I GMed a roleplaying game yesterday, for the first time in almost twenty years. I used to do this all the time — from sixth grade through my undergraduate education, with a two-year timeout for other things, my principal socialization was roleplaying games, and most of the time I was the GM.
So this weekend I jumped back in. Participants and observers kept calling it “D&D,” but in fact we played HeroQuest, a very flexible, mechanics-lite, storytelling-encouraging roleplaying game. And more importantly, we were playing in the Glorantha setting. Glorantha is the best roleplaying setting there is, hands down. Nope, stop talking. Glorantha. Number one.
The players were two of my kids, two of their friends, and a cousin, aged seven through fourteen. They created two young thanes, two god-talkers, and a hunter, devotees of Orlanth, Ernalda, Humakt, and Odayla. One of the great geniuses of HeroQuest is that creating characters is fast, and despite the fact that none of the players understood game mechanics, we had characters knocked out in an hour. We had spent an hour the night before working through the history of the characters’ clan, determining the powers of its wyter, its enemies, traditional skills, and so on. And then we played.
It went like this:
Sheep Rock had been giving bad omens for weeks. Crazy Jik-Jak, that old man who talks to spirits and who is never seen in public without a bark mask on his face, had been whispering to his acolytes that the spirits were disturbed. Something bad was coming, and patrols of the clan tula were beefed up.
The player characters were patrolling the ravines north of the tula when their old friend Pillock came crashing through the underbrush. Clan Bilberry, our hostile neighbors, had ambushed him, beaten him, and taken the beautiful gold-feathered goose he had been on his way to give his prospective mother-in-law in Clan Stony Top. Pillock’s marriage with Yuffissa, a great singer of the Stony Top clan, would have cemented our improving relations with Stony Top and given us reinforcements for our struggle against Bilberry. If we ran, we might just catch up with the Bilberry thugs in time!
The tracks of the Bilberry thanes led to a cave, where two jack-o-bears (big bears with heads like grinning pumpkins, who have the ability to paralyze with their song) ambushed us! We barely survived, mostly by virtue of our Odayla initiate’s ability to transform herself into a bear. Inside the cave, we found one dead Bilberry thane and tracks of the survivors leading out the back door of the cave.
The trail was hard to follow, and going was slow, but eventually we found our way to a crossroads. There we met an Argan Argar-led caravan of trolls, who were eating a stew… that we found out was Bilberry-flavored! We entertained the trolls with the antics of a juggling cat, in return for which they told us what they’d done with the goose. Unfortunately, they’d sold it to a passing force of Lunar soldiers, to be part of a feast for their commander and a visiting minor nobleman.
Our assault on the Lunar camp took several simultaneous directions. Our thanes fought bravely and took many injuries, both from the spear-throwing soldiers and from the war wizard backing them. Our god-talkers and our hunter found their way under the Lunar fortifications by a tunnel with which Ernalda blessed us. We released Count Farrago’s food animals, lit tents on fire, and stampeded the horses before running out, picking up our thanes, and heading back to the tula.
By dawn we had Pillock to the Stony Top tula with his goose in hand, and a small herd of horses to deliver to our clan ring along with the story of our adventure.
Bottom line: kids loved it (I think even as much they like videogames!), and I had a great time. We’ll do this again soon.