The Peace Process

From Smith family
Jump to: navigation, search

A HeroQuest Episode by Neil Smith

Download formatted versions of the scenario (PDF, 1.1Mb) and characters (PDF, 161Kb).

Introduction

This is an episode for HeroQuest. It was written to be played by five or six players (four at a pinch) in a single three to four hour session, typical of convention games. Six pre-generated characters are provided. It is designed as a drama, rather than a thriller: the engine of the scenario lies in the characters, their motivations, and the conflicts between them. The focus should be not so much on the events that unfold during the scenario as on how the heroes react and interact as a result of those events. I advise you to understand the inter-hero tensions fully before you run the scenario. Also, when running this episode, ensure that you give plenty of time for the players to chew the scenery and explore their heroes.

This episode is set in an anonymous valley in the Quivin Mountains in Sartar. All the heroes are typical Orlanthi from two neighbouring clans as they attempt to bring an end to the feud that has damaged them for decades.

This episode requires the HeroQuest core rulebook. Thunder Rebels and Storm Tribe are both extremely useful for background information. The major mythic resource for the scenario is Issaries the Conciliator (Storm Tribe, pp. 121-2). You'll probably need a copy of this myth as a handout for play. I'm told that Barbarian Adventures may come in handy, but I don't actually own it!

Many contests are described in a short form, as task (resistance): typical appropriate ability/ies (with suggested improvisational penalties), for example detect the Gagarthi waiting in ambush (3W): Spot ambush, sense gods nearby (-5). 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.

Backstory

Read this to the players at the start of the game. Don't mention that Sarotar and Gringle are conspiring against the other heroes.

Until twenty years ago, the neighbouring Singing Rock and Hiord clans got on tolerably well; well enough for the young Singing Rock woman, Estave, to marry Sarotar, her true love, and leave her birth clan to join him in the Hiord clan. Soon after that, relations between the two clans began to break down and the usual cycle of cattle raids became more vicious on both sides. Eventually, a feud was declared and the fyrds skirmished. In that first battle, Brol the farmer was killed. Dorasa, his wife, managed to have him resurrected but he had the Relife sickness. Brol turned to Humakt and became Mortality, Champion of the Singing Rock clan.

Since then, the feud has rumbled on, sometimes as a "cold war," sometimes erupting into violence. Recently, Estave and Dorasa have managed to broker a deal that will lead the two clans to peace. The two clans have agreed to end the feud and have charged Iristha (an Issarian from the Singing Rock clan) and Mikhil (a Lhankor Mhyite from the Hiord clan) to re-enact the "Issaries the Conciliator" myth. The quest will start in the Hirod tula tomorrow morning and finish atop the Singing Rocks tomorrow evening. The purpose of the quest is to discover the terms that will end the feud. When the heroquesters return, they will bring the resolution with them; both clans have promised to honour the terms on their return.

The restoration of normal relations will be cemented by the marriage of Askos and Levru, a marriage arranged by Estave. Both clans have committed all their magical resources to this quest and, if either the quest or the marriage fail to happen tomorrow, the damage to both clans will be dreadful.

The heroes have been charged with ensuring that the marriage takes place tomorrow evening, atop the Singing Rocks, when the heroquesters arrive.

But all is not well. Sarotar and Gringle, warleaders of the two opposing clans, have conspired to derail the quest by kidnapping Levru and ambushing the heroquesters on the Hero Plane. They each have their own reasons for this, but both agree that war is better than peace.

Summary

When the episode starts, all the heroes are at the edge of the Singing Rock tula, waiting for Levru to arrive. They are to form the honour guard for Levru as she travels to her new home there. Just as she arrives, her party is ambushed by a band of Gagarthi bandits (arranged by Sarotar), who kidnap Levru. The heroes will probably track the bandits, and may or may not discover their camp. They may be able to interrogate at least one Gagarthi and learn that they were hired to perform this ambush by someone in one of the clans. The heroes may try other ways of discovering more about the Gagarthi, but to little avail. The next day, during the Windsday rituals at the Singing Rocks, one of the clan's new weaponthanes is driven wild by impests and yavorlings and falls to his death from the Rocks. The heroes should soon discover that other weaponthanes are implicated in the plot to kidnap Levru. The heroes race to the weaponthanes' training ground where they discover Levru (unharmed) and a portal to the Hero Plane. The heroes step through the portal and foil an attempt by the conspirators to ambush and kill the heroquesters Iristha and Mikhil. At some point in all this, Gringle and Sarotar reveal themselves as the plot's ringleaders, probably as they attack the other heroes.

