Saturday, 31 December 2011

Griffin Mountain: The Story So Far...

It's been fun playing Runequest again after so long away, and nice to introduce a couple of new players to the classic setting of Griffin Mountain.

Griffin Mountain for those poor souls amongst you who haven't heard about it, was the first large campaign pack produced by Chaosium for Runequest 2nd Edition. It was originally put together by Paul Jaquays and Rudy Kraft as an alternative to Glorantha and then adapted and rewritten with Greg Stafford to place it firmly in Greg's game world. One nice feature of the book was the three authors giving their own story of how they came to create it. The setting is a bit of a 'cheat', in that it looks like it was never played out as a whole campaign before publication, though Greg Stafford says in his intro that he did use it as part of his ongoing Dragon Pass game.



What you get for your money is a sandbox with three towns, a bunch of NPCs, some random encounter tables, some dungeons and a bit of background fluff. In the later Moon Design reprint, Greg Stafford provides an essay, 'Running a Gloranthan Campaign', in which he described the 'Brownian Motion' theory of campaign play; there is no set series of events, no particular route you should take, just a lot of encounters and NPCs and plot points that keep the players in motion like smoke particles buffeted by gas molecules.

Every page in Griffin Mountain has scenario hooks to biff the players this way and that, and any half way creative GM can conjure up more at the drop of the hat, such is the density of character and background material in the book. This is how this run of Griffin Mountain has booted the poor players about so far...

The initial 'kick'
My first players were new to Runequest and new to Glorantha. Fortunately Griffin Mountain's basic premise - its a primitive stone age wilderness - is easy to pick up, and a couple of hunters and a shaman are off on a hunting trip. They are told that if you check out a special Dwarven altar, you can set up a 'silent trade' and get yourself some bronze weapons, much nicer and ore effective than stone ones, so off they go.

At this point they meet a bunch of rival hunters from another clan. Some guys from the Brown Boar clan want to hunt the game the Dwarves have asked for and to get the bronze weapons they are offering as a reward. They suggest a ritual challenge, a footrace, then play it clever by getting a dog to run it, the PCs cheat back and win (and learn how to do skill rolls).

Deflection #1
Then its off to hunt deer (and learn how to do RQ combat) whereupon they meet (random table roll) some Dragonewts! Now the GM book says the Dragonewts are after a guy with red hair who did one of them wrong by killing him and skinning him, and are offering money as a reward for info about him. I twist this by deciding that Dragonewts are a real bogeyman in Balazar myth as they killed the ancient hero Balazar way back when, and tell the players that the mere appearance of these creatures is an ominous portent. Since Dragonewts are totally new to the players they are pretty impressed by creatures that talk about coming back from the dead like it's no big deal. They go off to tell the clan chief and shaman, who are suitably impressed, and they tell the PCs to go tell King Yalaring in Trilus.

At this point the players have been introduced to Balazaring social structure - primitive clans, tribal chiefs, kings in citadels - and now know the value in Glorantha of knowing your myths and legends.

Deflection #2
Travelling across the plains is no big deal for nomadic hunters, or it wouldn't be if it wasn't for the people. I diced up an encounter, Balazaring hunters, for the ford, and decided it would be fun to meet the Brown Boar clan again, slightly peeved at losing out over the Dwarf altar business and curious as to why they are heading out of the forests in such a hurry. They make a total pigs ear of this encounter, and end up captured and nearly beaten to death, and dragged off across the plains as captives. Another random encounter, Citadel Guards from Elkoi, suggests another plot twist, the Brown Boars sell them to the Elkoini as they are sure they possess some great secret imparted by the Dragonewts.

This gave us a chance to explore another key conflict in Balazar, the Lunars and what the hell are they up to. When I played RQ in my teens, we played the Lunars like the Empire in Star Wars, unmitigated baddies to be obliterated at every turn. This time I decided to play up another side of the Lunars, they are liberals, they believe in freedom and, like all Imperialists, they believe they have a civilising mission, a 'Red Moon's burden'. They are here to turn this land of appallingly poor, taboo ridden and perpetually feuding hairy primitives into a place worth living in, and they treat the party with kindness and try and recruit them as missionaries.

While it would have been fun to play it this way the players had read just enough RQ material on the web to know that the Lunars were 'bad' in some way and I was probably a bit too effective in making the High Priestess come across like a New Age cultist, and they legged it 'before they got out the Kool Aid'.

Wandering loose on the plains with no equipment, I took pity on them and had them rescued by a party of Orlanthi from Trilus. Now the only reason these guys are in Balazar at all is because they have committed so many crimes against the Lunars back in Sartar that they had to go on the run. They had plenty of anti Lunar propaganda,and cheerfully talked of cutting the tongues out of Lunar missionaries and crucifying people, which worryingly didn't bother the players a bit...

More of this as and when.