A playtest of something called Purple Gold. The Beer With Teeth crew seem to have established colours as a titling method, so here we are.
Not yet. We’ll be throwing this out to try publication, but we haven’t yet sent it anywhere, and it still needs further writing up.
Yep. It took a session
Follow-up. Always a session?
This is two short, linked items. The second part, the real adventure, could be expanded. The first part is an introduction to the Heroquest for new characters, so it’s probably not part of the main adventure, but it is a sub-plot. With enough padding it could be two separate adventures. That would be easier for the second part in the mad village than in the earlier quest, which is more a teaching moment.
Gastara, a Babeester Gor guesting with Ernakt
Rastar the Glib
Massive spoilers. Players who have not played this should not read past this point.
Ernakt, the plot hook, is the chief of the Greyrock Tribe. He had invited people to a festival (the entertainer got to do sing and dance rolls, and entirely forgot he could play instruments. Everyone else had a good time. The Babeester Gor Initiate had an axe throwing competition. Then Ernakt declared there was going to be a Heroquest. Everyone failed their Insight (Human) so they did not know what the people thought of it. The story of the Heroquest was declaimed by his Bard. The adventurers were either invited to be in the Storm or Night tribes. For some this was obvious, others were given the choice.
The Heroquest was performed at the Greyrock Wyter Stone. I decided not to give too much detail about the stone itself, so ‘magic circle’ in a nearby dedicated field is probably what I’ll do next time. I played this during Dark Season, but I can imagine a sacred place that is delimited by a ploughed furrow around it. There was about a foot of snow on the ground which needed clearing away, and then the ceremony started. Worship rolls let the characters know whether they were really in the scenes or not. Gastara got into it, and Rastar got VERY into it, but as a Lightbringer Eurmalite his sense of belonging to Sartar made him not try to step in and ruin things for Orlanth.
The fighting went well, with no fatalities, and Orlanth triumphed. Gastara was killed by a huge troll… but fortunately in the Middle World he pulled his blow very competently, and went on to be killed by Orlanth-Ernakt. Laika the Mother Troll pulled back her children rather than have them killed, and Rastar fought competently, but was spotted by Ernakt’s trickster, who marked him mentally for later.
Afterwards, Yand, Ernakt’s wife, came to talk to Laika quietly. Her husband wanted to find out what had happened to the Stone Bowl village, who should have been there, and had not arrived. Given the season, some Initiates of Orlanth Thunderous were pressed into keeping the skies clear, so there would not be snow and the adventurers would be able to travel. They set off, and good Scan rolls from everyone let them know there was trouble ahead. Smoke was rising like a house had burned, the gate was open, the cattle and pigs had escaped, and there was an apparent ambush there. Rather than spend hours going around, they decided to set off the ambush.
The attackers had cloaks instead of shields and were wielding brambles. After finding out they outmatched the people they were cutting down, the adventurers used non-lethal methods instead. A successful first aid from Gastara not only helped patch up one of the people but noticed she was shivering despite her hypothermia. One of the ambushers seemed to have decided he was an alynx, and attacked the group. Badly. With them tied up and covered in cloaks to keep them warm, the group moved to the village, finding tracks that indicated some had run off into the snow, and of those, some were barefoot.
Investigations in the village found that everyone there was mad or badly ill. Three warriors were armoured and armed, but one ran away, one collapsed screaming about the sky, and one told the others earnestly how all was one and one thing was all things. They rebuilt the fire in the chief’s house and gathered everyone from the outside in there. Having failed to find any tracks that indicated there had been a failed Heroquest elsewhere, and not believing that Lunar Magic could do this much damage easily, the group decided whatever had done it was probably still present. Detect Enemies from Gastara indicated that there were many entities within the village that meant them harm, but most were villagers who could not manage to move. However, three were not accounted for; one in the chief’s house, one in the courtyard outside, and one in the granary. One of those was in the chief’s house, so she did a quick skirt around and then went that way. Meanwhile, Rastar and Laika had found the chief’s body, and a spirit was rising from it.
Rastar thought it was a ghost, and paused rather than attacking. However, it was a disease spirit and attacked Laika. They fought it together, and Rastar destroyed it, while Laika was rendered unconscious. Gastara arrived too late to influence the outcome much, but did get a spirit block Rune Spell up. Both of them heard a baby’s crying after that. Rastar turned out to be a surprisingly good carer, having looked after many of his own family while travelling. While Gastara searched the rest of the village for survivors and found nobody sane save for two more hungry children, Rastar milked a sheep1 and fed them.
Rather than waiting for Rastar to be finished (and her Runic protection to have run out) Gastara went to look for the next spirit, and it found her rather harder than she found it, infecting her with the Trembles as well as rendering her unconscious.
After feeding the children, Rastar tucked them next to Laika like little piglets, and went out to look for Gastara and any spirit, as she had not come back. After a long consideration about Eurmal the Coward vs Eurmal the Lightbringer rescuing the others when all was lost, Rastar approached Gastara, was attacked by the spirit, and managed to end it.