The players are almost certainly going to move a long way from the events described here. Let them. However, the characters carry the conflict with them (the important one is between Gringle & Sarotar and the rest of the heroes), and there is a tight deadline to work to, so they should bring themselves back on track. So long as you keep that in mind, you should be able to improvise interesting events around the heroes, whatever the players have them do. As examples, in one playtest, Sarotar confessed all just after the death at the Singing Rock, shopped Gringle (an NPC in that game) and asked for a chance to put right his mistakes: a very Orlanthi thing to do. In another session, the climax was when Mortality came to fulfil his vow to kill the defeated Sarotar, only for Estave to throw herself over her husband's body: Mortality killed them both.
Don't worry too much about the pacing in this episode. The heroes are likely to move through most of it quite quickly, but you're unlikely to finish too soon. The final scene, where Gringle , Sarotar, and the other conspirators stab the other heroes in the back, will take quite a while to play out.

The Episode

Act I: Introduction

Scene I: The Gagarthi Raid

Key Points: The Heroes get to strut their stuff, and some Gagarthi kidnap Levru.

This scene is more about giving the players a chance to give their new characters a work out than influencing the plot.
A map of the Singing Rock and Hiord tulas. This is an approximate map of the various locations of significance in this episode. The two tulas are in neighbouring valleys in the Quivin mountains. The land between them is mountainous and heavily forested, suitable only for hunting. The nearest the two tulas come to each other is at a pass between the high sheep pastures.

The scene opens with the heroes standing on the edge of the Singing Rock tula, waiting for Levru to arrive. They have all just left the Singing Rock stead where they have been preparing for Levru's arrival. Mortality has witnessed the Orlanthi Greeting that gave Sarotar the Blanket gift and Estave the Meat gift; this means that the Singing Rock clan has pledged hospitality and safety to both of them (Thunder Rebels, pp. 34-36). The heroes are to be Levru's honour guard as she crosses the Singing Rock tula. She is being brought across the Hiord tula by an honour guard of Hiord weaponthanes.

Just as the Hiord party comes into earshot, the heroes can use their (magical) perception abilities to detect the Gagarthi waiting in ambush (3W): Spot ambush, sense gods nearby (-5). If they succeed, describe the feel of a hot, dry wind, the sand stinging their cheek, and the smell of hot flint. As soon as they think they have been rumbled, or when the Hiord party turn up, the Gagarthi attack. Many of them attack the Hiord party; the remainder try to hold back the heroes. The heroes face one Gagarthi leader per hero and two henchmen per hero , together with the odd whirlvish or two.

Gagarthi Leader: Sword & Shield Fighting 14W, (+3 auto-augment from Tough Outlaw = 5W), Walk on Winds 6W, Stinging Winds 2W, Tough Outlaw 5W, 39AP + 27AP + 27AP (from two henchmen) = 93AP.
Gagarthi Henchman: Sword & Shield Fighting 5W, Stinging Winds 18, Tough Outlaw 19; treat as followers, providing 27AP each.
Whirlvish: Abrade 10W, Spirit combat 15, 32AP.

If the heroes win this encounter, they drive their assailants back into the Hiord party, who then capture and escape with Levru. If the heroes lose, they are forced back and fail to prevent the Gagarthi from kidnapping Levru. Try to ensure that none of the Gagarthi leaders are captured.

Scene II (Plot Turn I): Kidnap and Recriminations

Key Points: The heroes discover that Levru has been taken, and that the peace deal is not a foregone conclusion.

When the Gagarthi leave, the heroes will want to investigate the Hiord party. They will discover that the 12 Hiordlings have been defeated, many of them are injured, and they have just noticed that Levru has been taken, snatched by a wind-walking Gagarthi. Many of the Hiordlings will blame the heroes for the attack, claiming that they were on Singing Rock lands and that the Singing Rocks are responsible for the injuries. Someone might even suggest that they wanted the Gagarthi to attack (though they have no evidence to support this: it's just hot-headed talking). Tempers can be calmed in a number of ways: tending to the wounded, boasting of how the Gagarthi were defeated, vows to avenge the terrible crime.

