Known Unknowns

KungFu Fenris has thrown me another surprising thing as a prompt. He’s aimed for a set of things he thinks will be of interest, and a lot of them are not what I’d have thought of. This time, it’s ‘Non-Humakti Ducks.’ This post therefore contains spoilers for the classic game King of Dragon Pass. It’ll become clear why I had to in a moment.

I was a new player when RQG came out. I’ve got little nostalgia for the older versions of the game, and I’ve also not learned a lot of those tropes. I don’t get why ducks are automatically silly – I have no idea who Howard the Duck is beyond some kind of tomb raider, and I don’t get giddy for other cartoon ducks either. However, I have had some experience with Glorantha Ducks – my GM used them pretty early on to show the weirdness of Glorantha.

First, we met a Eurmali who was pretending to be a road-toll collector, and then we met a big1SIZ 7, muscular2STR 10 mallard who was nothing like him. That one IS a Sword Lord, but I digress. You see, Ducks are only weird for the players, and even then, only for a subset of them. For the characters, they’re simply another species that sometimes lives alongside humans. You might not LIKE them, but their existence isn’t a joke. They’re a whole species, and that’s the first thing to realise when working out what a Duck can be. What can a human be? Like that, but shorter.

According to the Bestiary, the Ducks are often Humakti, but what they are most of all is prideful. They always have Air, and I think it’s their primary Rune. The Bestiary’s all the way over there and I don’t want to go pick it up, but that’s what I recall. Their relationship with Humakt is because a lot of them live at the edge of the Upland Marsh. You really WANT to keep a Temple to the power who is best at keeping you safe from the hordes.

My first introduction to the culture of the Ducks was King of Dragon Pass. You come across a set of tiny little vegetarian funny people with beaks, and you can roll over them easily and demand tribute. I’ve played it nicely, and I’ve played it nasty. Nasty is funnier. If you bully the Ducks enough, a web-footed Humakti warrior turns up to demand you treat them better. Glee grew in my heart. I knew what was going to happen, and it happened – the feathery warrior trounced my champion.

We remember the ones we see. The ones who leave home and adventure. Often, we don’t realise that a Duck in armour is anything but a Humakti. However, most ducks will not be encountered far from home, as adventurers might be. Then again, most humans won’t be either.

My GM is highly influenced by the Ducksploitation blog3Thanks to Nick in comments for the link; I had the spelling wrong in a way that meant I was never going to find the URL, and the description of Duck Point as a sort of Saigon City. Now that the Lunars have gone, there’s still been a massive cultural change, in his version of Glorantha. A generation grew up under an oppressor who thought they were inferior to humans, or simply tried to have them killed. They fled, and then some came back and tried to live. The Temple of Uleria grew, and stopped concentrating so much on the communal bathing part. Street food started catering to big people more than little ones. Grand architecture was created.

They’ve gone. The architecture has been repurposed, but it’s still there. The people have been changed. Night Life in Duck Point is amazing, although a lot of it’s small and quacky. They are survivors of tragedy.

So, Ducks are people too. Starting out as one means making the same choices as any other PC. Go through the family history. Maybe pick things carefully from 1613. Here are a few ideas on NPCs who might be outside the walls, or even PCs:

Eurmali conduck; Ulerian temple initiate travelling to bring peace and love; Orlanth Thunderous farmer who took up arms against the Lunars; Ernaldan househen on a trip to buy bonemeal for the fields; Eirithan rebel, who herds cows and is said to eat meat, not just grubs and worms from time to time; Tosher, an Issaries trader with a sideline in items his family gather from mud-larking; Seven Mothers convert who preaches love and peace and the Lunar Way.

Of the deities I have mentioned, Orlanth and Ernalda will be by far the most popular. You just don’t see those people as often as you see a tiny feathered Humakti, shouting their war-quack as they dash into battle.

  • 1
    SIZ 7
  • 2
    STR 10
  • 3
    Thanks to Nick in comments for the link; I had the spelling wrong in a way that meant I was never going to find the URL


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I’d enjoyed the first game or two, and either the GM suggested getting it, or I looked things up. I’d never played it before, but by about session 6 I told the GM I was intending to derail his plot completely by suggesting a HeroQuest.

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