opposing traits). Thus one may be 15 Death/ 5 Life or 19 Chastity/1 Lust. Under normal circumstances, all affiliations have at least one point in them.



Note that rune related skills are limited to 10% * rune factor (for %tile systems) (e.g. weapon skills are limited to Death * 10 so that with a 15 Death one would be limited to a maximum weapon skill of 150%) (or limited to 1 per rune factor for 3d6 systems, so that a 15 Death limits one to a maximum weapon skill of 15).



A rune may be severed from a character.



With severing, the above schema allows for the number 22 to be used for the number of perfection (following an old Middle Ages philosophical numerology concept I rather liked).



In addition to the Rune Trait (the 20 point spread) there are Rune Factors. Rune Factors (also called operative points) are the portion of the rune trait "realized" or more fully embodied in a character and their life. Factors may never exceed the trait number.



Only operative points (or Rune Factors) count for most heroquest related actions. Thus a RuneLord of Humakt may be 15/5 in her Death/Life traits, but she may very well have only 6 Death/-2 Life in operative points (factors) for consideration on a heroquest.

Operative points are what determine levels for evaluating runes on quests and they increase the skill limits by additional amounts. (+20% for each operative point). (for 3d6 systems, +2 per operative point).



By severing a rune contact (i.e. Humakt is severed from life) one immediately reduces the severed rune's trait to its factor (i.e. -2), and increases the operative power of the opposite rune by 2 (and the relevant opposed trait to its maximum). (E.g. Sever Fire results in Fire to -2 Trait and Factors, Dark to 20 Trait and Water to +2 Factors).



Thus Humakt's runelords, who sever Life as a part of the ceremony that ties them to Death, become 8 Death (factor for rune lord of controlling god +2)/-2 Life (22 Death/-2 Life in actual trait).



For gains in Rune Factors beyond 22, one must engage in Heroquests. It is possible to gain factors beyond 22.



Gods II



Following a god allows one to gain portions of the god's nature. An initiate of a god has all traits shifted one in the direction of the god's trait package. A runelord/priest has all traits shifted two in the direction of the god's trait package. A joint lord/priest shifts two more. A sainted hero shifts two more, and may shift one past the 20/20 limits (to 20/0). This leads to certain benefits, for example Sainted Yelmalios always make their chaste checks.



However, gods are not uncluttered and unmarred. The clutter adds advantages, the marring adds disabilities, geas and other limits. The follower takes upon itself weaknesses as well as benefits.



RULES



Heroquesting is a matter of making permanent changes in reality by exchanging Will for Alterations in Reality. Permanent changes (for good or will) embody Will. Heroquesting is specifically the spending of will for advancement along the heropath. These rules simulate that exchange.



THE SKILL SYSTEM



This is the skill system that I use in my campaign for all purposes. It translates directly to Heroquest. Normal Runequest I, II and III characters can be used directly -- without any changes -- under this skill system.



I prefer it because it is seamless in its integration and because it has a great deal of flexibility and exactness.



Steve Marsh's Skill System

This system is expressed in percentile terms. It translates easily into 3d6 terms and can be used in a 3d6 system.



BASIC SYSTEM



Most tasks are determined by a roll of (skill + %tile roll) - (y*10%). y is determined by the degree of randomness/difficulty in the task. All skills are expressed as a number level as skill n%, where skill is the name of the skill and n% is the skill level. For each 5%tiles obtained above 0% one point of effect is done (rounding up {e.g. 1% is rounded up to 5% for determining effect).



For example, a character might have jogging at skill level 60% or jogging 60%. Jogging on a track is a 0 level, nonrandomized, task. The result of someone jogging on a track is determined without the randomizer (skill + 0%) - 0%. A jogging skill of 60% would mean that each round of jogging the character could do 60 points of jogging for 12 points of effect. <(60% + 0%) - 0%>/5 = 12.