As the heroes take stock of the situation, reinforce that the marriage between Levru and Askos is an essential part of the peace deal. If the marriage doesn't occur at the prescribed place and time, the feud will continue at great cost to both clans.

Act II: Conflict

Scene I: Hunting the Wild Hunters

Key Points: The heroes discover that the Gagarthi had an informer from one of the two clans.

The ball is now in the heroes' court. They are likely to want to gain some information about the Gagarthi and Levru: where they are, why they attacked, how they knew, and what are they planning for Levru. There are a few avenues that could be open to them. There could be Gagarthi prisoners to interrogate. Some Gagarthi fled on foot and can be tracked. The god-talker heroes may want to use divinations. Also, someone will have to tell the Singing Rock clan the bad news of Levru's kidnap.

  • Interrogating Gagarthi: The bandits are fanatics, and all declared outlaw. They know that if they are ever brought to justice they are almost certain to be executed, so they have no real reason to co-operate. This makes interrogation difficult. The heroes know this (inform the players if need by), but they are likely anyway to want to interrogate them anyway.
Contest: Interrogate Gagarthi Bandits
Appropriate abilities: Persuade, Know Truth (-5), Control Children (-8), Fatherly (-10)
Resistance: 12W2
Complete or Major Defeat: The bandit either commits suicide or manages to snatch a hostage.
Other Defeat or Tie: The bandit reveals nothing.
Marginal Victory: The bandit hints that they knew that someone would be here.
Minor Victory: The bandits were waiting specifically for this group of Hiord clansfolk.
Major Victory: The Gagarthi were hired to kidnap “the girl.”
Complete Victory: This was definitely an inside job, connected to some big ritual. He doesn't know the identity of the insider.

Heroes may Recognise the Bandit (15W): Relationship to Clan and recall the bandit's name and deeds, and reduce the bandit's resistance according to the result of that contest.

  • Tracking the Gagarthi: The wind-walking Gagarthi leaders are the ones who stole Levru, and they are difficult to track. However, the other Gagarthi who escaped are easier to follow: Track the Gagarthi (3W): Track, Scout (-5), Singing Rock Geography (-10), Hiord Geography (-10). Any victory allows the heroes to follow the trail. It soon gets easier to follow once the wind-walking bandits come to earth. After a few hours of hard walking over some increasingly rough terrain (up and down some some very steep and heavily wooded slopes), the heroes come to the Gagarthi's (deserted) camp. The camp has been packed up recently and the firepit it still hot. Observant heroes will notice two fresh trails leaving the camp, one more heavily used than the other. Both peter out after a mile or so as they pass over bare, rocky ground in the fading light.
Their job done, the Gagarthi have been paid off and have left the area. Levru has been taken by some weaponthanes to the training camp in the Singing Rock tula.
One potential problem point is persuading the heroes that they've lost the Gagarthi's trail. Stress the difficulty of following the trail, the worsening conditions, and time pressure the heroes are under to force them into trying another tack.
  • Asking the gods: The heroes may ask the gods, or at least the Singing Rock clan wyter, where Levru and the Gagarthi are. (The Singing Rocks are the best bet, as most of the heroes have magical connections there they can call on.) Let the heroes go to town in describing the preparations, and involve the heroes in persuading the clan to support them and provide community support and objects to sacrifice.
Contest: Ask the Gods about Levru and the Gagarthi
Appropriate abilities: Pray to Orlanth, Pray to Ernalda, Devotee of <Deity> (-5)
Modifiers and Augments: Length of ritual (+3/hr), <Deity> Myths, various Relationships and Personality traits (for emotional involvement), various Relationships (for community support), auspicious location (e.g. the Singing Rocks) (+10), value of sacrifices (up to +10), not a member of the Singing Rock clan (-20), penalties for fatigue (contest based on time and exertion up to now). See also the Ritual Magic section, HeroQuest pp. 101-2.
Resistance: 10W3
Complete, Major, or Minor Defeat: The heroes fail to learn anything.
Marginal Defeat or Tie: The Singing Rock wyter tells of a disturbance in the clan.
Marginal Victory: There is something wrong in the clan. Neither Levru nor the Gagarthi are touched by the wind or the earth within the Singing Rock tula.
Minor Victory: There is something wrong in the clan. Levru is within the tula; the Gagarthi are not.
Major Victory: There is discord in the Song of the Rocks, discord in the very heart of the tula. Levru is hidden within the tula.
Complete Victory: Kinstrife! Kinstrife! Kinstrife brought on by people both here and elsewhere! A vision of Levru being bound by a man with Singing Rock clan tatoos.

