Play Report: The Broken Tower

Last month I offered to play an intro game if someone could put together a group of newbies and get a copy of the Starter Set. In the end he put together a group that had newbies IN, and one of the old players had a Starter Set already, but that was close enough. I’m trying to build fandom, not force people to spend money. One of the more familiar players made up his own PC, and then did a full report on events that happened. I’ve edited it for clarity and put in my own footnotes, but his report’s below. It’s from his point of view, so some things might not be as written in the game.

He presented me with an interesting question, because he wanted to make his own PC, and I asked him to sanity check it with me, and what he came up with was a Eurmali Bandit… of the Impala tribe. That’s not a thing that would work easily in a Glorantha I was running, but this was an intro game. Rather than break down a lot of my thinking, I tweaked a few things. Raf the Bandit was a Eurmali with a relatively low Illusion score, and that interested me, and the player was fine with it – his idea was of someone who didn’t quite fit in elsewhere, and Eurmal was the cult he had run away to find.

With that in mind, and looking at the utter lack of Heortling on his sheet, I proposed that he had been a child of a prisoner of war, and had therefore grown up in Sartar. He was fluent in the language but better with the Praxian culture, because that was what he had listened to. He didn’t like the people who kept <parent> prisoner, and figured there was a chance he would be taken as well, and so he upped and left. I want to avoid direct chattel slavery tropes in Glorantha, but here I skated close. Without going into things like debt peonage, I couldn’t put it more easily than that, and it was short notice, so I wasn’t going to give 3 hours of typed notes on possibilities. Raf ran away from home, because it wasn’t safe, and he may have parents in Sartar that he wishes to free, or he may not. ‘Nuff. I also got him to create links to Vasana, and the Battle of Dangerford was perfect for that.

I did say I’d urge him in my game to play a different build, because I’ve seen this sort of thing go wrong, but in fact Raf was pretty much awesome, and I’m glad I wasn’t proved right in session 1. I hope Raf goes on to be played elsewhere. It’s good when a PC works out, so well done that player.

Before the game, I made sure that people knew they had been hanging together for a while, and so they were not going to kill each other, even if they argued – they had already go past that stage. If I had plenty of time and could play this over a couple of sessions, I’d mind less, but we had plot to do, so they accepted that as part of their past.

Now, on with the report.

After the battle of the Dangerford1“It’s some nebulous time just after the battle, such that you’re at home…” the group leader, Vasana, (the character from the solo quest) ropes together some rag tag stragglers from the battle and returns home victorious, Upon arriving home she is immediately inundated with the responsibility of revenge and investigation2…”Which is why you’re now out in the wilds of nowhere. It’s an upland bog with extra boulders. Also, it’s raining.”.

The group as it stands are:

  • Vasana – Proud and noble warrior
  • Varakos – Wildman and wolf pelt wearer3Humakti hired as a bodyguard by Vasana’s mother because Vingans are mad and need guarding.
  • Vostor – A lunar empire prisoner of war paying off an honour debt
  • Raf – Scavenging bandit also press ganged for honour debt.

The rival clan had stolen 60 head of cattle from Vasana’s clan. However in maybe the most dishonourable clan move ever, they had turned a simple cattle raid into the murder of restrained herders. A survivor recognised raiders from the rival grey dog clan.4Entire group: who? GM: *handwaving and insults aimed West*

A map in barebones style showing home, a river, and an area where there was a cattle raid with a trail going West towards a place called Greydog Vale, across badlands.
Map from Chaosium original

We followed the trail out5The soundtrack was a solid wall of Lunar vs Heortling insults from Vostor and Vasana. The other two just tried to ignore them. into the wilderness to find a body feasted on by crows and abandoned near an old camp site, off on the horizon. As we investigated the camp we spotted a strange figure. Vasana took to her bison mount to chase down this figure whilst Raf attempted to fire a warning shot…. during which attempt the string snapped and hit him in the face.6The very first rolled weapon attack was a fumble, and the GM laughed a lot. Vasana rode up to head off the fleeing figure to find it was an old scavenging shaman of the area who had seen the incident.