(with %tiles, divide the % by 5 to get the number of points. I.e. a skill of 60% would do 12 points a round in an unopposed situation).



Cross country jogging on a path is a 10% level task (i.e. y = 10%). The skill of 60 would do (60 + d10%) - 10% per round. In addition, tools can increase the result done. Magical or bionic shoes could add to skill, results or could alter the level of the task.



Non-magic tools add to the dice roll. Good shoes might add +2 to the results of jogging. Often tools have conditional impact. That is, a tool's addition comes only if a positive result is first made. This is most common in combat.



COMBAT



This system works well with combat. Treat combat as usually being a d100%-50 (for normal) to d100%-100 (for paniced, etc.) level task. A skill of 60 would do (60 + d100%) - 50 points per round and would have a 50% chance to hit against an opponent with equal skill. (Equal skills reduces things to equal chances).



With a normal 1d8 tool (such as a sword) at 60% skill one (in a panic situation) would do <(60% +d100%) - 100%>/10 per round at skill level 60% (e.g. when desperately hacking away at the evil blob creature). Every positive roll would add 1d8 (for the conditional tool) to the result.



As per the above, parry skill is added to combat by having the parry skill added to the minus side of the equation.



Thus 60% skill to hit vs 40% parry becomes (60% + d100%) - (50% + 40%) or d100% - 80% -- a 70% chance to hit.

COMPLEX PROBLEMS



Some problems regenerate, some have initial difficulties. Many tasks can have help from tools. Let me give some examples.



Piloting a ship



Wavestalker has an enchantment worth +15% on a superior ship worth 10% and a skill of 30%. Leaving the harbor in his ship is a 3 point a round task.



That means, that to successfully leave the harbor Wavestalker must earn 3 points each round of play.



On take-off without any trouble he does 6+3+1 (10) points per round on a 3 point task. He has a good margin of safety. Each round he gets 7 points ahead.



Two rounds into the channel he encounters minor weather trouble -- a mild squall. That is a 20% level task/problem. He now does (55% + d20%) - 20% points per round. He is still safe and still getting ahead. That is, he does 35% + d20% (or 7+d4) points per round into solving the task.



This is the way that a normal harbor exit should go even with minor weather problems. However . . .



Suddenly the spell is dampened as the ship breaks the spar the spell was enchanted to (wood rot that he did not check for after the winter ended). Wavestalker is now in a (30% + d20) - 20% situation. (or 2 + d4)



As the weather worsens with rain(+30% to his problems) he slips into a (30% + d50%) - 50% situation. He is now at d50% - 20% every round and could be losing ground. Add a variable strong wind for a storm and he is at (30% + d100%) - 100% (or d100% - 70% per round).



He is going to start losing that comfortable margin he built up. Luckily for him he makes it back to the dock before things get too sticky.



Reading a foreign language



Wavestalker gets everything fixed and docks at Helvitia. He speaks 15% of Helvitian. With his skill he goes into a cheap restaurant and takes a menu.



A simple menu will take d6-0 points to read. It will (due to formatting) have d3 points of "armor" (Wavestalker will never read some difficult menus). As long as his dinner companion doesn't stress him (10% as a level one stress) he will do his 3 points a round until the menu is read (or he gives up and guesses). He reads the menu (which took 3 points to understand, and which had 1 point of armor) in two rounds.

Climbing a cliff



Later he is climbing a bit of cliff. He's in a hurry since he dropped his sword and the wolves are getting closer. He has a skill of 20% and climbing equipment worth 20% points. The cliff w' wolves is a 20% problem and because of the shale he has to do 2 points before it starts to count (2 points armor on the problem).



This cliff takes two points per meter to climb.



Lets put the numbers together. (20% + {tools} 20% + d20%) - 20 every round. He does 4 + d4 points every round. He rolls a 10 on d20% resulting in 6 points earned (less the 2 points of armor the cliff has from the shale problem). This gets Wavestalker 2 meters up the cliff before the wolves arrive.