By the time the rituals are complete, the heroes are liable to be too fatigued to do much more. They should go to bed disheartened that the peace deal is in danger of failure.

Scene II (Midpoint): When Impests Attack!

Key Points: The conspiracy is revealed when a weaponthane is driven to his death by Impests.

The Singing Rocks are the centre of the clan's lands. From the east, the ground rises up to a tall and increasingly narrow hill, rather like Castle Mount in Edinburgh. At the western end, the soil peters out to expose a jagged, rocky column over 150' high. As the wind blows around the hill, it swirls between the column and the cliff and sings and moans in honour of Orlanth and Ernalda. This swirling wind is the clan's wyter, and its song is understood by the chieftain. The peak of this hill is the holiest place in the tula, as it symbolises the marriage of Earth and Air; most rituals are led from here. A minor test of faith is to leap from the hill to the column; a major one is to leap from the column into the air, trusting that Orlanth will suspend you.

At dawn the next morning, the heroes join the assembling clan atop the Singing Rocks. The mood is sombre as the clan contemplate the impending failure of the heroquest. The heroes may contemplate trying to persuade Sarostip that the quest should be abandoned, but they know that the consequences abandoning it would be worse than the consequences of failure, assuming that they could get word to Iristha nd Mikhil in time.

The heroes may notice that some weaponthanes are missing (2W): Relationship to warband, Relationship to clan (-8), though they won't necessarily know what that means.

As the early morning worship starts, there is a scream from in the congregation as one of the weaponthanes starts to flail around wildly. Characters may sense the clustering agents of reprisal (14): Sense gods nearby, Piety (-5) as the man is attacked by yavorlings and harulings (sparkers and impests) (Thunder Rebels, pp. 81-82). As he attempts to flee, he runs blindly off the edge of the cliff and falls to smash on the rocks far below.

Everyone is shocked, both because of the sudden and violent death, and for the calamitous omen it represents. The agents of reprisal follow him down and circle his corpse. They then rise again to swirl around the huddled clan. Perhaps their work is not yet done...

Scene III: The Conspiracy Uncovered

Key Points: The heroes discover that the conspiracy is led by the weaponthanes.

All the Singing Rock heroes will recognise the dead man as Willem, a new weaponthane. They are likely to want to have pointed words with his colleagues, particularly in light of their suspicions that there is a traitor in the clan.

Contest: Interrogate the Weaponthanes
Appropriate abilities: Persuade, Know Truth (-5), Control Children (-8), Fatherly (-10)
Modifiers and Augments: Threats of violence (-20 to +20, depending on contest v. resistance of 15W), promises of amnesty (as threats of violence), Relationship to warriors.
Resistance: 5W2
Complete or Major Defeat: The militia manage to place the blame on the few Hiord clansmen present and incite a lynch mob.
Other Defeat or Tie: The weaponthanes reveal nothing.
Marginal Victory: Someone says that the weaponthanes have been plotting something, but there are no more details.
Minor Victory: A warrior with a mouthful of dirt blurts out that “They forced me to keep quiet!” and reveals that some weaponthanes (inlcuding Gringle, if he's an NPC) want the feud to continue.
Major Victory: The weaponthanes reveal that some of them have decided the feud should continue, and are conspiring to ensure that it does.
Complete Victory: The weaponthanes tell everything, including the involvement of Sarotar and Gringle, then attack them!

Scene IV (Plot Turn II): To the Training Ground

Key Points: The heroes rescue Levru and enter the Hero Plane.

The heroes will either have evidence that the weaponthanes are involved, or suspect that this is the case. In either case, they are likely to want to pay a visit to their training ground, a mile or so from the stead.

