Light and Death

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A HeroQuest scenario by Neil Smith

Edited by Mark Galeotti

This scenario is copyright © Neil Smith 2003, 2004.

Note that this scenario was written before the Imperial Lunar Handbook: Volume II was written. Some parts of the scenario, particularly details of Illumination, have been superceded by that book. But things are still close enough for a bit of a romp.

Rules and Benchmarks

This episode is designed to be played in a single session of perhaps 3-4 hours. Six pre-generated characters are provided in a separate page.

The episode is based in the city of New Raibanth in the Lunar Heartlands. It shouldn't be too hard to transplant it to other Lunar cities, but some work will be needed. You will need a copy of the HeroQuest core rulebook. It would also be very helpful to have access to Imperial Lunar Handbook 1: The Lunar Empire,

! Sections shaded and enclosed with exclamation marks are notes for using the episode as a demonstration. !

This episode stresses investigation and clever solutions. Heroes' best abilities should be around 1W to 8W.

Contests are described in a short form, as task (resistance): typical appropriate ability/ies (with suggested improvisational penalties), for example realise that the city magistrates could become involved (14): Dara Happan Customs. Clearly, many other abilities may be used, and the narrator ought to rule where necessary as to what abilities are appropriate and what kind of improvisational penalties (if any) need to be applied.

Overview

Manakenus the Architect is a prominent member of the Shining Column Ray League of Raibanth. He has recently been charged with overseeing the construction of a new bridge across the Oslir river to further unite the cities of Old and New Raibanth. However, the stress of this job has forced Manakenus to listen to the teachings of Akrash, a Lunar fringe cultist. Akrash is offering the prospect of releasing Manakenus from the stress he is under by leading him to a form of Illumination. Once Illuminated, Manakenus will be free from all the bonds that cause his mental grief.

Akrash starts this process by killing Manakenus’s wife. The heroes investigate and initially follow the clues that point to a group of Old Raibanth protesters. However, when they find the protesters, the heroes discover new evidence that points to Akrash. When they try to find him, they encounter the Broken Knee gang who are eventually persuaded to reveal that Akrash and Manakenus, together with his baby daughter, have gone to the bridge. The heroes rush to the scene and hopefully prevent Manakenus killing his daughter to achieve Illumination.

! Such weighty theological issues as the worship of the transcendental Lunar goddess Rashorana and Illumination will be explored in future Imperial Lunar Handbooks, and will not take the form described here. The ‘Illumination’ Akrash peddles is more like a charismatic’s con trick, and not genuine Lunar Illumination. Likewise, the magic powers he manifests are not the real ones which will be available to those who follow Rashorana (whom, some say, grants no magic at all!), but reflect some strange cult of which he has been a member. !

Act 1: Introduction

Scene 1: To the Bridge!

Key points: The heroes help Manakenus escape from his villa, through a ring of fanatics.

The heroes are at the villa of Manakenus, the chief architect of the New Oslir Bridge, on the morning of the official consecration of the building work. The heroes have been charged, by their League's patriarch, to ensure that Manakenus gets to the ceremony safe and sound. Just as they are preparing to leave, a group of protesters appears, obviously trying to prevent Manakenus from attending the ceremony. The heroes have to get themselves, Manakenus, and an associate of his by the name of Akrash, out of the villa.

Manakenus is scared of the protesters, and doesn't want to leave the villa. The heroes may be able to overcome his fears (17): Persuasive, Command civilian (-5), but if not, then Akrash manages to persuade him that his duty lies at the ceremony. "These yelmies," he says, "may worship the Light, but they do not See. Your bridge, by spreading the gentle glow of Rufelza into their city and their hearts, will Heal them of their closed-minded refusal to accept what is new and better. You cannot allow them to defeat you, by keeping you away from your rightful place."

A few heavies from the Shining Column Ray League guard the villa, and will prevent any of the protesters breaking into the villa. They will not stray from the villa or its grounds. It is up to the heroes to get Manakenus to the bridge. They have some choices about how to do it. Fighting the protesters is possible, and the heroes will have the assistance of villa’s guards. However, the heroes may realise that the city magistrates could become involved (14): Dara Happan Customs, and their levy-men would likely arrest whoever started the fight. The protesters could be persuaded to leave, or let Manakenus leave, but the protesters are determined to stay (resistance of 20). Finally, the heroes could sneak out the back way, if they can persuade Manakenus that a man of his station should stoop to such measures.