Had he been a bit more rushed this would have made a good 100% problem with him at (20 + 20 +d100%) -100% per round. At d100% - 60 he would have probably been caught by the wolves.



He'll need to continue to be careful as he climbs higher so that he doesn't earn negative points, but at 2 meters he is safe until help arrives.



Etc.



Note that the armor idea solves many theoretical of problems where low-skilled types can't solve that kind of problem at all but high skill types can do it quickly and easily. Take a task with 10 points of armor and 1 task point. If your skill is 45% you'll never succeed. With a skill of 55% you'll do it every time when not under pressure and eventually even with pressure.



These kinds of situations and results are relatively common in real life.



FUMBLES



If you want fumbles, you can use a roll of 01% to 05% and/or a result of negative numbers to mean negative results to the extent of the negative numbers generated. This means that when a highly skilled individual klutzes the results won't be as bad. This is true to life. A highly trained swimmer who slips up gets a mouthful of water, a neophyte starts to drown.



In addition, the more difficult the situation, the more likely bad results are to occur. In a 100% situation bad results are much more likely than in a 10% situation. A positive number (even with a 01%) means that the bad result was just a slow result (i.e. you rolled a 01% when you could have rolled higher).



TRANSLATING CHARACTERS



Note that using this system a character is freely transferable between this and any 3d6 equivalent skill resolution system (like Pendragon [with d20] or Champions). Characters are easily transferred between this and %tile systems. For %tile systems, just use the same numbers. This system is transparent to characters under RUNEQUEST.



For d20 and 3d6 systems any number (vs %tile) skill is multiplied times 5% to get the percentile skill. I.e. a Pendragon sword skill of 5 becomes 25%.



While a 3d6 curve is not the same as a d20 flat distribution, it is roughly equivilent. I generally use flat distributions (e.g. d20) for risk takers (such as berserks), moderate curves for professionals (e.g. professional fighters would use 2d10) and 3d6 for conservatives (e.g. a cautious man-at-arms would use 3d6).



This system allows for simplification when you do not desire the extra complications of this system, and detail when you want to know just how long it will take to pick that lock or climb that cliff. For simplification, merely use the normal RUNEQUEST rules.



The realism v. playbalance weighting can be shifted anytime for any need.



DICE RANGES



d100 is the base range. d100 divided by two is d50. d50 divided by two is d25. d25 divided by two is d12. d12 divided by two is d6. Note also that d25 is fairly close to d20 and d12 is fairly close to d10.



Commonly, difficulties are done on d10, d20, d50 and d100. Extremely difficult situations (such as simple heroquests) call for 2d100. Transcendentally difficult situations (such as deep heroquests, etc.) call for 3d100 or 4d100.



Generally, the Gray Zone adds from d10 to d100 to the difficulty of tasks performed therein. Even simple running on a track becomes a randomized event in the Gray Zone.



The Hero Plane adds from d100 to d300 to difficulty in most areas, up to an additional d1000 in some places. (i.e. basic combat thus becomes at least d200 and can be as bad as d1100).



You can choose your own limits for the God Time, but I suspect that d1000 is enough for most campaigns.



Note that for a skill of 200% and no difficulty modifiers (4d100 + skill) minus (400 + difficulty) gives an average result of (400 - 400), ~ 0 or a 50/50 chance of success. At just d100 difficulty and skill levels of 300 on both sides the chance of success is still 50%. The system handles both high percentage of success and high levels of difficulty very well.



POSTSCRIPT, doing it again, but using 3d6.



Using 3d6 allows one to use Pendragon Rules for the basis of a Glorantha Campaign (something I like) or to use older versions of Shattered Norns without translating to d100.



(This explanation system is expressed in 3d6 terms. It translates easily into %tile terms and is above a %tile system)



BASIC SYSTEM



Most tasks are determined by a roll of (skill + yd6) - (y*6). y is determined by the degree of randomness/difficulty in the task. All skills are expressed as a number level as skill n, where skill is the name of the skill and n is the skill level.