The training ground is a small clearing, about a hundred yards across, on a level piece of ground in the hills above the Singing Rocks. Around the field are archery butts, straw-stuffed dummies for sword practice, and other such paraphernalia. When the heroes arrive, the field is deserted. One one side of the field is the weaponthanes' longhouse. It is silent and dark, though smoke is rising from the smoke hole. The only doors are in the middle of the long side facing the field; they are closed and barred from the inside.

Play up the paranoia while the heroes are moving into the longhouse. They shouldn't know the place is deserted until they rush the longhouse.

When the heroes enter the longhouse, three things are immediately apparent. First is the bullock in the middle of the floor, lying in a pool if its own blood. Second is Levru, gagged and tied to a chair at one end of the longhouse. Third is a large portal to the Hero Plane at the other end of the longhouse.

The portal looks rather like the Stargate from the TV series, if that would help your players visualise it.

The bullock has been ritually slaughtered as part of a ceremony. Any god-talker will be able to deduce that the ritual was probably the one to open the portal. Levru is unharmed and will tell the heroes that, about an hour ago, a group of four weaponthanes opened the portal. They were talking about ambushing Iristha and Mikhil on the Hero Plane. Levru will tell the heroes that she recognised two of the weaponthanes as being Hiord clansmen; the remainder had Singing Rock clan tattoos.

The heroes should realise that they are the only ones who can save the peace treaty, by eliminating the weaponthanes so that Iristha and Mikhil can complete their hero quest. The heroes will have to enter the hero plane.

Act III: Resolution

Scene I: Rumble on the Hero Plane

Key Points: The heroes discover the full extent of the conspiracy, and it is either defeated or it isn't.

When the heroes enter the hero plane, they can easily track the weaponthanes through a small patch of forest to where they are lying hidden above a trail, waiting to ambush Iristha and Mikhil when they pass through into the Big Teeths' lands.

Emphasise the hyper-realistic nature of the hero plane. Colours are more vibrant; vision is more acute; smells are more intense; sounds are more moving.

The conspirators, Baranwulf, Illig, Kagrad, and Verlain (Ranged attack 16W, Close attack 6W2, Resist Magic 14W, Hardened Consiprator 15W, all after augments) will attack the heroes if attacked themselves, or if they are being beaten in a battle of wits and words.

The hero plane is the world of myth, and you should bring this out in your desciptions. When the conspirators attack, they are taking the part of the Long Teeth; their leather armour regrows stiff, spotted fur; it's difficult to hear words in their animalistic snarling; in the confusion of melee, are they attacking with their swords or their foot-long canines? Heroes, particularly Dorasa and Estave, trumpet and bellow and crush their enemies beneath their feet.
The normal physical rules don't entirely apply on the hero plane. If a character explicitly invokes a myth to justify their actions, give them a bonus of +5 or so. If they continue to invoke the same myth successfully, increase the bonus or allow them to decrease their opponents' bonus. The same bonus applies to everyone else who invokes the same myth. Some mythlets are in the appendix; the conspirators are invoking the “Big Teeth kill the Intruders” myth.
Just as Earth defeats Storm in the elemental progression, so Earth cultists have an advantage over Storm cultists in the hero plane. Give Dorasa and Estave a bonus of +5 to resist all actions by an Orlanth cultist, rising to +10 when resisting magic with magic (alternatively, use the rules from Masters of Luck and Death, p. 52)

At some point in this confrontation, if not before, the players of Gringle and Sarotar will want to reveal their true objectives and stab the other heroes in the back. Let them. The whole episode has been building up to this struggle between the player heroes, and its is their actions that will determine whether the peace process succeeds or not.

Scene II: Denouement

If the conspirators are victorious, they move on to ambush and kill Iristha and Mikhil. Normal life in the two clans is shattered as open, total war breaks out between them. The weaponthanes gain power and prestige, but at a dreadful cost.

If the heroes are successful, they hear the sounds of Issaries and Lhankor Mhy passing below just as the conspirators are defeated. The heroes can return to the Singing Rocks in time for the wedding between Askos and Levru. If the heroes succeed, but Askos cannot or will not marry Levru, another bachelor can be found but the resulting peace treaty will be neither as strong nor as long-lasting.

Acknowledgements

I'd like to thank Rob Davies for his feedback from running and playtesting this scenario. I'd also like to thank Tim Ellis, Newt Newport, and Paul Kay for their insightful reviews and comments.