The protesters follow Manakenus and the heroes when they leave.

Scene 2: The Consecration

Key points: The heroes watch the consecration ceremony.

The heroes arrive at the site of the bridge, for the ceremony that celebrates the laying of the first stone of the roadway. Manakenus climbs the first column, where he joins various bigwigs from the Raibanth and Lunar governments. Akrash goes with him, but the heroes soon lose sight of him. Sacrifices are made to Yelm, Sedenya, and Hwarin Dalthippa (a Lunar goddess associated with engineering and construction) and they are asked to bless and protect the bridge. A crowd watches the consecration, with some heckling from scattered groups of protesters.

There is little, if anything, for the heroes to do here, so this scene is best skipped over quickly. However, if you want to extend this section, then a few options would be for a protester to try to make trouble or for the heroes to spot a pick-pocketing in the crowd (do they leave Manakenus’s side and intervene?).

Scene 3 (Plot Turn 1): A Murder is Discovered

Key points: On returning to his villa, the heroes discover Manakenus's wife murdered. They vow, and are asked, to investigate.

After the consecration, Manakenus sends a message to heroes that he will be staying at the bridge for some time, and that the heroes should return to his villa for the pre-arranged formal meal. When they return to the villa, they find the front gate ajar and unguarded. The watchman lies dead, half-concealed under a bush. Inside the house, the heroes can hear sobbing. There are bloodstained footprints in the hall, made by several feet, and they lead out, down the path to the gate. In the main reception room, Delra (Manakenus's wife) lies messily murdered, with blood and brains spattered across the walls. A blood-soaked cudgel, the murder weapon, lies nearby. In the kitchen, the cook has also been killed, stabbed and bludgeoned. The sobbing comes from a bedroom where Chalda, the family's nanny, has barricaded herself with Amena, Manakenus's child. She must be persuaded to come out (18): persuade, issue order (-8), intimidate (-15), but both she and the baby are unharmed. The villa is otherwise deserted.

The heroes will need to calm Chalda down (14): Comfort, Persuade, Bargain (-5); if successful, she will gladly tell the heroes her story, through her sobs. After Manakenus and the heroes left, the protesters also left, shadowed by the guards. Chalda decided to take Amena out for a walk, and they were gone for about an hour. When they returned, she glimpsed someone in yellow, Yelmic robes darting out of the villa gate. She came into the villa, saw Delra dead, and then hid in the bedroom until the heroes arrived. She is of no further use to the heroes, and will gratefully be sent off to another house in the League.

The heroes should now realise that it is their duty to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice. If they don't, other members of the League make it plain that doing so is their duty.

Act 2: Confrontation

Scene 1: Finding the Suspects

Key points: The heroes track the protesters to their hideout.

As the protesters are the obvious suspects, the heroes need to find them first. Asking passers-by in the street will lead nowhere: no one saw the murderers escape. The owner of a fried sausage stall will remember a group of solar protesters returning to the villa, but they left hurriedly almost immediately after. He didn't know where they were going, but did overhear someone shouting about returning to the docks.

Asking around after the protesters (14): Know Raibanth, Relationship to League (-5), (searching the docks +5) will lead the heroes to a boarding house near the docks on the Oslir. The owner, a fat, drunken slob, will, if persuaded (10): persuade, fast talk, wealth confirm that the top floor of the five-story block has been booked by "a bunch of whinging, snobby types from over th' rivuh. They're upstairs now"

Scene 2: Struggle in the Sunlight

Key points: The heroes get to question the protesters.

Assuming the heroes don't take too long, the protesters will not be in their rooms. Instead, the heroes will find them gathered in discussion on the flat roof of the boarding house. They are terrified that they will be accused of the murders at Manakenus's villa, and are on the verge of cutting and running back to Old Raibanth. They're nervous and jumpy, but they won't initiate hostilities. A couple of protesters are guarding the stairs to the roof and will try to prevent the heroes, or anyone else, getting onto the roof. The appearance of the heroes will cause consternation among them, increased when they realise that the heroes are from Manakenus's League.

The heroes can persuade them to talk, beat them into submission, or employ some combination of the two (use an extended contest; see the protesters’ statistics at the end). The roof is mainly flat, with some trapdoors for access, a shed for tool storage, and various lumps, bumps, and low walls. If the protestors are defeated, they are prepared to tell their story.