For example, a character might have jogging at level 12 or jogging 12. Jogging on a track is a 0 level task. The result of someone jogging on a track is determined by the randomizer (skill + 0) - 0. A jogging skill of 12 would mean that each round of jogging the character could do 12 points of jogging. (12 + 0) - 0 = 12.



(with %tiles, divide the % by 5 to get the number of points. I.e. a skill of 60% would do 12 points a round in an unopposed situation). (You can compare the examples above and below to see this principle in action).



Cross country jogging on a path is a 1 level task (i.e. y = 1). The skill of 12 would do (12 + d6) - 6 per round. In addition, tools can increase the result done. Magical or bionic shoes could add to skill, results or could alter the level of the task.



Non-magic tools are either cumulative or non-cumulative. An example of cumulative tools is good shoes. Good shoes might add +2 to the results of jogging.



An example of a non-cumulative tool is a poison dagger. Poison adds to damage done to a target only after damage is already done to a target.



COMBAT



This system works well with combat. Treat combat as usually being a 3 level task. A skill of 12 would do (12 + 3d6) - 18 points per round. With a normal 2d6 tool (such as a sword) one would do (12 +5d6) - 18 per round at skill level 12.



COMPLEX PROBLEMS



Problems can be complex in their elements. Some problems regenerate, some have initial difficulties. Many tasks can have help from tools. The following reviews some examples:



Piloting a spaceship



Starstrider, to help him in piloting his spaceship, has a computer assist program worth +3 points in a XAV worth +1 points and a pilot skill of 6. Take off in his FFX67/9 is a 3 point a round task.



That means, that to successfully take-off the FFX67/9 Starstrider must have a net of 3 points each round of play until he is in orbit (until his spaceship has earned, with its thrust factors, the points necessary to be in orbit).



On take-off without any trouble he does 6+3+1 (10) points per round on a 3 point task. He has a good margin of safety. Each round he gets 7 points ahead.



Two rounds into take-off he encounters minor weather trouble. That is a 1 level task/problem. He now does (10 + d6) - 6 points per round. He is still safe and still getting ahead. This is the way that a normal take-off should go even with minor weather problems. However . . .



Suddenly the XAV goes out (and the program with it). He is now in a (6 + d6) - 6 situation. He still earns d6 points/round.



However, more trouble, his radar horizon dissapears in a developing bad weather situation (radar horizon to 0 is a -4 condition)(bad weather is 2 level or 2d6).



Starstrider now is in a (6 + 2d6) - (12 + 4) situation. That is, he makes 2d6-10 points per round. He is going to start losing that comfortable margin he built up. Luckily for him he makes it into orbit before things get too sticky.



Reading a foriegn language



Starstrider gets everything fixed and docks at Helvitia. He speaks 3 points of Helvitian. With his skill he goes into a cheap restuarant and takes a menu.



Assume that a simple menu will take d6-0 points to read. It will (due to the quality [or lack thereof] of formating) have d3 points of "armor" (Starstrider will never read some difficult menus). As long as his dinner companion doesn't stress him (d3 to d6 as a level one stress) he will do his 3 points a round until the menu is read (or he gives up and guesses). He reads the menu (which took 3 points to understand, and which had 1 point of armor) in two rounds.



Climbing a cliff



Later he is climbing a bit of cliff. He's in a hurry since he dropped his rifle and the wolves are getting closer. He has a skill of 4 and climbing equipment worth 4 points. The cliff w' wolves is a level 2 problem and because of the shale he has to do 2 points before it starts to count (2 points armor on the problem).



This cliff takes two points per meter to climb. (4 + 4 + 2d6) - (12 + 2) or 8+2d6 - 14 per round. He rolls a 10 on 2d6 (18 - 14) resulting in 4 points earned.