We brought the shaman back to the camp where he used his spiritual powers helped us give the body a proper burial, Varakos honoured the dead with a rendition of a wildly inappropriate song and got sent away to think about what he had done7“So, you’ve accidentally launched into the Gloranthan equivalent of Send in the Clowns.”, whilst the shaman coaxed the woman’s spirit. She informed us she was betrayed by one of her own clan who organised the raid. The spirit chastised Varakos8A really interesting thing was that because Vostor and Vasana paired off into their comfortable squabbling, the other two, a Eurmali and a Humakti, got along OK in self defence. and gave us a trinket to place in her home lands as we followed the trail, the trail forked north instead of to the expected western direction.

Before the group left the shaman warned us that in these wilds there was a Stone lady who lived in a hilltop temple. ‘She is dangerous and those who interact with her come back changed… If we see her, run. Also, don’t trust the raccoons.’9He probably said a lot more about the raccoons than about the Stone Woman, which tended to be in rushed moments followed by subject changes. “Hang on, did he just say there was a…”

As a heavy storm rolled in Raf rolled a critical success in survival to keep the group safe and sheltered10History does not record the other rolls… wait yes it does, they were all failures.. However, he set up a prank for those who did not take care of their own preparations and Vasana got a blessing from the storm god in the form of a powerful splash on the face as she rested.11Vasana did some going out into the storm and praying, and as she passed Worship, she didn’t get cold or really disheveled. But she got very blessed when she tried to doze later.

The previous barebones map.  The trail leading from the cattle raid West now has a marker where the adventurers stopped, and then turned North into the Badlands.  The trail continues North.
The maps were built in Inkscape, so I could make layers invisible and then reveal them to copy and paste.

In the forest we encountered a ruined group of effigies of some curvaceous earthen woman. Whilst inspecting the area the group overheard the sound of unhappy fleeing cattle, and saw one of the herd being chased down by rock lizards.

The group engaged the rock lizards. Raf fired many arrows from his composite bow putting down 2 of the 12 alone before Vasana and her bison mount broke the lines with a spectacular charge putting her lance straight through one of the rock lizards followed up by the bison slaughtering them with raw blunt damage with its head. Vostor, however, attempting to throw a javelin into the combat instead struck Vasana right in the left arm while also slipping and losing his next action. This was more delicious as Vostor was the prisoner Vasana captured in the battle. Very quickly the lizards were thinned out with the last one fleeing as its friends fell around it.

The battle having been concluded12Hey look, I got to use the ablative absolute. there began a shouting match between Vasana13She asked if she could roll Hate (Lunar Empire) here to lose her rag, but I didn’t want the PCs fighting, so decided she could roll it to decide this guy was on the run from the Lunar Empire and she shouldn’t kill him. Luckily that was a pass and we didn’t have Extra Fun But Fiddly Drama. and Vostor over the ethics of battle,14The competence of various participants Sartar vs the Lunar empire, the fact Vasana had beaten him in the past… and Varakos and Raf collected arrows from the rock lizards. Raf performed the Peaceful Cut to send them to rest, and collected meat for dinner.15Credit to Raf here. Vasana and Vostor were very amusing, but they were taking up time, so Raf used the text channel to keep Varakos busy, as well as to build the relationship between them, and their understanding as a pair of how the other two would act.

As we followed the trail of the stolen cattle deeper we entered a section of the forest badlands. We reached an area of deafening silence as it banked towards an old ruin. The area was quiet as if no prey animals existed in it and we found more of the strange statues.

Original Chaosium map, with the key trimmed off

The group decided to take a solidly direct route, following the main ramp [1] whilst Raf intentionally stalked back further, lagging behind the group to provide covering fire and a different vantage. Investigating the area the group found a wide range of cattle skulls, including some which really stuck out such as an aurochs, a beast that had been extinct for at least 400 years.16This went something like, Varakos: “This is four hundred years old. Maybe that’s important.” Vostor: “Ew, Vasana’s stinky.” Skulking in the group heard the obvious sound of chanting coming from the central tower [3] which was clearly identified as a ritual chanting. The group decided to bee line for the tower.