If things are going too well for the heroes, maybe the protesters are not as feeble as they appear, or perhaps their leader, Murhardavu, has some unexpected magical power? Maybe he can Manifest Yelmic Authority 155, forcing Dara Happan characters to kneel before him? Or perhaps the boarding house has other tenants who don’t take kindly to heavy-handed heroes storming in?

Scene 3 (midpoint): Whose Pendant is This?

Key points: The heroes learn that the protesters did not murder Manakenus's wife. They did pick up a talisman dropped by the murderer, though, and the heroes recognise it as belonging to Akrash.

Once the situation on the rooftop has calmed, the protesters will tell their story. They followed the heroes to the consecration ceremony, but were moved on by guards there. They then decided to return to Manakenus's villa, intending to set up a protest for when he returned. However, when they arrived at the villa, they found the gate open and decided to go in. They found Manakenus's wife already dead, and fled. One of their number picked up a blood-spattered silver pendant marked with Lunar symbols lying near the wife's body. On examining the pendant, they should recognise it as Akrash's (16): Keen eye, Sedenyic philosophy. On listening to the protesters’ story, the heroes should realise that their story is true (14): Detect lies, Discern truth, Persuade (-5). If the heroes were defeated by the solars, they are forced to retreat, but notice (and perhaps purloin) Akrash's pendant lying on the floor.

Scene 3a: Meanwhile...

Key points: What Akrash and Manakenus are doing.

! Note: this “scene” is for Narrator information only, not for the heroes to play through. You may want to use it as a “cut scene” if you and the players would enjoy it. !

While the heroes are tracking down the protesters, Akrash and Manakenus are not idle. Manakenus stays at the consecration ceremony for a while, until he hears of the murder of his wife. He then rushes home to see her, and is taken to where his baby and nanny are staying. He stays with them for a few hours, until Akrash turns up to offer him comfort and support. While they are alone, Akrash persuades Manakenus that he will only be free of his pain by severing his remaining ties and becoming Illuminated. Manakenus agrees, and takes his baby to Akrash's church where they pray for a while. After nightfall they, together with some Broken Knee heavies, go to the bridge site for the final confrontation.

Scene 4 (Plot Turn 2): At the Church

Key points: The heroes rush to Akrash's church, where they are confronted by a number of the Broken Knee gang. They learn that Akrash, Manakenus, and his baby daughter have left for a special ceremony on the new bridge.

If the protesters are not to blame for the murders, who is? The trail points to Akrash, so the heroes will have to locate him. If they check, he is not at the villa or with Manakenus's nanny, though Chalda will say that Akrash and a distraught Manakenus left with the baby "to liberate themselves from grief" a few hours ago. She thinks they were going to Akrash's church, but they did also mention the bridge as the cause of all Manakenus's grief.

The heroes may know the location of Akrash's church (18): Know Raibanth, Sedenyic Philosophy (-5), Initiate of Whoever (-12). Some of Manakenus's servants know where it is, or they can ask around in the city (18): Dara Happan customs, Underworld contacts (-5).

The church is a converted shop in a residential area of the city near the docks. Outside, it is painted with Lunar symbols. When the heroes arrive, Akrash and Manakenus have already left, but three Broken Knee gang members are hanging around outside, guarding it. They'll try to scare off the heroes, and won't be too averse to using force if it's needed. If they look like they're losing the encounter, they will retreat into the church and lock the doors. The heroes may need to either break or sneak in finally to defeat the guards.

When the guards are finally defeated and questioned (18): Discern truth, Persuade (-3), they will grudgingly confirm that Akrash, "some snotty Tenth [minor aristocrat] and a babe-in-arms" were at the church and prayed for a while, and then left for the site of the new bridge to perform some ceremony. The rest of the gang went with them.

Act 3: Resolution

Scene 1: Going Up and Down

Key points: The heroes must fight their way up the scaffolding, through the rest of the Broken Knee gang, to prevent Akrash's nefarious plot. They are either helped or hindered by the remains of the protesters.

It is now (or should be) night. The heroes rush to the site of the new bridge, and see a number of people atop the first tower, including Akrash and Manakenus. Manakenus is holding his baby. The rest of the people are members of the Broken Knee gang. Many are on the tower; some are on the scaffolding, and one is at the base of the tower. There is some religious equipment on the top of the tower too, different from what the heroes saw at the consecration ceremony. There are no guards or watchmen patrolling the fence.