This gets him 2 meters up the cliff before the wolves arrive. He'll need to be careful as he climbs higher so that he doesn't earn negative points, but at 2 meters he is safe until help arrives. (You can see that I generally have negative points take away from benefits earned. In this case, negative points would cause him to slide down the cliff. On the take-off, negative points eroded the chance of getting into orbit successfully.)



Etc.



Note that the armor idea solves most of the problems where low-skilled types can't solve that kind of problem at all but high skill types can do it quickly and easily. Take a task with 10 points of armor and 1 task point. If your skill is 9 you'll never succeed. With a skill of 11 you'll do it every time when not under pressure and eventually even with pressure.



These kinds of situations and results are relatively common in real life.



FUMBLES



If you want fumbles, you can use a roll of 1 and/or a result of negative numbers to mean negative results to the extend of the negative numbers generated. This means that when a highly skilled individual klutzes the results won't be as bad. This is true to life. A highly trained swimmer who slips up gets a mouthful of water, a neophyte starts to drown.



The extent of the fumble can either be charted or can be the simple negative numbers/erosion of results I gave above.



In addition, the more difficult the situation, the more likely bad results are to occur. In a 3d6 situation bad results are much more likely than in a d6 situation. A positive number (even with a 1) means that the bad result was just a slow result (i.e. you rolled a 1 when you could have rolled higher).



TRANSLATING CHARACTERS



Note that using this system a character is freely transferable between this and any 3d6 skill resolution system (like Champions). Characters are easily transferred between this and %tile systems. In the %tile version, you can freely transfer characters between this and RQ. Same numbers just different uses (a skill of 12/60% is the same in either system).



This allows for simplification when you do not desire the extra complications of this system, and detail when you want to know just how long it will take to pick that lock or climb that cliff.



NEXT STEPS



(After changing or making allowances to the skill system to allow for the difficulty of the heroquest realm).

After converting all the skills had by the character to fit the new skill system, determine available WILL (see below) and calculate Presence.



PRESENCE



Presence is calculated by backtracking the character's career and using a system similar to the Pendragon Rules for Glory. Every act using a rune that results in change or improvement of the character increases presence in the rune related to the act. Total presence (summed from all runes) equals Heroquest glory.



Killing a great giant is about 200 points of glory, ownership of land, being knighted, becoming a runelord, all of these are generators of glory. As a note, most characters will find their presence and glory in the runes of Magic or Death (spells or swords).



Consider, a Runelord probably has earned, by separate experience, at least 100 %tiles of skill. That comes (under the 5% per successful learning by experience) to 20 encounters. At 30 glory each that is 600 glory. Assuming other inputs, an occasional failed experience check, etc. a Runelord probably has between 2,000 and 12,000 points of glory, mostly from presence in the Death rune (for fighters), the magic rune (for sorcerors), the spirit rune (for shaman) or a "usual" rune (for rune priests).



For future play add the rules for glory and traits from Pendragon and apply them as limits to skills. Skills are limited by the trait that controlls the skill (as above), the presence in the related rune (+1/10% to maximum for every point of presence), and by will (added to skill when on/in mythic planes).



If you've seen a Chaosium Heroquest (I have not been so lucky as to run in one), Glory and Presence are what I use instead of Rune Fame. It is simpler and easier to account for than what I have glimpsed.



TRAITS



Traits are endemic to a number of systems and fit very well into the Heroquest arena as well as my personal system. They function as a skill limit and as a method of character exposition. Skill limits help define and control the shape of encounters and reality. Traits also define the character's personality elements and are a great play aid in that respect.



Every time a character is on the heroplane, use the above mechanics and rules with two exceptions. First, when you feel a need to change, Second, when the rules do not fit. With these rules you are ready for WILL and Spirit.



WILL



The requisite called WILL is the most important part of the HEROQUEST and the place where most developments of the rules keep bogging down. Most GMs treat WILL as similar to Glory and suffer a number of problems from that approach. In addition, several systems bog down on how to accumulate WILL.