As we approached the tower a man wearing the grey dog clan robes came charging at us covered in blood already, Raf was on edge already and launched a shot straight at his head, doing good damage.17Some groups have their weapons out too much. This group had them out exactly enough. That was shortly followed by Vasana’s lance ending him rapidly. Then the group made their way towards the tower.

When we stepped in the tower18Later it emerged that the GM assumed everyone was on foot and Vasana assumed she was on her bison. She took her demotion well. was well lit with peaceful weather to contrast with the outside. The room had a central piece of a bloody cow skull placed on an altar with a giant statue of the naked statue woman we had encountered in the wilds. Blood and gore dripped everywhere, viscera was strewn about and there was a mix of human and cattle sacrifices in this mess.

[Varakos] casting detect enemy19after failing three times to cast Bladesharp as we entered the tower revealed an enemy combatant hiding in the rubble, who upon being revealed immediately charged the group20They had spend a LONG time outside casting spells and talking. Danakos was therefore fully prepared inside.. Raf put an arrow in him, disabling his right arm, whilst Vasana attempted to cast a demoralising spell to him which definitely went off, but seemed to have no effect. In spite of the damage he continued to charge the group. As Raf was convinced enemies were striking from behind21Fumbled Listen roll he turned his back to the main room to see, a little later, shadows moving outside.22They had not been there when he fumbled the roll, but the Stone Woman called them up. Inside the skulls rose as skeletons from the ground and the large statue woman begins moving and speaking in the earth tongue23Which hilariously, nobody understood. It took a while for Vasana to understand the ancient Theyalan, by which point she was already being Orlanthi about the whole cattle theft thing..

The statue began moving and stated ‘I awaken and I hunger, I have slept for far too long. Bring me blood’ in an ancient tongue, As the shadows approached the main entrance Raf spread magic glue24GM rolled Raf’s POW to see if any of them stepped on it, as it was only a small patch, and he got lucky. on the entrance to slow their approach whilst fleeing around the perimeter of the room. Vostor summoned his fire elemental to burn and char the bone creatures whilst Vasana charged the giant statue woman25“Varakos, whatever her mother is paying you to keep her alive, it’s not nearly enough.” as it said, ‘Bring me blood, I hunger and thirst,’ this time in Heortling.

The melee fighters managed to crack the outer stone surface26The Humakt had not had much that was awesome, as everyone else either had ranged weapons or faster reflexes, but here he insta-killed the goddess, while Vasana also did a lot of damage, but not to a central point. It was very Humakti. of the giant stone woman, which revealed a thick and disgusting black undercoating of goo almost which stunk heavily of iron.27The smell of iron was in fact a relic of True Sword being used by the Humakti for a single Death-blow. This amazing blow defeated the abomination/dark goddess which also caused the animated skulls and skeletons to stop moving at that moment.

Searching around the old ruins we found that only 5 of the cattle had been sacrificed meaning we managed to return 55 of the 60 cattle. Back at town the priests performed a divination revealing that we had in fact stopped the awakening of a dark goddess and prevented her being born again within this age.28Not quite what the GM meant, but also pretty damned cool, so I’m happy with that being the correct version of events. The group were awarded 5 cattle for our success as well as 3 reputation for returning the cattle and 1 reputation for killing a goddess (priorities).

So, massive thanks to Raf in particular, who had a rulebook and was good about looking up rules but also good about not telling the GM what they were unless they were needed, and who wrote up the report for himself, but shared it.

The Starter Set is available from DriveThruRPG as a simple PDF set and from as a physical box with free PDFs. The free adventure I was running here is called The Broken Tower and is available in their Quickstart document, which is a free PDF. That has the minimal rules required to begin play, if you just want to try it out, but the Starter Set is great value and has many more options, as well as three adventures.

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