When the heroes arrive, Akrash is persuading Manakenus that his path to salvation and inner peace is through Illumination, and that this can be achieved by severing his final tie to mundane things: he must throw his baby daughter from the tower. Unless the heroes stop them, this is what happens. As the heroes rush up the scaffolding to Manakenus, the Broken Knee gangers rush down and a fight ensues on the scaffolding. There are about as many gang members as heroes, but the gang starts with 17AP for each hero; AP losses can be represented by gangers falling from the scaffolding. If the fight goes badly for the gang, Akrash will use his Lunar magic to lend them APs.

If it's needed, the protesters appear at the bridge during the fight. How they were treated earlier by the heroes will determine how much assistance they lend them now, but the protesters are eager to stop Akrash and Manakenus, as they think that the ceremony has something to do with completing the bridge.

Once the gang has been defeated, the heroes enter a contest with Akrash over the fate of Manakenus's baby. He wants Manakenus to throw down the baby; the heroes, presumably, don't. If the heroes succeed, Manakenus sees the error of his ways and breaks down in tears while Akrash flees. If the heroes fail, Manakenus throws his child to her death (unless the heroes can somehow save her) and then collapses in a state of religious rapture.

Scene 2 (Epilogue): Cut Scene: Akrash's reward

Key points: Akrash receives his just rewards.

! After the players have congratulated or consoled each other, the scene cuts to Akrash a few days later (the heroes are not present). !

He is in a plain office in the Mayor's palace, being interviewed by a Lunar minister about the events surrounding Manakenus and the bridge. If the heroes failed and Akrash persuaded Manakenus to sacrifice his child, the minister praises Akrash for a job well done and comments that the bridge now has a great champion in Manakenus, the flawed Illuminate; he will commit himself, body and soul, to completing the bridge. Akrash is presented with the Order of the Glory of the Embracing Moon, First Class. Five years later, the bridge is completed and Raibanth becomes united once more. If, on the other hand, Akrash was foiled, the minister he is seen berating him and blaming him for the probable failure of the bridge. The minister wonders if Akrash's talents would better serve the Empire with thirty years of hard labour in a Danfive Xaroni gulag in the Redlands. Akrash is never seen again. In Raibanth, the work on this bridge, like so many others, peters out after less than three years of turmoil and strife and it remains forever barely started.

Locations

Raibanth

Glorious Raibanth is the ancient Solar capital of Dara Happa, predating the rise of the Red Moon, the incorporation of the Dara Happans in the Lunar Empire, and the creation of a new capital at Glamour. It is a proud and ancient city, with a population of some 75,000 souls, dominated by the huge gilded statue of Raiba, its mythical founder, and the ziggurat of the Overseer. The city is circular, following the orderly patterns laid down by those who follow Yelm, the Imperial Sun, but it is divided into three parts by the Oslir and Joat Rivers. New and Old Raibanth, on the western and eastern banks of the Oslir respectively, are dominated by the Yelmics, although there is a growing body of Lunar worshippers in New Raibanth in particular. They are joined by just the Bridge of Seven Saints, and although this is a huge span, across which six ox-carts can rumble side-by-side, this nonetheless limits the contact between New and Old Raibanth. Ever since the destruction of the Bridge of Broken Angels’ Wings shortly before the Birth of the Goddess, no bridges connect the main city to Amoli, on the other side of the Joat. This is likely to remain the case for some time, as Amoli is largely populated by Darjiini, resentful of their Dara Happan masters and determined to retain as much independence as they can.

! Dara Happa is not Rome, nor is it Babylonia, nor is it Byzantium, although it displays some of the traits of all three. Especially for the purpose of a demonstration game, where players may well know nothing about Glorantha, it may be easiest to treat the city as being quite Roman in feel, although it is worth noting that this is an over-simplification. !

The Bridge

This is the latest of several projects to span the Oslir river and reunite New and Old Raibanth; the latter is a hard-line Solar community which resists integration into the Lunar Empire. To the Lunar government, the bridge is a symbol of healing and inclusion in the Empire.