I have found it is better to have both Glory and WILL as separate requisites and to start every character with WILL at 18 points. Each runic association the character is sealed to (generally, each rune in each cult the character is a Rune Lord or Rune Priest in) costs a point of WILL for an allied association, 3 points for a direct association.



Spirit is equal to Will.



Will is to be treated as Heroquest's equivalent to Power. Spirit is Heroquest's equivalent to Magic Points.



Runic associations do not add to will, they cost will as expenditures of self to gain access to magic. Just as a character sacrafices points of POW for Rune Magic, a character sacrafices points of WILL for Rune contacts.



Allied associations vs direct associations are determined by how one takes skills or spells. If one takes skills or spells as a member of the cult, it costs 3 points of WILL. If one takes advantage of skills or spells of an allied cult (or gains an ally) it takes 1 point of WILL.



In addition, each skill that goes over 95% costs a point of WILL. One can spend all of one's WILL just by having too many skills at high percentiles. Gods who become integrated with their rune eventually begin to gain the skills associated with the rune at percentiles over 100%. This costs them will.



Finally, to keep a benefit gained on a Heroquest costs a point of WILL. WILL can also be gained or lost on special Heroquests (usually in interactions with the Trickster).



On the other hand, characters can gain WILL. Every adverse effect suffered and retained from a Heroquest gains a point of WILL (the same one lost by the party keeping the mirror benefit). Every 500 points of glory generates one point of WILL. (Negative glory is a special case, not covered here.)



In addition, each power of ten of worshipers a character has generates a point of WILL. (Thus 100 worshipers = 2 points of WILL; 1,000 = 3; 10,000 = 4, etc.) An alternative rule (if you decide that your characters need more will) is to make the base for the number of worshipers either 4 or 8.



1 1-4 1-8

2 5-16 9-64

3 17-64 65-512

4 65-256 513-4096

6 256-1024 4097-32,768

7 1025-4096 32,769-262,144

Reducing runic associations will free up the Will dedicated to them as will sacrificing skills that are over 95%.



Finally, some heroquests can result in gaining WILL in ways other than losing a part of yourself (e.g. if you succeed against the Trickster).



When WILL = 0 the character loses his or her free agency and becomes an NPC. This happens at any level of play. A god can become "NPCed" (so to speak) by gaining too many allies and skills or by losing worshipers or glory.



E.g. Oakfed is completely controlled by his shaman because he spent all of his WILL. In current politics, Pavis is a good example of a god who overextended his runic associations. So is Sartar. Pavis encompassed too many runes directly, Sartar had too many allies and lost too many worshipers. Will is very important.



Being raised from the dead, etc. costs a point of will each time it happens.



The system works rather well and handles high levels of power. It also gives a level of richness to play with traits, glory and similar aspects of mythic life.



MORE NOTES AND RULES



Most superheros have about 10 to 100 <rune level> linked followers with the concommitant limit on hit points, magic points, etc.



[implied rule: except for special circumstances, all linked followers must be rune level <rune lord/rune priest, shamen with fetch, sorcerer with familiar> characters.]



[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 linked rune level followers. A superhero thus becomes the focus for the power and lives of his followers.]



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



{practical note: dragons are the lefthanded path equivalent of superheros. Their increased body mass substitutes for followers. Dragons are very, very large.}



[implied rule: there are supernatural equivalents 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 in providing equivalents.]

BASIC HEROQUEST TYPES:



Many encounters that depend on roleplaying and an occasional 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. The following section goes over the basic types of heroquests.



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.). (doing a quest at a low level reduces difficulty at the higher level).



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.



SAMPLE LETTER ANSWERING QUESTIONS

1) No, my version of heroquest is not even close to (to my knowledge) the version that Greg Stafford is using.



2) I use the trait pairs listed by John T. Sapienza, Jr. on his excellent RQIII character sheets.