He dragged Gastara inside as well, and they hunkered down to recover. Once Laika woke they decided to feed the children beer, but as soon as the oldest of them had managed to get a good bellyful, she began to scream in terror, and just would not stop. They realised that the beer was bad, the the grain was probably infectious. However, with Gastara still out, and Laika weak, and Rastar halfway drained, they waited until they were at full spiritual health before going to deal with the creatures. This took a day, during which the screaming girl ran out of energy to scream and slipped into death.
At the granary they prepared, and then Gastara opened it, and immediately a spirit formed. Laika recognised it as a disease spirit that usually struck fields, recognising the purplish sheen on the grain. It attacked, and they inspired themselves with appropriate runes of Death, Fertility, and Earth, and did battle. Rastar and Laika eventually trapped it between their own manifestations of Ernalda’s power, which destroyed it.
Gastara then rode for help, meeting a cavalcade a couple of hours away, under someone she knew from the axe throwing competition. He sent back riders to fetch women and healers, and asked sensible questions so the right people would arrive. The village stopped getting worse, although some individuals could not be saved, and about one in three had died, including just about everyone who had drunk the strongest beer at the high table during their festival.
Of course, there were no rewards, but later things happened to fall into the hands of those who might have deserved them if the chief HAD sent them away. Gastara was promised the price of her healing from the tremors that the Trembles left in her body, but she would have to go to Clearwine for that, and the Dark Season weather was settling in.
Massive spoilers. Players who have not played this should not read past this point either!
I could have had more preparation and detail at the festival. Craft (cooking), the axe throwing could have been expanded or had prizes awarded, the best bards could have had Lunars given to them. This was a time to give the characters a happy moment using their skills. Ernakt’s work to make his Clan eager to do a Heroquest was lost because nobody worked out he had done it, so a chance to intrigue and chatter beforehand would be good. Village rumour table, here we come!
There’s no NEED to warn people, but it’s a thing that people who are experienced should probably be able to find out. Newer players probably need to not know that, because this part of the scenario is about teaching people what a Heroquest is. Probably best, given that, to describe what Ernakt’s preparations have been, and let adventurers find out if it will not confuse the players. The Stone Bowl village had been invited and like several others were going to arrive for the ceremony after their own festival.
I needed to underscore earlier that the Stone Bowl villagers were missing, through Intrigue rolls, or possible Battle as the night vs storm tribe troops were rearranged. The Heroquest had a lot of narration to it, but a lot of that was the GM explaining what characters would know, so it was not a problem in the grand structure. It does need to be a set-aside text box in the presented document, with something else to fill in for people who already know what a Heroquest is, like a chance to find out for themselves that the Stone Bowl people were absent from within the quest.
Ernakt did his job. I was particularly pleased that Ernalda’s part as a patient woman who thought was important to plot hooking. His wife was the one who instigated the second half.
Generally speaking, the players needed prompting to remember about the inspiration rules, and I want them to start taking that on for themselves, but new players do require reminders, so as this is for people who have not Heroquested before, when they fight the grain spirits, there should be a reminder to the GM that they can explain this rule if the characters are not likely to remember it, and especially if they are likely to be overmatched by the spirits.
The POW/CHA table is very important for spirits. When one is damaged, is it fully damaged and pow reduced so it is no longer so much of a threat? The crunchy-on-the-outside-meaty-in-the-middle build didn’t do it for me. I kept the spirits at the same level of attack threat throughout, because they were malevolent and I wanted them to be hurting the adventurers. They were nasty.
One of the adventurers didn’t get the difference between spirits and ghosts; we paused to explain that this was a very bad form of spirit, and not the ghost of the chief, and went on.
It is important to keep track of what provisions the adventurers bring. They talked about eating, in the village, but did not commit to what before they found out about the beer. Asking what they were eating would have given the game away, so I was struggling for a form of words, and would probably have mentioned they brought provisions with them. If I were really evil I’d offer an INT roll to see if they knew where provisions would be in this place. However, there would not have been much grain, so they would only have had a mild attack of madness…
The complexity of the world is my main enemy here. I wanted to explain the Heroquest in case the adventurers decided to do a quest to try to keep people sane, but in the end there was not time, and they did not really have the OOC preparation. Having some people able to worship within the village and beg them for their help, or having a Priest conscious enough to cast them into one might have helped – but that feels a bit forced. So it was two adventures, linked only by a plot hook. I’ll probably expand the later part of it, and add on the front part of it if I think anyone needs Heroquesting explained to them, in later games. That layout feels like what the adventure IS. If I did do it so a Heroquest was expected, I’d divide it up timewise into the start of the season and the end of the season. Dark/storm season is perfect for that, and so is having the adventurers be part of the Clan, so they have a reason to be hanging around for that long without coincidences breeding.
The number of spirits and their power was just right for the group. They had a choice to make of whether to risk themselves to try to save the terrified child, and they took the wiser option. About one spirit per person was good because they never took on the spirits as a group, but if three of them had been present, at least two spirits would have been required as enemies.
I need to remember to add the description on the purple grain, as a reason for the title.