The bridge will span the mighty Oslir in several arches. At the moment, construction on the bridge has barely started. The first of many support columns has been built 15 metres high on the river's edge. The first few stones of the roadway are placed atop this column in the ceremony of Act 1 Scene 2. The column remains covered in scaffolding and the area surrounding it is a building site, littered with stone blocks in various states of completion, piles of sand and gravel, various tools (some even locked in the numerous toolsheds). The site is surrounded by a fence and normally patrolled by private watchmen.

On the scaffolding itself, there is all the paraphernalia of building work, just waiting to be used by or against the Broken Knee gang members. Hammers, chisels, ropes, buckets (some full of various liquids and powders), piles of stones and mortar, and the like all lie around the many levels of the scaffolding. Some of the flooring planks and the ladders are loose, ready to trip the unwary, and many more can be loosened quickly. Ropes slung over pulleys are everywhere, some attached to heavy loads (around the weight of a person), and all ready to be freed in an instant. In other words, there should be plenty of props to help you come up with an entertaining fight on the bridge column.

Manakenus's villa

Manakenus lives in a middling-sized villa in a well-to-do part of New Raibanth, as befits a man of his position. A high wall surrounds a spacious formal garden. The main double gate is on the main road; a smaller, single door opens out onto an alley at the rear. The villa is a circular, single story ring of rooms surrounding a central courtyard. In the courtyard is a small obelisk, a shrine to Yelm. The villa has numerous rooms. The reception rooms are at the front of the house, and large doors that open onto the courtyard. Private rooms are on the sides. Servants’ quarters, kitchens, and storerooms are at the back. Inside, the floors are tiled and the walls are wood panelled and covered in hanging rugs. Various objets d'art adorn the villa, hanging on the walls, in cabinets, or on plinths.

Dramatis Personae

Manakenus

Age 34, male, architect, initiate of Yelm the Overseer and Hwarin Dalthippa the Builder.

Manakenus is a prominent Tenth in the Shining Ray Column League (the same league as the heroes). He has recently been made Overseer of the construction of the new bridge, a high honour for one so young. However, the appointment has weighed heavy on his mind and he has begun to crack under the strain. He has come to rely on Akrash, and his eccentric brand of philosophy, for support through these times.

He has a wife (Delra) and four-month-old daughter (Amena); Chaldra, a nanny, looks after Amena.

Main Abilities: Civil engineer 17WWW, High class 2W, Oversee workers 3WW, Overseer magic 12W, Sedenyic philosophy 8W.

Akrash

Age 68, male, heretical Lunar holy man, devotee of Rashorana and many other aspects of the Red Moon, Illuminated (according to him).

Akrash is an independent seeker after the Truth that lies behind the Masks of the Red Moon. He always wears a half-mask himself. His theories on Rashorana, Illumination, and other matters are out of line with mainstream Lunar practices, but he continues to practice and preach his version of the religion from his small church. He has recently become a great friend and confident of Manakenus and is with him a great deal. He is convinced that Manakenus's salvation lies in his own brand of ‘Illumination’ – entailing sacrificing all that matters to him in the mundane world that he can concentrate exclusively on Higher Truths.

He is also an operative of the Spoken Word, one of the Instrumentalities (Lunar secret police agencies), or rather a dupe – he is under such deep cover that even he's convinced that he's a free agent.

Main Abilities: Pious 4WW, Devoted to Rashorana 12WW, Own Brand of Sedenyic Philosophy 3WW, Persuasive 17W, Forceful personality 10W. Healing magics 2WW, Madness magics 18.

The Broken Knee gang

Small-time roughs

The Broken Knee is a small gang of street heavies. Their territory includes Akrash's church, and he is paying them protection money, and a bit extra to act as his muscle.

Typical gang member: Cudgel combat 17 (+3), Avoid Clever Stratagem 10, Resist Magic 14, Athletic 16, Relationship to Akrash 15.

! Gang members should use their Avoid Clever Stratagem ability as their resistance to being tricked our outwitted by the heroes. !

The Solar Protesters

Old Yelmic protesters.

This is a small group of protesters from Old Raibanth. They have come over the Oslir to protest against, and hopefully stop, the construction of the new bridge. They are not violent, but will defend themselves. They are led by Murhardavu, an ageing Yelmic patriarch. They should be slightly comical, although possibly useful in the closing fight.

Typical protester: Cudgel Combat 15 (small club +2), Chant Long-Winded Protest 2W, Conservative 18, Naïve 16.