3) The interaction of the old Charisma enhancing rules, character histories, etc. should give you a rough idea of how much glory is appropriate. For backtracking, just give a "fair" amount or roll on 2d6 * 1,000.



4) In his rules, as I have heard, Greg Stafford had people build will up by adventuring in the mundane world and by reaching various semi-mundane goals (e.g. rune status, etc.). They then spent the will gained in the mundane world when they ventured into the mythic world.



I assume that one grows into a racial amount of WILL, and maxes it out as a successful adventurer (e.g. base WILL starts as 3d6 but is 18 by the time it is used for play).



5) "Taking spells or skills as a member of a cult" means joining a cult and learning special cult skills or spells not otherwise available. Normal training, unbound by mythic constraints or limits, does not apply nor cost will.



6) Yes, every permanent mythic or heroic benefit reduces WILL.



7) Ancient cultures have had some amazing boom and bust times in population. Ancient Egypt had up to 30+ million inhabitants. In one period of sharp decline, only 90 to 100 years showed a drop from 30+ to 15-. The high was 32 or so million, the low about 2 million.



8) For starting will in Shattered Norns I subtract 6 points from 24 for each birth rune to get Will. Humans thus start with 18 (24 minus 1*6), elves, trolls, dwarves, et al. start with 12 (24 minus 2*6), beast/lunar/chaos would be 6 as would beast/man/chaos for scorpion men (24 minus 3*6).



Godlings (weaker immortals) usually have a base will between 2d3 and 2d6 with additions for presence and glory. Drepnir would have a base of 12 (two runes, beast and infinity) with additions for presence and glory.



COMMENTS ON STEVE MAURER'S

SYSTEM



FORWARD



My system is also not official. However, unlike Greg Stafford, I came into the concept of the heroquest from a different perspective than Joseph Campbell's writing. Greg is a confirmed Cambellite/shamanist.



One can find Greg's initial version of heroquest reflected in the three heroquest boardgames: Red Moon, White Bear, Prax, Masters of Luck and Death.



In these a man had one rune (man). A hero usually had two runes (man and mastery). A superhero had three runes (man, Special [the superhero's rune, such as Death for Harreck and Harmony for the Razoress] and infinity [replacing mastery]). Gods had the other runes.



A character progressed by first mastering himself and then by transcending to the infinite. (First the rune MASTERY, then the rune INFINITY). Superheros could be obtained by players by alliance, building one through heroic acts or by recreating one of the sundered (super)heros.



Recreation of a superhero was done by gathering the grisly portions of a superhero (such as Tada) and re-uniting them properly at one of the proper rune sites. One could even recreate or birth a god this way (such as the Lunar Goddess).



Note that Greg's system had lots of the old mythic stuff. The five wounds of death, grisly portions, etc. One of the hardest things to do is to retain the concept of the heroquest while finding mechanics that by-pass many (conflicting) primitive myths and images for the hero trail.



In the old way, two paths were open to one who wanted to become a hero: the material and the magical. One either mastered skills (the material world) or one mastered magic (the magic/mythic world). These archetypes are reflected by the warrior and the shaman/magician in our society.



A runelord mastered the material by mastering five skills to their limits (95%). (Five wounds, five skills, five elements, etc.) A runepriest mastered the magical by gaining access to the appropriate rune.



You can see that the systems (RQIII and the boardgames) have problems meshing at this point. Most characters do not "master" their inborn self (the man rune) prior to trying for something else. Instead, they reach a degree of mastery in an applied Rune, as they go for some application of power.



The religious set-up of Dragon Pass encourages this type of identity (Daka Fal is the only real source for the man rune and not exactly the leading god for player-characters).



SYSTEM RULES



I do not have Maurer's success levels. Instead I use difficulty levels which can be tuned to similar math.