Appendix: Mythlets

The major mythic resource for the scenario is Issaries the Conciliator (Storm Tribe, pp. 121-2). You'll need a copy of this myth as a handout for play.

Orlanth Banishes The Thieves

One day, Orlanth came home from a day's work in the fields to find that his favourite neck torc was missing. He looked all over his stead for it: he lifted up the mattresses, he flew up into the rafters, he swirled into all the corners of the longhouse, but he couldn't find his neck torc anywhere.

Later, at dinner, he heard Vadrus, his brother, boasting to his friends in the corner of the longhouse. Orlanth left his dinner to see what Vadrus was going on about this time. When he got there, he saw that Vadrus was wearing Orlanth's favourite neck torc!

"That’s mine!" shouted Orlanth. "Give it back."

"No," said Vadrus. "I ... found it, in the field. It’s mine now."

"But my laws say that even when something is lost, it still belongs to its owner. It’s mine."

"I claim it by right of conquest!" bellowed Vadrus. "If you want it, come an take it!"

But instead of reaching for his sword, Orlanth reached for his lawstaff. "This is my law," he said, "and you will obey it!" And with that he cracked Vadrus's head with the staff and Vadrus dropped the torc.

Vadrus and his friends ran out of the longhouse. Orlanth chased them all the way to the edge of his tula and told them never to come back.

Humakt Slays the Enemies

After Humakt had reclaimed Death, and after Orlanth had given him a place in his hall, Humakt faced many enemies. Whenever the Sky Tribe attacked, Humakt killed their warriors and drove them back. Whenever the Night Tribe attacked, Humakt killed their warriors and drove them back. Whenever the Plant Tribe attacked, Humakt killed their warriors and drove them back. But when others in the Storm Tribe attacked, no-one would fight them. Even thought the Storm Tribe were enemies, they were still kin and Orlanth would not attack them. Vadrus, and Valind, and even Ragnaglar came to Orlanth's tula to fight and steal, but Orlanth would not risk kinstrife by driving them off. Humakt said that he had no kin, and so could attack the enemies, but Orlanth always told him to stay in the longhouse.

Humakt worried about this. He had given his word to Orlanth always to obey his commands, but he had also given his word to Orlanth always to defend his tula. Now his two oaths were in conflict. Humakt thought long and hard about this, and then decided what to do.

Soon, the winds started to blow hot and cold and fierce. It was an omen that the bad members of the Storm Tribe were coming to attack again. As soon as he felt the wind, Humakt left Orlanth’s hall. That way, when Orlanth gave the orders not to attack Valind, Humakt wasn’t there to hear them.

Humakt was free to carry out his oath to defend Orlanth’s tula and, when Valind stepped onto the tula, Humakt stepped up to him and killed him.

Ernalda Heals the Tribe

Even after Ernalda told the Orlanth to make the Storm Tribe, there were problems. Even after Ernalda told Orlanth what laws to make, there were problems. Even after Ernalda told Orlanth how to judge the lawsuits, there were problems. Ernalda sat and thought about the problems and what she could do about them. She discovered that the problems were always worse just after Issaries had visited, so the next time he came, she watched very carefully.

She saw that Issaries had many beautiful and wonderful things he had found in foreign lands. She saw that everyone in the Tribe wanted all the things, but Issaries wouldn’t just give them away. No, Issaries traded for them, so that everyone had to give something up to get something new. This made a lot of people unhappy, because they weren't any better off after Issaries had been than they were before, and now they were angry that there were lots of things that Issaries had that they didn’t, and that some people had more things than others. Ernalda knew what to do. One night, when everyone was sleeping, she took away all the things that Issaries had brought and hid them in her secret place. The next morning when everyone woke up, they couldn't find the things Issaries had brought and they were all very angry. They all came to Orlanth’s hall and demanded that he did something about it. Then Ernalda spoke to them and showed them that they still had the most important thing of all, and that was the Storm Tribe.

Everyone realised that Ernalda was speaking the truth, and they were all happy again. Then Ernalda took everything out of her secret place, and everyone agreed to share them among themselves.

Characters

Characters for this episode are on a separate page.

If there are only five players, make Gringle an NPC. If there are four players, drop Mortality as a PC. If there are three or fewer players, the scenario is unlikely to work as there will not be sufficient interaction between the remaining heroes.