THE HERO PLANE



My system defines these levels a bit more. Either set of definitions can be used for most heroquests, but directly reflecting the difficulty in the terrain helps emphasize it.

Hells have heavy entropy/chaos residuals. They are energy sinks. Heavens are positive energy locations.



Divine intervention points can be manipulated by the rune factors (active/operational points) had by the individual who has sacrificed POW for divine intervention points.



Major temples are locations where one may meet the god directly. This means that most Rune Spells can be regained if one is willing to travel, on good terms with the hierarchy, and has a god with easy direct access.



I.e., the character goes to a Major temple of the god, enter the sanctum, and engages in high worship. High worship bridges the distance to the god and places the character in the god's presence. The character thus receives the rune magic back.



Of course if the god does not have a major temple, then the character will have to wait for the cult's high holy day and persuade the heirachy to allow a personal part in the rituals. Smaller gods are more dependent and so the persuasion should be easier.



Magic spells cast before entering the spirit plane should endure. Magic cast prior to leaving time is half of the preparation for the heroquest.



RULES BEFORE TIME



I disagree with Maurer. You can change the history of the gods. It is just hard. Especially primal history, before time, when gods were handling the runes directly. Orlanth slaying Yelm with Death is a pretty major event. You would have to go past the beginning of time, work your way to that conflict, and then face the unshielded death rune.



Should you try to save Yelm, you might very well be one of the many shadows, gleams of light or other veils of power that Orlanth shredded as he slew Yelm. Each of those was/is someone who thought he could transverse time and make a difference. None did (Orlanth got them all too -- at the same time, so to speak).



The Devil managed to get quite a few gods, changing the real time (cf Yelm's other son, above).



The closer you follow a god's path, the more any significant differences (as in the allocation and strength of your traits) chafes. On the God Plane, the one who walks the path, is the god.



Unknown paths are hard to leave or change. Where a great pattern (e.g. the lightbringers) has many, many echos, an unknown path usually has only one.



Gods like cult heros who (a) teach the god a skill, (b) thereby hold the skill for the god and thus prevent the god from having to acquire that skill as a part of integration with the rune. The god thus controls the skill, may pass the skill on, and yet is not forced to spend will on the skill.



I'm not big on raw actions, which most of this discussion seems to be about, but I do think it was well set up.



PACTS I



THOSE HOSTILE TO TIME



(a) creatures destroyed in the great dark and not restored by the great compromise (lots of dead and/or severed gods, the red moon);



(b) creatures whom the compromise was aimed against (chaos demons);



(c) those who are antithetical to cause/effect or other results of time.



THOSE UNWILLING TO JOIN THE COMPROMISE



(a) the immortals. To join in time is to become subject to time and to give up immortality for something else. Some immortals regret their choice, some do not.



(b) Aracna Solara's competitors. There were others who attempted to rule/give birth to time. Not all were happy to see the celestial court's goddess make that resurgence.



THOSE UNABLE TO JOIN THE COMPROMISE



(a) creatures destroyed in the great dark and not restored by the great compromise (lots of dead and/or severed gods, the red moon);



(b) those who were unable to spare the power/will to join, unwilling to be slaves to those with the power/will to bring them into the great compromise. (Note, immortals were automatically excluded, mortals automatically included in time).



PACTS II



Pacts should bind by some combination of word, trait, power, will, self/soul. Many apparent word pacts also include some of the other elements, especially if any will is spent to make the pact binding.



Note that anytime a god or spirit channels a character so as to allow the character direct access to a rune (a common reason for pacts with a godling or great spirit who is outside of time), some sort of pact probably occurs. If nothing else, a trait linkage (even if temporary) occurs, shifting some or all of the character's traits. cf Best Friends, Allied Spirits, Fetch. All of these have some level of pacting.



More follows in Heroquest Essays II through IV.

[Heroquest] [Norns] [Diablo] [WingCommander] [e-mail] [©1996-1998 Stephen R. Marsh All Rights Reserved]